back to db page

How Long's it Take?

It's one of the most frequently asked questions. I get alot of mail telling me that readers enjoy getting a glimpse of the process of being in this type of business and producing work such as I do. Here's another peek.

If you don't manufacturer unique items from raw materials (and few do) then you probably simply don't experience anything like a day around here. People live in little blocks of neatly managed time. Society has laid that out in order for people to work together. The meeting is gonna start at 3 and last an hour. You know pretty much how long it takes to drive to work. You know you start at 8 - leave at 5, start at 5 - leave at 8 ... whatever version you have.

It would be pretty much expected that everything is this way. While I have this cup of coffee, I want to mess with your mind some.

On the mornings when it snowed just a skiff, how long does it take to drive to work? Who knows ... far more variables tossed in then. OK - but that's sort of under the category of something going wrong. Let's get closer to the routine here. It takes me about an hour to mow the yard. That's "If" there's gas in the can, "If" the air filter isn't clogged and needs cleaning. "If" I don't have to take off the mower blade and grind it for sharpening. These issues are all part of mowing. You can't really say they are things that went wrong. But - you also can't now claim it takes an hour to mow the yard either.

When it comes to the shop, the stuff takes as long as it takes. If I dull a cutter, I can't decide that I don't have time to regrind it or remake one. I cannot continue until I do. If I'd break off a tap, I can't decide that I don't have time to get it out of the part. The machine that needs adjusting, oiling, cleaning ... that stuff can't just get put off on the next guy's ticket. It needs to be done when it needs to be done. All part of the build.

These things aren't really examples of things going wrong. They are examples of the normal process. That's the real point of the page here. I believe that most folks feel that things generally humm along on autopilot and it's only the occasional "problem" which may cause an interruption. If that were the case, then yeah ... I can figure out ... let's see - that machine makes three airguns per hour ... twenty minutes and one's finished. ;?) But, it's not "an airgun" ... it's about 100 individual parts with a thousand processes. During any one of them, cutters need sharpening, machines need adjusting, materials need grading, tanks need changing, supplies need ordering, e-mail needs answering, bills need paying, etc.

The absolute key attribute required to do this work is "patience". If that trigger sucks, you can either look at the clock, decide you don't have time to fiddle with it, stuff it in a box and ship it anyway .... OR .... you can forget there's even a clock in the shop, take the stock back off, pull the trigger block out, disassemble the whole thing, stone and polish the parts, adjust the levers, clean and oil all, reassemble the block, replace the block. Lock the adjustments, clean and replace the stock, and try it again.

Never a day goes by without grinding and sharpening cutters and drill bits. Lousy work is the only result of putting it off for one more hole. I've mentioned before, I get a kick out of watching the Orange County Choppers shows. Mainly, I get a kick out of the fact that their "scheduling" format is portrayed as Paul Sr. screaming, ranting, throwing stuff, chewing out subcontractors, and then going to the gym. Love it when the camera shows him actually trying to use a screw driver for a few seconds before he stresses, curses, and throws a fit. If you have a few steady workers off camera who keep their cool and work along until things are right, you get it done. Patience.