Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #24: Steam-Hydraulic Forging Presses


 The Mesta Machine Company made large, and I daresay even huge, hydraulic forging presses for a great many years while they were in operation, and were widely used in industry. A while back I wrote a post about the 50,000 ton Mesta hydraulic forging press The “Fifty”, which was built several decades after the dinky little 8,000 ton steam-hydraulic press pictured above. Back in the day, however, an 8,000 ton forging press was a pretty big tool, and the largest that Mesta made at the time (circa 1919) was “only” 15,000 tons.

These machines were the workhorses of many forges through the years as the most efficient way of producing large forgings. I think that they’re wonderful.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #23: Rope Drives and Flywheels


A large-ish rope drive wheel being turned on a pit lathe.

Following on to the last post about the giant frikkin’ gears that the Mesta Machine Co. used to make, this time we’ll take a quick look at their rope drives and flywheels which are also predictably huge.

As it states above, rope drives are used where quiet and smooth transmission of power is required and belts are either not strong enough or too cumbersome. A good example is the drive mechanisms used by most elevators used in buildings. Could you imagine riding a chain-driven elevator up to the 50th floor of a building? I can, unfortunately, and it makes me want to go outside and sit on the nice, safe gravel of my front yard.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta memories #22: Gear Drives


One of the things that always stand out to me when I’m looking at pictures of old factories and machinery, is the enormous gears that are used almost everywhere. The herringbone-toothed gear shown above is a great example.

The Mesta Machine Company made a great variety of large gear drives for heavy industry and power production. The following pictures show some of the monstrous gears that Mesta made on a regular basis.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #21: Sheet Mills and a Pickling Machine


 Today we’ll look at four types of inter-related rolling mills that produce steel sheets. A jobbing mill rolls steel sheets that range between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in thickness and then send the sheets to a furnace for annealing, producing “blue annealed sheets”. Some plate mills can produce light plates that overlap the output of jobbing mills, but the output of plate mills is not annealed, unlike the jobbing mill. The material sent to a jobbing mill is called “sheet bar” produced by a universal mill or a sheet bar mill and sent to the jobbing mill cold. A jobbing mill uses two-high stands, i.e. stands with two rollers, and consists of a stand with both rollers pinion driven, a roughing stand and a finishing stand.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #20: Wheel and Tire Mills



When we think of steel wheels, we normally think of the one on our cars or trucks, but there are other kinds of steel wheels used in industry and heavy equipment. The easiest example I can think of are the steel wheel used to support and drive the treads on a bulldozer or a tank. We tend to think of the toothed wheel that drives the treads as a sprocket nowadays, but 100 years ago it was common to call them steel wheels, and I believe that it’s still a proper term in the industry, although I can’t prove it. Anyway, that’s basically the kinds of wheels that were made on the Mesta Wheel Mill, generally speaking.

The modern equivalent of the Steel Tire Mill would the ring rolling machines you see in forging operations. A common example of a steel tire is on a railroad wheelset, and you can also find them on certain kinds of excavating equipment.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #19 – Merchant, Bar and Structural Mills


The Mesta Machine Company made a series of smaller mills to complement their bigger slabbing and plate mills, called merchant, bar and structural mills. These are all basically bar mills and produced smaller shaped steel forms for engineering and construction. When I say “smaller”, it is in comparison to the sizes output by the blooming or slabbing mills. You have to remember to think big.

Merchant mills produce a variety of shaped products such as angles, channels, beams, rounds and hexagons, and in the old days they would keep an assortment of stock on hand for buyers of small lots. In the present, merchant mills produce large lots to order, and the keeping of stock on hand has typically passed to other steel sellers.

Bar mills produce steel bar with a rectangular, round, or hexagonal cross section in various sizes and lengths, with bar that is 10mm or less in diameter sold in rolls. Steel reinforcing rod or rebar is  typically made on bar mills dedicated to the task (but not always), as best as I can determine (lost my reference, dang it) due to the volume usually produced. A video of a rebar and rod mill is after the jump.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #18 – Slabbing and Plate Mills



Today we’re looking at more types of rolling mills made by the Mesta Machine Company.

Slabbing mills are  basically a more specialized form of blooming mill. A slabbing mill is designed to take a hot steel ingot and roll it out into a slab that’s typically from 150mm to 400mm thick. The output of a slabbing mill is an intermediate step in the production of steel plate and is send on to a plate mill for further working and finishing.

There are two videos on steel rolling at the the end of the article.

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Mesta Memories #17 – Blooming Mills



The Mesta Machine Company made many products for the steel making industry, and a large portion of those products were rolling mills. A blooming mill is a type of rolling mill that produces ‘blooms’, a kind of thick, rough-surfaced slab. Here is the definition of a bloom from’s Steel Glossary Terms:

A semi-finished long product of greater than 150 mm square or rectangular cross-section. Blooms can be produced by continuous casting or by rolling from ingot. Continuously cast rounds of 300mm diameter or greater are also referred to as blooms

Blooms are typically made from cast steel ingots, which are also sometimes called blooms, that are heated in soaking pits until they reach working temperature, then sent to the blooming mill where the ingots are repeatedly sent through one or more sets of powerful rollers that reduce its cross section while increasing its length. Once the desired cross section has been reached, the bloom is usually sent on to the slabbing mill for finishing.

At the end of this article is a video that shows a steam powered blooming mill in operation.

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Mesta Memories #16 – Air Compressors and Barometric Condensers



Most of us have and air compressor of some sort in our garages or have worked around the big compressors used in auto body and repair shops, but they pale in comparison to the ones made by the Mesta Machine Company in its heyday. Like most of the machines produced by Mesta, they’re huge and were intended to supply large factories and other industrial works. According to the information pamphlet, Mesta made compressors using up to 4 stages and produced pressures of 1000 psi. I haven’t been able to gather any data on the construction of the Mesta compressors, and I don’t know how they handled the cooling of the air between stages, or even exactly how their pumps worked. They’re impressive looking beasts though.

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Atomic Awesome, Big Complicated Machines, Technostalgia

Mesta Memories #15 – Reversing Engines



Good morning everyone.

Among the many types of engines that the Mesta Machine Company manufactured are steam reversing engines for rolling mills. As the name would suggest, they are engines that will run either in forward or reverse. The reversing operation was needed in the rolling mills to shuttle the slabs of steel back an forth through the rollers. The direction of the engines was changed, at least in these Mesta models, by pulling a lever that changed the valve timing and the engine would spin down to a halt and then reverse directions. This happened all in about a minutes time from what I can gather from reading about different types of these engines.

You would think, or I least I do, that it would be more efficient to have some sort of clutch and reversing gear mechanism, rather than halt the machine and its flywheel and start it up in the other direction. Evidently that wasn’t the case, because after doing a bit of reading it turns out that the cost of maintenance and breakage of the reverse gear mechanisms far outweighed the efficiency lost by reversing the entire engine. It wasn’t until the AEG Company of Germany came up with a mill stack that used a method call the Ilgner system which used electric motors that the steam reversing engines started to get phased out.

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