Thursday, September 20, 2012

Twelve Thousand Pounds of Love

One of my hobbies is I like to plant little machinery trees. I poke a seed into the ground every once in a while and occasionally put some water on the budding plant. If my little tree dies then there was nothing that could have been done to save it and I just plant another. This story is about a tree of the genus Hyster forklifticus. Where my shop is, is really a heavy industrial area. In the evenings I walk Ernie the shop dog around and see all kinds of interesting things going on at all times of the day a and night. A few months ago something caught my attention on one of my dog walks. Also, I might need to back up a little further to give some background to make the story more interesting.

A year or so ago I had a local company quote a special pressure vessel for the high pressure air system for the NDCX2 accelerator. We couldn't build it ourselves internally without a major safety and engineering effort, so for efficiency's sake we had it built by an outside vendor from a drawing we provided. One of the companies that quoted the job happens to be right down the street from my shop. I was thinking if they were awarded the contract I could easily visit and see it built and perhaps get a shop tour out of the deal. As it turns out I got the tour anyway before the contract went out to another vendor. If you need a pressure vessel built try Johansing iron works in Oakland. We were very pleased with their work.
I this detail picture you can see some of the offsticker we tap into the manifold with. When the vessel showed up the huge fillet welds on these couplomgd caught my attention. The vessel is rated at a MAWP of 250 psi. The hydrostatic test pressure was something like double that. Why did they use schedule 80 coupling and weld the snot out of them with these giant fillet welds? The answer is purely mechanical. I guess the guys that design proper pressure vessels have met some cro-magnon plumbers. The extra heavy couplings and extra weld reinforcement are so the fitting is not twisted and yielded during fitting installation. Easy enough to do with a two foot pipe wrench if you don't pay attention.

The shop that I toured makes special screw conveyors and is a certified pressure vessel fabricator that can stamp vessels to code. It happens that their main shop was used during WW2 and the Korean war for some very interesting projects. Below are a couple of pictures from the lobby taken with spy cam.
Looking out the main bay doors of the building they currently occupy back into history. Trains and flatcars would back into the building and have tanks loaded on them to shuttle them out to the waiting convoy ships. These bridge cranes are still used on a daily basis today. I walked the dog by there this evening and the shop was still humming even after dark. They must have a hot job going on to be working overtime.
In this shot I can see my building off in the distance. I would love to see what it was used for when this picture was taken. And this is where my little tree story starts.

Just out of this picture on the right is a little fenced laydown yard where junk and leftovers are put out to pasture. One day when I was walking the rat I noticed a forklift had magically appeared in the yard. I actually saw this forklift inside the main bay when I went for a shop tour. For the life of me I couldn't tell you why I remember it. Perhaps it was because it had the hood up and they were working on it and that caught my attention. Well this very lift was now in what looked like graveyard cold storage. How it was parked and the fact that the key was still in it made me curious about what could be happening to this forklift. Several weeks went by, then a month or two. It was pretty obvious that it had been put out to pasture. I always feel sad for machines that look like they have plenty of life in them sent and are sent to the glue factory. It just happens that I had been in the market for a lift for a while. The older I get the worse my back is and the more I eyeball material handling equipment. My hobbies aren't getting any lighter that's for sure. I have a big lathe in my near future and a lift like this could pay itself back on rigging costs alone.
Machinery etiquette says it would be pretty rude to just barge in and ask about the machine cold turkey. That would be so telemarketing like. So what I needed to do was plant a little tree and water it some to see if a opportunity would sprout. Now just to clear things up, none of this is shady or underhanded. I made an business observation and acted on it, all quite ethical because I will see these guys all the time.

To re-establish basic communication I pinged my contact there about an unrelated subject. A legitimate question, but with purposeful timing. A few weeks later I happened to bump into him leaving the office one evening walking the dog again. It was time to plant a little machinery tree and see what happened. I asked about the forklift and what the story was with it outside in mothballs. My contact didn't know but he said he would find out. Perfect. The seed was planted. All I needed to do at this point was be patient.

Meanwhile another possibility came up.
When it rains it pours. The machinery gods apparently finally got my Christmas order form. So at this point I am working on two possible forklift deals. The Toyota has an interesting history. It belongs to a workmate who inherited it from his dad. Its last use was to lift his dad up to the upper level of his house because he couldn't climb the stairs. His dad actually trained the home health care worker how to operate the forklift to move him from ground level up to the second level. Industrial arts teacher. It figures he would find the easiest solution to the problem.

What to do? Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I surely don't need two forklifts.

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