All’s Well That Ends Well

There was a loose nut behind the Heidelberg, but was it Mary or Shop Boy?

We were prepping to run our first job on the windmill press. Yep, the machine was just too big and heavy to let it sit there unused any longer. Vince Pullara III, the third-generation Baltimore printer who sold us the Heidelberg, had stopped by a few days before to give us the basics on running it.

(He also allowed as how it could use a good cleaning … Dude!)

We felt about ready to solo. Mary had even downloaded and printed out an old manual from a letterpress website.

Uh-oh.

See, this is why men don’t bother much with manuals. Turns out there’s a part called a shear collar in the butt end of the windmill that, according to the manual, can wear out over time and fracture. Once this happens, the press can be damaged if you max out the packing, max out the impression, max out the power, max out the speed, print seven sheets at once and use a battering ram to open and close the platen.

Or something like that.

Great. Give Mary even a remote possibility to worry about and she won’t stop worrying until that possibility has been eliminated. Sheesh.

Anyway, one of the signs of this shearing phenomenon is “end play.” (The manual provides no definition.)

Mary: “I felt a little play in one of the nuts on that little shield thing back there. I think it’s end play.”

Shop Boy: “We don’t even know what ‘end play’ is! The machine’s running great!”

Mary: “It says the machine could be damaged if …”

Shop Boy: “It’s a loose bolt, Mary.”

Mary: “Don’t be such a wuss. You’re always like this. Go get a wrench. The manual says it will take less than five minutes to check.”

Shop Boy (snorting): “Yeah, right.”

Mary: “You know you have to humor me on this.”

She was right. You don’t dare question Mary’s little obsessions. First, she won’t allow it. Second, she has a habit of making you look like a fool if you do. She has some sort sixth sense or something about crazy stuff. Like if she sends you on a wild goose chase and you come back empty-handed, she’ll go and produce whatever you were looking for in a matter of seconds. Or if she detects an odd smell, just go along with it … the foundation’s probably disintegrating or a rabid wildebeest is loose in the kitchen or something.

Shop Boy could just see it: Taking the windmill offline before we even got it online. We couldn’t leave well enough alone for once? I pouted for a moment (maybe two, sue me — it had been a long, sweaty weekend), then grabbed a wrench.

The shear collar is protected by a cast-iron shield held in place by a set of bolts, five shorter bolts around one long bugger. The center one was a little loose. The others? Not in the least bit. Now, you know how in modern cars the manufacturer always seem to put the oil filter in an uncomfortable spot, one that’s sure to produce injury when the filter finally gives way and you slice your hand on the chassis while trying to change your own oil? (A clever incentive to pay the dealer good money to do it for you.) Well, when you back a Heidelberg into a corner and try to mess with its rear end … similar deal.

OK, maybe Shop Boy was out of line. Perhaps it was wrong to call our efforts “stupid,” even if I meant it in the most agreeable way. It could have been cowardly to suggest that maybe we should wait for Vince to come back and take a look at it.

But gosh. It was getting late. Shop Boy was on his knees, soaked in perspiration, frustrated at having produced nothing to show for our extended workday and, frankly, in no stinking mood to wrestle with Godzilla-tightened bolts just to check on some part that might or might not have a “fracture” when the machine was humming like a Ferrari.

Hey, I did apologize less than five minutes later, after we’d unscrewed the bolts, removed the shield, tested the collar, found it in good shape and put the whole thing back together.

So that’s something, right?

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One Response to “All’s Well That Ends Well”

  1. Goff Says:

    Please stop talking about “end play.” It’s just . . . wrong.

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