I mentioned Denis T. before. He hired on at Brighton about the same time I did and started on a flanging machine, then transferred to the shear bay. There he operated plasma cutters, metal shears, radial drills, band saws, and metal punches. The metal shears are gone now. They were difficult and dangerous to operate. A center hole was drilled, or punched, into a square of steel, the square was placed on a center pin, the table the center pin was set in was moved to the position necessary to cut a certain diameter circle out of the square, then the metal square turned between two thick blades that cut the circle. This was the kind of machine Bill R., the inspector whose glove I used to mess with, operated when he lost a finger. The operator had to hold an arm down to make the square rotate on the pin. Somehow the arm kicked back so hard on him it caught his hand against the side of the machine and pinched a finger off.
Metal shears were replaced by a burning table which uses plasma cutters. The squares or rectangles of metal are loaded onto a long water table, and the diameters that need to be cut out of them are programmed into a computer and the machine runs on its own. Much better.
We also have plasma cutters on wheels that crawl across the square of metal and cut a circle as they go. This is done on the floor, sometimes outside for the larger circles.
We have two radial drills, a large one and a small one. I like this image I found because it has a person in it, so you get an idea of the scale. This would be equivalent to our small drill.
They are used almost exclusively for drilling center holes. The biggest chore with them is sharpening the drill bits. We have some large drill bits, going up to three inches. Heads too large to fit on the large drill have their center holes burned with a cutting torch.
The metal punches could punch a center hole through quarter inch thick steel. Anything thicker had to be drilled. But they are gone now, like the metal shears. Everything gets drilled now.
The only operation the band saw was ever used for was to to cut the flare of a flared and dished head to a certain length. Now we do that on a flanging machine.
Dennis T. was a tinkerer. He couldn’t leave anything alone. People used to tell him the best thing he could ever do to fix his car would be to buy a lock for the hood that he didn’t have a key for. He was always fiddling with the motor. He was working on a way to blend water in with gasoline to extend gas mileage. All his system ever did was strand him on the side of the road with a fouled carburetor. Also, if he was going down the road and the radio stopped playing, he would pull over onto the shoulder to work on it.
Perhaps the reason he couldn’t drive without music was that he was a musician. He played in a bluegrass band. He also wrote song lyrics, and would often stop what he was doing to jot some down. I regret I never heard any of his songs.
Dennis T. worked at Brighton until Enerfab bought us. He wasn’t hired, they already had their own metal cutters. We lost about half our people then, in December of 2002. Enerfab was mainly interested in flanger operators, press operators, and welders. Over time as we grew larger some of the old employees were hired back. But not Dennis. I don’t know what became of him after he left Brighton.
One memory I have of him is the time the nozzle of a propane cylinder was broken and a foot long flame shot out of it. I was already headed for the door when I saw him calmly walk up and close the valve, extinguishing the flame. He must have known the cylinder wouldn’t explode. I would have let it burn until the propane was gone, I wouldn’t have gone near the thing. I’ve heard stories about a propane cylinder toppling over and having the nozzle broken off, then being propelled like a torpedo by the escaping gas across the floor and through a block wall. There is that much pressure in those cylinders. So Dennis either knew what he was doing, or he was foolhardy. With him, it was a tossup.