Marine Chain Manufacturing

CVA 586-1262 - Welding [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

Photo A: CVA 586-1262 – Welding [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

My friend, Wes, has knowledge on a wide range of topics – from cars to aircraft to, evidently, welding processes. I asked him today if he had any idea what the manufacturing steps were that were illustrated in these Vancouver wartime images. Today’s post is largely thanks to his smarts.

What is being created in these images is chain for use as anchor cables on war period merchant ships. James Pritchard in A Bridge of Ships: Canadian Shipbuilding During the Second World War (2011) points out that a Canadian crown plant called Wartime Merchant Shipping, Ltd. was set up on Granville Island. The crown corp purchased a chain creation process called “Electro-Weld” from Pacific Chain and Manufacturing Company (Portland, OR) to supply 144 sets of anchor-chain cable. The process at Granville Island was the same as that employed at the American company’s Seattle plant:

  1. Steel bar stock was cut, heated, and formed into chain. Photo A shows the steel being formed into chain.
  2. The support was welded into each link (whether by hand or machine isn’t clear; perhaps it was begun by one process and finished by the other). See Photo B.
  3. The completed length of chain was stretched out for inspection and testing (and some welding was done at this point, presumably to fix missed areas). See Photo C.
  4. Completed chain was heat-treated for strength in an oven (steps 3 and 4 may have been reversed). See Photo D.

CVA 586-1261 - Welding [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

Photo B: CVA 586-1261 – Welding [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

Photo C. CVA 586-1267 – Chain plant [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

Photo D. CVA 586-1279 – Chain plant [for] wartime merchant shipping 1943 Don Coltman photo.

According to Pritchard, the Granville Island plant “was soon turning out 15 fathoms (27.4m) per shift, or fifteen sets of chain per month. The venture was so successful that Canadian-type 10,000-tonners were supplied with a full prewar quantity of 270 fathoms (494m) of anchor cable, which was also exported to the United States.” (p. 233)

If you are interested, this video shows a present-day, more automated chain-production process.

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2 Responses to Marine Chain Manufacturing

  1. Roland Patrick Taylor says:

    Thank you for this! My Maternal GrandFather Robert S. Miller was Pacific Chain Mfg. Co Portland Ore. My Paternal Grand Father Edward Roland Taylor was instrumental in setting up the Granville Island Plant

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