February 16, 2024
Gear Expo was a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. While I was out collecting swag, purely in support of my reporting duties, of course, someone came to the Gear Technology booth looking for me. Fortunately, he left a card so we could connect later to chat about his passion for herringbone gears and his concern that appreciation for this venerable tooth form was fading. I have posted before about the interruption of “institutional memory” because of changing industry conditions, retirements, and more sadly, sudden deaths. We are powerless to change what has happened but can certainly do something about this “brain drain.” And by “we” I mean all of the experienced gear engineers out there. You do not need an advanced degree to provide value to the collective wisdom. Our engineering school curriculums simply have no room for more gear specific instruction. I know this because a respected academic specifically asked his institution’s engineering dean to add electives on gears and was shown just how jam packed the accredited calendar is. Students get 4 or 5 classroom instruction hours on gears during a five-year mechanical engineering program and those are within the machine design classes. If they want more gear study they have to enter a master’s program. My new “herringbone” friend got his degree from a respected Big Ten school way back in the 1950s, when gear training was taken seriously. He has spent his life working in the “oil patch” and that gave him deep insight into the strengths, weaknesses, and design techniques of the true herringbone gear. I have about fifteen fewer years with these unique teeth but had a few stories about them he had not heard. Somewhere in Gear Guy Heaven Percy C. Day’s ears are ringing. Hopefully, my friend will be writing an account of his experiences to go along with the wonderful electronic spreadsheets he has developed for herringbone specific gear calculations. At the very least he will be adding a cell-by-cell “cheat sheet” so future users can figure out how things work. You can do this too! I was once tasked with writing step-by-step instructions for my successor as a condition for severance pay. It was a great intellectual exercise and I am glad I kept a copy as my immediate successor lost his copy and the guy after him really wanted help. You can decide for yourself if unwillingness to learn new tricks was connected to that short tenure. Your “book” does not need to be massive. We are always looking for interesting content for the magazine so consider that an option too.