I'm so excited April 16, 2016

Last week I was in New York doing training and demos. I was at a very nice, old course in the Buffalo area doing a demo. The equipment manager was complimentary of our machines, particularly their precision, so I pulled out our Reel Height of Cut Gauge. His eyes got really big as he said “I’ve got that gauge. It is the best thing ever.” He said it so enthusiastically that it got my wife’s attention as she was reading her book in the front of the van. He has the IGCEMA version which had no SIP identifiers on it so he did not realize we made one of his favorite tools. A little later, the superintendent reiterated how impressed they were with the RHOC.

This week I found out that the folks at Turf Republic and Turf Addict collaborated on the video above for the RHOC, our reel height of cut gauge. I have never spoken with the folks at Turf Republic or Howard Horne, the equipment manager featured in the video. Turf Addict is the on line store that sells our gauge. It is very gratifying to see this kind of unsolicited commentary on our product. I want to thank Howard, Turf Republic and Turf Addict for producing this video. It is very well done. This kind of customer response is what gets me excited.

 

 

 

 

Parallel Universe March 19, 2016

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I was down with Jerry from Venice Country Club trying to determine why he was having problems grinding his bed knives. We knew that the mounting surface was probably twisted but we wanted to find out how well the bed knife mounting screws lined up with the shoe mounting pivot bolts. If the line created by the centers of the bed knife mounting screws is not parallel to the line created by the centers of the pivot bolts, the front face of the bed knife will be out of parallel.

If it is too far out of parallel, one end of the bed knife will be farther back and higher on the reel. If you try and set the height of cut and your rear roller is fixed, you will adjust one end of the roller higher than the other and out of parallel with the rear roller. Your reel will rock and cause a varying height of cut.

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If you try to grind the front face parallel to the pivot bolts, both the front face and the top face widths will vary. If the front face varies too much, one end will dig deeper into the turf, stand it up straighter and the cut it shorter.

So we wanted to find where the variations were taking place. We measured bed knives from the front face to the front edge of the mounting hole until we found one that was very close, within .001”. Most of the bed knives varied by less than .010”. We then mounted that bed knife as our gauge on a new shoe. That bed knife was mounted in the Ideal 6000 with a v-pallet. The front face was out of parallel to the pivot bolts by about .040”, which is a lot.

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After removing the bed knife, we then mounted precision shoulder bolts in each of the bed knife screw holes then mounted the bed knife shoe in the Ideal 6000 v-support pallet. We set a dial indicator to the top of the center bolt and zeroed it and then measured the variation. This should give us a good indication of the location precision of the holes. Eight of the holes were within +.005”, two of the holes were within +.010” and two of the holes were within -.010” for a total of .020” variation.

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We repeated the test by placing the bed knife bar on v-blocks on a granite surface table and the results there correlated very well to our previous measurements. What was interesting was that the bolt just to left of center was -.006 and the bolt just to the right of center was +.007. If you tighten the bed knife in the normal sequence, the bed knife would shift to align to these two holes. Once they are tight, the bed knife position is fixed. This would mean that the bed knife would be out of parallel by .040 to .060” which actually correlates pretty well with our initial test.

In order to minimize this effect, we postulated that after the center bolt is tightened, the two end bolts should be tightened or at least snugged up. Then you would continue back to the normal tightening sequence and finally loosening and retightening the two end holes. I am not recommending this procedure but am proposing it as something that is worth investigation. If you are so inclined, give it a try and let me know.

I was supposed to post this before I went on my trip but ended up leaving a few days early and couldn't get to it. I tried this technique at one of the clubs I was at and it changed the front face from being out of parallel by .050 to less than .010.

 

USGA publishes paper on maintaining cutting units March 12, 2016

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Brian Whitlark, Southeast Regional agronomist and John Daniels, Central Regional agronomist for the USGA have published a very comprehensive paper on cutting unit maintenance. This paper contains a lot of good, detailed information on cutting unit maintenance, including the importance of sharp reels and bed knives. I think it is a must read for any superintendent or technician who is serious about maintaining high standards on their course. You can link to the paper here:

http://gsrpdf.lib.msu.edu/ticpdf.py?file=/article/whitlark-daniels-managing-2-5-16.pdf

They also feature a video from Stephen Tucker on proper roller set up and a video of John Patterson on daily routine maintenance of greens mowers which features our Reel Height of Cut Gauge. The links in the pdf did not work for me so I have included them here:

http://www.stephentucker.net/tag/parallel/

http://www.usga.org/videos/2014/01/07/how-it-s-done--daily-maintenance-for-reel-mowers-3024092299001.html

 

Out to Pasture March 5, 2016

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No, not Larry, The van! It is a 2005 Dodge Sprinter with 460,000 miles. Built by Mercedes Benz, it has a 5 cylinder turbo-diesel with a 5 speed automatic transmission. They are, without a doubt, the best demo vehicles we have ever had. They still average about 22 mpg and can cruise all day at 70-75 mph. Despite driving in snow and mud (roads to some maintenance facilities are more like cow paths), they have never gotten stuck. The only major repair we have had was to replace the transmission in Larry’s a couple of years ago. Other than that, repairs and maintenance have averaged a little over $1,000 per year for each vehicle. Inside, they have plenty of room with six feet inside height. I was riding with Larry in his van during GIS in San Diego and still can’t quite figure out why he thinks he needs a new one. It still runs great, still gets over 20 mpg and is paid for. You just can’t please some people.

We have gone through a number of iterations before we figured it out. The first was a 1994 full size Dodge van with the short wheelbase. The grinder was on wheels and did not have any enclosure. I had a set of wooden ramps and a come-a-long to load and unload the grinder at each demo. That was a lot of work but it did have one advantage. I would find an uneven spot on the floor and once I started grinding, I would rock the grinder without it affecting the grind.

The next vehicle was a 1995 pewter and red Ford F150 with a matching tall topper. We added aluminum ramps and a power winch for loading and unloading. In 1997, we added the Ideal 1000 bed knife grinder so we bought a trailer and painted it to match the truck. It looked pretty sharp, but we still had to load and unload for each demo, still too much work. Later that year, we bought a used 1993 Isuzu box van with 100,000 miles from Ryder. This was the worst vehicle we ever owned. We only had if for a little over a year and put less than 50,000 miles on it. It sucked a valve and had to have a top end rebuilt and then the transmission disintegrated and had to be replaced. With a top speed of 65 mph, it only got 10-12 mpg. But it proved the concept of permanently mounting the grinders and doing the demo in the vehicle. It was replaced with either a 1998 Ford F150 pick up or E150 van, depending on the salesman’s preference, as a tow vehicle with a trailer large enough for demos. We still have one of those vans we use for local errands

In 2000, my salesmen convinced me that we should get Ford Powerstroke diesels to pull custom built toy haulers. These were extended four feet so that we could put a demo shop in the back and the salesmen could live up front. These were the second worst and real money pits. They needed a new set of tires every year and something was always broken.

My daughter inherited the 2000 F250 and drove it for three years in high school and another five years in college. Apparently, boys are intimidated by a 110 pound, 5’4” blonde girl driving a Powerstroke with a 6 speed manual transmission, which I did not mind.

Finally in 2004, we switched to the Sprinters and have been real happy. Stay tuned to see the replacements.

 

Cuting Edge February 27, 2016

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Toro was showing off their new EdgeSeries™ reels at GIS a couple of weeks ago. Introduced last December, they feature updated metallurgy and an improved blade angle.

"The new EdgeSeries reels feature updated blade materials for a longer reel life, which in turn, reduces maintenance costs and increases golf course productivity. Additionally, the new reels provide an improved blade angle to promote the overall health of turfgrass by providing a cleaner and healthier cut, while at the same time reducing backlapping and grinding.”

The updated metallurgy features harder metal without making the blades more brittle. Harder metal should improve edge life without sacrificing plasticity, which means the blades are less likely to crack or chip. If you hit something with the blade, it is more likely to bend instead of break. This may present a problem for other grinder manufacturers who have not been able to grind hard reels like the Baroness or the Hustler. They have introduced special stones for the hard blades but these have not proven very successful. The Peerless 7000, on the other hand, has had no problems grinding these hard reels with our standard stone. This is because we clamp the whole reel frame down to the table top and we eliminate as many moving parts as possible, thus minimizing vibration. Both the grinding wheel and spin motor can now turn at higher rpms. All of which results in a better quality grind, even with the new, harder reels.

The other improvement, the increased rake angle, may also provide a challenge for the competition. Because they use the finger guide system (that we invented in 1902), they squeeze the blade between the finger guide and the grinding stone. As the blade count increases and as the rake angle increases, there is less room for the guide, making it difficult or impossible to add relief. With our TorqueControl™ Relief Grinding System, we use the torque from the spin motor to hold the reel blade against the grinding stone. We also use a 3/16 inch guide on the back of the blade, where there is plenty of room, to control the amount of relief. In short, we will have no problem putting relief on even the 14 blade EdgeSeries reel even at its minimum diameter.

Why are we confident that we will not have any problems grinding the new EdgeSeries reels? As part of their development, Toro tests all of their new reels at Rancho Mirage in California where they use a Peerless 7000 Reel Grinder and an Ideal 6000 Bed Knife Grinder without any problems.

 

Overwhelmed February 20, 2016

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One last thought on the GIS Show. I know this has always been the case but it really struck me at this show. We have a lot of customers come by the booth to compliment us on our machines and the support we provide. Many of them bring other potential buyers by and then take over the sales presentation, which is hugely effective. Others just want to thank us for making the extra effort at helping them. I know that trade shows are a time when customers get a chance to vent problems directly to the manufacturer, but I cannot remember that ever happening to us. I have a great group of employees who understand what it means to be a customer. They also are very aware of quality and do a good job of continuously trying to find ways to improve. Larry, our western regional manager, always gets compliments on how he takes care of customers. We also have great dealers who bird dog issues and make sure the customer gets what they need. Finally we have great customers who are willing to try new ideas, learn new things and always try to do a better job. Thanks to all, I am overwhelmed.

 

I still have a nose. February 13, 2016

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After last year's ordeal at the Golf Industry Show (see Kicking and Screaming II below), I decided that we would forego Freeman’s assistance. Anything in our booth, we would carry in. That meant no machines and a smaller booth. We set it up with a large screen as a backdrop and a projector running videos. Arm chairs were added and we had a mini theater. Larry’s wife, Debbie, did a fantastic job making curtains to give it the perfect finishing touch. Thanks again, Debbie. But I still had to wonder if I wasn’t cutting off my nose to spite my face. Would people still stop at the booth if we didn’t have product to show them?

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To minimize that problem, I had Darwin, our semi-retired general manager, build a one quarter scale model of our Peerless 7000 reel grinder. With a little bit of love and a lot of swearing, this is what he came up with. It is amazing. When I showed it to John (above), he spent 20 minutes taking pictures. The door opens, the head moves back and forth, the grinding wheel in-feeds, and the spin motor articulates and plugs in. It was a huge hit at the show. It was also just as effective as the full size machine for explaining features and benefits. Several other exhibitors came by and commented that we had the right idea. Tom Rogers from R&R stopped in and called us cheaters. Even the folks from Foley came by and had to admit they were a little jealous of how quickly we could move in and out. But most importantly, we saw a general increase in traffic in our booth.

So, an hour and half to move in, 45 minutes to move out, 4 days away instead of 10, increased traffic, and I can still smell the roses.

Kicking and Screaming II February 6, 2016

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I am writing this just before I leave for the Golf Industry Show in San Diego and I am dreading it. Last year at San Antonio was the worst show since the last one they had in San Francisco. The cost for attending these shows is mind boggling and we do everything we can to economize short of not attending. You will notice that none of the lift companies attend any more. How did they get away with that? Did they all get together and mutually agree not to attend?

We begin by driving our equipment in a rental truck rather than send it by freight line. The trucking companies charge double or triple to deliver to a trade show for reasons that will become obvious in a minute. This also guarantees that our equipment will arrive on time, but for the trip from Tampa to San Diego, I would have to leave five days before the show starts, three days for travel and two days for set up. Then the two days of the show, one day tear down, and three more days home for a total of ten days. And at my age, a few more days to recover.

The check in process is just as painful. In San Antonio, the marshaling yard was more than ten miles from the convention center. It had no facilities and the check in office was a half shipping container with only enough room for one exhibitor at a time, so we had to wait in line, outside in the freezing cold for over an hour.

Move in was worse. We got the booth set up and waited around for a fork lift driver to deliver our equipment to the booth. When they did, they brought the equipment and set it down in the aisle in front of our booth. We told them they were supposed to put it in the booth but they refused, they said that would cost extra. Two hours later, we got a hold of a supervisor who confirmed that it would cost extra to move the equipment into the booth because the booth was not ready. When we told him the booth was ready when the equipment arrived, he hemmed and hawed and finally relented. It’s like pulling teeth.

It gets even worse. Rather than try to beat the rush at the end of the second day, we waited until the following day when things would be calmer. Larry heads to the marshaling yard to check in while the rest of us pack up the booth. Again in freezing temperature with no facilities, Larry waited over five hours. The only thing that saved him is that I keep snacks in the truck. It turns out most people were skipping the marshaling yard and going directly to the loading docks. The folks at the loading docks were not checking for passes and not allowing trucks over from the marshaling yard unless they had an open bay. What a fuster-cluck.

The worst part is that almost none of the salesmen from my dealers came because they were economizing. This was especially disappointing because we had a record number of new product announcements and nobody to show them to.

I had an interesting conversation with a superintendent who was in a focus group for improving the show. He suggested that they move it to an eighteen month schedule. This would allow northern venues to host the show in the summer which is also the time southern courses tend to be less busy. He was quickly put down. The show is how they make their money, serving the industry is just a secondary concern. If any one of the big three decided to spend their money more wisely and not attend, it could mean the end of the trade show all together.

Enough ranting, let’s have a great show and come by and see us in booth 4501.

Kicking and Screaming February 1, 2016

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I am being pulled into the 21st century kicking and screaming. January 1984, I was a young professional getting ready to buy my first computer, an IBM PCjr. An electrical engineering friend said I should check out the new computer from Apple so I went to the local retailer. I played with MacPaint and then wanted to try a different program. This meant ejecting the 400K floppy disc so you could insert a different disc on which was the operating system, program and any data files. I looked for the eject button and could not find it. It wasn't underneath the front bezel, on either side or the back. I thought this computer was supposed to be intuitive, but I couldn't even figure out how to eject a disc. I gave up and asked the clerk. He grabbed the mouse, went up to the Special menu then clicked and dragged down to Eject. The disc came out on its own. That was an aha moment, anything I needed to do was probably somewhere in those menus across the top of the screen. Yeah, this was intuitive.

I went back to work and my friend asked what I thought. I told him I had to check with my wife but I was pretty sure I was going back after work and spending about $4,000 on the Macintosh and accessories. About an hour later, Mike Ramsey, Special Vice President for New Product Ideas, came down to my cubicle because he had heard that I had seen the new Macintosh and wanted to know what I thought. Dr. Ramsey, both a medical doctor and a PhD in engineer invented the Dinamap, the first blood pressure machine.

When I went back that night to buy my computer, they had just sold the last one...to Mike Ramsey. I had to wait until the next month's allotment arrived and I became a computer geek. I always had the latest equipment and subscribed to every magazine related to the Macintosh. I was the go to guy for any questions. I set up a complete network of Macintoshes in 1986 for my wife's company a full decade before they had their pcs on a network.

Then I bought a company and keeping up with technology was not a top priority unless it was going to be useful. I still do a lot with the computer including creating all of my engineering drawings on CAD, using page layout for brochures and manuals, relational database development for production control, digital video for sales and training videos and web site development.

But now I have to do social media; blogs, posts, tweets, likes, unfriend; what the hell is all of that stuff. So I went on that internet to try and figure it out. I have settled on a blog on my company's web site with Facebook and Twitter accounts to let you know when I post a new blog (did I say that right?)

The blog will mostly be about technical issues golf course superintendents and equipment technicians should be interested in but I may also throw in some unrelated items or stories that I find interesting.

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