Publication: American Electrician
New York, NY, United States
A MANUFACTORY OF CLAY AND PORCELAIN
In one direction electrical engineers and users of electrical energy are studying how to produce or find a material or medium that will conduct the current with least resistance and loss, and in "another direction are seeking a material void of conducting properties, on which to mount or support the conductors in order to insulate them from loss of current and from dangerous contact. Nature seems to have provided a substance suitable tor this use in the clays and silicates, and although these are very common elements only certain grades are found to be of a proper character to produce the best goods for this purpose. There are certain counties in Ohio in which the surface for a considerable depth consists of numerous argillaceous deposits or drift clays known as fire-clay and shale, which are supposed to have been of Northern origin, and which were formed by glacial action and deposited as sediment from lakes and pools following the retreat of the ice floe.
These deposits have become an important element of wealth to the State for they supply the material from which nearly all the stoneware of the country is manufactured, as well as material for fire-brick, paving brick, sewer pipe, underground electrical conduits and more recently material tor interior house wiring specialties, such as tubes, knobs, cleats, switch bases, etc. Summit County is especially noted for these deposits and all about Akron, the county seat, are found extensive manufacturers of these wares, and among them the Akron Insulator and Marble Company is of special interest, as the entire energies of the works are now directed to the manufacture of interior wiring specialties and such special designs as may be ordered, the company making a specialty of new designs. The products, however, are not all produced from native clay but embrace also porcelain goods which are made from imported materials.
The material for the clay goods is purchased from the mine owners all ready tempered or mixed and prepared, and is of a gray or bluelsh tint, which when baked is nearly white and is glazed in dark or light colors as may be required. For all purposes the material is forced through dies in screw presses in the form of tubes or rods, which are afterward cut up into suitable lengths, the tubes being made up to two inches in diameter and twenty-four inches in length. For making short tubes up to four or five inches in length and for knobs and cleats the material is first formed in rods of various diameters. These rods having been allowed to dry for a certain period are cut up into suitable lengths, and the short tubes are formed by clamping the section in a two-part metal die, which is closed by foot power and which is provided with a small hole in each end. A rapidly revolving mandrel is then forced through the mass, leaving a smooth uniform bore, after which the die is opened, and the form removed and placed upon a grooved wooden tray, after which the webs and surplus material are carefully scraped off. For this purpose there are five machines in the works each operated by an attendant who is able to form 6000 a day.
The trimming is mostly done by female help, who also do the sorting and packing into the seggers preparatory to the baking process. The cleats are also formed from cylindrical bars pressed into shape and stamped by a die operated by a screw. There are three of these machines and the attendant is able to form 7000 per day. The porcelain products are mostly pressed dry, the powder being placed in the die when they are formed under heavy pressure produced by a screw which is operated by hand, the long arms of which terminate in heavy iron balls which from the momentum give an enormous pressure. There are a number of these presses as well as other finishing tools. The knobs after being formed have the grooves turned in by placing them on the spindle of a lathe.
After the various shapes are made they are placed on racks in wooden trays where they are left to dry, suitable temperature being provided by steam pipes. When sufficiently dry they are packed in seggers which are shallow pans made from fire-clay, and which are manufactured in another department. These with their contents are now piled in tiers in the kilns, of which there are four of the ordinary dome-shape down-draft type. The baking process occupies two days and two nights, but it requires about a week to allow for cooling off and recharging.
The company makes its own dies, and, as said above, makes a specialty of new and odd designs to suit customers. The company is enjoying a very liberal patronage, having among its customers many of the most prominent electrical manufacturers of the country. At the time of the writer's visit it was filling an order for a million tubes from one customer, and another order for 470,000 pieces of special design.
The works are located on the outskirts of the city, and are served by sidings from the neighboring steam railway, so that coal and material are delivered directly to the works and the shipments are made from a platform beside the packing room. The stock room is well supplied with bins and cages for keeping the different patterns by themselves and a large quantity is constantly carried in stock, so that most orders can be promptly filled. The works of the Akron Insulator & Marble Company employ from fifty-five to sixty hands, and are operated under the direction of J. P. Loomis, President and Treasurer: W. H. Motz, Vice-President; J. R. Hemphlll, Secretary and manager of the works, to whom the writer is indebted for courtesies shown.