Diary of an engineer: Cutting tools

Submitted by AWL on 13 October, 2020 - 3:07 Author: Emma Rickman
Engineering plant

A week ago I felt like giving up, but this one I think I might be getting somewhere. This is often an up-and-down job.

I’m asked to make a pin for the crane from a rough sketch. I can’t find any solid bar of the right size, so I use threaded bar. I use a cutting saw to trim a piece to size, then the pillar drill to punch a 7mm hole through the centre. When the hole ends up off-centre on the curved surface, I cut another piece and drill it again, but accurately.

I’m happy that this is simple, but good, work. I’m not even fussed when A tells me threaded bar will snap too easily to be useful — I followed J’s instructions and the error is not mine.

To fulfil the role of pin we use a large bolt, then adjust the sensor to account for the shorter length. Me, A and L put on paper overalls, masks, gloves, cover-shoes and hoods to get onto the crane gantry and drill fresh holes in the steel arm, thread them, screw in the sensor and position the new bolt “pin”. Job done.

In the afternoon the apprentices take it in turns to fault-find on an unused cassette in the switch room. P tells me the basics of how a cassette functions, and when it’s my turn I fumble my way through the schematic, testing the switch, testing the contacter incorrectly, testing it correctly, and finally landing on a missing link — the small connecting wire between two terminals has fallen loose.

Normally an emergency stop button would be linked to this, breaking the circuit and deactivating the power supply to the machine. A congratulates me, and gives me a little fist-bump.

• Emma Rickman is an apprentice engineer at a Combined Heat and Power plant in Sheffield.

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