Plumbing April 6, 2021

Plumbing

I know I missed posting last week but I have an excuse, a minor emergency. I also know that you are probably tired of hearing me comment (complain) about work on my old house. Too bad cause here goes. My pool pump sprang a leak just as I was about to get the pool all cleaned up from the annual leaf and pollen season. I could have just replaced the seal again but the pump was over ten years old and was not creating enough flow to power the pool sweep. I did some research on pool pumps and come to find out that single speed pumps will be outlawed as of June because variable speed pumps can be 80% more efficient. Of course, they are also twice as expensive. A little more research and I found that Leslie’s Pool Supply had them discounted by $250 and that the local electric company had a $350 rebate which made the variable speed pump only $50 more than the single speed pump, a no brainer at that point. The Hayward pump I selected also has a built in timer so I can set it to run different speeds for different lengths of time on different days.

In doing my research I relearned something I knew from my college fluid dynamics course (I had to relearn it because that was 40 years ago). I learned that you need a straight pipe five diameters long as the inlet to the pump, 10 inches for a 2 inch diameter pipe. I had an elbow right at the pump inlet. I had been planning on doing a little repiping anyway in order to add a couple of valves which would allow me to direct the flow from either the pool drain, skimmer or the vacuum port. This meant I had to move both the pump and the filter and would allow me to eliminate a bunch of extra elbows and tees. Since I had to move the pump and didn’t need the old timer any more, I was going to rewire everything including replacing the circuit breaker box since the old one was cracked. So what could have been a couple hours and $20 turned into a $1,300 week long job including about six trips to Lowes.

Once I figured out where I wanted the filter and pump, it was time to start digging. Now I have been told I am a pretty smart guy, that turns out to not be the case. As I was cutting out the old pipes, I cut the line from the main drain below a coupling so I would not have two couplings within inches of each other. The bone head part was the cut was also below the water level. So the water flowed out into the trenches I dug and soaked into the ground…for hours. This caused me to stop working for a day. When I continued, I wanted to cut the line from the vacuum port. I thought I would be okay because it had a cap. Well the cap wasn’t water tight so I tried to seal it with a plastic bag and then glue the joint but that failed. I had the trench filled with water again before I figured out that I should put the vacuum hose in the port and put the other end above water. Once the ground dried, I was able to finish installing the pipe. I let it set over night and wondered how many leaks I would have. To my slight amazement, there were no leaks. Just to add to my boneheadedness, as I was cleaning up, I tried to avoid some branches and fell into the pool instead. Scraped my arm and banged up my knee a little bit but my new iPhone was okay.

I think what I got out of this was a much greater appreciation for you folks who maintain the golf course irrigation system. In that context my 1.5 hp pump and 20 feet of pipe don’t seem that complicated.

Don’t be that guy March 21, 2021

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The critical parts on our grinders can be machined to a tolerance of .001 inches. We also provide gauges and tools to periodically check the calibration of our machines. What you see here is one fellows solution when the gauge showed the v-support bar on the Ideal 6000 bed knife grinder was not within tolerance. He ground material off the precision surfaces until it read within tolerance. NO NO NO NO. If you have something on one of our machines that is not within tolerance, CHECK THE MANUAL or our videos. If that does not answer your question, we have unlimited free phone support. Please call us before you do anything permanent or you could be that guy who, by the way, lost his job.

Whack-a-Mole March 16, 2021

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If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that a few years back, our primary machinist retired and we had a heck of a time replacing him. It took over a dozen hires over a year and a half to finally find a good machinist. The results were that we had depleted our inventory of manufactured parts and were struggling to keep up with orders. For all the downside to COVID, it did give us time to rebuild our inventory. We did not lay anybody off or cut hours even though our sales were way off. It was a struggle but we now have our inventory replenished and we should be able to manufacture and ship our grinders in a timely fashion. WRONG. Now virtually all of our suppliers are significantly extending their lead times. What used to take a couple of days to receive now takes weeks or even months. We are trying to cope by trying our alternate sources but they also are experiencing long back orders. It is frustrating. We solve one problem only to find two new ones.

Bearings, Belts and Bushings March 6, 2021

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John Patterson of SIP Direct Georgia has a neighboring golf course with a set of our grinders they purchased in 1997. The grinders had been badly abused and neglected so they asked for John’s help. They were caked with grease, oil and grinding grit but John took on the challenge. He decided he needed to take them back to his shop where he had all of his tools and a clean working area. The first thing he had to do was clean it. They had volunteered to pressure wash it for him and about gave him a heart attack. That is a big no-no. The one thing they did to maintain it was spray it down with WD40, another no-no. John explained to them that in doing that, they were making lapping compound which would eventually ruin the precision surfaces.

After he got it back to his shop, he proceeded to clean it and removed an estimated 40 pounds of grit and grime. He removed the grinding head, cleaned it up, replaced the bearings and belt and installed the free pi tape upgrade kit. He had a problem with the traverse not working so he removed the reversing valves and cleaned them, wiped down the cylinder and squirted a few drops of oil in each end. He then cleaned the spin motor and replaced the bushings in the old style cast radius arm. He wanted to replace the arm with the new one with bearings but the customer did not have the money. Finally he cleaned and adjusted the fence. The fence jack had never been used so it was frozen and had to be soaked in solvent to get it working again.

Once he had it all back together, he checked the precision. The front rails are within .001 inches and the back rails are within .002. The fence was out less than .002, All within our original factory specs. And everything works. So for a few hundred dollars in parts and a couple of days of mostly cleaning, everything works and his customer has a grinder that can actually perform better than when it was new (thanks to the pi tape upgrade). I hope they appreciate what John did because based on what he charged them, he did them a huge favor.

We are the only company that can remanufacture our grinders because none of the main components wear out and it is easy to work on, a comment John made. We will also provide you with free phone support if you want to tackle the job yourself. If John can do it, anybody can.

Another one bites the dust March 2, 2021

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A couple weeks ago, I talked about getting old, both me and our house. Well it is now official. Our house is the only one story home on our block. It is also now the second oldest, the oldest being the original estate that used to take up the. whole block and was built in 1924. As I write this, I can hear them tearing down a house two doors down from ours. Built in 1952, it is the last one from the homes built after they subdivided the block. There is another around the corner that is on an odd shaped lot. The could not tear it down and start over so they removed everything except the exterior walls then added a second story and a garage. It is in effect a new house. The only one left of our vintage is next door but it is a two story on a smaller lot. Still, I do not think it will be around long. I am not sure how I feel about this but it is making our house appreciate.

Don’t Miss It Feb 22, 2021

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Mike just got back from a week in the wintry north meaning any where but Florida. Snow on the roads and frost on the machines can be mighty unpleasant and I do not miss it. My two worst (or best depending on your point of view) snow stories are in Minnesota (of course) and the Carolinas.

In Minnesota it got to be 40°F below zero. That is not wind chill factor but actual temperature. My van froze up even the up north, bought in Minnesota, washer fluid froze. I had it towed from my motel to a Farm Supply store a couple of blocks away where they agreed to store it inside over night to thaw out. I also had to buy a new battery. The first demo I did the next day, you could not touch parts of the machines for fear your hands would stick to them. The space heater I had did not help much. I grew up in North Dakota and I have childhood memories of somebody local freezing to death every year.

So it couldn’t have been that cold in the Carolinas right? Well it may not have been that cold but it snowed a lot (for the Carolinas). I had spent the night in South Carolina and got up the next morning and headed north. Within a couple hours the traffic started slowing down on the Interstate and finally slowed to about 30 mph. There were cars or trucks in the ditch every couple of mile. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a plow truck on the off ramp where there was a Motel 6. I followed but the Motel 6 parking lot was blocked by snow. I turned left by a 7-11 but the road was covered in ice and I ended up in a small ditch. I good samaritan with an Explorer offered to pull me out and refused payment. When he left, I tried to back up so I could pull into the 7-11 but my van and trailer were on a big ice patch headed down hill. At the bottom of the hill was a semi trying to turn around and getting no where. I left my vehicle and walked over to the Motel 6 and checked in. I then walked back to the 7-11 and bought lunch and then back out to my van and trailer. As I was standing there pondering my situation, a couple of local police pulled up and told me I couldn’t park there. I told them I was stuck and trying to figure out how to move it. They were unsympathetic and told me if I left it there, it would be towed. I just thought to myself if they could find a tow truck I would happily pay them to help me move the van and trailer but I kept my mouth shut. After a couple hours chipping the ice under the tires, reducing the tire pressure and a little bit of melting, I was able to back the van up twenty feet, pull into the 7-11 and gas up. I parked the van and trailer behind the store and left my gas receipt on the dash showing that I was a customer. I went back inside to get dinner and the shelves were bare. Even though they were supposed to be open 24 hours, they were going to close at six because they did not have anything left to sell. I went back to the Motel 6 with my crackers and waited for the next morning. I refilled my tires and almost did not make it back on the Interstate headed south, the whole trip cancelled.

I do have a good snow story. I was headed up to Long Island with a big storm on the way, I left a day early so I could get to the east end before the roads closed. I woke up Sunday morning and the storm had passed and left six inches of pure undriven snow. The sun was out and the roads were clear so we drove around and enjoyed the beauty. But overall, I still don’t miss it.

Break Down Feb 15, 2021

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We pride ourselves on having some of the best parts manuals in the industry. We use photo realistic rendering printed on high quality paper. About a year ago, I started upgrading our manuals by adding more detail views and improving the rendering. I had the manual for the 6000 finished and was working on the last page of the 7000 manual when I had to switch over to do a parts sheet for the new RHOC. I ran into a problem. Since the new RHOC is nickel plated, it appears white in a rendering. I spent several days playing with the rendering controls to try and make it work but to no avail. Then I realized I could double render it. The main layer is the photo realistic layer and on top of that is what is called a hidden line rendering. This is the method most companies use in that it shows black lines for the visible edges on white paper. Cheap to produce but a little difficult to understand sometimes. Combining the two gives the appearance of a comic book which I was not too happy about but it makes for a very usable parts break down. So I decided I had to redo the manuals I just redid. I have been working feverishly for the last two weeks and will have both the 7000 and 6000 parts manuals ready for proofing tomorrow. Let me know what you think.

The New RHOC Feb 7, 2021

We finally have the New RHOC Reel Height Of Cut gauge ready for production. We had quite a few hurdles to get here but I think it was worth it. I will talk about those in a later blog so in the mean time, enjoy this new video. And Happy Super Bowl LV from Tampa.

This Old House Feb 1, 2021

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I don’t consider myself old, but I am. I don’t consider my house old, but it is. It was built in 1976 and we bought it in 1981. At that time, it was one of the newest, more expensive houses in our neighborhood. On each block, there is one house that was built in the 1920s and they were typically the most expensive. In the 1950s, the lots were subdivided and new smaller homes were built. This continued on until the 1970s when our house was built. Then in the 1990s, it started all over again, this time building bigger and more expensive houses than even the 1920s vintage. So now my house is one of the oldest and smallest homes.

When my brother, Derek, was staying with us last year, he found a bunch of projects to do. He spruced up the gardens and installed a self retracting water hose. He also repainted the garage floor, fixed a leak in the patio roof and made some repairs to the pool among other jobs. About three weeks ago, I had to take my dryer apart three times because the motor kept quitting. The third time, the motor bearings fully seized, so I had to replace the motor. Since then, I had to replace a switch that prevented the battery from charging on my alarm system, repair the dryer again because of a corroded wire, and replace our 25 year old programable thermostats with wifi connected ones. When one of those stopped working after only a few days, I had to track down a weak breaker for the attic AC unit. I also decided to replace the fluorescent light fixtures with LED fixtures in my garage and laundry room. The laundry room is 4 by 7 with a 2 by 2 alcove for the sink. I put in an eight foot, double row LED light in there and it is bright. I also had to replace the circuit board on my three year old dishwasher, replace the controller for the hot water circulator, replace the manifold on the swimming pool filter and the flapper valve on the pool auto vacuum, and for good measure, I assembled a new work bench in my pool shed. My pool shed is the original pump house for the 1924 house next door.

I guess all these things I fixed are supposed to be modern conveniences, but they don’t feel real convenient right now.

Come see us at our GIS virtual booth, starting February 2 at 9:30am ET.

Dueling 6000s January 24, 2021

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Last week, we lucked into an accidental experiment. Mike Rollins was at Tranquilo providing tournament support. They have their six year old 6000 with a lot of use and Mike had his almost new demo unit. One of the bed knives they were grinding was out about .016 inches from end to end. So they took the bed knife to the other grinder where it was out by .007 inches. I suggested they needed to make sure there was no dust under the v-support. That changed the readings to .009 and .016. Still to much difference. Next we looked at the pivot bolts they were using and they were pretty chewed up. Mike replaced them with the ones from his van and like magic, both grinders showed a .013 inch variation from end to end. The lessons learned from this are that if you want to be as precise as possible, you need to keep things clean and make sure your precision surfaces are good. It does not take much, as you just saw, to create an erroneous measurement when you are concerned with a couple of thousandths.

This reminded me of a tech that used to work for me when I was in the biomedical industry. We had a special pair of cutters that cost about $500 and were used by surgeons to snip a hole in the side of a vein during surgery. We had it for cutting side holes in polyurethane tubing that we used to make prototype catheters. This tech decided he was going to use them as wire cutters. The steel for these pliers was soft so they could easily be reground. Guess what happened. It put a big nick in the cutting edge. That was bad enough, but after seeing the damage, the tech did not stop but made about a dozen more cuts which trashed the pliers.

The difference in these two situations in that the folks at Tranquilo saw something that did not make sense and tried to figure out what was going on. The lab tech I had continued on fat, dumb and happy (literally) and ruined a $500 tool.

Missing You January 19, 2021

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The only thing I will miss about not having to go to GIS is seeing old friends. I mean let’s be honest. The trade show was mostly just a big social gathering and a mighty expensive one at that. With Larry and Mike doing all of the demos and training, I don’t get out much any more, which is one of the reasons I have been negligent about writing this blog. I do not have much material. But this week, we are doing tournament support for Tranquilo Golf Club as they host the LPGA Tour's Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions where I was able to hook up with a couple of old friends and Mike Kriz, the guy who publicly humiliated me. I guess that will have to do for this year.

Mustang Revival January 11, 2021

 

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About a year a go Karl, my son, realized that his 1966 Mustang was not a good daily driver event though he added air conditioning, disc brakes, shoulder belts, 2 barrel carburetor, headers, dual exhaust and, or course, a good radio. He wanted to buy a new Ford F150 but we figured out it was 2 inches too long for the garage. The Ram 1500 was short enough so we went to the dealer with the intention of buying that day. But first, we had to drive it home to make sure it did fit in the garage. It dit fit but by the time we got back to the dealer, he did not want it. Probably his biggest objection is that even with the two wheel drive truck, you needed a step ladder to get in or out. His Mom would not be able to do this. So he settled on an almost a truck Ford Flex. It can haul 7 people or a lot of cargo and it is not a minivan.

When he went to drive his Mustang one weekend, the battery was dead and it would not take a charge. He was so busy with managing SIP and going to school that his beloved Mustang just sat there. So for Christmas, Santa got him an Optima battery, a CTEK battery maintainer, a battery isolation switch, and the Evans waterless coolant system. Santa got all of these because Jay Leno endorses them, without compensation. The only problem is that these gifts have created more work for Karl.

Humiliated January 1, 2021

 

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I have been very publicly humiliated (Mike) for not keeping up with this blog and I am truly ashamed. If you want to hear this public humiliation, go to Stephen Tucker’s Turf Addict Pod Cast.

It has been hard to keep it up primarily because of COVID. I worked from home for most of the time since this started. Even now, I only go in three days a week and work from home the rest of the time. Also, I am not traveling much any more since Mike Rollins has taken over as Eastern Regional Manager. But as a new year’s resolution, I will try to do better. It might help if you sent me some ideas you would like me to research or else I can share some of my favorite recipes.

Seriously, you should go and listen to Stephen’s pod cast. He does a really nice job. And have a Happy New Year, It has got to be better than the last one.

Sneak Preview November 8, 2020

 

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You make suggestions and we listen. THE RHOC reel height of cut gauge is one of our most popular products which means we get a lot of feed back on it, almost all very positive. But anything can be improved so keep a close eye on this column to see what we have in store.

Finally II October 24, 2020

 

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When we bought our building about 15 years ago, the back two thirds had tenants so we had the put everything in the first two bays, about 6,000 square feet. To make it work, we put all the raw materials and the saws in the center of the machine shop. We then put the welding, paint and press break in the assembly area. About 12 years ago, one tenant moved out and we were able to spread out. The welding and saws were moved to the back bay which is about 5,000 square feet while painting and shipping were moved to the middle bay, another 2,000 square feet. We did not, however, move the paint booth because it would be a major project which would also require new wiring. Well last week, our painter, Joe, was all caught up so Karl decided “Now is the time”. This week, he completely disassembled the booth and started pressure washing it. It will be reassembled in the paint bay where new wiring will be installed and the ducting relocated. We will also remove all the old fluorescent lights and replace and add LEDs. Not only will this improve our efficiency and work flow but it will also make a lot more room in the assembly area. Now all we have to do is move the press break but since that will require hiring riggers, it will have to wait.

Back to Normal? October 14, 2020

 

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I am still trying to get back in the groove of doing a weekly blog and I am not quite there yet. I have spent the last week going to the office everyday instead of quarantining at home. We have implemented the new data base and are doing parallel entry into it and the old data base. I need to make more fixes than I had hoped so I have been busy doing that all week.

Meanwhile, Larry and Mike are back on the road again. Larry is mostly back in his same routine and really doesn’t have to worry too much about travel restrictions except in California. Mike is planning his first major solo demo trip for the end of the month. He is hampered a little by travel restrictions in the North East but does have a couple of trips planned. In the mean time, he spent two weeks at Eastlake providing tournament support for the Tour Championship. That’s John Patterson from Atlanta Athletic Club also providing support using Mike’s demo machines they unloaded from his truck, while the competitors’ machines sat idle for the whole time. It sounded like every one from the general manager to the PGA rep was happy with the course improvement as a result of using our grinders. While this was a step towards normalcy, the lack of spectators shows that we are not there yet.

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Last week, Mike went to a field day sponsored by our local dealer, Everglades Equipment. That went really well. It was well attended with people in and out of the van all morning, a great lunch, and a round of golf in the afternoon. I guess there was some bar hopping that night, but Mike chickened out.

Heee's Back October 7, 2020

 

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I know it has been a while since I posted here and for that I truly apologize. I have been working feverishly on finishing our AM6 Database. Just to bring everyone up to speed, I have been using Filemaker for about twenty years for our production control software, which includes, Vendors, Purchase Orders, Customers, Sales Orders, Invoices, Employees, Time Tracking (missing from any affordable off the shelf software), Inventory and Work Orders. We used an off the shelf accounting software for everything else. This required us to double enter a lot of information so about six years ago, I rewrote the software to include all accounting functions including payroll which makes Melissa much more efficient.

About two years ago, Filemaker decided to deprecate the peer to peer sharing of a database and will require the use of a dedicated server running their server software. This is a good thing because it provides a more bullet proof system with better security and backup protocols, plus they. provide it for free with a multiuser license. The downside is that I had to rewrite the software to work properly on the server. I decided to rewrite the whole thing again to make it more bullet proof and to make it faster. And I think I have finally achieved that. Last week, I finished the data base and today I finished the first testing phase. I have been doing this from home primarily because of Covid but also, I get fewer interruptions. Tomorrow, I will go out the office and begin the process of updating all of the computers and installing AM6. Once everything is installed, we will be running parallel systems until we are confident everything is working properly. As I do that, I should start going to the office on a more regular basis. I am not sure that I am needed there anymore because Karl, Melissa and Mike seem to be getting along fine without me.

Special Projects July 27, 2020

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Yes, I know. I missed a week again, and for that I am truly sorry. As you may know, I have been working on my Accounting for Manufacturing Database in Filemaker and I am working on the last module, Inventory. This is probably the second most complex module after payroll and it requires a lot of concentration. I hope to finish it in about two weeks and then I can start testing and debugging, which should take another two weeks. Then the real fun starts when I bring it on line.

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In the mean time back at the shop, we are working on several special projects. The problem is when business is good and you can afford these projects, you are too busy. When business is slow, like it is now, you have plenty of time but no money. So we pick the projects that give us the most bang for the buck. We have a strip along the road which is maintained irregularly by the county. A few years back, we tried putting in some plants but the county just mowed them down and the weeds grew back up. This time, we did it right with weed barrier, mulch and shrubs. I think we probably still need to put up a “Do Not Mow” sign. We also repaired the chain post with a much bigger foundation. People come to the back of our building where it is dark and dump their trash. The last time, some one drove into the chain and pulled the post from the ground. If they do it again, it should cause a lot more damage to their vehicle. The last improvement project is repainting the block on our building for probably the first time in 40 years. Joe, our painter, has taken on the task and is doing a great job using rollers and brushes. We initially thought we were going to have to buy a sprayer but after only a week, he is half way done.

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We also have some special projects for new and improved products but I can’t tell you about them yet.

Backup your backup of your backup. July 7, 2020

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The three most important things to remember in real estate is location, location and location. The three most important things to remember on your computer is backup, backup and backup. As you might remember, I have been working on a major update to our database which controls all aspects of our company. My primary motivation for doing this was that the software was going to require a dedicated server and server software. The second reason was that Karl, my son, had his computer crash frequently when ever he was entering work orders. I initially thought that it was a problem with the way I had programmed it but, as you may also remember, it turned out to be a bad ethernet cable. Last week, I started working on the Work Order Module and, while I knew there were some problems, I did not realize how bad it was. Out of 14 years of data, only the last two months were not corrupted. I spent two days looking at the backups I had. No one backup had all of the data so I had to restore from four different backups, the first was a 2018 year end backup and the other three were from Time Machine’s incremental backups. Once I had identified those backups, it took me about a day to make a copy of the file with good data. That file was out of sync with our regular file by a couple of days but it only took about 15 minutes to update the regular file. Now our file is completely restored and I don’t feel anal about having so many backups. A few weeks ago, I told you I had 16 different backups. One of those backups is Time Machine which automatically makes hourly backups for the past 24 hours, daily backups for the past month, and weekly backups for all previous months. The oldest backups are deleted when the backup disk is full. I have also added a separate weekly back up schedule so instead of 16 backups, I will have as many as 67 plus the incremental Time Machine backup. After what I went through last week, that doesn’t seem excessive.

 

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