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“Yes,” said Thomas. “Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters!” Jacob threw up his hands. “You can’t just swap in a higher speed drive and expect it to go.”
“Look here. Take this loupe, put it on.” Jacob took up a long pointer. “See here?” He prodded a gear train, deep inside the box. “Liberty Gearworks… well, you’re lucky if your geartrains are properly aligned to begin with. They stamp out their gears as fast and cheap as they can, instead of properly casting them. Nothing’s balanced, nothing’s deburred. That’s why we can all afford a gearworks if we want. We just can’t all have a very good one.”
“So what happened?”
“You over-clocked it. You swapped in a drive with a heavier mainspring, bigger flywheel, bigger ratio drive gear. And did nothing else. Right? Right. So you were spinning the same shoddy geartrains faster. They got hot and threw off oil, and that just made them hotter. Heat makes the gears expand, so you had even more friction…”
“Yes. Sooner or later, one of the geartrains jumped a tooth and the whole thing jammed up. Like this.” Jacob poked a gear, deep within the works, with the pointer.
“But I need this thing to run faster,” Thomas protested. “I’m trying to get all the calculations done, and now I’m even farther behind. How can I over-clock it and not have this happen?”
“You don’t. You need a gearworks that’s designed to spin at higher speeds.”
“I don’t suppose you can…” Thomas trailed off.
“I won’t. British contraband gets you six months in prison, you know that. I get shady characters coming in here all the time, offering me parts from Doulton and even Royal Cogsworth, but the local Tea Party watches all the gearhead shops. A few years ago, you might have gotten away with it; but with the Centennial coming up next year, nobody’s in a mood to forget the Civil War.”
“But I know it’s done! And legally! Or so they say.”
“It’s done. But it takes either much work, or much money. Liberty gears their drives as high as their geartrains can take, at least the way they come out of the factory.” Jacob opened a drawer, and took out a geartrain. “You can rebuild the geartrains yourself, or pay to have them rebuilt.”
“It…” Thomas squinted at the gears through the loupe. “These aren’t the same gears. They’re smoother. And they have holes.”
“They’re the same gears. I drilled holes to make them lighter. I also deburred and polished every single one, then I aligned and balanced the shaft.”
“A work of art, Jacob. How long did it take?”
“A week. And how many geartrains do you have in that works?”
“My God. At least a hundred. But if they were all rebuilt like this, how much could I over-clock it?”
Jacob picked up the drive unit that he had detached first thing. “Faster than this. I know of some spinners who run their rebuilds with steam drives. Three or four times faster than a factory Liberty.”
Thomas’s eyes widened. “A steam drive, on a tabletop gearworks? If I had two years, or could afford two years of your labor… no. All right, Jacob. Set it to rights.”
“It just needs two replacement geartrains, Thomas. I can have it ready by tomorrow. Bring me the punch-tape, and the original drive, and I’ll reset it. You won’t lose anything but time.”
“Time is the most important thing, of course. Perhaps I can borrow a colleague’s gearworks to catch up.”
“Or I could put you in touch with a spinner with a rebuilt gearworks.” Jacob rummaged in another drawer. “Ah.” He passed a card to Thomas. “This gentleman rents time on his unit. Not cheaply, mind you, but not as much as two years of skilled labor.”
“It would be worth it, if I could catch up after this debacle,” said Thomas.
“I won’t ask. It must be important, though. But do send him an inquiry. Tell him I recommended him to you as well.”
“I will. And thank you, Jacob.”
“My pleasure,” said Jacob, as Thomas left. “It’s fools like you that keep me in business. Ha. But I’ll do right by your gearworks.” He took up tools and got to work.