Brief History of Gun Drilling
Gun drilling, invented in Europe more than two centuries ago, is the process of drilling deep, straight holes in a variety of metal alloys. It was first invented in order to make long, straight gun barrels, hence the name gun drilling. Prior to gun drilling, blacksmiths forged gun barrels by hand, painstakingly spiraling long strips of steel around a rod (also called a mandrel).
Necessity has always been the mother of invention, and it was the requirements of the gun making industry that first propelled gun drilling technology forward. As gun makers progressed beyond black powder musket loaders, the propellents they used became more powerful. Gun manufacturers quickly realized that smith forged gun barrels were not strong enough to handle the new, higher power projectiles and methods of igniting and priming their new, higher caliber weapons. So, as with so many technological advances, the process of gun drilling was born out of a very real need; to bore concentric, seamless barrels from a solid piece of metal.
The earliest gun drilling process involved drilling a solid bar with a twist drill. The new style gun barrels, now forged from one seamless, solid piece of metal, were stronger and performed more reliably with higher pressure propellants, and didn’t fly apart at the seams like the forged barrels tended to when used in the field.
Although the early gun drilling process was an improvement over the hand forged mandrel procedures of the past, early gun drilling still had a long way to go in terms of efficiency, precision and concentricity. Early gun drillers produced much stronger gun barrels with their twist drill methods, but were also hampered by the inefficient and slow twist-type drill head, which had to be constantly retracted in order to remove chips, and the drill bit still needed to be re-lubricated by the operator.
Solving these challenges ultimately led to the development of the delivery of high pressure coolant oil down the center of the drill shaft, as well as the evacuation of chips via the modern gun drill’s flute. Other innovations such as the burnishing pads that support the drill head have taken modern gundrilling to new heights.
Even so, early gun drilling technology changed the face of weaponry. Over time, the process would go on to change the face of modern manufacturing and contribute to developing new, cutting edge technologies in the oil and gas, aerospace, medical and automotive industries. Confluent Maine recognizes the spirit of innovation of those early gun drillers, because like us, they were driven to produce the best, most precise product possible. Company wide, our employees take great pride in helping our industry partners solve the most challenging tubular design component issues.