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Updated: Nov. 20th, 2007

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Author's Collection/Engineering
Hydraulic Riveter at Work on the Vertical Keel Plate of Olympic. Author's Collection/Engineering

Author's Collection/Engineering

Hydraulic Riveter at Work Along the Sheer Strakes of Olympic. Author's Collection/Engineering

From an original promotional film/Robert Hahn Collection.
Two Riveters at work on the Olympic’s steel plating. A small furnace is just to the left. From an original promotional film/Robert Hahn Collection.

Author's Collection

   Introduction - Ship construction was, and is, the result of centuries of experience. At the time of Titanic’s inception, ship construction had reached a point where standard proportions had been established for nearly all vital features. However, the first part of the twentieth century was a time of rapid advances in which new patents and inventions from all scientific and engineering disciplines were incorporated into the art of shipbuilding, with many of these advances being put to practical use by naval architects before they had been fully accepted by their land-based peers. The pace at which technology was advancing was so fast that “state-of-the art” fittings on a newly completed ship could become outdated within a few years. Titanic was representative of this time of constant evolution, combining the best of traditional practices with the latest improvements of her day.



Image above, Ship Structure – This generic illustration identifies the principal of parts that comprise a ship’s structure.
Author’s collection

   The structural design and arrangement of any ship includes a multitude of parts chosen for strength, watertightness and/or safety. Generally speaking, the ship as a whole can be regarded as a huge box girder, three sides of which are composed of the shell plating and the fourth by the main strength deck - in Titanic’s case, the Bridge Deck (B). These four sides of the box girder are, in turn, strengthened by support structures such as the keel, frames, beams, keelsons, stringers, girders and pillars, each of which . . . (continued)


   Manual riveting - A “rivet squad” consisted of three men and one or two boys and worked with iron rivets, as this material was more malleable than steel. One boy heated the rivets; the other conveyed them to and inserted them in the hole. If there was only one boy, he would toss the rivets to the man called the “holder-on” or “holder-up.” While this man held the head in place using a “holding-up” hammer of between 13 and 16 pounds, the other two men would clinch the point. Riveting hammers varied from 3 pounds to 8 pounds in weight, relative to the size of the rivet and its location.

  The procedure of closing a rivet was as follows: the hot rivet was inserted in the hole, the holder-up struck the head a few blows to “lay it up” so that it would bed fairly on the plate; he then “held it up” with the hammer, placing the head of the hammer against the rivet head while the two men on the other side struck the rivet several blows in rapid succession
. . . (continued)


  Hydraulic riveting - Hydraulic riveting was adopted to some extent in all large shipyards; however, it was not always found to be advantageous in regard to expedition and economy, and although riveting machines were available, they were not always employed. Their use was generally confined to the riveting together of the frames, reverse bars, and floors, or the component parts of built-up beams, deck girders, bracket plates, tank margin lugs to margin plates, etc., as these parts existed in large numbers. They could be brought to the riveting machine, bolted together and riveted without delay in wholesale fashion. Even small riveting machines weighed upwards of half a ton and required pipe connections for a hydraulic supply; they were located in a convenient spot where they could be suspended from a small trolley or runner, which traveled out and in on the horizontal arm of a crane, so that the riveting machine could reach every point of the area swept by the latter.

  In the yard of Harland & Wolff, an extensive and elaborate hydraulic installation was provided which made it possible to machine-rivet much of the hull in place. The riveting machines were suspended from traveling hoists suspended from the gantry above, the hoists traveling fore and aft on permanently fitted overhead rails
. . . (continued)


Other topics in this chapter:
Materials used in ship construction (Wrought iron, steel, forgings, castings, plates, shapes) - Rivets and riveted work - Types of rivets - Rivet hole punching - Rivet preparation

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Copyright 2007 Beveridge, Hall, Andrews, Klistorner and Braunschweiger.

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