HOW SPRING SHOPS WORK
This section will tell you about spring shops and how they work, so that if you need to contact one, you'll know how to talk to the people there intelligently.
In almost every major city you will find spring factories. Some specialize in certain kinds of springs, while others can make anything you can dream up. The major springmaking centers in the United States are the area around Detroit (which serves the automobile industry) and the area around Los Angeles.
Most spring shops are divided into two parts: the office and the shop itself. Inside the shop, there are often four departments:
||This is the area where the automatic coiling machinery operates. Automatic coilers can handle wire from .010" to .500", and once they're set up, can pretty much run all day long.
||This is the department where the ends of compression springs are ground. A lot of the work is done with automatic machines, which pass the springs between two grinding wheels that can be four feet across.
||The secondary department is where wire is bent by hand. This is where the ends of torsion springs are formed, where loops are put onto the ends of extension springs, and where wire forms are made.
||This is where small quantities of springs are made by hand. If a customer wants less than 50 of a spring, the job is given to the short order department, since they can generally make the springs faster and their work doesn't tie up the automatic coilers.
Most of the information on this site would be used in the short order part of the shop.
Depending on the size of the shop and what it's equipped to make, there can also be machinists to
make tooling, a shipping and receiving department, a quality control department, and a 'hot shop', where larger sizes of wire are made into really big springs.
How Spring Shops Make Money
Springs are sold by the piece. When you call a spring shop and ask for a quote, here's how they'll figure out how much to charge you:
$ _____ Cost of material, plus
$ _____ How long it will take to set the job up, times an hourly rate, plus
$ _____ How long it will take to run the job, times an hourly rate, plus
$ _____ How long it will take to do any secondary work, times an hourly rate, plus
$ _____ How much it will cost to get any outside finishing work (like plating) done, plus
$ _____ Sales tax, plus
$ _____ A margin for profit
$ _____ = TOTAL COST
The hourly rates will vary from shop to shop. Generally, they'll figure an hour to set up an automatic machine, and they'll estimate the time it takes to do the coiling, grinding, looping, etc., based on what they know the machines and people can do. They'll have a minimum charge to cover their expenses, even for small orders.
There are also catalog stores, which stock a variety of more-or-less common spring designs. Some have catalogs, and you can call them and place an order just like you would with any other retailer.
Careers in Springmaking
Someone applying for work in a spring shop will generally start out either in grinding (the dirtiest, most boring part of the work) or in secondary. Experienced springmakers will tend to make a home for themselves either in coiling or in short order.
Springmaking is a good field, especially if you're into machinery. But once you're working in a spring shop, it's hard to transfer from the shop into the front office. Also, if you've spent a few years in springmaking, it's next to impossible to find work in any other trade.
Beats selling pencils on the corner tho ... :-)
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