...Photo...Doing a Little Turning on the Pit Lathe...
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    Default ...Photo...Doing a Little Turning on the Pit Lathe...


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    Lathefan:

    It is good to see you posting again. Thanks for posting the picture of the pit lathe. While it is obvious that a large steam engine flywheel is being turned (or in this case, having the rim faced), there are a few interesting points.

    The flywheel, as was typical of large flywheels of its type, was made in sections. These sections utilized "keys", which are sometimes called "dog bones" to pull the rim sections together tightly at each joint. The pockets for the dog bones are seen on the face of the rim of the flywheel. The dog bones are machined a bit shorter than the actual distance between the seating surfaces in the pockets in the wheel rim. When the flywheel is assembled, the dog bones are heated to a dull black heat. This expands them in length so they fit into the pockets, usually with a bit of sledging. When the dog bones cool, they pull the flywheel rim together with a "death grip".

    In the photo, the flywheel in the pit lathe appears to have been assembled using temporary studbolts in place of the dog bones.

    Also of interest in the means of driving the flywheel in the pit lathe. A "knee" is fastened to the pit lathe's faceplate. This knee has a convexed surface so it can be used on a variety of flywheel spoke cross-sections. A light "U" bolt is used to keep the flywheel from moving freely (i.e., "flopping around") when no load (or cutting force) is acting on it.

    The machinist in the photo is using what appears to be a "modern" ratchet wrench to turn the feed screw on the tool slide. This type of ratchet wrench is still in use, and may date the picture as being taken in the 20's or 30s.

    The pit for the pit lathe has some additional capacity, since the machinist is standing on wood planks. The planks span the "platens" set in the floor for mounting the outboard bearing and the bed on which the tool slide is carried.

    I am also thinking that the flywheel is mounted on a temporary mandrel of "dummy shaft" for the turning operations. The actual crankshaft for the engine that this flywheel was for would be a good deal longer, and would likely leave the works with the crank throw pressed onto the end (or ends, if the engine was a two cylinder machine with the flywheel in the middle between the frames).

    I would guess the flywheel was for a heavy duty steam engine, possibly a Corliss or similar engine. The heavy cross section of the rim and spokes and fairly small diameter lead me to think it was for an engine that turned fairly fast and might have to be reversed. Could have been a small rolling mill engine, or an engine to drive sugar cane crushing rolls.

    Flywheels for Corliss engines used to drive generators tended to be a bit lighter in overall design. The flywheel does not have any lugs for mounting a "shaft" or "inertia" governor, as was used on many Unaflow engines. Corliss engines used a flyball type of governor, so the spokes of the flywheel would not have any lugs cast into them. If Rick Rowlands is following this thread, he is the best person to comment on the likely type of engine this flywheel would be made for.

    Looking to the right hand side of the picture, and just beyond the end of the mandrel/dummy shaft, it looks like the engine frame may be sitting on the shop floor. What looks like a "pocket" for a main bearing is visible. Also visible is a rope or line strung between a couple of pipe stanchions as a safety barrier to keep people from falling into the pit. The flat shovel at the outboard end of the pedestal bearing (to the left of the number "3592") probably saw plenty of service "swamping out" the pit, shovelling out wheel barrow loads of turnings (aka: swarf, or chips).

    The job of turning the flywheel in the pit lathe was a tedious one, with no opportunity for the machinist to sit down, let alone read a newspaper (as some planer hands and lathe hands did when their machine tools were taking very long cuts). The machinist in this photo had to work the ratchet wrench to keep feeding the tool on each cut. There are two square-shanked feed screws to the RH end of the bed, and there appears to be a second tool slide to the left of the machinist. He may be resting his hand on the second tool slide. There were no power feeds, let alone rapid travese on this pit lathe, so the machinist had to be on his feet pumping away on the end of the ratchet wrench. Nowadays, safety people would be saying this sort of thing led to a "repetitive stress injury". One has to wonder if he was still able to bend his elbow after work in the local tavern or saloon.

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    That floor is rediculously clean ! LOL thanks for posting LOVE it !

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    ...always learn a lot when you comment Joe...thanks...

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    Great photo, thanks.

    The photo is taken at the Mesta Machine Company and also appears in their 1919 catalogue which I have.

    Here is the accompanying page:

    mesta-104-red.jpg

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    A similar setup is described here.
    International Library of Technology : International Textbook Company : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive
    I think that in some cases these may have had an overhead rigging to allow a ratchet type feed operated by a crank disc overhead with chain or strap connected to the crank pin or crank throw and a ratchet arm at the tool slide .
    I can’t find the example I thought I had seen in another I.C.S. book used on a Face Plate or T Lathe.
    I think older lathes used to turn locomotive driving wheels also used this type of power feed on the tool slides at one time .

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    Many years ago,there was a lathe of that size at Meadow Lane pit,St Ives(Hunts,not Cornwall). It was much simpler though. The lathe was simply the headstock and rest assembly mounted on concrete at each side of the pit.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Michaels View Post
    The heavy cross section of the rim and spokes and fairly small diameter....
    Heh heh.....

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    Would using the bolts instead of the dog bones been for easy disassembly following machine work, allowing the flywheel to be transported in pieces?

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    There's a working museum near me " The Ellenroad Ring Mill ". They have an operating steam engine with an enormous multi grooved rope wheel. I believe the grooves were machined in situ in a similar fashion to that flywheel when the engine was first got running.

    Regards Tyrone.

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    Thanks for the pic! When I see big lathes and stuff I like to print them and hang in my office.

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    Rick Hand:

    In answer to your question, the flywheel rim joints were made up with bolts as a temporary means of holding the rim together. This was done at the shop, as getting the dogbones removed, once shrunk in place, is a tough job. At the site where the engine was being erected, the dogbones would be heated in a fire- literally. Either firebrick were laid up loose so that each dogbone was supported on firebrick, with the "shank of the bone" over the fire. Depending on locality, the fire could be made with hardwood, coal or coke. A forge blower was often rigged to "blow" the fire. I speak from experience, having done this same thing to heat large diameter studbolts and dogbones. Unless someone is able to get a LOT of oxygen and acetylene (or propane) to fuel large rosebuds (heating tips for torches), or has a few large "atmospheric burners" (aka "weed burners") and plenty of propane, heating dogbones in a real fire is the most economical and easiest show in town.


    The dogbones were usually tapped for eye-bolts, or the erecting crew drilled and tapped them. Handling a dogbone with the shank (or stressed area) at somewhere around 800-900 degrees F, and the dogbone weighing something approaching 100 lbs (or more depending on the size of the flywheel), some means of handling the dogbones was needed. The method was to heat the dogbones with the tapped side facing up. When the shank was hot enough, a piece of pipe was slid thru the eyebolts and two men carried the dogbone to the flywheel area. At that point, a light rope passed over a block (pulley) would usually be used to raise the dogbone to position, and bars used to get it lined up for the fit into the pocket in the rim. It was usual to file a "leader" on the entry-side edges of the dogbone. A leader is a chamfer to help get things lined up and started in. Once lined up, some persuasion with a beater (sledge) was usually necessary to drive the dogbone home in its pocket.

    If a flywheel had to be dismantled with dogbones in place, it is quite a job. It requires the use of big rosebuds to pack concentrated heat onto the shank of the dogboness, and usually requires a 'strongback' fastened to the tappings in the dogbone with long studbolts. A pair of "porta power" hydraulic rams set on the rim of the flywheel adjacent to the ends of the dogbone is then used to jack the heated dogbone out of its pocket. Back in the days when this picture was taken such niceties as porta-powers and probably oxyacetylene outfits with rosebuds. Large scale heating was often done with kerosene torches, which used a tank of kerosene (paraffin to our UK brethren) pressurized with air and forced thru a burner orifice. The kerosene was preheated with a vaporizer coil in the same manner as an old time gasoline blow torch. The result was a roaring big flame, not really concentrated enough to heat just the shank area of a dogbone. A kerosene torch would get the surrounding flywheel rim nearly as hot as the shank of the dogbone, so not enough "growth" to get the dogbone to come out of the pocket even with some jacking.

    As for the shop being clean, the photographer was on the shop floor, so maybe the shop were cleaned up a bit for the photo. Or, as was often depicted in the old "Bull of the Woods" cartoons, there was a "sweeper" who kept the shop floors clean of turnings and miscellaneous debris. The flat shovel in the photo may have been used shortly before the picture was taken to clean up the area around the pit lathe. Also absent in the photo is the usual chalk or paint markings on the flywheel castings giving job number or other graffiti which shop men tended to put on any handy surface. No turnings (or swarf) by the toolbit or on the toolholder/tool slide tells me this area was cleaned up for the photo. Somewhere in the background in that shop, there was the local "Bull of the Woods" probably grumbling about the front office sending photographers in to tie up his machinists and jobs needlessly.

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    Sorry to be off topic, but trying to find the Bull has always been a favorite pastime of mine in old pics like these.

    The Bull is not seen in this pic, maybe he is lurking behind the photographer looking like an accident waiting to happen because of all the hands standing around..





    This pic taken as part of a commemorative series as part of the 30yr anniversary of the company. At this point the son of the founder was running the operation, don't know if he was the Bull or not but apparently was an effective boss alongside the old man.

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    Greg:

    Thanks for the nice follow-up ! I am sure that in any shop of any size, there was a "Bull" in one form or another. The "Bull" was legendary in most shops. There wasn't a job he could not figure out or do himself. There was no place in the shop safe from the Bull's radar when it came to detecting loafing, attempts to cover up spoiled work or busted tooling, or any number of other transgressions. The Bull was a mixture of master machinist or toolmaker (as the shop's work determined), and was Father Confessor, role model, and a number of other things- some not so flattering.

    I am old enough to have known a few "Bulls" in shops I worked in, and they came in different forms. Some spoke English with a German accent, when they chose to speak it all. Others spoke their English with no accent, having been born here. Some cussed freely and could be counted upon to yell while others tended to speak quietly and quote Scripture if you screwed up. The "bulls" were generally quite fair with the men on the floor, but firm when they had to be. Either way, these "Bulls" got respect, and not entirely through fear on the part of the workforce.

    The modern "management technigues" or "supervisory skills" are now taught by highly paid consultants in many firms. Corporate procedures overly in endless layers, with policies about all sorts of things, and taking an errant employee to task can be a minefield for the boss. I daresay we lost a great deal when the era of the "Bull" passed and this "kinder, gentler, politically correct" era took hold. Telling an employee to "take the lead out and get moving" (mild compared to what the old Bull would say to a slacker), or telling an employee in no uncertain terms that they screwed up a job is more apt to get the boss called on the carpet than the errant employee.

    Different times when the picture of the pit lathe was taken. The guys in that shop were probably quite glad they had the jobs they did. There were lots worse jobs in those days, and any number of people were working on the killing floors of meat packing plants, wading in animal entrails, or shovelling ashes out of ashpits at the local railroad locomotive roundhouses, or breaking up sand molds in the foundry and cleaning castings. People worked a lot harder and took it for granted. People who had a job in the shops probably figured they were pretty far up the ladder and infinitely better off than the guys in the meat packing plants or the ash pits or in the foundry. If the Bull handed them a job and said: "Tomorrow, you go on the planer (or boring mill, or some other work assignment) ", there was no backtalk or whining, let alone texting all their friends to cry about it. The Bull would likely assign another journeyman to help an inexperienced person get started on a new job, or might give some instruction, but if a job assignment was made by the Bull, there was no second-guessing, smart-ass remarks, or similar.

    There was no "Lean Cuisine", "DiGiorno pizza" or other pre-packaged foods for lunch. It was a good husky sandwich made with all the stuff the new generations consider "bad". Maybe something like head cheese or some other cold cuts on a couple of slabs of good bread, maybe with raw onions and some lard smeared on, followed with a chunk of pie that the mens' wives made, and maybe washed down with a bottle of milk or coffee. If the men went out for lunch, it may well have been to the local tavern or saloon. Who ever heard of fast food places or trendy places like Panera Bread back then ? Lunch at the tavern could be something like a bratwurst or kielbasa sandwich accompanied by a shot of whisky and a beer. Other men were known to bring a Limburger or Liederkranz cheese sandwich, which could clear a room in a hurry nowadays. Either way, a lunch like those old machinists ate would raise eyebrows today in the least case and would send some goody-goody types rushing off to turn the employees who went to the tavern in to the substance abuse counselors. When the whistle blew for lunch, the men knew they had exactly the allotted time to eat their lunch and get back, in their work stations when the whistle blew to end lunch. No using photo-id badges run thru a scanner. The men knew the rules of the job and stuck to them. Anyone who didn't would be "called on the carpet" by the Bull and could not count on much, if any sympathy from the old and good hands in the shop.

    Different world, for sure, when this picture was taken. I will not hesitate to say our present lives are infinitely better than "the good old days", however, there is a trade-off and we lost a good bit in that evolution from the days when this picture was taken.

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    The closest I've come to wrt the Bull at that plant in Maine was the shop super, he looks more like the sharp scripture type- but he is seen in a number of the photos, including some from 10 years prior circa 1908. Some locals I talked to about the plant mentioned they promoted heavily from within; you worked your way up from machine operator to running jobs through the plant, so lots of cross training and so on. So maybe the Bull didn't have to be quite so dominating a figure. That said, I have a couple pics of the plant showing the huge crowd working there, so I imagine there were many characters and associated shenanigans to keep on top of.

    lol, wrt lunch, apparently the foundry workers were fond of tossing bits and pieces of food to the rats that would tunnel in thru the piles of foundry sand, which drove the office ladies crazy- so doubtless became a popular past-time.

    I was hoping to get up there this summer, attempt to get inside the old plant building again to see what the vacant building looks like today- its been extensively updated but maybe some of the old rooms can be found. The historical society has a diary of one of the employees circa 1920's that I would love to scan. I glanced through it back in 2012, noting lots of entries talking about shoveling snow- no doubt many other interesting things in it. Maybe next year...

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    A shop like the one in the photo posted by Greg Menke, having multiple buildings and a foundry, often kept a team or two of draft horses. The draft horses were used to move loads of castings and other supplies, parts, machinery, along with coal and coke around to the different buildings. In 1916, when the Fay and Egan photo was taken, gasoline powered industrial tractors were just coming into being. Forklifts were some years down the road. The workforce included teamsters whose job was to care for and drive the teams of horses. A few men were on the payroll to provide muscle for moving loads of stuff in an around the plant, or loading and unloading wagons or railroad cars.

    Another person on the payroll was a blacksmith (or smith plus striker). The smith was on the payroll to forge tools and "jewelry" for work-holding (dogs, slotted links, etc) for use within the shops. Shoeing the draft horses might actually be given out to a farrier- a smith who specialized in horse shoeing.

    Having a foundry meant there was a whole other strata of men in the workforce. The molders and core makers were top of the heap (pardon the pun). There were men who spent their days breaking up scrap with sledges to charge into the cupola furnace, or doing such dirty jobs as "dropping the bottom" or "mudding up" the cupola.
    These same men would also wheel endless buggies of coke, scrap and pig iron to charge into the cupola.

    In shops of the 1916 era, it was common for each man on the clock to have a beer pail or beer container. The beer pails or containers were made of tinware or aluminum and had snug-fitting lids. Each man punched his time clock number or initials onto the beer pail and lid. Each morning, two or more apprentice boys would be sent out to get the beer pails filled. They typically had two hardwood poles with notches or nails and heavy wire hooks. Two apprentice boys stood about 6 feet apart, one behind the other, and the poles were placed on their shoulders with the empty beer pails hanging off the poles on the wire hooks. The boys walked to the saloon or tavern where the shop had an account. The beer pails were filled with beer, lids put on, and re-hung off the poles. The apprentice boys then walked back to the shop with quite a few gallon pails of beer hanging off the poles.

    At Brooklyn Technical HS, in 1964, I had an old teacher of wood patternmaking. He told us kids about how, as an apprentice boy, he had to go get the beer pails filled for the journeymen. He told us kids that traditionally, patternmakers and molders had a kind of rivalry, with each claiming the other did not know their business all that well, and how they had to straighten out jobs for their opposing numbers. One story he told us kids was from his own days as an apprentice patternmaker. He was working in a shop which sent the patterns out to an iron foundry to be "poured". Castings would come back from the foundry, machine work would be started on the castings, and after a good bit of machine work was done, blowholes would be discovered as the machining got deep into the castings. The boss called the foundry, complained, and was told they were not doing anything differently than normal, could not understand why the customer was finding blowholes in the castings. The policy of the foundry was to furnish new castings, but did not reimburse for time spent machining a bad casting.

    The patternmaker apprentice's boss handed the apprentice a couple of nickels for carfare (street car fare in those days) and told him to report to the foundry the next morning as soon as they started work there. The apprentice did just that. As he told us kids, the apprentice molders went out with the beer pails and each molder got his gallon of beer. The molders worked along, drinking the beer as they worked. As the apprentice told it, the molders did not bother walking to the men's room or even going out into the foundry yard to relieve themselves. As he told us kids:"Them molders were takin' leaks in the coal and coke piles". Some of that same coal was put into a ball mill and pulverized to be used in facing the sand molds. Facing was done using powdered soft coal to prevent the molten iron from vitrifying (melting and fusing) the molding sand. The soft coal dusting would form a thin layer of gas, just enough to insulate the hot iron from the sand until the iron "skinned".

    Our teacher told us he saw what the molders were doing and figured it probably had everything to do with the blowholes in the castings. He asked the foundry foreman about it and was told he was nuts. The foundry foreman decided to humor the apprentice patternmaker, so suggested he ram up a mold of a simple pattern and face it with graphite from a can. This was done. When the casting made in the mold faced with graphite was smashed to pieces, it was a sound and solid casting. A couple of castings from that same day's run of castings were also smashed and blowholes were found.

    Our teacher said he took the streetcar home, and told his own foreman about what he'd found the next morning. Our teacher, when we had him for our classes in 1964, was well into his 60's, so the era in which his story about the beer pails occurred would have been right around the era of the Fay & Egan photo. About that same time, 1965, I hired on for a summer and part time job in an old time machine shop owned and run by German immigrants. In the morning, the boss rang a large gong, rung by pulling a rope- the kind of gong used in ship's engine rooms and boxing rings. This was to let everyone know it was coffee time. We were on our own to buy what we liked from a catering truck (known as a "roach coach"). In the afternoon of my first day, the foreman blew an air whistle on shop air. Everyone put down their tools and headed to the side of the shop. The foreman gave each man on the clock a quart of beer. I was maybe 15, wondering what that was all about. The shop steward (union shop), told me it was their custom to have beer in the afternoon. The foreman handed me a quart of beer and said it was what they had done in Germany. I was a man on the clock in his shop, so he handed me a quart of beer. We all went outside the shop into the sunshine and fresh air and leaned against the wall or sat on long benches, much as shop men have done for ages. I raised my beer, looked at the foreman and steward and said "Prost" and they nodded at me. I had my daily beer with them whenever I worked there. The foreman and steward and other older journeymen told me I had missed the era of the beer pails by only a year or two, and kidded that I'd have been the one sent out to get the pails filled.

    I think every oldtime shop had its share of characters, practical jokes, along with tales and legends. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is fast passing from the scene. I returned to work at the powerplant after 6 1/2 years of retirement, brought back in a mentoring role. I soon found out that a lot of the stuff we did is now totally forbidden by corporate policy. Tales of some of the stuff we pulled, including some hijinks with a dead rat were the legends the young mechanics only heard about. They told me that the new policies forbid a foreman or supervisor from bringing in doughnuts or pizza for the crews, and even bringing in home-baked goods around Christmas was frowned upon by corporate. Any kind of practical joking, even verbal kidding could land a person in serious trouble. Of course, the young hands wanted to hear the tales of the stuff we pulled and what we got away with and how we did it. It is a very different environment at the powerplant from the one I left when I retired. Corporate has buried the plant people under endless procedures, most of which have nothing to do with the business of power generating or power transmission.

    We had no GPS on the company vehicles to track our every move, and we were pretty much turned loose to do our work with little or no oversight and no micro-managing (aka meddling). We were proud of what we did, and we generally enjoyed the working environment prior to my retirement. Amazing how fast things changed in the ensuing 6 1/2 years. I tend to relate to the "Bull of the Woods" style of management, believing if you are going to work with a crew, you handle your business on the shop floor rather than running to Human Resources. We were not "menu driven" and did not rely on "job plans" back when I started working at the power plant. If you were designing something or taking a crew out to do a job, you were expected to be able to handle the design as well as running the job, buying tools and supplies, whatever it took.
    Now, no one moves without a formalized work order and job plan. Original off-the-cuff thinking is frowned upon, and knowledge about various work on the systems and machinery in the plant is referred to as "tribal knowledge" (who dreamt that one up ?).

    I am glad I was working during the timespan that I was and got to retire when I did. How could people work without interaction, kidding, a little horseplay and the usual stuff that goes on in a shop, shipyard, jobsite, or power plant ? Brooklyn Tech HS is a shell of what it was when I was there, and students do not take any of the shop classes and other pre-engineering types of coursework we did. Imagine a teacher of today telling his students about drinking beer on the job and relieving one's self in the coal pile. Not gonna happen, things are too sanitized, I think, and we are the poorer for it.

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    Re: Post 16 above. When hell & high water come, and not a light burning all the way to the horizon in any direction, and the bean counters are wringing their hands and rending their garments, I hope there are enough tough old geezers to bring a power plant from dark with what is at hand.

    Paul

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    I don't know how you are ever going to get that out of your basement.

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    The plant in Maine ran a cupola of capacity up to about 1500 lbs, though I wonder if they had several of different capacities. They got coke (and presumably iron) by train, delivered to the facility by truck (IIRC it was gasoline powered) from the railhead in town- the materials collected by the local historical society did not suggest the use of horse teams- they would have been competing with the lumber industry for them in any case. In the photo collection, there are a couple shots of the grinding and blasting departments, the rough & nasty character of the work there is clear- and the workers in those departments have something of that look too, compared to the foundry and machining departments.

    F&S only poured iron, from small items up to machines- they manufactured and sold several lines of metal and wood lathes as well as specialty agricultural machines; they advertised their strawberry processing machines quite a bit. The foundrymen were permitted to cast small personal items- presumably they would be poured at the end of the tap after all the paying jobs. The foundry was extensive, operating continuously from the 1890's up to the 1970's, later photographs showing signs of modernization of facility and products.

    Earlier this year I blew it and missed a fireplace door with the company logo cast into it OTOH shipping for such an item would be ridiculous.

    F&S did everything in house from the foundry to the finished product, and for some time ran an automotive garage out of the building; no doubt working on their fleet vehicles, but taking in customers as well. The town also contained a couple textile mills, and of course the well known Dexter shoe operation. It intrigues me that a small town in the middle of nowhere mid-Maine hosted so many prosperous and profitable companies for so long.

    Part of the historical society's collection is an employee handbook from 1969, which I scanned. From reading through it, order in the shop was quite strict- but towards that end the rules were focused on establishing and maintaining a "clean and congenial" environment. From locals' accounts, they did- injury and turnover rates were relatively low and the handbook states the company consisted of about 500 people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lalatheman View Post
    That floor is rediculously clean ! LOL thanks for posting LOVE it !
    I'm a retired commercial/industrial photographer. Before doing photography in a plant I would walk through telling the owner or manager what needed to be done for cleaning. I went into a plant after this to photograph, and one of the old machines was surrounded by trash, swarf, scrap, etc. I took a Polaroid and showed it to the owner, telling him, "you are paying me to make the plant look good, I am charging $75 an hour, do you want your guys to clean this up or do you want me to clean it up, the clock is running". In 15 minutes that machine and area had not looked this good in 30 years.

    Another time I had flown by company plane to a new paper mill in Kamloops, BC, Canada. I showed the list of photos wanted to the manager, who said they tried a startup last night and 5 levels of the main building were covered with 4 inches of wet paper pulp. I set the camera on the tripod and the guys would get a fire hose and wash the pulp off of anything in view. Photos were great, everything was new and shiny.

    Part of the photo equipment was varsol, rags, and machine gray spray paint.

    Paul

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