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Three cheers for metalworking.

Somehow, I have the feeling that I live in a world of electronics encapsulated in plastics. This bothers me because I am from a different world-the metalworking world. I belong to the days when men were men and electrons were something we talked about in school. Today, I am told we five in a world of electronic marvels. We do, and there is a struggle going on within my soul.

As I sit at my computer/word processor, I marvel at its electronic brilliance wrapped in plastics. I don't know how I ever survived with only a plain electric typewriter. Now I erase and change words on a cathode-ray screen. In past days, I'd have to retype.

I get into an automobile and am amazed to find that the air-to-gas ratio is regulated constantly by electronic devices to give the most efficient mixture. A digital readout gives me miles per gallon; other electronic devices, mounted in plastic covers, report all sorts of information.

My metal garage door opens via radio waves. I enter the house and look at the thermostat-another electronic marvel in a plastic case. It keeps the house at a constant temperature.

In my study, a small desk calculator, which replaces an old metal adding machine, puts numbers into memory, computes percentages, and gives me the square root of my checkbook balance.

That glorious typewriter I used to pound on, the one that sits in a comer gathering dust, is a small tribute to the world I come from. It has a cast magnesium frame that went from machine to machine while being shaped, drilled, tapped, and machined into shape. There are steel type bars that came off punch presses and then had metal type-heads soldered onto them. That typewriter is a sculptured masterpiece of shaped and machined metal.

The automobile I drive, with all its new electronic devices, has a steel frame, a steel body, and an engine. That engine passed through a transfer machine, itself a marvel of metalworking, that drilled, bored, milled, broached, tapped, and threaded. And all of that was done with metal tools. When the engine block came off the transfer machine, it was a work of art with all its holes exact to the thousandths of an inch.

As I marvel at the comfort my electronic thermostat delivers, I have to remember the furnace in the basement and the air-conditioner condenser outside. The heat exchanger is made from aluminized steel banged out by an enormous punch press and then seam welded on a special steel welding machine. The gas valve was hogged out of a solid piece of aluminum, and the furnace jacket is made of commercial 1020 cold-rolled steel spot welded together. The parts in the furnace are held together by screws and fasteners from cold-forming machines that produced hundreds of pieces per minute. My furnace stands in a comer of the basement, a monument to metalworking.

Outside, the air-conditioner condenser, housed in a steel jacket, includes a compressor, an aluminum and copper coil, and a fan. It, too, is a monument to metalworking.

You can have your ROMS and RAMS programmed in a language I'll never understand. Give me a screw machine with oil splashing about, turning out pieces of shaped metal at a high rate. My blood tingles when I see a planner shaping a piece of metal. The chips are almost a quarter of an inch thick and blue-hot. Give me a punch press that goes thump, thump, thump.

You can have your bits, bytes, kilobytes, and megabytes. Give me feeds and speeds and rpms, sfm, fph, and rms; back rake, front rake, and negative rake. I'll take shut height, front-to-back measurements, and strokes per minutes. I'll happily struggle with concentricity and tolerances to 0.0005 of an inch.

When I look at the machines of today, with their electronic devices, and compare them with the 1950 models I first met, I am amazed at the advances that have been made. No longer are cams needed for screw machines. Instead, a tape is fed into a computer standing alongside the machine. A twist of a dial and a drill moves down an extra 1/4 of an inch. It is a new world. Nevertheless, the electronics are just enhancements to the basic machine.

Willingly do I suffer the martyrdom that comes with being just an old-fashioned metalworker. Metalworker: it is a badge I wear proudly.

I do not denigrate electronics. I have worked in high-tech plants that made amazingly complicated electronic measuring instruments. It's just that when I think back to my early days, I have to say, Three cheers for metalworking!- After all, metalworking is stiff our basic industry.

Harvey Gittler, Oberlin, OH, spent most of his 40-year career in metalworking industries. He now writes and lectures on management issues.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gittler, Harvey
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:column
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Words:803
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