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Home > Video > Video Display > Antikythera Fragment #3 – Ancient Tool Technology – Hand Cut Precision Files

Antikythera Fragment #3 – Ancient Tool Technology – Hand Cut Precision Files

Antikythera Fragment #3 – Ancient Tool Technology – Hand Cut Precision FilesThere are quite a few very interesting tools still to come in this Fragment series, but I have to admit I’ve been super excited about these: A set of hand cut files suitable for constructing the Antikythera Mechanism. Please enjoy  The other video where I case harden the files can be found here:  you would like to help support the creation of these videos, then head on over to the Clickspring Patreon page: 
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________________________________________________________Abbreviated Transcript:00:40 The Greek civilisation was well into the Iron Age at the time of the devices creation. But the question of steel availability is not easily answered. Certainly there was a form of crucible steel known as Wootz, from the region we now call India. But there was also the technique known as case hardening, which essentially converts the surface of an iron object into steel.
01:23 The first step is to take this raw stock, and shape the basic file blanks. In recent history, this job was done on a massive grinding wheel. And although it would of course have been much slower and less convenient, similar hand powered abrasive tools are known to have existed in antiquity.
02:46 No matter how much I roll the file on top of the work, it rotates so that the file will still cut reasonably flat. Ok, so with the file surfaces stripped, the next step is to form the teeth. And I need to make a few more custom tools to get this part of the job done. I’ve made a simple file cutting workstation, based on the traditional approach, but scaled down to suit the size of my shop.
06:15 And that first tooth now becomes the reference for the next tooth. The chisel blade is slid up against it, and then the subsequent teeth are laid down one after another. Each time, using the previous cut to locate the next. There is of course a non uniformity to the tooth spacing. But I think the most interesting thing to see up close, is the side profile of the cutting teeth.
07:34 Most of the other surfaces were cut with a single cut pattern, but I did give some of the files a double cut pattern to investigate if it would make much difference. And the wider chisel was used to span the wider blanks. The files were then hardened using the same case hardening process that I used for the chisels, and then tempered to pale straw.
08:59 Well I’m not about to give up my commercially made files any time soon. But they do work quite well. They’re probably equivalent to a modern #2 cut file, and although the cutting action is not quite as sweet as a new, modern file, its a reasonable balance between metal removal and surface finish. They’re durable, easy to handle, and certainly perform well enough to have constructed the original mechanism.
09:49 Although I’d like to be clear that its not quite as straight forward as this in the wreckage. There are many variations and inconsistencies. And the wreckage itself is in such poor condition that its impossible to be certain about much of it. But nevertheless, it’s definitely observable, that in general, the smaller wheels have a wider root angle than the larger wheels.
10:31 But there’s still quite a high degree of consistency of the root angles around each given wheel. That suggests to me that the teeth were in fact formed by simply plunging the file into the workpiece, like I’ve done here. And that the root angle variation observed across the gearing, was in fact generated by a small selection of files cut specifically to construct this mechanism. Ok, so to wrap this one up, Its still very early days for this reconstruction. And I’ve still got a lot more research to do into the tool technology behind this machine.
11:02 But I think you’ll agree that its worth it. To see the picture of the ancient workshop that’s starting to emerge. Of a single individual, or perhaps a small team, working with simple, yet highly effective tools. Developing the workshop traditions, and refining the engineering practices that would one day shape the modern world.References:The Nicholson Guide to Files & Filing:  late Ken Hawley on the Sheffield file cutting tradition:  modern toolmaking company, producing magnificent hand cut files and rasps:  Fragment #3 – Ancient Tool Technology – Hand Cut Precision Files
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