flanging 30

Back to the work order.

work order style

This line tells me what kind, or style, of head I’ll be working on.  Standard is the simplest kind we make.  The F&D merely stands for ‘flanged and dished’.  A standard usually has a sharp corner (a small icr), and usually has a square cut, our simplest machining operation.  It’s our el cheapo.  We hold it to the same standards as an ASME head, but we aren’t required to.

An ASME head is held to a strict code.  The diameter can only be one percent out of round.  The straight flange can only be toed in or out two and a half degrees. The length of the straight flange can only be a quarter-inch more or less than what is required.  The overall height can only be one and a quarter per cent of the diameter deep or five-eighths per cent of the diameter shallow than what is required.  The icr can be slightly larger than required, but not smaller.  There can be no more than fifteen per cent thin out in the thickness.  Bevels must be plus or minus two and a half degrees than what is required.  Tapers are plus a sixteenth inch and minus nothing in thickness.  Tapers and bore-ups can be longer than required, but not shorter.

This might not sound very strict.  But remember the size of the heads we work on.  We are not fashioning small precision components.  Customers can ask for tighter tolerances, and they frequently do.  But by code this is all we are required to maintain.

An elliptical head is a semi-dome shaped head in which the overall height is a quarter of the diameter.

These three styles – standard, ASME, and elliptical – are the most common heads we make.  But life would get boring if this was all there was.

Hemispheres are pressed segments welded together to form a head in which the diameter and overall height are equal.  We can nudge these into size and machine the edge.  The important thing is not to distort the hemisphere shape.

Flange-only is a flat circle of steel which we turn up the edge.  The important thing is to maintain the flatness.  Which can be very difficult to do if the heads are very big, or if they are made up of several pieces welded together, or if they are very thin.  Or if you make them small.  You can not make a flange-only small.  It warps up when you pull it back out.  They also warp up if you use too much pressure with the side rolls, or not enough pressure with the side rolls, or try to flange them too quickly, or try to bend too much metal at one time.  Any of these problems can cause the flat plate to end up looking like a taco shell.  On one order I had ten ninety-inch diameter quarter inch thick aluminum flange-only heads.  That was fun.  Also, some large thin flange-only heads look terrible while in the machine, sagging every which way, but once you place them on the floor they will flatten out nicely.  Most of the time.

Flared and dished heads look like flying saucers.  Instead of bending the edge vertical like on nearly all heads, I bend it horizontal.  I need to use a special forming roll for this, so these heads involve a lot of set-up to run.  They aren’t especially difficult, as long as you figure how much metal to turn up.  The customer requires the flared edge to be a certain length.  If you don’t bend enough metal at first and have to bend more, it ends up looking like crap.  The flares can be long but not short, so I always bend more than I think I need, to be safe.

Dished heads only get machined on the edge.  We do two different kinds of detail on these heads.  A radial cut maintains the slope of the edge as it is after being pressed.  A vertical cut is a vertical ninety degree cut.

A reverse head is flanged upside-down.  The pressed head is loaded into the machine with the inside radius down instead of up.  So we have to bend the metal entirely around the icr roll.  This puts a strain on the machine, but it is not terribly difficult.  But because you are bending so much metal in a way the machine wasn’t designed to bend it, it is easy to dig ridges and gouges into the head.  Which isn’t good.

A cone resembles an ice cream cone, the pointed kind, that can be ten feet or more deep.  We form an inside corner at the top of the cone and flange it into size.  The most difficult thing is not to break the cone off the steel plate it is welded to at the bottom.  If you use too much pressure, or don’t keep the head level, or flange the cone so long it gets hard, you can break the welds.  Then you have to stop and take it to a welder to weld it to the plate again.  They usually cuss about having to do this.  They try not to weld the plate on too securely because once we are done with it they have to cut the plate off.  But if they don’t weld the plate on good enough, the welds break and they have to do it over.  It’s a judgement call for them.  Other than not breaking the welds holding the cone to the plate, you try not to deform the cone shape.

Customers are always coming up with ingenious absurdities for us.  There was this one order which called for a head to have two icr’s.  Two corners.  Near the edge, where it’s supposed to be, and one about half-way to the center.  That proved impossible, and the customer gave up on it.  Also one customer has us cut all the straight flange and half the icr off.  Another customer wants the flange flared to a certain angle, instead of being straight.  They never cease to come up with new ways to torment us.

flanging 29

Mike H. was the best forklift driver ever to work at Brighton.  Bar none.  He would load and unload your machine in a jiffy.  He knew where everything was at.  He knew what your next order was and would locate it, bring it to you and have it ready to go.  Before you needed it.  He would separate the heads in a stack, and if they needed washing he would either take them to be washed or, if no one was working at the wash station, he would wash them himself.

We were about the same age.  He was quiet, but had a good sense of humor. Which means I could mess with him.  One time Higinio C., a flanger operator, called him to unload his machine, then went to the scheduler’s desk to get his next order.  After Higinio left his machine and before Mike arrived, I snuck up and flipped the switch that would bring the upper center post down and lock the head in place.  So Mike arrives to unload the finished head, only the upper center post is down, preventing him from unloading the head.  So he looks to Higinio.  Meanwhile, from the scheduler’s desk Higinio can’t see that the upper center post is down, so he looks at Mike sitting on a forklift in front of his machine.  Mike is pissed because Higinio won’t raise the upper center post so he can unload the head, while Higinio is pissed because Mike won’t unload the head.  Finally, Mike drives away. Which makes Higinio that much angrier.  So he storms back to his machine.  To find the upper center post locked down.  So now he looks all around trying to see who is messing with him.  Of course, I don’t let him see me laughing.

Other forklift drivers goofed off, or were unable to find the heads you needed, or were either creepingly slow or recklessly fast.  Some people on forklifts get aggravated having to maneuver in such tight spaces as we have when we get really busy, and they fly around banging into heads.  Mike always kept his cool.

But he had a weak stomach.  One time when we were on third shift we came into the lunch room for a break and I opened a candy bar I had brought.  I took a bite and chewed on it.  Until I felt something tickling the inside of my mouth.  I looked at the candy bar and saw it was crawling with maggots.  I started spitting out everything that was in my mouth.  Mike laughed at me at first, until he saw what I was spitting out.  Then he started gagging and ran outside.  I never got sick.  I just kept spitting the rest of the night, even though there was nothing left in my mouth.  I couldn’t stop spitting.  It felt like something was still crawling around in there.

Mike was one of those persons who never missed, never came in late or never left early.  His son looked just like him, but was totally different.  He worked at Brighton for a while.  His son was into rock climbing and repelling.  He did a lot of this in Red River Gorge, in eastern Kentucky.  He also repelled off the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge.  This bridge is on Interstate 71 in southwest Ohio, and at 240 feet is the highest bridge in the state.  Repelling off it is illegal, of course, so he did it at night.  There have been a lot of second-generation workers at Brighton.  Including my son.  But, you guessed it, that’s another post.

When Enerfab bought Trinity in 2002 they didn’t hire Mike.  They didn’t need any forklift operators.  I heard he began driving cement mixers.  As far as I know he’s still alive.  It’s amazing how people you work with and see on a daily basis for decades can just drop out of your life.

One memory I have of Mike H. is him working outside in the yard in the middle of winter.  He would stand behind his forklift, while it was running, to keep warm in the hot exhaust.


flanging 28

I’m sure by now you know the routine I’ve gotten into.  A post about the work order, followed by a post about a co-worker.  So it’s time to get back to the work order.  The next item of interest is this:

work order machining detail

This line on the work order informs me what kind of machined edge the head gets.  A beveled edge gets cut at a certain angle.  This particular head gets a thirty-seven and a half degree outside bevel.  That and a thirty degree are our most common bevels, although they can be any degree the customer requests.  The land is the part of the edge left flat.  One-sixteenth inch is the most common land, although we do get a lot of one-eighth inch and zero, or no land, cuts.  But like bevels, the land can be any dimension the customer wants.  As you would imagine, we can cut the bevel to the outside, like this one, or inside, whichever the customer wants.

We also cut tapers.  They are cut to a certain thickness and degree.  A four-to-one taper means that for every fraction of thickness cut in, it is cut four times that down.  Say a customer asked for a four-to-one taper cut to a quarter inch on a three-eighths thick head.  I would cut the taper in one eighth inch, and make its length one-half inch.  To do this the taper tool I cut with has to be angled to a certain degree.  A four-to-one taper is cut at twelve to fourteen degrees.  A three-to-one taper is cut at sixteen to eighteen degrees.  A five-to-one taper is cut at ten to eight degrees.  These tapers can get quite long, depending on how deep the cut is and on how thick the head.  A five-to-one taper cut a quarter-inch into a half-inch head will be an inch and a quarter long.  Of course, tapers can go on the outside or inside.

Bevels and tapers can be combined, with both on one side, or on opposite sides.  What can be tricky is a double bevel.  The customer usually wants them to be equal in width, with or without a land in the middle.  Or the customer might want one bevel to be wider than the other.  Even trickier.  And then there is the double bevel, with a land between, and a taper on one side.

The most difficult to cut are bore-ups.  These cuts are perfectly straight for a certain length, with a taper at the bottom to blend the bottom of the bore-up into the head.  I have to grind a special carbide tool for that.  Even then it’s very tricky.  Say a half-inch head gets an inch-long inside bore-up into three-eighths inch.  I have to make a perfectly flat one-inch long cut at the edge in one-eighth inch, then blend the bottom of the bore-up into the head with a taper tool that doesn’t cut into the bottom of the bore-up.  We don’t get many bore-ups, thankfully.

The simplest machine job is a square cut.  This merely cuts the edge flat. And we do get orders calling for an untrimmed edge, which means no machining at all.  But those are rare.

These machining jobs might not seem too difficult to skilled machinists. But remember, I do these cuts on pieces up to twelve feet in diameter, and even larger.  These aren’t small components we work on.

Machining has gotten much easier with the new machining arms.  They are so smooth.  The old arms were loose and worn out.  Once we got the tool to cut into the metal, we would place a long four-by-four onto the arm and bear down with all our weight.  We did this to keep out the chatter.  When the tool bounces over the edge instead of biting into it, you get ridges in your cut which, if you couldn’t smooth them out, you would have to grind out.  Even with the four by four you could still get chatter, which meant you were being seriously shaken as you hung onto the four-by-four.  And some of these machine jobs could take a long time.  I would go home exhausted and aching from hanging onto a badly-vibrating four by four for hours.  On the old blue valley flangers we used to turn the machine off and on, jog the machine, in order to get a better cut.  I’m sure that wasn’t good for the machines.  But the change in speeds helped smooth the chatter out.

This one flanging machine had the worst arm in the shop.  Everybody got chatter on it.  So once they stopped hacking at the edge, they would grind the cut smooth.  But if the head was very big, or very thick, or if the chatter was especially bad, you could be grinding for a long time.  I was determined not to grind.  So I fashioned my cutting tool to do a very shallow cut, barely graze the edge to peel off an extremely thin sliver of metal.  But in doing that the squealing was unbearable.  I merely shoved my ear plugs in deeper and went for it.  People would cuss at me, throw things at me, for making so much noise.  People in the office complained.  This machine was in the center of the shop and the office was in the front, and they complained about the racket they could hear through the walls.  Motorists on Mosteller Road would turn up the volume of their radios as they drove past.  Truck drivers a mile away on Interstate 75 would pull over, thinking their engines were making a horrible sound.   But I would get a smooth cut that didn’t need grinding.  Nobody else could do that on that machine.

The old arm on that machine has since been replaced.  But I still haven’t shaken that reputation.  On the flanging machine I run most of the time now you can’t even hear me machine, it’s like a whisper.  But people still complain about me being noisy.  They remember what I was like on that other flanging machine, with the old machining arm.  Once you get a reputation it is sure hard to lose it.

And that brings me to an old joke in the shop – “This place isn’t as noisy as it used to be.”  Actually, it isn’t, with the new machining arms the noise level has dropped considerably.  But that’s not the point of the joke.  The point is our hearing has deteriorated so much over the years we don’t hear the noise as much as we used to.  It only seems not as noisy to us because we can’t hear as well.  Funny joke.




flanging 27

Larry F. was jittery.  You could goose him in the ribs and he would hit the ceiling.  Or attack you, with arms flailing out of control.  The best thing was to sneak up behind him and goose him, that way he would attack the person standing in front of him.  He was tall and bony and jittery.  I heard he was in Viet Nam, but he never talked about it.  At least not to me.  We sort of got off on the wrong foot.

Larry was  working in shipping when I started at Brighton.  One day not long after I began working on my own I finished a 260 inch diameter head.  To do a head that big, I had to unbolt the bottom of the blue valley flanging machine and extend it out into the aisle.  There were holes threaded into the floor for this purpose.  The head was only a quarter inch thick, so it wasn’t that heavy, it was just huge and flimsy.  The blue valley flanging machines set the heads at an angle while they were being flanged, and there was a top to the machine, so there was no way to get a fork lift in to load or unload heads.  It had to be done with an overhead crane.  But a head this big required two overhead cranes.  So I fastened on two clamps, positioned so the head would be lifted up at the right angle to allow it to be moved easily out of the machine.  In theory.

So I got the two overhead cranes, hooked each to the clamp on its side, then went for help.  I couldn’t operate both overhead cranes at once, unloading this big head required two people.  Jim D., the second shift foreman, got Larry F. to help me.  Since Larry worked in shipping, he was used to rigging big heads and moving them around.  So I took the control box of the crane next to the wall, and Larry took the control box of the crane on the other side.  We motioned to each other what we were doing, because we had to lift the head up off the pin and move it out of the machine in unison.  If we got out of sync with each other and got too jerky with the cranes, the flimsy head would bounce.  Which is what it did.  The clamp on my side broke loose, and that side of the head came down.  With a BANG and a cloud of dust.  By the time the dust settled, Larry was all the way at the far end of the building.  I couldn’t believe he could run that far that fast.  That was Olympic sprinter speed.  Of course Charley F., the maintenance engineer, came out of the office to see what the racket was.  Luckily, the machine wasn’t damaged.  But the head was.  There was a huge hump in the radius, where it had hit the corner of the machine.  No problem, I’ve seen worse press jobs get smoothed out in the press.  So the head went back to the press to be repaired.  And that was the last time Larry ever helped me.

It wasn’t all my fault.  I was new.  I didn’t realize I didn’t have the right clamps, that I needed bigger ones.  But Larry should have seen that.  He was an experienced shipper, used to rigging big stuff.  And Charley F. had learned his lesson with my partner.  So he didn’t say a word to me.  He merely scowled so hard I wish he had said something.

Larry F. was a decade or so older than me.  He did roofing during the day, working with his father-in-law.  Years later he became inspector.  Several years after that he became the second shift foreman when Jim D. retired.  He spent the rest of his time at Brighton on second shift, as foreman.  He was okay to work for.

But he got me back, for laughing at his running ability.  One night I needed to lift the top dished head out of a stack of dished heads, in order to flange it.  So I got the forklift driver, Mike H., to slip a fork between the top head and the rest of the stack.  But he could only get the tip of a fork between the top head and the one under it.  So I got a block of wood to put between them.  That way there would be enough separation he could slip both forks in and scoop the top head out of the stack.  Once he had the top head up high enough for me to slip the block under it, I missed.  I tossed it instead of placing it, not wanting to stick my fingers underneath the head that was hanging so precariously on the edge of his fork.  The wood block bounced down into the top head.  So I climbed in to retrieve it.  And I shook the head off the edge of the fork.  It slammed down into the rest of the stack.  Which wasn’t so bad.  But then the whole stack rocked violently.  Which sent me flying up into the air.  I came down, hit the top head, the stack was still rocking, so it flung me up again.  Larry came over to watch.  He said I was bouncing around like a rubber ball.  When the stack finally stopped rocking I was able to crawl out.  Larry tried to help me out, but he was laughing too hard to be much help.  I was covered in bruises and hurt all over.  Larry and Mike both had a good laugh over that.