The Fascinating History of Fasteners

The Fascinating History of FastenersYou can get all the nuts, bolts, and screws you need at Fasteners, Inc. in Denver but do you know the fascinating history of fasteners? If you think about it, almost everything built requires some type of fastener, like appliances, cars, doors, airplanes, houses, and even computers. So how did we get to this modern world filled with fasteners? From crude nails to self-drilling screws, it’s been an interesting evolution to the current levels of standardization and quality that our fasteners have today.

Very basic fasteners were once used in early civilizations to produce all types of carts and agricultural equipment. According to a Construction Magazine Network article, screws were used in screw presses for the processing of olive oil and grapes as early as 100 BC in the Mediterranean. The screw’s spiral thread has been shown to be an effective way to get the force needed to attach one item to another. They also were handmade at first and were created for one specific application – having no standards they were also not interchangeable.

By the mid-1700s, the Wyatt brothers in England were manufacturing 150,000 wooden screws a week. According to the Construction Magazine Network article, the 1800s also gave rise to square nails, called cut nails, that were made from wrought iron. Around the 1860s, wire nails were introduced and were so popular that forty years later wire nails made up about 90 percent of all nails. In the 1800s we also saw the development of screw cutting lathes which allowed screws to be made in a more standardized fashion, so screws became more interchangeable. It also enhanced reproducibility because screws could be made faster.

During the American Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s and early 1800s, large numbers of screws and bolts were produced in a shorter amount of time and with more consistency and precision. The Rugg & Barnes Company and the A.P. Plant Company, in the early 1840s in Connecticut, were the first large manufacturers focused on making fasteners.

According to a Fastener Network article, in 1841, Sir Joseph Whitworth, the British mechanical engineer, introduced a standard of fastener sizes to the Institution of Civil Engineers which would determine a universal set of specifications for the pitch and angle of screw threads. This new Whitworth thread became the first standard thread system. A ridge of uniform section in the form of a helix on the external or internal surface of a cylinder is a screw thread. Threads on bolts, screws, and studs are external threads and internal threads are those in nuts or tapped holes.

The American Civil War created the demand for machinery, which also meant screws, nuts, and bolts and the need for an American thread standard. In 1864, William Sellers proposed a uniform system of screw threads which differed from the Whitworth British standard but instead of the tops and bottoms of the threads being flattened, they were rounded which were able to handle stress and resist cracking and breaking better than the flattened Whitworth standards screws. It took twenty years before his system was the American standard. Around 1916, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standard defined thread forms and specifications for threaded fasteners and later were adopted by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). The  IFI (Industrial Fasteners Institute) also defines thread forms for fasteners. During the two World Wars having inconsistencies between the American standard and a British standard caused some problems with field repairs.

In 1964, the International Organization for Standardization announced two universal thread systems: ISO Inch (The United States is the only country on the inch system) and ISO Metric.

According to the Construction Magazine Network article, in the 1960s fasteners required pre-drilled holes in the assembly in order to be installed.  Installation required two tools and often two workers to install the fasteners; one to drill the holes and a second worker to install the fastener. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, self-drilling fasteners were introduced into the metal building market and were described as a milled point self-drill or a pinched point (cold forged) self-drill. The self-drilling fastener reduced the time and cost of installing the fastener because it didn’t need a pre-drilled hole to be installed, but they were more expensive. It soon became evident that not having to spend the time drilling holes was an advantage and now these self-drilling fasteners are used almost exclusively for securing wall and roof sheeting to girts and purlins in the metal building industry.

By 1969 there were 450 companies, 600 plants, and more than 50,000 people employed in the manufacture of fasteners, but the fastener industry declined in the next twenty years because of the increasing availability of inexpensive foreign-made products. But in 1990, faulty, substandard foreign-made bolts led to the Fastener Quality Act which resulted in a huge demand for American-made fasteners. By 2007, the U.S. fastener industry was a $14 billion part of the economy as it responded to the need for technologically sophisticated products.

According to a Construction Magazine Network article, today’s self-drilling fasteners continue to change in form and function, adapting to the advancing technology in the design of heading, threading, and pointing equipment. It has contributed to cost-effective solutions for most fastening concerns. It’s interesting to see how fasteners still change to meet the demand and need of the industries, designing thread forms that provide higher strength structural connections at the purlin, girt, and metal panel connections. Even new alloys are being developed along with innovative hardening processes to create a new generation of self-drilling fasteners with superior performance capabilities, including better corrosion protection and UV and ozone resistant fasteners from improved finishing technology. The fastener industry is even focusing on improving fastener installation tools.

As you can see, the fascinating history of fasteners is alive and well and continues to evolve and expand. At Fasteners, Inc. in Denver, we have an inventory investment of nearly 2 million dollars spread across 30,000 items. If you need a fastener, we have it or can get it for you. Contact us today for help with your next project, big or small!

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