If an elderly movie star, TV personality, or musician dies at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, we'll see a complete obituary on the 6 p.m. evening news with the star's biography and accomplishments. How did the news writers and producers prepare so much information on this person with such short notice? Well, the obituary and biography was already written and prepared on the star. The newscast was only waiting for the final event to occur. I'm going to write the obituary on Pump Packing, please hold for release until the actual final event occurs.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Pump packing was born before recorded history. One day, primitive man sat on a rock, picked his teeth with a blade of grass, and contemplated his problem. He had just built a boat to sail across the lake. To steer the boat, he opened a hole in the bottom to pass the rubber shaft. Water entered the boat through the hole and his boat sank. He needed something to jam into the opening, stop the leak, and yet still permit rotation of the rudder shaft. As primitive man sat, picked, contemplated, and stared into the setting sun, the blade of grass tickled his nose. Just beyond his nose, that blade of grass was the solution to his problem. Pump Packing was born.
Only there was no pump. The first packing was used to seal rudder shafts on primitive boats. The first known word for shaft packing was "stopa" (pronounced STOH-pah). In time, primitive man designed a box-type housing in the boat's bottom around the rudder shaft to stuff and jampress the stopa. This was called the stuffing box and the term is still used today. In Spanish, the word for stuffing box is prensaestopas, which literally means stopa press.
The first stopa packings were grass, weeds, leaves, vines, sticks, twigs, roots, and bark from trees. As time progressed, sailors used leather, hair, old sails, ropes, and other braided and weaved fibers. These proved useful in preventing water from entering the early sailboats through the hole where the rudder shaft passed. Noah used stopa to keep his boat afloat. Caesar used stopa to seal his rudder shaft when he sailed across the Mediterranean to court Cleopatra in Egypt. The Vikings, Columbus, and Magellan all used this most primitive invention called stopa.
In 1712, the reciprocating steam engine became a reality and boats could navigate upstream against strong river currents. The original stopa, good for sealing rudder shafts, encountered problems sealing a load of pressurized, high temperature steam. Stopa had to undergo a transition.
PUMP SHAFT PACKING OBITUARY
Hold Until the Actual Event Occurs
Shaft packing passed away slowly following extended declining health. Packing was born just after primitive man built the first boat. It is a veteran of numerous wars and campaigns. Packing was an active member of the VMA, AVS, ANSI, API, the ISD, and the southern Rubber and Gasket Mafia. It is survived by sheet gasket, valve packing, ring gaskets, O-rings, Teflon tape, and pipe dope. Unfortunately, it could not sustain the repeated attacks and advances of the mechanical seal. It eventually succumbed to the sands of time falling through the hourglass. Memorials may be made to the Lloyd Noland Black Lung Hospital in Fairfield, Ala., or the American Mesothelioma Society. Packing will live on in the minds of old pump packers. Future generations will recognize packing as an adornment like the candle and the horse.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Asbestos, a rock or mineral fiber, became a standard component of stopa for sealing reciprocating rods. Asbestos could resist the high temperature and pressure of the steam. New lubricants, mineral and petroleum based, were also incorporated to resist the friction of the constantly reciprocating shaft. The industry stopped using the word stopa and adopted the word packing.