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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HOM: Lathe #3

Number three lathe was the oddball & seldom used. It was set up like number one in that one person could run it, but since it was more or less crammed in on the west wall of the plant the core bins were outside. It ran the same length logs as #1 & #2, but used built-in telescoping chucks to produce three inch core. Once in a while these cores were set aside for friends of the mill owner to use as firewood. A ground-level conveyor belt brought the core out through an opening on the wall. The two core bins sat on a ground level foundation, and when the core came out they were tipped onto an inclined conveyor system made of two parallel steel link chains with triangular "pushers" spaced a foot or two apart along the chains. The theory was that when a core tipped onto the conveyor it would land on the chain between sets of the pushers and then be shoved up the incline and fall into the bin. The deck hand could set a gate that controlled which bin the core went into so that one could fill while he was working on the other. In practice, quite often the core didn't hit the chain quite right when they tipped off. One end of the log would be on one pusher, but the other end would be on a lower pusher. When this happened, the core would be going up the incline at a slant instead of neatly parallel to the bin. At best, the core would drop into the bin and roll nicely into place anyway. More commonly, it would land crosswise and have to be pulled out and realigned. Often one end would drop between the chains and the core would stand on end and mess up every core coming up behind it. In the worst case, it would wedge between the chain and the bin and lock everything up. Working on this lathe was nice on warm summer evenings as you spent most of your time outside. Winters, not so much. The combination of working in Montana winter outside and then ducking back into the C&C Sauna every little bit to straighten out infeed or lathe problems was conducive to a lot of colds and discomfort. My Guardian Angel spent a fair amount of time around that lathe too. A core came up the incline crooked. One end bound up on the edge of the core bin and the other hung on the lip. The pressure from the single conveyor hook it hung on bowed the core before the motor stalled out. I was running for the switch when the far end of the core slipped loose. It came around through the bin like a baseball bat, caught me in the shoulder and bounced me into the building. It hurt like crazy and my shoulder was sore for days, but everything still worked. Oddly, and sadly, it didn't leave a bruise, so I didn't even harvest any sympathy. In fact, the guys I worked with said it was lucky it hit my shoulder instead of my head, because that way the core didn't get damaged . . . TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)