Description of the General Electric insulator works at Schenectady, NY

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Brick

Chicago, IL, United States
vol. 27, no. 2, p. 73-77, col. 1-2

The Eighth Annual Summer Meeting of the American

Ceramic Society, Convened at Schenectady,

July 11, 1907.

By K E. Ashley.

The eighth annual summer meeting of the American Ceramic Society convened Thursday, July 11th, at Schenectady, N. Y. The members arrived from all points at about 8:30 a. m., and were met at the station by L E. Barringer, member of the Research Staff of the General Electric Co. Mr. Barringer is an old friend of many of the members, a graduate of the ceramic department of the Ohio State University, and is busied here with ceramic mixtures and insulating compositions.

The General Electric Co., has a capital stock of $80,000,000, employes 14,000 people at Schenectady, occupies 275 acres of land, of which about 60 acres is taken up with shops and buildings with a floor space of 80 acres. The 50 large buildings and many of the 130 smaller buildings are arranged along the two sides of a broad avenue, separated sufficiently to give ample light and also security against fire. Along the avenue is operated a double-track narrow-gage electric railroad that connects with all the buildings. Both sides are lined with attractive grassy plots, with shrubbery about the more important buildings.

Each department of the manufacture is housed separately, has its own superintendent, assistant superintendent, production cleric, draftsmen, testing flair, etc. This is to overcome the routine and lack of close touch that would come in with any attempt to operate entirely from the main office.

The electric-porcelain department is housed in one of the last buildings on the avenue and about 180 hands are employed. The machinery is made by the Crossley Machine Co., Trenton, N. J.; John Watson, Trenton, N. J., and largely by the General Electric Co. itself. It is operated by the individual electric drive or in small groups.

The body materials are potter's flint, feldspar, English china clay, and American ball clay. They are wheeled from the cars directly into large brick bins, thence loaded and weighed in wheelbarrows, agitated in two large single blungers, pumped by one side of a double-slip pump to a double lawn, run into two agitators, and pumped by the second side of the slip pump into two filter presses. After drying over steam coils, the mix is moistened quite thoroughly in a huge pile, and broken up by two 4-vaned disintegrators.

This body, fired to about cone 10, has a compressive strength of 26,000 to 28,000 lb. per sq. in., and tensile strength of 500 lb. per sq. in.

The 70 presses are almost entirely of the company's own make. There are about 1,800 stock shapes, most of which are made on the presses. Ten machinists are employed cutting dies. Many of these are marvels of ingenuity. Each makes about 50,000 pieces of ware before becoming so worn as to need discarding. The fired ware is required to fit very accurately to standard gages or metal fittings. The clay for the larger pieces is weighed out; but this precaution is not taken for the smaller stuff.

The stillages are of wood. One and 2-in. workboards are used according to the size of ware. For some of the larger pieces felt pillows are nailed on the workboards.

The finishing is done on workboards in front of the stillages, on horizontal lathes or vertical jiggers on benches. The finishing tools are knives, wooden sticks, triangular scrapers, thick felts and brushes. The vertical jiggers and triangular scrapers are used for the largest insulators. Considerable material is cut away from these with the intention of removing fine surface drying cracks.

For the jiggered ware, a different body mixture is used. After leaving the filter presses, it is put through one of two vertical pugmills. The molds for this body are made of a very high grade of plaster of paris. The soft body is shaped by a brass profile, which is moved vertically down to the clay by the jigger arm.

The drying on the stillages is very slow, and the room was much cooler than the clayshop of the whiteware pottery.

The white glaze is ground in two wet runner-mills and the brown glaze in a small runner-mill. The latter is not Albany slip, as that would be too pale at cone 10. The glazing is done on power-rotated whirlers by atomizers. Almost no scraping is required, the pieces being lifted from the whirler and placed in the sagger by the girl operating the atomizer.

The saggers are either purchased or made on a press of the company's own design and manufacture. The sides and table of the press are raised by an 8-in. ram operated by an 80-lb. city-water pressure, and press against a rotating plunger. The plunger, except for its rotation, is fixed in position and is turned by a 5-h. p. motor. When the table falls, four air-valves in the plunger permit the sagger to go down also. The sides fall flush with the table, and the sagger is slid off horizontally onto a board. The saggers are dried on the kiln hobs.

There are 8 up-draft kilns of from 8 to 16-ft. diameter. Wads are used for the first 3 to 8 ft. of the bung, after which they are omitted. The length of burn is about 40 hours with the largest kilns, and a very satisfactory degree of uniformity is obtained.

The industrial railway extends through all the rooms of the electric-porcelain department. Work has been started on a 2-story addition that will double this department's 'capacity. It will have such improvements as have been suggested by the working of the present plant. No new makes of machinery will be introduced as the present equipment has proved quite satisfactory.

At a little after 1.00 p. m. an attractive luncheon was served in a private dining room in the office building. Those present were: A. L. Rohrer, superintendent of electric manufacturing apparatus; A. F. Hobbs, S. H. Kanmacher, J. T. Stock-dale, D. B. Rushmore, of the power and mining department : F. Cermack, foreman of electric-porcelain department; and the following members of the American Ceramic Society: Pres. S. G. Burt, Rookwood Pottery Co.. Cincinnati, O.; Sec. Edward Orton, jr., Columbus. O., Director Department of Ceramics, Ohio State University ; Karl Langenbeck. Washing-ton, D. C.; Lawrence Barringer, Schenectady. N. Y.; W. M. Fickes, Rosslyn Brick Co., Carnegie. Pa.; E. T. Montgomery, S. Hanson, Mass.; James E. Randall, Indianapolis, Ind.; C. H. Griffin, Norton Emery Wheel Co., Worcester, Mass.; Chas. Weelans, superintendent Monument Pottery Co., Trenton, N. J.: Harrison Everett Ashley, Homer-Laughlin China Co., Newell, W. Va.; M. E. Gregory, Corning, N. Y.; F. N. Hastings, Hartford Faience Co., Hartford, Conn.; H. A. Plusch, Rocky Hill, N. J.; Cullen W. Parmelee, Director Department of Ceramics, Rutger's College, New Brunswick, N. J.

After luncheon the members were taken to the department where high-potential insulators were tested. An insulator was tested dry at 80,000 volts. In the darkened room it showed blue fringes of light. It was then wetted, and the voltage run up until it arched over the aprons, heated up the piece, punctured, and cracked. This was quite beautiful and spectacular. Other exhibits of the behavior of the high-potential currents were made, and the visitors became familiar with the odor of ozone.

Other departments visited were the generator shops, the wire-covering shop, the turbine factory, the induction-motor factory, and the socket department.

At 4:30 p. m. a pilgrimage was made in the rain to the immense shops of the American Locomotive Co., and about two hours were spent under the guidance of L A. Hayne in watching the many mechanical operations there carried on. The night was spent at the Hotel Edison.


Proceedings of the Second Day.



Keywords:General Electric Company
Researcher notes:General Electric operated a dry process porcelain plant for various electrical supplies such as sockets, switches, cut-outs, outlets, etc. Not sure what type of high-potential insulators were being tested at 80,000 volts. Perhaps they were large dry process bushings for transformers, generators, and sub-station work.
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Elton Gish
Date completed:September 21, 2012 by: Elton Gish;