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Hey Prairie Dawg: “How about nuts and bolts?”

Nuts and bolts. Kind of sounds like a new breakfast cereal you may want to eat before going out and fixing some broken items you have been procrastinating about. Whether it’s just a small ¼ inch by 1-inch bolt or one that is a bit larger — like two inches or three inches in diameter or 12 to 18 inches in length — you will likely have to answer a few quick questions over the phone with the desk clerk. He or she will be seeking what strength grade value rating it is and what thread pitch (as in fine or coarse) it looks to be, which may be unknown until it’s removed from the equipment or item requiring the repair.

Now to throw another wrench into the equation, figure if the bolt or nut is metric thread or standard and, finally, the size or diameter. In today’s vast mix of equipment offerings, it is becoming more certain that some portion of the equipment or item may actually be held on with metric hardware and right beside it another portion with standard SAE thread design or imperial standard American threads. The reason this mix of hardware shows up is that more and more manufacturers are incorporating offshore purchased items into their domestically-built equipment in order to keep up with demands, or they’ve utilized domestic items or products that are simply no longer available. Not to worry though, as most quality hardware locations are aware and are stocking better selections of both metric and imperial standard American hardware with many styles of driving apparatuses and material specific finishes, thread configurations, or strength rating standards. The nut and bolt industry has been an industry with not much change, but during the last few years I have seen some sizable product growth and tooling that is really innovative, with much greater safety consciousness being incorporated. It is truly amazing that since the nut and bolt inception near the late 15th and early 16th century — production has grown hand in hand with industrial demands.

Today, we use many kinds of hardware to fasten items together but still the nut and bolt are the preferred method because of their simplistic and cost effective design, which most everyone is capable of understanding. From assembling furniture to equipment and even the vehicles we drive, the world as we know it would literally fall apart without its ingenuity and availability.

It is crazy to think that something so simple in concept has so many details associated with it for properly fitting a specific application. It needs to be properly sized and constructed with maximum strength values to withstand all types of movement, twisting stresses, vibrations, and yes, even mother nature’s heating, cooling and climate variations / atmospheres creating both momentary weakness and long term weakness factors pertaining to corrosive and moisture sensitive conditions.

Because of these factors, there are many choices in hardware surface finishes, types of materials and the type of tempering process use to properly finish the hardware for the various demanding strength and durability requirements.

Because of all of these stress and engineering variables the nut and bolt industry developed a finer thread design for an even better binding and holding power with less depth of thread, creating a better shear value resistance — due in part to not removing near the amount of material aspect from the shank or stem. Although, there are some negative trade offs from fine to coarse that can be troublesome if not properly dealt with or addressed when utilizing as intended.

Finally, throw into this mix all the earlier-mentioned sizes, thread styles, types of bolt head or wrench that best fits the part to securely hold it into position, making possible the proper tensioning requirements engineered for the specific sized bolt.

The next time you take off for the nearest hardware store and see the thousands of varying devices that have been created, remember the nut and bolt sitting in their divided bins are truly holding the industrialized world together. The nut and bolt — so simple yet complex — with all of the thought processes, design adjustments and now better calculated engineering than ever before, will continue to allow industrial growth to reach limits further and farther than ever imagined. The first pioneering hardware designers, way back in Leonardo da Vinci’s time, would definitely have big ole smiles if they could experience how this concept of a spiral coupling holding two items together has forever changed the face of the earth — one bolt or nut at a time.

If you enjoy these random aggregate and quarrying equipment based subjects, stay tuned for more. Send me a subject or topic you would like brought to light and any associated questions you would like to have discussed, and I will gladly provide my best answer based upon my specific point of view and personal experience.

Questions or Comments? Tim Holmberg prairiedawg@pdpractical.com. Or simply write me a letter and we will send you a t-shirt or ball cap:

Tim Holmberg
2915 Idea Ave.
Aberdeen, SD 57401

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