The work at Delaval was not that complicated. We made rotors. Rotors were used for various applications. An application could be to off-load oil, grain, etc from ships when they dock in harbors around the world. They were displacement pumps as well as other things. There was a main screw (rotor) that we made with a number of other rotors that sat on top of the main rotor. The size of the rotors could be 6 inches to 12 feet. They fit in a housing, which we made as well. When we shipped, we shipped an entire unit. One of our customers was the US Navy. The tolerances and quality control was exceptional. It was a very involved process. I suppose there were 500 or so employees.
I remember one time going into their sound proof room. I was working 3rd shift for a few weeks. We closed the door and the deadness of it all was amazing. I could hear the inside of my ear beating. It was that quiet. It was the quietest environment I had ever been in. I don’t think I could tolerate that kind of quietness for long. It was eerie.
I was a quick study. It was not hard to learn the job and it required all aspects of memory, i.e. feel, sight, hearing, technique. Due to the high quality it required a sensitive touch to cut the rotors and not dent, scar or cause rough spots on them. Much of the finer lathe work was done by feel and not by sight. We also used our hearing to tell if the cutter was cutting at the right spot. It called for a great deal of finesse. This was the challenge that I liked. It was one thing to rough one out. You could cut it and leave a lot of stock on the rotor because the finish workers would come along and do the fine work. However, if you were finishing, then it was a totally different process. We would run two or more machines at one time. One of the things to watch out for was not to burn up a cutting disc. (I can’t remember the name of the disc now.) It was the tool that cut the grooves in the rotor. The edges of it would wear and we’d have to watch to make sure we didn’t push it too far or the cutter folks that resharpened it would be upset. Sometimes we would burn them so bad that they had to replace the cutter blades altogether. We tried to get as many cuts out of it as possible. And sometimes we would cross the line. Typically the reason we did this was because we didn’t want to change it out because it took time. We would just plow through. If you got down to a couple of rotors left, we’d like to push it on through as well, but sometimes this didn’t work and we’d burn up a wheel.
I have a picture of me grinding at one of the finish machines. This was taken around 1984. That was about the time they installed this new machine.