Long ago, before autoswages and even air swages existed, and early in my career as a saw salesman, I will never forget a sawyer working in a family mill in Livingston, Texas. This is my account of his story.
The single head mill with a 54 foot bandsaw was owned and operated by a highly respected family spanning several generations. The affiant was about 70 years old and had worked at the same mill for three generations of mill owners. The spinner was very dedicated to his work and the owners valued his work and considered him part of the family.
The spinner’s wife and family asked the former spinner to retire, but the former spinner did not care to give up his craft. Finally he made the trip to the owner’s office one day and as he stood in the doorway the owner very politely got up from his seat and met the filer half way to the room in front office.
The owner said, “Is everything okay? You hardly ever come to the office.
The former registrant said, “Yes sir, I just needed to let you know something.”
The owner gestured for him to sit down. As they both sat down and the landlord asked what he could do for him, the deponent lowered his head and said that due to his age and his family pushing him to retire, he gave one year’s notice.
The owner immediately replied, “Of course. You have been very loyal to me and our entire family for many years. We only wish you the best because you have given us the best of yourself. And with a year’s notice, you still take care of us, leaving us plenty of time to replace you. We so appreciate your work here and your kindness and dedication to our family.
The owner then took his pencil and paper and began to calculate. “Well sir, you repair two strips a day for about 260 work days a year. Our strip that we run is 54 feet long with a tooth spacing of 2 inches. That works out to 324 teeth per strip. Crimp twice per day for 260 days will have you shooting that crimp 168,480 times before you retire.
The owner accompanied the old spinner to the door with his hand on his shoulder, congratulating him on his work at the mill. As the former registrant walked out, the owner said, “You come back to the office whenever you want to visit.”
The next day, as the owner approached his office, he saw the old spinner sitting outside his door, apparently waiting to speak. The owner asked a little awkwardly, “What can I do for you?” You were just here yesterday.
Hesitantly, the old spinner looked the owner in the eye and dropped his shoulder, finally letting go that thinking about shooting that crimp another 168,480 times led him to the conclusion that he couldn’t shoot it even once. more. Apologizing as he went, the former declarer began to walk out, stating that he had decided his retirement was to start today and was going home to rest.
When I think about this story today, I come to the conclusion that it can be both overwhelming and frustrating to think about performing a physical task over and over again. Not to mention the health problems it can cause.
Does the younger generation realize the importance of technology when using stampings and automatic moulders or even semi-automatic stampings? Or should we go further and ask ourselves if factory owners and managers realize the good of these machines? Does today’s new management understand the hard work of registrants to keep the plant running efficiently and profitably?
Today we are a very lucky generation to have such proven technology and advancements in our woodworking industry. This notice is aimed more at owners and managers than at former registrants:
Factories have excellent filing cabinets that maintain the filing room to a degree that improves factories’ productivity and profits. Please consider giving former registrants the tools and equipment that could inspire them to spend a few more good years in the filing room.
After all, it’s in the interests of owners and management to retain trained and experienced staff who can keep the saws sharp while passing the knowledge on to the next generation of workers.
This column is dedicated to the Olgtree family. Their sawmill operated from 1920 to the 1960s.
This article is part of CFI’s Dossier Week 2022. Find it Drop Weekly Homepage Here.
Paul Smith is owner and CEO of Smith Sawmill Service LLC with locations in Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Join it at [email protected]