Monday, January 12, 2009

Rolling stock

It's the first day of school, but something interesting already happened to me before I left the house. The gutter guys showed up to replace the rusted-out gutter that's been keeping us awake for more than a year with its banging. I never really thought about how guttering is made and cut, but if pressed I probably would have guessed that it was made in precut lengths and that gutter-repair-and-replacement people had to drive around with a lot of long pieces of stock in the back (or on the top) of their van. But no! The truth is much cooler.

These guys had an amazing trailer hooked to their van. Mounted in the back of the van was a roll of sheet steel about 18 inches wide. With the van doors open, it fed into a hand-cranked machine on the trailer, which automatically bent it into a gutter-shape, and brand new guttering wound itself out the other end. All these guys had to do was to figure out how long a piece they needed, crank it out, and cut it to the right length. But because they were carrying a compact roll of sheet steel, it could be pretty much as long as they needed it to be with no seams or joins. Brilliant! I hope somebody out there knows who came up with this great idea, because someone should be getting credit for it.

1 comment:

thm said...

There's a discussion of gutter production in David Owen's delightful Sheetrock and Shellac, which ought to be required reading for any thoughtful person who dabbles in home repair and improvement. I've lent my copy to a friend, so I don't remember precisely what he said, but I do recall that he was impressed with a particular leaf-guard design.

The book loosely follows Owen's home renovations and vacation-home building, some of which he (a writer by trade) does himself. He writes detailed, historical accounts of several topics--like shellac, and gutters, and window screens, and concrete.