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                    Line Shaft Shop Tour

 

There is a lot of interest in line shafts among blacksmiths, and since I am a full time blacksmith in a line driven shop, I have decided to give a tour.  Many of the machines we use in this profession were meant to be run from a line shaft, and I sincerely believe that is the best way to run them.  Every blacksmith really should consider a line shaft, and I hope this will be encouragement.  I will be happy to answer any questions anyone has about a line shaft, the way I have things running or about my shop in general.  

 

My shop is two buildings: the workspace, which I began using in the mid 1980's and is now two floors; and the engine house, which I added in 2004 and includes the office and show area.  The workspace is divided into four areas: the machining area, the forging area, the assembly and stock area, and the upstairs which is for small work and storage.  I intend to show each of these areas over the next few days.

 

Since the entire shop is dependent on the engine, I will start with the engine house.  I built this as a separate building to keep the engine's noise and fumes out of the shop.  (Up until then, I had an engine at one end of the shop.)  There is a short hallway connecting the two buildings.  The engine that now drives the shop is 118 years old; it is a Reid Type A, made in 1898.  It provides almost everything the shop needs: the power to the machines, electricity for the lights and outlets, and even the heat for the shop.  The only things it cannot power are my welders and the blower on my gas forges.  In cold weather, the engine pumps its coolant through radiators throughout the shop for heat (and to cool the engine), and it pumps it through an outdoor system in the summer.  I merely open one set of valves and close another to switch cooling systems.  There are nearly 400 gallons in the system, but I got the antifreeze for free from a junkyard.

 

Also in the engine room is the air compressor, the dynamo, an exhaust blower so gasses are blown outside, a counter so I can keep track of the line's hours for servicing, and the fan for the engine's summer cooling system.   All are run by the line shaft in the engine room.  The air compressor comes on and off on its own, by air signals, or it can be controlled manually.  (The control system is my invention.)  The dynamo is a 110 volt, 31 amp Higgs Dynamo made in England in 1925.  It generates the electricity for the lights, the outlets for my hand tools (Dewalt is still AC/DC) and for the magnetic chuck on the surface grinder.  The pulley that drives the dynamo is 52"--big enough I had to cut a hole in the ceiling.  The large drive pulley was necessary to get the speed correct for the dynamo.  

 

By using the engine for all of my machines, my lights and my heat, I get a lot more out of a gallon of fuel than I would running it just for the machines.  The first month I had my dynamo running, my electric bill was just $5.00.  That's pretty minimal for a full time shop.  Using the engine for multiple tasks is key to a line shaft's efficiency.  

 

It might interest some of you to follow me on Facebook.  I post processes once in awhile, with shop pictures.  I'm not sure what the link is, but just look up Joel Sanderson/Sanderson Iron and you'll find me.  There are more machine pictures on my website too, along with descriptions and some links to videos of the machines running.  My site is sandersoniron.com.  I hope it's okay to post that here; I'm certainly not trying to sell anything to a bunch of hairy blacksmiths who can make their own stuff. 

 

I'll try not to be so windy next time. 

 

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Joel, this is very neat. Thanks for sharing. More please. I was a member of Rough & Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers PA. for several years, always wanted to set up the blacksmith shop like this.

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I had just found the walk-through of your shop on you tube the other day. Amazingly beautiful.

If I ever follow through and build another building to move my forging equipment in, I plan on it being line shafted.

What is the backup make and break that you have next to the Reid? Could you tell us about the journey of acquiring all the equipment, line shafting and electrical system? 

How much fuel does the Reid burn in a month?

On a side note, who is your supplier for all that nice flat belt?

 

Thanks for sharing, it really is one cool shop.

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Thank you everyone.  I'm not trying to show off the shop here but instead would like to encourage anyone who is considering a line shaft.  I think spreading knowledge is the point of this forum, and I think this is very relevant.  Maybe I have something to contribute in this regard, but it's not like I invented this or anything.  This is how our nation, the US, was built.  It's a shame so much has been lost regarding belt transmission.  

The first line shaft in the shop drives the machines requiring the most power: the three power hammers and the large grinder (as well as other machines).  It also drives two other line shafts.  There are 92 feet of line shaft in the shop, plus many, many countershafts.  I have no idea how many feet of belt is used.  

 

The second shaft after the first shaft is the main line, and it drives the machining area.  It has the most machines on it.   All the machines here were chosen specifically to make dies or to support the forging in some way.  There is a 19" Economic lathe, a universal, horizontal mill by H.A. Stocker, a vertical Becker mill, a Garvin die slotter, a Planer, an 8" X 12" surface grinder, two drill presses, a pedestal grinder and a universal pedestal grinder.  Using these machines, I can hold to half a thousandth, which is perfectly adequate for the dies I make.

 

There is a catwalk along the center of the shop to service the main line.  

 

The first picture shows the east end of the first line.  It looks like a real jumble of belts, which it is, but when you're working, its all over your head where you don't notice it.  In the last picture you can see the main drive coming in through the wall to the larger pulley on the left; the belt coming across the bottom drives the main line to the machine tools at the west end of the shop.  

 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, CMS3900 said:

I had just found the walk-through of your shop on you tube the other day. Amazingly beautiful.

If I ever follow through and build another building to move my forging equipment in, I plan on it being line shafted.

What is the backup make and break that you have next to the Reid? Could you tell us about the journey of acquiring all the equipment, line shafting and electrical system? 

How much fuel does the Reid burn in a month?

On a side note, who is your supplier for all that nice flat belt?

 

Thanks for sharing, it really is one cool shop.

Both engines are throttle governed.  The smaller one is a Fairbanks Morse Z.  It isn't belted to the shop yet.  I've had it for four years and still haven't set it up.  It's kinda hard for me to spend the time on something if a system is already working.  The reason I bought it was for backup, quick starts and for lighter loads.

The Reid uses between .9 and 1.5 gallons an hour, depending on the load it's pulling, the time of year and so on.  I have a copper tank on the wall with a sight tube that's marked in pints, so I can tell pretty accurately how much fuel I'm burning.  I'm attaching a picture.  In it you can see two black pipes coming into the building and going down to the floor.  These are propane lines--the smaller one feeds the ignition of the engine, the larger feeds the cylinder.  I start the engine on propane, and after it's warmed up (15 minutes or so) I switch to liquid fuel.   I made the carburetor for it, which I wrote about in Gas Engine Magazine a few years back.  The fuel I'm burning is a mixture of gasoline and kerosene.  I can also mix diesel fuel with gasoline, but it's more finicky. 

The belts are SBR flat rubber belts from McMaster Carr.  Other suppliers handle them too, like Hit and MIss Enterprises in Ohio.  I strongly recommend using new belts when you set up a machine.  Old belts are not sticky, they are stretched out, and they don't  pull a load.  I buy four and five ply belts.  They make them thinner, but don't get them if you plan to run any load through it.  

There are something on the order of 28 machines run by the line, but I'd have to list them all to know for sure.  I plan to show them as this goes along.  Basically, the reason I went with a line shaft was because I wanted to (main reason) and because the shop has very weak electrical power to it (legitimate reason) which would have required I bring in a commercial line from who knows where.  The shop's on a gravel road in the country at the end of the power line, and the power goes out all the time there.  I like being independent anyway.  Besides, like I said at the start, these old machines were meant to be run this way, and this is how they run the best. 

Joel

GasLinesandTank.jpeg

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To put the engine's consumption in perspective, if you have a pickup that gets 20 miles per gallon, and you're driving 60 miles an hour, you're burning three gallons an hour just to go somewhere.  Burning a third to half that is pretty decent considering all it's doing for me.  I could have put in another engine which would have been more economical, but I wanted a low RPM engine in order to be close to the line's speed.  1:1 is the best ratio for power transmission with flat belts.  If you follow the belts from the engine to the main power draw--the 250 pound hammer--it's nearly 1:1 the whole way there, because the hammer runs about the same speed as the engine.  This was very deliberate, but it required a low rpm engine to do it.  The Reid is rated to run 165 RPM.  I run it 185.  

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That's undoubtedly great fuel economy.  If you did the reverse math figuring everything electric motor drive, powered by a diesel generator, you couldn't touch that economy.

That's also good to know about the RPM, I hadn't thought of looking for a engine with a specific RPM range.

Can't wait to see more pictures and information. 

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Here are pictures of the machine tools which I mentioned in an earlier post.  As I said, each was selected to have a purpose in the shop--primarily to support the forging, making dies and so on.  You can see there isn't much belt issue down low where you work.  

The oldest machine in the shop is the planer, made in 1869.  I've heard of one other like it in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, but mine's still making a living at 147 years old.  I bought the lathe from an old gentlemen at Tip City, when Quadstate was still there, who said his father bought it used in 1910, and he guessed it was from the 1890's.  Both of these machines are more accurate than I can measure, doing half thou work consistently.  The horizontal mill is dated 1911.  The surface grinder and vertical Becker mill both are from about 1910 or so.   The drill presses are in that neighborhood too.  I'm not sure when the Garvin die slotter was made, but I'd guess around 1920.

One thing to note is the way the Becker is driven.  You'll notice there is a three step pulley, making three speeds.  Overhead however, there is a double clutch, which most people associate with a lathe for forward and reverse.  However, I'm running each clutch with a different size pulley, making a high and low range, for six speeds.  These speeds range from about 400 rpm to 2500 rpm.  It's a great little mill.  Again, this isn't my invention.  If you look on page 60 in Kenneth Cope's planer and shaper book, there are two engravings of Flather shapers with double clutch assemblies.  There is no reason to run a shaper in reverse, so this could only have been for different speeds.  

The last picture shows the two sized drive pulleys going to the Becker. 

MachineAreaEast.jpeg

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planer.jpg

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You could make money just giving tours. Nice place. But anyway. 1. Is the space insulated. 2. Being a line shaft rookie, are there clutches or some kind of disengament devices so that every shaft doesn't turn all the time. 

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I'm curious about the shafts and belts themselves. From the photographs it appears to be a steel shaft fitted with wooden pulleys (some of them at least) run by leather belts. Were the shafts and pulleys fabricated or salvaged from another shop? Regarding the belts, what material do you use and what sort of service life can you expect from such an arrangement?

I remember reading about beltmaker's planes... yes, here it is, the Stanley #11 beltmaker's plane. Do you use one of these or perhaps something of your own design to make and service the belts running on the line? 

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Jumbo, he said he gets his belts from McMaster-Carr.

Joel, how far are you from Tillers International? If you know what that organization is? I would love to come visit some time.

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Indeed he did. Not sure how I missed that considering I read through this thread at least five times. Well, I thought I had anyway!

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1 hour ago, Kevin_Olson said:

1. Is the space insulated. 2. Being a line shaft rookie, are there clutches or some kind of disengament devices so that every shaft doesn't turn all the time. 

The insulation in the shop is not the best.  I keep at it little by little. When the emerald ash borer first hit around here, we cut a lot of ash trees, and I used those on the walls of half the shop, insulating behind with R13.  I need to cut more trees for more boards and keep going with it.  Thing is, that really's only for a few months of the year.  The engine room is very well insulated, but I don't work in there.

I cannot turn the line shafts off.  The individual machines each have a clutch, either on the countershaft or on the machine.  As a rule, if the machine has a clutch built into it, I use that instead of adding another clutch on the countershaft.  For example, any power hammer with a clutch is meant to have its pulley turn all the time, so why complicate things and add another bearing to have to grease and another clutch to have to adjust?  When I first put the 250 pounder in the shop, I had a separate clutch on its countershaft, but it simply didn't last.  A hammer can add a lot of shock to the system when you suddenly step on the pedal and expect it to respond.  Now the Murray's idler runs all the time the engine runs.  It's just a bearing and is no harder to replace than any other bearing in another clutch.  

Speaking of the Murray: starting in 1998, for seven years I relocated my business to Ohio in a shop without a line shaft, and I ran the hammer with an electric motor.  It was a huge old three phase thing, 7 1/2 horse power, with a 4 groove V-belt pulley going down to a jackshaft and then up to the hammer's pulley with a flat belt.  The motor was bolted down with four fine thread, grade 8, 1/2" bolts.  During the years the motor drove that hammer, I broke two of the bolts, I broke a foot off the motor, and I slipped the Browning taper lock that held the 4 groove pulley!  Motor systems are just weak--and that was a big motor!  When I brought it home to the line shaft, I added a 30" cast iron pulley to the end of the countershaft to act as a flywheel, and I drive the shaft through that with a 6" belt carrying 14 horse power.  It's happy now.  The mass of the pulleys and the power of the flat belts works much better than the motor did.  

 

 

Tillers is just a bit over an hour west of me, Tony.  If you're coming up from Virginia, you'd be within six miles of my shop if you come into Michigan on 127.  By all means drop in.  Give me a holler and I'll give you directions. 

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1 hour ago, jumbojak said:

I'm curious about the shafts and belts themselves. From the photographs it appears to be a steel shaft fitted with wooden pulleys (some of them at least) run by leather belts. Were the shafts and pulleys fabricated or salvaged from another shop? Regarding the belts, what material do you use and what sort of service life can you expect from such an arrangement?

Jumbo, line shaft pulleys are (were) made in halves. They bolt together and grip the shaft without a key.  The center of the pulley has an oversized hole (usually 3 7/16") so there can be an inserted hub put in them to fit different sized shafts.  There were three pulley materials: wood, cast iron and steel.  The steel is usually thin, pressed steel.  Of the three, wooden pulley are the most common to find, but they also transfer the least power.  This is mainly because they can grip the shaft only so tightly, because the wood crushes.  They also change with humidity, so the grip loosens eventually.  (Leather belts do too, so that's another reason to use rubber belts.)  The inserts in wooden pulleys are usually wood, but the metal pulleys (cast and steel) usually were fitted with cast iron inserts machined to fit.  These grip well.  I've made inserts out of wood, steel and PVC.  For any heavy load or a load that'll be shocking (like a hammer) I use steel inserts bored a few thousandths under shaft size.  These are cut in half and then, in two places, cut nearly in two lengthwise to the bore so they can flex open and squeeze against the shaft to grip it.  If I have to use a wooden pulley under heavy load, I at least put a metal insert in it.  

The belts last a long time if they are not expected to bend and distort for some reason.  My Murray is set at an angle to the shop, so the belt has to come down and angle around an idler in order for it to track.  This bends the belt and breaks it apart, so that machine is on its third belt now (since the early 90's).  I really don't know how long a belt will last if it's set up right, because the first one I put up is still going strong.  

My pulleys and bearings have all been salvaged from old line shafts.  I get them wherever I find them and keep a pile on hand for the next machine to come in. In the first picture below you can see my assortment upstairs.  (The board in front of them is my outside crane.  I open the door, slide the board out with a chain fall on the end of it and bolt it to the floor.  It works great.)  In the second picture you can see, on the right side, the angled belt coming down to the Murray.  I wouldn't do that again.  It's a lot simpler to mount things square, and it makes a lot less headache.

joel 

 

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 If you would, could you comment on your lube schedule? Like, how often do you lube all those shafts and how long does it take?  Is there a ladder involved, getting to some of those countershafts? I use some old farm equipment pretty regular and have to inspect and lube daily, some pieces more often. This is a beautiful shop and I am really enjoying the tour... Thanks for your time.    Dave   

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Dave,

The main line, which is in the center of the shop and drives the machine tools, does not have real line shaft bearings which self oil; it has split babbet pillow blocks.  They are lubed with grease cups. [I think I said earlier that an old bearing made for grease cups has an X grease groove instead of a straight line.  That X, with the grease entering the center, draws the grease into the bearing as the shaft is turning.  It could be a V, but the X allows the shaft to run in either direction.]  That line shaft and all the countershafts with cups require attention every 60 hours.  There is a counter in the engine room that keeps track.  I walk along the catwalk and turn the cups down to the grease level, filling any that are out or are too low to last another 60 hours.  If a cup has grease against it, that means the bearing isn't getting greased, and I give it attention--pull the cup and put a zerk in its place, squirt grease in and replace the cup.  After the main line's done, I walk around to the machines and do the same to their grease cups, oil the machines where they need it, and so on.  I have a short step ladder (an antique) for reaching the countershafts.  It takes about half an hour.  The other four line shafts all have self oiling bearings with oil reservoirs and rings that dip in and circulate.  I service those twice a year--Christmas and on my birthday in June.  

There is one bearing that is high speed and doesn't make it the 60 hours.  I use #2 1/2 grease in that bearing so it stays longer, but the shaft is so low I can just reach up and turn the cup from the floor.  The cup is on the end of the shaft instead of spinning with the pulley, so I can do it while the shop is running.  I wish I had a picture of that, but I didn't think to take one.  Maybe I will and will post it later.  

Someone asked about clutches.  There are two types of clutches: friction clutches with some sort of band in or around a drum, and tight and loose pulleys.  The tight and loose pulley system is the simplest.  It's simply an idler pulley ("loose") and a drive pulley ("tight"), and the belt is moved from one to the other with forks connected to a handle.  Any two matching pulleys can be made into a set, by boring one and pressing in a bearing.  The driving pulley, on the other end of the belt, has to be flat, with no crown, and wide enough to allow the belt to follow across its face when it is moved.  All the old true clutches have a cast iron shoe and a cast iron drum.  These are meant to be oiled.  I have made some clutches, and if I can find the pictures I'll post them. 

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Joel, This just keeps getting better and better. Thanks again for sharing all the info. Unless I've missed it, I haven't read anything about noise with several pieces running. 

Al

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The noise inside the shop is not much at all, Al.  It makes a big difference if you have new belts or old ones, because the new ones just run nice and quiet and don't flop around. I wear ear plugs all the time I'm in the shop anyway, but visitors don't mind it at all and often comment how quiet it is.  Now outside, it's a different story.  That engine makes some music.  I start it up on propane, and I switch back to propane when I shut down; and for some reason, when it runs on propane, it's several times louder than on liquid fuel.  Don't know why.   On propane, it can be heard for miles.  I live about a mile away, on the other side of the block, and I have a little donkey at home, and he's learned that when that engine gets louder I'm gonna be home soon to feed him.  He starts honking and braying just before I come home.  He's a funny little guy.  Of course, I can hear him all the way to the shop too, doggone thing.  Maybe he's calling to my road horse, because they're best friends. 

I've tried different mufflers on that engine, but 750 cubic inches each blast is hard to tame.

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 Thank you Sir......Very informative and enjoyable.....enjoying the tour a bunch.            Dave

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In the center of the shop are my forges.  The main one, which I use the most, is a coal forge.  This forge has a blower which runs off the line shaft at a continual speed.  There is a blast gate to control the airflow, with two handles to control it: one on each side of the forge.  My hot working machinery is located around the fire.  These machines include: a 25 pound Little Giant, a 100 pound Hackney, a 250 pound Murray, a 25 ton toggle press, a 3 X 4 rolling mill, and a 24" shaper.  There is also an anvil nearby, but I hardly ever use the thing except as a table.  I think anvils are ridiculous and belong in the same basement as clinker makers.  Even my center punching is done mostly with the Hackney.  But that's another subject.

I have three gas forges, or furnaces, too: one is a tiny single burner for itty-bitty stock, a biggish one for general forging, and a long one for the rolling mill.  The long one heats up to 50" long, the general one is about 14" by 20", and the little one is just 4" by 8".  I have not fired the general gas forge in two years--that's how much I prefer coal, which is cheaper and more versatile.  There is a hood over the gas furnaces with an exhaust pipe connecting to a blower at the other end of the shop, run off the line.  This gets the fumes outside, of course. The same blower also connects to my tumbler to suck the iron oxide dust outside.  The tumbler is behind the Hackney, so I can drop parts into it when they're done. 

The Little Giant and the press are both 90º to the line, so there is a gearbox to get the belts to them.  I forgot to take a picture of that.

In one picture you can see the anvil on the left and, behind it, the wall of spring tools for the power hammers.  The table beneath them is covered in single tools, and the lower shelf of the table is covered in swages and kiss blocks for the hammers.  Beneath the left end of the bench is the coal shoot from the bin outside.  On the right end of the table is a large stake.  You'll notice the anvil is a saw maker's anvil.  I do not like combination anvils.  If I want a stake, I'll use a stake.  Anvils don't make good stakes.  I'll never understand the appeal of the double horned anvils people buy.  They take up too much space and are always jabbing you in the thigh.  But as I said, I don't use an anvil anyway. 

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If there were a law that prohibited blacksmith and tool porn you would be in jail.  I've enjoyed the pictures and this thread immensely.  Thanks for doing this.

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That's hilarious, Buzzkill!  Thanks for saying so.

I've been accumulating these machines for years, and they've come from all over the eastern US.  It has helped that each one has a purpose, which keeps the focus, so it's not quite the same as a collection.  I don't get things that don't contribute to my forging, and it's a good thing, because I'm running out of space anyway. 

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I'm gonna back up just a minute and almost leave the forging area to talk about a very important machine I use daily.  It is a universal grinder that Patrick Nowak found for me up in Wisonsin.  It has a table on one end with X Y Z and a vise built onto the top.  To the X axis handle I have added a crank so that I can turn it quickly for cutting off bars with a cut-off wheel.  Being able to cut with it is invaluable.  It is very precise, able to cut at an angle, and it can cut hot material.  Let's say you need to forge a bunch of short tapers from 3/8" stock, maybe 2" long.  It's not practical to precut all the stock and be able to hold it and not lose the iron in the fire, so it's easier to forge the taper on the end of a long bar, cut off the finished taper, put the bar back in the fire and keep going.  This machine, which is right near the fire, is perfect for that.  I made a simple table that clamps in the vise so I can use it for sheet too. If you ever have a chance to find one, get it.  Unfortunately, this is the only one I've ever seen, but there must be others out there too.

It also can double as a surface grinder, though since I have one, I don't use it for that. 

The first three pictures show it with a 45º cutting jig for 3/8" square.  In the second-to-last picture I'm using it to cut out a chandelier base from 1/8" sheet, which you can see in the last picture.  I like a rubber snagging wheel on the right end for deburring. 

Joel

TableClose.jpeg

UniversalMain.jpeg

UniversalFront.jpeg

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ChandBottom.jpeg

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With the two larger hammers and presses how much use does your 25# Little Giant get? Anything you use it for that it is either easier to use or does a better job than the Hackney?

Great thread by the way. I have looked at your site before but I really enjoy the detail explanations you have put here.

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