Rats' Nest December 30, 2016


Ten years ago, we bought our current building and eventually more than doubled our floor space. At the same time, we sold our Universal Gear product line which also gave us more space. The problem with having too much space is that it is too easy to pile up junk up and create these rats’ nest. The irony is that our production crew does a very good job at keeping their work areas clean and it is the management, Karl, Darwin and I, who are the slobs. So we are tackling our worst example of shelves filled with junk we will never use which includes a flat leather belt (the kind used to drive machinery which fell out of favor a hundred years ago) machine. We are going to use the shelving to store parts for obsolete machines. This will free up space in our assembly area for new products and we will add a section for used parts and accessories. We have been collecting these parts either off of our demo grinders or as trade ins on new machines. Once it is organized, I will add a page to our web site to list these used products with their prices. All will be factory reconditioned with the same warranty as a new product.

All of us at SIP wish you and yours a very Happy New Year.




Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays December 23, 2016


All of us at SIP wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays




Joys of Ownership December 17, 2016


If you have been reading my blog, you know that We have owned SIP since 1988. We originally leased a building from the previous owner with an option to purchase. When the seller, a fellow named Frank Stallings passed, the heirs did not want to sell and they wanted to double the rent. We went on a crash course to find a new location, literally. I crashed my van into the rear of a truck while I was looking at a real estate sign. Those air bags do work. The nephew of a good friend is a commercial realtor and found me three possible locations in our price range. The first was only double the size and would not be vacated for almost a year. The second wasn’t even double the size was really just an abandoned office building with low ceilings and in a bad neighborhood. The third was three times the size and had a couple of tenants in the back part of the building. One was scheduled to leave soon which would give us more than double the space with room to expand when the last tenant left. We could have had triple the space and it was the least expensive and most conveniently located. We made the offer and it was accepted almost immediately. We moved in six weeks later. We had to immediately spend $100,000 to put a new roof on the building which was 35 year old. We spent another $60,000 making improvements. That was 10 years ago and it has held up fairly well but when a building is 45 years old, you have to expect some repairs. The plumbing is all cast iron and copper, which I guess is a good thing but we have been having problems with the drains. All of the bathrooms are in the front of the building and drain into a cast iron system which runs to the front of the building then does a u-turn and runs 300 feet to the back of the building into a septic tank. We have had the plumber out twice in the last month to snake the drain. We think the vent is clogged because when you fill it with water, the urinal overflows with only a trickle going into the drain pipe. We do have good access to snake the drain but the vent goes through the roof which is 25 feet high. I also think that there is an s-bend right where the vent goes into the main drain. Monday, we are going on to the roof again to try and snake the vent. If you have any ideas, please pass them on. To make matters worse, my house is 45 years old too.




Centuries December 10, 2016


Our Amish friends in Pennsylvania have been recommending our grinders to their friends. We found a used Century 3000 that had been taken in on trade for one of them. Just like Serial Number 1 that I mentioned last week, we are going through it and making any necessary repairs and adding some upgrades. We don’t often get used grinders but when we do, they are usually already sold.

The Century Editions were a series of grinders that were painted black, and had a 10 year warranty. Don’t ask me to explain why a machine with a decade long warranty is called Century except that it sounds better. We did this in response to one of our competitors who had a 10 year warranty on their motors. They did this because the machines they were importing from England had 50 hertz motors and people were concerned about using them on the US 60 hertz system. There really is no problem using a 50 hertz motor on a 60 hertz system so they added the 10 year warranty to allay any concerns. We only sold about 20 of these grinders between 2003 and 2008. In 2008 we introduced one model where you could choose your options, the Peerless 7000. This replaced 12 different models including the Centuries. We discontinued the black paint because, although it looked good, it made it darker and more difficult to see. We now offer a 10 year warranty as an option on our grinders. I tell people that I would be glad to sell them the warranty but I don’t recommend it because it is pure profit for us. There are only a few years left of the warranty for some of those Centuries and we still have only had one warranty claim made.




Serial Number One December 3, 2016


I had intended to continue recounting the history of SIP last week but got caught up in the Thanksgiving festivities. I also realized that there really is too much history to cover in just a few blog posts so I have decided instead to create a stand alone page with lots of pictures to chronicle our history. I hope to do this over the Christmas break.



Speaking of history, I just retrieved Peerless 2000 serial number 1, the machine that restarted it all. It was originally purchased in Florida in April 1994. It was sold and returned to the factory for refurbishment and updates in 2006 by a different course in Florida. They retired it earlier this year. I found a new home for it in North Carolina that has a Peerless 2000 purchased in June of 2000. Unfortunately, their maintenance facilities were flooded twice in two weeks and the grinder was completely submerged in very muddy water. The 1994 model is in our plant now for a couple of upgrades and repairs. We are taking the flooded 2000 in trade. It is the perfect candidate for remanufacture where we completely disassemble it, strip all of the parts, repaint, rewire, re-plumb and add any upgrades and improvements. You can see an example of a remanufactured grinder here. Also, I will be posting the progress of the flooded 2000 as it goes through the remanufacturing process.


History of SIP Part I November 22, 2016


With all of the distractions over the last couple of weeks, I completely forgot that November 1 was the 28th anniversary of our ownership of SIP. In 1987 I told my employer that I would be leaving after I found a company to buy and they gave me their blessing. I was looking for a company that was national or at least regional and was not dependent on the construction industry. I also wanted a company with a product where I could use my engineering skills. After six months and no progress, I decided to quit my job and look full time. I gave myself one year. After nine months, I had looked at everything twice and decided to start looking for a job since that would probably take several months. I found the perfect job in two weeks as manager of engineering and manufacturing. The company made equipment for manufacturing circuit boards in a state of the art facility. The only problem was the owner was very unstable and I had to quit after only three months. Feeling sorry for myself, I started looking for another job and continued a half hearted search for a company to buy. I saw an ad in the paper (you remember those?) for a company called Universal Gear Corporation. I cut the ad out and left it on the kitchen table for a week. I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do. Finally, I called and the company met all of my criteria. It was on the verge of going bankrupt but that just made the price right. It was a conglomeration of companies that were liquidated in the 1960’s and included Fairbanks Morse and National Steam Pumps, Whittington Vacuum Pumps, Bradford Lathe, Universal Gear, and Simplex Ideal Peerless grinders. Over the next few weeks, I will be talking about the history of these companies dating back to the 1840’s. In the mean time, have a happy Thanksgiving.


Veterans Day November 11, 2016



November 11th was Veterans Day and I ran across this ad for Food City that I think says it all. On behalf of my family and all the folks at SIP Corporation, I want to thank all of our veterans and active duty personnel for your service to our country. May God bless.

Speaking of veterans, I was on a date night with my wife last night and my daughter decided to tag along. We went to PDQs, a fast food restaurant that features some very good chicken tenders. I had just read a national news story about 250 protesters in Tampa’s Ybor City running into about 50 Marines having a bar crawl to celebrate the 241st birthday of the Corps and to raise money for Wounded Warriors when it started to get ugly. The Tampa police were able to come between the two groups and keep the peace. When we ordered our food, there were two police officers in line next to us so I mentioned the article. They were very nice and said that it had been tense for about ten minutes but ended well. We ended up sitting at the table next to them so they began to elaborate. It apparently started when the protesters stopped in front of the pub full of Marines. Words and gestures were exchanged and the police immediately formed a human barricade between the two groups. He said their could have been arrests on both sides as the Marines had been celebrating for a while if you now what I mean and the protesters were parading with out a permit. The cops told me they were worried about keeping the Marines out of the brig and the protesters out of the hospital as five to one did not seem quite fair even if half the Marines went back in to the pub to continue drinking. I mean seriously, what kind of idiot picks a fight with a drunk Marine. The cops did a great job and kept it mellow.

I always thought that most cop shows on TV were not realistic, there were always too many beautiful people, but as my daughter commented, these two officers we met would have put most Hollywood actors to shame. They were bicycle officers so not only were they really good looking but they were buff. One officer told us that the new shirts he just got had to be altered because they were cutting off the circulation to his arms. When they left, I noticed them engaging with several other families with small children and giving them little gifts. Meeting and talking with those officers was a wonderful experience and one of the best date nights we have had in a while.


More Fuzzy Math November 5, 2016


Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for their first World Series win in 108 years, especially the Tampa Bay Rays contingent of Manager Joe Madden and World Series MVP Ben Zobrist. Has a utility player ever won MVP? He played every position for the Cubs except pitcher, catcher and third base. When the Cubs last won the World Series the speed limit was 10 mph, average pay was 22 cents an hour, there was no sliced bread and 95% of doctors did not have a college degree.

That got me reminiscing about my first job out of college at Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) making $6.50 an hour. I was put in a room with about 40 other engineers, all sitting at drafting boards. The company had about 10,000 employees in Orlando of which 6,000 were engineers. Half of those were like me and working on a drafting board. We had first three then later six computer stations for running CAD (Computer Aided Drafting). It was in a dark room because the computer monitors were not that good and we were limited to four hours a day. It cost our project $50 per hour to use the terminal so one month at four hours a day would have bought a pretty nice car. Of the 3,000 or so engineers producing drawings, only about 30 were trained on CAD. I got to be one of the trainers and also did a cost analysis that showed even with the $50 per hour computer time cost on an IBM 370 main frame, drawings cost half as much to produce and less than 10% to maintain with CAD.

As well as creating engineering drawings, we had to do dimensional analysis. It was believed that the customer (the Navy) was being too conservative with the tolerances, making the product more expensive to manufacture. The senior designer on our project was asked to do an analysis and sure enough, he proved that we could relax the tolerances. It was ten pages long and nobody could understand it so they asked me to double check his work. It took me a couple of days to sift through the analysis and try and duplicate his results when I found his mistake. When he added dimensions, he added the tolerances. When he subtracted dimensions, he subtracted tolerances. When I tried to explain it to my boss, he was not convinced, so I came up with the example above. If you have a piece of metal and you machine it to 3 inches long with a tolerance of ±.010, it can vary from 2.990 inches to 3.010 inches. I then machine a step in the block of one inch again ±.010 so the step can vary from .990 to 1.010. What is the size and tolerance on the remaining step? The nominal size is 3.000-1.000=2.000 but if I subtract .010-.010=.000. I will have made a feature that is exactly 2.000000000 inches while only using machining tolerances of ±.010. If this were true, I would be very wealthy for being able to create exact features. It is obviously not true and the answer is 2.000±.020 or 1.980 to 2.020. My boss understood that, and my reward… redoing the whole analysis, which proved the Navy was right all along.




Death by a Million Cuts October 29, 2016


While researching my blog post “Passion” about frequency of clip, there were several articles and forum posts where engineers used fuzzy math or technical explanations that were overly complex and hard to follow. Sometimes this is done more to impress the layman than to actually prove a point. It reminded me of some of my competitor’s early literature that used the same technique. The first image above is from early literature and it includes a mathematical proof that the reel is moving at 844,570 inches per minute. Now the cardinal rule for a mathematical proof is that the units on the left of the equal sign have to be equivalent to the units on the right: apples on the left and apple slices on the right not orange rind. In the proof above, that rule is broken in every single step. So I was a little suspicious. Inches per minute is not a normally used unit for speed. It is either mph or feet per second (kilometers per hour or meters per second for the rest of the world). So I converted 844,570 inches per minute and got 1,173 feet per second, a much more manageable number. I was about to convert it to miles per hour when it struck me that the number sounded familiar. I did a little digging (this was before google) and found that the speed of sound is 1,100 feet per second. So what they were saying is that the blade tip is traveling faster than the speed of sound.


In a later seminar they upped the ante and claimed 1.2 million razors per minute. This time they did not provide the mathematical proof and used made up units. They did all of this to prove that the cutting action of a reel was a scythe not a scissor. They were wrong.


My father was a B17 pilot in World War II. He was also a college aviation professor and aviation historian. I remember him telling me about an experimental fighter the Air Force built. It had to be supersonic and they wanted it to be propellor driven for efficiency. This time I was able to use google to find the plane unaffectionately known as Thunderscreach. In order for the plane to fly at supersonic speed, the specially designed propellor also had to spin at supersonic speeds thus creating a constant sonic boom. It was so loud that it could be heard for miles and made both the pilot and ground crew physically sick. They only built two of these planes and only flew one of them twice before the project was scrapped.

This tells us that a reel is probably not spinning at supersonic speed or it would be unacceptable for early morning mowing. In fact the actual calculation is pi multiplied by the diameter multiplied by the rpms which results in 28 feet per second not 1,173 feet per second. So beware of fuzzy math, it could kill you, or at least make you sick.


Flattery October 25, 2016



It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While researching last week's blog, I discovered a video produced by Hector Velazquez for TurfNetTV on how to use the SIP pi tape. It basically covers the same information that our video does. It just kinda sucks that the imitation is better than the original. Oh well, I guess I should accept flattery any chance I get. Good job Hector, thanks.


Passion October 14, 2016


As I have said before, normally I am pretty reserved but if the subject turns to my family or my grinders, I become very passionate. So I am not surprised when I run into a superintendent or mechanic who becomes very passionate about cutting grass or fixing cutting units. I was recently asked my opinion on an ongoing debate in a chat room. The original question was “Could a reel worn to its limit cause marcelling?” The answer would seem to be yes since both Jacobsen and Toro list reel diameter as a factor in marcelling in their trouble shooting guides, however, they do not explain why it is a factor. This is where the debate began.

The contention was that as the reel diameter shrinks, the reel speed slows and since reel speed is a factor in clip rate then marcelling can occur. The problem with this argument is that reel speed is an imprecise term. Some use it as the rotational speed in revolutions per minute (rpms) while others use it to describe circumferential speed in units like inches per minute (ipms). These two are not interchangeable, they do not mean the same thing.

One of the arguments put forth by an engineer seems to say on one hand the rpms remain constant over the life of the reel but in the next paragraph he seems to say that 10% reduction in the reel diameter results in a 10% reduction in the circumferential speed, ipms (true) which also means a 10% reduction in rotational speed, rpms (not true).

Several analogies were used on both sides of the argument. Does the clip rate change from one end of a reel to the other if the reel is coned? I thought that was pretty clear but folks still disagreed about what it meant. There were analogies using baseball bats or balls of different sizes rolling on the ground. They have to spin at different speeds to cover the same amount of ground. These are not good analogies because the reel does not roll on the ground. It “floats” above the ground and spins at a constant rpm regardless of ground speed. A better analogy is to put all three balls on a skewer and spin the skewer while walking.

I thought a lot about how I could develop a simple mathematical proof or come up with a better analogy. The problem with that is it requires you to visualize what I am saying and your sub-conscience bias will affect how you see it. So I decided to create the animation above (also on YouTube) which I hope, clearly shows that reel diameter does not affect clip rate.

That answers the sub question but still does not answer the initial question as to whether a worn reel can cause marcelling. If it does, it is not because of a change in the clip rate. I will be exploring this further in a presentation I will be making at the Golf Industry Show in Orlando. Hope to see you there.


The Amish October 9, 2016


Mascot Sharpening is an Amish family business in Eastern Pennsylvania that sells and services manual and horse drawn reel mowers. They had been using an Express Dual for spin grinding, an Ideal 900 for relief grinding and an Ideal 50 for bed knife grinding. They had called us about our grinders and we pointed them to a gentleman in western Pennsylvania who has been using our grinders for over twenty years. He is now semi retired and sold them his Peerless 2000. In January, we received a phone message from Mascot which you can hear in the above video (or on YouTube).

We found ourselves spending the weekend in eastern Pennsylvania last month and realized we were less than an hour from Mascot Sharpening. We could not call ahead because they don’t have a telephone. To call us, they had to hitch up their carriage and go into town. Their business is located on the family farm where we saw them using a horse drawn thresher. We first met the son and spent about an hour with him answering questions and talking about grinding. Both the Ideal 900 and 50 grinders had been converted to air motors which run off compressed air. The shop is lit by either sun light or gas lamps and is heated with a wood stove. They do have a few machines which require electricity which they generate with a diesel generator. They have made a few modifications to the grinder because all of the mowers they grind do not have a front roller. While we were talking, we watched his three children outside playing (not Pokemon) and their youngest child, a beautiful girl about four years old, came up to my wife and chatted with her before returning to play with her brothers. Then the grandfather returned from his errands in his carriage, drove it into the garage and unhitched his team. We spoke with him a while and he repeated his opinions of the Peerless versus the Express Dual.

Meeting and talking with the folks at Mascot was a wonderful experience and their comments were very gratifying especially considering that they have been sharpening reels for generations.


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FuzzyMath1 MillionCuts3 MillionCuts4 MillionCutsThunderscreach1 Hector1