Sunday, April 23, 2006

Inside the Machine Shop

I stopped by the machine shop around 10:30 yesterday morning. EDWRF treasurer and machinist-in-training, Bill Rogers (left), had just completed six holes into a heavy steel billet that was used to pull the bearings off of Arnold Z.
The bearing puller is a simple tool, reminiscent of those made by railroad machinists in decades past. It took four hours for the guys on the Arnold team to pull the first bearing yesterday.

Sam Thompson, our lead machinist, has been building a special tool since the fall. According to the spring issue of The Dispatcher, Sam is building a "very complex portable metal shaper -- a one-of-a-kind -- to shape the valve faces in-place on the No. 4 steam engine assembly."

So I asked Sam (right) how long until he completes the assembly? "A month or two get it up on the engines," responded Sam. "But then I need to build a feedback mechanism and a counter weight."

Sam doesn't see the tool being anywhere near operation until this fall. That sounds like a long time to build even the most complex tool. But remember that we work one day each week. There's only 15 working days until Labor Day!

My next question was more practical, at least in my mind. What are you going to call the thing? "A valve shaper," offered Sam with a chuckle. "I'll have to make something up here -- a Rube Goldberg."

Dave Spohr rounds out the team in the machine shop. Although Dave didn't work this weekend, you'll usually find him shaping the drive shafts to the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay. We'll have more to say on this process later.

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