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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

HOM: Men & Machines.

My first few days on the job I worked with Woody & Tommy making curbs and lids & manhole covers. These were made by putting reinforcement, either heavy wire or rebar, into oil-coated steel forms and shoveling in concrete from a wheelbarrow. It was then vibrated with a portable tool called a stinger (similar to the tool above) until all the form was solidly filled and then troweled smooth. The forms were then placed in a kiln room and steam heated overnight to cure. The next day the forms would be flipped over and tapped with a hammer till the cured item dropped out and was then loaded on a pallet for stocking in the yard or for delivery. The forms would then be cleaned and re-oiled, ready to be used again. The oil, by the way, was used motor oil Les Truman got from stations in town. Pipe making was more complicated. Pipe was made on a simple-but-complicated setup. The form was in three parts. Its base was a steel ring of the desired size with stubby legs. The walls were two halves that snapped together around the ring. When assembled, the form looked like an open-topped, open-bottomed tube standing on end with the ring on the bottom. The form was then wheeled with a cart over to the machine and clamped to a rotating base. A round metal column was lowered into the middle of the pipe form. An overhead unit was then swung into place. This unit fed damp concrete into the space between the column and the shell and also powered a tamping rod -- a long oak 1"X4" with a metal shoe attached to the bottom that packed the concrete. An operator would stand by the rotating base to run the machine. First he would start the tamping rod, then put the base into rotation, then began feeding a thin stream of concrete into the space between the shell and the column. He controlled the feed so that the tamper could pack (hammer!) the concrete solidly into the pipe as it filled. When the form was full, he would shut off the tamper and feed, swing the overhead unit out of the way, and hit a button that would pull the non-rotating center column up and out of the still-rotating pipe. When it was free, he would stop the base and slip the two-wheeled cart assembly under lifting points on the form, release it from the base, then wheel it into the kiln room. Once there, he would unbuckle the two form halves and carefully lift them off, leaving the pipe sitting on the base ring. He would then flop a fresh base ring, all oiled and lined up along the kiln wall, onto the floor, clamp the form halves on to it and wheel it back to the pipe machine. This job required dexterity, skill & judgment, which left me out. The hammer, shovel and cement mixer were more my speed. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)