My name is Ke’Montae Fisher, a Tool and Die Apprentice working for Mann + Hummel Purolator located in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I am writing this blog in order to help current and future Mann + Hummel employees recognize this fresh new program and what it has to deliver in the future. This blog gives a small glimpse into the life of an apprentice working in the Tool and Die department.
My First Months as an Apprentice
Within the first two months of working as an apprentice, I machined various blocks of steel into tools that have many applications. I also started taking machining courses at Fayetteville Technical Community College to help expedite my understanding of working in a machine shop. These courses make learning how to machine parts much easier. The methods practiced in the courses apply directly to how I work in the shop.
The first challenge was learning how to use tool maker terminology. I was hardwired into calculating numbers differently from tool makers. In measuring and using numbers, the place values after the decimal are hundred thousandths, ten thousandths, thousandths, tenths, ten millionths, in that order. For example: 0.2345 is “two hundred thirty-four thousandths and five-tenths to a tool maker. It was confusing at first, but I persevered and learned the terminology. I received tremendous help from my mentor, William Richardson, an experienced Journeyman. He has been guiding me and the other apprentices through our assigned projects. Learning through his wisdom has been one of the most practical ways of understanding tool making.
Having utilized the resources given to me, I can now cut blocks of steel, which I then square- up and shape to blueprint specifications. The process of making a tool or part starts with reading and understanding the blueprint. In order to make a precise part, I use measuring tools which include a set of dial calipers, a micrometer, and a sort of ruler called a scale. I use the tools high precision to measure out and check the dimensions of the part I am making.
The first step is to pick out the material called for in the blueprint. Usually, I pick out the metal which has ideal properties that the part can benefit from during use. Various metals have specific traits regarding ease of machinability so it helps to know beforehand what steps need to be taken when machining them. After I pick out the material, I cut it to slightly bigger dimensions so as to have enough stock to work with comfortably. I then take the part over to a milling machine to roughly trim or mill the dimensions down to just before the point specified by the blueprint. This is so I have enough stock to grind the material down to its final dimensions.
After the milling process is done, I put the part into an oven set to a specific temperature to optimize its hardness. This process has a number of steps which help strengthen the metal. When the part cools, I then take it to the grinder and finely reduce its’ size to that specified in the blueprint. After this process, the part is finished and is ready to be utilized in conjunction with other parts. It takes four years to complete the Tool and Die apprenticeship. I will be keeping updates of my progress through this blog. All the successes and lessons learned through my apprenticeship will be recorded in this blog series. This is just an introduction to give you an idea of what I have experienced during the first months, so please stay tuned.