Model of a lubricant distillation plant, 1916

© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
© Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Production Technology
Chemical Production Engineering
1910 - 1919

It’s rarely a thing of beauty to behold, has no haptic qualities, and often causes a bit of a stink. And yet, would the industrial revolution have been able to occur at all without the seemingly insignificant lubricant?

Mills and other driving mechanisms of older vintage were initially lubricated with vegetable oils or animal fats. Bacon rinds were used, but also pig fat, beef tallow, and whale oil. The age of industrialisation saw a boom in the construction and use of machines. Lubrication helped to reduce friction resistance as well as the wear and tear on moving parts. The mechanisms that needed oiling were as diverse as they were plentiful: large and small drives and production machinery, transmission bearings, cooling devices, bicycles, and automobiles.

The use of coal tar and the start of petroleum extraction around 1860 resulted in a gradual transition to the manufacture and use of mineral oils. Various methods of fractional distillation produced a wide range of innovative products. But traditional substances were still being used for lubrication purposes, including neat’s-foot oil. Extracted from the marrow in the foot bones of farm animals, it stayed runny even when stored over long periods and did not go rancid. Neat’s-foot oil was regarded as one of the best lubricants for precision machine tools, sewing machines and clocks. Vegetable oils also became increasingly important, including peanut, palm and castor oil.

The plant on which this model at the Technisches Museum Wien was built supplied a product needed by large-scale industry. The company Brünn-Königsfelder Maschinenfabrik manufactured heavy lubricants for heavy machinery using a continuous high-vacuum process based on a patented method. The viscous substances had to have high flash and igniting points.

Date of origin: 1916

Inv.Nr. 9745

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