“The Machines That Made The Jet Age”

If you like giant machines—and who really doesn’t?—don’t miss Tim Heffernan’s wonderful new feature over at Boing Boing:

The magnificent machine pictured above is a closed-die forging press, one of the biggest in the world. (For reference, check out the men standing at its foot, down there on the left.) It and nine other huge forges were built in 1950s by the U.S. government, in a long-forgotten endeavor called the Heavy Press Program…It stands nine stories tall (four of them are hidden under the floor), weighs 16 million pounds, exerts 50,000 tons of compressive force, and, like Vulcan’s own waffle iron, squeezes ingots of solid metal between its jaws until they flow like batter.

Slabs of titanium alloy before (left) and after forging by 'The Fifty.'

Tim’s working on a book about the Heavy Press Program, and recently wrote about ALCOA’s 50,000-ton forging press (aka The Fifty) for The Atlantic. His follow-on piece at Boing Boing places The Fifty in the context of the Heavy Press Program, and the Heavy Press Program in the context of the post-war U.S. industrial boom. Fascinating stuff. [Thanks, Jake!]

Now That’s a Lathe


I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan