Fire! Feb 16, 2019

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Last Sunday, Karl and I went window shopping at the local Ford dealer to look at the new Ranger pick up truck. On the way home, I got a call from our home security company. They told me my house was on fire and that the fire department had been dispatched. I was scared to death that Michele would be trapped inside. I sped home with Karl screaming at me to be careful. Two minutes later when I pulled up, Michele and the neighbor were standing outside. The neighbor told me that the dishwasher had caught fire and was still smoking. She had already turned off all of the circuit breakers and called 911 and Michele had hit the panic button on our security system. I went in to look. There was a lot of smoke and it reeked of electrical fire. Another neighbor was in the house and was trying to turn off the smoke alarm. He had emptied our fire extinguisher which had slowed the fire down but it was still smoldering.

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A minute later, the fire department arrived and shooed us out of the house. They extinguished the fire and told me they would have to remove the dishwasher as it still was a concern. A few minutes later, the dishwasher was outside. They opened the windows and used this “Tim the Tool Man” powerful fan to blow out the smoke. They had been very careful removing the dishwasher. There was no other damage from either the fire or from removing the dishwasher. They picked up their tools and took down some information, the fire chief was more interested in Karl’s Mustang than anything else. Then they left. There was still some smell of electrical fire but it took less than an hour to clean up the kitchen. Monday, we bought and installed a new KitchenAid which was quieter and worked much better than the 18 year old Bosch it replaced and today the fire smell is completely gone. I have to marvel at the technology involved. Our smoke detector went off which alerted our alarm company which notified the fire department which arrived less than 10 minutes later. Michele hit the panic button on our security system which alerted our alarm company which sent the police who had come and gone by the time I got there. Our neighbor used her cell phone to call 911 which made it a very small three alarm fire. But then I think that it was the computer board in the dishwasher that caught fire and caused this whole mess in the first place so I guess it’s a wash.

 

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That night, I did not feel like cooking so I picked up some food at the only place I could, Firehouse Subs. They had a mural of the fire truck that was just at our house. Fortunately, they did a better job at my house than the one in the mural.

 

Random thoughts on GIS Feb 9, 2019

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You all well know that going and coming to GIS is one of my least favorite things while being there, seeing old friends and making new ones, is one of my most favorite things. We were able to minimize the former by minimizing our booth to the World’s Smallest Grinder Booth featuring the World’s Smallest Grinder. Apparently, we are trend setters as it seemed everyone had reduced their booth size. Even though the show floor seemed smaller, it still did not seem crowded which probably means attendance was down. We will have to see.

I guess GIS will sell your email to anybody. I have gotten over 200 emails from random people offering to sell me a list of all the GIS attendees with contact info. This is a royal pain in the ass. I wish GIS had a little more class. If I am wrong and this is just a scam, I apologize to GIS, but I don’t think so.

San Diego may be the best venue in California but it is still a miserable one. Downtown venues are expensive and it is difficult to get around or find parking. Yeah I know, you can walk anywhere you need to go but Larry and I are getting too old to walk from our hotel to the convention center, one mile, uphill, both ways. We can’t afford anything closer. We are also too old to ride those electric scooters or bikes. And the people are rude. Larry was moving in and was stopped and told he could not come in that way. When asked where he was parked, he was told that was employee only parking. He pointed to the sign that said “Public Parking $15”. The guy got flustered and finally told him he needed to use the next door down which was only 30 feet away. Why didn’t he just say “Sir, you need to use that entrance, the one marked Contractors.” I may be willing to try Los Angeles again but I will never go back to San Francisco. Las Vegas and Orlando are two of the World’s best venues and the folks at Orlando are especially nice and friendly. It doesn’t hurt that it is only an hour and a half from our plant.

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I see one of our competitors rolled out their new look for the show, new logo, new website and new slogans. They did have one little error. Since they used “others” plural, that has to include SIP. Even though they used a green checkmark on themselves and an orange checkmark on others, it still has to include SIP. And as everyone knows, the SIP Total Parallel Grinding™ system is the most precise system available. It is typically an order of magnitude more precise than measuring off the reel shaft. Our TorqueControl™ Relief Grinding is the fastest, most consistent relief grinder available anywhere. I am sure that it is just an oversight on their part and it will be corrected shortly. It is a good thing I am not litigious.

 

See you at the show Jan 28, 2019

 

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The first ten people who come by our booth 4501 at GIS and tell me what their favorite blog post is will get a free pi tape. This is for end users only and excludes anyone who sells our products. See you there. I hope it is warm.

Read the &#!%% instructions Jan 25, 2019

 

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A few weeks ago in this blog, I wrote about what I thought were two of the smartest people in this industry. Apparently I was wrong. Mike Kriz was visiting one of them last week and was working on the bed knife grinder when he noticed it wasn’t working quite right. He immediately realized that the wood used to protect the counterweight during shipping had not been removed. Once removed, the grinder worked perfectly. When he relayed the story to me, I remembered that I had the same experience with that other tech genius. A year or so ago, I was visiting him and he complained about a problem with a bed knife grinder. After a brief investigation, I too realized that the wood around the counter weight had not been removed. On page 5 of the manual is the above instructions. We also put this tag on every grinder that we ship but apparently it’s too much trouble to read!

 

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Mike told me that he knew about the problem because the used 1100 he purchased also still had the wood in it. So that made at least three cases where the wood was not removed. After thinking about it a while, I realized those guys are pretty smart and if they missed it, they are probably others who also have not removed the packing material. If you have an Ideal 1100 or 6000 and do not remember removing three pieces of wood from around the counterweight, please check it now. There should be one piece on the left side and two underneath the counterweight. And while your at it, make sure you have removed the set screw that locks the counterweight for shipping.

Since I now have at least three cases of the wood not being removed, the 1-2-3 rule kicks in. I will be adding a chord to each of the pieces of wood that will hang outside of the grinder with similar tags on the ends. Hopefully that will make it idiot proof.

 

We almost made it. Jan 18, 2019

 

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If you read this blog regularly, you know that we have been struggling to keep up with orders. This has been a problem for two reasons. We have been experiencing higher than normal volumes and we have had a hard time finding good people. In the last year and a half since our machinist left, we have had at least ten different people in here to fill that position. Some last a few months, others a few days. I believe we finally have our guy. We are also trying to find at least two more assemblers and maybe another machinist and we can’t even get qualified people to interview. Despite all of that, we have worked our lead times down from 10-12 weeks to a more reasonable 2-3 weeks. Our goal is to get back to shipping within one week of receiving the order. And then January hit. We booked as many orders in the first two weeks of this year as we did in 6 months last year. So we are back to 8-10 week lead times on any new orders. And this is before we feel any impact from Neary shutting down. It is going to get worse (better?).

I know, I know. You are playing me the world’s smallest violin right now, and I appreciate that.

RIP Neary Jan 12, 2019

 

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Yesterday, Foley announced that they will discontinue the Neary product line due to low sales volume.

In the late 1970’s Bob Neary was President of Foley. Bernhard had just started importing the Atterton and Ellis automatic spin grinder. Bob went to his bosses, the Ringers, and told them that Foley needed to make an automatic spin grinder. They declined, saying that those grinders would not sell because they could not do relief. At least that is the way the story was told to me. Bob knew better and left Foley to start his own company. He made a copy of the Express Dual for his spin grinder, a copy of the Foley manual reel grinder and a copy of our Ideal 50 Bed Knife Grinder. Apparently, he felt it was a better design than Foley’s (it was). There was some contention that Bob absconded with Foley’s engineering drawings which left a bit of animosity between them. I suspect that he just bought or borrowed one of each of the grinders he copied and reverse engineered them.

Bob passed away before the brand really took hold and the company was taken over by his nephew, Tim Neary. Tim had worked in sales for Honeywell, I believe, and he was a little more successful with the company. He added a patented relief grinding system to the spin grinder in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Foley introduced their first, all new, automatic spin and relief grinder with a similar system in the mid 90’s. Neary sued for patent violation and Foley eventually decided it was cheaper to buy Neary than to pay them royalties on the patent. Although, if the figure that Tim Neary mentioned to me is correct, it wasn’t cheap. That is especially true when you realize that the Neary patent was probably worthless. The Neary patent was exactly like the design of our original grinder, produced from 1902 through 1910. It included the spinning shaft, sliding hub, dual end in-feed and the rotating finger guide for relief.

I was a little surprised that they did not shut the product line down at that time. Tim had designed an all new, top of the line, enclosed grinder, the Neary 700. It was a total disaster in that many of the key components were made from aluminum which was too soft so they would shake themselves loose in a very short period of time. Fred Zimmy was traveling around the country full time trying to fix them before he came to work for me. When Foley acquired Neary, they decided to scrap the whole inventory of them.

In my opinion, there were two reasons to keep producing the Neary. It was a cheap alternative to the Express Dual for people who preferred that technology. Neary had one problem though. They did not copy the Express Dual exactly. They deleted the spring loading of the spinning shaft. Common sense would tell you that if you are trying to do a precision grind, that it is better to have the grinding head mounted solidly. And that is what Neary did. What they did not understand was that those springs prevented the user from over loading the shaft if they did too heavy and in-feed. On the Express Dual, you would just compress the springs which would not change the grinding pressure. On the Neary, since there are no springs, the grinding pressure would increase resulting in a greater force on the spinning shaft. If enough force is applied, the shaft will deflect and go out of balance, causing significant damage to the reel. The Neary could be very sensitive, too little in-feed and the grinding wheel would chatter, too much and the shaft deflected.

The second reason was to tie up dealers in an attempt to keep me out of markets, not an entirely unsuccessful strategy. They apparently did not care too much whether the dealer sold much because they figured they would probably get the sale through their Foley dealer. This is all speculation on my part, but it makes sense. A common response from a Neary dealer I was trying to turn was “We have the Neary line and besides, we don’t sell enough grinders to warrant the effort to change.” Well Doh! I have had more success lately converting these dealers and that may have contributed to Foley’s decision.

A few years ago, Neary private branded their grinders to John Deere under the Frontier product line. This was probably a final attempt to save Neary by adding another distribution channel. It turned out to be a disaster. First, it pissed off their neighbor Toro. Second, it under cut their own dealer network because the Deere dealer could and did undercut them in price. It removed any incentive for the Neary dealers to actually go out and sell. And finally, Neary’s margins we so low that they refused to support the Frontier grinders and Deere did not have anyone who could so the end user was left out in the cold. I believe Deere decided to opt out of the agreement at the earliest possible time. I was pretty sure then that Neary’s time was limited. Then last year, Foley introduced a new grinder which was a Neary spin grinder in a Foley enclosure, the final nail in the coffin.

Their dealer network was decimated from the Frontier fiasco and now they could compete with the Express Dual technology with a Foley grinder. There were no reasons left to keep Neary going. They have met the same fate as Mercury, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Pontiac, and Scion.

Two of my favorite people Jan 7, 2019

 

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John Patterson and Stephen Tucker are two of my favorite people with whom I share a character flaw. If we start talking about something on which we are passionate, you cannot shut us up. For me, it is about my family or my grinders. For them, it includes maintaining golf course equipment. At least with them it is interesting. They produced a great pod cast worth listening to, just make sure you wont be interrupted for about an hour.

 

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