Every summer for the past 18 years our family has traveled the United States for the annual family vacation. Our vacations have taken us from Chicago, IL to nearly each of the 48 contiguous states. From Maine to Arizona, or Oregon to South Carolina, our travels have allowed us to visit and experience nature, history, culture, and adventure. This year was no different as we traveled to and spent a week in the Washington D.C. area.
Employed by a bender/roller (a company that specializes in curving and bending steel) the last 18 years, my family has grown accustomed to, and in some cases, put up with my habit of noticing, describing and commenting on the curved steel we see on our trips. This year was to be no different. There are some usual sightings of curved steel–beams or tubes curved the hard way (x-x axis or strong axis) for a canopy to any number of buildings, or for a curved roof structure, maybe even for a dome. There are pipe bends, seen on most every stair handrail, exercise equipment, pipe bollards at gas stations, and roadway signs.
However, what I found most interesting were the S-Beams (guessing S8 x 18.4 or S10 x 25.4) rolled the easy way (y-y axis or weak axis) in a bunker, Battery 519, which originally housed 12-inch guns at Fort Miles, Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes, Delaware.
These curved S-Beams were being installed as part of an ongoing restoration project. The original purpose of these curved S-Beams was being used as part of an overhead trolley/hoist system designed to assist the soldiers in moving the ammunition for the 12-inch guns, from their storage bunker to the 12-inch guns for loading and firing.
I know how we would curve these beams in our plant presently, how long it would take to produce each bend, our tolerances, and even a cost. But how were these beams curved in the early 1940’s when battery 519 was originally constructed as part of the costal defense system, defending the Delaware River, and industrial sites which lay inland, from possible attack during World War II? I know that there are a number of methods used by different bender/roller companies currently which have been utilized since the early 1900’s and mostly likely even before then. Who knows, maybe even our company curved the original beams used in the 1940’s.
So in your travels, be it for a vacation, a weekend getaway, the commute to and from work, picking the kids up at school or a trip to the grocery store, chances are you will see numerous examples of curved steel.