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Why Brake

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Martin Kyte05/12/2017 13:43:58
2017 forum posts
36 photos

OK, so here is this weeks daft question. What is the etiology or significance of the "Brake" in Press Brake.?

I do have an idea but would like your input.

regards Martin

FMES05/12/2017 13:47:12
602 forum posts
2 photos


Speedy Builder505/12/2017 14:08:25
2080 forum posts
145 photos

I think this has been discussed before ??


Martin Kyte05/12/2017 14:16:55
2017 forum posts
36 photos

Not exactly speedy. I'm looking for the origins of the Brake term.

Could it be that it originally meant a bend although I cannot find any hint of that and I would have thought the break spelling would be more apposite, or maybe it describes the action of a press of defined travel that "brakes or comes to a stop" It's curious. (Or I am anyway).


SillyOldDuffer05/12/2017 14:55:07
6193 forum posts
1345 photos

Now I've got a Shorter Oxford dictionary from the Charity Shop I find 13 meanings for brake. Press brake is unlikely to do with bracken, a clump of bushes, vomiting, mucus, a cage, trap, or attending to a winding engine. Nor is the old-fashioned way of spelling break relevant, though 'press brake' might be related to the instrument of torture. What fun!

Meanings more closely related:

  • Instrument for breaking, crushing or kneading Flax, hemp, clods, dough. Or peeling bark off a willow. Middle English, also Middle German and Old Dutch
  • Possibly from the French braquer, meaning to point a cannon, a brake being a lever or handle for working a machine
  • English 1430: a nose ring to control an Ox, leading to the 1772 meaning 'a device for retarding motion'. Brake as in 'applying a brake' is modern - 1868.
  • A brake is a framework for holding something steady, or even - in 1609 - a turner's lathe.

Your guess is as good as mine but I think a Press Brake is simply a machine operated by a lever. Quite likely there's a dash of 'crushing' and 'holding steady in a framework' within the meaning as well.


Edited By SillyOldDuffer on 05/12/2017 14:57:17

Juddy05/12/2017 15:36:21
69 forum posts

Could it be along the lines of a break (brake) back, as in break the back of a sheet of metal to bend it?

Neil Wyatt05/12/2017 15:38:22
18140 forum posts
713 photos
77 articles

I can't answer the question, but the break/brake distinction is a red herring, in the 19 century both spellings were used independent of meaning.

colin hawes05/12/2017 15:46:55
513 forum posts
18 photos

There used to be a van with windows called a shooting brake; Is it something to do with multi purpose? Colin

Gordon W05/12/2017 16:04:27
2011 forum posts

And a horse van/ carriage called a break.

Martin Kyte05/12/2017 16:07:21
2017 forum posts
36 photos
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 05/12/2017 15:38:22:

I can't answer the question, but the break/brake distinction is a red herring, in the 19 century both spellings were used independent of meaning.



Mick B105/12/2017 16:20:06
1661 forum posts
88 photos

I'm thinking that 'brake' basically meant any kind of device that applied mechanical force, much as 'mill' came to mean almost any kind of factory, whether it ground grain or not.

V8Eng05/12/2017 16:25:20
1465 forum posts
28 photos
Posted by Neil Wyatt on 05/12/2017 15:38:22:

I can't answer the question, but the break/brake distinction is a red herring, in the 19 century both spellings were used independent of meaning.

I did not know autocorrect spell checking existed then!devil

Martin Kyte06/12/2017 09:59:22
2017 forum posts
36 photos

I'm sure everyone knows what it means now. But it seems like it's origins are lost. I was sure there would be someone who knew.

So I can only conclude that it either refers to the action of pressing and then halting after a fixed travel which would correspond to Press-brake or creating an interruption or fold in a sheet of material (a break or brake) by the use of a press.

Perhaps we shall never know.

regards Martin

Brian G06/12/2017 10:36:00
708 forum posts
28 photos

Your second definition sounds more likely Martin, as there are other earlier brakes, such as the cornice or bending brake and the pan or box brake.


norman royds 206/12/2017 14:08:48
48 forum posts

there can be one reason fore press brake.first press and to stop or brake if it did not it would a sheer regards norm or am missing some thing

Martin Kyte06/12/2017 14:18:31
2017 forum posts
36 photos

Hi Norman

Brake presses generally employ a less that 90 deg "knife edge" moving into a wider angle V die. Controlling the depth of engagement allows control of the formed angle.

A hydraulic press for example just squeezes until to workpiece creates sufficient resistance to movement. So you can generate fixed angle bends in a hydraulic press but you need dies for each angle you wish to produce.

Well that is my understanding as a model engineer not as a professional sheet metal worker.

regards Martin

Watford06/12/2017 16:39:20
130 forum posts
11 photos

The origin of brake (not break) comes, I think, from the mechanism of the machine. The energy to do the pressing derives from a huge flywheel on a shaft across the top of the structure. The die doing the work is connected to the shaft via arms or levers attached to an eccentric cam on the shaft. The energy is transmitted through a brake (think huge expanding shoe brake as vintage car) which suddenly when triggered connects shaft to flywheel. Goes one turn and disconnects again. Thus the die is forced down to do its purpose.

Some forging hammers use a similar action and the operators are extremely skilled and can bring the hammer down with great accuracy and delicacy. Some being foot operated some by pulling on a rope.

Best I can do off the cuff but that has always been my understanding of the brake in brake press.


Brian G06/12/2017 19:12:35
708 forum posts
28 photos

I've never seen a manual brake with any kind of brake drum **LINK** but the origin of brake was discussed a while ago on Stack exchange **LINK**, where a link to this entry in the Middle English Dictionary **LINK** referred to meaning 22 of "breken" (the source of brake), which is "to change direction".


Chris Trice06/12/2017 23:02:22
1362 forum posts
9 photos

This was all I could find:

mid-15c., "instrument for crushing or pounding," from Middle Dutch braeke "flax brake," from breken"to break" (see break (v.)). The word was applied to many crushing implements, especially the tool for breaking up the woody part of flax to loosen the fibers. It also was applied to the ring through the nose of a draught ox. It was influenced in sense by Old French brac, a form of bras "an arm," thus the sense "a lever or handle," which was being used in English from late 14c., and "a bridle or curb" (early 15c.).

One or the other sense or a convergence of all of them yielded the main modern meaning "mechanical device for arresting the motion of a wheel," which is attested by 1772.

Michael Gilligan06/12/2017 23:56:47
16203 forum posts
706 photos

There was some interesting discussion on another forum: **LINK**


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