Roller Turning Party


Text by Amy Schadle, general manager
Photos Amy Schadle, Eleanor Ray, Barb Ray.
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Maintenance - rollers (or a good excuse to have a party!)


Rollers are used on the track to protect the cables from wear by keeping them off the ties and the ground. We have 32 rollers on our track. The old style rollers generally needed to be replaced every 1-2 years. The solid rollers last anywhere between 2-3 years.

Solid wood roller just before ir was replaced with a new roller.

Old style roller that is going to be replaced with a new roller.
Years ago rollers were made using 17 long pieces of oak, 2 metal end plates, 2 round pieces of wood, and a metal shaft. The long oak pieces had to be miter cut on 2 sides so they could fit in a circle around the shaft. Each metal end plate had a raised area that the wood round pieces were placed, then the 17 pieces of oak were nailed to the wood end pieces.

In 1983 we ran out of long oak pieces. Because we bought in large quantities it had been awhile since we needed any oak. We were quite surprised when the best estimate was $ 0.98 each piece. We had been paying $ 0.10 to $ 0.15.

Removing blocks of wood from storage area under south garage. Steve Schadle putting block on floor.
Charles Ray designed a new style of roller made out of a solid piece of wood. We purchased red elm wood from a local logging company. Since the wood was green it needed to be seasoned or dried for 2-3 years. The logging company had cut the wood into long pieces 8 to 10 feet long. Steve Schadle used a chain saw to cut the wood into smaller, easier to handle blocks which were stored under the south garage.

Not all blocks of wood are used in making rollers. Sometimes in the drying process the wood will develop large cracks. The blocks are then used for firewood.

Every winter friends starting asking us to have a roller turning party. Why do people think it is fun to do someone else's work? This year the party was held Saturday, June 10.

Left to right: Randy Riker, his son Josh, his mother Rita, Steve Schadle, Dr. John Haupert.
We invited our veterinarian, Dr. John Haupert and his wife Carolyn, a vice president of a company that designs software and does medical billing for doctors and clinics. They had been to our parties before so they came prepared with their own coveralls. Wayne Reicher and his wife Rita came with a son, Randy and his family. Wayne is retired from John Deere Tracator works in Dubuque. He was a tool and die maker.

The guests arrived about 5 P.M. and stayed until after 11 P.M. We expected them to leave after we had served dinner. But they wanted to turn more rollers. In fact Randy Reicher skipped dessert so he could turn another roller.

Left to right: Josh, Wayne, Rita Rikers, Steve Schadle, Carolyn Haupert.

Amy and Steve spent Thursday and Friday getting ready for the party by getting the wood ready to turn.

1) Steve makes the blocks square lengthwise by putting them through the planer to make one side flat then uses the table saw to square the other 3 sides. Then cuts off the ends with the band saw to make them the right length and flat so the end plate will fit.


Block of wood has been placed on the wood lathe

2) The blocks of wood are marked to find the center. Holes are drilled through the center of the blocks so the metal shaft will fit. One wood lathe is set up just for this procedure. A wood drill bit was welded onto a pipe. An air compressor hose attached to a copper tube going into the metal pipe blows air into the hole as it is being drilled. Blowing air removes the wood chips which would otherwise fill the hole and the drill bit would be unable to turn.
Shaft holes are drilled one end half way then the block is turned around using the same edge as the bottom and drilled the rest of the way. Each block is tested by putting a shaft into the hole.


Blocks with holes drilled for the shaft.

3) Next the blocks have the 4 corners lengthwise cut off on the band saw. This makes a long octagonal block that is easier to turn.
Cutting off the corners. Carolyn Hauperts cuts while Barb Ray waits her turn.

4) This is the part all the guests like doing. Turning the blocks on the other wood lathe. In fact we had 8 blocks ready to turn and had to get 4 more ready because the guests did not want to stop. As the block turns wood chisels are used to chip off the excess wood to turn the octagon into a cylinder. As a finishing touch we sand the cylinder to make it smooth.

Wayne Riker turning a block into a roller. Randy Riker watching his father. Carolyn Haupert turning a roller.

5) The last step is to assemble the rollers. Steve puts a metal into the cylinder, slides an end plate on each side and attaches the end plate to the cylinder with special locking screws. It is now a roller! The new roller is then taken out onto the track and replaces a worn roller. Nobody likes this part. It requires walking down the hill carrying a heavy roller, putting it into brackets on the track, greasing it so it will turn and generally getting grease on your hands, then walking up the hill. Not fun!!!

End plate on the end of the roller.

Steve Schadle is operations manager of the Fenelon Place Elevator. This means he does not get paid so we had to give him a fancy title. After all he should have known better than to marry into a family of all women owning an historic building needing lots of maintenance.

The actors

Looking up from the north car in the middle of the track.
The view looking up from the north car. The rollers protect the cables from rubbing against the ties and ground.

A view of the track from the top looking down. This where the rollers go went after they are put together.
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Copyright © 1996 by Michel Azéma, Paris (France)
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