Wednesday, July 18, 2018
  Holiday Inn Express  

No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night

. . . or Part 1 of avoiding being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War.

In my senior year in high school )1968-1969), I was forced to think about what I would do, once I completed/graduated from high school. If I did not obtain some type of deferrment, I would most likely be drafted into the army, and probably within 3 to 6 months after graduation.

Rather than go straight to college, the following fall (2S Deferment – Student), I discovered an alternative (critical labor deferment) available through an engineering program offered at a General Electric manufacturing facility in a nearby city in New Hampshire.

The first four years of the six year program consisted of working full-time as an apprentice tool & die maker while taking two courses per semester in night school at UNH (15 miles from the GE factory). The final two years of the program would be full-time student at UNH only.

I don't have any photos from that time, but I was able to find a group that will help me to tell the story of my employment at GE's watthour meter manufactruring facility in Somersworth, New Hampshire.

My apartment

I was a little surprised that I'd find such a great photo of the apartment that I rented. The three windows in the red box were to the apartment I rented.

It was actually a studio apartment with a very small kitchen in an alcove off the main room.

The main gate at the plant was behind this apartment and across a supermarket parking lot. I took less than 5 minutes to walk from the apartment door to the main gate.

The factory

The model of the car seems to date this photo from the 1950s. I can attest, it was an old factory when I worked there.

Tool room

Learning to use machining tools was a great experience. I don't have any regrets about quitting the job, however.


For the entire time I worked in the "tool room" of that factory, I was assigned to the "model shop"



Mostly old guys like the on the left in the photo on right. Not much in common with most everybody that worked in the tool rom, including most of the apprentices (there were about 30-35 at any given time).


My biggest problem was not being 5 or 10 minutes late . . . imagine that!


One of the few jobs that I worked at where I had to punch a time clock.

Another view

1-2-3 Blocks

One of my first assignments upon beginning to work in the model shop was to start making a pair of 1-2-3 blocks.

Basically, get (2) piece of 1" × 2" × 3" steel stock, and start milling, drilling, reaming. heat-treating and grinding on them until something like this came out.



1-2-3 blocks are precision ground steel blocks that measure 1"x2"x3" in size. They are quite useful around the shop for various clamping and setup operations, particulary on the mill table. They are available both in solid and perforated style. The perforated ones have both tapped and plain holes that are useful for mounting in various ways.


Lathes . . . don't forget to remove the chuck key from the chuck before turning on the lathe!


If not, that sucker makes one hell of a bang on the floor when it hits.





Milling machine

A typical Bridgeport milling machine.


Various assortment of milling machine cutters pictured below.















Surface grinder

Yeah, my favorite grinder looked similar to the one on the right, but it was smaller, more compact.


The controls were so tight in that machine. Very little backlash in the feed controls.











Punch press

Fortunately, I didn't have too many hours sitting at one of these monsters. Very loud sitting next to one, when the cutter hits the anvil.


Oh, make sure you take all tools away from the press area before engaging the down-stroke!

Precision bearing plate

The job that I spent the most time on was doing the final surface grinding on innumeriable tiny precision bearing plates.

It was a job that I was assigned to early on in my employment at GE, and which never ended – I was continually grinding on these plates, right up until I quit. Mostly it only involved a few hours per week, finish grinding  the latest batch of plates the engineers upstairs had come up with. I'm not sure where they got them, but they didn't come from that factory's tool room.

I worked on a German-made grinder which was a very expersive, precision grinder with settings incrimented in 1/10,000 of an inch – the electromagnatic grinding surface could be raised into the grinding wheel 1/10,000 per click. At such precised tolerances, it was critical to keep the work cool – a combination of misting water sprayed on the grinding area and tiny 1/10,000 thick passes over the plate's surface.

Of course, any tool maker has at least one eye loop, and I'd use a double lensed loop to try to really zoom in on the surface, and check for tiny pot-marks in the surface. The engineers only wanted them back if they were pot-hole free with low magnification. Then they took them up to their lab and examined them under a microscope. They would usually find holes that I'd missed.

Like I said . . .this went on and on and on . . .


I couldn't find an image that even came close to the tiny parts that I was working on.  ( 3/16" W  X  3/4" L  X  1/16" T )



Maybe sometime I'll try my luck with Photoshop or Illustrator and see if I can come up with a better representation.


I included the pic with the plate with two holes, because these little guys had two small holes, one near each end.

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