Hewlett Packard December 9, 2019

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In 1973, my brother was attending the US Air Force Academy Prep School where he purchased the brand new HP35 electronic calculator for $400 ($2,300 in 2019 dollars). It had one memory location and could do basic math and trig functions. A year later, when I transferred to the university for my engineering degree, I purchased an HP45 also for about $400. It had twice as many functions and 10 memory locations. Prior to these calculators, engineers used slide rules for their calculations. When I graduated and went to work in 1977, I upgraded to an HP19C for $375 ($1,600 in 2019 dollars). It included vastly more functions, a thermal printer and was programable. In 1980, I was working in the medical engineering field and we used an HP Chart recorder to track our frequency testing. It cost about $5,000 ($15,500 in 2019 dollars). It used a six inch wide paper roll and a special pen to record events. We would measure the tracing with calipers to get our data. We had been testing an Apple II with an analog to digital converter to replace the chart recorder but waited long enough and eventually purchased an IBM PC with a more sophisticated converter and software for about the same price. There was a steep learning curve but the data was much more precise and did not rely on manual measurements. In 1981, my wife bought an HP12c financial calculator for about $150 ($425 in 2019 dollars). Unlike almost all other electronics, it is still in production today. Only the guts have changed and it sells for $70.

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In about 1996, I developed the Pi Tape for measuring reels. It needed to be printed on Mylar using a large format printer. I borrowed the one from my wife’s company. It was a large pen and ink plotter that could print on paper up to 48 inches wide and had a price of about $10,000 ($16,000 in 2019 dollars). In 2000 they replaced it with a laser plotter which was much faster and more permanent. It also cost about $10,000. When my wife left that company in 2007, I had to find an alternative and purchased an HP 110plus ink jet plotter for $1,000 ($1,250 in 2019 dollars). This added color to the pi tapes to make it easier to read. We found out the hard way that the ink was not very permanent so we had to add a flexible coating. That printer just died on me so I replaced it with an HP T100 ink jet plotter for $650. It has all of the capabilities as the old plotter but is faster and has wifi, and a roll feed with automatic cutter. You would think I would be happy. Well I would be except that HP has the absolute worst web site. It was like pulling teeth to try and figure out which product I wanted. Then when I went to set it up, what should have taken a few minutes took a couple of hours, again searching their terrible web site and manually installing the drivers. It is all up and running and we have pi tapes in stock again.

Happy Thanksgiving December 2, 2019

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I have met and worked with a lot of techs in this industry and most of the successful ones have a tendency to be a little anal (you know who you are). On certain subjects, I have also been accused of having this characteristic. Now I am starting to worry about my daughter.

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She and her husband have just finished updating their house. It was originally built in 1947 and owned by the same family since then. They have upgraded it with a new roof, rewiring , new plumbing, repainted inside and out, upgraded bathrooms and a re-leveled, irrigated and sodded yard. They also just finished the interior decorating and I must say she has impeccable taste. To celebrate finishing the house, she wanted to do Thanksgiving for us and the in-laws, a total of 12 people. The first picture above was her planning list. I always do a planning list whenever I am making a big meal but nothing quite this detailed. She was obviously a little nervous about her first big meal.

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I have never had a better Thanksgiving meal. Not only was everything delicious, everything was ready at the same time and on the table at 2, exactly on time. This was an incredible performance even for a seasoned hostess let alone for a novice. I guess it pays to raise someone who is a little anal because now I won’t ever have to prepare another Thanksgiving dinner.

Finally November 25, 2019

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We bought our current building in 2005. We moved from a building that was 8,000 square feet into this one which is over 24,000 square feet and we did it just before the market collapse. Initially we only had the first two bays which were actually smaller than our old building. There were two tenants in the rest of the building. One was supposed to move out in 6 months but ended up staying 2 years. Once they finally moved out, we were able to spread out and work more efficiently but by that time sales were really slow. Also, we do not get many customers at our shop so I put off putting up a sign even though we had a sign post and frame. After 14 years it has finally worked its way up the priority ladder and I decided to finally do something about it. An old softball buddy of mine has a sign company, C & S Graphics in Tampa. His daughter was catcher for my daughter when she pitched for 10 years, from Little League thru high school. She caught my daughter when they won the Little League Juniors National Championship. When I called him, he gave me the family discount and I had no excuses left. So now, if you want to come by and visit, you may actually be able to find us.

Straight versus Tapered Blade Catch November 15, 2019

A couple of years ago I posted in my blog about a possible option…replacing the straight blade catch with a tapered blade catch on the Reel Height of Cut Gauge. You can go to the original blog post to see the pros and cons of the straight versus the tapered blade catch here. It has taken several years but we are now offering a tapered blade catch as an option or upgrade. The option is for new purchases or for gauges purchased on or after November 1 2018. The part number is 78028-01 and sells for $30. The upgrade is for existing units that were sold prior to November 1 2018 is part number 78028-02 and sells for $40. As is true for any work done on the RHOC, there is no charge for labor. The prices are a little higher than I would like but it is a low volume, high precision piece and includes the calibration tool. If the volumes increase or we can improve our efficiencies, I will adjust the price accordingly.

Veteran's Day November 10, 2019

 

Every Veteran’s Day, our church has a tradition of singing a medley of the US Armed Services anthems. Since they live stream and post on YouTube, I can share it with you now. Notice the woman in the back row, all the way on the left. She lost it a couple of times. There were quite a few misty eyes including mine. All of us at SIP want to thank our veterans and active duty. You make us very proud.

Happy Halloween November 1, 2019

 

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Sometimes it seems like our society is going to hell in a hand basket, especially if you spend anytime watching the news. But I had a minor epiphany this morning. We have been living in our house for 38 years. When we first moved in, Halloween was not an especially pleasant celebration. Most of the kids that came were preteens and teens and their costumes were last minute and lame. They would start coming at about 7 and keep coming until about 10. God help you if you turned off your porch light too early. I know in those early years, we had to replace our mail box two or three times.

It is different now. Of course, Halloween has become much more commercial which is not necessarily a bad thing. At least a third of the houses on our block have some pretty elaborate decorations. One house on the next block has a big light and sound show that he uses to promote a children’s clothing charity. The kids started coming a little before six and stopped a little after eight. They were all toddler to preteens, all had excellent costumes, many home made and some groups had a theme. More importantly, they all said thank-you. And as far as I can tell, there was no vandalism. It was a lot of fun.

This reminded me that I heard that Scott Adams of Dilbert fame claims we are entering a new golden age. We will have enough money, resources and smarts to solve just about any problem. This in turn reminded me that we had another Rise Against Hunger event at our church last weekend. This was monumental in that we packaged about 14,000 meals in a little over an hour. This brought our grand total to just over 100,000 meals in the five years since we started. Above is my daughter and son-in-law standing next to one of 3 pallets of completed meals. Each meal consist of half rice and half soy protein with herbs, spices and vitamins. The meals are sent all over the world but one of the prime destinations are schools where this is the child’s only hot meal. They are now starting to feed second generation children as some in the first generation were able to get a teaching certificate and have returned to their old schools to teach. Rise Against Hunger’s realistic goal is to end world hunger by 2030. Maybe there is still hope for us.

I spoke too soon October 26, 2019

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We usually have a good idea of what orders are coming down the pike. So last week when I predicted that we would soon have machines in stock, I was not anticipating what would happen next. Within a few hours of my posting the blog last week, we started getting orders, most of which we were not expecting, and it continued on until Friday. Essentially, we are back where we started…sold out until the end of the year, even though we are producing grinders at a faster rate than at any time in the last couple of years. Oh well, I guess I should have kept my mouth shut.

It’s Happening October 22, 2019

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For the first time in a long time, we are starting a new batch of grinders immediately after finishing a batch. We can do this because we actually have almost all of the parts we need in stock. At the beginning of this year we bit the bullet and would not make partial batches of parts just to get the next order out. Instead, we built full batches or even double batches and only started assembling once we had the parts available. This created extremely long lead times which our customers and dealers have graciously been very patient. This is also the first batch in a long time we have started that was not already sold out. But don’t worry for me too much. It looks like it will be sold out before it is finished.

Mikey Likes It October 14, 2019

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Last week, I told you about how I was organizing our assembly area tool boxes. I showed you the Lexan tray I made for wrenches. It works really well and I was very proud of it. The problem is that it took a lot of time to fabricate and I had fourteen more drawers to organize. Then Mike Kriz responded to my blog and told me that his US Air Force aircraft technicians used polyethylene foam that they would lay the tools out on, trace and cut with a razor knife. The light bulb went off “I have a bunch of that foam for the old Reel Height of Cut gauge case." I had always used a band saw to cut it which would not be practical for this application. I grabbed a piece of foam, a razor knife and a pair of pliers. I traced around the pliers in the foam with the knife and it worked perfectly. I bought a 4’x8’ piece of ½ inch foam from our packaging supplier for $20. Using a long straight edge and a couple of adjustable squares, I cut out pieces to fit snuggly in each drawer. For the wrenches, I cut a wide strip about 2 inches long and hot glued it to the base foam. I then placed a wrench next to it and glued another strip down, repeat and rinse. For the sockets, I stayed with the Lexan in which I drilled a hole, started a tap and then inserted either a set screw for drive sockets or a ¼ set screw for ¼ drive sockets. I then printed the sizes of the sockets on the same spacing as the set screws, applied a clear adhesive to the printed side and applied it to the bottom of the Lexan. All of the other tools were placed on the foam and traced with the razor knife including the socket trays I made from Lexan. If most of the foam was in tact, I would lay the drawer liner in the drawer then place the foam on top. If the foam became flimsy because of too many cut outs, I would turn it upside down and apply hot glue to several inches of it and then place the drawer liner on the glue. I could then roll back the liner and apply hot glue to a few inches at a time until the whole liner is glued to the foam. This works really well as long as you don’t apply glue to the whole foam pad at one time (like I did the first time) as the first glue applied is hard by the time I was done and it did not stick. I used a spread sheet to print the labels on ONLINELABELS.com OL1505WJ. These labels are made from polyester and are waterproof. They seem to adhere pretty well to the foam. I added clear packing tape over the labels on the drawer handles as they get a lot of abuse. If the tool labels don’t stick, I will either use the packing tape or hot glue overhead transparency film on them. This method is much faster and easier. I was able to do all of the standard tool drawers in about one day. I still have to do the specialty tool drawers but it is already helping to keep the assembly area neat and organized. Thanks Mike.

Try Again October 4, 2019

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You may remember that I have been working on reorganizing the assembly area including new tool boxes for each station. The drawer layout has not worked the way I had hoped. I put a tool pad down then used foam adhesive tape as dividers with a plastic label either on the pad or the divider. The adhesive did not adhere and the pad still slid around so I had to try something different.

It is important that there is an obvious location that is clearly marked for each tool. The tool has to be easily removed and replaced with one hand and it has to be durable for use in an industrial environment. I have not found any off the shelf tool organizers that fit that bill. I started with the same pad on the bottom of the drawer. We have a lot of scrap Lexan so I made a base out of inch stock that fit the drawer. I then cut strips of ¼ Lexan x 2-½ for dividers. I would glue one divider down with hot glue. Then I would place the wrench down, then the label and finally hot glue a divider over the label. Obviously, the divider has to be bigger than the label. Then I repeated that until all of the wrenches are located. I also put colored electrical tape on each wrench to identify which tool box it goes in. You should do this before you locate the dividers, I didn’t. Other than that, It looks like it should work. We will try it for a few weeks before we make any more. Let me know what you think or if you have any better ideas.

 

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