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I Forge Iron

Share something the world doesn't know about your job


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I thought it might be fun and interesting to hear some seldom shared insights into working life.

I'll kick things off.  I'm a construction estimator, which means that I prepare competitive bids to win all the construction contracts for my company. 

I think the thing that most people wouldn't expect about this job is how important it is to be sociable with everyone I work with.  Many jobs are won or lost over participation.  It can be very time-consuming to find, and then convince the right party to quote some portion of the work to me.   

How about your line of work?

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2-1/2 years at University of Colorado for aerospace engineering.

Farrier until 1980.

Traditional Smith then til the day I can no longer swing a hammer or pass my knowledge on in any manner possible.

What you may not know. After 30 some years as a Traditional Smith, and about 12 years ago I hit a major obstacle and lost most everything. This was not blacksmith related. More a major learning concerning the dark side of the world. I was presented a life's choice. Dump all my blacksmithing equipment and get a job at wally world as a "greeter" or see just where my world of Traditional Smithing would take me come what may. I never hesitated. I spent the next 5 years or so as a farm/ranch smith. My goal was to not go to the hardware store for any reason. I succeeded and expanded my skills in ways I would never have imagined. The next phase was as "Roady Blacksmith". ~10 thousand pounds of smithing equipment, a broke down Willys PU, and no trailer. I made 6-7 moves over a few thousand miles and always found both a place to go and someone to help me move. I learned the truth about my shop motto-"God smiles on fools and Blacksmiths", and i certainly am both! On this phase of my journey i made most of my living by hammer in hand. A very small ss rounded out the rest. During this time I Never worked a conventional job. I did work with an occasional smith. 

Last fall my life took another dramatic change for the better. Im now building my "dream shop"-- again-- by hammer in hand with a little dirt work done by others. I hope to be done by snowfall. Not done, but dried in, totally functional and off grid. It will be an ongoing project.

All in all, what could have been one of lifes great tragedies became the next adventure  pursuing Traditional Smithing to its fullest. I can hardly handle the suspense of just where this pathway will lead me next.

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What some may not realize is that what I call pure machinists are fading away, and being replaced by programmers, and operators. Give me a print and I can make the part start to finish. Today a programmer does a CNC program, and an operator runs the machine. The operator makes some offsets, and checks the parts for uniformity to the print as they get done. In some shops, they don't even have operators. They have robots picking and placing the parts in the machine. One kid running 7 machines from an office. I am a manual machinist hence why I am working as a plant maintenance mechanic at a snack cracker facility now. I am a dinosaur. A smart dinosaur, but still a dinosaur.

 

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Do dinosaurs like snack crackers? 

I learned to read a vernier before I learned to write in script. I haven't run into many machinists who even know what a vernier scale is. 

I think I'll have some snack crackers and wait for the next meteorite. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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JHCC I'm curious about what you mean by that.

Thomas, it'd be neat to calculate how many times you've circled the globe in air miles.

Biggun, I actually know two people who are in a similar situation.  One works at an industrial bakery, and the other works in X-ray film manufacturing. 

Frosty, I hope vernier scale reading skills aren't so rare.  I've seen cheap vernier calipers for sale at big box stores in my area.  Most of the micrometers I've seen in active use were vernier too.  

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55 minutes ago, rockstar.esq said:

JHCC I'm curious about what you mean by that.

I mean that the way you can use the comparatively simple mechanism of a vernier caliper to get a very precise measurement is really cool!

Oh, you mean the fundraising bit. Well, I work with people who are philanthropic, which is to say they are (A) generous and (B) want to make a difference -- that is, they want things to be in some tangible way better after the gift than they were before. 95% of the process is about helping them identify what good thing they want to accomplish and how I can help them accomplish it within the context of the institution I work for, in a way that is appropriate to their circumstances (financial and otherwise) and that has an effect that is meaningful to them and that advances our educational mission. Yes, money is involved, but it's not about the money as such. Money is just the medium; it is not the change itself.

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Frosty, I had a kid vapor lock one time when I handed him my dial calipers. He had no clue how to use any non digital measuring tools. He also did not know how to use a step pulley milling machine, only the variables.... Yes, dinos like snack crackers. We make the Blue Diamond and Crunchmaster rice based crackers in various flavors. We are a division of Mitsubishi industries, and have plants in Illinois too.

Yes, I know how to use verniers, but the eyes prefer the dial. Digital is nice for swapping between metric and inch, but I hate dealing with batteries. I had a dial caliper with two needles and scales- inch/metric

Anvil, I wouldn't say blacksmithing is my passion. I enjoy it, but I wouldn't say I am passionate about it. What I am passionate about is being creative weather it is with metal, wood, ceramics, photography, leather, cooking, or cars. Doesn't matter to me, as long as I am thinking creatively.

Rockstar.Esq- with my wide skill base I have been able to go where the good paycheck was. This current job pays better than the machining jobs I have had so far, and great benefits. My years spent at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. came in handy for landing this job.

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Biggun,

A few months ago I had a situation where a "typical" detail drawing had dimensions in feet, inches, and fractional inches.  The overall assemblies in question were comprised of repeated dimensions from the "typical" detail.

Most of the "on screen takeoff" systems generate results in decimal feet.  These are used to measure digital drawing files (usually .pdf) in the construction industry.  I had several days of back and forth with the design team because none of them would actually do the math to solve the overall measurements to feet, inches, and fractional inches.  The decimal foot output is rounded to two decimal places which isn't precise enough to determine whether things will fit or not.

It's amazing to me that these people didn't trust themselves to sum up fractions, yet they felt perfectly comfortable trusting a digital approximation of a rough drawing, neither of which was rendered with enough precision to suit the purpose. One major reason the architect uses a detail drawing, is to provide a higher level of dimensional precision.  Another, is to provide dimensionally correct figures for a drawing that might not be perfectly scaled.  It's a whole lot easier to adjust the displayed dimension to fix an error, than it is to re-draw the whole thing.  This is why even in 2019, most plans will have a note stipulating that the "plans should not be scaled".

 

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19 hours ago, rockstar.esq said:

It almost sounds like last wills and testaments.  

Absolutely. A big part of the job is working with people on the charitable parts of their estate plans, especially when we need to set things up in a way that guarantees a particular effect when they won’t be around to ask or be asked questions. 

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On 7/22/2019 at 10:46 PM, BIGGUNDOCTOR said:

I enjoy it, but I wouldn't say I am passionate about it

Since this is Sharing our "other side", Traditional smithing is my focus, but years ago i widened my horizons, you might say. I got into the idea of multi-medium. That is combining different mediums in one project. So Im a pretty fair hand at log work. Particularly Swedish cope. Stone is another. I decided long ago that to be a good stone mason, you just have to be smarter than a rock. Well, Im almost there, smarter than a rock,that is. third is working with timbers. I have a well used alaskan mill setup and use it quite often. So moving logs and making toothpicks from logs just sortacame naturally.A lot of my knowledge  came from working with these specialties as a Smith. Then i came up with my own ideas on design and incorporating all in a the same project.  However, I never seemed to get the boys and girls in these other crafts to use my ideas, not that I blame them. So mostly, Ive done this on my own projects, as well as working with them more to learn than anything. 

Hey, if you are going to make your living in a nitch market, might as well add a few more just because.  ;) 

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Well, very few air miles for me as those 1000+ international trips were mainly done of foot---walking from the parking lot the company rented on the American side, past the US Customs & Immigration building, across the border, past the Mexican Customs & Immigration building and getting in the Company Van that drove us the short distance to the Factory that abuts the border fence.

Lots of fun when the weather is bad; especially as it's considered a major faux pas to wear a ski mask or balaclava while carrying a satchel towards the gentlemen with the fully automatic weapons...

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  • 1 month later...

I’ve been a Prison Guard for the past 23 years.

I’m not sure there’s much that the world doesn’t know about what I do.

I might be wrong about that but I’ve been quite surprised by the amount of drones being used to make drops inside the main stockade.

I suppose Amazon is a little behind in the drone delivery department! ;)

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  • 7 months later...

To resurrect another interesting thread...

One of many very different jobs I've held over the years, I currently work in a sign shop.

We do everything from coraplast yard signs- to full on hand built contour and can letter signs, to stretching and eradicating vinyl awnings.

Not a very technical job, but hand forming aluminum in anywhere from .020 to .090 can be... trying. The other day I put over 300 hand drilled, hand installed 1/8" pop rivets in two sets of letter cans alone.

Something you might not know is just how difficult and frustrating it can be to wrap a printed non-stretching foil based, perforated vinyl sheet on a simple compound curved- car rear window... 

Think scotch tape on tin foil that wont stretch- that sticks to everything it touches and wont come off your fingers... applied in a one shot manner... on an egg.:blink:

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May as well jump on board, Many already know I pay the bills as an industrial Electrician, what you may not know is I was also a Medic,  occasionally working the Emergency Room. but I had to give that up, it was too stressful to continue because I could not let go when the shift was over. I have seen too many things I wish I could forget.

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Steve, that is one of the reasons (many reasons) I could never get into the medical field. Human suffering is very difficult for me. The PTSD I have is directly related- let's just say burns above 2nd degree...... trouble me. Enough said. 

 

So, more on topic. 

I am a "Caterpillar Heavy Equipment Maintenance Technician, Field, T5" aka, a heavy equipment mechanic that works out of a truck. 

I have, officially, a high school education. I am self-taught. No vocational school.

So, what don't people know about what I do? Well, a ton, but let me try to stay surface-level. 

It isn't just "turning wrenches". You have to understand electronic systems, emissions regulations, system interactions, design ideas, customer relations, basic economics, have good people skills, be teachable, be adaptable.... 

I have tickled a six-figure income multiple years. So, you can make a decent living doing what I do (if you actually care about doing it right) 

Most of the truly good techs I've known aren't the stereotypical "grunt" type. They are generally very well-educated, just not with an expensive piece of paper with an institution's name on it. 

 

And, we keep things moving. Without us, backup generators might not be reliable. Construction companies would experience much greater delays. Roads would take longer to build. Deliveries couldn't happen (heavy diesels power the rails, power ships, and on the much smaller scale, trucks.... even though we don't just do diesel!) 

 

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After My working life as a Ventilation Design and Construction Engineer,I had a Mate ask could I help  him out....This was it...This is a very Sad story.As Sad as the story is true.I was working Casual for a mate (now deceased) who bought household Lots....Deceased Estates-Separations-Moving-Down Sizing....He was interested in Furniture-Jewellery-Collectables-Cars and so on...In terms of his business Grandads tools in the shed were useless time wasters...The Metal Merchant would not take anything with wood on it,so it would be separated into a skip  and then plain metal into another skip for the Metal Merchant-He now has a worker off other duties and 2 skips taking up room in the yard...To employ someone to remove the wood  to add the tools to the metal skip went like this-Wages+Insurance+Taxes/Duties/Charges+Sick leave+Holiday Pay+Overtime-what he gets from the Metal Merchant=the tip fee is cheaper...Grandads tools go to landfill....Taking the plain steel away simply becomes time wasting..He gets his workers back,his yard space back...The more I took away the more Tip space he had available.So all this Vintage gear Followed me home-Several Tons of it.All I had to do was clean it up and that's what I'm doing in My Retirement.The stuff I've seen go to lasndfill is Frightening....These Pics are a minuscule amount but good cross section of what I have....But the bottom line is This is a Sad Story.

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That collection of tools and stuff is amazing.  They will serve you well.  Great that you were able to rescue them.   You are fixed for life.  The old tools seem to be better in many respects than modern made Chinesium stuff.

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Some folks are so focused on money that they throw away a fortune.  Where I spent HS in NJ; some NYC folks had bought a farm and were subdividing it and trying to maximize their profit---so they bulldozed the old barn down and burned it while I was at school. It had been built of chestnut and black walnut timbers and was worth about US$50K back in the early '70's.  There were standing ads in certain journals for people buying barns as they stood for the old wood in them in that region!

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  • 2 months later...

I also work is a prison.19 years as a correctional officer and a few as a bureau of identification supervisor. Prison is sometimes more Orange than Oz, with just a little hint of Shot Caller thrown in. You should be disturbed by how many sex offenders there are in the world.

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