Sunday, December 11, 2011

V2.34 - Some Tools Defined

We’ve talked about some of these machines, so just in time for the holidays, here are some definitions for those who might be thinking about buying someone a tool for Christmas.

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your coke across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.
BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench at the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh, dang!'
TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit. It is especially valuable at being able to find the EXACT location of the thumb or index finger of the other hand.
TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.
SKIL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.
STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes , trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

Yes, these tool definitions are a bit ‘tongue-in-cheek’, but the underlying theme heads right back to: Be SAFE, not sorry.

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

V2.33 - Rusty tools? What to do.

We got a good question from Donald in Arlington, TN for this week (my, does our paper get around or what?). Donald says: “I don’t use my woodworking machines a lot, but when I do try to use them, they have a coat of rust on the tables. How do I stop that?” Hint: the more you use your tools, the less rust will be able to grow on them.

While I am tempted to just answer Donald’s question, I think you all might be better served by knowing what to do when you find the rust, then we can learn how to prevent it. First off is to clean the rust from the surface. How to do that really depends on how severe the rust is. For this column we’ll just deal with light surface rust. You can use fine or medium size steel wool, or a palm sander with 220 or 400 grit paper, or even wet or dry sandpaper and sand the rust off. My favorite method is to use a sanding block with 220 grit ‘wet or dry’ sandpaper and sprinkle a bit of nail polish remover (acetone) on the table and use that as the paper’s lubricant. Sand the whole table and then wipe the surface thoroughly with clean rags soaked in acetone. Once the surface is clean, dry the area very good…because now comes the ‘How do I stop that?’ part.

The ‘old school’ method is to coat a good rust-free surface with Johnsons paste floor wax and lightly buff it. Don’t remove all the wax, just try to make the coat spread evenly. The modern ‘hip’ method is to use a product called Boeshield T-9® (you can find it at Sears) and follow the directions on the package. CAUTION: Do NOT use automotive wax. Most of them have a high water content and will actually cause the rust you are trying to prevent.

On woodworking tool surfaces Boeshield T-9® recently topped all other surface treatments in Wood Magazine's article on “Rust Busters”.
The formulation is based on a unique combination of solvents and waxes and is designed to penetrate metal pores and dissolve minor corrosion, then leave a resilient waxy coating that lasts for many months.

During my years in Technical Service on woodworking machinery, we consistently recommended the paste floor wax and our customers had great success using it. It’s like a ‘tried and true’ method for preventing surface rust. Fortunately, I’ve heard so many good things about Boeshield T-9® that I am confident in that, also. Thanks for your question, Donald.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

V2.32 - Safety - it’s what’s for dinner

Let’s shift gears a bit this week and introduce a subject that should be near and dear to all of us - Safety. Specifically- Personal Safety in the shop. This came to my mind because of the article I did about using safety belts.

Safety is one of the basic building blocks in any shop. In fact, safety is something that we all need to be aware of in every aspect of our everyday life. Without a constant mind-set of being concerned with your own safety, you might tend to drive without using your seat belt. Without this constant awareness, you might cross the street without looking both ways. Safe thinking is something that we all need to keep on our mind.

This is especially true in the woodshop. If you ask an experienced woodworker what their most prized possession is, many of them will proudly hold up a full set of 8 fingers and two thumbs. These are the woodworkers who have been safety conscious for a long time, yet many of them will also tell you stories of how they have been very fortunate in certain situations to have escaped serious injury due to their own lapse in judgment. Many of the stories one hears of “being lucky” start out with, “Well, I was in a hurry and thought I could just do this one thing quickly…and I almost didn’t get away with it. It was really stupid on my part.”
Remember, the best safety device that you have access to is your own good sense. If something you are doing creates hackles on the back of your neck, it just might be your intuition telling you to stop before you get hurt. Don’t get in a hurry. Think through your actions first and be prepared to work safely.

You should never work on, or operate, woodshop machines if you are taking medication that makes you drowsy, if you are very tired or if you are under the influence of alcohol. These substances may cause you to ignore potential safety hazards. You should always use proper safety equipment. Eye protection is first and foremost on any safety equipment list. It should comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard. Hearing protection is also important and it should comply with the ANSI S3.19 standard. Even if you install the best dust collection system that money can buy, it is always wise to use a proper dust mask. Many people use the white disposable paper masks; however, those type masks typically allow too many smaller particles to pass thru them. I recommend using a good respirator mask that has replaceable cartridges. In extreme dust environments, there are other respirators that supply fresh air to an attached hood.

Send your questions or comments and we’ll see what we can do to help you

Friday, November 18, 2011

V2.31 - What a ‘shocking’ development

With winter coming on, and it being the time of the year with very low humidity, I’m thinking it’s time to talk about the stuff that makes us jump out of our skin. Static electricity in your woodshop. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it when using our belt sanders. You’re just sanding along, minding your own business, and then your finger gets too close to the table and POW, all of a sudden you think your wife snuck into the shop and zapped you with her Taser. But no, it was just your ‘friend’ Static Electricity. It can show up on all rotating equipment and especially in your dust collector ducts.

Static electricity in a wood shop is mainly caused by two things. First is low humidity in the air. Static is especially troublesome in winter when the outside temperatures are low. A rule of thumb is the colder it is outside, the lower the humidity is inside a heated shop. As a result, static charge builds up easily and causes shocks when the electricity discharges through contact. The problem is even worse if a shop’s dust collection system exhausts its air outside the building. This builds an additional requirement for fresh air coming in and the fresh, cold air will have low humidity once it has been heated indoors.

The second thing that causes the static electricity problem is motion between two things. In the case of a belt sander, it is the motion between the belt, platen and pulleys that causes the build-up of electricity. In the case of the dust collector or Shop-Vac, it is the motion of the particles through the hose. There are two places where the charge can build up. One is in the machine the dust collector is attached to and the other is on the person who is operating it. Fortunately, grounding the frame of the machine will eliminate the buildup of the static charge. All fixed machinery, such as a table saw, jointer, planer etc., should have its frame grounded to a water pipe or at the very least, to the ground conductor or conduit sheath of the machine’s electrical wiring. Sometimes this is not possible, especially if the machine is electrically double insulated, as is the Shop-Vac.

Beyond grounding the machine, the best cure for static problems is to try to keep the humidity in the shop from getting too low. This can be done by using bag-type dust collectors that re-circulate the same air within the shop after the dust has been removed. These collectors will also reduce your heating bill. Other ways of adding moisture to the air, such as using humidifiers, are worth considering. Another thing you can do is wear shoes that bleed off the static charge rather than allowing it to build up.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

V2.30 - Bench Grinder: Tips & Techniques

Ok, back to farm…We’ll finish up our look at Bench Grinders with a few Tips & Techniques. Every once in a while, we run across something new about Bench Grinders, but most of our knowledge is tried & true, and time-tested.

First off, every ‘store-bought’ grinding wheel that I know of has blotters on its sides. ‘Blotters’ are those pieces of paper, or cardboard, on each side of the wheel. While they might look like just a convenient place for the manufacturer to put warnings and such, they actually do serve a very critical purpose. When a wheel is put on a grinder, there are metal flanges that squeeze against the sides of the wheel. If the wheel had no blotters, those flanges would be tightening up against the actual rock of the wheel and you would stand a very good chance of cracking the wheel. Blotters provide a ‘buffer zone’ between the flanges and the wheel rock and thereby cushion and distribute the tightening force. Bottom line: Don’t buy a wheel that has no blotters or, if you do, don’t put it on your grinder without making some blotters and using them.

While we’re talking about blotters, they have another use. Most manufacturers put their product warnings on them and one of the major warnings is “Do not grind on side of wheel”. Now, do most of us follow this warning? Probably not, but I am here to tell you that if enough sideways force is applied to as grinding wheel, a wheel explosion is a very real possibility. Years ago, I saw a training film (yes, “film”- not tape or DVD- I’m dating myself) wherein a grinding wheel explosion was created and it is not a pretty sight. Even though I might use the side of the wheel to do some very light & delicate, precise grinding, I’m only able to do so because of my many years of experience with this and I know that I am not applying any sideways force at all. My general advice to everyone is: Don’t grind on the side of the wheel.

Lastly, always keep the tool rest adjusted as close to the wheel as possible, in order to provide the most support for what you are grinding on. Use your safety glasses. Keep the grinder’s eyeshield in place to provide added protection. Make sure the spark arrester is in place and adjusted to within 1/8” of the wheel and always keep an open container of water handy for cooling off your material. If your grinder has a factory water pot, that’s even better. Keep it full.

These hints, and our previous bench grinder columns, should help you get the most out of your Bench Grinder. Happy Grinding!

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

V2.29 - Seat Belts – buckle up, please

If you’ve spent any of your precious time reading these little articles of mine, then you’re probably aware that I’m known to go off on a tangent at times. Welcome to the latest one.
We recently had another youngster die because she was not wearing her seatbelt and got ejected from her car in a vehicle accident. I’ve seen reports that ‘she was doing everything correct- not speeding, not drinking, etc’, but when she chose to drive without her seat belt buckled, she was putting her life at risk when this just did not have to be. Please understand, I am not ‘piling on’ and saying she caused her death. I have nothing but compassion for her friend and relatives. I am so sorry that they have to go thru this, but people, if you don’t want your folks to possibly go thru this - buckle your dad-burn seat belt.
How anyone can drive a car without fastening their seat belt is beyond my understanding…but it was not always this way. I used to drive cars that did not even HAVE seatbelts. (Please note that I have installed seat belts on all 3 of my antique cars. I will not drive without them) I can remember driving my 1950 Ford all over the country without it even having a seatbelt. It does now.
My ‘moment of realization’ came in 1990. I had been driving my dirt stock car for 3 seasons by then and wouldn’t even THINK of racing without wearing my 5-point harness. (On the side note, I wonder why all racecars have shoulder harnesses and lap belts? Perhaps because it can save the life of the driver in an accident?... well DUH) So, here I was driving down the interstate in Memphis, TN on my way to work in my 1982 Chevette (yes, I had one - don’t laugh) no seatbelt on and it was raining cats & dogs. Well, all of a sudden, I started hydroplaning and the car began to slide sideways on the road. Fortunately, there were no other cars close to me and I just let off the gas pedal and when the car slowed down enough, I got traction back. Well, I got to thinking, ‘what if I had slid far enough to slam into the guard rail? Most likely, I would have been thrown across the car and would not have even been behind the wheel any longer. You can’t drive if you are not behind the steering wheel.’ Those were my thoughts…and I immediately buckled my seat belt and have not driven a car without doing so since.
My point is, why risk your life if you don’t have to? EVERY time you get out on the public road, something my happen to you. They are called ‘accidents’ for a reason – no one plans them. PLEASE buckle your seat belts and live to tell about it.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you. _______________________________________________________________

Friday, October 28, 2011

V2.28 - Care of your Bench Grinder wheels

Last week we talked about one of the staples in every shop, the Bench Grinder. This week, we’ll continue that theme and talk about the ‘care & feeding’ of your grinder.

Just for a bit of clarification from last week, my point about using a slow speed grinder (which is what a 1725rpm grinder is called in the industry) is that one needs to be careful when grinding metal and not heat the metal up too much. With a slow speed grinder, it is much easier to keep the grinding heat under control.

Ok, let’s talk about one of the natural problems with any grinder. After some grinding time, the face of the wheel will get ridges, or become tapered and one must “re-face” the wheel to get back to a smooth grinding surface. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Some grinders, the more professional models, usually have an accessory that is used to re-face the wheels. It bolts on in place of the tool rest and uses a diamond-tipped tool to re-face the wheel. Having one of these makes the task much easier. Unfortunately, not all grinders offer that. If your grinder isn’t that sophisticated, just buy the diamond-tipped tool and use it free-hand. The technique is not that hard to learn, in fact, if you have had enough grinding experience to get your wheel out of shape, you certainly have enough experience to re-face it.

So, let’s say that you don’t have the re-facing accessory and you must do it free-hand. The diamond-tipped facing tool I am most familiar with has a round shank, so that is what I will speak to. The technique is to place the tool on the tool rest as if you were trying to grind the diamond off of the end. Support it very well with your hands. In fact the tighter you hold it, and control it, the straighter your face finish will be.

Make sure you have your safety glasses on, and turn the grinder on. Put the tool on the tool rest. You would let the diamond tip touch the face of the wheel very lightly- you do not want to ‘deep grind’ this- and move the tool side to side as straight, and smooth, as possible. Keep the tool at 90degrees to the face of the wheel and realize that the high points of the wheel face will require a lot of material removal before you will get close to having a straight wheel face again. With patience and a bit of time, you will again have a smooth wheel face to use.

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V2.27 - Bench Grinders: one of the ‘must haves’

I would wager that most anyone who has a shop, or works in one, would be among the first to tell you that one of the most necessary tools in their shop would be their bench grinder. This may not apply for some specific woodshops, but since Toolsmartz is about ALL shops, we can cover it.
Bench grinders come in many different sizes and the major defining factor about them is the wheel diameter. Most people would not say, ‘yea, I have a one half horsepower bench grinder’. No, they will be saying, ‘yea, I have an Eight-inch bench grinder’. Even the bench grinder manufacturers set up their advertising literature in this fashion. The grinder’s horsepower and speed are somewhat of a secondary matter, after the wheel diameter, but don’t mis-understand, the horsepower and speed are critical factors when selecting the correct bench grinder, but what is usually seen is that as the wheel diameter gets larger, so does the horsepower. This allows the bench grinder to tackle harder jobs.

The deal is, when you have a large item to grind on, you really need a decent sized bench grinder. My personal philosophy is that if you have a large (meaning Ten-inch wheels) bench grinder and need to do a small job, it can handle it. On the other hand if you have a small (meaning Four or Six-inch wheels) bench grinder and need to do a big job, you can’t…or if you try to, you may burn up your small grinder. So yes, when considering what bench grinder to purchase, size does matter.

Another factor to consider is the bench grinder’s speed. This is also known as the RPM of the grinder. For most grinding operations, I prefer a speed of 1725RPM. Many grinders only come in a speed of 3450RPM, which is fine for many operations, but again, if you have a 1725RPM speed, you can pretty much always do whatever it is that you need to do. If you only have a 3450RPM grinder, I can promise you that you will overheat some items real fast.

As I suppose you have gathered, my personal favorite bench grinder is my Ten-inch, 1725RPM unit. It has no problem grinding small parts and it can handle all of my lawnmower blades without overheating them and burning them up.

Next week, we’ll continue this Bench Grinder discussion and get into some of the typical problems that you might encounter and recommendations for solving them.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

V2.26 - Hospitals are pretty- from the outside

KIDNEY STONES. Yes, I know that is a strange way to lead off a column, but this is the month for Halloween and I can promise you that those who have had them just now felt that familiar stab of pain.
As I sit writing this, I was recently a ‘preferred customer’ of the Nashville VA Hospital for 3 days. I went to their Emergency Room last Monday and didn’t leave until Wednesday noonish. Just the fact that they let me come back home is a huge plus. According to their tests, I was ½ way to dialysis when I got there.
I had my first stone in 1994 and it moved out of my kidney while I was in a college class - THAT was the worst pain I had ever felt - someone snuck up behind me and stabbed me with a foot-long butcher knife. I just KNEW that was what happened. It wasn’t, but you understand. Between 1994 and 2007, there was nothing at all, but starting in ’07, every 6 months or so, one of those little buggers would get loose and it would find its way out over the next few days. So I’m thinking, ‘as long as they keep coming out, I’m OK’.
Well, I had another one get loose on the first of OCT…and I waited, and drank water by the gallon…and waited, and it never came out. The pain stopped, so I was functional. Until last Sunday night (10-9) and it hit me again. This time I couldn’t even keep water down. Monday morning it was no better, so off to the E-room I went.
I had discussed this with the folks at the Murfreesboro VA. They had even done a CT scan and had me talk to the urologist and he had told me that if something did not go right, go ahead and get to the Nashville VA. So I did.They started doing tests, did another CT scan and slammed me into the Hospital. I kept hearing words like ‘stent’, ‘laser’, Operating Room, etc. For sure NOT what someone wants to hear, but I was hurting and dehydrated and ‘let’s go- do what ya gotta do’. And they DID.
It was not a fun time. I think the procedure was about 2 hours long- I really don’t remember most of it. Which was a VERY good thing – it HAD to hurt like crazy.
Anyway, long story shorter, my test results improved enough that they let me come home and God Bless the folks where I work, they told me not to come back until Monday. So, here I sit – recuperating and telling you about it.
Oh, one final word. When a nurse comes to draw blood, and begins to feel around in an area that you KNOW is a tendon and she is mistaking it as a vein (because you had this experience before) and you TELL her what it is and to don’t DO that…and she does it anyway- just go ahead and punch her in the nose, the pain can’t get any worse for you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

V2.25 - Getting good help when you need it

After 4 weeks of Bandsaw stuff, it’s time to take a sideways swing. I believe I have already mentioned that I am currently a consulting resource for DELTA Power Equipment Corp out of Anderson, SC. These guys are the brand new owners of the DELTA brand, and there is so much DELTA gray in my blood that if I can help them, I’m going to. The simple fact is that over the past 11 years, DELTA lost (I say ‘lost’ but as I spent a few weeks writing about, ‘gave away’ and ‘run off’ are also words that could be justifiably used) the great majority of its knowledge and documentation (old parts list, instruction manuals, etc). Seriously, I have more old catalogs, Parts Lists and Instruction Manuals in my garage than the new DPEC has inside their whole company. To a certain degree, this is because the initial company organizational setup has DPEC Service still being done by Stanley/Black & Decker. One would think that when Service is finally brought in-house (meaning DPEC controls it) that DPEC would gain access to the materials that S/B&D are currently using. I hope that turns out to be the case. If that happens, I’d still have more old catalogs, but their OLD Parts Lists would outdo mine.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I’m getting referral emails from people asking for Parts List and Manuals that go something like this: “I have a 10-inch table saw and I need a manual. Can you help me?” All well and good…except that DELTA made probably 100 different models of ‘10-inch table saws’ over the years. So here’s the meat for this week: When you’re looking for service on your tool, make sure you have noted the Model Number, Serial Number and Type Number off of the tool’s ID plate. This will go a long way to obtaining help on the first try instead of finding more questions coming back at you. Many stationary tools did not use a Type Number, that was used more in the Portable Tool world, but there are some, so that is important also. If you will pass that information along to the Service Provider, they can be better informed as to what you have and thereby be able to help you quicker. Truthfully, this advice can apply to most every product that you would get service for - washers, dryers, TV’s. Of course, cars have the VIN but the principal is still the same.
And one other thing, just within the past week, I have agreed to consult on the Parts Lists of new machines that DELTA is bringing to the market. I get to review them and see what parts should be offered as assemblies and how many should be in stock… and I get paid to do it!
Til next week…

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

V2.24 - Calming your Band Saw down

Well, unless I hear from someone, we’ve about run our course on band saws. All that might be left is a column on how to keep them from walking across the floor. I’m talking about wheel vibration in your stationary Bandsaw. Usually they are a 12”, 14”, or 16” size. For the purpose of this column, I’m talking about those Bandsaws that have a drive belt from the motor to the bottom wheel.

So, let’s say that you have one of those Bandsaws and you’ve always noticed that it seems to vibrate rather bad while you’re using it. You’ve taken the blade off and run it with just the bottom wheel in action and it still ‘shakes, rattles and rolls’. Or maybe you took the blade off and just running the bottom wheel shows that it runs as smooth as a Hunter ceiling fan. What to do?

First off, isolate the vibration – chase it down. If your saw is vibrating, take the blade off and run just the motor and the bottom wheel. If that smoothes it out, your problem is in the upper wheel. If you run the bottom wheel only and it still vibrates, the problem is in the bottom wheel or the drive system. Take the drive belt off and run just the motor. If it still vibrates with only the motor running, check the tightness of the motor pulley. If the pulley is tight and yet it still has excessive vibration with only the motor running, I’d suspect you have a bad motor. But to be sure - take the motor pulley off and run it again – still shakin? Yep, the motor.

From this point, let’s say it smoothed out after you took the blade off. You’ve got the wheel guard open, so you can get to the top wheel. Give the wheel a good spin - enough so that it can rotate for at least 10 revolutions. When it finally stops, make a witness mark at the bottom of the wheel so that you can see it. Give it another good spin and let it stop again. Check where your witness mark is. If the mark is close to the same spot at the bottom, do the spin test again and see where the mark ends up. Do this 5 times and if the mark ends up stopping in the same area at the bottom of the wheel 3 times out of 5 tests, your top wheel is off-balance and needs to be replaced.

The test for bottom wheel balance is the same, but you will need to remove the drive belt before the test. The idea is to spin just the bottom wheel, not the motor and drive belt, too.

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V2.23 - Choose the correct Band Saw blade.

Alright, we’ve got the saw cutting straight and the blade is tracking properly, but is it really cutting as good as it could? Let’s talk about that.

A band saw blade is a delicate piece of steel that is subjected to a tremendous strain. If you treat the blade right, you can get a pretty long life out of it. Basically, you’ll need to be sure to select a blade of the proper thickness, width, and temper for the material that you’re going to cut.
Always use the widest blade possible. Narrow blades should be used only when sawing small, delicate items or when making abrupt curves. Using narrow blades for resawing or heavy-duty work will just cause them to fail all the sooner.
Some band saws are made to cut ferrous metals (iron & steel) and the blades for that should be selected based on the particular job they are going to do. A metal-cutting blade should always have two teeth on the cross-section of the metal. For instance, if the cross-section of the metal is ¼” thick, you would want two blade teeth in contact with that, and since there are four ¼ sections in one inch, the blade should have 8 teeth per inch. If fewer teeth are used, the teeth will straddle the work and may be torn off and the blade ruined. If too many teeth are used (say, a 16 teeth per inch blade) the metal chips cannot clear out properly and the blade may overheat and ruin its temper… again making the blade worthless.
In general, the thicker the stock to be cut, the more teeth the blade needs to have and, in the case of a wood-cutting blade, they need to be larger teeth. Also, the thicker the stock, the slower the cutting speed needs to be.
So, what if you have used care in selecting the proper blade and you keep breaking your blades? Any one of a number of conditions may cause a band saw blade to break. Sometimes it’s just gonna happen no matter what you do, but most of the time, it can be traced to some basic things: 1- faulty alignments and adjustments of the blade guides, 2- forcing or twisting a wider blade around a short curve, 3-shoving the stock through too fast, 4 using a dull blade and trying to force it to cut anyway, 5- excessive tightening of the blade, 6- top guide set too high above the work being cut and lastly, but certainly not least 7– using a small 3-wheel band saw. Those little beasts just EAT blades… they can’t help it, they just do.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

V2.22 - Tracking your Band Saw blade.

Let’s talk a little more about the bandsaw this week.

Bandsaws can do things that table saws can only dream of, which makes them pretty much a necessity in a shop; however, they need to be set up properly and to do that one needs to keep a few things in mind.

Just to start with a proper definition, bandsaw “wheels” are the spoked or solid items/wheels that are mounted on the axles. Bandsaw “tires” are the rubber, or urethane, coatings on the rim of the wheels that the blade actually rides on. Typically, the tires can be removed from the wheels.
Most good bandsaws use a wheel/tire combination that is ‘crowned’. In other words, where the blade rides, the surface has a distinct ‘hump’ in it. This hump/crown allows the blade to be tracked (def: - centered on the tire) with much more precision than if the tire/wheel were simply flat. On the Delta 14” bandsaws that I am most familiar with, the wheel had the crown machined into it and the rubber tire was just flat rubber. When the tire was installed, it conformed to the crown of the wheel.
There are some ‘bandsaw guys’ that say the crown gives the operator the ability to adjust the blade to compensate for blade drift (our last week’s discussion), but in over 25 years, I never saw that as a workable option.
Setting up the blade tracking is not really a difficult thing, but like most adjustable items, one can wind up chasing their tail if they aren’t careful.
Tracking the blade first requires that you center the blade on the bottom tire and the top tire. Once you have the blade centered, blade tension should be applied. I like to start out with only ½ to ¾ of full tension, until the tracking gets fully set. Ok, the blade is on, the tension is set at ½ and the blade is centered on the tires. At this point, roll the wheels and see if the blade stays centered on the tires. If it does, go ahead and apply full tension and roll the wheels again. If the blade stays on and centered, you are probably good to go. If your initial testing shows the blade trying to creep towards the edge of the wheel, you will need to use the saw’s tracking adjustment to coax the blade back towards the center of the tire. When the blade stays close to the center of the tires, the saw should do its job just fine.

Next week we’ll have a lesson or two about proper Band Saw blade selection.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

V2.21 - Make a Straight Cutting Band Saw

Let’s go visit our old friend the bandsaw, this week. One of the most common problems with a bandsaw is getting it to cut straight. You start out with a nice straight line and start the cut and before you know it, the blade has decided that it wants to shoot off at an angle and destroy the part you did not want to cut. Some of the ‘old pros’ call this ‘blade drift’- I call it ‘don’t cut straight’.

Most often, here is what happens. Looking directly at the blade teeth, one notices that each tooth on the blade is bent out at a precise distance. This is called the ‘set’ of the blade. Having the teeth set outward provides clearance for the back of the blade to move through the work. It also provides some clearance for the blade to cut around a curve. However, if (for example) the teeth that are bent to the right stick out further than the teeth that are bent to the left, the blade will cut towards the right. The best solution to this problem is to purchase a high-quality blade, but I have even seen those drift sideways - right out of the box.

Another solution is to make the ‘set’ more equal - more balanced, if you will.
One way to do that would be to increase the bend of the teeth that are not sticking out as far; however, that is a very difficult thing to do. The more practical solution would be to slightly file the tips of the teeth that are sticking out too far- actually you would be ‘dulling’ them ever so little.
A method I have used is to hold a whetstone against the running blade and let the blade teeth lightly skim across the surface of the stone. A fine touch is a must, but with some practice, it isn’t hard to manage. Take your time and test the blade often by taking a test cut, so that you don’t dull them down too far.

Another thing that causes blade drift is when the number of blade teeth per inch is too high and the wood chips cannot escape from in between them. This typically shows up when doing resawing – sawing very thick wood – because the blade spends a lot of time inside the wood and can actually heat up and bow inside the wood, thereby causing a warped cut. The solution is simple: Use a blade with fewer teeth per inch.

Next week, we’ll talk a little about how to get your blade to track properly. It’s always a scary thing to be cutting along and POW! the blade pops off the wheels.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

V2.19 - Drill Press know-how

I thought that for this week, I would just go over some of the little tidbits of information that I like to call ‘Tips & Techniques’. Since we have been discussing Drill Presses the past 2 weeks, we might as well stay on topic.

One of the areas that folks need some assistance with is that of choosing the correct bit speed for their particular project. The main rule of thumb is: ‘The harder the material, the slower the bit needs to turn.’ Right behind that comes this: ‘The bigger the bit, the slower it needs to turn’. How that plays out is like this. If you’re drilling the same size hole in wood and metal, the speed will need to be slowed down for drilling into metal because it is a harder material. By the same token, if you’re drilling into pine wood and making a ¼” hole and a 2-1/4” hole, slow it down for the 2-1/4” hole. It may be that not much speed change is needed between these two, but the idea is that you don’t usually want a 2-1/4” cutter turning as fast as a small ¼” bit.

Now, let’s talk safety. First and foremost, dress appropriately when using a Drill Press. Wear your safety glasses, roll up your long sleeves and pull your hair back out of the way (IF your hair is that long). I once saw a training film that showed what happened when a lady got her long hair tangled in the Drill Press she was operating. It was not a pretty sight. She reminded me of what Custer’s men must have looked like after being scalped.

After you have all those bases covered, here’s another ‘first and foremost’- ALWAYS clamp your work. I cannot over-emphasize this. Yes, it’s a pain and not always convenient but it IS necessary. I have a nice 2” long scar on my left wrist that is a constant reminder of the need to clamp your work. The very afternoon that I was going to drive my dirt track racecar for the first time, I was making an accelerator bracket and need to drill a hole in it. The bracket was just 8” long, ¾” flat stock, with one end bent at a 45 and that was where I needed the hole. So I go to my DP and hold the long part and place the bent area on the table under the bit. I started drilling the hole and OOPS…it grabbed and swung around 360 degrees and in the blink of an eye it made a few revolutions before I could get it shut off. Unfortunately, on that first swing, the top end of the stock sliced my wrist open and I wear that reminder to this day. It looks like I tried to commit suicide. So, I tell everyone - clamp your stock.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

V2.18 - Drill Presses and their chucks: part 2

Last week we talked about putting your drill chuck on your Drill Press. I ran out of room to fully explore the subject, so here we are again.

We were at the point of what steps to take when the chuck won’t stay on the taper… it keeps falling off when you try to use it, or maybe it won’t even stay on when you try to put it on. So, we said, the first thing to do is to check and clean VERY THOUROUGHLY the taper on the DP and the chuck’s taper.

NOTE: while you are checking/cleaning those tapers, this is a good time to inspect the surface of the tapers closely. The tapers need to be smooth and free from any galling. ‘Galling’ is a machinists term that refers to the tendency of metals, when scrubbing together under force, to grind and scar each other. If your chuck has been loose on the spindle nose (unknown to you) for a while, the two parts may have galled their surfaces. IF they have, it is usually useless to try to get them to properly seat again. (The prescription is to replace both parts and start fresh.)

Ok, let’s say that you’ve checked for galling and found both the chuck and the spindle nose taper to be smooth and in good shape. Now, you’ve cleaned them again and they are absolutely oil-free and dry as a bone. Take the chuck and ram it sharply onto the spindle nose.
Now, it’s time for the 2x4 and small sledge hammer again. Swing the table out of the way so that you can get a pretty decent swing with your sledge. Retract the chuck jaws to prevent them from getting bent and put your 2x4 under the chuck. Hold the 2x4 with your ‘weak’ hand and use your dominant hand to swing that sledge upward and SMACK the 2x4 (which is against the chuck) very hard.

As I said last week, Tapers seat best with a shock to them. A good 3lb sledge and a 2x4 block will allow you to deliver that shock to the chuck without risking damage to your chuck or Drill Press.

If you continue to have your chuck fall off, there may be a misfit between the two parts, or you may be asking the Drill Press to do something it was not designed to do (like milling, or using an out of balance item in the chuck) and the design of the chuck/spindle taper was not intended to account for that.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Friday, August 12, 2011

V2.17 - Drill Press - Chucks ‘n Stuff

Drill presses are usually found in almost every shop. I was one of those ‘poor folks’ who didn’t have a drill press during my ‘learning how to work on stuff’ years and let me tell you what, by the time I got older and realized what I had been missing…hoo-boy, was life in the shop so much easier with one around.

Most of today’s ‘home/hobbyist’ drill presses use a taper to hold the chuck onto the spindle. Some manufacturers have the chuck already installed, while others ask the buyer to do it. In any event, the following information will come in handy.

Drill Press Tapers & Chucks usually fall into one of two categories: A spindle with a male taper and the chuck having a female taper; or a spindle with a female taper, a chuck with a female taper and an adapter with a male taper on each end that goes between the chuck and spindle. Each style has their place, with the adaptor style being used more on the bigger Presses.

Alright, there’s your ‘taper background’, now let’s get specific. Drill Press tapers engage (‘seat’) best with a shock. I know some manufacturers will tell you to just push them together, but that’s not the best way. Let’s say that you have a Drill Press with a female tapered chuck and the spindle has the male taper sticking down. First, clean the tapers completely to remove any oil, grease or coating that could prevent metal on metal contact. My favorite solution to this is an old rag saturated with acetone (NOTE: if you use acetone, be aware that it is highly combustible). Next, once you have the tapers cleaned, turn the chuck so as to retract the chuck jaws. Next, Place the chuck onto the spindle taper by hand. Finally comes the ‘shock’ part. Put a small 2X4 underneath the chuck jaw opening and use a small mallet (I have a 3lb sledge for this) to hit upward on the 2X4 (chuck bottom). One good sharp whack ought to do it. Once the tapers are seated properly, they will usually remain engaged unless something too large or out of balance is put into the chuck.
Let’s say that you get the chuck installed and all appears to be well. But then, one day, you turn your DP on and the chuck falls off of the spindle nose. Now, what to do?
Well first, you’d want to make sure that the inside of the chuck taper is clean and free from any oil or contaminants. Once you’ve checked and cleaned the chuck, check and clean the spindle nose also. We’ll continue here next time.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

V2.16 - Collecting dust from all over

I got a question past week that might be good to pass along to my readers. Here’s the issue: “Samples are being cut from defective units. Once the employee rough trims the pieces to approximate sizes with a circular saw they use a tile saw to finish trim them and a belt sander to clean up the edges. The samples are made from Gel-Coat, resin, wood and ½” X 1” metal bar stock. What would be the best dust collection system for this?”
In his email, he gave 3 separate issues. #1-wood, #2- not wood, #3- metal. Each of these need separate consideration. The easiest is wood. Both Delta, Jet and many others make wood dust collectors. Most units are now the single-stage style- meaning the incoming material travels right thru, and impacts, the wheel. Steel is more resistant to the material’s impact and steel wheels are what is found in the single-stage units.
With that in mind, let’s look at each: wood would be fine with single-stage units and standard bags- no issues, however, with ‘not wood’, you’d need to be concerned about the bags themselves. At its most basic, wood is a porous material- meaning if the airflow was hard enough, *some* air could pass thru it. Not so with ‘not wood’. If the inside of the bag was coated with Gel-coat or resin, the airflow would stop and either it just wouldn’t work, or the pressure would build up and cause a bag seam to rupture. Your best bet here is to just collect it in a two-stage system like Cincinnati Fan has. This was the company that Delta used to get their 50-180-series units from. You’d want your dust to just drop into the barrel and not get to the bag to clog it up. Now for metal; metal is a whole different ballgame. If you are collecting wood and metal at the same time and using a single-stage, STEEL wheel, once the wood dust got to the critical ‘lower explosion level’ of 40 grams per cubic meter of air, and a metal spark was injected into the mix, a dust explosion is a real possibility. It would be safer to use the Cincinnati Fan style, two-stage collector as they use cast aluminum radial wheels so sparking is not as much of a concern; however, if you have a pile of wood dust in the bottom of the barrel and a grinding spark of metal made it thru to that pile, you could have a smoldering fire occur. Mixing metal and combustible material is never a good thing. Metal dust collection is best handled by a dedicated unit such as Delta’s old 49-826. (for those who’ve read this far and might need a good ferrous metal dust collector, I happen to have a brand new one- never used- $4000.00 value for only $1500.00) But it will not do the multi-material collecting either. It’s not good for anything but ferrous metals.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Friday, July 29, 2011

V2.15 - Now, back to our roots

Last week I let you in on the undercover work I’m doing for the Delta Power Equipment Corp. out of Anderson, SC. These were the folks who bought the Delta brand back from Stanley-Black & Decker-DeWalt, et al… I really hope they succeed at reviving the brand and I’ll do whatever I can to help them. Right now, my role is as a consultant for knowledge on old machines and helping provide folks with copies of my personal owner’s manuals and parts lists.
A few weeks ago, I got a referred email from a Pastor in Texas who had found a 6” jointer for 50$. That’s a pretty good bargain because it was one of the ‘old school’ jointers like those that used to be in the school shops all around the USA. No aluminum fence, non-adjustable outfeed table, lightweight machine here- no sir. He really did find a good deal…but-it-didn’t-run. However, this guy was savvy enough to be able to get her running…but there were other issues.
First off, it wouldn’t run with the drive belt on. If he took the belt off AND rolled the motor shaft by hand- while it was powered up- the motor would start running and get up to speed. It just couldn’t do it like it should be able to.
When a single-phase motor acts that way, there really are only a couple of things to look at. First is the centrifugal start switch. Make sure it is not stuck in the open position. If it is, this has to be corrected or the start windings inside the motor cannot do their job of ‘kick-starting’ the motor. Second, if the start capacitor has gone bad, you’d see the same results. A simple capacitor check will reveal that. I had Mr. Pastor check both of those items and the next report I got was, ’yes, the capacitor had gone bad. I replaced it and the motor runs fine now…BUT...(here it comes)…it will plane down a 1” board just fine, but anything wider causes it to just bogg right down’. ’
Ah, now we get to the second part of his problem. My reply to him was just this: “There's no way 'anything wider than 1 inch ' should bogg a 6" jointer.
How could one ever do a 6" board, if it did?... Something's still a bit hinky...You might want to verify that the motor is actually wired for the voltage you are inputting. You're describing what happens when a motor is wired for 220v and is only getting 115v put in.”
So, Mr. Pastor re-checked the wiring of the motor and guess what? Yep, it was wired to use 220v. He changed the wiring and at last report he was ‘blowing thru 5 inch boards like butter and thanking God for his 50$ deal.’

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Column V2.14 - Murfreesboro, How do you do?

Winding down our tragic tale of woe, 2004 was a year to go in the record books. February was when NO-CS decided to move me to the South Campus and remove me from Tech Service. After 23 years of employment at Delta, it was also when I decided to put out some feelers about working for someone else. In the grand scope of things, there is only so much one can take before it’s time to move on. We had seen our company disintegrated and our brand taken over by people who just did not have what it took to manage it properly. It was pretty traumatic for those of us who actually gave a flip. Then came the huge hammer. In October, it was announced that Black & Decker had bought Porter-Cable/Delta from Pentair. This was for sure one of those Good News-Bad News kind of deals. Good News in that B&D had way more $$$ to spend on the brands; Bad News in that a purchase like this usually results in a round of layoffs… and there I sat, in a ‘Training manager’ position…more often than not, one of the first to be shown the door when the beancounters look for heads to cut.
What to do, what to do?…well, what I did was land another position over in Middle Tennessee with Porter-Cable/Delta’s main competitor. I could not have written a better fit than this was. It was doing just what I had been doing for 23 years. This move is what brought us to Murfreesboro. Unfortunately, in the long run, it did not work out, but we are still here. The area has become our home and until God changes that, here we will remain.
Obviously, much happened after I left Delta. Sorry to say, the product line was trimmed, cut and almost disappeared. For instance, in 1967, Delta (then Rockwell) invented the first Motorized Miter Box. At the time of the purchase by Black & Decker in 2004, Delta had about 10-15 miter saws in their offering. By 2011, when Black & Decker sold the Delta brand (which was the catalyst for this series of articles in the first place), there were NO miter saws in Delta’s catalog. Can you believe it? - not one.
As I said, B&D sold the Delta brand and a new group has a chance to restore a once market-leading brand to its proper place. I wish them all the best. In fact, I am doing some consulting work for them already. It seems that I have a better set of Historical files than they do, so customers looking for information on their older tools are being sent my way… Only God knows where this could lead. Maybe somewhere…maybe nowhere. He’s the Boss.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Column V2.13 - Mr. Tech Service no more

So, while the obsoleted-parts fiasco was transpiring, NO-CS was hard at work disrupting our tried and true methods of Technical Service. I get called into his office in early 2004 and get told (Note: not asked; not ‘do you think this is a good idea?’…) that I am being moved out of Technical Service and into a full-time training role. At the same time, my office will be relocating to the South Campus so that I could be segregated from the day-to-day Technical Operations.
Several things came to mind when I was told this was happening. Not really in order, but: 1] I turned down the Call Center Manager job because it would have removed me from Technical Service; 2] I was NOT a “Training Manager”. Yes, I could DO it, but it was not where my strengths lay; 3] Customers still needed the Service that only I could provide-I would still get the harder calls whether that was NO-CS’ idea or not; 4] the new office location meant doubling my commute distance each way. (the “South Campus” was the DeVilbiss manufacturing plant- about 15 miles from my home in Oakfield. The Jackson PC/Delta plant-AKA: “North Campus”-was 7 miles from my home); 5] Yes, NO-CS is the Boss and he has the Authority to do with me what he will. Was this a good idea? Not in my opinion; 6] I did NOT want to be forced into a “Training Manager” role. Mainly because I had seen first-hand what happens to ‘Training Managers’ when the company belt gets tightened up…they are usually among the first out the door.
OK, so being the trooper I am, I gave it my best shot. My first project was to serve as the Technical Advisor on a repair video for portable planers. It took about 3 days to shoot and 3 weeks to edit and organize, but the final result was a good thing. We sent it out to all of the Service Branches. My second project was to design a Flat-rate manual for woodworking machines. If you know anything about servicing cars, there exists a ‘flat rate manual’ that tells the mechanic how long each job should take. Dealerships use this manual for their job estimates. Up till this point in time-2004-no such manual existed for woodworking machines. That can’t be said any more. I designed it, wrote it, used my 23+ years of working on these machines and created one from scratch. On its face, it might have been a good idea, but NO-CS intended to use it has a hammer over the heads of our Service Branches and Authorized Service Stations. When they happened to send a claim in that was longer than what I had assigned, he was going to reduce the reimbursement rate.

Next week, same time, same place…

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Column V2.12 - Oops, they did it again

As we return to our tale of incompetence… we were talking about how we used to send John the parts that were headed for the trash bin… When Black & Decker bought the Pentair Tools Group, they had all of their parts handled by a third-party parts warehouse in the Northeast. I suppose they should remain nameless, but they were the ones who required the ultimate purge of parts. Their criterion for keeping something in stock was unrealistic to say the least. While I don’t recall the exact numbers, their decision resulted in about 8- 40foot trailer loads of parts being scrapped and sent to John. Needless to say that John was overwhelmed. What started out as a sideline to supplement his income suddenly became a full-time gig. Just trying to keep up with the inventory and identifying each part was way beyond what he had signed up for.
But John was good. He set up his own website and was posting photos and prices - a real professional operation… and then comes the “unintended consequences” of the ignorance of that ‘third-party parts warehouse’ and Black & Decker. Calls started coming in that sounded like this; Customer: “I need to order part number, 907869” – B&D: “I’m sorry, that part has been discontinued” – Customer: “WHAT? I just bought this tool 4 weeks ago and I need this part to get it working again”. Sounds like fun, huh? Yes, some parts for brand new tools got dumped onto John simply because no one had ordered one of them in the past 6 months…well no wonder- they were NEW parts for NEW tools. Now B&D was left in a pickle…the parts had been deleted from their inventory and sent to John. So, they finally did what any rational person would do when the realization hit that they had mightily messed up…they called John and asked if he could send the customer their part. Maybe ONE part would not have been so bad, but it was hundreds of parts on an ongoing basis. In other words, they wanted John to act as their source for the same parts they had just scrapped. I recall that John called me when the realization of what they wanted finally hit him. He said that he was not prepared to act as their supplier/shipper. Me being the gracious guy that I am, I told him, ‘John, you’re in the catbird’s seat. If I were you, I would make a list of all of the parts they want you to ship out- use the price list that we gave you when we started this deal and triple the prices. Then sell them back to B&D and when you have their money, ship them right back to them. THEY can then pack and ship to their customers. If they come up with more, and I am sure they will, sell them back at a 300% profit for you.’

I really don’t know how that worked out- I’ll see if I can track it down and let you know.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Column V2.11 - Riverside IS racin… 7/2/11

I know we were supposed to continue our story of scrapping parts and such, but I feel one of those infamous ‘detours’ coming on. Actually, we did something last Saturday that makes this a tale worth telling. First a little background. Back in 1988, I built a race car to race at Riverside Speedway in West Memphis, AR. My dad had raced there from 1958-1960 and as a little kid, I got bit by the ‘racing bug’. Heck, I used to eat some of the mud that came off his car. Yea, I know…but you probably ate some Play-Doh or Elmers glue, now didn’t you? Anyway, it was a lifelong dream of mine to race at Riverside. So, being single and back in Frayser in 1988, I built one and raced there for the next 6 years. But this isn’t about me.
My grandkids, as far as I know, had never been to an actual car race. Since my dad’s birthday was the 30th, we decided to make a Memphis run, celebrate his BD, go to the races that Saturday night (6-25) AND take the kids. Turned out their parents decided to go with us and that was good, too.
Anyway, we got there and I had taken my camera in case a ‘kodak moment’ happened. We’re sitting in the stands and I see an old friend of mine on the track. Bud Ward is still racing and winning. So, during a break in the action, I went down and talked to Bud and after we caught up on the past a bit- we hadn’t seen each other since 1994 - I asked if he would mind if I brought the kids down and let them sit in his car and took some pictures. He gave me a big ‘ol “heck no - man, bring ‘em on”. So I went up and let everyone know what was going to happen after the races and the kids then cheered for Bud to win his feature race. As I expected, Bud ran away with the race and led flag to flag. There was one close call when a lapped car got completely sideways in front of Bud, but he dodged it and won going away.

After the races, we went to Bud’s pit area and proceeded to take some pictures. At first the 5yr old boy-kid wasn’t sure he wanted to get in the car, then his 7yr old sister showed him it was a breeze and she got her pictures taken first. She looked like a natural behind the wheel...she might need a racing kart to drive before too long. Well, then the boy gets behind the wheel and he might need watching also. His expression looked like a driver who was about to put Kyle Busch into the 3rd turn wall (which is fine with his grand-dad).

Needless to say, it was a very memorable night and it won’t be the last one.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Column V2.10 - Scrapping parts; Left & Right 6/30/11

So we mentioned the continuing slide… some things just made no sense and some things were simply a difference in corporate philosophies.
For instance; pre-‘merger’ Delta used to hang on to service parts for E-V-E-R. In fact, in over 19 years in Memphis, I can never remember a wholesale reduction in parts inventory of the type that we immediately got exposed to in Jackson. Actually, the first one I remember was after the ‘merger’ was announced and I suppose someone at PC told them to purge some stock. We were filling up tubs with parts that I could personally ID as being from 1970 bench-top tools. We probably scrapped (a business term meaning- throwed in the trash bin) 6 or 7, 3x4x3size tubs of parts. Would we have ever sold them? Who knows, but it’s a good example of Delta’s concern for those tool buyers who love their older units and wanted to keep them running. On the opposite side of the coin, Porter-Cable had no qualms at all about tossing every service part that they had not sold a certain amount of during the year. It was almost funny. We got to Jackson and one of the first projects we had to do was go thru our parts sales record and see what we sold and quite literally, if we had not sold 5 of that part in the past year, we had to scrap them and discontinue offering it… and here we (Delta guys) thought we had done such a great job getting rid of old parts before we came to Jackson… oh, well…so, we did that…and 5, 18-wheeler trailers later…yes, FIVE… we had a mess of parts that were going to the scrap yard.
Fortunately, I had a boss who would listen to me at the time and I told him this was ‘cutting our nose off to spite our face’…but what to do? Well, the timing was good in that I had just met a fellow in Richmond, IN and he was a stay-at-home-dad looking for something to do. We discussed it and he created his own business selling discontinued Delta parts, from what we GAVE him. Yep, those 5 trailer loads of parts. I don’t recall who paid the freight, but I think it was PC-Delta. Anyway, John had a nice racket for a while. When we discontinued a part, we shipped the remaining inventory to him and he sold them to whoever sent him some money.
This went along well until Black& Decker took over. They narrowed their criteria down to having sold 10 or 15 of that part during the year, so they ‘purged’ 8 more trailer loads and thankfully, they were sent right to John, per our agreement.

I’ll let you know how that worked out next week.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Column V2.9 - Thanks, 007 6/23/11

Our long sordid tale is winding down…we’ve finally gotten to the point of NO-CS asking me, point blank, if I was Delta007, and I told him yes. I really did not know what to expect, but I guess I should have. What I got was ‘This is an unmoderated forum and you’re not authorized to be helping Delta customers on there. You need to stop.’ I didn’t even try to argue. By this time, we had seen enough of NO-CS that I knew he couldn’t be reasoned with - no use to try.
Looking back over the years and having dealt with many different personalities and managers, being faced with this sort of a short-sighted control-freak was probably the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and started me to seriously consider that my time with Delta was over. I had never been faced with such disdain for customers in my life. Making me cease helping them went against everything that I had spent more than23 years doing…I was not happy…. and neither were our customers. Here’s a few direct quotes: “There used to be a member from Delta that helped us on his own and Delta made him stop. Delta007, IIRC. Great guy, great Idea, Dumb Delta move. He defused many a complaint.” One of Woodnet’s members sent this message to the Co. President: “I feel obligated to drop you a note to express my appreciation for your employees. I am an avid woodworker and a member of the Woodnet forum. Several of your employees frequent this forum sometimes providing information and assistance. In my opinion these people are your best public relations tool. Due to their input, my last few tool purchases have gone to Delta. With all things being equal, the decision to go with Delta tools is swayed by the genuine interest of these individuals….While they have never claimed to represent Delta tools, they have not disguised the fact they are employed by Delta…As a corporation you should be proud of these individuals and encourage their efforts….Please take the time to recognize these people for all the good will efforts they put forth.” THAT was the way a decent manager should have responded to my involvement with those forums…but not NO-CS. No Way.
We used to get compliments all over the place for just doing very simple things for those folks… check out some of these comments… “Delta007 has gone above and beyond and I appreciate it.”… “That was a classy assist, 007! Nice to see that” …“Now that's customer service, my friends. This is why my shop is mostly grey. Nice job 007.”
As you can see, we did a LOT of good for Delta and a pathetic manager came along and destroyed it. That was just one of the reasons that, within the year, Porter-Cable / Delta was purchased by Black & Decker… and it continued to slide down the hill from there…

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Column V2.8 - WoodNet is a nice place 6/11/11

Ok, back to our tale of the trials and tribulations of seeing a once great company sink to the bottom, mainly due to the lack of knowledge/experience of those who got put ‘in charge’. When we spoke last I mentioned that I was involved with an effort that should have resulted in some HUGE brownie points for me and I sincerely believe that if NO-CS had not been so territorial and controlling, he would have seen the good I was doing and given me a raise for my dedication and ingenuity.
Here’s the story: think back to 2001, the internet was nowhere near as huge as it has become. There were a few forums, but again nothing like it is now. Well, a company call August Home created a woodworking forum called WoodNet and lots of woodworkers started hanging out there. I found out about it thru one of the engineers at Delta and he thought it would be a good idea for me to get on there and participate because many folks were Delta users. I was hesitant to put my name out there because that might open me up to direct emails and I really didn’t have time for that. BUT, I could see where I might become a ‘friendly face’ to those loyal Delta customers and that seemed to be a good thing to me. So, I created a ‘secret identity’ as Delta007. Yea, maybe not so secret, except that only one other person knew who I really was- that being my engineering buddy-I just felt it was better to stay un-ID’d. I started replying to posts a little at a time, mostly simple stuff like “Does anyone know how old this Delta machine is?” and they’d post a serial number. Well, I’d run the number and reply back with the model number and the year it was built. Boy, were these folks impressed! A few times someone would post a complaint that, if left alone would have really given Delta a black eye. How so, you ask? Because the ‘net was growing and a posted-complaint is like a signal for everyone to pile on and dog out the manufacturer. It’s not a pretty sight.
Anyway, this went along for a couple of years. I never made a big deal of my participation, I was always entirely Professional in my postings and VERY conscious that my words would be around forever. I became good friends with many of the members and they knew that they could count on me to be fair, candid and above all helpful. There is literally no telling how many Delta machines were bought simply because I was a member. People knew it and were highly appreciative. Well, that is, most people were… One day in 2004, I got called into NO-CS’s office and was asked, point-blank “Are you Delta007 on WoodNet?” Naturally, being the honest person that I am, I said “yes”… and the game was on…

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Column V2.7 - Who IS this guy?… 6/4/11

Ok, so I decided to take another detour this week and to top it off, it’s all about my own self-interest. Hey, when you’ve got a bully-pulpit, sometimes ya just gotta use it.
Seriously tho, I am currently working in Shelbyville for a company that’s been around for over 35 years. It’s a nice place – took a little getting used to the looser dress code, and I’m excellent at what I do for them- but it’s not a career (Well, not MY career anyway) AND it’s 37 miles from my house. With gas prices the way they have been, it is really dragging down the ROI of making the trip every day. So I just thought that this week I would put out some information about what I am looking for and what I can do, in the hopes that someone in the Murfreesboro area might have a lead or two on a position that’s closer to home. One of the best resources that job seekers have nowadays is LinkedIn and my profile can be found here: . Here is my LinkedIn Summary: “I have over 25 solid years of service experience within both military settings and industrial organizations which required strong supervisory, technical and organizational skills. I'm a team player with a personal commitment to high ethical standards and a proven track record of recognizing needs, developing solutions and implementing them. My passion is in 'Wowing' my customers by molding a team of experienced electro-mechanical machinery professionals into a cohesive unit that specializes in correct answers, exceeding the customer’s expectations and going the 'extra mile'. I am very analytical, detailed and committed to excellence and I have above average written communication skills. My past Specialties include: Maximum Customer focus; Call center management; Machinery troubleshooting and problem diagnosis; engineering liaison; OSHA, NEC, ANSI requirements for machinery; editing and publishing service newsletters; writing Technical manuals; creating a Brand presence on internet forums; Technical Training classes; emergency response teams; safety consultant & engineering liaison.
As you can see, I’ve worn many different hats during my career. I’ve been a Technical Service (as in woodworking machines, not IT) Specialist that was on the front line; a Technical Support Manager that took care of the department and the Service Center network; a Technical Training instructor; a Quality Assurance Inspector; a newsletter writer/editor and a Training manual creator- just to name a few.
Once upon a time, I had a boss who told me that I ‘shouldn’t be answering direct customer calls because I was the manager’ and I thought ‘Hot Dawg- not more whiney customers to talk to’. Well, years down the road, I have discovered that talking to customers was what made the jobs variable and interesting. I actually enjoy it.
If you have some leads, please send me some contact information and let’s talk.

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Column V2.6 - This is NOT Service… 5/27/11

So, when we left last week, we were discussing Mr. NO-CS – the new Director of Customer Service for the Tool Group. I’m sure I sounded pretty harsh when I said he had no business being over customer service, but let me give you a couple of examples. First off, in the very first meeting that NO-CS had with my team of Tech Guys, one of the fellows said something like “..but our customers love us…” and that’s all it took for NO-CS to raise the roof: ‘How do you know?.. you can’t quantify that…and besides that’s just their opinion’ Well yes, it was. Get this, right outside that very room, we had a wall with 3, 4foot by 8foot bulletin boards that were just covered with thank you letters from customers. Yes, that was their OPINION. I tell you, when NO-CS popped out with that, we all kind of looked at each other and finally realized what a dire mess we were going to be in. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. Shortly thereafter, No-CS decided to “make the phone system more efficient”. How, you might ask? By setting up a phone tree that routed the incoming calls “to where they belong”... A call would come in and the caller would be asked if they were a Dealer? Punch no, and you get sent to the call center. Punch yes and you get routed to the call center’s back door. Same place, same people. Then you get asked if you want to order parts or need Tech Service. It is a well-proven fact that most people, whether they need it or not, will opt for the Tech Guys over the ‘normal’ service folks. As a result, we’d have callers come to Tech Service when they might only need a part number for a v-belt. THIS was why, for over 15 years, we trained the call center people to handle the routine questions and held the Tech Guys back behind the scenes. NO-CS didn’t see it that way. He wanted the Tech group to act as a call center group. So, in his phone tree, if you wanted Tech Service; weren’t a Dealer & didn’t know your part number, your call got disconnected. Yep. Cut off. After all, it was YOUR fault that you punched the wrong button. That was the philosophy of the new Customer Service Director. Never mind that we had a 15 year track record of giving the best service in the industry. Nope, all that went out the window…and quickly.
Sadly, that wasn’t the end of the Customer Service deterioration. I was involved with an effort that should have resulted in some HUGE brownie points for me, but not in NO-CS’s world…not on your life. We’ll ‘go there’ next time.

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Column V2.5 - Friends in High Places… 5/21/11

Continuing with our tale… the President of DeVilbiss, when DeVilbiss was purchased by Pentair, was let go after the purchase. I wasn’t privy as to why, but looking over the chain of command, there didn’t really seem to be a place for him at the time. So, he went and started his own business in the Jackson area. Here we are a couple of years down the road when the ‘new guy’ and the HR-VP were let go. Pentair decided to re-hire the ex-DeVilbiss President and gave him custody of the Tool Group as “acting President”. I suppose, with consideration as to the sort of results they had NOT achieved, the ex-DeVilbiss guy was as good as any, except that he made one of the most bone-headed decisions we could have ever imagined and we couldn’t see it coming.
In my opinion, a good Manager needs to know his people AND he needs to be able to tell the difference between his ‘friends’ and the person who might best fit a particular position. Mr. X-DP (my shorter name for the ex-DeVilbiss President) had this friend who had worked for him at DeVilbiss for a few years and instantly, this friend (let’s call him ‘NO-CS’) became the Director of Customer Service. He was placed over the Call Center and the Service Branch network. One of his first decisions was to hire HIS friend to manage the Call Center and Tech Service. See a pattern emerging here? These people weren’t getting those positions because of their ability to do the job – only because they were friends. Sad part was, the friend that NO-CS put over the Call Center and Tech Service was the same person who was over the Customer Dept in Feb 2000. This person was removed from that job and transferred elsewhere because, from what I understand, they could not interact with customers and employees in a Professional Manner. Yet, now they are back again, and with even more Authority. Dumb.
So, NO-CS is now over the Product Service Division of the Tool Group because he was friends with X-DP. Nice job. I have a reason for calling him NO-CS, Simply put, it was because he didn’t really seem to care about the Customer. Us Delta and Porter-Cable folks had made our reputation on taking care of our customers – sometimes even to the point of absurdity- we once had a fellow bring a Craftsman Bench Grinder to our Distribution Center in Memphis, in the hopes that we could help him fix it. We didn’t fix it, but he walked out of there with a brand new Delta Bench Grinder in hand. Crazy? Maybe… ‘out of the box’? For sure. But I can assure you, the next time he thought about buying a tool, what brand do you think he looked at first?

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Column V2.4 - Now, Back to the Story 5/14/11

Alright, time to get back to the Porter-Cable/Delta story…no matter how sad it is. If I recall correctly, before the Great Computer Crash of 2011 we had just re-established the 1-800-223-7278 hotline center and its manager was the ex-Delta hotline Manager from Memphis. What a coup! She had her act together and getting her was the best hope for the success of this department.
As it turned out, things were not quite so rosy further up the food chain. The original Porter-Cable President – the one who had the responsibility to make this new “merger” work, and didn’t- lost his job around the end of 2001- I think. (dates do get blurred after a few years) Anyway, once he was gone, the search for another President got underway. After a period of searching, a fellow was selected that seemed to have all the answers. He was a motivator. He talked about how our recovery was going to be one that “books would be written about”. It sounded great. Our new call center was up and rolling and for a while, it looked like we might get the ship headed in the right direction.
That lasted a few months, maybe a little over a year and then the ‘new guy’ and our original VP of Human Resources were both cut loose. The “Word on the Street” was that Pentair (who owned the Tool Group) had discovered that the ‘new guy’ and the HR-VP were very fond of golf. Which in itself is not a bad thing at all- I enjoy it myself – However, when your company is still floundering around and not making the money that it’s owners and shareholders expect, it’s probably not too wise to take a golfing trip to Europe..and have the company pay for it. Again, “Street Word” was that there were more than one excursions of this nature and it cost both of them their jobs. So, here we are again…leaderless and floundering. It’s Déjà vu all over again and we’re searching for another President.
To backtrack a bit, Just before the “Merger” of 2000 Pentair ad purchased a Jackson Company called DeVilbiss. They make air compressors, portable generators and pressure washers. This purchase was intended to compliment Porter-Cable’s offerings of air-powered tools. Also, at the time of the purchase, the Y2K event had the sales of generators at an all-time high. Actually, it was the worst time ever to buy this company because their value was highly inflated due to all of the generator sales. Once Y2K fizzled out, we got thousands of generators back.. go figure..

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Column V2.3 - Truth IS important: 5/7/11

It seems that I’m still not quite ready to get back to my tale of woe…that, and I’m still trying to get used to this new keyboard. For someone like me that does not type with all 10 fingers, (I got up to eight once…once) when the keys are not where they are supposed to be, it’s a bit unnerving/confusing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the letters are all in the right place, but they have monkeyed with the delete key and the home, and page up & page down buttons. I keep hitting the wrong thing…
and the enter key is higher up… “shift” doesn’t quite do the same job.
Anyway, let’s talk. The news this week was that Osama bin Laden is now with the fish. While I do believe it is a well-deserved outcome, I would love to be able to say that I believe everything the President has told us about it. Unfortunately, I just can’t. I suppose it’s simply a result of the many times that the President has ‘put the spin on’ something, ‘mis-spoke’ or ‘mis-stated’ (which are all simply other names for lying). For me personally, once you’ve been caught in a lie, what reason do I have to believe anything you say - unless I have independent verification- from someone who has not lied to me? As I’ve heard back in the day, “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining”. For example, the President says, “After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” Only, now we find out the truth. There was no “firefight”. See what I mean?
I relate the same way to people in my personal life. If you lie to me, I will most likely confront you with it and hack you off in doing so. It’s rather interesting how easily liars get upset when they get caught. Once you and I both know you’re a liar, I’ll generally have nothing else to do with you. Life is far too short to deal with people who can’t be believed. I’m sure some of this comes from the fact that I used to be married to a liar. Thank God, I’m not anymore.
Ok, so OBL is dead…or is he? We don’t yet have any proof, other than the word of a liar. So here we are, stuck again..
Maybe next week we’ll get back to our history lesson about Delta. I think we left it around 2002. We got a new Porter-Cable/Delta President…but he didn’t last too long.

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Column V2-2 - In the Midst of Darkness: 4/30/11

Well, now that my system has returned to ‘close to normal’, we could get back to our ongoing saga of how the once great brands of Delta and Porter-Cable got decimated by arrogance & pride…but sometimes there are stories worth interrupting the bad news. I ran across one of those this week. My current position is as an Account Executive for National Pen Company in Shelbyville. One of our products is this decent-looking little flashlight with a key chain loop. It has 3 LED bulbs and puts out some good light for something that is only about 2.5 inches long. One of our methods for getting customers exposed to our product is to randomly send out samples so they can be touched and tested. Anyway, I got a call from a fellow and after listening to him, I had him send me his story.
“Tom, this is a note to let you know how helpful the free sample light key chain came in this past Monday April 25th 2011. That morning I received the light in the mail at my office in Lonsdale, AR. I thought it was a cool light so I put it in my pocket to show my wife when I got home from work that evening. That evening is when bad weather hit our area. We were watching the weather alerts on TV when a tornado stuck our property and damaged many homes in the Royal and Sunshine communities. My wife and I barely had time to reach a safe place in our home and no time to collect a flashlight or supplies. In the darkness and confusion I remembered the key chain light in my pocket. The light is not a toy and put out more than enough lumen's for us to evaluate our surroundings and safely find our way around the house. I am still using it now 5 days later. So, thanks for the sample that helped us more than you would have dreamed when you sent it. This experience also convinced me to make an order for us to use in our camp retreat center. The tornado destroyed or damaged many homes, hundreds of trees, and destroyed the power grid with hundreds of poles and lines down. Many families incurred severe damages to property, and mental and physical damage to their person. We were very blessed to have only property damage. It is encouraging to see the Churches and families come together to help the community. So Thanks Again and Blessings to You.”

A story like this helps you realize how the Lord can take care of His people in some truly interesting ways.

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Column # V2-1 - When stuff works, life is better: 4/25/11

You’ve possibly noticed that this column was missing in action for the past few weeks. There’s a reason for that. When one’s only computer decides to take a nose dive into the dirt…it causes a person to become dead in the water as far as writing columns, doing resumes, getting club newsletters finished...or…anything else that I used to do with the silly thing.
But you know, even in the midst of such a devastating event, one that I am quite sure our own Ken Ivey could use for a column idea (ie: “Have Enough Sense to BACK YOUR FILES UP”- actually I was last August, tho.), I have seen God’s Hand at work once again. A friend of mine that I have known for the past 39 years found out that I would be in Jackson, TN a few weeks ago and he was absolutely adamant about meeting with me. So, we met at the Old Country Store for breakfast and had a real good time. As we were finishing up, he said, ‘stick your hand out’, so I did… and he stuffed some folded up money into my palm. He said. “Here, God says to give this to you.” Of course, I was a bit confused and said so. So then he said
”Look, what you do with it is your business, all I know is that, as sure as I am sitting here talking to you, God spoke to me and told me to give this to you - and He even told me how much.” Well, I just put the money in my pocket and we finished our breakfast and went on. Later, on the way back to the ‘boro, I looked at what he had given me and it was 7 one hundred dollar bills. Unbelievable. Ok, so I get home and like any good husband (right fellers?) I tell my wife what happened. Our dilemma was, ‘yes, we have some things that we could use the money for… but what if God knows that something is coming and we will need this for that?’ So, we decided to just stick it back and see what developed. This was on April 2nd.
On Friday night, April 8th, I came home from work and got ready to do my Reader column…and…got the dreaded Microsoft blue screen of death. I kid you not…less than ONE WEEK after getting an unexpected financial blessing. After trying everything that I could to save the computer and try to recover the data…there was no alternative but to go buy a new one… and I will only say that the cost of the new one left me with about 40 dollars. Yes, my God is an Awesome God!

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Column # 61 - Evidence of Sanity after all 3/31/11

You might notice agap between when I wrote these and when they now appear on my blog.
That's because my computer blew up in April and this blog has been far down the list of things to recreate. I was reminded that I actually do have an audience, so here we go, getting this thing caught back up... T

Now, let’s see, where were we...oh yea, the meeting with the VP…well, maybe this needs a bit of background. As I told you, the ‘powers that were’ got so tired of getting beat up by customers and dealers for shutting down the Delta Hotline that they finally decided to create a new one in Jackson.
Since I was from Memphis and used to work very closely with, and support the 800 group, I was heavily involved in passing on some knowledge about how to best set it up. Evidently the new VP was impressed and asked me if I wanted the job of managing the new call center. Early on, my response was “Well sure, I’ll manage that and Tech Service…” but he cut me off at the knees when he said “Oh no, that would be too much for one person to handle. If you take the call center, and I REALLY do want you to, you’d have to leave Tech Service.” After a couple of weeks, he finally cornered me and told me that he needed an answer the next day. Well, after over 20 years of being ‘Mr. Tech Service’…it was not an easy choice…THAT was why I was up all night. But I will testify to this, most of the night was spent praying and asking God, ‘what do I do?’
So dawn comes, as it always does…but during the night, the peace came and I knew what I needed to do. Here we go, meeting about 8:30. I went in and sat down and he asked for my decision and I laid it out on the table… “I just can’t do that…and here’s why. I AM Tech Service, I’ll manage the Tech group AND the call center, but I can’t leave Tech. Everyone who knows Delta, knows Tom and I don’t care if you hid me in a broom closet, if they needed some knowledge that I have, they would find me. So I’d have two jobs any way you look at it and you’d only be paying me for one…you just need to let me take them both’ Well, he didn’t go for that, but he did ask me who would I get to manage it and I told him that I had been talking to Delta’s former 800-line manager and she was interested in coming to talk to them. As time went on, that was exactly what happened. Delta’s former call center manager moved to Jackson and created a new department. I was tasked with getting them enough training that they could handle all but the most Technical calls. The beauty of this is that all I had to do was drag out my old Memphis training files and update them slightly. They were good to go.

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Column #60 - Where did the Knowledge go? 3/26/11

So, here sat the customer; calling a place they hadn’t done business with; talking to people who had no clue as to what they were needing; and not being able to get the same level of response from the new organization that they had been used to…is it any wonder they complained to high heaven and took their business elsewhere if they could? I could not blame them.
Now, lest it seems like I am dissing the service branch employees, allow me to explain. These were Porter-Cable service branches. These folks were PORTER-CABLE experts. They KNEW their PC stuff…but they were NOT Delta experts. Delta had always used PC as Authorized Service Centers for service and there were a few branches that had folks in them who really wanted to learn Delta stuff (the Chicago, Kansas City and Dallas branches come to mind). Consequently, those branches faired better when Delta business got dumped on them, than some of the others did. But most of the branch people looked on Delta as an albatross around their neck…and even if they didn’t, they simply did not have the Delta experience that the customer expected them to have.
We even went so far as to have some ‘Train The Trainer’ classes in Jackson (conducted by yours truly) that were designed to show them the machines, how to troubleshoot them, and give them a very good reference manual that contained much of that ‘obscure information’ that customers usually asked for...then they were to return to their branch and pass that knowledge on to the other folks. Again, some branches took to it like fish in water, and others took to it like a lead balloon in air.
On top of that, Delta Memphis had employees answering the 800 line that had been there for years and years. It was a great place to work and employee turnover was very minor. Over the years, this was one of our best assets. Stay somewhere long enough and you absorb knowledge that you just can’t get in a class.
So, the customers complained, the selling dealers complained, company Presidents complained and finally… those in charge listened. In the fall of 2000 the decision was made to re-staff the Delta 800 line and house it in Jackson. Finally, a good, logical decision in the middle of all of this hoopla… I was approached about heading up the call center, but it meant giving up my role as Technical Support Manager and after a sleepless night, I went into a meeting with the VP in charge of the effort… and next week, I’ll tell you how that went.

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Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper. Neither the author, nor this newspaper, accepts any liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Column # 59 - Service Expectations Take a Beating

Ok, so let’s go back to our tale of woe. Mid-year 2000… someone finally decided to do the unthinkable and simply listen to our customers. Our customers were telling them, loud and clear and no uncertain terms, that closing Delta’s 800 line was a huge mistake. Just to recap, in 1983 Delta had created an 800 line (800-223-7278, aka; 800-BAD-PART) to service their customers. By calling that one number, the customer could get anything done, be it order parts, get Technical Service, ask an obscure question about a 50yr old machine, complain about anything, or…well, you get the idea. That little number was THE connection between Delta and the customer… and one of the first things those in charge of the “merger” had done was cut it off. The phone system was re-targeted so that, depending on where the caller was calling from, their call would then be routed to the nearest Porter-Cable/Delta service branch, who would handle their service needs. All well and good…on the surface. But then the differences in the two businesses began to show its face. As I related above, “service” was only one aspect of Delta’s 800 line, and while we are on ‘service’, there were some startling differences in the definition of that word between Porter-Cable and Delta. For instance, the PC service branches kept a pretty good stock of replacement parts at each branch. Not too hard to do with small portable tool parts. It’s a far different story when dealing with large stationary machine parts- there simply wasn’t enough room inside the branches to store it all. So the deal was that the branches had their parts stock and each week they would receive one of those huge export boxes shipped to them to replenish their supply. That worked great for them and their customers…on the other hand Delta had no service branches just a 200,000 sq.ft. warehouse in Memphis. So when a customer called and needed a part, it was shipped out to them directly, no waiting. If it was a warranty item, the customer usually had it in 2-3 days, depending on the urgency of the situation. Now, with the closing of the Memphis 800 line, customers immediately discovered a few things: their call no longer went to Delta Memphis; their parts had to be shipped to the service branch first, then to them; and (bless their little hearts) the people who answered the re-routed 800 lines were practically clueless about most things Delta. Many of these callers were long-time Delta customers and the perception (which actually WAS reality in this case) was that the “merger” had just dumped Delta customers out in the cold, without a lifeline.

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Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper. Neither the author, nor this newspaper, accepts any liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

Column # 58 - Take a breather…for now

Ok let’s take a short break from the tale specifics of the disastrous, so-called “merger” of Porter-Cable and Delta International. I think it’s time to re-affirm that my story does not necessarily cast a bad light on all aspects of this fiasco. Yes, the overall event was indeed, a fiasco and it hurt many, many employees; it ran off our customers and killed two very well-fed cash cow companies. On the other hand, it brought some new life into a few stagnant careers (mine included) and brought some folks together, that would have never otherwise met. In my case, my new boss at P-C/D turned out to be an outstanding friend and mentor. One of my new co-workers was friendly enough to strike up a conversation with the ‘new guy’ when we were on a sales meeting trip to Las Vegas and we became golfing buddies and remain very good friends until this day. Lastly, but absolutely not “least”, I met my wife when I relocated to Jackson and had this “merger” not happened I’m sure that would not have occurred. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.
I was telling one of the guys who used to work for me about my series of stories and he told me about an event that I was unaware of. It seems that the CEO of the new “Pentair Tools Group” (and this guy was one of the MAJOR architects of this “merger” – he also lost his job because of the results…or lack thereof) was in the new-fangled PC-D warehouse one day and he was standing at the bottom of one of the slides that I told you about- remember those, they started at the top of the warehouse and slid down 25 feet below, ending at a pack-out table- well, there he was, with his back to the slide and a 50lb box of nailgun nails started coming down the slide…gaining speed and momentum all the way. Just like those 80lb motors I told you about, the box of nails hit the rubber surface of the pack-out table…and…not just ‘went tumbling’…it literally exploded! Blew apart… and threw 2.5 inch-long nails EVERYWHERE…including all over the back of the head honcho. It wasn’t long after that until the slides got a conveyor-belt covering and everything just kind of moseyed down the slides...aww shoot, no more lunchtime entertainment.
I guess the main point of this week’s column is that while there were some honest-to-goodness cost savings and logistical benefits that could have been realized from combining SOME aspects of the two companies, the method of how it was ultimately done and the personal motives behind the way it was done shot most all of the positive possibilities down the tubes.

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Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this newspaper. Neither the author, nor this newspaper, accepts any liability for the content of this article, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Column #57 - Is it really THAT heavy?

Well, from the tumbling, rumbling of an 80 lb motor free-sliding down a ramp and then blowing out across the warehouse floor, we have this tendency; let’s say that as the parts come to the down ramp and there are parts backed all the way up the ramp. This keeps the motor from sliding down…it just follows the chain of parts to the bottom rather slowly. Once it gets there, the packout person puts the 80lb motor box into that big ‘ol 4x4 export box that’s full of parts for the Service Branches. Under that heavy motor was bandsaw blades, motor brushes, envelopes of small parts, etc. Do I need to describe the condition of those small parts after being squashed by a heavy motor for hundreds of miles? I think you get the idea. There was no telling how many tens of thousands of dollars of product had to be junked because of damage like this. There again, in the minds of the ‘new guys’…the computer ‘told us how the stuff had to go in the export box’- instead of treating the Warehouse system as a TOOL, they treated it as the Master…and it cost us dearly. One could make a good case, that neither Porter-Cable nor Delta ever recovered from this fiasco.

So OK, after several months of time (like 6 or 8), extra computer professionals being brought in, the P-C Distribution VP losing his job (as he should have), the President of the new Porter-Cable/Delta losing his job (as he should have), we FINALLY started shipping…sort of rationally. Parts were getting out and they had the light-weight stuff on TOP of the heavy stuff, we sort of settled down…or so we thought.

Oh, as a side note, us Tech Guys had our Tech-Lab in the warehouse, right outside our office…underneath that overhead conveyor that contained all those parts that were headed to the down ramps. Well, we would be out there working and all of a sudden we hear a CRASH, right beside us. We looked around and there on the floor was an 8 lb router inside its box.
What tha???
As it turned out, the conveyor would fill up with items headed to packout and things would stack up and jam up and eventually something would jump the side rails and come crashing down at us. We had several close calls and it finally led to us placing a trapeze net under the conveyor, over our Lab area, to catch the incoming missiles. What “fun” that was…

More of the continuing adventure, next week.

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