When I transferred to first shift in 1979 there was not enough work to keep three blue valley flanging machines busy.  Bernie T. and Gilbert F. were the senior employees, so I was assigned odd jobs.  Most of the time I worked in inspection helping Don M.  But there are other odd jobs I’ve done over the years.  There is always somewhere in the shop that needs sweeping.  And I have cleaned and painted nearly every machine in the shop.  At that time cleaning meant climbing all over the machine and wiping it down with a rag dipped in solvent, then painting it with a brush.  Now machines are pressure washed and spray painted.  Much easier and faster.

Grinding is another odd job for hands needing work.  I’ve used disk grinders


and patent wheel grinders

patent wheel grinder

to grind out skid marks in the icr, which are caused by the icr roll spinning when the head doesn’t.  Also, chip marks caused by metal trimmed off the edge that got caught under the icr roll and smashed into the icr.  Also, pits in the radius where a dirty die on a press smashed stray bits of metal into the head.  Also, forks on forklifts can gouge and scratch the finish of a head, and these have to be ground out.  Also, the side rolls of flanging machines can cut the outside of a head.  Also, the center post can mark up the center of a no-hole head.  Also, a pitted flanging roll can mark up the outside of an icr and straight flange.  A lot of hand grinding goes on to cover up these mistakes.

Another odd job that involves a lot of grinding is code checking.  This is done to check for external cracks in a weld seam.  Some weld seams are x-ray’d to check for internal cracks. We have an x-ray technician who does that.  To code check, you grind the  weld seam smooth with a patent wheel grinder, then clean the seam with solvent, then dry it good with rags, then paint with a brush a penetrant dye (which is a thin red liquid) on the weld seam, clean this off, then spray a developer (a heavy white aerosol powder) over the weld seam. Then walk away, giving the developer time to develop.  If there are any cracks or irregularities in the weld, the dye will seep into it and the developer will highlight it. Anything that shows up after code checking is reported to a welder to be repaired.  Of course, the weld seams need to be done inside and out, so this involves flipping the head, which is a hard-learned skill all on its own.

Another kind of grinding is done with a stone wheel.

stone grinder

They are used to grind weld seams flush with the parent metal, to bevel the edges of segments that are to be welded together, or to do any heavy-duty grinding.

Besides all this grinding, I’ve also worked in shipping helping to load or unload rail cars. The shipping clerk operated a boom crane (this isn’t exactly like ours, but it’s the closest image I could find)boom crane

to load and unload heads or sheets of steel in and out of rail cars.  Whoever is helping him will fasten the clamp, which will be hanging from the hook, onto whatever is to be lifted. If you are unloading flat plate steel, you have to drive a wedge between the sheets in order to slip a clamp onto the plate.  If you are loading heads too big to transport by semi, you’ll need to build a wooden frame to support them.  That can mean cutting holes in the rail car to bolt one end of threaded pipe to it, bolting the other end to whatever frame you construct.  Using a cutting torch on a rail car, or using a cutting torch anytime, is fun.  I don’t know what it is about melting metal to slag that is so fascinating.

I’ve also had some really odd jobs.  Cutting up scrap metal with a cutting torch (more fun). Punching holes in empty aerosol cans to relieve the pressure.  We actually have a tool that does this.  Emptying dumpsters full of shavings isn’t a bad job.  Some exotic metals, such as titanium, needs to be maintained at a certain temperature while it is being pressed or flanged, so I’ve held propane heating torches on heads while this is done.  This isn’t so bad on a flanging machine, but on a press it can be tricky.  For one thing, it can take hours to press a head.  You can sit down while holding a torch, but then you get comfortable, and it’s taking forever, and there’s the warmth from the torch in your hands.  You get the picture – you are soon nodding off.  So I always stand doing this.  But then you have to get really close to keep the metal hot, and the head is spinning, and the press operator is yelling at you to heat the area he is working on.  So you are in the midst of the manipulator which is moving in and out while spinning the head inches from you while holding a lit torch.  Usually it is helpers doing this, which means new employees.  Who aren’t familiar with propane torches.  One helper set a press operator’s pants on fire.  Another helper scorched a press operator’s hair.  I didn’t see that happen, but I saw the aftermath.  This guy had a full afro, with a gulley melted down the middle of it.

But perhaps the weirdest odd job I’ve ever done was tightening bolts on overhead crane tracks.


This isn’t a picture of our plant, but it gives you an idea of how high up the tracks are. Geoff L. assigned me this job one Saturday while the shop was nearly empty. This was 1980, right after I came to first shift, long before we had man lifts.  So I moved this really long straight ladder that was just long enough to reach the tracks, climbed it, then leaned out to tighten as many bolts as I could reach before I needed to climb back down and reposition the ladder.  It wasn’t safe at all.  Geoff was upset with me forcing my way onto first shift, maybe he was hoping I’d fall and break my neck.  Anyway, I finished the job without mishap.


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