Road Trip



  • I made a trip yesterday south of where I live to visit my former boss that took me in to work in his machine shop and took his time to try and teach me as worked. I had zero experience and he took a heck of a risk but I guess it turned out alright. We never got sideways with each other and I left on good terms just way short of completely being trained. Two years isn't enough. I haven't seen him in years since he moved his shop to the Corpus Christi/Aransas Pass area here in Texas. We made parts mainly for machines that are used in the plastic film making industry and the manufacturing of bags and other products including pvc materials. We also made parts for a hydraulic shop that built fork lifts that you see on the back of delivery trucks similar to Princeton style lifts. Those things are cool, you put the forks in a mount on the back of the truck and using the hydraulics it picks the machine up off of the ground and it then attaches to the back of the truck. Very seldom we had a job that walked in the door, we weren't a repair shop. It was hard to explain to people sometimes our machines had a specific fixture on it and to remove it and do a single part was hard to work in. Mark has a big heart though and would do most of them on weekends and that's when I would sometimes do my little projects.
    I had seen on his Facebook account he is making a new type of fishing reel and that was one reason for this trip and just to visit. I spent a lot of time in a building with this guy and after a while you get to know each other pretty good. He always said I don't want someone that works for me I want someone that works with me. Anyway, there's lots of fishing reels and lots of hype selling them kind of like firearms. His reel as far as I know is the first of its kind and will be an option for the handicapped that fish that may not be able to use a conventional reel. He doesn't have a completed prototype but most of the parts and gears that were made by a second party. I got to be the first person besides him to operate the mechanism that drives the spool to wind the string and it can all be done with one hand effortlessly. I was totally amazed to say the least. Instead of a handle you rotate it uses a lever similar to a trigger you pull. There was a straight one installed but he has several models for curved ones and can be made for any digit the operator uses to pull the trigger. The body of the reel can be mounted underneath the rod like a spinning reel or fly rod reel or on top like a bait casting reel. It can be left handed or right handed and also the gear box can be rotated to change the angle of the trigger. He also has developed the tools needed for assembly of this machine. It's not something the average Joe can put together. I would compare it to the Prometheus in regards to tolerances and overall design.The entire reel is designed by him and is patented already. He has all the cad drawings and showed me the files of every individual piece complete with pictures of the tools and set ups for each one. All the critical parts have go and no go gauges so when manufacturing them quality control is assured. He started this concept a long time ago and once all the gears showed up he started the machining process in October. Things happen and numbers have to be adjusted so hopefully he will have this done to completion in a year. He more or less said he wasn't taking outside work until this was done.

    This is not going to come cheap. He has all the parts for ten gear boxes right now and I had to ask what kind of dollar value he was going to put on these. Somewhere in the neighborhood of four thousand each he replied. He said I want to make these available to people that want to fish but can't afford them as well as those that can. He already has several groups interested the outcome of this project and hopefully he can come up with a lease or loaner program that will make them available for the less fortunate. I think that's pretty generous for something that he has put so much money and effort into. I sure hope he pulls this off not only for the sake of the reel but for his promise to help people.. I was allowed to take some pictures so here are some of the machines I personally operated and some new tools he has acquired. He bought the big Fadal CNC mill right after I quit there and the cold saw. He and I went to Houston and bought the Acer Knee Mill and a surface grinder and the smaller one I operated also sometimes both at once. The Big Jet lathe was the first one I operated and the tiny one also. I made parts to completion on both of them. I operated the Tree mill a few times and never got to run the Harrison lathe. He has changed the bearings twice in the head stock and main shaft once since it was new and is on the second chuck. He is using thread mills so small that you need a magnifying glass to see to tap holes for the work he does. You just can't do it by hand. He gave me some bar stock to play with at home some aluminum and some 12L14 free machining steel. It was a good day.
    The mills

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    The lathe I operated
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    I operated it but was afraid of it :/
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    Harrison Lathe Every one the dealer sold in Texas for a couple of years he set up and gave classes to the buyers He even went to the Navy's shop at Ingleside and spent several days there when they purchased these lathes
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    Benchtop Lathe I operated His wife back then ran it also as well as one of the mills
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    Inside of the Fadal Mill and a fixture plate
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    Some of the small tools used The bottom row left corner is the tiny thread mill I mentioned
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    A few parts for a customer and the aluminum cylinder shaped pieces are the gear box bodies for the reels and side plates and some linkage made on the mill If you can see the plates are engraved and one has serial number "1" on it The metric sprockets are modified in the shop for a customer and I made the fixture used to broach the keyways years ago and he still uses. The sprockets are timed to the keyways or we would have just broached a keyway in them.
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    I put my camera in my truck too soon yesterday. We went to the back of the shop and he had a cabinet full of old parts he doesn't make any more some that I had made still preserved. I should have gone and got my camera I would have liked a picture for old times sake. Good excuse to go back.



  • @bigfoot I came up through machining and the trade I learned was guage and layout. Early on we did gearing (8N tractor transmission and military service) and eventually worked up to aircraft engine components (Pratt Whitney, GE, and Rolls Royce). There was a Harrison lathe just like that one where you could worry in a tight tolerance with nothing more than carbide roughing and finishing tools. It was a sad day when the coordinate measurement machine (CMM) showed up. I sold all my inspection tools for a down payment on our first house.
    Now I'm on my second cup of coffee searching for used Harrison lathes until the sun comes up. "Keep a turning Bigfoot!"



  • @lathoto Mark loves that Harrison. He just put a new chuck on it after twenty years I guess. He uses soft jaws a lot he has a cabinet full of jaws for different od's and got a new gadget that attaches to the jaw holes for boring them so you don't use a ring. I don't remember the company that sold those lathes I think they were in Rhode Island. Every year he would go to the ASME shows in Houston and Chicago compliments of them and I got to go one time to Houston. CNC machines were gaining popularity for small job shops then and there was lots of little guys drooling over tools. I spent two hours at the Bridgeport Booth playing with a retrofit CNC set up for a knee mill. I wish I had taken more pictures of the tool cabinets when I was there. When I worked for him no cameras were allowed in the shop and we were always under scrutiny by the engineers we worked for. Eventually there was a sting that busted some guys that worked for our customer selling machine work under a dummy corporation using parts from our shop and others relabeling them and selling them back to the company. Corruption has no borders. I will pump Mark and see if he knows where any used lathes might be maybe he knows something.


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