Eddystone Rifle Plant Wood Working Facilities




During World War I, the bays of the building contained different wood working functions.

Section 1: turning and planing
Section 2 : planing and drilling
Section 3 shaping and finishing 
Section 4 drilling   

A  boiler and shavings vault occupied the westernmost end of the building adjacent to section 1.  A carpentry shop and staining facility  projected northward from section 4 forming an 'L'  at the eastern end  of the  building.

 Two overhead bridges connected the wood working building with the main factory building to the north.  The bridges projected from section 3 and the carpentry shop.  Still present is ironwork that marks  the location of the bridge from section 3. 

The Eddystone factory had  sixteen kilns in an adjacent building just south of the wood working building.   A  storage shed for stocks was south of the kiln building.  The railroad tracks formed the southern boundary of the entire rifle plant.  Vintage photographic evidence shows the kiln building and storage shed were removed after Baldwin assumed control.

A rifle stock is  quite obviously an essential component of a complete rifle.  Stocks begin as blanks - lumber  cut in the rough proportion of the stock.  These were shipped to the factory.  From there  the real work began.  As the illustration above suggests, the woodworking requires a great deal of lathing, cutting, drilling and inletting as well as sanding and finishing.   Completed stocks and hand guards  were bathed in raw linseed oil and air dried.  Later the metal fittings were attached. (e.g,  buttplate, recoil bolt, handguard clips and sling swivels).  

Images extracted from the 1918 Ordnance Dept. manual cited in references below.Source document was digitalized by Google.
Stocks were formed  to precise dimensions.  A poor stock will render a rifle  inaccurate regardless of precision in producing the metal  parts such as barrel and trigger mechanism.  Sufficient tolerance must be made to allow for temperature changes, notably a hot barrel.  If the metal working parts do not fit well to the stock and the barrel is not properly bedded, the rifle will be unacceptably inaccurate.  Similarly, the wood must be of thigh quality. Wood prone to either warping  or excessive flexing  during recoil destroys rifle accuracy.

Wood for rifle stocks and hand guards had to be of acceptable grain and seasoning and were subject to rigorous inspection.  Springfield Armory 1916 specifications are representative. The "best grade of black walnut" was preferred.  Wood could not "contain more than 5% moisture content after final treatment in the dry house and exposure to the atmosphere for 36 hours".  Wood had to be "hard, straight grained and thoroughly sound."  Substitute woods such as birch were allowed provided they met the same standard. There is no evidence any wood, but walnut was ever actually used.

M1917  rifle production was at times delayed because of material shortages. The most consequential instance was a shortage of wood for stocks in mid-1918. In peacetime, the wood for rifle stocks was stored in a "dry house" for two years until properly seasoned.  This procedure could not meet the demands of wartime production.  A new kiln drying process was developed.   Kiln drying wood for sixty days was sufficient  to permit  lathe working.  A shortage of black walnut was eventually overcome by nationwide canvassing.  Nevertheless, shortages of wood for rifle stocks continued for some time to lag production of steel parts.

A rifle stock blank required eight board feet of lumber for cutting.  A walnut tree yielded an average of 28 stock blanks. Three hundred and twenty walnut trees were cut into stock blanks for shipment to Eddystone each working day.  The final production (Jan 1919) of 1,332,464 rifles equates to 47,588 walnut trees -  over 3,000 acres of trees.  To these must be added a percentage of stocks manufactured as spare parts.

Rifle stocks produced in this historic building were critical to the output of well over a million rifles made at the Eddystone Rifle Plant.

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Special thanks to Andrew Filshill, owner-manager of Aero Aggregates for generously supporting this research.  Not only did he allow unconstrained access to the buildings and grounds, his engineering expertise was essential for identifying the construction features and materials that are original to the building.

REFERENCES

Brophy, William S.  The Springfield 1903 Rifles.  Harrisburg PA: Stackpole, 1985.
Ferris, C.S. United States Rifle Model of 1917. Export PA: Scott A. Duff Publications, 2004.
McConoughy, Miriam. History of Rifles, Revolvers, and Pistols. Army Ordnance 1917-1919, No.     1865.     Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1920.    https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nnc1.cu55740464;view=1up;seq=5;size=125
Ordnance Dept. Description and Rules for the Management of the United States Rifle, Caliber 30, Model of     1917. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1918.
Fire insurance maps (then Sanborn certified) of Eddystone Munition Plants, 1917. Obtained from     Environmental Data Resources (EDR), Inc. courtesy of  Ron Spencer, Environmental Management     Group (EMG),  Edgemont PA.