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Monday, April 13, 2009

HOM: Chipper

The chipper was huge , a big cast iron housing containing a heavy rotating drum mounted with knives. The drum ran at a very high rpm, and when core dropped into it from the top, it chewed them up in seconds. The resulting wood chips were blown out into elevated bins to be trucked away or into special railroad cars. I got in quite a bit of overtime when the mill needed to fill a boxcar. DJ would have me save the core from the lathes rather than "bin'em, band'em, and banish'em." I'd roll it back, cut it into 4' lengths, and then stack it. After the mill closed we'd run it up through the chipper. What I could stack on deck was only a start -- Randy would be hauling in more core as we went along. Larry was breaking in a new operator for the four foot lathe and he was doing pretty well, well enough to solo. He only made one big mistake -- after he ran a core he looked over and saw that one of the lathe chucks was gone. He didn't see it, didn't worry about it, just threw on another chuck and kept going. The missing chuck was stuck in the end of a core and went up and into the chipper, like all the core from that little lathe did. When a chunk of hardened steel weighing several pounds hits a knife blade traveling at high speed, the results ain't pretty. The cast iron base of the chipper actually broke, and the impact shook dust down all over the mill. Everything came to a screeching halt -- except the chipper. It was disintegrating. No one even dared to go into the room to shut it off till Larry McIlhargey ran in and pulled the switch. Don and Larry went up on the conveyor to try to see what had gone into the chipper and Laird & I followed them up. Larry was shining a flashlight down into the maw of the chipper with DJ looking over his shoulder when Laird looked at me and commented "Huh. I wondered where my picaroon went!" Don turned bright red & whipped around. When Laird saw his face he held his pic up and started backing up saying "Just joking, just joking!" Like I said, when things broke & production dropped, tempers tended to fly. The repairs to the chipper took quite a while and cost a lot, and when it went back into operation there was a metal detector and cut-off switch installed. Unfortunately, it still allowed hamburgers to pass. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)