Chapter 69 Cannon System
Four days later in the backyard.
Two deep holes were dug in the ground. Each hole was in a circular shape, and the deeper it went, the narrower its radius became. At ground level, its diameter was around 40 cm but its deepest part expanded to only 26 cm. These holes were the molds that Roland intended to use to produce his cannon prototypes. The inner walls of the holes were baked and hardened by Anna. She burned it so long that its surface was without any flaws, just like a shell. She began to harden the shell at the bottom and took all the air bubbles and scum with her as she moved upwards. During history, there were several sizes of cannons; Roland roughly remembered that the so-called six pound and eight pound cannons got their name from the weight of their shells. Roland’s first step for producing a cannon was to produce several twelve-pound balls, and then calculate their sizes according to the diameter and the wall thickness of the cannon’s shell.
In the absence of measurement tools, Roland simply created his own custom standard. He took an iron rod and separated it into many small parts with the width of the smallest phalanx of his ring finger, hoping to come close to one centimeter. After that, he created many copies of the iron rods.
The diameter of a twelve-pound iron ball, when measured with the new iron ruler, was around twelve centimeters. Because of this, the thinnest wall of the shell had to be four centimeters, and the rear end which was used as the detonation chamber would need to be seven centimeters thick to prevent self-explosion. As for length, there were many different kinds of cannons, like the cannons used on battleships, modern tanks, or antique front-loading artillery, so he really did not know which to choose.
Taking into account that the shorter the tube, the lighter the cannon would be and the more materials could be saved. Roland dismissively waved his hand, I will just build a cannon with a length of 1.5 meters; if the tests results aren’t satisfactory, I will adjust the length later.
When the cannon was originally invented, it was built with a wooden core and strengthened with iron rings, just like a barrel. Roland still remembered that this kind of cannon had the risk of air leaking and self-explosion, thus it would be better to mold the cannon bodies completely at once. When drilling out the cannon with a steam engine, there was no difference in producing a 6-pound cannon or a 12-pound cannon.
The so-called caliber was just a concept to differentiate between their sizes. If the muzzle was bigger, it became a 12 pounder. Everything beyond that couldn’t be used as field artillery. But the exact weight of the shells or the cannon balls wasn’t important as long as they shoot in a straight line. After all, he was only getting ideas from history and not replicating it.
Roland took a deep breath, then he gave Anna the signal to start “start now”. The latter nodded her head, took a steel ingot, and placed it over the hole. Under the power of her green flame, the ingot quickly turned red and began to melt, forming a small waterfall out of molten iron which flowed into the hole. The molten iron glowed red-orange and became so bright that it was hard to look at. In order to protect Anna’s eyes, Roland specially set up a support frame at the edge of the hole. She just had to take a good position first and then she could lean against the support frame to produce the cannon without looking into the hole.
The ingots were normally only used up slowly. After all, Anna alone couldn’t start the era of hot steel, but producing a small batch wasn’t a big problem – the most difficult problem to solve was to hold the temperature at the same level, but with Anna’s help he was able to produce a small batch of excellent quality steel.
This was also the reason why Roland dared to produce a cannon of the size of five meters. Compared to the cannons produced out of bronze or iron, the cannon made out of steel was clearly much stronger. Even if Roland built the cannon in the wrong size, the probability that it would self-explode was much smaller.
The amount of molten steel was continuing to rise within the hole, but the numbers of ingots were also becoming less and less. Seeing this, Roland couldn’t help himself but feel some heartache. In the end, he only could wait until the time when he would be able to build some blast furnaces on his territory. The number of steel and iron ingots a noble could produce was one of the criteria used to measure strength and power during this time.
When the two molds were filled, Anna’s cheeks were bright red because of her effort. So, Roland took out his handkerchief and gently wiped the sweat from her nose away. Unable to accept this embarrassing care, Anna showed some resistance at the beginning, but after a few seconds she obediently closed her eyes and let Roland take care of her.
Her face had a red shine from the light of the molten steel, causing Roland to think about taking a bite out of her. However, when he looked further down her neck, her exposed, slender clavicle entered his view. The both of them were so close together that Roland could smell her delicate fragrance.
“Ahem, well …” Roland embarrassedly took the handkerchief away while trying to control his restless emotions, “that was everything for today. Well done! I will tell the kitchen to specially prepare a pepper steak for you.”
Now wasn’t the right time, Roland thought, if I take action now, everyone will think that I am taking advantage of a vulnerable person. I will have to wait until she is completely free…
When Anna opened her eyes, she could feel that Roland had wiped away all her sweat, but his face seemed to be redder than before. She gently nodded to Roland and expressed her thanks.
In the next few days, Roland traveled between the castle and the North Slope Mine several times.
In addition to cannons, he also needed to make a sufficient amount of boring tools.
The production method of the boring tools for gun barrels and cannon barrels were quite similar. After their removal from the mold, Anna would heat them up again, so that they could be processed with a hammer. It was quite different from producing an ordinary knife. At first glance, it looked like a blunt iron rod. However, the only difference was that it had a gap on its head, which was used to discharge metal debris. At the last step, the iron was quenched to increase its hardness.
The production method was quite different from modern high precision drills. After all, Roland only needed them to drill into iron. Taking their high wear rate into account, Roland and Anna produced five boring tools within a week. Thanks to this boring tools and the usage of the steam engine for drilling – the production of the gun barrels rapidly increased from 2 each month to ten each day.
After everything was ready, the miners would dig out the two cannon embryos, then clean the scum from the surface and transport them onto the carriage smithy.
For the production of these two cannon embryos, nearly all of Roland’s steel ingots were consumed, a priceless test. So Carter and his whole guard were responsible for the protection of the transport, which let the Chief Knight feel a little superfluous. Who would steal so much inflexible stuff?
According to the requirements of the Prince, the blacksmith began to polish and flatten the appearance of the embryo, after the grindstone. When they had finished it, the embryos were delivered into the castle backyard. At this time they just looked like two solid iron bars with dark gray and rounded appearances, exuding a heavy metallic luster.
Roland couldn’t wait to start the drilling, so together with Carter he brought the embryo to the right place, and placed the tip of the cutter head at the top of the steel bar.
With a face full of expectation, Roland pulled the valve on the steam engine. The boring tool slowly began to operate, but not much later it was already running at a steady speed.
“Begin!” the Prince loudly shouted.
Hearing this, the Chief Knight pushed the sliding base down so that the boring tool came in contact with the embryo. When the tip of the boring tool came into contact with the embryo, a harsh noise which even overshadowed the noise of the steam engine could be heard. As lubricant they used lard, which was packed into the drilling, coming out of the wire as black foam. The onlooking witches withdrew from the wooden shed, and only Lightning insisted on staying. It seemed to her that looking at this machine was much more beautiful than any landscape.