It was springtime in Phoenix, Ronald Reagan was our president. I was on my way, really going places.
I was no longer just a journeyman fireproofer/plasterer working for a buck but was now a bonafide, fireproofing, plaster-pumping, money-making contractor. 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 needed to be sure that I was personally familiar with all of its operations. The test run went well. I had taken it through all of the operations 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 electrical 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 thankfully without a hitch. My plaster crew and I had successfully scratched a large custom home and the pump and crew would return on the morrow 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 to me personally. I very much looked forward to tomorrow 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 in 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 knockdown 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 adjoining block fence with great force and throwing mud everywhere.
My mouth was bleeding and my head was spinning in fast circles. My crew had turned off the pump and was now gathering around me. Questions and great concern about my condition and as to what had just happened 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 be sufficient 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 contracting 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 power-plants. If they pack, you will have little if any warning before a hose blows. However, the advantage of modern diesel power-plants is that they are very fuel efficient with twice the torque compared to the old “Wisconsin” powered plaster-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 plaster pumps are game changers. In fact, they are light-years faster, more efficient and a great deal more productive in applying cementitious materials by hand.
I am happy to say pump and hose pack related issues are not among the most fulfilling highlights of my many years of profitable contracting. Throughout it all I hoped in the future that would bring an important paradigm shift in which 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.. the founder of Spray Force Mfg. Inc.) I attended his services. A couple weeks later I unexpectedly received a guest (Doug’s daughter Ms. Nancy Burchfield) 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 1500 years ago,
“To Know What Is Right And To Not Do It Is The Most Cowardice.”
I immediately engaged in and 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 the hose and or manifold packs) This Is The Part That Is Huge!. Further, the Hydra system allows speeds from 1-60 gallons per minute. With this incredible Hydra advancement, this Tommy-Style plaster pump (the Excalibur Hydra SR-2) can now spray finish for the first time ever.
Of course less the uncontrollable torque related problems i.e. the gearbox, clutch, and pulleys!
In closing, like history, bent pushrods, catastrophic damage, and dangerous hose packs are a thing of the past and in our rearview mirror, also 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 have become an important part of the plaster pump industry. I enjoy my work here and appreciate the many lessons learned past and present. I choose to believe that there will always be better things that lay ahead than anything that we will leave behind.