In 1979, I graduated from high school. My big plans included going to an electronics school and jumping into that blossoming career field. That lasted all of one semester and I dropped out of that program. The next fall, I decided to go back to school; this time I would be studying Mechanical Engineering Technologies.
This was a good fit for me and it would change the direction of my life and put me on the track to where I am today. This was a two-year Associate’s Degree program and it taught me much of what I used in the rest of my life including right up through today.
Because of this program, I got my job with the US Air Force and it eventually moved me to Battle Creek, where I completed my career with the Department of Defense after 35 years. That gave me with a stable job that continues to provide well for me and my family.
In addition, some of the classes included Drafting (old fashioned paper/velum and pencil/pen – no computers yet!) and Machining. I chose the M.E. course because my dad was a Toolmaker and it was somewhat familiar to me. Probably 1/3rd of the classwork was lab work in a machine shop. We made several items, including a small cross peen shop hammer, a C-Clamp with a cast aluminum body (we created the sand mold and poured the molten aluminum), and a small machinist’s vise. I am not sure where the hammer is (the head was loose, due to screw threads cut too deeply), and I think I know where the C-clamp is, although I never used it.
I do use the drafting skills every day these days, and I use the machinist’s vise regularly. I didn’t for many years, but after I got back into the model aviation hobby and started making things for the business, I found I needed it often.
Here is a photo of that vise in use from this morning. I am using it to drill out the Superior Props Drive Dogs that we make. My dad machines the body and sends them to me to finish. He also made the little fixture to hold the bodies to be drilled. The vise spent many years in the garage and barn, so it is not in the best of shape. It suffers from the same issue the hammer did: the chased threads were cut too deeply and the screw action is just a little sloppy.
By the way, we had to make every part. I don’t mean that we poured the steel, but we did choose the dimensions of each part and we had to design the particulars, like how the screw was captured into the jaw. We machined each part (including surface grinding) and assembled them and and the finished product was graded for appearance, operation, and workmanship.
Little did I know while making it that I would be using it a few times a week nearly 40 years later.