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Subject: Saga in Steel and Concrete - 290-301
Date: Mon, 12 May 2003 09:37:30 -0700


The following selection is taken from "Saga in Steel and Concrete:
Norwegian Engineers in America" by Kenneth Bjork published by the
Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) in 1947. The volume is
still available from NAHA at where you will
also find the first 33 volumes of Studies and Records online. This
chapter is published with the kind permission of NAHA. The book this
selection is drawn from is under copyright and permission has been
granted for educational purposes and it is not to be used in any way for
commercial purposes.

The story of how Barth devised his famous slide rules for use in machine
shops is best told by himself. {25} Capable of regarding his work with
the same objectiveness he would apply to a mathematical problem, he is an
unfailing guide through a labyrinth of technical difficulties in the way
of the student.
Before Barth joined the group at Bethlehem, "Taylor and his co-workers of
that period had sought to discover some rapid methods of applying the
experimentally obtained knowledge of the laws underlying the cutting of
steel with carbon steel tools, to the predetermination of the most
economical feed and speed for any particular piece of work in connection
with any particular lathe or boring mill, to which two types of machines
they very wisely confined their attention to begin with." {26}
Barth continues:
The mathematical problem confronting Mr. Taylor and his co-workers,
including myself, may be stated as consisting in, how to determine that
feed and speed of a machine that will at the same time utilize a maximum
of the power the machine is capable of developing at that speed, and the
ability of the cutting tool itself to stand up to the work an economical
length of time before giving out, on a piece of work of a certain degree
of hardness, and of a certain diameter to be reduced to a certain smaller
A crude slide rule, which did not satisfy Taylor, had already been worked
out by H. L. Gantt and S. L. Griswold Knox in an attempt to solve the
problem. Barth himself went to work and produced an equally crude
instrument accompanied by diagrams. Later he undertook an independent
study of both slide rules; this study enabled him to make true
logarithmic scales, straight and circular, of any size. Barth explains:
As a result of this I soon produced an instrument that was a real
logarithmic slide rule in circular form, patterned after the Sexton
Omnimeter, and which I still have reason to believe was a decidedly
better instrument than its "competitor," in spite of assertions to the
contrary by my friend Mr. Gantt, who soon facetiously dubbed my rule
"Barth's Merry-Go-Round." Be this as it may, it at best furnished only a
somewhat quicker, and at times more correct cut-and-try solution; and Mr.
Gantt's critical attitude toward it, which, with Mr. Taylor for a while
"sitting on the fence," kept both instruments from being put in actual
use, finally proved a blessing in disguise by spurring me on to renewed
efforts. These soon resulted in the construction of a straight slide rule
that gave a direct, and almost instantaneous solution of the problem, and
which together with the necessary accessory, interchangeable slides for
13 lathes using roughing tools identical with Taylor's standard
experimental tool, was ready to be put into practical use on December 1,
1899, just five months and a half after my arrival and first introduction
to the whole subject.
In Barth's eyes his "slide rule represents something more than an
`improvement' on the instrument that had previously been used. It
represents a distinct departure from previous practice." On it were
incorporated "the first empirical formulas that in a simple and
straightforward manner expressed the law of relations between depth of
cut, feed and cutting speed, as constructed by me from the first set of
experiments made with high-speed tools to arrive at this law." The
solution effected by means of Barth's compound slide rule "is neither
more nor less than the solution of two simultaneous equations each
containing two unknown quantities; viz: the feed and the speed."
An estimate of the complexity of Barth's problem is obtained when it is
stated that no less than twelve variables were involved in determining
the most economical way in which to do a certain bit of work on a
machine. They were, to use Barth's own enumeration:
I. The size and shape of the tools to be used.
II. The use or not of a cooling agent on the tool.
III. The number of tools to be used at the same time.
IV. The length of time the tools are required to stand up to the work
(Life of Tool).
V. The hardness of the material to be turned (Class Number).
VI. The diameter of this material or work.
VII. The depth of the cut to be taken.
VIII. The feed to be used.
IX. The cutting speed.
X. The cutting pressure on the tool.
XI. The speed combination to be used to give at the same time the proper
cutting speed and the pressure required to take the cut.
XII. The stiffness of the work? {27}
All of these variables except the last were incorporated on the rule.
In recounting Barth's efforts to work out his slide rule, Taylor writes:
If a good mathematician who had these various formulae before him were to
attempt to get the proper answer (i.e., to get the correct cutting speed
and feed by working the ordinary way) it would take him from two to six
hours, say, to solve a single problem; far longer to solve the
mathematical problem than would be taken in most cases by the workman in
doing the whole job in his machine. Thus a task of considerable magnitude
which faced us was that of finding a quick solution of this problem, and
as we made progress in its solution, the whole problem was from time to
time presented by the writer to one after another of the noted
mathematicians in this country. They were offered any reasonable fee for
a rapid, practical method to be used in its solution. Some of the men
merely glanced at it; others, for the sake of being courteous, kept it
before them for some two or three weeks. They all gave us practically the
same answer: that in many cases it was possible to solve mathematical
problems which contained four variables, and in some cases problems with
five or six variables, but that it was manifestly impossible to solve a
problem containing twelve variables in any other way than by the slow
process of "trial and error." {28}
Barth, in solving the "impossible," made it quite possible for any good
mechanic to work out intricate mathematical problems in less than half a
minute and to hit upon the one best combination of speed and feed out of
the many possible combinations before him. He thus eliminated rule of
thumb from the operation of cutting metals. "A magic instrument, that
slide rule," concludes one writer. "An abolisher of guess work, opinions,
arguments, debates. A determiner of the law! . . . The best we can hope
for, in the case of any law, is that the expression be as exact as need
be in the light of practical requirements, and it is such an expression
as this that is insured by that slide rule." {29}
As late as 1919 one of the editors of Industrial Management stated that
while high-speed tool steel had increased machine shop production some
two to four times, few shops knew how to increase it still further by the
best combination of machines, tools, feeds, and speeds. "In fact," he
wrote, "the only practical way in which such a solution can be found is
by the use of the Barth slide rules." {30}

One would be inclined to assume, in the light of the great need here
expressed, that the slide rules, once manufactured and tested, could be
marketed like any other commodity and thus be made available to machine
shops everywhere. Such, however, is not the case. Speaking specifically
of a slide rule for belts, Barth explains that "the principal reason why
the writer has never cared to put this rule on sale in the open market is
that considerable misuse has been made of it, even by persons from whom
one would expect better judgment." He then illustrates his point by
referring to misuse of the rule at one of the United States arsenals.
Elaborating on this theme, J. Christian Barth, who was once in consulting
practice with his father, explained to the writer that the rules were
handmade; three movable sticks were specially prepared for a particular
machine or a group of identical machines after an engineering study had
been made of the driving mechanisms revealing weaknesses, irregularity of
speeds and feeds, lack of power, and the like. The machines were then
redesigned and rebuilt to new requirements and the information indicated
on the three movable sticks. The Barths required, before installing their
rules, that a certain amount of the routine and principles of the Taylor
system be introduced and in fair working order in the plant. Thus it was
expected that the purchase and storing of materials, the whole control of
production, and the system of cost recording be in harmony with Taylor's
general practice. The study of the machines with a view to respeeding
them, the introduction of the slide rules, and the use of time study and
incentive wages were the last, not the first, consideration. Without the
first steps, the rules could become instruments of great misuse in the
hands of unscrupulous management. {32} Commercialization would be
conceivable only if all tools and machines were standardized, as Barth
argued they should be. In the hands of an unskilled manager, under
existing conditions, the rules would work havoc with machines and an
injustice to the men. One cannot, parenthetically, help wondering if
another inventor would have been as scrupulous as Barth proved throughout
to be.
In capable hands, however, the slide rule worked wonders when used as an
integral part of the Taylor system of management. In 1903 Barth set
himself up in consulting practice, and was later joined by his son. He
soon counted among his clients some of the country's leading private
producers and the arsenals of the United States government. Rules were
made for machines in the plants of such firms as Yale and Towne, ,
Pullman, and others. The story of how Barth went into this work, how the
Taylor system functioned in practice, and his procedure when once engaged
is recounted in his testimony before a special investigating committee of
the House of Representatives.{33} He explains:
I had no intention on leaving the Bethlehem Steel Co., when Mr. Schwab
took the company over, to go into the system at all; but Mr. Taylor
thought that I had shown special qualifications for undertaking the work,
and so he got in touch with William Sellers & Co. and persuaded them to
engage me to conduct further experiments in the line of the development
of the art of cutting metals, with a view of introducing our slide-rule
method of running their machines. Additional experiments were needed
because our investigations had up to that time covered only larger tools.
No experiments in cast iron had yet been made.
After fifteen months of hard work, the experiments at William Sellers and
Company were completed, but for reasons of internal policies the results
of the project were never put into effect for that firm. Taylor then
found employment for Barth with the famous Link-Belt Engineering Company,
"to introduce the mechanical part of the Taylor system, and there to make
use of the information for which Wm. Sellers & Co. had paid. . . . Other
men were at the same time selected to take up the general administrative
end of the system." Before the job was completed, however, it became
necessary for Barth to look after the entire undertaking, "so that after
a while the whole burden of standing between Mr. Taylor, who did not
visit us any too often, and the company itself, in the introduction of
the system fell on me, and during the following two years I might have
been considered as having served the last part of my apprenticeship under
Mr. Taylor."
The Link-Belt Company had long been regarded as having "an exceptionally
well-run shop, and they particularly prided themselves on being able to
bore holes better than anybody else in the world." Barth soon found,
however, that the shop was poorly run. "For two years they had had
high-speed steel in the works, but they neither knew how to treat nor
grind it so as to get any benefit from it. . . . The first work I did was
scientifically to investigate their machinery, and speed it according to
our methods." The machinery in good shape, he next "put two lathe hands
to work on the full Taylor system, so far as the shop is concerned. We
selected a gang boss, a speed boss, and an inspector, and started in to
make an object lesson, in connection with these two lathes, of what we
meant by functional foremanship." The gang boss was made responsible "for
seeing that there always was work ahead for these lathes, that the proper
tools were also secured, and he also looked after the men's time." The
speed boss saw to it "that the men ran their machines according to
instructions issued from the embryo of a planning department, consisting
of myself as the slide rule man and maker of instruction cards." The
inspector "saw that the work produced under the supervision of the speed
boss was acceptable. At first there was no time study, but the men
received 35 per cent additional day wages for thus working under
instructions and direct supervision." From this humble beginning, Barth
relates, "we added man after man, and in the meantime appointed a man
from the shop to take up the slide rules under my directions, and little
by little we added time study and task work with bonus, for which, later
on, Mr. Taylor's differential piece work was substituted." On this job,
as on all others later on, Barth had no trouble with the men working
under his supervision. {34}
An indication of how effectively Barth could increase machine output is
given by other experiences. While introducing the Taylor system at Yale
and Towne Manufacturing Company, he found a man milling a key seat in a
shaft. "From the particular manner in which the chips came off, my
experience told me that it was a very soft shaft, and that, without
knowing anything about the work in any other way, it would be possible to
make a great increase in the rate of cutting that key seat." He
discovered that the man was using a cutter with one broken tooth. While
waiting for a new cutter to come from the toolroom, Barth got out his
slide rule for milling work and "by means of this determined a suitable
feed and speed for the cutter . . . and then picked out the nearest of
these that his machine had. I also sent for the foreman and other
witnesses to see what I was doing to instruct the man." The result was
that, while the teeth of the new cutter were longer than those of the old
cutter and more apt to break in case of overwork, "in a mere fraction of
the time previously taken I cut the key seat the full length, to the
great astonishment of everybody concerned." {35}
In the same shop, while establishing a planning department and improving
the shop equipment, Barth showed a first-class machinist "how he could
run his tool on a lathe 80 times faster than I found him running it." A
concern that had been using high-speed steel for over two years with no
appreciable benefit from the innovation wrote to Barth asking him to
demonstrate in their establishment the proper method of handling
high-speed steel.
This I agreed to do, stating that the best way of doing it would be by
means of a slide rule for one of their best lathes, for which I then
requested that they make me a diagram showing all its speed and feed
mechanism, and countershaft with pulleys and lineshaft speed. On receipt
of this, I found the lathe entirely under-speeded. . . . The performance
that followed was witnessed by some twenty foremen, who then and there
were made to realize that their rule-of-thumb methods counted for nothing
as against the science of my "guessing sticks"; for they were made to
understand that I had never seen the lathe itself before then, and had
become acquainted with its properties only by a study of the diagram sent
me. The result was that I was immediately retained by the company. {36}
Frederick Taylor tells of a case where Barth went to introduce scientific
management into the works of a man who, "at between 65 and 70 years of
age, had built up his business from nothing to almost five thousand men."
{37} Apparently this owner was a person with a disposition not unlike
Barth's, for Taylor tells us that they "had a squabble, and after they
got through, Mr. Barth made the proposition, `I will take any machine
that you use in your shop, and I will show you that I can double the
output of that machine.' A very fair machine was selected. It was a lathe
on which the workman had been working about twelve years." The product of
the shop was a patented machine of many parts; there were 350 men making
these parts the year around. Barth set out to prove his boast; with one
of his slide rules, he "proceeded to analyze the machine. With the aid of
this analysis . . . Mr. Barth was able to take his turn at the machine;
his gain was from two and one-half times to three times the amount of
work turned out by the other man. . . . That is not exaggeration, the
gain is as great as that in many cases."
These and many other instances prove beyond any doubt the efficacy of
Barth's slide rules as a part of the Taylor system and at the same time
demonstrate clearly the truth of Taylor's contention that "the art of
cutting metals involves a true science of no small magnitude, a science,
in fact, so intricate that it is impossible for any machinist who is
suited to running a lathe year in and year out either to understand it or
to work according to its laws without the help of men who have made this
their specialty." {38}
It was inevitable that scientific management, with its separation of
brain and shop work and its preoccupation with the individual worker,
would in time clash with the trade unions, which stressed the group
solidarity of workers and jealously sought to guard the craft secrets of
its members. One authority writes:
It is easy to see why unions could not put up much of a fight in shops
operating under such a. system. In so far as it centralizes skill,
scientific management takes from the workmen that bond of common craft
knowledge, which tends to make brothers of the men engaged in a trade.
Since it pays on an individual or efficiency basis, and promotes the more
able men to fill positions as functional foremen, scientific management
appeals to personal ambition, rather than to class solidarity. . . . As
it voluntarily pays higher wages than the men could win through force,
scientific management weakens the main motive for organization. {39}
The surprising feature of labor's relation to the work of Taylor, Barth,
and others is therefore not its opposition but the absence of trouble in
plants where scientific management was actually introduced. Such trouble
as did arise came largely as the result of the efforts of so-called
"efficiency engineers" and other quacks, the "speed-up" of production,
which drained the energies of workers, and a general failure of
management to follow Taylor's major principles. When conflict came it was
largely in the field of doctrine and it developed in some measure as a
by-product of misunderstanding; but labor rightly sensed that researches
in production would make the knowledge of craft skills the common
property of management. {40}
Seeing the futility of fighting scientific management in the shop,
organized labor turned to Congress for help. In the fall of 1910 the
Interstate Commerce Commission conducted some rate case hearings that
were destined to have a profound effect on labor's attitude. These
hearings were held in response to a demand by certain railroads that they
be permitted to increase their rates in order to offset a general rise in
wages. The shipping interests of the Northeast argued that, instead of
raising rates, the railroads should reduce their costs, and offered
evidence that costs could be cut and savings effected by the Taylor
system, which had already been introduced into certain industrial plants.
Out of these hearings grew the expression "scientific management." {41}
Out of them, too, came the organized opposition of the American
Federation of Labor to the movement, which the unions hoped could be
killed by political weapons. Congress was particularly interested in
labor's opposition because scientific management was then being
introduced into the federal arsenals and was soon to be proposed for
other departments of the government as well. {42} In addition, Congress
felt it could not wisely ignore the growing strength of labor at the
polls in the dynamic years immediately preceding the outbreak of World
War I. Labor, which ironically was helpless to prevent the growth of
scientific management in the industrial field, came to exert a great
influence in national political affairs.
At a later date Barth went on record with the statement that "with one
single and deplorable exception," no direct disciple of Taylor ever timed
a worker without "properly preparing the way and obtaining the full
consent and cooperation of the worker." {43} The exception occurred at
the government's arsenal at Watertown, Massachusetts. During the absence
of Barth, who had charge of introducing the Taylor system at Watertown
from 1908 to 1912, labor trouble broke out when an unqualified man, under
pressure from army officers, went into the foundry to start time-study
work on molders without first preparing the workers psychologically. {44}
The results were an illegal strike of foundry workers, a temporary
shutdown of the arsenal, and, as might be expected, increased interest in
scientific management. Labor leaders succeeded in bringing about hearings
before a special committee of the House of Representatives to investigate
the Taylor and other systems of scientific management. Barth's testimony
before this body, January 31-February 1, 1912, an illuminating commentary
by an insider, reveals better than any other document the almost
crusading idealism which motivated men like Barth and Taylor. Whatever
the subsequent abuses by employers and pseudo-efficiency men, in the
hands of Barth scientific management was a means toward the betterment of
the working classes, of which Barth always considered himself a member.
Quoting from a report on his work at the Watertown Arsenal, Barth
The main object of the Taylor System, as I am working for it --- I do not
care what the other fellow is working for --- is to eliminate waste of
time, materials, and human energy, and so to utilize the machinery of a
plant that a greatly increased production will result in lower cost of
production to the owners and, on the other hand, in increased wages to
the employees . . . I am personally only directly interested in the
latter part of this --- namely the increased wages of the employees ---
and in the former merely because, without bringing this about, the latter
can not be brought about.
He thus agreed with the modern economist.
Always passionately honest, Barth hastened to add, "I will not deny that
I am also intensely interested in the introduction of this system, merely
as an outlet for my natural energy and love of work for its own sake."
In his testimony Barth recounts case after case to prove that the workmen
caused no trouble of their own volition in the shops where scientific
management was introduced. To the contrary, the inherent individualism of
American workers asserted itself quickly. Speaking of his work at the
Link-Belt Company, Barth said, "It was not very long before men commenced
to bother us because we were not able to get around fast enough to put
them in a position to make the extra money." Workers generally increased
their earnings under Barth by 30 per cent or more.
Answering the charge that scientific management, while it might eliminate
loafing or "soldiering" on the job, made "automatons of the men," Barth
declared with sincerity and a bit of naivete:
The fact about that is that, in my experience and judgment, we produce
far fewer, for the reason that the management itself keeps so closely in
touch with what is going on that they more readily see the inhumanity of
making automatons of human beings. I do not recollect that in all the 13
years that I have been connected with Mr. Taylor's work that I have come
across a single case as bad as one I found in the shop I told about:
namely, that of an old man driving little bits of rivets in certain parts
of platform scales, which had been his only work for 42 years past. I do
not believe that this would have existed under scientific management.
Asked about the case, Barth explained that it was at Fairbanks, Morse,
and Company, and that under scientific management a machine would have
been invented to do the worker's job and the man trained to handle the
machine "instead of using his own hands and arms to work that hammer up
and down." Asked what would happen if he had been unable to invent the
matons of the men," Barth answered:
We would probably have distributed that work, at least I should judge we
would have had men taking turns at it, along the principles laid down
long ago by Mr. Bellamy in his wonderful book "Looking Backward," in
which he suggests that the time will come when all disagreeable labor in
this world will be divided equally between all able-bodied men, so that a
certain number of days out of every man's natural life will be spent in
performing that service to the world.

<25> It must be remembered that he devised several, not just one. See,
for example, "Barth's Gear Slide-Rule," in American Machinist, 25:1075
(July 31, 1902); "Barth's Lathe Speed Slide Rules," in American
Machinist, 25:1684 (November 20, 1902); United States patent number
753,840; and Barth's "The Improved Belt Slide Rule," in Management
Engineering, 2:351-354 (June, 1922).
<26> This account is based on Barth's famous "Supplement to Frederick W.
Taylor's `On the Art of Cutting Metals,"' in Industrial Management,
58:169-175, 282-288, 369-374, 483-487 (September-December, 1919).
<27> Carl G. Barth, "Slide Rules for the Machine Shop as a Part of the
Taylor System of Management," in American Society of Mechanical
Engineers, Transactions, 25:50 (1904).
<28> Taylor, Principles, 57 Taylor's statement embraces more than the
slide-rule operation, which applies only to the machine portion of a job.
<29> Copley, Frederick W. Taylor, 2:85.
<30> L. P. Alford, in vol. 58, p. 171 (September, 1919).
<31> Barth, in Management Engineering, 2:351-354 (June, 1922).
<32> A short time before Barth died he was convinced that his rules were
obsolete --- that is, the mathematics incorporated thereon. Improved
materials and tool steels required, he thought, new experiments, a
reworking of formulas, etc. During his working years slide rules were
made on an average of once every five years --- and only for clients.
<33> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:206-221, 254-271 (October and December,
<34> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:211-213.
<35> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:214.
<36> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 14:215-213.
<37> Taylor Society, Bulletin, 2: 21 (December, 1916).
<38> Taylor, Principles, 53.
<39> Horace B. Drury, "Scientific Management and Progress," in Taylor
Society, Bulletin, 2:5 (November, 1916). A more detailed and critical
account of this subject is R. F. Hoxie, Scientific Management and Labor
(New York, 1915).
<40> Person, in Encyclopaedia o f the Social Sciences, 13:607.
<41> Person, in Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, 13:603.
<42> Drury, in Taylor Society, Bulletin, 2:6 (November, 1916).
<43> "A Defense of the Stop Watch," in Taylor Society, Bulletin, 6:111
(June, 1921).
<44> Information given by J. Christian Barth of Philadelphia.

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