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Thread: How I made a giant wooden screw

  1. #1
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    How I made a giant wooden screw

    Folks,please comment. It takes effort to post these things. I thought these items were in the FAQ section,but they are not. Do an advanced search: type in "A large cider press" and George Wilson,and you can find it among the posts that will come up. Then,you can see the completed cider mill and cider press.

    My boss had gone to England and had become very impressed with a giant cider press and apple mill he had seen at a cider maker's establishment in Sommerset. He had been after me for 2 or 3 years to figure out a way to reproduce these things.

    Cider making was a very important occupation back then. Cider was their soft drink,and their hard drink,if they fermented it. They grew something like 3 dozen different cider apples at a nearby plantation back then. Anyone who was anyone kept a large keg of cider in their basement.

    This was about 1983,and I was still the musical instrument maker,with a shop to run,and employees to look after. This was a major project,and I was not wanting to spend a year hand cutting threads for a screw this size. Threading the hole was also a very big hurdle.

    I contacted the largest machine shop in Hampton,Va. about doing this job. They decided they wanted to make the nut with an INSERTED thread. That would look very unauthentic,and no doubt would crack to pieces and fall out.

    I came upon a smaller,country machine shop that was in Gloucester at the time. They agreed to help with the job. I bought a beechwood log and had it taken there. You'd be surprised how crooked an apparently straight log can be,when it is gotten into a lathe! So,I got a log over 2' in diameter to be sure it would clean up at 16" diameter,which was the diameter of the large bulb on the end of the screw.

    It is not possible to buy a dry log. No one lets them lay around a lumber yard long enough to get dry,as there is no money in it. They are soon sawn into lumber,and the lumber is then dried.

    How do you keep a green log from splitting open as it dries? That was the big question.I decided that logs split open because the wood in the center of the log has no place to go as the log shrinks,getting smaller in its outer regions. It eventually pops wide open .There was much discussion about this problem with a few master craftsmen and the boss in his office. I decided the thing to do was drill a 2" diameter hole right down through the center of the log. In the years hence,this strategy has worked. The screw has never split open. I also coated the exterior of the FINISHED screw with liberal amounts of bees wax,leaving the center hole uncoated,so the screw would cry mostly from inside,keeping the threads from splitting.

    I don't know how to get the pictures in order. In the first picture,you see I had sawn the end of the log square. This was so it could be gotten into a big 4 jaw chuck. In the 3rd picture,I had to chop the other end of the log down to a smaller diameter. The lathe would swing the log over its bed,but not over the cross slide. After we got the log onto the lathe with a fork lift,I had to make an initial very deep cut down the length of the log,so it would clear the cross slide. They had some very large,very old hand forged lathe bits that came in handy,and I was able to take a 4" deep cut just ahead of the cross slide. Then,I turned the log down to the 12" diameter of the threads,and freehand operated the cross slide to produce the large,curved,16" diameter bulb at the end.

    In the closeup of cutting the threads,there is a router with a large,straight cutter clamped at a 45 angle cutting the 2" wide,6 thread per inch screws progressively deeper till the completed thread shape was made. Fortunately, proper wood threads(which are seldom found these days in wooden threads) are cut at 45,making a 90 thread,rather than the 60 thread which you always see now,but which is really a metal thread type.

    During this turning,the chips got about 2 feet deep,and I was actually working on my knees while controlling the lathe. I asked several times for the owner to get a guy to dispose of the chips. He finally did after about a week. By the time the screw was finished,as you can see,the chips had piled up again.

    The picture of the screw standing vertical on a machine is a horizontal boring mill where I'm drilling two 5" diameter holes at 90 to each other,where tommy bars will be inserted to turn the screw in the press.

    I am finally finished in one picture,giving a British salute.

    This is as many pictures as I can post. I will have to post another thread on making the nut.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by george wilson; 02-06-2012 at 10:17 AM.

  2. #2
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    Bump,to keep this together with the nut thread.

  3. #3
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    George:

    Impressive indeed!

    Looks like you are a southpaw - must be where your creativity comes from.

    Dave Beauchesne

  4. #4
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    Pretty cool stuff. I've been thinking for a few years about mounting a router to my lathe to make a few wooden vise screws but this thing is over the top.
    I bet those machinists thought that your were a crazy nut case, untill you got it done..
    The Plane Anarchist

  5. #5
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    They were close enough to Williamsburg to expect oddball stuff. A larger company wouldn't have been as cooperative,or as cheap to let me use their lathe,etc.. Then,there was the apple mill,which had 2 gears in it about 16" in diameter,which they fabricated. It would have been cast. After being around a while,they were all brown,so you couldn't tell.

  6. #6
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    Bump to keep these threads together.

  7. #7
    George, that is astounding, and very, very impressive. I've always enjoyed your posts, the creativity and craftsmanship are inspiring, but I particularly like how you discuss the problems you considered or ran up against and how you addressed them - I learn a lot and get to see some great stuff - please keep posting!


    daniel
    Not all chemicals are bad. Without hydrogen or oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.

  8. #8
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    With over 130 views,and 3 replies,I wonder if it's worth it.

  9. #9
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    It's worth it for some of us at least!
    The Plane Anarchist

  10. #10
    Keep posting George! Your log splitting argument seems pretty sound - and it has worked in practice which is always a bonus!

  11. #11
    Awesome posts, is it just that most of us have nothing useful to add and just read in amazement, which is probably why you are seeing no replies. Please keep posting.

  12. #12
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    Tidewater, VA
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    George,
    Since you expressed frustration over the absence of replies, I am prompted to write for the silent majority.
    I joined in 2007 and soon settled on six topics to view regularly; Neander is one of them. As an economy for time, on each visit I scan the list of active threads for subjects of interest and look as well at who opened the thread.
    It didn't take long to recognize your name as one to follow. Your mastery is evident in every photograph, whether musical instrument, tool, presentation keepsake, jewelry or cider press.
    But what most engages me is your patience to describe material & tool choices, sequence and method. Even though I am unlikely to ever attempt making a monster press, I have learned a bit today about making a wooden screw and nut (accompanying post) which I can apply to a someday project like a leg vise. And so I learn in each of your posts and the Q&A that follows...
    The Japanese have a tradition of recognizing living masters in various arts and crafts which are a part of their culture; those masters are honored as national treasures. If we had the same here, you would surely have my nomination.
    In the meantime, I interpret the view count as that many admiring followers stopping to take another lesson from the master.

    BobV
    Last edited by Bob Vallaster; 02-06-2012 at 12:36 AM. Reason: missing word

  13. #13
    I have to second Marko's comment - I'm speechless. You have to realize that most of us never dream of attempting such things, let alone successfully execute them. You have apparently assimilated vast amounts of knowledge from interrelated fields. I humbly suggest to you, that you might view your posting efforts as getting your body of work "out there in Cyberspace" for posterity..

  14. #14
    Pretty danged interesting -- the woodworking but especially the interesting and unusual problem solving you describe. Did the cider press work? Is it still in operation? And do you have any idea how they would have made the original?

    Like many others here I look forward to your posts and the photos of your amazing work. I appreciate your taking the time/effort to share them, and post whenever I feel I have something useful to add to the discussion... i.e. never! I do enjoy learning from them, though, if that counts for anything. Please keep it up!

  15. George,

    I'm speechless...please keep posting as I always learn from your posts.

    Tim

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