Special Metals Number 9
Late in the spring of 1966 I received an urgent call from a foundry in Utica that had a loss of power and a dreaded freeze up of the melting loop in his old Ajax channel furnace. The owner was listed as a COD customer and could not afford a service call. I spent the weekend with him nursing his furnaces back on line. By noon Monday we had liquid cast iron again in the furnace. The metal was overheated a boiled over from the pouring ladle. The only damage was two holes in my pants just below the knee.
Smelling like a foundry and with two holes in my pants, I made what was known as a cold call on Special Metals. I asked to see the man in charge of vacuum melting furnaces and Huntington came to the lobby. I was at the right place at the right time. Jack recognized the possible synergism in our combined experiences and began to explain his needs.
This would be vacuum melting furnace number 9 for Huntington. In the late fifties when his company was owned by Kelsey Hayes he installed number 6 and 7 furnaces that were constructed by ASEA in Sweden. Number 6 furnace was a 2400-pound horizontal chamber with a dual frequency power supply for low frequency stirring. Number 7 also had a duel frequency power supply but was odd in construction because the 5000-pound furnace shell was the vacuum chamber and pouring was through the trunnion mounts. Jack had to design the rotating joint that connected this system to the pouring chamber because ASEA would not supply it. I did not like the concept of #7 because it was too complex.
Sales diplomacy caused me to keep my mouth closed. To each his own, because Huntington considered this the best investment Special Metals ever made. Metal from this furnace set the quality that other producers of the time envied and had to match.
Huntington was not proud of #8 furnace that Special Metals bought from Stokes and Inductotherm in 1962. He blamed the fact that this furnace did not have a mold lock for its lack of productivity. I saw a system with the furnace lining too thick and a power supply too small. The main fault was the material handling because it did not have an overmelt charger.
I got up at four the next morning and drove to Warren, Ohio to meet with Sid Sedgeworth because I was concerned that Ajax could not build the 60-cycle power supply that this 30,000-pound furnace would need. I had established good rules of thumb for induction melting furnaces that included power and frequency and this one was in the green zone for 4,500 kW at 60-cycles. I wondered if the new SCR system that Ajax was working on would allow the use of other frequencies so we could build a three section center reversed induction coil for 60-cycle stirring.
Sid was not ready for the 60-cycle SCR solution but had another. He wanted to use two of the oil filled 180-cycle transformers that we had used on Carpenter Steel with the secondary pancake transformer connected at 333 volts so he could match a four section two turn induction coil. Using switches he would produce a four-phase system to stir the metal during the refining cycle. To prove the idea he set up the two tripplers in the laboratory using aluminum for the demonstration. Huntington was impressed and the order was mine to lose.
I was not able to observe this unit melt and have no information as to the success or failure of this stirring.
Jack had made up his mind to use steam ejector pumps and based upon Ajax's experience at INCO and a reliable supplier in Elliott, I joined in his decision. The price of natural gas was cheap at the time and handling the extra dust that stainless steels containing manganese that Allegheny dictated that we use a steam jet pump to produce the vacuum.
Jack Huntington and I made a wonderful team because we both had experience and were trying to make the best furnace possible. A quick way to use an overhead crane to remove part of the chamber that supported the melting furnace won the day because it was truly a way to make furnace changes fast. Manard Gray joined us for many layout and mechanical design sessions that took place on the blackboard. Huntington had been away from the furnace room a long time but Gray was there daily. His experience with the construction of long refractory launders to transfer metal from one chamber to another took away my worry about the layout that Jack wanted. I do not remember who was the influence that caused us to select brick linings for this project.
Logan took the wind out of my sails when he announced that Ajax would no longer supply the mechanical portion of vacuum melting equipment. A company on the West Coast, Temescal, constructed equipment to vacuum heat treatment refractory metals that would allow them to process coils of metal through a vacuum seal. They refined the idea to build equipment for continuous casting thin stainless slabs. The proposed mix was high chromium without nickel and Airco had a lock on cheap Russian chromium through the Soviet trending company Amtorg.
Temescal's plan was a grand one that included a channel furnace as the holding and pouring furnace connected to a melting chamber that would batch melt 10-tons to feed the continuous system. Electron beams would play on a long wide water-cooled copper hearth so the final metal would be super pure. These same beams would control the cooling rate in the casting mold. The owners sold this idea to Airco and became rich men.
The new company was named Airco Temescal. They set up an East Coast office under the management of two ex-Stokes employee's. They approached Logan to set up a joint venture and asked him to bid on the induction portion of the project of the facility Airco Temescal was going to construct.
I was just the New York salesman so the management of Ajax did not consult me on the matter. I asked Hanson about the future of the vacuum business and offered to set up a firm to handle this business with Ajax being my supplier. Hanson did not answer but offered to travel to Utica with me. We met in Doc Damara's office and he told Hanson that he wanted Jimmy's furnace and it did not matter who built the mechanical items.
Huntington handed Hanson a single page purchase order with the price blank. I remember that Ajax accepted the order for about $1.4 million. This was really the last nail in the coffin for Stokes and Rowan's lock on the vacuum melting equipment market.
On the way back to Warren in the company plane Hanson told me about the Airco Temescal deal and allowed me to work full time on the project to make sure the details of construction were in accordance with Huntington's desires. In Warren he reached me tickets for me and my wife to travel first class to San Francisco for meetings with Temescal to work out the details.
Jody and I stayed in the most famous hotel in town and ate at the best restaurants with Temescal paying the bills. Temescal did not have draftsmen on their payroll so they agreed to use a consulting group in Warren owned by Henry Venetta for manpower to design the project under my technical guidance.
Henry Venetta was a professional mechanical engineer that had become dissatisfied at working at a steady job. He set up several drafting boards in a two-story house near the center of Warren. I first met him when we needed some test and stress calculations for the NASA job. Venetta used moonlight draftsmen and engineers to complete the work he was able to pick up in the area. When I approached him with large Special Metals job he told me moonlighters would come out of the woodwork and he would hire his friend Gene Shrock on a full time basis.
Shrock turned out to be a dynamo when he was enthused and a person that would not get up in the morning if there was nothing interesting to do. He could make beautiful layout drawings with items like wheels and bearings drawn by freehand. Like a secretary he could discuss and remember items that we were going to do next while he crosshatched drawings. I knew what Huntington wanted and Venetta maintained the stress calculations for the items Shrock and I designed.
Temescal assigned Vince Flynn to the project and he brought Flynn brought a simple beehive seal design from Stokes and the experience to build the steam jet pumping system. I handled all the details under the watchful eyes of Jack Huntington. I was still selling.
I took each batch of drawings to Utica by driving to Buffalo then using Mohawk Airlines to Utica. Huntington moved fast in his review of the layouts and details. In a very short period the basic engineering task was complete. Special Metals did not want to did a deep pit to handle the cross transfer so two mold cars could be used so we designed a large lift so the cars could be raised to floor level. I did not like that design and Huntington agreed but did not want to lose the time necessary for a redesign.
I called Venetta Friday afternoon to tell him that Shrock would have to be tied to his drawing board for the weekend. On Monday morning I took 72 new drawings to Utica for approval.