Sunday, 5 June 2022

Johann Bessler’s Build Issues

What follows is mostly speculation and not to be treated as fact although hopefully my suggestions are logical.

Research into Bessler’s Wheel tends to be concentrated on trying to discover how he invented a device which could lift heavy weights and run continuously for more than a month, but what of the accompanying issues he had to overcome in the process?

The ceilings in Kassel where he exhibited his last and largest device were about twelve feet high, so he needed a ten foot step ladder to fix the eight sets of bolts into the ceiling, to hold the two sets of four pillars supporting the wheel.  William Kenrick described seeing the remains of the bolts still attached to the ceiling on a visit he made a few years after Bessler had left. Translocating the wheel a few steps between each set of wheel supports might have required a pair of platforms extending from under the first set of bearings to a similar position under the second.  With the axle being about six feet above the floor Bessler and his cousin would need something to raise their shoulders high enough to lift it enough to drop it into the next bearing set. The platforms could have provided this assistance.

They could have left the platforms in position which would have allowed visitors easy access to examine the bearings and although no mention of such furniture was made, several written comments describe the intensive examination of the bearings which were frequently carried out.  Access to the bearings could have been enabled by a platform and it is possible that the platforms could have been movable to allow a view of the whole wheel rotating, and we know that Fischer von Erlach spent about two hours examining the wheel and listening to the sounds  coming from it. Removal of any platform would seem necessary to allow him to be close enough. Or a simple ladder could have been provided but examination of the bearings while the wheel revolved might necessitate the presence of the platforms. 

The axle was six feet long and the wheel eighteen inches wide, leaving four and half feet clear but there had to be three or four inches on each end to accommodate the pillars and their bearing shells.  So about two feet clearance for each man to lift his end of the axle. So other means of lifting might include a kind of wheel barrow with some suitable construction to fit under the axle, or perhaps each man simply lifted the wheel onto his shoulders via a padded yoke of some kind.

Translocation of the wheel to a separate set of bearings and supporting pillars was suggested by Gottfried Leibniz during their two meetings, and it was designed to allow the close examination of the bearings which were left uncovered during the examinations.

There had to be access to a large window, or two would be better; one to enable the rope to pass through to the outside pulley and down to the courtyard below, and a second or third one to allow the examiners and other spectators to see the lifting of the heavy weight.  There also had to be room for several people all there to witness the spectacle, but allowing Bessler a private space to remove and replace a number of weights during translocation.

Actual construction of the wheel could have been managed in position on the axle which had already been fitted in place on the pillars, otherwise it would have to be lifted onto the bearings during or after the wheel’s build had been completed.

I don’t know how all his build issues were dealt with but Bessler only had one assistant sometimes referred to as his ‘his blue-apron apprentice’, also as his cousin.  In Freemasonry a candidate is given a blue apron to signify that he has progressed to the second degree after the initial white lambskin one, meaning he has learned more of his chosen apprenticeship.  Although it’s tempting to think that Bessler’s assistant knew how the wheel worked, I doubt it.  Bessler displayed such concern over that ‘secret’ and only ever shared it reluctantly with Karl the Landgrave who insisted on personal verification that the machine was genuine before he agreed to allowing the inventor to exhibit it in his castle Weissenstein at Kassel.

The assistant was necessary to help with translocating the wheel and perhaps with lifting some parts of the build, but even if it was his younger brother Gottfried, I still think it extremely unlikely that Bessler would have allowed any information about the actual ‘secret’ to have been shared deliberately or accidentally.

Despite the difficulties Bessler managed to overcome them and provided an excellent exhibition of his machine which lasted over ten years.  It is so frustrating that given the large numbers of people who must have examined his machine minutely over the years no one was able to complete the purchase of one of the most amazing inventions ever to be seen.  The one man who was prepared to buy Bessler’s wheel, Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, died on his way to see it.

JC

11 comments:

  1. I think the floor to ceiling height in the wheel's room in Weissenstein Castle was probably about 14 feet which would put the axle bearings only about 7 feet above the floor assuming that the gaps at the top and bottom of the drum were the same size. Those bearings could have easily been reached using a small ladder.

    It would be dangerous to have the bottom of the drum too close to the floor. If someone was standing near the rapidly turning drum, he might have tripped and then gotten pulled under the drum and crushed between it and the floor! A space of about 1 foot would have helped prevent that. A space between the top of the drum and the ceiling of about 1 foot would also have shown witnesses that it was unlikely that his wheels were moved along by hidden magnets in the ceiling and the drum since their strength drops off quickly with increasing distance.

    As for moving the wheel, I don't think a lot elaborate platforms would have been necessary. All Bessler and his brother or assistant needed to do was use two overhead multiple pulley hoists to lift both ends of the axle off of their bearing plates. Then they could have just swung the entire axle and its attached drum over to the nearby set of upright supports and, upon reaching it, quickly lowered the axle and pushed its end pivots onto the new set of bearing plates. Having previously removed all of the lead cylinder weights from the drum would have greatly lowered its weight and made the move easier.

    It's unfortunate that we don't have more details of how the wheels were moved, but I guess Bessler didn't think that was important. Or, maybe he figured by not mentioning it he would give a potential buyer the impression that the wheel would be easy to install in his factory?

    jason

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    1. Good thinking Jason. I liked the idea of the overhead pulley hoist, although I’m still uncertain if that is the way they’d have done it. The need to remove the weights seems to me to indicate that they used their own physical strength to move the wheel, either by one of the ways I suggested or some other one.

      JC

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  2. 'one of the most amazing inventions ever to be seen.' In my view it was one of the greatest inventions in the history of the world, try this- swing both your hands up from your sides to in front of your face and bring them to a gentle stop - did you feel the lift there when you done that, almost lifting your body off the ground when your hands came to a stop, imagine five weights on mechanical arms spaced around the wheel each lifting the wheel as they swung upward as the wheel rotated. I think he would not reveal that the wheel could levitate because of what was going on there at the time . I think the wheel would have been easier to lift onto the supports if it was rotating.

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    1. They had to keep the Kassel wheel rotating at 26 rpms so it would levitate and they could they lift it from one set of supports to the other? That rotating axle must have been a challenge to hang onto as they moved it!

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    2. It would have become lighter as it rotated, not all the wheels would have been light enough to levitate as they rotated, some of them could become lighter when in perpetual motion but the material they were made from could have been too heavy for the wheel to have taken off up into the air.

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    3. DS...if B's wheels could levitate, then why did he bother to remove all of their lead weights before he moved one of them to a new set of vertical supports? Also, if B and his brother were seen somehow effortlessly floating a levitating spinning wheel from one set of supports to another during an official examination of a wheel, don't you think that would have astounded the examiners enough for them to mention it in their reports?

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  3. Today is Monday, June 6th or "Bessler Day" as Ken B calls it. I just opened my inbox after arising hoping to find a notification from youtube telling me that, as is his custom, he had released another new Bessler video at exactly noon Gera, Germany time (which is 6:00 US east coast time) to celebrate this unofficial holiday.

    I found nothing. I guess he really has moved on.

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    1. I found something that may help ease your disappointment, anon 11:39. It's a video of an animation that Ken B made and uploaded on the last day of last year maybe to celebrate New Year's Day? It shows what he thinks Bessler had in mind when he mentioned a perpetual fountain he had invented back in 1738.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yoyYsktr-g

      As usual he picked some dramatic music to play with it. I recommend that you reduce the player speed so you can better study the action of the one-way values that control the flow of the water through the double pump arrangement Bessler would have used if this design is correct. Water pulled into a pump is blue and water pushed out of a pump is red.

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    2. @Anon 19:12. That video looks like an animated version of a drawing that he posted on BW forum years ago. It and many others are now all gone. Someone must have rescued that one and stuck it on Pinterest (I can't stand that site!). The little arrows on the valves show the direction of water flow that they each would allow.

      https://i.pinimg.com/736x/73/4f/9e/734f9e754ab854d2b6a28e9f6cf260eb--water-features-ponds.jpg

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    3. Thanks for that link, anon 19:12.

      That perpetual fountain invention of Bessler's was probably the offspring of some earlier research he did with pumps being driven by his wheels to pump water up against the pull of gravity. He was always trying to get some businessman to buy his pm wheel and one of the attractive possible uses for it back then would have been to pump water out of flooded coal mines. Even if Bessler's wheels had made steam engines obsolete, people would still have wanted coal to heat their homes in the winter.

      I think that fountain's basic design could be easily adapted to drain flooded coal mines, but any pm wheel powered pumping system used for that purpose would have to be a little different. Instead of just two pistons driven by a crank on one side of the wheel, he could add another two more pistons behind the other side. The sequence of compression strokes would be arranged so that during any quarter turn of the wheel, one of the pistons would always be expelling water. That would have made the water exit the pump in a smoother flow instead of spurts which is probably how the design Ken B shows would do it.

      Such a pumping system would have to be portable and small enough to be taken down into the mine on a mine car. It's plumbing's input would then be attached to a metal pipe submerged in the water to be drained and the wheel started up. The output from the pump would then be sent up to the surface through a long length of flexible hose. Did they have such hoses back in the early 18th century? Maybe they could have made them out of pieces of leather that were tightly stitched together and then wrapped with strips of cloth to reinforce them?

      Water is heavy and any small portable pumping system Bessler made would have to be very powerful if it was to send drained water up through a vertical distance of hundreds of feet at a rate that would remove it faster than it was seeping back into the mine. That was probably the major obstacle to him selling his invention for that purpose. The engineers who examined his wheels may have concluded that they were too big to bring down into a mine shaft and had too low torque to do the job. Because of that they did not recommend them to the businessmen who had hired them to evaluate Bessler's invention for that purpose.

      jason

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    4. "Did they have such hoses back in the early 18th century?"

      Apparently, they did not have rubber hoses. I found this online at ezinearticles.com:

      "It wasn't until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, however, that rubber and especially the advent of rubber hoses for broad use in firefighting, the automobile industry, and the medical field came to prominence. 1821 saw the first patent for fire hoses by James Boyd of Boston, Massachusetts. That first behemoth weighed nearly eighty-five pounds but replaced leather hoses of yore, which had been prone to splitting and cracking under intense water pressure. Boyd's invention was made with a cotton web lined with rubber, a rudimentary method with basic principals that are still broadly applicable now."

      Bessler's coal mine pump would have had to use hoses made from leather.

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