Friday, September 14, 2012
Remember Wooden Water Pipes?
It's an example of a wood-stave pipe. This section is 20 inches in diameter and set at what looks to be a 10 or 12 foot joint, and wire-wound. The individual joints were connected a number of different ways, but this picture doesn't reveal much about how these pipe joints were connected. Many of the wooden pipes were designed to slip one end into an opposing end and the swelling of the wood when soaked up would seal the joints. Other manufacturers would place a metal band around butted ends and seal it with tar or some similar material. Fir, pine, redwood and other types of wood were commonly used as stave material.
Cast Iron Pipe, Standard Specifications Dimensions and Weights (Burlington, New Jersey: United States Cast Iron Pipe & Foundry Co., 1914).) These kinds of pipes have been in use since the 13th century and still were used as late as the early 1800's.
It's hard to imagine that wood pipes could last so long, but in some cases they are still being used after 75 to 100 years of continuous service. In their day they were fairly inexpensive as the wood was readily available. They were also very easy to tap into. In fact, there are accounts of early-day fire companies who would routinely dig up city pipes and tap (drill) into them for fire fighting water. When done, the fire company would plug the tap, and mark the plug spot before filling in the hole (for future use if needed). Some say this is the origin of the term "fire plug". Sounds reasonable to me.
Anyway, there is not a lot of information on the disadvantages of wooden pipes - other than perhaps the impressions that clay, concrete, steel and the newer-yet materials would last longer and go in faster. I wonder if the early medical annals ever documented any cases of lignin poisoning...
(September 25, 2012 P.S. - Just ran across this article from Ketchum, Idaho about another wooden water pipe on private property in that city. Enjoy.)