By A Web Design
- Created on Thursday, 17 February 2011 00:27
Interchangeable parts is something we take for granted today, but it wasn't always so. Some pioneers in the 18th Century showed the way forward, but had plenty of opposition to their ideas. Gunmaking was a highly skilled craft then, and the gunmakers themselves were not exited about giving away their livelihood to a bunch of machines.
Honoré le Blanc was a French gunmaker who realised that if guns were made to exact tolerances, a part from any gun of the same batch would fit all the other guns. In the 1750's this was absolutely not the case, as any part from another gun would never fit, and needed extensive fitting by experienced gunsmiths, making gun repair an expensive proposition.
The French gun guilds had a lock on gunmaking and gunmakers, which besides their livelihood, conferred status and power upon it's members, and their power wasn't broken until the French Revolution. There was an underground in gunmaking, but to begin a concept of interchangeable parts, the guilds would definitely have to be brought onboard, and they weren't having any of it.
Of course, there were people around who liked the idea of making and repairing guns without the having to resort to European gunmakers to do it, like Thomas Jefferson. His newly minted country needed a homegrown gun industry immediately, with no time build a huge European style gun guild. Thomas Jefferson visited LeBlanc's workshop while Ambassador to France and witnessed the advantage of his system of manufacture.
Thomas Jefferson, while Ambassador, was unable to convince his country in this new manufacturing method, and couldn't persuade LeBlanc to move to America. It was left till Eli Whitney came along, intent on manufacturing guns on the new method for the United States. Officials dragged their feet, but Thomas Jefferson, the new President, backed the idea. Fifty years later, old Europe was making guns on the American Method, one they had thought of years earlier but disdained.
The debt the Americans owed LeBlanc for helping to show the way forward would be repaid many years later when the Arsenal of Democracy liberated Paris from her tormentors in World War 2.
- Created on Sunday, 13 February 2011 22:42
It was a bad day for the USS Shark on September 10th, 1846, when she tried to cross a shoal to leave the Columbia River in Oregon. The Shark was a 12 gun schooner built in the Washington (DC) Navy Yard in 1821 for the US Navy, and was originally captained by Matthew Perry. The ship was built with a shallower draft than existent Navy ships for anti-piracy and anti-slavery work, which took her to the West Indies and the west coast of Africa. She spent five years in the Mediterranean protecting American interests there.
She was armed with 10 18 pounder carronades and 2 other 9 pound guns. When she later washed up on the beach, 3 of her carronades were exposed, one of which was dragged up on the beach. It is now in a museum on Cannon Beach, named for the recovered cannon. The other two were found in 2008 and recovered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and sent to Texas A&M University for conservation.
The Conservation Research Laboratory primarily does recovered maritime and ship conservation projects, and have several on their plate, They are also currently working on the artifacts recovered from the sunken city of Port Royal, Jamaica, a haven for pirates in the 17th Century, and the French ship, the Belle, lost near Texas.
Pictures from Texas A&M University's Conservation Research Laboratory website
- Created on Sunday, 13 February 2011 16:32
A Harrier Jump Jet was pulled from Ebay for violating it's policy of selling guns and weapons, according to the BBC. The jet is primarily a shell obtained from a museum in England, with the weapons and equipment long removed by the RAF, and this jet body was restored by Chris Wilson of Jet Art, in the Leeds/Bradford neighborhoods in England. This particular Harrier model is reportedly one of four left in the world. There does seem to be plenty of interest in this aircraft, as there were plenty of bids before it was yanked on Ebay. He should be able to sell it easily, as he has already sold seven Harriers in the past.
- Created on Saturday, 12 February 2011 20:17
The US Navy's S-47B, a tail less, stealth, unmanned, autonomous aircraft flew on Feb 4, 2011. Under development by Northrop Grumman since 2007, it is expected to begin carrier trials by 2013. The Navy's new Top Gun is going to be a robot, and an autonomous one at that. The fighter sized aircraft will be armed and deadly some day soon, not to suffer from fatigue, with the ability to stay on station as long as the equipment holds out. War will soon be shoved off to our robotic counterparts, which while it will save lives, will cease to be horrible, which does slow down the human race's eagerness to get involved in war in the first place.
This, however, is quite a feat. The human race is proving itself capable of building robotic equipment that can go to war, fly to and explore other planets, and drive ourselves around. That capability isn't completely accepted yet for our highways, but the ability to make cars drive themselves is already done. One does think that we may be too clever, and that Cyberdyne's Skynet may be lurking just around the corner.
- Created on Saturday, 12 February 2011 14:08
According to the BBC, an old British Mk 9 topedo was found floating in the English Channel off Beachy Head by a fisherman. A tag attached to the torpedo documents the year 1955 as the last time it was serviced. It was hinted at by the bomb disposal team that it was a practice torpedo, and it's explosive charge had corroded off and was at the bottom of the channel. The Mk 9 was principally a surface ship torpedo used onboard cruisers and destroyers.
A similar torpedo, the Mk 8, was the most successful British torpedo of WW2, fitted to submarines, and was last used in the Falklands War. During that war, the captain of the nuclear powered submarine HMS Conqueror sighted the General Belgrano, an ex US light cruiser now a part of the Argentine Navy. To engage the ship, the Conqueror could have used the Mk 24 Tigerfish torpedo, an accoustic homing wire guided last word in the torpedo world torpedo or use an old relic from WW2, the Mk 8. The Mk 8 was chosen and down went the ship.
To be fair, the Mk 24 at the time was an abject failure. The Royal Navy couldn't hit the broad side of a barn ship with it, and it's reliability was so bad they even entertained the notion of hanging a nuclear warhead on it to be able to sink something. Things are better now, and the British Navy uses the Spearfish torpedo, built by BAE, which weighs 2 tons, and boasts high speed, deep diving, and can autonomously choose what to do enroute (now that part is scary!).