OT - Iron vs Brass Monkey

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem...how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a "Monkey" with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make "Brass Monkeys." Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey."
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Brad Naylor wrote:

http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq107.htm
It has often been claimed that the "brass monkey" was a holder or storage rack in which cannon balls (or shot) were stacked on a ship. Supposedly when the "monkey" with its stack of cannon ball became cold, the contraction of iron cannon balls led to the balls falling through or off of the "monkey." This explanation appears to be a legend of the sea without historical justification. In actuality, ready service shot was kept on the gun or spar decks in shot racks (also known as shot garlands in the Royal Navy) which consisted of longitudinal wooden planks with holes bored into them, into which round shot (cannon balls) were inserted for ready use by the gun crew. These shot racks or garlands are discussed in: Longridge, C. Nepean. The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships. (Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 1981): 64. A top view of shot garlands on the upper deck of a ship-of-the-line is depicted in The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1991): 17.
http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/aboutwordorigins/brassmonkeys?view=uk
What is the origin of the term 'brass monkey'?
The story goes that cannonballs used to be stored aboard ship in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a 'monkey'. In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very cold weather is 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey'. There are several problems with this story. The first is that the term 'monkey' is not otherwise recorded as the name for such an object. The second is that the rate of contraction of brass in cold temperatures is unlikely to be sufficient to cause the reputed effect. The third is that the phrase is actually first recorded as 'freeze the tail off a brass monkey', which removes any essential connection with balls. It therefore seems most likely that the phrase is simply a ribald allusion to the fact that metal figures will become very cold to the touch in cold weather (and some materials will become brittle).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sat, 12 Jul 2008 13:22:55 -0700, DGDevin wrote:

Ranks right up there with the "explanation" of 4' 8.5" gauge :-).
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Hardly. 32# shot has a diameter of about 6.35" making the monkey about 25.4" square. The coefficient of expansion for iron = 11.1e-6 and brass = 19e-6. For a 100C temperature change the difference in expansion between 4 cannon balls and the edge of the monkey is only 0.02". Art
"Brad Naylor" wrote ... [snip]

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

"IF" this were true, Splain to me how the "Brass Monkey" prevented the Iron Balls from rusting to each other!
AND how can the degradation of a material cause it to stick to the same material?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Leon wrote:
... snip

Ever tried to remove a rusted nut from a rusted bolt?
--
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As I recall, regardless of the metrial, it does not cease to exist during corrrsion. When iron is reduced fo instance, it creates iron oride.
Because the nut and bolt corrode at an equal rate, the iron oxide melds and causes the freezing of the two parts.
Too many years in the Navy I guess.
Soak in WD 40 or Naval Jelly for about a year and good luck.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The whole thing is moot. See: http://www.snopes.com/language/stories/brass.asp
Nahmie
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

message
Too, from my reading many years ago, I seem to recall the on-deck (ready-to-shoot) cannonballs were stored in a rope circle, of appropriate size for the ball size. Maybe I should have watched "Master and Commander" more closely, but I recall that from reading all of the Hornblower and Bolitho novels years ago.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Different situation, they are interconnected. The cannon ball example is more like, ever picked up a rusty screw driver?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Leon wrote:

Really more like trying to separate things in a rusty pile. Things that have been in tight contact can have the oxidation products adhere to one another and make them different to separate.
--
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Brad Naylor" wrote:

Brass (Copper & Zinc) and sea water are NOT compatible.
Sea water leeches the zinc out of brass leaving a honeycomb structure that is useless.
Even though the plate is known as a "Brass Monkey", most likely made of bronze (Copper & Tin), a standard of the time for vessel construction.
Lew
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.