Grindstone Reforms

cleveland_grinderWhy was the grindstone placed in that obscure corner where no light ever comes? And why was so much care taken to adjust the belt so precisely that conjointly with any pressure of the tool on the stone the belt flies off? In the present instance, by a change in the locality of the shop, and a consequent re-setting of machines, these evils have been done away with, but the places are not a few where such things still exist.

This may seem to some an unimportant subject, but in the opinion of those who work with good tools it is not. I have never owned or managed a large manufacturing concern—nor a small one either—but in a shop employing between 500 and 800 men all the year round, a large proportion of whom consist of cabinet makers, car builders, finishers, some carpenters and pattern makers, we think that a grindstone kept in condition for grinding wood chisels and plane bits would be worth its keeping.

In the place I speak of especially there is a stone which is used exclusively by the cabinet makers. It is in their department. For the rest, the stone is too fine, too far away and too slow to be used to advantage, so there is another provided which the rest are supposed to use, it being nearer at hand.

Many times have we chosen to rub our plane bits and chisels up on the oil stone, rather than botch them up on this stone. It is a good, quick-cutting stone, with plenty of speed and power; but it is like a local option town; sometimes it goes dry and sometimes wet. When it is as it generally is we have first to hunt up something to carry water in and then hunt up the water, the nearest being a barrel of soapsuds outside.

Then again there is a deposit at the bottom of the frame which on the surface has the glint of water. It is not; it is a thick yellow precipitate. This we are supposed to stir up with a stick, which may or may not be at hand. If not, we skirmish till we find one. It is admirably adapted to soil our shirts, obscure the edge of the tool and prevent it from wearing away the stone. Economy is wealth.

After the big bite that is taken out of the stone by the man who wants, and ought to have, a little one of his own, has been worn out by the continuous, careful application of chisels, etc., there follows a succession of angles and wave lines that go way past the 28th problem of the last book. A geometrician might be able to grind his knuckles on its variegated surface, but car builders, etc., want to grind their tools; they are not Euclids. When these problems are solved, there is still the cam movement, which develops a new outline every day, to catch on to.

To remedy these evils, a sign neatly written, on nice, white paper, bearing the edict, “Machinists must grind their tools in the tool room,” was placed in a wrought-iron frame and fastened to the floor near the stone. By accident, somebody happened to see it, and forthwith a strong solution of thick yellow mud was smeared over it, almost obliterating the writing. And things go on as they used to.

Now, as I said before, I have never owned an establishment, and probably never will; but in my humble opinion it would be a good scheme to enforce the order about machine tools, make blacksmiths grind their cut hammers on the stone fixed for them, and instruct a man, if one can be found who has not already more to do than he can well do, to straighten that stone up every day, keep that foul smelling filth out of the bottom and have clean water at hand ready for use.

I cannot ask them to put a wooden cover partly over the stone, with a bucket, with water in it, on top, and a spigot to regulate the flow. I don’t want to sink the place—financially. But I think that slight reforms might gradually be brought about, say in a year or two, without causing a panic.                                                                                                     —Perhaps.

American Machinist – June 9, 1892

—Jeff Burks

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One Response to Grindstone Reforms

  1. After reading this I think it’s time for a cup of coffee.

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