Ah! The Good “Old” Days at the Cleveland Vibrator Company

Glen Roberts

When you have been around a company as long as I have, you look back at times and reflect on how the products you offer and a even how your workforce interacted with each other has changed compared to the same workplace of the 21st century. After thinking back, I wanted to mention a few of the lighter moments from the 1970’s and some of the pranks we used to pull on each other. Let’s start with a few humorous moments on testing new products and repairs of larger Foundry Flask Vibrators.

In the early 1970’s, Cleveland Vibrator picked up another product line called “Air Blasters” or “Air Cannons”. They were basically welded tanks with an inside rubber bladder which was inflated with air from 80 to 100 PSI and you would release the pressurized air using a pressure relief valve thru a 4 to 6” diameter discharge pipe. This would send a blast of air into a large bin or silo to break up large collections of grain that had adhered itself to the inside walls. We ordered and received our first unit and of course had to test it before shipping to our valued customer. We assembled the unit and set it up outside our paint booth in the plant and supported it against a brick interior wall. We primed this “baby” with about 90 pounds of air and were ready to set it off. We aimed it at a brick wall about 20 or 25 feet away and thought this would be safe. Unfortunately, we didn’t allow for the dispersion pattern of the blast… If we would have fully read all the instructions, we would have planned a little better but this is when the typical guy mentality comes into play. I think we all know that thought process when guys are putting things together and don’t feel the need to read all or at times any of the instructions.

For example, over 30 years ago Santa Claus delivered a wooden toy chest to our house for Christmas and due to more than normal lost sick days at the North Pole, the elves ran out of time so Santa delivered to our house with the words that strike terror in the hearts of most parents ”SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.” Anyway, the assembly went pretty well until it was time to put the back on for strength. It just didn’t seem to line up with the back of the toy chest and after several tries, a few modifications and several extra nails later it was a thing of beauty. I didn’t realize till about ten years later that the back was installed upside down and inside out…

Which leads us back to the blaster and I would note, just to the right of the blast target area or “GROUND ZERO” as I like to call it, was two sets of bi-fold doors that at the time lead in to our show vibrator storage area. Also, about 40 to 50 feet farther was a regular office door that lead into the sales manager’s office. When we de-pressurized the “AIR CANNON” (noting that you would think the term “air cannon” would have lit up the light bulb), we blew the bi-fold doors loose from the hinges, blew open the sales manager’s office door and knocked tiles out of his ceiling.

We decided that the next time we would test this product, we would fire off the blaster out the back shipping door. Of course we did this Plan “B” strategy which proceeded in blowing gravel, dirt and other particles down the driveway and across the street. It was at this point we went to Plan “C” and decided to simply accept the manufacturer’s word on tests being conducted at their plant prior to shipment to Cleveland Vibrator.

We also repair all types of industrial vibrators and some come in with the pistons jammed in them, which could result in some funny business as well. One of the more difficult ones is our 5” FLSH style vibrator. The piston ways about 65 to 70 lbs. and if we were unable to dislodge using a sledgehammer, we would block off the exhaust ports and spray the inside body bore and piston with penetrating oil and let it set for a while. We would then pump up to 100 psi of air through the intake and use a quick acting valve to manually pulse the piston to dislodge it. It does work but when the piston breaks free it can shoot several feet across the floor and look like a torpedo coming out of a torpedo tube. Yes, we have seen this happen from time to time but no worries, the crew is nowhere near the line of fire during this process. For sure the old saying you’ve seen on TV for years. YOU SHOULDN’T TRY THIS AT HOME,” really applies here. The important thing here is as you grow older you live and learn.

NOTE: Pranks to follow.

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