FLANGING 73

In the early 90’s Trinity bought a new polishing machine.  That was a momentous event.  Most of the equipment Trinity brought in was used, some of it used up.  But the polisher was brand new.  It was built by Ferros Blatter, a Swiss company.  It ran like a dream.  Here is a video:

For some reason, John didn’t want anything to do with learning to run it.  Maybe he thought he was too old to learn a new machine.  So I worked for two weeks with the two Swiss men who installed the machine and instructed me how to use it.  It was state of the art.  There were two turntables, large and small, and the machine swiveled from one to the other.  You could change the large grinding roll used most of the time for a small grinding roll for doing tight corners.  The heads rested on the turntables without being bolted down.  The turntables rotated very fast, allowing you to polish much more quickly than before.  For polishing the outsides, heads were merely inverted on the turntable, instead of a tall tower being bolted to the turntable like we had to do previously, and then the upside down head bolted to the top of the tower – this was much more stable.  Everything about this new polisher was a vast improvement.  But there were a lot of new controls to learn.  And for a change I showed John how to polish.  I bet you would never guess what the two Swiss guys gave me as a parting gift before leaving for home after my training was done.  Well, maybe you would – a Swiss Army knife.

A quick diversion about that knife.  When I brought it home to show my wife, her parents and grown son sere visiting.  So my father-in-law opened the blade and slid it across his thumb, with barely any pressure.  It sliced his thumb open, and he started bleeding.  My step-son said “It can’t be that sharp”, took the knife from his grandfather, and proceeded to slice his own thumb open.  Then my wife said, “Come on, it’s not that sharp,” took the knife from her son and proceeded to slice her thumb open.  My mother-in-law was smart enough to accept that it just might be that sharp, and wouldn’t touch it.  Me, I couldn’t stop laughing at the three of them standing there with bleeding thumbs.

This new machine did a much better job than either of the two old ones, and the company now had only one machine to maintain instead of two.  But it wasn’t that much faster.  Which I’m sure Geoff L. was expecting.  So right away there was pressure to polish the heads faster.  Which meant abusing a brand new machine we weren’t comfortable operating in the first place.  So it quickly deteriorated.  It’s a shame to see the state the machine is in now.  It was a dream to run when I first started operating it.  The grinding arm ran off air pressure instead of spring tension, like the old ones.  So you could adjust the pressure to give the grinding head a feather touch, or you could really bear down with it, whatever was called for.  The speeds of both grinding arm and turntables were amazing.  The Swiss instructors had a large head on the big turntable spinning so quickly I was sure it would come flying off – remember, these heads weren’t bolted down – and sail through the air and, after decapitating me, smash through the wall and soar out to Mosteller Road.  But they didn’t.  The turntables were so smooth the heads didn’t even vibrate at such high revolutions.

Of course, when I ran the turntable that fast, after the instructors left, I was ordered to slow it down.  Which meant I had to slow the grinding arm down to match the speed of the turntable, which meant it took longer to polish the heads.  But Geoff didn’t believe such high speed was safe.  And he couldn’t get used to the heads just resting on the turntable.  A threaded hole was drilled into the center of the turntable so the heads could be bolted down.  Other adjustments were made to this wonderful new machine, and soon it wasn’t any better than the old ones.  That’s how it goes.

I had to pay much closer attention to this new polisher than I ever had to with the old ones.  I was constantly adjusting the speed of the turntable, the speed of the grinding arm, and the pressure of the grinding head against the metal it was polishing.  You also had to constantly adjust the horizontal speed of the arm as opposed to the vertical speed.  But I enjoyed it.  It was a challenge.  I don’t think John ever did like it.

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