Drilling Holes the Hard Way
by Gordon Martin
The drill whined on and on and on. I sat at my desk working on a quotation, but I was distracted because something did not sound quite right out in the plant. I probably drove my staff crazy because I could hear the slightest problem with all of my machines, as I had built, modified and operated most of them. One wrong noise from the plant and I was out there like a shot to see what had gone wrong.
The enterprise was a small magnet fabricating company and I was in my element surrounded by machines, being more comfortable with the hands on stuff, rather than the administration.
Back to drilling holes. The sound of a Black and Decker AC drill is quite distinctive and this one just kept going on and on and on. Drill and tap two 3/8-16 holes in a press bed, a simple enough task, I thought, but it seemed to be taking forever. I commented to my office manager that something wasn’t right with that drilling operation. She said, “Oh Gord, you’re micro managing; sometimes you just have to leave people to do the job on their own.” Okay, I’ll give it a bit more time, and went back to working on my quotation.
I had just hired the young man the day before and he claimed to have lots of mechanical experience, as his most recent job was in a welding shop. “Do you know how to drill and tap holes?” I had asked him. He replied as if it was a silly question, “Of course.”
The drill whined on and on and on. The press bed, cast iron, should be soft like butter so there was definitely something wrong and I finally went out to the plant to check what was going on. The drill was laying on the floor, smoking, too hot to touch. The grease was dripping out of the gears. The hole was oval shaped and went through the cast iron at an angle of about 5°. The hole was surrounded by extremely fine black powder. Have you guessed the punch line yet? Oh yes, he had worn his way through the cast iron press bed with the drill in reverse.
This happened about 20 years ago, and I’ve been retired for almost 15, so I honestly cannot remember what happened next. I am quite sure I did not lose my temper, nor did I fire him on the spot, but I think, after a few weeks of mediocre production work, he just wandered away on his own volition.