Sears RIP Oct 13, 2018

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As part of our upgrade to the assembly area, I am creating a specialized tool box for each station. You may remember that I originally had peg boards but that did not work out. I looked for boxes at Northern Tool (too expensive), Harbor Freight (too cheap), and Lowes (not the right kind). Did you know that Lowes now carries Craftsman tools? This was a Sears exclusive brand for tools. It was used by serious hobbyist and some professionals. Their tools came with a lifetime warranty, even if you broke it on purpose. I have Craftsman wrenches that I inherited from my Dad that are older than me. So I went to Sears to look. It broke my heart. It seemed that their tool department was one quarter the size of what I remembered with no where near the selection. They did have the tool boxes I wanted on sale but not in stock. I ordered them and got them the next week.

Sears was the original Amazon. We got their annual mail order catalog that was three inches thick. I would spend hours as a kid day dreaming about what I could do with stuff they had. I still remember bird cannons. You would load a shell into it, pull a string to fire it so that it would make a loud noise and scare the birds away from your crop or garden. Did you know that you could by a kit from Sears with everything you needed to build a house. It would arrive by train and all you needed to add was the labor. Sears sold these homes from 1908 to 1940. Sears also made their own cars from 1908 to 1912 which were also available via mail order, delivered by train and required some assembly.

Today, Sears is on the verge of bankruptcy. At their peak in 2005, after the merger with K-Mart, they had over 3,500 stores. Today, it is less than 900. If instead of buying K-Mart, they had invested in internet sales, they could have been Amazon. It was in their DNA.

Sears was started in the 1880’s, close to the same time the Root Brothers Manufacturing was founded. According to the museum sign above, we were competitors. Our company originally made shoe lasts and leather working kits. The SIP Grinder Division wasn’t added until 1902 and they were the market leader until the 1960s or 1970s. The Root brothers, the sons of the founding Root Brothers, both died in the 1960s and all of the divisions of what was then the Fate Root Heath Company were sold off. That company had made trucks, cars, tractors, yard locomotives and ceramic and concrete extrusion machinery as well as lawn mower sharpeners. Today, the SIP Division is the only one left still making products. It hasn’t been easy. We do it by innovation. We don’t just add new “me-too” products. When we add a new product, it has to be significantly better than anything else. We are an engineering driven company that listens to our customers. That’s where we get our ideas. Thanks.

Golf Course Equipment Managers and Technicians on Facebook Oct 6, 2018

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This Facebook page is a great resource for anyone who is responsible for maintaining equipment on a golf course. You can ask for help, pass on tips and share any relevant information. Turf Addict is partnering with SIP to sponsor their Photo of the Month contest. So join, login, and share your photos and you may win a Pi Tape.

The Reel Story Sep 29, 2018

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Two of the smartest people I know in this industry, John Patterson and Stephen Tucker, co-authored this blog about cutting unit maintenance. I agree with everything they say mainly because they are smarter than me. So it should not come as any surprise that we make almost all of the products you need to achieve Level 7 including our new Granite Leveling Plate that sells for less than $300. The only thing we are missing is a way to true the rollers. I do have a prototype attachment for our reel grinders that works really well on steel rollers but we are still working on a medium that can grind aluminum.

How do you grind that? Sep 22, 2018

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John P. is an 84 year old inventor and skilled machinist. He helped us out in our shop last winter when we had a hard time finding a replacement for the machinist who left. He is back in his own shop with his brand new CNC Milling Machine, He is using it to manufacture his latest invention, a sitz bath, which is a device used for rectal soaking therapy. It is used typically after rectal surgery. John had the surgery and used the device. His problem was that whenever he started the therapy, it caused him to have to urinate. His sitz bath sits on a toilet and has a built in urinal.

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He has extra capacity with his CNC mill so he is making some high volume parts for us. When I was out at his shop, I saw this 1902 (the year SIP Grinders was started and also 6 years before the first Model T Ford) Ransome gasoline powered lawn mower, or as they called it “Motor Mower”. The gentleman who bought it in 1902 used it a few times and did not like it, so he put it in storage. It sat there for over 100 years. About 10 years ago, John saw it and did a swap with the heir of the original owner. It is an all original 1902 Ransome mower with less than 10 hours on it. When John tried to start it, he found that the magneto was bad. He sent it off to be rebuilt but that turned out to be a con. The rebuilder apparently sold the magneto and disappeared. It would be great if you could help him find a replacement magneto so pass this link on to anyone who might help.

I asked him if he would sell it. He said he would like to get it running first but has no emotional ties to it. I took that to mean he would let it go for the right price, what ever that is and more than I could afford.

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Of course, the first thing I thought of was “How the hell do you grind this thing?” You will notice that it has the blades split in the middle with opposite helix on each side. This is similar to the Victory Reel except the blades on the left are not attached to the right, instead they are staggered. Those are the original blades and have not been ground or back lapped and the do not have any relief. So while I think I could figure out a way to grind it, that would probably reduce its value. Maybe then I could afford it.

Headers are on Sep 17, 2018

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I told you a while back that Karl, my son, was planning on installing headers on his 1966 6 cylinder Mustang that he uses as a daily driver. There were several reasons. The first was that the car was significantly underpowered, especially by today’s standards and was made worse when we added air conditioning. Second is that it had the original one barrel carburetor that always smelled of gas even though it was rebuilt twice. Third, the exhaust pipe donut gasket would only last about six months even though we had it professionally installed and checked out.

We began the installation by removing the old exhaust system and welding in a port splitter into the head. After that we spent about 15 minutes trying to install the headers and realized we did not have the time, equipment or skill to do this job. My backup plan was a local mechanic who specializes in old Fords. Like most jobs of this sort, it cost twice as much as planned and took three times as long. The radiator, AC lines, transmission lines, alternator and starter all had to be removed. Body work was done on the inner fender to clear the headers and the transmission lines and AC lines had to be rerouted.

The exhaust system was a generic V8 Mustang Kit from Summit Racing. We knew we would have to do some fabrication on the front part but even the tail pipes did not fit. Our mechanic took it to his buddy with a muffler shop and he fabricated a whole new system for $400 while using only the mufflers from the Summit Racing Kit. I swapped him the rest of the kit for the chrome tips.

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The kit included a two barrel Webber carburetor with some generic linkage. The mechanic tried to fabricate a linkage but it had a real bad catch which would cause sudden acceleration. Once we had it back in our shop, we made a whole new bracket so that the motion was all down and back rather than up and back then down and back. This solved the problem.

Was it worth it? It is no speed demon but there was a 30% improvement in acceleration, even with the AC on, the smell of gas is gone. We think that the exhaust leak is permanently fixed and it sounds good. Most importantly, Karl is happy so yeah, it was worth it.

Uneven Reel Grinding Sep 8, 2018

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I have been asked several times if reel grinding can cause the reel blades to be uneven. I made this video to explain what I think is happening.

Why Not Aug 30, 2018

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I was at the YMCA the other day and saw this in the parking lot and thought to myself “Why would someone do this, make a BMW El Camino?” Upon closer look, they did a nice job. Fit and finish was very good and it did look pretty good. The inside of the box was finished in plywood but it may have been a work in progress. As I looked closer and admired it, I changed my mind and asked “Why not!”.

Revisions Aug 24, 2018

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What is the difference between a politician and an engineer?

If it doesn’t work, an engineer will try something different.

Ya, I know, lame joke but it is funny because it is true. A while ago, I told you about our mobile work stations made from scaffolding. The first one I made was all set up to do wiring and pneumatics. It had an LED light and power for the tinning pot, a peg board with all of the tools required for that work and shelves with all of the small parts used to assemble component boards and switch boxes. The only thing it did not have was enough room. Another problem was that since the bins were open, the parts would be dusty after only a few months. We moved all of the small parts to sealed cases to be pulled out when needed. The work platform was re-tasked as our parts shipping station. The grinding wheels, which were across the aisle from shipping and located on the bottom of our machine racks were moved to mobile shelves behind the shipping station. This freed up extra rack space for more machines and allows us to easily move the shipping station when we scrub the floors. The mobile shelves and scaffolding both come from Northern Tool and run about $130 to$180 each. We bought the shelves on sale for about $80. So far the changes have worked out well.

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Another design we tried that did not work was the type of glue we used to bond The Stone. It adhered well to the wood and rubber padding but did not hold once the granite slab was bonded. We changed to a different adhesive and now it works perfectly. The problem is that we made up a half dozen of the board bases with the old adhesive and it works well enough that you can’t remove the rubber padding which has been applied to both the top and bottom. Turns out they are the perfect size for many of our subassemblies and the padding both protects the subassembly as well as have just the right frictional coefficient so that it will only slide when you want.

Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” At least it only took me a couple of tries to turn these failures into success.

Lies and damn lies Aug 18, 2018

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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.

 

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