In June 1952, former wartime Minister for Food, Lord Woolton opened a new Fatigue Testing Laboratory at TWI’s Abington site.
Lord Woolton used a ceremonial gavel to open the laboratory and it was this unique piece of history that was recently returned to The Welding Institute by David Natzler, who was passed the small wooden hammer by his friend. The gavel was given to David since his father, Pierre Natzler, had been involved in welding all his life and had associations with The Welding Institute. David decided to bequeath the gavel to the Institute as a gift in honour of his father.
The gavel includes an inscription on a silver plate which reads, “British Welding Research Association Used by the Rt Hon Lord Woolton P.C. C.H. to open the Fatigue Testing Laboratory at Abington – 23rd June 1952.”
A Unique Build
The fatigue laboratory was built specifically to house a large Lösenhausen fatigue machine, with a 5 ton crane being brought in to help with the installation. The 200 tonne machine was the largest fatigue machine in the world at the time and installed in parts, including the accumulator bottle which itself weighed nearly 10 tons. While the Lösenhausen machine was remarkable for the time, the laboratory structure itself was also ground-breaking.
The fatigue laboratory was one of the first buildings in the world to be built using Plastic Design Theory, which was developed in the 1940s. Plastic Design Theory was a new approach to the design of steel-framed structures following research carried out under the leadership of Cambridge University professor John Baker via a British Welding Research Association Committee on the Load Carrying Capacity of Frame Structures. This research led to a 1948 amendment to BS 449, related to ‘The Use of Structural Steel in Building.’ Plastic Design Theory allowed design loads in steel framed structures to be more accurately calculated, which in turn permitted the use of smaller sections for beams and columns, leading to a more economical use of steel. As a result of this, the fracture laboratory was claimed to be 50% lighter than an equivalent conventional structure.
While the Lösenhausen machine was certainly the driving force behind the build of the new facility, the laboratory also housed other notable pieces of equipment, including the ‘Jacks Rig,’ which was built by former TWI Chief Executive Bevan Braithwaite and is still in use today!