The Resurgence of British Engineering The Resurgence of British Engineering
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    Default The Resurgence of British Engineering

    Engineering Hints and Tips:

    When I was an apprentice engineer we did one day a week at college where they measured things in anything from ‘thousandths of an inch’ to ‘so many yards’ (and of course the ridiculous metric alternatives of millimetres, centimetres and metres that had been forced on us by ‘Jonny Foreigner’ back in the early 1970’s). However, when working with ‘real engineers’ at the Fairey Engineering factory in Stockport where I served my apprenticeship, we were taught a far older and more reliable range of measurements.


    Generally, at the quantum end of the scale, you started with a ‘Smidgeon’, which equated to the standard British imperial precision ‘clearance’ measurement of ‘sixteen thou’ (16/1000 of an inch) or just under half of one of those ridiculous ‘millimetres’ that were foisted upon us by Europe.


    (NB. In the USA, as any Harley Davidson motorcycle owner will no-doubt be aware, the smallest ‘precision engineering’ clearance measurement they use is about half an inch, though it does seem that they have perfected the ability to produce chrome plating that is less than one micron thick that can be wiped-off with a damp hanky).


    In traditional British industries (if you are under 30 years old, ask your dad about the industries we had before that dreadful old witch Thatcher shut them down or sold them off for pennies), three Smidgeons were equivalent to a ‘Gnat’s-Dick’.


    Three Gnat’s-Dicks were equivalent to a ‘Cock-Hair’ and four Cock-Hairs equalled one ‘Tad’.


    With the Tad we have entered the ‘macro’ scale, where things can be reliably measured by eye.


    A ‘Thumb-End’ was made-up of two Tads and five Thumb-Ends were equivalent to one Handful. (Except in Norfolk or certain parts of Yorkshire where a Handful can be comprised of six or even seven Thumb-Ends).


    At the larger end of the scale we had a ‘Batch’, which was the equivalent of twelve Handfuls’ followed by a ‘Ruck’ which was comprised of twelve Batches. The only measurement greater than a Ruck was a ‘tulipload’.


    It was never firmly established how many Rucks it took to make a tulipload because, according to conventional wisdom, “If you have a tulipload, you have enough!”


    This system of ‘standard integers’ was ideally suited to the universal requirements of British industry because they can be used as a measurement of length or mass but equally as a measurement of volume or the passage of time. Even the intensity of human emotions was often calculated using this system.


    “Mr Brunel will be more than a tad peeved if this bridge turns-out to be a thumb-end short of reaching the other side of the Avon!” Said the foreman as he surveyed the site from his vantage-point atop a swarthy barmaid from Bristol; “And there’ll be a tulipload of us filling the next batch of boats back to Ireland if it’s so much as a cock-hair out-of-kilter!”
    Excerpt from ‘The Building of the Dangly Bridge’ by R S Biscuits @1868.


    Nowadays of course we have all sorts of silly metric sizes for things while still clinging forlornly to the old imperial system of inches, feet, yards and miles. It’s no wonder we have difficulty grasping the finer nuances of measurements.


    Have you ever found yourself in the position where you need to replace a bolt on your bike or trike but you aren’t sure of the exact size?


    OK so, if you have the original bolt, you can try to roughly measure the diameter with a rule (or more exactly if you own a Micrometer), and perhaps you establish it to be in all likelihood 10mm in diameter (or 25/64 inch or about 8 cock-hairs); but then how do you know if it is a British imperial thread such as BA, BSF or BSW, or a metric thread or even a silly American ‘Unified’ thread? The simple answer is, generally you can’t!


    Maybe you can take a guess based on the manufacturer of the motorcycle but even that becomes less reliable with custom built bikes and trikes, so what do you do?


    Well you could try wading through all of the tech-spec stuff on the internet or you can go to your local bike-shop and ask them (again, less of an option for custom bikes).


    I suppose, if you are a deranged optimist, you could ask on one of the motorcycle forums on the internet but the chances are some incredibly boring bastards will give you the very-long-winded version of 'a completely wrong answer'.


    Well, I’ll tell you what you have to do! You have to ask around until somebody gives you the name of the local Wizard!


    Wizards nowadays don’t tend to dress in pointy hats, curly-toed shoes and starry robes, they are far more likely to be wearing oily jeans and a mucky, often blim-burned and invariably aged t-shirt; but they are no-less mystical and magical for that!


    Wizards can have strange names like ‘Grobo’ or ‘Snob’ or ‘Budgie’ though often they have fairly mundane-sounding names like ‘Chris Ireland’ or ‘Dick Smith’.


    My local Wizard is known as ‘Trike Paul’ and he can ascertain the size and thread of the bolt you need simply by licking the end of your thumb!


    Wizards can conjure-up whatever parts you need, including parts you weren’t even aware you needed, with the wave of a hand (though it can often be a very slow wave) and they can tell you how to fit them.


    Wizards can also ‘magic-up’ cups of tea with barely a flicker of movement, if you are prepared to listen to them describing in great detail how they designed a revolutionary exhaust bracket for a triple-expansion banjo polisher or some such bizarre item… and it is invariably ‘bloody good tea’!


    I hope this short educational; article has gone someway to helping you to solve your engineering problems. I shall now return to sitting in the corner of my nicely padded room and eating my crayons.


    You never know, now that Britain is allegedly leaving Europe, perhaps we can all get our cock-hairs back and start believing in magic again?
    Brexit is having a wee in the middle of the room at a house party because nobody is talking to you, and then complaining about the smell.

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    If you're going to quote another's work it might be nice to at least acknowledge your source, lest you be labelled the plagiaristic chunt.
    Old Greg - In search of acceptance since Mar 2007. Hoping each leap will be his last.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zigenare View Post
    If you're going to quote another's work it might be nice to at least acknowledge your source, lest you be labelled the plagiaristic chunt.
    No. Oh alright, apparently it was in Back Street Heroes at some point but don't know who wrote it. Did that trigger you?
    Brexit is having a wee in the middle of the room at a house party because nobody is talking to you, and then complaining about the smell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by darmstadt View Post
    No. Oh alright, apparently it was in Back Street Heroes at some point but don't know who wrote it. Did that trigger you?
    Nope, try again.
    Old Greg - In search of acceptance since Mar 2007. Hoping each leap will be his last.

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    In the 50s and 60s, I was taught to work in Imperial and Metric units. However, it seems that in later years only the metric system was taught in British schools. This is quite strange because every person I have worked with in Europe are quite happy to use both Imperial and Metric units. It's down to education.
    Brexiteers remind me of religious fanatics, only faith, no facts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paddy View Post
    In the 50s and 60s, I was taught to work in Imperial and Metric units. However, it seems that in later years only the metric system was taught in British schools. This is quite strange because every person I have worked with in Europe are quite happy to use both Imperial and Metric units. It's down to education.
    You may(or may not) find this of interest.
    Old Greg - In search of acceptance since Mar 2007. Hoping each leap will be his last.

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    Quote Originally Posted by darmstadt View Post
    Engineering Hints and Tips:

    When I was an apprentice engineer we did one day a week at college where they measured things in anything from ‘thousandths of an inch’ to ‘so many yards’ (and of course the ridiculous metric alternatives of millimetres, centimetres and metres that had been forced on us by ‘Jonny Foreigner’ back in the early 1970’s). However, when working with ‘real engineers’ at the Fairey Engineering factory in Stockport where I served my apprenticeship, we were taught a far older and more reliable range of measurements.


    Generally, at the quantum end of the scale, you started with a ‘Smidgeon’, which equated to the standard British imperial precision ‘clearance’ measurement of ‘sixteen thou’ (16/1000 of an inch) or just under half of one of those ridiculous ‘millimetres’ that were foisted upon us by Europe.


    (NB. In the USA, as any Harley Davidson motorcycle owner will no-doubt be aware, the smallest ‘precision engineering’ clearance measurement they use is about half an inch, though it does seem that they have perfected the ability to produce chrome plating that is less than one micron thick that can be wiped-off with a damp hanky).


    In traditional British industries (if you are under 30 years old, ask your dad about the industries we had before that dreadful old witch Thatcher shut them down or sold them off for pennies), three Smidgeons were equivalent to a ‘Gnat’s-Dick’.


    Three Gnat’s-Dicks were equivalent to a ‘Cock-Hair’ and four Cock-Hairs equalled one ‘Tad’.


    With the Tad we have entered the ‘macro’ scale, where things can be reliably measured by eye.


    A ‘Thumb-End’ was made-up of two Tads and five Thumb-Ends were equivalent to one Handful. (Except in Norfolk or certain parts of Yorkshire where a Handful can be comprised of six or even seven Thumb-Ends).


    At the larger end of the scale we had a ‘Batch’, which was the equivalent of twelve Handfuls’ followed by a ‘Ruck’ which was comprised of twelve Batches. The only measurement greater than a Ruck was a ‘tulipload’.


    It was never firmly established how many Rucks it took to make a tulipload because, according to conventional wisdom, “If you have a tulipload, you have enough!”


    This system of ‘standard integers’ was ideally suited to the universal requirements of British industry because they can be used as a measurement of length or mass but equally as a measurement of volume or the passage of time. Even the intensity of human emotions was often calculated using this system.


    “Mr Brunel will be more than a tad peeved if this bridge turns-out to be a thumb-end short of reaching the other side of the Avon!” Said the foreman as he surveyed the site from his vantage-point atop a swarthy barmaid from Bristol; “And there’ll be a tulipload of us filling the next batch of boats back to Ireland if it’s so much as a cock-hair out-of-kilter!”
    Excerpt from ‘The Building of the Dangly Bridge’ by R S Biscuits @1868.


    Nowadays of course we have all sorts of silly metric sizes for things while still clinging forlornly to the old imperial system of inches, feet, yards and miles. It’s no wonder we have difficulty grasping the finer nuances of measurements.


    Have you ever found yourself in the position where you need to replace a bolt on your bike or trike but you aren’t sure of the exact size?


    OK so, if you have the original bolt, you can try to roughly measure the diameter with a rule (or more exactly if you own a Micrometer), and perhaps you establish it to be in all likelihood 10mm in diameter (or 25/64 inch or about 8 cock-hairs); but then how do you know if it is a British imperial thread such as BA, BSF or BSW, or a metric thread or even a silly American ‘Unified’ thread? The simple answer is, generally you can’t!

    Maybe you can take a guess based on the manufacturer of the motorcycle but even that becomes less reliable with custom built bikes and trikes, so what do you do?


    Well you could try wading through all of the tech-spec stuff on the internet or you can go to your local bike-shop and ask them (again, less of an option for custom bikes).


    I suppose, if you are a deranged optimist, you could ask on one of the motorcycle forums on the internet but the chances are some incredibly boring bastards will give you the very-long-winded version of 'a completely wrong answer'.


    Well, I’ll tell you what you have to do! You have to ask around until somebody gives you the name of the local Wizard!


    Wizards nowadays don’t tend to dress in pointy hats, curly-toed shoes and starry robes, they are far more likely to be wearing oily jeans and a mucky, often blim-burned and invariably aged t-shirt; but they are no-less mystical and magical for that!


    Wizards can have strange names like ‘Grobo’ or ‘Snob’ or ‘Budgie’ though often they have fairly mundane-sounding names like ‘Chris Ireland’ or ‘Dick Smith’.


    My local Wizard is known as ‘Trike Paul’ and he can ascertain the size and thread of the bolt you need simply by licking the end of your thumb!


    Wizards can conjure-up whatever parts you need, including parts you weren’t even aware you needed, with the wave of a hand (though it can often be a very slow wave) and they can tell you how to fit them.


    Wizards can also ‘magic-up’ cups of tea with barely a flicker of movement, if you are prepared to listen to them describing in great detail how they designed a revolutionary exhaust bracket for a triple-expansion banjo polisher or some such bizarre item… and it is invariably ‘bloody good tea’!


    I hope this short educational; article has gone someway to helping you to solve your engineering problems. I shall now return to sitting in the corner of my nicely padded room and eating my crayons.


    You never know, now that Britain is allegedly leaving Europe, perhaps we can all get our cock-hairs back and start believing in magic again?
    what? you didn't use cubits and spans? I must be older than I think then

    OK so, if you have the original bolt, you can try to roughly measure the diameter with a rule (or more exactly if you own a Micrometer), and perhaps you establish it to be in all likelihood 10mm in diameter (or 25/64 inch or about 8 cock-hairs); but then how do you know if it is a British imperial thread such as BA, BSF or BSW, or a metric thread or even a silly American ‘Unified’ thread? The simple answer is, generally you can’t![/FONT][/COLOR]
    an experienced eye can. It is difficult however to identify UNF 24tpi from BSCYC 26tpi without a thread gauge. Note that 1/4 bscyc = 1/4 bsf and some bscyc share the same tpi as unf notably 20tpi.

    Also, bolt heads generally have a form which helps in identification. It's not quite so easy to identify nuts though, but again, there are noticeable differences between unf and the other British standards. It's relatively easy to identify BSW though. BA threads are confined to small nuts and bolts.
    Last edited by JohntheBike; 22nd August 2019 at 07:56. Reason: additional info

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paddy View Post
    In the 50s and 60s, I was taught to work in Imperial and Metric units. However, it seems that in later years only the metric system was taught in British schools. This is quite strange because every person I have worked with in Europe are quite happy to use both Imperial and Metric units. It's down to education.
    Whenever I get bolts I never get metric ones. As my nuts are imperial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paddy View Post
    In the 50s and 60s, I was taught to work in Imperial and Metric units. However, it seems that in later years only the metric system was taught in British schools. This is quite strange because every person I have worked with in Europe are quite happy to use both Imperial and Metric units. It's down to education.
    In the 60's when I was studying sciences, most scientific measurements were in metric measurements.

    It's ironic that the "metric" system was attributed to John Wilkins, a Bishop. However, the Romans had used "decimal" numbers but their arithmetic was hampered by the non positional numbering system e.g MMIV.

    A centurion was in charge of 100 men and if a battle was lost, one in ten was executed which led to our word decimate. The mile was originally a mille, i.e. 1000 paces. The Roman mile was quite close to our modern mile.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrilloPad View Post
    Whenever I get bolts I never get metric ones. As my nuts are imperial.
    did you mean imperious rather than imperial?

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