IN my days at Head Wrightson Stampings there were over 600 people forging away there.
One needs to be careful when explaining that one spent 42 years forging!
The truth is I never actually forged anything.
I left that sharp end of manufacturing to the mates of mine in the stamp shops.
Technically we were described as a closed die forge, in that the stamper would hammer a very hot steel billet until the dies were closed together.
In simple terms then if the dies are closed together the billet between them is now the shape of the impression which is cut (sunk) into both dies.
The dies themselves were made on site, (predictably) in the die shop by die sinkers.
I would never admit it but I held those craftsmen in high esteem in that they were effectively cutting complicated impressions into very hard die steel.
Not only did the impressions (shapes within) need to be accurate they were actually an inside-out mirror image of the forging required, and they were made to ‘contraction’ measurements, which made an exact allowance for the fact that when the forging was made and cooled down it became smaller than when it was hot (contraction).
Whilst all of these practices which really made it possible to do the work of blacksmithing in a repeatable mass producing way were going on, I personally was always in maintenance.
I went on to be works engineer for many years and the works manager.
We had the job of keeping these violent self-destroying machines working.
The production units were arranged in suites which normally would include a furnace, a hammer and a press.
The furnace would be happily burning and twisting itself whilst heating billets of steel all day long to over 1,100 degrees C.
The hammer would vary from 1/5 ton to five ton in tup (hammer itself) weight which was lifted quickly by a self contained friction operated mechanism and then ‘dropped’ to bring the two dies together, hence ‘drop stamping’.
The bottom die was held in an anvil which was also the base of the hammer itself.
The weight ratio required in such machines was 20:1, and thereby in the case of a five ton hammer the base/anvil was 100 Tons.
There were service departments which cut the steel billets, heat treated the forgings and, as mentioned earlier, sunk the die blocks.
Over the years the customers’ requirements have varied from Ford half shafts, Minicar couplings, Volvo Beval gears, tank/armoured vehicle rollers, anchor chains (including the QE2), British Aerospace parts -- including devices which attached weapons to the
Tornado wings through both Gulf wars.
Diversification was essential to survival in the manufacturing industry and Stampings was built in a spot which was remote then, in 1939, to make bomb bases for the Second World War and is now still pressing away at gears and all manner of forgings.
To contribute your Memory Lane memories, write to Tom Collins, Hartlepool Mail, New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool TS24 8BX or by email firstname.lastname@example.org