Tension Drilling.

by John

Do you know what tension drilling is? Well, read on.

Having made the gears which position the carriage on the chassis of the Armstrong RML model cannon (I assume that regular readers will know by now that RML stands for “rifled muzzle loader”), I had to drill the chassis for the gear shafts.

There are 3 shafts, 8mm, 6mm and 5mm diameter. I knew the theoretical distances between the shaft centres by applying formulae taking into account module and tooth numbers. And also by using “Gearotic” software.

(I tripled checked with a lash up and direct measurement.)

But! I did not know the distance between the big gear and the rack gear. Because, the rack is attached to the base of the carriage, and the big gear is attached to the chassis. Considerations such as trolley wheel diameters, rectangularity of chassis and carriage, and position of the trolley wheels on the carriage all come into play. I will not bore you with details, but determining that measurement involved a lengthy, tricky, and complex setup using a surface plate, height gauge, adjustable parallels, straight edges, and averaging the errors. Amazingly, it turned out OK.

Then came a decision. To drill and ream straight through both girders at once, or to measure and drill/ream them individually. Luckily for me, I had a visit from GSMEE member Swen, (to borrow a tool), who is a retired ex-army Warrant Officer artillery fitter/turner. When I explained my dilemma, he was in no doubt. Measure them and drill them independently, he advised. So I did just that.

But, having invested many, many hours to date in making the chassis’, drilling a big (relatively) hole in the chassis girder was a very tense moment. (hence “tension drilling”).

Before drilling any more of the 6 holes required, I tested the fit between the rack and the big gear. Amazingly, it seemed pretty good. Maybe a little bit tight, but not too bad. So, I drilled and reamed the remaining holes.

Collars, splines, pins, bronze bushes and brake fittings yet to be made.

That photo represented a very long day in the workshop. I think that I arrived home about 9pm.

And there was a problem.

The big gear and its partner would rotate freely in one direction, but were catching and lumpy in the other direction.

Closer examination revealed that the teeth of the pinion appeared to be bent, allowing free movement in one direction only. Hmm…. how could that have happened? And how to fix it?

Root cause analysis of the issue concluded that the mill Z axis must have been bumped when I cut the teeth on that gear, causing them to be slightly off centre, producing the “bent” appearance. (the top photo shows the faulty gear. Can you make out the distortion?)

Solutions? Make a new gear. Or fix the distorted one. I decided to try the second option. I was not wanting to make another ratchet. So, I filed and tried, filed and tried, filed and tried…. you get the picture. And gradually the lumpiness disappeared. Several hours later, with blisters appearing, it seemed quite good, and will not be visible to casual inspection. You, dear readers, will be the only ones to ever know.

Yesterday I drilled the second chassis. I completed the task in only 2-3 hours. A fraction of time compared with the first one.