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by Curtis Von Fange
It is a story that repeats itself countless times. In the process of rebuilding a particular section of the tractor there is a broken part for which a replacement cannot be found. The parts houses find in their catalogue that it is unavailable. The dealerships call it a discontinued part. Salvage yards define it as hard to find or, even worse, rare. Everyone on the NET says, 'what is it?' But donít despair there is another avenue that can be used to get that piece repaired. The local machine shop.
Machine shops are a wonder of technology. They can take a raw piece of steel and make it into any size or shape that can be imagined. Pieces that are broken in two or have fatigue and heat cracks can be miraculously glued back together to look like new. Let's take a look at some of the services these guys have to offer.
I suppose that typical machine shops are an intimidation to the average person. After all, they are tailor made to the industrial sector of the work machine. Usually, there is no customer counter. The employees all are dressed in blue and diligently work behind a battery of large, noisy machines that look like they are from some high tech movie. Offices are stuffed away in some distant part of the building and the people seem unapproachable. But, remember, this is only the appearance of what is actually there. Many of the shops appear this way because they are laid out for efficient production and are not designed as a retail outlet for customer service. These places have contracts based on piece items and quotas that have to be met on a daily basis. All the personnel have assignments, tasks, and timetables. They also work with million dollar machines that are capable of ultra precise measurement that boggle the mind. They are extremely capable professionals in their field.
Machine shops, depending on the size, have an assortment of tools at their disposal. Lathes are used for turning pins and making bushings; the milling machines are used for creating flat surfaces for mating pieces; industrial drill presses not only drill holes but make slots and keyways; they can align bore crank journals, hone cylinders, heat treat and weld cast materials, just about anything one can think of. A creative shop foreman can usually suggest how to repair a broken item because he has the knowledge of what his tools can do to back him up.
The fact is, when one enters the company the shop foreman is the man to ask for. He is the one who knows what they can and cannot do; he is the one with the shop schedule. Many, if not all, of these shops will 'fit in' a small farm job to fill in extra time between pieces or projects. Granted, you may have to wait for a number of days before they get to it, but since the part is irreplaceable to begin with, it is a small price to pay.
A point to remember: machine shops do the job right. They aren't interested in cobbling something together to see if it will work. They are interested in doing the job correctly so it will not break again. This character trait may take more time than expected but that is what quality brings. They are also not cheap. Granted, some will recognize that you and your part represent a different sector of the money tree and will charge accordingly, others will offer a simple hourly rate for access to all their machines. They will assign someone the task of accomplishing the goal and that person will follow it through to completion under the guidance of the foreman. Either way, the job will get done.
One thing I have found that machine shops cannot do is to repair material that is rotted or rusted away. Exhaust manifolds are a case in point. Cast iron manifolds that are weathered and rusted beyond weldable repair cannot be fixed by anyone. On the other hand, friction surfaces like flywheels or clutch plates that have been heated or grooved can be weld-built and turned back to original specs. It is best to discuss the problem with the foreman and let him see and suggest solutions.
Machine shops can offer a definitive solution to some big problems when working with parts that are obsolete and/or non-existent. Find them in the phone book; look for them in the commercial sections of town. They are your local problem solver.