Late January, 1632
Martin Schmidt walked briskly down the Tech Center hallway, his mind full of plans. The thread rolling machine was working well and he was eager to take the next step and build a drop forge.
A drop forge needed a source of power to raise the ram. The thread-rolling machine used a salvaged electric motor and the up-time machinists Martin had consulted all agreed that his drop forge would need another electric motor. Unfortunately, electric motors were very useful—so useful that finding a salvaged one that worked had become nearly impossible. The previous day Herr Don McConnell had given Martin the names of some people at the Tech Center and suggested that they might know of a suitable motor.
Excited yells and cheers distracted Martin. Under and around the cheers he heard an odd chuffing noise. The Tech Center was full of wonders and Martin couldn't resist looking in to see what this one was.
On the floor at the front of the classroom a small steam engine cheerfully chugged away. Attached to the little engine was a windlass device and the rope from that stretched across the classroom. At the room's far end sat a little red steel wagon with two large male students shakily perched on top. An elderly man bent over the steam engine and the windlass began to wind up.
To Martin's amazement the wagon started to move. It didn't move very fast but, once started, it and its load rolled steadily along. The students standing around cheered, clapped, and yelled comments to the two riding the little wagon. Most were begging to be the next to ride. The American steam engine man appeared delighted to show his toy off.
The thought struck Martin that if such a small engine could pull two men maybe a larger one could raise the ram of a drop forge. He moved forward as eagerly as the students did, questions bubbling in his mind. Neither Martin's English nor the elderly American's German proved up to the discussion that ensued. By appealing to several of the Tech Center's teachers, both sides finally managed to communicate. The steam engine man called in some others and the discussion continued until a second elderly American finally smiled.
"You're right, a small steam engine should work. I . . . we've . . . " He nodded at the steam engine man. " . . . got a good idea of just the type and size you need. Heck, I've got most of the parts in my basement and I know which of the steamheads have the rest." His eyes twinkling, the elderly man grinned. "It'll be a fun job for us old farts, too."
One of the Tech Center teachers spoke up then, "Can you do the work up here at the Center? We need to capture your knowledge . . . "
"Sure, we could, son," snorted the old man. "but my basement workshop's set up for steam and the parts are there. Send over anyone you want; just let my wife know how many are coming."
The Tech Center teachers seemed confident so Martin took a leap of faith and commissioned a steam engine. He didn't know exactly what manner of steam engine he had just commissioned but if he had understood the steamheads correctly there were other machines the engine could power, too. He asked and the steam engine man replied.
"Son, you can run a whole machine shop off a steam engine. My grandfather's shop ran off steam. My father didn't electrify the shop until 1942."
Martin was confused until one of those interpreting added, "That was probably a good twenty years after electricity and electric motors were available. Lots of machine shops were powered by a steam engine. Changing to electric motors took money and some people didn't see a reason to change."
Martin's hopes flared. The biggest problem in replicating up-time machines was how to power them. Here was an answer. Given a steam engine he would be able to build lathes and mills and . . . Martin gave himself a mental shake. There would be time enough for those thoughts once the drop forge was built and running. Machines needed gears and with a drop forge he could produce gears. Lots of gears.
The up-timers, Herr Reardon and Herr McConnell, worked with him designing and building the drop forge. It was crude compared to the sleek up-time machines but, as Herr McConnell put it, "You can frigging well pretty up the next frigging one."
As the parts of the drop forge came together Martin realized that he had a problem. The hardened steel punches and dies the forge needed were costly and there weren't enough funds left after paying for the rest of the drop forge. He knew that Kudzu Werke's blacksmith shop was doing well but he'd been happy to let Herman handle the financial end. Drop forges were useless without proper dies. Packing up drawings and his list he went to Herr Glauber to ask for money.
Herman Glauber listened carefully while Martin went into detail on which punches and dies were the most important. When Martin was finished speaking, Glauber solemnly asked, "How much will cost to buy all the dies and punches for the parts you intend to make?"
Swallowing hard, Martin named a sum that equaled two good years' wages.
"Ah, Martin. " Glauber smiled. "So much? Well, things are going well. Your fiddly little nuts and bolts sell well and the reclining chair is starting to sell, also. I have money here—just a bit of extra cash, mind you." Glauber reached into his pocket and pulled out some bills. He carefully counted them, folded them over and dropped the wad into Martin's hands. "Top quality work—that's what I expect from Herr Reardon. Be certain you get the best set of punches and dies you can from him." Glauber then excused himself and hurried off, leaving a stunned Martin counting out enough American dollars to buy the full set of punches and dies.
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- The Grantville Gazette Staff