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Author Topic: Materials available to the Victorian makers  (Read 688 times)
Mr. Phikset
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« on: January 24, 2017, 10:07:58 pm »

Greetings and salutations!

I have been ruminating on the subject of materials available to makers, craftsmen, and engineers of the period. Of course there are the iconic materials such as wood, leather, iron, and brass, but I am looking towards the more esoteric and exotic. Metallurgy was advancing at an incredible pace allowing new alloys of steel with properties only dreamt of. My eye, however, is looking more towards composites.

Bakelite, celluloid, and melamine are just being developed, so plastics are in their birth throes. But why not look to the east and bring up the advances in ceramics? Something else that could be used as a forerunner to fiberglass is silk and shellac. Imagine, if you will, layers of fine silk layered in bias and impregnated with shellac and allowed to cure. If placed over a form, you could get nearly any shape desired and have a resulting rigid piece that could be quite durable, possibly even bullet resistant, while being light in weight. The process would be incredibly labor intensive, but imagine the possibilities...
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2017, 10:03:07 am »

Some materials were available but extremely expensive. Case in point, Aluminium was well known for most of the 19th. C. But wasn't produced in sufficient quantities until 1888, when the Halt Heroult process was invented. Because of this, Aluminium was a rare and luxurious item - so it'd be correct to showcase it in it's proper context:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium#History

Quote

History

Although ancient Greeks and Romans used aluminium salts as dyeing mordants and as astringents for dressing wounds, metallic aluminium was not refined until the modern era. Alum, a salt of aluminium and potassium, is still used as a styptic. In 1782, Guyton de Morveau suggested calling the "base" of (i.e., the metallic element in) alum alumine.[63] In 1808, Humphry Davy identified the existence of a metal base of alum, which he at first termed alumium and later aluminum (see etymology section, below).

The metal was first produced in 1825 in an impure form by Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. He reacted anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium amalgam, yielding a lump of metal looking similar to tin.[64][65] Friedrich Wöhler was aware of these experiments and cited them, but after repeating Ørsted's experiments, he concluded that this metal was pure potassium. He conducted a similar experiment in 1827 by mixing anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium and produced aluminium.[65] Wöhler is therefore generally credited with isolating aluminium (Latin alumen, alum). Further, Pierre Berthier discovered aluminium in bauxite ore. Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville improved Wöhler's method in 1846. As described in his 1859 book, aluminium trichloride could be reduced by sodium, which was more convenient and less expensive than potassium, which Wöhler had used.[66] In the mid-1880s, aluminium metal was exceedingly difficult to produce, which made pure aluminium more valuable than gold.[67] So celebrated was the metal that bars of aluminium were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1855.[68] Napoleon III of France is reputed to have held a banquet where the most honored guests were given aluminium utensils, while the others made do with gold.

Aluminium was selected as the material to use for the 100 ounces (2.8 kg) capstone of the Washington Monument in 1884, a time when one ounce (30 grams) cost the daily wage of a common worker on the project (in 1884 about $1 for 10 hours of labor; today, a construction worker in the US working on such a project might earn $25–$35 per hour and therefore around $300 in an equivalent single 10-hour day).[71] The capstone, which was set in place on 6 December 1884 in an elaborate dedication ceremony, was the largest single piece of aluminium cast at the time.[71][72] It suffered some damage from lightening strikes, and was reengineered, redesigned and replaced in the 1934 renovation of the monument.[71]
The Cowles companies supplied aluminium alloy in quantity in the United States and England using smelters like the furnace of Carl Wilhelm Siemens by 1886.

Hall-Heroult process: availability of cheap aluminium metal

Charles Martin Hall of Ohio in the U.S. and Paul Héroult of France independently developed the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process that facilitated large-scale production of metallic aluminium. This process remains in use today.[76] In 1888, with the financial backing of Alfred E. Hunt, the Pittsburgh Reduction Company started; today it is known as Alcoa. Héroult's process was in production by 1889 in Switzerland at Aluminium Industrie, now Alcan, and at British Aluminium, now Luxfer Group and Alcoa, by 1896 in Scotland.[77]
By 1895, the metal was being used as a building material as far away as Sydney, Australia in the dome of the Chief Secretary's Building.
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Mr. Phikset
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2017, 07:23:00 pm »

Aluminum does indeed have an interesting history as well, significant to the period. I have a few aluminum French coins of the time in my personal collection.
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« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2017, 07:43:13 am »

When it was new aluminium items were more expensive than gold or silver ones. They came to be quite the status symbol!
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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2017, 08:37:45 am »

Laminates and Composites existed for ages,  such as sik, cotton, bamboo and other fibers layered with glue, varnish, clay , and other materials. Bamboo fibers are particularly useful, and shaved bamboo wedges are still glued together to make high-end custom flyrods that are not even surpassed by carbon fiber.

Papier Mache' is one such, common paper impregnated with common glues such as horse hide glue, flour glue, rice glue, and varnish then
layered over a form to dry , finished and waterproofed.

It was used in ancient egypt, the orient, middle east, and finally around the 1700's in europe
 it can make hard, strong, lightweight composites and was used for helmets, fuel tanks, and the famous "paper canoe" -

from wiki:
"One common item made in the 19th century in America was the paper canoe, most famously made by Waters & Sons of Troy, New York. The invention of the continuous sheet paper machine allows paper sheets to be made of any length, and this made an ideal material for building a seamless boat hull. The paper of the time was significantly stretchier than modern paper, especially when damp, and this was used to good effect in the manufacture of paper boats. A layer of thick, dampened paper was placed over a hull mold and tacked down at the edges. A layer of glue was added, allowed to dry, and sanded down. Additional layers of paper and glue could be added to achieve the desired thickness, and cloth could be added as well to provide additional strength and stiffness. The final product was trimmed, reinforced with wooden strips at the keel and gunwales to provide stiffness, and waterproofed. Paper racing shells were highly competitive during the late 19th century. Few examples of paper boats survived. One of the best known paper boats was the canoe, the "Maria Theresa," used by Nathaniel Holmes Bishop to travel from New York to Florida in 1874–75. An account of his travels was published in the book "Voyage of the Paper Canoe."[7][8]"

even furniture was made of it:

https://www.si.edu/mci/downloads/RELACT/papier_mache.pdf

yhs
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« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2017, 07:29:12 pm »

Greetings and salutations!

I have been ruminating on the subject of materials available to makers, craftsmen, and engineers of the period. Of course there are the iconic materials such as wood, leather, iron, and brass, but I am looking towards the more esoteric and exotic. Metallurgy was advancing at an incredible pace allowing new alloys of steel with properties only dreamt of. My eye, however, is looking more towards composites.

Bakelite, celluloid, and melamine are just being developed, so plastics are in their birth throes. But why not look to the east and bring up the advances in ceramics? Something else that could be used as a forerunner to fiberglass is silk and shellac. Imagine, if you will, layers of fine silk layered in bias and impregnated with shellac and allowed to cure. If placed over a form, you could get nearly any shape desired and have a resulting rigid piece that could be quite durable, possibly even bullet resistant, while being light in weight. The process would be incredibly labor intensive, but imagine the possibilities...

Talking about being bullet resistant, I recently caught a Mythbusters episode in which they were testing Chinese layered paper armour; it performed as well as a similar design of overlapping steel plate armour in terms of stopping blades, arrows and flintlock balls.

Yours,
Miranda.
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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2017, 10:27:47 pm »

...
Bakelite, celluloid, and melamine are just being developed, so plastics are in their birth throes. But why not look to the east and bring up the advances in ceramics? Something else that could be used as a forerunner to fiberglass is silk and shellac. Imagine, if you will, layers of fine silk layered in bias and impregnated with shellac and allowed to cure. If placed over a form, you could get nearly any shape desired and have a resulting rigid piece that could be quite durable, possibly even bullet resistant, while being light in weight. The process would be incredibly labor intensive, but imagine the possibilities...

Talking about being bullet resistant, I recently caught a Mythbusters episode in which they were testing Chinese layered paper armour; it performed as well as a similar design of overlapping steel plate armour in terms of stopping blades, arrows and flintlock balls.

Yours,
Miranda.

Another common material was Rawhide.
Yup , untanned animal skins, scraped of fat, dried hard.
The Planis Indian rawhide shield made of a Buffalo Hump could not be penetrated by lance, arrows, or common roundball projectiles.
They were safe against gunfire until the massive Hawken Rifles and their ilk, capable of firing a .54 caliber ball with a charge of 120 to 150 grains of powder.

Once smaller caliber (ie .45 ) , pointed, elongated bullets with charges of 70-90 grains of powder ( heavy loads for the caliber) were developed and common ( ie 45-70, .455-577 Martini-Henry ) with superior penetration, the rawhide shield was no longer as effective.

But Rawhide continueed to be used as a strong, semi-rigid material that was easily molded when wet but dried to a hard, tough, and durable product. Saddles , pack frames, boxes and containers are just a few items that come to mind.

yhs
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« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2017, 01:35:57 am »

But Rawhide continueed to be used as a strong, semi-rigid material that was easily molded when wet but dried to a hard, tough, and durable product. Saddles , pack frames, boxes and containers are just a few items that come to mind.
Also the Mormon Tabernacle, if memory serves. (Rawhide lashing instead of nails &c.)
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« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2017, 04:50:23 am »

Composition was a common plastic material in the 19th century; it was basically sawdust mixed with glue. Variations included mixtures with wax, plaster of paris, etc. That might be the composite material that you are looking for. If you want to experiment with it, buy a can of Plastic Wood brand wood filler from a hardware store; it's essentially the same thing. I don't have much experience with the stuff, but I know that it can be molded if you can come up with a mold that it won't bond to.

Celluloid was also used in 19th century commercial products. The chemicals used to make celluloid are not exotic, and an adventurous hobbyist should be able to do it.
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2017, 05:42:41 pm »

Gutta-percha is another Victorian 'plastic'. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutta-percha

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