Friday, 25 July 2014

Mystery objects

More mystery objects for you to ponder over.

The first is part of George's Marvelous Machine. As you can see it incorporates a crank and a curious, conical drum. Could the drum be intended as a kind of variable gear for a belt-drive?


Second is a piece of 18th century timber with a carpenter's mark upon it. We'd like to identify the mark if we can. if you have any suggestions we'd be happy to hear them.
Timber inscribed with carpenter's mark

Thursday, 24 July 2014

George's Marvelous Machine

Finally today, a quick run through of what I found in the tangled mass sitting on the base of the dock.

The mass was cemented together by a combination of fine, black mud and lime kiln waste. The black mud was formed from night soil waste and was very tenacious. It ranged in consistency from very soft and clayey to compact and hard, similar to Jurassic mudstone such as that you can find on Dorset beaches. Iron salts from the decomposition of ferrous objects made it extremely hard in places. The lime kiln waste was identified as such by analysis undertaken by the Scottish Lime Centre. Like the night soil, it had been dumped upon the mass of machinery etc. from above through a doorway to the alley. Much of the lime had taken a very strong set, like concrete.

The deposition sequence was as follows:
Thick layer of sawdust, wood shavings and off-cuts, 10-15 cm deep sitting directly on the dock floor. There were a few fragments of broken pottery incorporated, including most of a Delft Willow Pattern eggcup. The thickness of the layer and the incorporation of pottery waste strongly suggest it was the result of dumping through the doorway above, of waste from a workshop, rather than of works to boats (i.e. Peggy) in the dock itself.
Machinery components, metal implements, scrap timber. This would appear to be a single deposit, judging from the extremely complicated tangle. There are items from what might best be described as a workshop clear-out: miscellaneous cast iron boxes, one of which contains a flintlock, a key and other oddments; hinge plates and cast iron collars; keys; a set of weighing scales; an auger and a variety of long bars with hooks or T-pieces. The machinery components are distinct from these. They are characterised by substantial and refined castings and finely made gears. They are often composite with wooden parts. They include a number of crank pieces designed to transmit rotary motion to lateral, reciprocal movement, driven by a beveled gear and a separate drive shaft; one of these pieces incorporates a very unusual belt-drive cylinder. 

Part of an elaborate cast iron cam with wooden rods

There is also a rather fine regulator – a long rod, pivoted in the middle, terminating in lead spheres at either end. The two large wheels, one with four spokes and the other with six, are also from this group. The strong indication is that all the machinery components come from one machine unconnected to the dock.

Night soil, as above described.

Lime waste, ditto.

Glass and pottery waste, added while the night soil and lime were soft.

Volunteers help archaeological dig

Also this week Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage, has been supervising volunteers from the Friends of Manx National Heritage. The volunteers have been cleaning artifacts from the archaeological dig.

and it didn't rain......

We are very lucky with our Friends organisation. They include many talented and energetic people are they are ably organised by Nicola Pemberton. If you'd like to join them, why not contact Nicola by clicking here?

Wierd science

Yesterday I finally finished separating the objects fused together in the dock. It hasn't been a pleasant job; physically exhausting and very, very smelly (my wife threw up when I walked into the kitchen after one particularly difficult day).

These photos will show you how I progressed:








BUT.... what is that machine, and how did it get there? Any suggestions would be more than welcome.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Hearts of Oak

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to visit the Morecambe Bay shrimper Hearts of Oak (1912) as she lay moored in Douglas harbour here on the Isle of Man. Tony, Ray and Brian were there to welcome us, and told us a bit about her restoration, which has taken a good number of years, as such projects do.
Hearts of Oak is the last vessel built in and sailed from Ulverston, a small town in south west Cumbria, otherwise famous as the birth place of Stan Laurel. In sailing to the island from Ulverston overnight, the crew re-created a crossing well-known to George Quayle and described by him in his 1796 correspondence. Just like George they suffered a choppy voyage; unlike his party, thankfully, they were not reduced to bailing out with a hat box to avoid sinking. In fact Hearts of Oak sails very fast and sweetly too, and she is very elegant to boot. Well worth a skeet, as they say over here.

Hearts of Oak, moored at Douglas breakwater

The crew of Hearts of Oak: L to R, Ray, Tony and Brian

Hearts of Oak on Facebook

The Nobby Owners Association

Hearts of Oak is also inscribed on the National Small Boats Register

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Night soil, night soil

This week I have been working in Quayle's dock in 15cm of water with the Bee Gees Night Fever running through my head as I chip, chisel and scrub away the mud and concrete from the mass of fused machinery lying there. The black, night soil mud is hard and sticky and full of broken glass - nice! It's also very fine and gets everywhere. It ruined my pneumatic hammer in the space of three hours, forcing me to buy a new one.
This time I am taking no chances. As you can see, I have tied polythene bags on to the chisels so the hammer (top) can be protected from the mud while I work.
Pneumatic hammer and chisels

I did, finally, manage to get a piece of the mass off. It's this very nice 18th century winding handle....

18th century winding handle

Thursday, 5 June 2014

The dock in 3D and mystery objects

Please bear with me if you find you are unable to download and open the linked documents in this post. I am sailing uncharted waters here!

I have been hard at work this week in the recently excavated 1802 dock at the Nautical Museum in Castletown. At the bottom of the dock the archaeologists were obliged to leave, as found, a tangled mass of machinery and timbers stuck together under a heap of concrete (see my previous post entitled 'End of the dock dig'). It falls to me now to record, separate and remove from the dock the various parts of this concretion. To do this I have each day to drain the dock with a pump at low tide. Then I am using a compressed air chisel to remove the concrete bit by bit. It is a very laborious process and I've only just begun.
To record the stages of this work I am using close-range photogrammetry, otherwise understood as 3D modelling from photographs. Here is a link to a 3D scan in pdf format. The file is very large so you will have to DOWNLOAD THEN SAVE it before you can view it. Those of you with more basic computers may not be able to view the file even then. If this is you, I apologise.

3d Model: download me!
Meanwhile, here are two photographs of a mystery, unidentified object extracted from the mass in the dock, yesterday. 

The photographs show a pair of bevelled brass collars, two concentric brass tubes and a coiled, steel spring. At the top of the photos is mounted a kind of latch. We are very interested to hear from you if you think you might know what this is.....