Counterblow

A film showing the manufacture, building, and working of the largest counterblow hammer to be installed in England

By Ollie Taylor

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The film shows the manufacture, building and working of the largest counterblow hammer to be installed in England - 35 cwt. billets being forged by 60 ton hammer blows illustrate the modern production of crankshafts in Britain's largest crank forging factory.  A film of great interest to all people engaged in the Steel Industry and particularly the closed die forging trade.  Directors, managers, and students of Heavy Engineering all find interest during this impressive film.

If this film brings back memories of Fielding and Platt - the people, places, and machinery that appear in it - or if you learnt anything from or enjoyed this film, please share your memories and thoughts by clicking on the grey words Add a comment about this page at the bottom of this page or leave a message on our message board.

This page was added by Ollie Taylor on 19/07/2013.
Comments about this page

As an apprentice, I worked with Big George (AKA Bob Harding) at Ambrose Shardlow. This was the first time I had been in a drop hammer forge. The noise, heat and smell of metal being tortured into shape by large lumps of metal falling on the red hot bars was indeed fascinating.

My first vision was the number of forge workers with scars on their arms and faces, from the red hot shrapnel produced when the tup hit the die. Some, like the forge superintendent, had lost an eye. The only benefit being the red hot pieces seared the wound on impact. No blood at all.

It was a great experience, the way that Bob organized the crew that helped with the construction of such heavy castings to be delivered safely to the pit bottom and the complete assembly. The German engineer, Kurt ? came on site when the installation had been completed and immediately made revisions to the hammer's construction. These took about five additional days to complete.

As I remember, the top tup weighed 68 tons, whilst the bottom tup weighed 72 tons. My mind thought how much shrapnel would be showered on us at start up. Start up proved to be a breeze. There were a few times when the dies stuck together, due to lack of sawdust, which was thrown by a very brave man onto the red hot billet during the hammer operation. Sawdust when wet prevents the die/billet sticking together. The hydraulic press presented no problems that I can recall.

Fielding and Platt instilled terrific knowledge into its apprentices - from the Craft School (thanks Bert and John!) to the rest of the staff/shop foremen, journeymen and many others who taught us - that provided us all with our futures. I would not be where my wife and I are today without all of those, plus many others whom I have forgotten.

By Jim Rigby
On 11/09/2013

I worked with Big George, aka Bob Harding, on site at Ambrose Shardlow Ltd, installing the Beche DGH 150 counter blow hammer.

It was my first visit to a plant with multiple drop stamps. The acrid smell of smoke, the heat, and the noise of the forging of red hot billets into crank shafts was awe inspiring. After being on site for just a short period of time, I became aware of the large number of workers that operated the drop stamps who had scars on their faces and arms, received from the shrapnel exploding from the dies upon impact of the stamp. A couple had even lost an eye. Drop stamps from these machines weighed no more than 1 to 2 tons.

The erection of the Beche, under Bob's supervision and great expertise, was relatively smooth with just a few small hiccups, as I recall. It was Bob's ingenuity and expertise that allowed us to get the large castings into place - all without the use of any overhead cranes or panic but, of course, with full regard for the safety of all concerned.

 When the German engineer, Kurt, arrived on site, he came with numerous changes to be made. It took us about five days to implement the work to his satisfaction.

I recall, the bottom tup weighed 72 tonnes, and the top tup weighed 68 tonnes (without dies). Start up went well. Seeing this machine in action was simply amazing. Jim Rigby

By Jim Rigby
On 11/09/2013

Thanks Jim, what amazing memories and such vivid descriptions of what the machine and Shardlow Works were like! The injuries of those who operated the machine sound horrific - what did these workers say about them? Also it'd be great to hear more about how Bob got the castings into place without the use of any overhead cranes. Cheers! Ollie

By Ollie Taylor
On 11/09/2013

I think in those days, safety was far more lax than the present day laws. Injuries, such as I described above, were simply an every day hazard in this industry. In the film, it shows the bedplate being manually hauled onto 12" square wooden beams which were laid in a criss - cross pattern in pairs. To lower the plate, one side of the bedplate only was jacked up and that freed beam was removed. The jack was lowered, allowing the bedplate to rest on the beam below. The jack was then re - sited to the other opposite beam and the same procedure was repeated to all beams until the bedplate was at the bottom of the pit. The same procedure was reversed to raise the top tup assembly onto the two 35 tonne side castings. We had a lot inquisitive visitors during these times. I do believe that is me on the winch, when we pulled the bedplate onto the wood beams. Hope this answers your questions Ollie. Jim

By Jim Rigby
On 18/09/2013

Correction and addition to my last note. The side castings weighed 65 tonnes each. In order to pull these beasts into the upright position, the steel pillars that supported the building were strengthened with large buttress-type steel supports that were removed later. In the film you will see the winch pulling the sides to an upright position. Again many visitors watched in awe. Ollie, you have my memory cells working double overtime. Jim

By Jim Rigby
On 18/09/2013

Jim, many thanks for sharing this memory with us. Your detailed description of the way to lift and lower very heavy objects with minimal kit should be a valuable lesson to all. It is great that you can recall all of this. I suspect once learned, never forgotten. I guess that in this day and age you would have to prepare a detailed 'Risk Assessment' document, etc., etc. John B

By John Bancroft
On 18/09/2013

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