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Mechanic's Tools and Their Makers

  Experience of a Tramp Machinist in Striker’s Shop by James F. Hobart, March 21, 1885 1 of 2  

John Striker’s business was “booming.” He had orders for three new threshing engines, one water wheel, ten brick machines, and a lot of shafting. Striker had twenty men, and wanted more. Times were picking up, men getting scarce, and good hard to get.

One day a chap walked in and wanted a job.

“What can you do?” said Striker. “Most anything they do in any shop,” said the tramp machinist. “Where have you been to work?” “Oh, down to Racket’s, and Parson’s, and Quimbly’s,” said Tramp.

“Can you file up connecting rods?” said Striker. “You bet I can,” was the reply, and Striker set Tramp to work at the old vise by the north window.

Tramp unrolled his overalls, laid his hammer on the bench, and fished out two pair of calipers, a scale, square, dividers, and “scriber” out of the sleeves of his blue jacket. He cleaned a miniature junk shop out of the drawer, packed in his plunder, and looked at his vise.

Poor Tramp! He felt tired when he looked at that vise. The corners were knocked off the jaws, it was sprung, the spring had taken a set, and the vise jaw required to be “yanked” every time he unscrewed it. The boys had been cutting 2" steam pipe in that vise, and it could be twisted around that bench like a button on a school-house door.

Tramp took in the whole business, and then sat down on a nail keg. It made him feel tired. Striker came along and asked, “What is the matter, hain’t you got straightened out yet?” Tramp got up and gave the vise a shake. “Fix it,” said Striker. “All right,” said Tramp, and he did fix it. He yanked that vise off in a hurry, tore down the shackly bench and built it up new.

Striker has built all his benches over since then. He put a 2" casting, 10" wide, in place of the usual front plank. It works nicely. It is always true, solid, and handy.

Tramp took that vise by the leg and run it out to the blacksmith shop. “Don't it hold?” said a cub. “Yes,” said Tramp, “just about as much as I can hold between my knees.”

How the grease sizzled and smoked as Tramp took a heat on the jaw of that old vise. Down by the pin it seemed about all grease.

Tramp welded a piece of steel to each jaw; in fact, he “new laid” the vise, and built up the jaws square and true. He heated the spring, bent it back into shape, and just as it got cooled down to a dull, shiny red, he dumped it into the oil tank.

When Tramp put than vise up again he bolted it to the bench. No screws for him. He put the vise up to stay, not to swing back and forth like lazy tongs, as it did before; and when he put a connecting rod between the jaws, he was sure it would stay put.

Striker brought along a rod. It was about 11-1/2” x 2-1/8”, fiat sides, round edges, and 29” long. There was a “flaw" in each side about 10" long. Tramp “goes for it" with a cape chisel, and cuts a clean, smooth channel. A piece of the same kind of iron is nicely fitted in the channel, and “peened” until it fills the hole chuck full.

Tramp files it down smooth. The flaw on the hack side of rod will be out of sight. Striker says “Lead it,” and Tramp drives in a strip of lead instead of iron.

“Go to the office and get some files,” said Striker. Tramp went up and got a 12" “bastard,” a “second cut” with 44 teeth to the inch (the “bastard" has 32, and a “rough" 22); two “smooth cut" files having 68 to the inch, and a “dead smooth" with 120 teeth to the running inch.

He will rub a little oil on the “bastard” and “second cut" files. It prevents the teeth from “cracking” while they are new - that is, it keeps the delicate, sharp edge from splitting off when first used. He uses those files very carefully for the first hour or two. He lifts them up clear of the work during the return stroke. He knows that if he drags a new file backward he is liable to wear it out more than the cutting does.

When Tramp gets the planer tool marks about out, he takes his fine file, rubs the teeth full of chalk, and goes for that rod with vim. He squints along his file, finds a rounding spot thereon, and works with that spot. He knows that a file will spring. He knows that files don’t get made straight; so he takes advantage of the crooked places.

The hollow places he will use when draw-filing the round edges of the rod. Tramp knows that chalk will prevent chips from sticking in his file. He knows that chips will play mischief with his work; they will make a big, nasty scratch, and he will have to work that place all over again.

Tramp keeps his hands off his work. He knows that the sweat and grease from them don’t help his file any. He knows that he must keep his file clean. He has not got a file cleaner, made of a piece of card clothing glued on a stick. No; he uses a little pine stick to clean his files with. Ile rests one end of the file on the bench, strikes with the corner of the stick at an angle of 20°, and follows the cut of the teeth. Tramp cleans his file a dozen times while he would be finding a cleaner once.

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