Lies and damn lies Aug 18, 2018

Lies

I began my engineering career designing test simulators at Martin Marietta Aerospace (now Lockheed Martin). A wise old engineer told me that you need to have two different ways of testing for the same factor. If the tests gave compatible results, you could have a high confidence level in those results. If they were different, then you needed to devise a third test to break the tie.

One of the first times I used this concept at SIP concerned the speed of grinding. I had a lot of people tell me that the Peerless 2000 was much faster than my competitors. This is anecdotal evidence and not necessarily reliable. I went to a college that actually owned all of the grinders and asked them to test the grinding speed. They found that the Peerless was twice as fast as the Bernhard, three times as fast as the Neary, and four times as fast as the Foley at removing metal. That is very strong confirmation of the anecdotal evidence. But then I compared our video of a touch up grind to a competitor’s claim of “floor to floor in 5 minutes”. I have two videos that show a touch up grind taking 2-3 minutes which further bolster the claim that the Peerless is the fastest.

This brings me to the Twitter survey of a couple of weeks ago. I have always felt that SIP customers are more enthusiastic about our products based on the comments and feed back we get. While the Twitter survey would be considered unscientific for determining which grinder company is best, it does give us some useful data. I believe it confirms previous anecdotal data showing SIP customers are more enthusiastic about our products. While we came in second overall, if we divide the percentage by market share we get what I call the “enthusiasm factor”. SIP is first at about 5, Foley is second at about 1, Bernhard and Neary are tied for last at about .0.6. Beware the statistician, he can tell you whatever you want to know. Now if I could just turn that enthusiasm into more sales.

Much thanks to all who voted SIP!

Tool Tip Aug 10, 2018

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I am in the process of writing the shop assembly manual for the Ideal 650 Bed Knife Grinder. One of the first steps is to assemble the pneumatic components. As I was tightening the NPT swivel elbows into the pilot valve, I was frustrated because the wrench would not easily engage the hex nut. A light bulb went off and I took the wrench over to the sanding belt. I ground two lead ins on the wrench. When I continued assembling the fittings, the wrench engaged much more easily without losing any contact area. I thought “I can’t be the first person to come up with such an obvious idea, or can I?” Let me know if you have ever seen this before so I can know if I am either a super genius or someone too dense to know what is what.

Boston Golf Club 3000 Rebuild Aug 4, 2018

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I get a lot of questions about our remanufacturing program so I decided to make a little video of a Twitter thread I did last year chronicling the remanufacture of Boston Golf Club’s Peerless 3000 Reel Grinder. You can watch the video here.

Twitter Survey July 28, 2018

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There is an interesting Twitter survey here that asks “What is the best reel grinder brand?” This is a pretty unscientific survey that is more about stroking egos than telling you which grinder is best, but it does indicate a couple of things. Considering that we have about one tenth the market share of Foley and Bernhard, 23% in this survey is pretty respectable. I have done another survey which may only be slightly more scientific. I asked as many people as I could who have used all three manufacturers’ grinders for at least a year each, what their preference was. In that survey, we scored well over 90%. Still not real meaningful. However, if you have a Twitter account, you can go the above link and vote. My ego could use a little stroking.

Machining a Balloon July 21, 2018

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We took a radical approach when we designed our Reel Height Of Cut gauge. When everyone else was using aluminum flat bar, we decided to use thin wall, structural steel tubing. This kept the weight comparable but increased the stiffness by a factor of over 20. There is a set of holes in the center of the bar for the dial indicator to pass through with a round tube to guide the brass shield. The tube guide was located by a very shallow counterbore on the underside of the top surface and held in place by a retainer on the bottom of the main tube. Because the wall is so thin, the tolerance on both the counter bore and the length of the guide is very tight.

Any time you have to tighten tolerances, you increase the cost for two reasons. First, you have to be more careful and take more time to get it right. Second, you get it wrong more often so you get more scrap. Also, because of the thin wall, we got a lot of flexing when we machined the top surface; which had to be flat to .001 inches. The fixture is quite complicated so that it can hold the tube firmly without distorting it (the same problem you have when grinding bed knives). Our machinist likened it to “machining a balloon”.

The last batch of tubes proved especially difficult and we ended up with over half of them scrapped because the counterbore was too deep leaving virtually no lip to retain the guide. I was not happy, especially since we were backordering the RHOC gauges. I looked at several different ways to rework these tubes but did not really like any of them until I came up with the idea of tack welding the guide into the tube before we machined the top surface. This eliminated the counterbore and its tight tolerance and it eliminated the tight tolerance on the guide because any excess would be machined off when the top surface is machined. The best part is the welded guide added a lot of stiffness to the top surface right where we needed it. This makes machining the top surface easier and results in a better surface finish. Needless to say, we are able to salvage all of those scrapped bars and I have changed to this design for all future batches. The best part is that the RHOC is no longer back ordered.

Scrapped July 13, 2018

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Occasionally, we will deliver machines instead of shipping them when the customer is close to the factory. We usually do this when the dealer is taking the old grinders in trade. We bring them back to the factory and store them for the dealer. Because they are not worth much, the dealer ends up giving them to us. We had one set of our competitors’ grinders in storage for several years. We looked at repairing them but the cost of the parts was more than the grinders would be worth. So even though they were only fifteen years old, we decided to scrap them. We got $67 for the reel and bed knife grinder. I was disappointed because that is my Christmas money. A quick calculation showed that we would have gotten about $105 if we had scrapped a set of our older grinders. Even though our grinders are more compact, they weigh significantly more because we use plate steel instead of sheet metal in the construction. Even better news, we will pay a minimum of $1,000 for any old Peerless 2000 or newer grinder regardless of condition. The one on the left in the photo went underwater twice in two weeks when a muddy river overflowed its banks…$1,000. The one on the right was left outside for an extended period of time…$1,000. Both of those will be completely disassembled and remanufactured to like new condition. The one in the middle is about 23 years old and was well maintained. It will be checked out and sold as used.

Brace Yourself July 7, 2018

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A year and a half ago, I changed the design of the Ideal 6000 door. I added two braces to the top panel. This stiffened the door and provided better bonding of the panels to the frame. It also split the top panel into three smaller panels which means you can buy replacements at the local Lowes or Home Depot or we can easily ship them via UPS. The original 6000 door was all Lexan with no metal frame. If it became damaged or dirty, you had to replace the whole thing at a cost of over $1,000 with shipping. Now you can replace a damaged panel for about $30.

One of the main reasons that we made this change is that the top panel would come loose from the frame because it was so large. By splitting it into three pieces, the panels were much smaller with a larger taped surface. Two sided tape is used because it minimizes stress which can cause the Lexan to crack.

We now have a free upgrade kit for anybody who has an Ideal 6000 with the original steel frame door. It takes about 30 minutes to install and gives you all of the benefits of the new 6000 door. You can see video installation instructions here. Contact us or your local dealer and order Part Number 60022-10.

If you watch the video, please ignore the fact that I badly need a haircut.

Wired July 1, 2018

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We do a pretty good job of providing factory direct telephone support especially with the advent of Skype and Face Time. A picture or a quick video makes it very easy to diagnose almost every problem…almost. We occasionally get a call that the spin motor on a reel grinder is not working so we tell them to first check the fuses and that almost always fixes it. If not and it is an older machine, we tell them to check the brushes and that fixes most of the rest of them. If it doesn’t then it is in the controller, the motor or the wiring. This requires that you pull out a multimeter and start checking both the input AC voltage and the output DC voltage. If you have AC going in and no DC coming out then it is the controller. If you have DC to the plug then it is the motor, fairly straight forward to trouble shoot.

Last week, we had a customer that has an older 2000 and I was told that his spin motor had stopped working. We went through the trouble shooting and from what he told us, it needed a new controller board. We sent him a new board, he replaced it and it still did not work. After a week or two of back and forth on the phone with no luck, Larry and I were stumped so he decided to drive from Phoenix to Texas and see if he could solve the problem. After a few hours of checking everything, it looked like the new replacement board had to be defective, so Larry drove to the local Grainger and bought another one. The next morning, he installed it and it STILL didn’t work. As we talked on the phone we were frustrated but decided it was not likely that we had three bad controllers from two different manufactures, bought in two different cities. I felt something had to be wrong with the wiring even though the multimeter test said it was okay. I told Larry to send me pictures of all of the wiring connections. The minute I saw the above picture, I knew the problem, the black wire to terminal 2 on one contactor and the white wire to terminal 2 on the other contactor had been reversed. After I pointed that out we tried to figure out how that could happen. Turns out that the spin motor had not just stopped working. It had not been working for at least three years. A new mechanic came in and tried to use it when he determined what was wrong. He did not know that the previous mechanic had replaced the contactors, three years ago and that is when the spin motor stopped working. Larry reversed the two wires and the machine works fine. So if you call in for support, please be patient when we ask you a bunch of questions or ask you to send us a bunch of pictures. In the long run it will save you some time and us a four day trip to Texas just to switch some crossed wires.

Happy Fourth of July.