flanging 39

Now that I’ve finished with the work order, we can move on to other interesting things. Such as natural disasters.  It’s human nature to remember where you were and what you were doing when a disaster occurs.  Such as John Kennedy’s assassination.  In November 1963 I was at school when I first learned of it.  Sixth-grade gym class.   I remember a classmate saying, “I bet Nixon’s glad he lost the election.”

But the disaster I have in mind is the tornado that leveled large swaths of Xenia, Ohio, in April 1974.

Xenia tornado

Instead of me writing about it, I’ll lift a paragraph from Wikipedia’s entry.  I donate to the site, so it should be kosher:

The 1974 Super Outbreak was the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period, just behind the 2011 Super Outbreak. It was also the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4/F5 tornadoes confirmed. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario.[nb 1] In the United States, tornadoes struck Illinois,Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York. The entire outbreak caused more than $600 million (1974 USD) in damage in the United States alone, and extensively damaged approximately 900 sq mi (2,331 km2) along a total combined path length of 2,600 mi (4,184 km).[1][2] At one point, as many as 15 separate tornadoes were ongoing at the same time.[1][3]

The most damage done in Ohio was at Xenia.  Thirty-three people were killed, and the above photo captures some of the devastation.  Xenia is 43 miles to the northeast of Sharonville. Where I was at work when the cloud that spawned the tornado that touched down in Xenia passed directly overhead.  It was about 7:30, because we were on lunch break.  It got really dark, and that cloud looked terrible.  It rained, then hailed.  The hailstones were golf ball size, or bigger. Thirteen cars had their windshields broken out.  My car looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to it.  One young guy had just gotten his car painted, so when the hail started he ran out to drive it into the loading dock, to get it out of the storm. He never made it.  A hailstone hit his arm, and he turned around and ran back inside.  His arm swelled up to twice its size.  Everyone else had enough sense to stay inside.

After the storm passed over on its way to Xenia, people tried calling home.  This was long before cell phones, so we used the company landline phone.  A lot of lines were down and people had a difficult time getting through.  Several people left work early, but most of us stayed and finished out the shift, which ended at midnight.  At the time I was living in an apartment in Lebanon, with my wife and our 18-month old son.  On the radio I had heard a tornado had touched down in Mason, but had heard nothing about Lebanon.

So when I drove home I found the Lebanon exit blocked by a police car.  It was late and I was tired, so I didn’t make the connection with the storm, I just assumed there had been a wreck and the exit was closed.  So I continued north and took the next exit.  Heading south into Lebanon, everything was black.  I realized something was seriously wrong when I drove into a downed line in the middle of the road.  Lucky for me the power was out.  I backed up and drove around it, now creeping carefully down the dark road hoping not to drive into anything else.  Even in the dark I could see debris scattered everywhere.

I arrived home to find my four-unit apartment building undamaged (except for some shingles gone).  My wife and son weren’t there.  She’d left a note telling me they were at the house of a friend who lived nearby who had a basement.  So I drove there, happy to find they were both okay.  She told me they had been in the apartment when a tornado touched down a block away.  It flattened the Sea-Way store, a large box store similar to Walmart.  She and our son had huddled under a desk in the living room.  Once the wind died down, they had gone to our friend’s house and had stayed with her in the basement listening to the radio.  We spent the rest of the night sitting up in her basement listening to reports coming in, mostly about Xenia.

The next day we saw how bad the damage was.  The tornado had come up Mound Street, where it uprooted dozens of large old oak trees and badly damaged several dozen houses before destroying the Sea-Way store on Route 42.  No one I worked with suffered any personal loss.  We now have tornado drills at work.  For a tornado we are supposed to gather in the break room.  But if a tornado ever does hit Brighton, I’m heading for a press or flanger pit.  Next best thing to a basement.


flanging 38

This post covers the last detail of the work order.

work order3

work order circumference

The diameter of this head is 90 inches, measured on the outside (OD – outside diameter). The circumference, also measured on the outside (OC – outside circumference), is 23 feet and 6 and three-quarter inches.  To begin flanging a head, you measure the diameter of the dished head you begin with (or the circle of steel you begin with if it is a flange-only), then subtract from that the diameter of the finished head, then divide that by two.  That is how much metal you place behind the icr roll.  Say the dished head is 96 inches.  The finished head will be 90 inches.  So subtract this second number from the first to get 6 inches.  Which you divide by 2.  That means you begin flanging this head with 3 inches of metal behind the icr roll.  Simple, right?

For a head three-eighths inch thick or thicker it would be good to do this.  But a thinner head will wrinkle if you try to take too much metal behind the roll at one time. And you don’t want to risk making a flange-only small, so you would take a little less than this. Unless there is a tight minimum thickness, then you might risk it because you couldn’t flange the head too long for fear of thinning it out.  And if it’s aluminum that you need to heat up, you don’t want to put it into size because the head will shrink once it cools off.  As you can see, there are a lot of variables to consider.

So you make a pass and wrap some metal around the icr roll.  Then you stop to check the diameter.  You keep doing this until you get close.  Then you start checking the circumference.  We are allowed to be plus or minus one-eighth inch on the circumference. So on this head the final circumference can be from 23 feet, 6 and five-eighths inches to 23 feet, 6 and seven-eighths inches.

To measure a circumference on the outside, you clip a metal tape to the head and spin it around until you come back to the clip.  Measuring a circumference on the inside is a bit trickier.  We use a two-foot wheel marked in one-eighth inch increments.  Not only do you have to keep a steady hand to get an accurate measurement, but also count the revolutions as you spin the head.

Nothing is worse than making a head way small.  A little small is all right.  Sometimes you even make a head a little small on purpose, so that when you pull it back out into size you also pull the crush-up out of the radius.  But if you make a head way small you’ll have a job making it look right after pulling it back out.  What you end up doing is practically pulling it back out to the dish you began with, then rolling out all the humps you put in the head by doing this.  Very tedious.

That’s why I’ve got marks all over the machine I usually operate.  I measure the dished head I begin with, figure how much metal I should put behind the icr roll to start with, then make a mark on my machine.  If this turns out to be the right place to start from in forming this head, then I’ll start all the other pieces on this order from this mark.  Not only that, but I’ve now got marks all over my machine, so when I measure and position a head in what should be the right place to begin flanging, if I’m near a mark, I figure that mark is there for a reason, and it’s probably there from the last time I flanged a head this size, so I’ll nudge the head up or back a little so I’m on that mark.  That usually works out well for me.

You have to pay special attention to those two little letters OD and ID.  You would not believe how many times I’ve confused them.  If you make a head ID that is supposed to be OD, that’s no problem.  If a 90 inch ID head is 90 inches OD, that means you are still big and merely have to make the head a little smaller.  A cinch.  But if you make a head OD that is supposed to be ID, that’s when you cry.  Say the head is a half-inch thick.  When it is 90 inches measured on the outside, that means it will be 89 inches measured on the inside.  Which means you are an inch small in diameter!  Way small.

You also have to count carefully when using the wheel to measure an inside circumference. Eight one-eighth inch marks to an inch, twenty-four inches to two feet.  And we also measure sixteenth inches, so you have to count the spaces between the marks, too.  You have the same problem with a tape measuring the OD, but a tape spells out exactly what you’ve got, whereas with a wheel you have to keep track of how many revolutions there have been as you spin the head, with each revolution being two feet.  The circumference on this head is 26 feet, 6 and three-quarter inches.  If you form it to 26 feet, 6 and eleven-sixteenths inches, you are in size, since that is less than an eighth small.  But to read that sixteenth you have to read the spaces between the marks.

Another aggravation is actually putting the head into size.  Say you get close, about a quarter of an inch of being within tolerance.  So you take a little metal behind the icr roll, and nothing happens.  Same size.  So you try it with a little more side roll pressure. Nothing happens again.  So you try taking a little more metal behind the icr roll.  Whoa, suddenly you are a half-inch small.  It seems like the metal defies the laws of physics sometimes.  Or you get close to putting the head into size, then you make it a little small. Then you pull it out, to find you are now a little big.  So you push the metal back in, and guess what, you are a little small again.  And on and on.  Excruciating.

All this may sound confusing.  But I’ve measured about a million heads with tapes and wheels, it’s now second nature.  And besides, you always check the diameter against the circumference.  They have to agree.  If they don’t, then you’ve measured something wrong.  We used to have inspectors check our heads after we finished and took them out of the machine.  But now we flanger operators do the final inspection and fill out the inspection reports ourselves.  Inspectors are needlessly nit-picky.  We know what the heads are supposed to look like.  Used to be if something was close to being right, the inspector would take the inspection sheet to a supervisor and show him what was wrong with the head.  If it wasn’t too bad the supervisor would sign for it.  Now we sign for it.  Each flanger operator has a designated metal stamp letter that will identify heads he runs.  Mine is ‘L’.  So if you ever see a tank head with an ‘L’ stamped on the edge, you know it is perfect.  Because I formed it.

flanging 37

A lot of brothers have worked together at Brighton.  But there has never been a pair as different as Joe and Mark K.  Both were already working at Brighton when I was hired in 1973.  Joe K. was a little older than me, late twenties to early thirties when I started, while I and Mark were about the same age.  Joe was working in maintenance on first shift with this old bear of a guy, I can’t remember his name.  But he had this great fifteen-inch crescent wrench.  I often needed to make an adjustment to the angle of the machining arm on the blue valley flanging machine I operated, and the bolts I needed to loosen then tighten were too big for my twelve-inch crescent wrench.  So whenever I needed to do this early in the day before the maintenance department went home (maintenance people work ungodly amounts of overtime), I’d borrow this wrench.  He retired shortly after I started.  So I asked him how much, and he said $10.  I used that tool for about twenty years, until I left it laying out one night and it walked away.  I never saw it again.  But I got my money’s worth out of it.

But I digress.  Once the old maintenance man retired, Joe K. was the senior maintenance mechanic. Brighton sent Joe to school for an electrician degree.  He rewired everything in the shop, probably for job security, because no one else could figure out how his maze of wires worked.  When Charlie F., the maintenance supervisor, retired, Joe took over the position.  One of the first things he did was buy a blue valley flanging machine.  Which got him in trouble right off the bat with the Hocks.  It was bigger and more powerful than any of the other blue valley flanging machines, but it was a blue valley flanging machine. It was outdated before it was installed.  Brighton was going to Boldrini flanging machines, which were a much better design, much more versatile and powerful. Eventually, this new blue valley was set up to do nothing but no-hole flange only’s.  We got this huge order which we ran by the thousands, for quarter-inch or three-eighths inch thick carbon steel flange only’s about ninety-inches in diameter that didn’t get machined.  Guide pins were installed, so the blank could be loaded onto rollers, then rolled into a pre-set position, and the controls were set on automatic so the machine ran on its own.  That way anyone could run it, a flanging operator wasn’t required.  Although sometimes we did.  I hated that job.  Way too boring.

Once again, I digress.  After that hiccup, Joe did well as maintenance supervisor.  Until Trinity bought us in 1987.  He quit soon after, I’m not sure what happened. Remember in one of my first posts me mentioning there was another head shop in St. Louis?  Joe K. went to work there.  But only for a short while.  Soon after Jeff Hock got a head shop started for Enerfab in Cincinnati, which would be early to mid 90’s, Joe K. came to work for him.  I assume Joe set up all the flanging machines and presses Jeff Hock bought for Enerfab’s plant on Spring Grove.  When Enerfab bought our plant from Trinity in 2002 I worked at their Spring Grove plant for a month, and while I was there I operated a polishing machine that Joe built.  That thing was a hazard.  The controls were on this rickety scaffolding twenty feet in the air above the huge spinning head you were polishing.  I only operated that thing once.  Thank God.

Mark K. was mentally handicapped.  He worked in the pickle room and operated the furnaces that heat-treated heads.  Acid cleaning stainless steel heads is the worst job at Brighton.  Back in the 70’s it was even worse than that.  The acid tanks were stuck in this tiny cubby hole of a room with little ventilation. When a fresh batch of acid is brewed, it can take your breath.  And that acid is powerful.  I was helping out once in there and splashed some on my foot.  At that time there was very little safety equipment.  Now they wear full rubber aprons, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and face shields.  Back then it was only safety glasses, ear plugs and steel-toe boots. There was a hose available to rinse off with, but I didn’t bother with it.  I walked back to the locker room to wash my foot there. By the time I got my work boot off, I had holes in my sock and holes in my foot.  Now I’m a lot more careful around the acid tanks.

Anyway, that was Mark’s job.  He did it well, a job nobody else wanted.  But he was teased mercilessly.  The bullies at Brighton have always picked on easy targets, and Mark was one of the easiest.  In the late 80’s, while I was a union committeeman, the assistant supervisor at the time, Dale B., came and got me and brought me to where Mark was sitting sound asleep.  With me as a witness, Dale woke Mark up and sent him to the office to be reprimanded. Geoff L. didn’t like Mark and wanted to fire him.  But the union was able to prove that Mark was asleep because of strong medication he was taking, and he kept his job.

On a side note, I was in the office with Mark in his meeting with Geoff and Dale when Joe K. burst in.  He seemed very upset over what was going on with his brother.  I imagine since they were kids he had been tasked with looking out for his younger handicapped brother. He tried his best that day.

After Joe quit Trinity, Mark’s days were numbered.  Geoff L. got his wish and Mark was fired.  By that time his mental condition was much worse.  I heard what drove him over the edge was he discovered his wife cheating on him.  They split up and Mark went into a nursing home. Where he died.  But despite a severe mental handicap he had managed to not only hold a steady job but to also support a family and raise two children. Not bad for a person with his limitations.  Joe K. remained at the Enerfab plant on Spring Grove after they bought Brighton, even after Enerfab shut down their head shop and moved the machinery worth keeping to Brighton’s plant in Sharonville.  In the early teens he developed cancer, and quit work.  In 2013 I saw him for the last time at a dinner I attended at Enerfab.  It was my fortieth anniversary, for which I got a dinner and a bicycle – a Jeep hybrid, which I really enjoy riding.  Joe was there.  He looked weak, but was in good spirits.  He died not long after that dinner.



flanging 36

Back to the work order:

work order oah

OAH stands for overall height.  Overall means when you measure the depth of the head you include the thickness of the material.  This head is supposed to be approximately 14 and 1/4 inches deep.  There is a reason the order reads 14.2456.  While the rest of humanity measures everything in metrics, we here in the backward ASU still measure everything the old way, whatever it’s called.  Inches, feet, yards, miles, pints, quarts, gallons, etc., etc., etc.  No one else uses these measurements anymore.  So when orders come in from the real world, the measurements are converted from meters.  That’s why we get such screwy numbers to work with.

Be that as it may, by ASME code we are allowed to be deep 1 and 1/4 per cent or shallow 5/8 per cent of the diameter.  In this case the diameter of the head is 90 inches.  That means this head can be 1 and 1/8 inch deep or 9/16 inch shallow.  So the overall height can be between 13 and 11/16 inches and 15 and 3/8 inches.  That is what the ASME code allows.  Of course, customers can order a tighter OAH, and they do.  The most common hold on the OAH is plus or minus 1/4 inch.  But it can get tighter.  Plus 1/4 inch and minus 0.  Plus or minus 1/8 inch.  I’ve even seen plus 1/16 inch minus 0.  The common rule is if there is a hold on the OAH, then the length of the SF must be a reference (which means it will be as long as whatever remains after machining the head to the requested OAH).  But many customers put a minimum requirement on the straight flange also, and one customer (who orders a lot of heads) demands an OAH of plus 0 minus 1/8 inch, while demanding the SF to be plus 0 minus 1/4 inch.  These are very difficult to do.

Sometimes if we will need to cut off too much SF in order to machine to the OAH, then we’ll send the head back to the press to be shallowed up.  This usually causes a disturbance in the force (press operators whine a lot).  But (sh)it happens.  What also happens way too frequently is you machine a head down to the OAH, then bevel, or double bevel, and/or taper the edge, only to find when you inspect the head that you are still deep.  So after you stop cursing and throwing things around, you have to machine off all this detail as you machine the head to the OAH you thought you’d had it to, then you have to machine back all the stuff you just cut off.  Very wearisome.

Sometimes heads get warped.  Which is okay, you are allowed a certain amount of out of round, by ASME code 1 per cent of the diameter.  That would be 7/8 inch with the 90 inch diameter head on this order.  Heads are hardly ever more than 1/4 inch out of round, most of the time only 1/8 inch or 1/16 inch.  But a head can be warped and still be okay as long as it’s not more than 1 per cent of the diameter out of round.  The problem is the OAH of a warped head will read differently in different places.  So I’ve learned to take at least two readings of OAH on heads with tight tolerances.  I learned the hard way, after a number of heads were shipped back because I hadn’t realized they were warped enough to effect the OAH.  Geoff L. was upset over this, there were a lot of heads on that order.  As you would expect, Brighton has to eat the shipping costs of returned heads, both coming back and going out to the customer for the second time.

Bill R., the inspector with the chalk (that I put) in the finger of his glove that didn’t have a finger in it, used to climb inside heads to measure the OAH.  Once when I caught him doing this I asked him if he had heard the joke about how do you make a hillbilly dizzy?  He said no.  I spun the head.  And he sat there in the middle of the head as it went around and around.  Cussing at me every time he came around.  Because there was no way he was getting out of that head while it was spinning without breaking his neck.  Whether he got dizzy or not, I don’t know.  He probably did.