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Edition #244  April 15, 2015

Potter’s Wheel

Photographer: Kevin N. Tomasic

                                                                                   Photo by Kevin N. Tomasic

Potter’s Wheel

A while back, I was invited to bid a job at a local factory and made my way downriver. The factory makes big steel cylinders (also known as bottles) which are used in submarines, on trucks and in various industrial facilities. These bottles are used to store everything from compressed air to methane gas. My company was asked to upgrade the tempering furnace, which is used to heat treat the bottles after forming. As I wrapped up some field measurements, the plant engineer said, “Hey, I have something else for you to look at.”

Being the good little salesman that I am, I followed him over to a large machine—in it was spinning a big piece of seamless pipe. I could see that one end was already formed and the other end was being blasted by the direct flame of multiple oxygen/natural gas burners. It was fearsome seeing that flame impinging directly onto that poor hunk of pipe and hearing the whoosh of gas coursing through the burner feed piping. It was startling when that flame jumped back and forth going from high to low fire—each change producing  a burst of fire and gas enveloping the pipe. Inquiring about what I was seeing, I was told that they heat the end of the pipe to around 2000 degrees then form it. Directed to the other side of the machine, I could see an apparatus silhouetted in the glow of the pipe. Suddenly the shape began to move and I realized it was a large wheel pushing on the pipe and beginning to change its shape, reducing it into a cone. The plant man could see that I was perplexed, smiled at my confusion and said, “It’s nothing more than a big potter’s wheel.”

I’m not sure that I’m ever going to look at a potter’s wheel the same way again.

Kevin N. Tomasic


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