Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mesta Machine Company

Mesta used to make the machines used in steel mills and forging companies. To make their big forging presses and rolling mill stacks, Mesta itself had to have big machine tools. I have noticed the Mesta brand on some of the pictures I have already published.

Gregory Wolf posted
Examining sheets of steel after rolling. Pittsburgh, 1938.
Hunter Jones: It looks like the old 3 stand mill at USS Irvin Works.
Andrew Stewart shared a Jackson-Township historical preservation post [photo]
Mesta Machine Works in the community of West Homestead, Allegheny County.
[There are comments about working there until it shutdown. But no one gave a date of the shutdown. One did indicate that US Steel had switched to foreign suppliers. I gather the shutdown was the early 1970s.]

Dave Cavanaugh posted three pictures with the comment: "Mesta Machine."


Dave Cavanaugh Interesting link about Mesta machine's history.
Dave Cavanaugh I think it's that the steel industry was too slow to keep up with modernization and the rest of the world took over the market. In the 1980s the US lost a lot of steel making capacity to continuous caster type mills.
Rex Whinery My employer used to make a lot of hydraulic and air cylinders for Mesta machine back in the day.

Update: Dave Cavanaugh posted five more pictures.
Bruce Weinzetl I used to work for Tippins machinery in Etna Pa . They tore out rolling mills and rebuilt them. I had the fortune to drive a truck and bring all the smaller machines back to the shop. I was lucky enough to see a lot of interesting equipment in my time. Love looking at all the machines and equipment. We brought some gears back from Fairmount W. Va that had to be put on rail cars sideways and tilted with empty cars on either side to clear turning. Had a 100 ton gantry crane to unload with 5 " braided cables. It was great !!!!!!

1  Double helical gear planer

2  vertical boring mill

3  Turning Flywheel in Pitt Lathe
ca. 1905-1925

4  Bryan Koskela Tool post grinding at its finest

5  Mesta Gear Cutting Department
ca. 1905-1925
John Abbott posted

Willie Brantingham I've work on quite a few mill housings like this at E.W.Bliss/Bliss Salem. Lots of gravy cutting, work was done on a 14ft Ingersoll 3 head planer mill!Loyd Boydigan Mesta Machine.
The Vintage News posted
“ Double Helical Cut Tooth Mill Pinions. Mesta Machine Co. Circa 1920-25 ”
John Abbott posted
Mesta Machine ...Old Pittsburgh
John Abbott posted
Mesta 50K
[Please access the "posted" link for long comments by Steve OConner.]
John Abbott posted
Matt Dostou I have issues believing that's an 18 inch machine.... 18 foot maybe...Michael D. Callahan 18" spindle!!Matt Dostou Oh... Thru? Never heard a spindle call out on a mill before...(mill guy 25 yr)Michael D. Callahan Matt Dostou, HBMs are usually called by spindle diameter. A 6" HBM is considered BIG.
Bob Gaston commented on the above posting

John Abbott posted
Mesta Machine, Pittsburgh
Mick Martin Homestead! Not pittsburgh!Flyin Lazyboy Correct. They did it all, womb to tomb.
John Abbott posted
Mesta Machine
Chris Austin What a shop that must have been. A time machine would be nice.

John Abbott posted
Imagine not only the machine that made these, but the machines that use them.

John Abbott posted
John Abbott posted
3 Speed
[I don't think it is three speed because the offset between the teeth does not vary.]
Some comments on this posting discussed this gear:
Tim Mckenrick The gear in the picture is called a anti back lash gear, puts equal pressure on both sides of mating gear teeth.
Dan Adamchick You are incorrect. The 3 rows of teeth are offset for strength. It is to spread the mesh of each row of 3 teeth so that each individual tooth is timed 1/3 from another in regard to the degree of engagement mesh starting points. This way, one tooth of the 3 is always fully seated in mesh between the driver and the driven gear. And in theory, two gears set to mesh at intersecting pitch circles should not experience cogging harmonics, the offset rows also help prevent this.
Tim Mckenrick This is how the gear shop I worked at made anti back lash gears, on this picture you can see the adjusters around the perimeter, just under the out side row of teeth. The gears I worked on the Jack screws are at the hub area. When these gears reverse there is very little lag or back lash, thay also tend to ware out pretty quick. Gears were for card board lines and other paper products.
John Abbott posted
[Note they are machining inside the hub.]

John Abbott posted
Chris Austin Mesta machine.
John Abbott posted
Phil Pia Mesta! Those are the same mills i work on, nice pic

Steel Plant Museum of Western New York posted, cropped
We are sharing an image from the Bethlehem Steel Lacakwanna Plant. The back of the image has this description: "Strip mill- Hot mill roughing stand- looking S.W." Photo is dated 3/1/56.

James Torgeson shared
Aaron Barnes I worked on mesta mills in the 160" plate mill in burns harbor. Giant beasts.

Brian Olson posted 41 images of a book about Mesta. His comments:
One of the American greats.
Interesting side note. The MAAG gear grinder shown in one of the pictures was sold for more money than the entire West Homestead facility cost Park Corporation to buy. Remember vultures don't kill. Vultures clean up.

It was a combination of management and workers that killed the company. I walked through the old West Homestead facility (Whemco) a week ago. It is a shell of what was there in 1983. I was told seventy two people work there now.

 Did you know that Mesta Machine had a contract for a complete aluminum hot mill in 1981 that would have sustain it for a couple years. The customer was Anaconda Aluminum in Kentucky. Today they are called Logan Aluminum. What happened was the local union in West Homestead went on strike in 1981 and Anadonda pulled the contract because Mesta Machine could not make delivery commitments. The contract was given to Blawknox. That was the straw that broke the camels bad.

If the union made demands that are uneconomical you have to counter them. That is managements job. The other big cause of the bankruptcy was Mesta Machine lost their rear end on the Weber Metals press that had just been installed in LA. That was purely management mistake.

Mesta Machine would have gone down eventually anyways, I agree with that statement. I was told Mesta last profitable year was 1978. So they had four losing years before they went down. Mesta's long term failure had more to do with not taking the lead in the emerging continuous casting technology. Mesta Machine didn't have to go down when it did, like it did. I was told Mesta's machinist were making higher than standard wages for the time. Mesta's union most certainly did make a bad decision when they went on strike against a company they knew was in trouble in 1981 and refused to accept economic reality. That decision cost everyone their job. When the vultures landed they picked the bones to what it is today, seventy two people working in West Homestead. That is a simply fact. I'm not defending Mesta Machine's management or plutocrats. The bigger point is every company I've ever worked for cut wages of people when the survival of the company is in jeopardy. I never complained because "any port in a storm". My philosophy is if you can make more money working somewhere else then go work for them. Here the a perfect example to make my point. There is a reason Nucor steel is the largest steel producer in the USA today. I remember Nucor people took a 50% pay cut in the early 2000 when the industry collapsed. The company kept its head above water. Many others who refused to adjust did not stay open. There is a long list of them. Nucor's people got their standard pay back when the industry eventually recovered. The mills that refused to change closed forever.


  1. It was wondering if I could use this write-up on my other website, I will link it back to your website though.Great Thanks.

    1. Yes, you may. My stuff has the license CC BY. Being explicit which content is from this page and providing the link is appropriate.

  2. It's Quite Astonishing to see how Technology has improved with Such a short span of time. we deal and have many Machines and tools in our midst yet going through these images of old machine can never fail to amuse us. Good Content :)