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Ancient Lathes - - (Part 1)

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  • Ancient Lathes - - (Part 1)

    (Since only four pictures are permitted per post, this will be in several parts.)

    We have just returned from my wife’s “dream trip,” a visit to Greece and Italy. I was really impressed by the workmanship that went into the making of the stone columns used to support the roofs of the ancient buildings. The marble and limestone columns were as straight and smooth as anything than can be manufactured today, yet these were done 2,000 to 3,000 years ago!

    By looking at columns that were lying on the ground, I have concluded that a lathe or lathe-type machine had to been used to turn these columns. Below are pictures of both ends of two columns that are about 30 cm in diameter and about 3 meters long and are lying on their sides. You can see the mounting holes on each end. One of the holes is square and the outer hole is round. One end is the driven end and the other is the live or dead center.




    Other columns that were seen had the square drive hole in the center of the end or for a dead center. Most of the time, the remainder of the column was missing. Pictured below a re a few of the column ends I observed. The diameters ranged from 30 to 60 cm in diameter.


    Bill

    Being ROAD KILL on the Information Super Highway and Electronically Challenged really SUCKS!!

    Every problem can be solved through the proper application of explosives, duct tape, teflon, WD-40, or any combo of the aforementioned items.

  • #2
    Those holes aren't big enough to support or drive that mass of stone in a lathe setup, especially considering the materials available in that day. The holes are for keying the column in place when it is set vertical in the structure.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Evan
      Those holes aren't big enough to support or drive that mass of stone in a lathe setup, especially considering the materials available in that day. The holes are for keying the column in place when it is set vertical in the structure.
      Big enough to hold a jig. Something like a rotating lathe rest. Move the jig, not the column. If they're keys, too small for a wooden key or stone key. They'd get sheared easily. Would have to be a metal key if that's what they were used for. I've seen column without keys. They just stacked and held by virtue of weight. Must have been real good at engineering footers. 40-foot columns in several segments just standing free.

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      • #4
        If they're keys, too small for a wooden key or stone key.
        Not if the key is made of ironwood. It is as stong as many metals and it doesn't take much to locate something. The fact still remains that with the materials available at the time those holes aren't big enough to act as centers.

        One shouldn't underestimate the ability of a good stone cutter. There are ways to make a column nearly perfect without rotating it in a lathe or even rotating something around it. Off hand I can think of one right away. Cut a circular shoulder at each end of a block using a template and roll the block on timbers as it is worked on with a height gauge. When done chisel off the shoulders.
        Last edited by Evan; 09-15-2008, 01:16 PM.
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        • #5
          Oh geez, you've got this thread posted in several pieces.

          From your other thread:

          Originally posted by lazlo
          On the Nova episode about the restoration of the Parthenon, they showed how the pieces of the column used a tapered square key, which was pinned with a piece of wood. The seams on the column piece were fitted so tightly that many of the wooden key pieces are still intact when the disassemble they column for inspection.
          The wooden keys on the Parthenon columns were made of Cedar.
          "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."

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          • #6
            Originally posted by BigBoy1
            (Since only four pictures are permitted per post, this will be in several parts.)
            Per post, but not per thread, so you should be able to put all your photos on one thread? I might be wrong...

            Regarding keys, I am pretty sure that lead (and maybe other metals as well)was used in some of the old buildings, because sometimes you see large holes that have been hacked into ancient standing pillars etc. - this was done by scrap metal thieves over the centuries.

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