raised, and, during the interval when the lowest board is descending, the weight is slowly forcing the top board down and thus keeping up the flow of air.
|Figs. 1 and 2.—Common Smiths’ Bellows.|
Hand-bellows for domestic use are generally shaped like a pear, with the hinge at the narrow end. The same shape was adopted for the older forms of smiths’ bellows, with the difference that two bellows were used superposed, in a manner similar to that just described, so as to provide for a continuous blast. In the later form of smiths’ bellows the same principle is employed, but the boards are made circular in shape and are always maintained roughly parallel to one another. These are shown on figs. 1 and 2. Here A is the blast pipe, B the movable lowest board, C the fixed middle board, close to which the pipe A is inserted, and D is the movable uppermost board pressed upon by the weight shown. The board B is raised by means of a hand lever L, through either a chain or a connecting rod, and lowered by a weight. The size of the weight on D depends on the air pressure required. For instance, if a blast pressure of half a pound per square inch is wanted and the boards are 18 in. in diameter, and therefore have an area of 254 sq. in., on each of the 254 sq. in. there is to be a pressure of half a pound, so that the weight to balance this must be half multiplied by 254, or 127 ℔ The diameter of the air-pipe can be varied to suit the required conditions. Instead of bellows with flexible sides, a sliding arrangement is sometimes used; this consists of what are really two boxes fitting into one another with the open sides both facing inwards, as if one were acting as a lid to the other. By having a valve and outlet pipe fitted as in the bellows and sliding them alternately apart and together, an intermittent blast is produced. The chief defect of this arrangement is the leakage of air caused by the difficulty in making the joint a sufficiently good fit to be air-tight.
Blowing Engines.—Where larger quantities of air at higher pressures than can conveniently be supplied by bellows are required, as for blast furnaces and the Bessemer process of steel-making, what are termed “blowing engines” are used. The mode of action of a blowing engine is simple. When a piston, accurately fitting a cylinder which has one end closed, is forcibly moved towards the other end, a partial vacuum is formed between the piston and the blank end, and if this space be allowed to communicate with the outer atmosphere air will flow in to fill the vacuum. When the piston has completed its movement or “stroke,” the cylinder will have been filled with air. On the return of the piston, if the valve through which the air entered is now closed and a second one communicating with a chamber or pipe is opened, the air in the cylinder is expelled through this second valve. The action is similar to that of the bellows, but is carried out in a machine which is much better able to resist higher pressures and which is more convenient for dealing with large quantities of air. The valves through which the atmosphere or “free” air is admitted are called “admission” or “suction” valves, and those through which the air is driven from the cylinder are the “discharge” or “delivery” valves. Formerly one side only of the blowing piston was used, the engine working “single-acting”; but now both sides of the piston are utilized, so that when it is moving in either direction suction will be taking place on one side and delivery on the other. All processes in connexion with which blowing engines are used require the air to be above the pressure of the outer atmosphere. This means that the discharge valves do not open quite at the beginning of the delivery stroke, but remain closed until the air in the cylinder has been reduced in volume and so increased in pressure to that of the air in the discharge chamber.
The power used to actuate these blowing-engines is in most cases steam, the steam cylinder being placed in line or “tandem” with the air cylinder, so that the steam piston rod is continuous with or directly joined to the piston rod of the air cylinder. This plan is always adopted where the cylinders are placed horizontally, and often in the case of vertical engines. The engines are generally built in pairs, with two blowing cylinders and one high-pressure and one low-pressure steam cylinder, the piston rods terminating in connecting rods which are attached to the pins of the two cranks on the shaft. In the centre of this shaft, midway between the two engines, there is usually placed a heavy flywheel which helps to maintain a uniform speed of turning. Some of the largest blowing engines built in Great Britain are arranged as beam engines; that is to say, there is a heavy rocking beam of cast iron which in its middle position is horizontal. One end of this beam is linked by a short connecting rod to the end of the piston rod of the blowing cylinder, while the other end is similarly linked to the top of the steam piston rod, so that as the steam piston comes up the air piston goes down and vice versa. At the steam end of the beam a third connecting rod works the crank of a flywheel shaft.
About the end of the 19th century an important development took place which consisted in using the waste gas from blast furnaces to form with air an explosive mixture, and employing this mixture to drive the piston of the actuating cylinder in precisely the same manner as the explosive mixture of coal gas and air is used in a gas engine. Since the majority of blowing engines are used for providing the air required in iron blast furnaces, considerable saving should be effected in this way, because the gas which escapes from the top of the furnace is a waste product and costs nothing to produce.
|Fig. 3.—Section of Cylinder of Early Blowing Engine (1851).|
The general action of a blowing engine may be illustrated by the sectional view shown on fig. 3, which represents the internal view of one of the blowing cylinders of the engines erected at the Dowlais Ironworks as far back as 1851. Many of the details are now obsolete, but the general scheme is the same as in all blowing engines. Here A is the air cylinder; in this is a piston whose rod is marked R; this piston is usually made air-tight by some form of packing fitted into the groove which runs round its edge. In this particular case the cylinder is placed vertically and its piston rod is actuated from the end of a rocking beam. The top and bottom ends are closed by covers and in these