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Kynoch's I M I 1950s Onwards

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Sample copy of Metals Monitor posted by harryk.....

Thanks, oldMohawk, for your comments.

Does any other member have thoughts about/reactions to harryk's post #558?

Chris
 

Brassed Off

master brummie
I am scratching my head for any more, unfortunately most of them are extremely "rude" and would probably get me banned!
I have remembered a few more "occurrences" from my time at Kynochs.
Outside of the Apprentice School was the cycle and motorcycle shed. Those that had motorcycles were considered the lucky ones, and each lunch break we used to gather to look at and the discuss the various bikes. One particular machine was pig to start, and was prone to back fire when kicked. This required the rider to get his foot off the kickstart, rapidly. On the one occasion the lad was fortunately wearing his crash helmet.
He had given the bike an almighty boot, using all his weight to get it to start. It backfired while he was still on the kickstart. The result was that his head hit the roof (it was a low corrugated one). There was no injury but the shed roof had a dent in it where his head had hit it!

During our times at the shed we were made aware of a chap that used to walk past on occasion, that he owned and rode a Vincent. This was considered by many that this was “the bees knees”. A couple of times it was suggested that we ought to get a real mans machine. All that we apprentices could afford was “run of the mill” bikes, amongst them was an old BSA Bantam. Now this early Bantam could be made for its engine to run backwards(reverse). On seeing this Vincent owner coming the Bantam was fired up to run backwards. Various comments were made by both party’s, the upshot was that our Vincent rider whose boast was that he could ride “anything”. With little persuasion he sat on the already running Bantam. Giving the engine some throttle, and putting it into gear, the expected direction of travel was not as expected! The boasting and comments were somewhat subdued for some time.
The first dept. that I went to following my leaving the Apprentice School was Holford Sheet Mill. What a culture shock!
The general machinist was obsessed with the need to beat the PBR bonus scheme, to achieve this he used to have all the machines running at the same time. Unbelievable I know, but he managed to get 2 lathes, a shaper, a milling machine, and a saw, and would using the radial driller all at the same time, how he managed it I don’t know but he did! Wow betide the PBR clerk if he was a penny short in his pay packet come Pay day. He was man possessed.

One day in the Sheet Mill, the main hot rolling mill had a breakdown, this mill supplied all the sheet for this mill, so to get it back up and running was a major priority. The overhead crane was needed and after much “faffing about” it was finally got into the correct position. It had taken the team, including the crane driver a long time to get it into the perfect position.
The crane driver had been in his cab for several hours, and badly needed to answer the “call of nature”. He was absolutely forbidden to leave his cab, it would have meant that the cranes position would have had to have been moved. A compromise was found a piece of string was thrown up to him with a bucket attached. Once “nature” was answered the bucket was lowered down very gently and disposed of! I cannot imagine such goings on would/could be envisaged in today’s workplace.

When working with one of the millwrights on some equipment below the floor plates, we found several off cuts from the copper ingots that were passed through the hot mill to produce the sheets.
The engineer happened to have a look down at what we were doing and asked if we had put
the scrap metal down there, our reply was that we had not. “Just leave it there” was his comment, which we duly did.
A couple of weeks later we found out that one of the operatives had been stealing the copper, and had been caught. Copper at that time due to an international shortage was fetching several thousand pounds per ton. For how long this had been going on we never found out.
There are a couple of my old work colleagues that I thank every month.
When I was a callow apprentice I was marched into the foreman’s office one day and told to “sign here” a form was on the desk. When I asked what it was for, I was told “you are joining the company pension scheme”. Protestations were ignored, and a pen was put in my hand, under duress I did as I was told. Each month when that pension goes into my bank account, thanks are duly given!
As one neared the end of their apprenticeship, a chat was given to explain the PBR scheme, this was the bonus scheme that was used throughout the Witton site.
Each job/task was given a time in which it should be done. Every clerk in charge of their departments scheme had a massive ledger that contained the times for each and every conceivable part of the job! The composition of this ledger was, looking back a feat of great skill by those that assembled it.
Having been given the guidelines about the scheme the clerk started to sharpen a pencil in his sharpener. Having achieved a point on it that was like a needle he presented it to me with advise that “ the pencil is mightier than the sword, always keep a very sharp pencil handy when filling out your time sheets” I did and was rarely out of pocket while I used this scheme!


While in the Research Dept. there was much excitement about the new super conductor product. This involved a great deal of manual work to draw the massive billets down to smaller rod sizes.
There then came the problem of how to join one rod end to another! The solution was a fairly simple one, it involved an explosive element. Where by both end would be imploded into each other. How and where to do this was soon overcome. A container was made into which the rods were placed along with the explosive material. What better place than in the middle of the road outside of the Research Dept. It could be monitored from the Department itself.
All went well for the first couple of implosions. The container merely “jumped” into the air a couple of feet. Unfortunately following another “successful” implosion, it became apparent that no thought had been given to what lay beneath the road surface!
The result was that a water main was fractured, a fountain of water sprang from the road several feet into the air, whoops.
 

Gerry Cannell

master brummie
Anyone remember JACK HILL, my Grandad, who was a sheet metal worker at Kynoch. That would be in the late forties early fifties. He was later to become well known for a letter that was found in Charlie Chaplin's private desk.
 

Brassed Off

master brummie
I have managed to "find" some more titbits.
While in charge of the maintenance in the Research Dept. I usually had a hard time to get the carpenters to answer their phones, in fact one day I was so brassed off with them not answering that I left my phone still ringing them! I walked up the road to their department to see just what was going on. The phone that I was ringing, was still ringing, and all the offices were empty! However a chance to get some service from them arose when there was a threatened strike by the Central Stores was in the offing. Being in charge of the purchasing for the Research Dept. for such items as toilet rolls and other sundry products, I decided to increase our order by three. Enough to see us through the strike for at least two to three weeks! My manager was not too happy with our “shipping” order but when I explained my thinking he agreed that it was wise move.
The strike did indeed take place, with the result that most departments throughout the Witton site ran out of some vital supplies, namely loo rolls.
Word got around the Research had some of these vital supplies, and lo and behold the foreman from the carpenters came to see if an “arrangement” could be achieved.
All the outstanding jobs were duly done and “relief” was given to the carpenters, well some of them!

Along the rear of the Bond building was a veranda that ran the length of the building. I think that originally a railway line must have been there because this veranda was at such a height as one sees at railway stations? Again the name of the Bond could have come from the building being used as a bonded warehouse? below the floor level of the Bond, and was ideal area for the daily football game that took place during the lunch break. Being raised the veranda afforded a great viewing position for any spectators. No quarter was asked for or given, at times it proved a bruising event. Many “industrial “ injuries that were reported at the ambulance room owed their origin to the tackles made in this “friendly game“. The supervision seemed happy that this took place as it let the men vent any frustrations on each other, and it seemed to encourage a feeling of comradeship between the various departments that made up the Bond Trades.

In the 1960’s and 70’s the staff in the Research comprised of a blend of scientists and time served craftsmen. The scientists thought up their various projects and the craftsmen put them into practise.
The devolvement of a variety of tooling for the extrusion and power presses were “meat and veg.” to the craftsmen. During the testing of some power press tooling Horace one of the “mature” craftsmen was laboriously operating one of the smaller presses.
Because it was deemed to be research the stringent guarding that was normally fitted to all power presses was allowed to be removed. This guarding prevented the operator from accessing the tooling and so being injured.
During this time it was known that a power press setter/operator was usually without a full set of fingers, such were the tribulations of this particular trade!
Horace being of the “old school” well knew the risks of the way he was operating the press, he would always operate the press with one hand either in his pocket are holding his cigarette. By doing so he would place the component onto the tooling, and then pull the lever to activate the press, the stroke of such presses was extremely quick. “a blink of an eye” would describe the speed.
For some reason Horace was not working the press one day when one of the scientists who was involved decided to continue with the project.
Not having any “old school” training he went about it rather speedily. The result was that he lost the tip of one of his fingers. During the collection of evidence for the factory inspectorate, because such accidents were deemed to be reportable to them it was thought necessary to photograph the press and its gory content! Tim the resident Research photographer was called upon to take some pictures. Normally Tim only took photos of metallurgical subjects, and when asked how he felt about such an unpleasant subject, He said that as long as it was in focus he did not have a problem. Thankfully such injuries were a rare occurrence in the Research.
 

Richarddye

master brummie
I Think Its A Ashame That WE have lost all our industry over the years ,if we don,t watch ourselfs we will be the third world of the nation and people are not foresereing whats happening to our generation of industrial country . when i seen the the photo,s of the days gone bye of some of the lads from the rolling mills of ICI. it brought memories back to me , co,s i worked at ICI . in the rolling mills around that time for many , many years , i think i can reconise a face on it ,but i am trying to put a name to the face, my younger brother worked there as well ,he worked in the gate house his name his tony , after he came out of the army, he worked there for donkey s years , also my sister inlaw , rita she was aq secretary to one of the managers there until it eventualy closed down , and broken down into seperate companies , and of course its gone ,. just like leyland , and also now just like our famous HP SAUCE gone for ever so whom his next i am asking myself what other big industry s we have got to offer , have we already sold our bull dog ,or the flag yet GOD SAVE OUR QUEEN ,,
Astonian, what is really very sad is that Brum is where it all started, industry that is!
 

mandys519

Brummie babby
Hi, my Dad worked at the IMI in Witton from 1959 for about 4 years. My mom mentioned to me that she thought he worked at the 'Berilium Plant' and that he had to wear a special kind of suit. Does this mean anything to anyone, and could anybody point me in the right direction to find more information or maybe photo's for around that time please? Thank you
 

mikejee

Super Moderator
Staff member
I have moved the last post to this thread. Beryllium id used in special alloys (and is very expensive), It is also very toxic, especially inhalation, and so special protection to stop it being breathed in would be necessary
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
The Beryllium plant at Witton was specially built to produce this material. Witton also produced a number of other exotic materials at that time, over and above titanium, including hafnium, niobium, vanadium and, especially, zirconium. I think that beryllium manufacture had its own particular problems and this is why special facilities had to be created. It is highly toxic, as Mike mentioned, and therefore hazardous to produce. I have a vague recollection that, in addition, it was an activity which was surrounded by a fair amount of secrecy, perhaps for national security reasons.

There is only the briefest of mentions of this activity in the two Kynoch company histories. And they don't include any images. In fact, in view of the (possible) degree of secrecy it may be that none were ever published. My own potted history of Kynoch/IMI (see link below) reminds me that it probably started in around 1958 but I have no idea how long it lasted. I have a feeling that it didn't continue long into the 1960s, but I may be wrong. It would be interesting to hear if any other ex-IMI employees have any information about this specialised, and rather mysterious, chapter in the Company's history.

I hope you can make some progress, mandys19. Please let us know if you do.

Chris
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Am pretty sure that there WAS a degree of secrecy involved. However....if you go back to harryk's post from last year (#553) and pursue the November 1961 edition of the IMI house magazine, we learn that two Russian engineers were invited to visit the plant in October 1961.....

Chris
 

mandys519

Brummie babby
I have moved the last post to this thread. Beryllium id used in special alloys (and is very expensive), It is also very toxic, especially inhalation, and so special protection to stop it being breathed in would be necessary
Thank you for that info mikejee
 

mandys519

Brummie babby
The Beryllium plant at Witton was specially built to produce this material. Witton also produced a number of other exotic materials at that time, over and above titanium, including hafnium, niobium, vanadium and, especially, zirconium. I think that beryllium manufacture had its own particular problems and this is why special facilities had to be created. It is highly toxic, as Mike mentioned, and therefore hazardous to produce. I have a vague recollection that, in addition, it was an activity which was surrounded by a fair amount of secrecy, perhaps for national security reasons.

There is only the briefest of mentions of this activity in the two Kynoch company histories. And they don't include any images. In fact, in view of the (possible) degree of secrecy it may be that none were ever published. My own potted history of Kynoch/IMI (see link below) reminds me that it probably started in around 1958 but I have no idea how long it lasted. I have a feeling that it didn't continue long into the 1960s, but I may be wrong. It would be interesting to hear if any other ex-IMI employees have any information about this specialised, and rather mysterious, chapter in the Company's history.

I hope you can make some progress, mandys19. Please let us know if you do.

Chris
I certainly will, I had no idea about this at all, and my Dad didn't ever mention anything to me.
 

Diane1947

master brummie
I’m not sure when I actually starting working on the factory floor at IMI. At a guess 1966. I used to inspect tuner boxes which were produced for television sets. Very occasionally I had to inspect what came of the power presses which was very daunting.
I also remember moving departments, and inspecting something that was cylinder shaped off a lathe. For some reason I thought it was something to do with airplanes.
Then I inspect bullet casing which was then taken to other parts of the vast site.
I had various jobs from the age of 15 to 18 both office, and factory much to the horror of my family. Both my siblings at that time had stayed in the same trades for years.
I had taken the job at the IMI it was extremely well paid for someone my age.I was saving to get married which never happened with that person lol.
I left IMI end of March 1967,and started nurse training. Loved it but what a shock money wise. In fact it was not until the early 70s that I earned the same in a week like I did at the IMI.
 
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