flanging 20

I mentioned in the last post that Luke G. would on occasion leave work early on Friday, to play with his band.  He wasn’t the only one, by far.  On Friday nights Brighton could resemble a ghost town.  Most Friday nights began with good intentions.  People would show up for work.  But one by one they would escape into the night.  I don’t think this malaise is exceptional to Brighton.  Rather it is endemic to second shift.  With our contract, negotiated by the Steelworkers union, people with the most seniority got to choose their shift.  Most people prefer to work during the day.  So first shift was filled by the older employees who had been there longer.  That left second shift to the younger guys who hadn’t been there very long.  Young people like to go out on Friday nights.  And if you haven’t yet invested much time in a job, you don’t worry too much about the risk of losing it.  Hence, half the shift might not be present at quitting time on Friday night.

A standing joke about going home early on Friday night was, if you were married, to call first.  Let your wife know you were on the way.  In case she had company.  A young wife sitting at home on Friday night might not be alone.  So anyone leaving early was advised to call ahead.  To save yourself a lot of heartache and money.

Of course, some men leaving work early on Friday night would not go home.  Al’s Bar near the union hall was a favorite destination.  There was also Tommy’s, the Pleasure Inn, the Bikini Lounge.  The Bikini Lounge had go-go dancers in bikinis.  They were hard on the pool tables.  A dancer would pass by wearing two tiny scraps of cloth, and a pool player would get distracted and trench the felt.  Of course, if you really wanted to see good-looking dancers you went across the Ohio River to Newport, Kentucky.  They had nude dancers.  But that was a long drive.  And no pool tables.

Also, Luke’s band wasn’t the only people to come by.  We don’t have a guard.  Anyone can just walk, or drive, onto the property.  Most of the time it was spouses.  This one guy’s wife liked to look in through the locker room window.  She was a hoot. Once I was peeing in a urinal, which is by the windows, and her face popped up out of the dark, smiling, looking in to see what she could see.  But most of the other wives behaved respectably.  Another time a moonie walked in.  Remember the moonies?  She was a young girl dressed in rags.  She came in passing out little wilted flowers.  And we’ve had our share of thieves come by.  But that’s another post.

My wife came by one time to bring me dinner.  It was summer and still light.  Most of us were sitting outside at lunch break.  She was in her early twenties at the time, and was dressed like it, in cut-off jeans and a tank top.  Conversation died like someone had flipped a switch when she got out of the car and brought me a plate of food.  I had a lot of friends that night.

Friday nights could get lonely at work.  The ones who stuck it out didn’t get much work done.  We spent a lot of time talking about where we’d rather be and what we’d rather be doing.  John M. was a press operator who liked to slip outside and relax in a quiet place in the dark.  Sometimes I went with him.  He had a remodeling business he ran on the side.  He worked at that during the day, so I think he came in to Brighton at night to rest.  We’d sit talking about anything, everything, until Jim D. would find us and run us back inside.  This mostly seemed to happen on Fridays.

Some people didn’t wait for Friday to miss.  Curt H., the guy who helped me get hired at Brighton, was liable not to show up on any day of the week.

flanging 21

The last several posts have been about the workers.  It’s time to post about the work.  Here is a work order.

work order2

The top half isn’t very informative.  Note the little Brighton Man in the upper left.  The rest of the info on top is merely some tracking numbers, the customer name, some dates, the name of the salesman who placed the order.  The only item of interest in the top half is Order Quantity.  This tells me how many pieces are on the order.  In this case it’s 1.

The next section contains all the important stuff.  Starting in the left column, Job Type: Labor and Matl.  That means we are charging the customer for labor and material.  Which means we are selling them the metal the head is to be formed with.  Next is Mateiral Type: SA240-304.  This tells me what kind of metal is being formed.  In this case 304 is a grade of stainless steel.  Next is Thickness: 0.25″ Nom.  The metal is a quarter-inch thick.  Nom stands for nominal, which means the exact thickness isn’t very important; if it were, the customer would order a minimum thickness.  If the head was a quarter-inch thick with a three-sixteenths minimum, the thickness of the finished head could not be less than three-sixteenths.  Next is Blank: 97.75″.  This tells me the size of the circle of steel when it was flat.  Next is Center Hole: None.  This tells me the head is to be run without a center hole.  Most heads have a center hole, which is usually one & nine-sixteenths inches.  Next is Weld: Yes.  This means the head is not being formed from a single piece of metal, that it is a welded construction.  Which means two or more segments have been welded on a seamer, an automatic welder, to form the circle.  Next is Bevel: Outside Bevel 37&1/2 degrees with a 1/16 inch land.  This gives the machining detail for the edge.  In this instance it is an outside 37&1/2 degree bevel with a 1/16 inch land.  It could be anything, such as a square cut (which means a flat surface on the edge), or any combination of bevels and tapers and bore-ups inside and/or outside.  Next is Finish Inside and then Finish Outside:  Mill Finish in both cases.  This tells me it is not going to be polished.  Next is Weight Each: 571.  This tells me the head weighs 571 pounds.  Next is Form Code: Cold Formed and Pickled.  This tells me the head won’t be annealed (heat treated) and it will get acid cleaned.

Moving over to the right column, Tag: This is blank; in any case it is just another tracking number.  Next is Style: Standard F&D.  This tells me what shape the head will be.  A standard head is the same as an ASME head, only not held to as rigorous standards.  The F&D merely means flanged and dished.  Next is Diameter: 90″OD.  This tells me the diameter of the finished head and that it is to be measured on the outside (the OD stands for outside diameter).  Next is RD: 90″.  This tells me the radius of the dished part of the head is 90.  Next is ICR: 1″.  This tells me the inside corner radius is 1″, so I know which icr roll to form the head around.   Next is X-Ray: No.  The weld seams will not be x-ray’d for internal cracks. Next is Volume: 223.  I have no idea what that number means.  Next is SF:1.5″.  This tells me the straight flange is an inch and a half long.  Next is OAH: 14.2456″.  This tells me the overall height (which includes the thickness of the material) is approximately 14&1/4″.  Next is Circumference: 23′ 6-3/4″ OC.  This tells me the circumference, which is measured on the outside (OC) at the top of the straight flange will be 23 foot, six and three-quarters inches.

Below the two columns are the Special Notes.  The only note here is that the head will be formed from two welded segments instead of four, as the customer must have originally ordered.

Also, the machining details can be drawn out on a separate print.  Where this order says Bevel, another order might say Machine per print.  This can be a pain for several reasons.  One, the salesperson might not include the print with the order.  Two, the print might not make any sense; I’ve seen some physically impossible stuff on machining prints.  Three, the print quality can be shitty and you just can’t read the thing.

So this is what I work off of.  I’ve seen thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of work orders like the one at the top of the page.  Once I retire I hope to never see another one of these damn things again.

flanging 19

More about Jim D.’s toupee.  I saw it fly once.  Well, actually, it fluttered.  Luke G. was a young flanger operator who also happened to be the only black man on second shift at the time.  This was the 70’s, in a suburban area twenty miles from the urban center of Cincinnati – there just weren’t that many black people around.  Jim D. came by his machine to yell at him about something, I don’t know what.  In response, Luke grabbed an air hose and shot a blast of air at Jim.  The toupee lifted up, but Jim got his hand up there fast enough to snag it and keep it from flying off.  Pretty good reflexes for an old man.  Of course Luke, and the others who witnessed this, started laughing.  Jim wasn’t amused.  He picked up a four by four and hurled it at Luke.  But Luke was too fast for that.  He skittered away laughing.

Luke G. was a musician.  A drummer, and he sang.  We never believed he was in a band like he claimed, until the Friday night they came by to talk him into leaving work early to go play somewhere.  The musicians were in their performance clothes, which were a riot of styles and colors.  And several young attractive (sexy as hell) black women were with them, and were all over Luke trying to persuade him to come with them.  Luke said they were the back-up singers.  So of course he took off.  He was young and single, probably didn’t have a debt to his name, and I think he still lived at home. He was small and slight-built, not bad looking, with a quick smile.  Sometimes he wore a hair net.  His hair would be done in elaborate curls, for playing in the band he told us, and he tried to take care of it.

We knew he could drum.  He’d line up several 55-gallon steel drums and attack them with metal files, using them like drum sticks. You could hear him drumming all over the shop.  His band mates claimed Luke had a sweet voice.  But the only song I ever heard him sing was Jim Dandy.  The Black Oak Arkansas 1973 cover of this 50’s rock hit was popular at the time.  Jim Dandy was Luke’s name for Jim D.  He’d see the foreman coming and start singing ‘Jim Dandy to the rescue, Jim Dandy to the rescue, go Jim Dandy, go Jim Dandy’.  And Jim D. would get mad and start calling him names.  Luke used to call us names, too, such as honkies and crackers and whiteys.  He got called a few names in return.  The back and forth was playful, I don’t think anyone ever got angry.  But we were a bunch or rednecks, and he was the sole black.  People were always talking about ironing their sheets to get ready for the next meeting.  While Like invited them to hold their next meeting in his neighborhood.  I doubt if a one of them would have had the nerve to set foot in his neighborhood.

Luke never sang much, other than to antagonize the foreman, but he did scream.  He had a powerful set of lungs.  And a thing about bugs.  Of course, once that became common knowledge people were forever sneaking up behind him to put something horrid on his shoulder.  Amazing how fast he could run, while screaming.

Luke only worked there a couple of years.  I heard he became a nurse.  So he must have been going to school during the day.  A lot more initiative than I’ve ever had.  But I can still see that broad smile on his face as he made Jim D.’s toupee dance on top of his head.

flanging 18

In the last post, I wrote about flipping heads with an overhead crane.  So I thought it time to write about cranes.  Here is a drawing of one kind we have in our shop.

10-ton overhead crane

The grey tracks are mounted near the tops of the walls.  The two yellow beams, the bridge, travel along the tracks.  The blue trolley moves along the yellow beams in the opposite direction.  The orange hoist is raised and lowered on cables.  The small  yellow rectangle suspended from the crane on a single cord is the control box.  Here are two photos of overhead cranes similar to ones we use.


30-ton-double-girder-crane-manufacturing-concrete-productsHere is a brief video (with audio) covering three types of cranes.  The bridge crane is the overhead crane I am posting about.  We also have a jib crane at each flanging machine.  We don’t use the other kind of crane.

Flipping heads is the most difficult operation we use these cranes for.  Some machines are loaded via bridge cranes, although most are loaded by forklift.  Shipping uses them to stack heads in preparation for loading onto trucks.  They are used to lower and raise heads into and out of the pickle tank.  They are also used to lower and raise annealed, or heat-treated, heads down into and up out of tanks of water.  When a large water-quenched annealed head of several thousand degrees is lowered into water, it’s quite a show.  The red-hot metal pops and cracks loudly as it quickly darkens, and the water bubbles and a thick cloud of steam billows up all around the head.

But what I use an overhead bridge crane the most for is separating heads.  Multi-piece orders are stacked inside each other after they are pressed.  Often the press operator will press two or three heads at a time.  When that is done the separate heads are tack-welded together, to keep them aligned while in the press.  A tack-weld is a small temporary weld, one that is easily broken and ground off once the press operation is complete.  Press operators can do up to four heads at a time, but we have to flange them one at a time.  To separate tack-welded heads, I drive a wedge between two heads at a place opposite the weld, slip a clamp onto the top head, then lift it up out of the stack by crane, breaking the weld in the process.  With smaller heads I can do this with the jib crane mounted at my machine.  But for larger heads I use the overhead bridge crane.

All our cranes are inspected regularly.  We visually inspect the cables for wear daily.  But things still happen.  I was operating an overhead bridge crane once when the trolley motor decided to come down.  It hit the floor about five feet away from me.  It would have killed me if it landed on me.  Another time someone was flipping a big heavy head when he allowed the head to jerk the crane too hard.  The trolley was jerked right off the bridge.  The head had been standing on end, so as it fell the end nearest the floor swung up, like a teeter-totter.  It caught the trolley as that fell, hitting it with so much force the trolley shattered, sending steel fragments flying all through the shop like missiles.  Badeye happened to be walking by (some people are magnets for bad luck, don’t you think?) when he heard the explosion.  So he took off running.  He wasn’t hit by anything, but he ran blindly into a stack of heads, and got some lumps from that.

The most irritating thing about overhead bridge cranes is the brakes wear out.  So they don’t stop when you release the control button, they just drift merrily on the way they were going.  Lately the control boxes dangling from the bridge are being replaced with wireless controls.  The trouble with these are you have to go search for the wireless box when you want to use the crane.  With the old wired boxes, they were always hanging by a cord from the crane, so you always knew where they were.  But that’s progress.  Solve one problem, create a new one.

The jib cranes at our machines are used mostly for set up – changing out the icr rolls, raising or lowering the lower center post.  We also can use them to separate small heads, and to load small heads in and out of our machines.  They are now electric, like the overhead cranes.  But they used to be pneumatic.  Air lines can be tricky.  They can leak, become clogged with oil, the pressure raises and drops unexpectedly.  Electric is much more reliable.  But they ran on air at the time Brent C. crushed a finger using one.  He was a spinning lathe operator who became a flanging machine operator who became an inspector who became a foreman, and, also, was union president for a while.  An interesting guy.  But at the time of the accident he was running a flanging machine.  He was taking a head out of his machine with a jib crane when it kept going up after he released the control.  The valve stuck.  He was holding the top of the head, guiding it out of the machine, when his hand was caught between the head and the machine.  He nearly lost a finger.  He said later it would have been better if it had been cleanly cut off.  They managed to save it, but he claimed it ached so badly he wished they hadn’t.  You have to know where your fingers are at all times.  There are so many pinch points on a flanging machine.  I never place my fingers in a place where they might get caught like that.  While running a flanging machine you have to stay on your toes.  If you want to keep all of them.