Sometimes, you just need to go down to the shop.

The life of a working engineer seems to have an awful lot of desk time involved. Which can be entertaining when you’re actively designing stuff — a reasonably powerful computer and modern CAD software is a great tool for the tinkering-minded, but can also involve hours of, if not quite mindless, at least tedium.

This morning was one of the latter. Making some edits to a CAD model and the 2D drawings derived from said model, with the model itself being a derivative of an existing product, doesn’t quite provide the level of personal satisfaction that coming up with something entirely new does.

Which doesn’t mean I cut corners. Au contraire, mon frere, I did it the only way I know how. Complete. The drawing that provided the basis for this model was missing some pieces, like fasteners, and so I took the time today to complete the assembly with fasteners in all the right places. After all, the client will be seeing that GA (General Assembly) drawing, so it’d better look good.

But the end result of this was it took quite a bit longer than I’d originally hoped at the start of the workday. However, salvation also arrived this morning in the form of a delivery of some pieces-parts I’d ordered. With those in-house, I could spend a little time in the shop putting all the pieces-parts, plus some others, together into the spares package for a tool we’d modified earlier in the year. The idea is that there are a few of the key pieces needed to perform a field repair on the tool, should it become necessary, without significant downtime waiting for a special part to be ordered, located, and flown or ferried out to the work rig, which can take several days.

Not really a big technical challenge, but still, hands-on with some parts, and what’s more, down in the shop. Good change of scenery, and a chance to talk with the techs a bit, too.

We have great technicians in our shop. Absolute wizards when it comes to getting stuff done, they work hard, they pull the long hours, and they are the backbone of our operation. No techs, no products. Period.

They tolerate my intrusions into their space. It helps that I’ve got a shop-rat background, but let’s face it: I’m capable, I’m methodical, and I’m slow in the shop anymore. Part of this is just being out of daily practice. Toward the end of a long project with lots of shop time, I am significantly faster than I was at the beginning. But at the least, I respect the tools, and I always, always clean and return the tools I use to their rightful place when I’m done. A couple of the techs think I fear them. I don’t. I fear angering the ghost of my maternal grandfather, the master mechanic and master machinist, who started my shop education with the following two rules:

  1. You have to tighten the bolts.
  2. When you are done tightening the bolts, clean the tools and put them back where they belong so you can find them for the next job.

There were a lot more lessons, but those were the first two.

The minor task I came down there for accomplished, I was able to get through the rest of the day in a much better mood.

Shop time as therapy.

There’s just something satisfying about actually making something. Even if that something is just a Waterproof Case From A Popular US Maker of Waterproof Cases (hey, brand I didn’t mention: pony up some stuff for Tinkering School and I’ll edit this with your correct name and a link to your website) full of a selection of hydraulic parts. It was an empty case when I started.

And I think I might just need a bit more of that. There are some new bits for the bicycle that I need to install. To the garage!

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