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Unpublished paper, 'On the durability and preservation of iron ships and on riveted joints' by William Fairbairn

Reference number: AP/55/6

Date: 1873


The disaster which happened to the 'Megaera’ is first discussed, as showing the need of constant inspection of iron structures. That vessel was built by Fairbairn in 1849, and, in his opinion, would have been perfectly sound at the present time if her interior had been freely open to inspection, and if such inspection had been regularly carried out. With regard to riveted joints, Fairbairn first discusses the relative merits of machine- and hand-riveting, and points out that in machine-riveting there is much greater security that the rivets properly fill the rivet holes. The rate at which riveting can be done is given as 16 rivets per minute with a lever riveting-machine, 10 rivets per minute with a steam-riveting machine, and 0.66 rivets per minute when the riveting is done by hand. Fairbairn presents the results of 12 experiments on different-sized plates and rivets, machine- and hand-riveted, detailing the ultimate shearing stress, ultimate pressure on bearing surface and the mode of fracture.

Annotations in ink throughout. Includes 18 diagrams and photographs of iron rivets throughout the paper.

Subject: Engineering / Shipbuilding

Received 5 March 1873. Read 24 April 1873.

Whilst the Royal Society declined to publish this paper in full, an abstract of the paper was published in volume 21 of the Proceedings of the Royal Society as 'On the durability and preservation of iron ships, and on riveted joints'.

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59 pages

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William Fairbairn

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William Fairbairn, Unpublished paper, 'On the durability and preservation of iron ships and on riveted joints' by William Fairbairn, 1873, AP/55/6, The Royal Society Archives, London,, accessed on 21 May 2024

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