Nuts, Bolts, and Threads used in the Engine Room - Introduction

Nuts, Bolts, and Threads used in the Engine Room - Introduction
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Threads and threading

A screw thread is a ridge of uniform section in the form of a helix in the internal or external surface of a cylinder. The subject of thread and threading is of vital importance to a marine engineer because every machine or component in an engine room is held together by fasteners having some kind of threads. The threads are used as fasteners, for adjustment, and to transmit power or motion. Junior engineers and the marine engineers in general must be able to recognize a nut or a bolt just by viewing it. At the start of an overhauling operation of a machine the engineer in charge must have a look and tell the duty motorman or the fitter what all spanners to bring. This skill by which an engineer can recognize a nut or bolt is viewed very highly in merchant marine and generally defines the skill and the efficiency of the engineer.

Method of making threads:

The different methods by which thread are manufactured are as follows:

  1. Lathe: Thread cutting is done by chasing tools
  2. Rolling: Or more accurately, cold rolling is the most economical and fastest method of manufacturing.
  3. Screw-broaching: Used in the automotive field.
  4. Sand casting and other casting methods: These methods are rarely used nowadays except in very large applications.
  5. Milling: By using a milling machine and a milling cutter.
  6. Die and tap cutting: It is what is used in the engine room as the other methods are used on shore. It is discussed later in the article.
  7. Grinding: By single or multiple edge grinding wheel.

Right hand and left hand threads:

There are two types of threads in use, right handed and left handed threads. Right hand threads are used extensively in engineering practice for all nuts, bolts, and fasteners; however in some specialized applications left hand threads are used. For example in purifier bowl locking nuts, impeller locking nuts of centrifugal pumps, etc. If a nut advances axially by rotating in a clockwise direction it is a right hand thread, but if it advances axially by rotating anticlockwise, then it is left handed, which is also defined as a screw thread that is screwed in by rotating counterclockwise.

Start of threads and Pitch:

A thread can be a single start, double start, or multiple starts. In the case of a single thread a single thread groove would be all over, but in the case of multiple start threads, multiple thread grooves, equidistant from each other would be all over. The purpose of a multiple start threading is to give a faster axial movement, for same rotation of the nut. The axial movement of the nut in one rotation is called the lead of the thread. In a single start thread the pitch of the thread is the lead. In the case of multiple start threads the pitch is equal to the lead divided by the number of starts.

Pitch = Lead/no. of start

The pitch of a thread can be measured very easily by the help of a vernier caliper. Simply measure the distance of ten thread ridges or crest. The measured value divided by ten would be the pitch of the thread in a single start thread. Of course, because of some human error and the error of the vernier caliper, you would have to round the value. Generally pitch figures are like 1.0 mm, 1.5 mm, 1.75 mm, and 2.0 mm etc.

ISO metric thread M20 & thread cutting on a lathe machine

Thread cutting on lathe machine

Types of threads

There are a different types of threads used in machines and fasteners around the world, generally many countries use their own threads, however now it has been standardized. The different threads are as follows:

  1. British standard whit-worth or B.S.W threads
  2. British association or B.A threads
  3. Buttress threads
  4. Seller’s thread or American National threads
  5. Square threads
  6. Acme threads
  7. Knuckle threads
  8. Unified threads
  9. I.S.O threads or International Organization for Standardization threads or the Metric threads. Generally metric threads are used on board ships.

ISO metric thread

ISO metric thread

Different uses of threads on board

On board a ship the threaded fasteners are used in various forms, some of which are listed below:

  • J bolts: used for clamping works.
  • Hexagonal headed bolts: used for joining pipes flanges, structural items, etc.
  • Square head bolts: used in special applications where the bolt is put in a square slot to prevent its turning.
  • Set screws: used for locking of to prevent the rotation of a components.
  • Eye bolt: used for lifting items like cylinder heads, pistons etc.
  • Counter sunk bolts: used in the Anchor handling wind lass brake lining.
  • Special bolts like foundation bolts, used for foundation of the main engines.
  • Special bolts like bottom end bolts, used for the lower end of the connecting rod or big end bolts in diesel engines.
  • Screws: like wood screws, self-centering screws, etc.
  • Nuts: the female counterpart of a bolt or studs.
  • Studs: threaded all over or with a gap for seizing with a vice or wrench.
  • Wing nuts or butterfly nuts: used where great compression is not required and the nuts are tightened by hand force only. For example on booby hatches, port hole glasses locking, etc.
  • Slotted nuts and castle nuts: used where a split pin (cotter pin) is to be inserted for locking. In such applications the bolt end is having a drilled hole for the split pin to pass through.

Different uses of threads

castle nut

wing nut


J bolt, u clamp, eye bolt


foundation bolts

Next article

The next article “Nuts, Bolts, and threads used in Engine Room - Part 2,” discusses the taps and tapping operation, dies and dies stock, thread gauge, procedure to remove a stud, procedure to remove a broken stud, and care of nuts and bolts on board a ship, etc.

(Please see the next part for image credits and article references.)

This post is part of the series: Nuts, Bolts, and threads used in Engine Room

These articles discusses the different types of nuts and bolts and threads used in the engine room of a merchant ship. The various ways of threading and tapping done on board, the care and maintainance of nuts and bolts. How to remove a stud, stud extractor, remove a broken stud, thread gauge.

  1. Nuts, Bolts, and Threads used in the Engine Room - Part 1
  2. Nuts, Bolts, and threads used in Engine Room - Part 2