Here in the Midwest we are going through a nasty winter. Between the relentless snow and bone-numbing cold, it has been a challenge keeping sidewalks and roadways clear for safe travel. Today I’d like to thank the people who made it possible for the average homeowner to have a snowblower. Before 1951 snowblowers and snowthrowers were only found in railroad yards and highway departments. Everyone else was stuck moving snow with a plow or a shovel.
Then Toro introduced the Snowhound in 1951 and the snowblower became a suburban necessity. The transition from JW Elliot’s 1869 locomotive mounted machine to Arthur Sicard’s 1925 truck mounted model was tough enough, but the breakthroughs needed to make a walk-behind model required lots of clever engineering.
Many of those clever engineers were in the gear trade. Every time I operate my self-propelled MTD, I marvel at the 6 forward speed/2 reverse speed transmission being cost effective. Not to mention the neat crossed helical gearbox that drives the blade itself. Coming from a world of large industrial gears, I couldn’t believe they could be made and sold so inexpensively the first time I saw one being made at Peerless Gear in 1978.
So from a guy who clears his own driveway, I salute my fellow gear people for their inventiveness and diligence. Without that snowblower, I would be moving south as soon as possible.
I am happy to report that I survived my first Skype teleconference today. This amazing technology may be old hat to some of you but as a non-grandparent I had to call my daughter, the internet expert, for a quick lesson in how far to sit from the screen, how loud to speak, and how to position the screen.
Things went well and it was far better than spending a day in the airport traveling to and from an out of town meeting. Travel budgets have been tight for years now; so much so that many AGMA committees are having more teleconferences than face-to-face meetings. The ones I have participated did not have a video component and I’m not sure they need it. It isn’t like there are incredibly cute grandchildren running around.
One thing that came up in the Skype meeting was how ubiquitous 3-D models are at these gatherings. Everyone expects there to be pretty colored pictures. I admire the speed and skill of our younger engineers at rendering designs in this medium. Maybe it isn’t too late for me to learn a new CAD program.
When discussing influential books on gears, I like to start with the venerable Machinery’s Handbook. No matter where you go in the industrial world you’ll find well thumbed copies of this handy reference book. My long time friend and noted gear engineer Ed Hahlbeck was fond of saying that if he was ever ship wrecked on a desert island he hoped his Machinery’s Handbook washed ashore too. I have a 21st century copy in my library right along side the 1928 edition I bought for a dollar at an estate sale.
The gear trade and general industry owe a big thank you to Franklin D. Jones and Erik Oberg for first publishing this reference in 1914 and for updating it every few years. Mr. Jones died in 1967 at the age of 88 but even the latest electronic versions still carry his name. He was a prolific writer/editor and I am a fan of two of his other books as well. Gear Design Simplified is a great guide for beginning gear people. The three volume Ingenious Mechanisms for Engineers and Designers is at the opposite end of the complexity scale but certainly shows the creativity of the people who worked in our trade before slide rules, calculators, and computer aided design.
I wonder if the publishers will have a special 100th Anniversary edition? Are there any other scientific or engineering reference books that have been in continuous use for that long? At one point I had a complete set of Gear Technology back issues but unfortunately they got damaged in one of my many moves. On line access to the contents diminishes that loss but I tend to agree with Ed; finding a Machinery’s Handbook is a good first step in resolving many shop problems.
Blogging about gear training brings to mind the widely attended Illinois Tool Works Gear School that Bob Moderow operated on behalf of his employer. When I attended in 1979, ITW was one of the largest suppliers of gear cutting tools and gear inspection machines in the world. Times and technology have changed since then and most of ITW’s gearing assets are disbursed to other firms now. Coatings on hobs and shaper cutters greatly increased their useful life so the volume needed by industry declined. New computer assisted gear inspection machines displaced the analog devices ITW made while providing more accurate and reliable inspections.
The ITW Gear School provided the first industry-wide instruction in gear theory, manufacturing, and inspection. We owe a big debt to Bob Moderow and his co-workers for standardizing the terminology used. Thousands of engineers, foremen, and operators “graduated” from the school with an understanding of what a “good” chart looked like on a lead or a profile. Perhaps more importantly, they also knew how to adjust the process to make a bad chart become a good chart. The training materials developed for the course are still being used in shops all over the world. With modern gear grinding equipment we don’t often have to know how a mis-sharpened hob changes the involute shape but I keep the diagrams in my personal “book of knowledge.”
AGMA has picked up the torch on industry-wide gear training in recent years. Ray Drago and Bob Errichello provide top-notch courses in a wide variety of areas. Do yourself and your company a favor by attending an AGMA seminar soon. Both instructors are unsurpassed in their understanding of gear technology and are wonderful teachers as well. Those two attributes are not often found in the same person and their willingness to conduct these classes several times a year is laudable. I count myself lucky to have learned from them in the classroom. If you can’t attend a seminar in person you can find many contributions from these legends in the Gear Technology archives.
“The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name” — Chinese proverb
Who taught you about gears? I was blessed with some great mentors in the early years of my career, but I never met some of my most important teachers. The answers to my many questions were “in the books” in the company library, I was told. Many a lunch hour was passed devouring the collected works of Dudley, Buckingham, and Jones. As I became familiar with the terminology, my co-workers and supervisors began to explain our company’s particular “take” on gear design. Some of the positions we took now seem a bit out of date, but I still use those same reference books today.
What is your favorite gear reference book? During the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to inventory the library of one of my favorite all-time gear people, the late Don McVittie. He had many of the same reference books I own and many that I had never seen before. His family had donated the books to The Gear Works so the next generation of gear engineers would have access to them; a generous gesture from a guy who was always willing to explain things to an interested student.
If you are an experienced gear person, I hope you will share your knowledge with others. If you are just starting out in the trade, I hope you can find a good mentor. If mentors aren’t available, I have a suggested bibliography in my book An Introduction to Gear Design. The book is a free download from my company web site www.beytagear.com. The Internet has made locating even long-out-of-print gear textbooks easier, so good luck in your scavenger hunt.
There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of building your own “personal brand.” The gear trade in the United States is more open than elsewhere in the world; no doctorate is required to present a paper at the Fall Technical Meeting. I was terrified the first time I submitted an abstract but enjoyed the process of writing and presenting a paper so much I did it two more times. My abstract for 2014 was sent in months ago but you still have a few days to submit yours before the January 15, 2014 deadline. Papers need not be huge breakthroughs; mine were reviews of areas of interest to me which I thought others might fine worthwhile. The effort has paid me back many times over the years in conversation, professional recognition, and project opportunities.
If you have a unique insight to some aspect of gear engineering or a different method of dealing with a design issue, why not share it with your peers via the Fall Technical Meeting? Need examples of what a good paper looks like? Almost every issue of Gear Technology contains one or more papers from the annual gathering. It is a short walk from the spectator seats to the podium. You and your career will be forever grateful you took that walk.
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology’s technical editors.
I am honored to serve as Gear Technology’s first official blogger. As a gear industry lifer, talking about gears is one of my favorite activities and I look forward to sharing my passion with you in the coming months. Hopefully this will become a conversation rather than a monolog; I look forward to hearing from you with your insights, experiences, and opinions on our trade.
The goal here is to encourage reflection on how gear technology got where it is, where it might go, and how each of us has and can contribute to its future. It isn’t about revealing technological advances or critiquing commercial strategies; instead I hope to remind readers of important gear people of the past and to assist our younger participants in appreciating the lasting impact they made on our craft.