It was spring time in Phoenix, Ronald Reagan was our president. I was on my way, really going places.
I was no longer a jour-neyman plasterer working for a buck but was now a bona-fide, plas-ter-pumping, money-making contrac-tor. I had financed my first Spray Force plaster pump, ownership was now a reality.
I headed to my yard for its first trial run. Using only water, I need-ed to be sure that I was personally familiar with all of its operations. The test run went well. I had taken it through its paces and built the basic confidence I needed to use this machine. I finished by carefully going through all of my hoses checking its fittings and elec-trical lines. This was it. I was ready for the pump’s first day in a real money--making job experience.
The first day went well and thank-fully without a hitch. My plaster crew and I had successfully scratched a large custom home and the pump and crew would return on the mor-row for the brown coat. I’ve got to say it was fun and very satisfying to have that day go as good as it did, our confidence was up, it was exhilarating for me personally. I very much looked forward to tomor-row in returning and completing the brown coat.
UNFORTUNATE INDUSTRY PARADIGM
The following day started just like the day before, smooth sailing and my crew was running on all cylinders! We were just about done browning and the last full batch of mud was dumped and now it was in the hose. I was coming to the end of a wall (and trying to be efficient). I had just sent back my drag guy (“Darby-Man”) along with my hose puller to help the others float and trim the walls that were setting behind us. I knew that I could pull the hose to the last 10 feet of wall and then knock-down the sprayed work myself. It was then that it happened.
The nozzle stopped spraying and in that instant it packed. I hit the switch and nothing. The switch would not turn off the machine. Admittedly I panicked, I was not in view of the machine operator (the pump was just around the corner from me). I dropped the nozzle and began to run. As I was running toward the pump and the hoddie to turn it off, my head was down for just a moment. Then from out of nowhere I was clothes-lined. I had run headfirst into a plank. Dazed and motionless, I heard the hose thudding against the adjoin-ing block fence with great force and throwing mud everywhere.
My mouth was bleeding and I was lying dazed. My crew had turned off the pump and was now gathering around me. Ques-tions and great concern about my con-dition and as to what had just hap-pened came from several of them. A couple of the guys slowly helped me to my feet. We wanted to know why the pump packed and to why it could not shut off from the switch on the nozzle.
We had a huge mess on our hands and acutely knew the amount of work involved in the clean-up (if not done at that moment). To make matters worse, we now had plaster setting everywhere. It would suffice it to say, that day did not end well. Today, fortunately all that remains of that unpleasant incident is a small scar and a war story in the world of plaster pumps.
The next twenty years of con-tracting clicked away for me-success and growth brought an additional five new plaster pumps with many similar and other diverse experiences. Ball-and-seat piston pumps have been around a long time. The current day versions are generally powered by diesel engines. If they pack, you will have little if any warning before a hose blows. However, the advantage of modern diesel engine is that they are very fuel efficient with twice the torque compared to the old “Wisconsin” powered plas-ter-pumps that will “groan” under a load.
In order to solve the increased diesel torque problem, many of us have tried a little trick: We run the belt a little loose on the pulley, so that it will slip instead of the motor trying to drive through any pack. However,
I have found this to further exacerbate and even increase manifold packing problems. If you run the longer lasting steel balls that are very heavy (it takes a lot more pressure to lift them off of the seats as opposed to the lighter hard rubber balls), the slipping of the belt causes the cement to be squeezed out of the matrix, leaving only the sand inside, in consequence you have a packed manifold!
This creates a precarious situation and does not solve the bigger and unchanged “problem”-that the gear-box ball and seat pumps have unintelligent and uncontrollable torque.
I have always known that plas-ter pumps are game changers. In fact, they are light-years faster, more efficient and a great deal more produc-tive than applying cementitious materials by hand.
I am happy to say pump and hose pack related issues are not among the most ful-filling highlights of my many years of profitable contracting. Throughout it all I envisioned a future that would bring an important paradigm shift where pumping all plaster-fireproofing products would be much safer and productive.
Late in 2002, I received notice of Doug Burchfield’s passing (an original industry pioneer and the founder of Spray Force Mfg). I attended his services. A couple weeks later, I unexpectedly received a guest-Burchfield’s daughter Nancy-at my office. In short, I was invited into and accepted a partnership with an industry leading plaster-pump manufacturer.
Confucius may have said it best 1,500 years ago, “To know what is right and to not do it is the most cowardice.”
I immediately engaged in developing a safer, controllable pump that allows smooth delivery of torque and horsepower to the plaster-pump running gear without exposing the user-operator to a harrowing and very dangerous experience (related to hose and or manifold packs) Furthermore, the Hydra system allows speeds from 1 to 60 gallons per minute. With this incredible Hydra advancement, this Tommy-Style plaster pump (the Excalibur Hydra) can now spray finish for the first time ever.
Of course, less the uncontrollable torque related problems (i.e. the gear box, clutch and pulleys).
In closing, like history, bent push rods, catastrophic damage and dangerous hose packs should be a thing of the past and in our rear view mirror. I am reminded of an old Chinese Proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago … The second best time is now!”
Today, I enjoy my work here and appreciate the many lessons learned, both past and present. I choose to believe that there will always be better things that lay ahead then anything that we will leave behind. W&C
Sidebar: 10 BASIC REASONS TO USE HYDRA POWERThere is infinite control and no complicated systems of gears, clutches and pulleys.
Motion can be transmitted without slack.
Fluids used are not subject to mechanical breakdown and the mechanisms are not subjected to great wear.
Fluid can be conveniently located at widely separated points.
Hydraulic forces can be conveyed up and down or around corners without loss in efficiency or any complicated mechanisms.
Very large forces are controlled by much smaller ones and can even be transmitted through small, efficient and well-organized lines.
Provides smooth, flexible, uniform action without vibration.
In case of a pressure overload, (i.e. material hose/manifold packing) an automatic release (bypass) of pressure happens so that the whole system is protected against mechanical breakdown or strains and manpower misfortune.
The need for control by hand is minimized or eliminated.
Hydraulic power systems are much more economical to operate.