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History of Katy Spring & Mfg. Inc. Part 2

The history of companies is built by many short stories; some boring, some not. We’re going to try and tell the not-so-boring ones (in our humble opinion) about Katy Spring & Mfg., Inc.; a company in Katy Texas that started with an initial conversation that ended something like this; “Why not.”

These are the stories about Katy Spring, small bits of a bigger story that started in 1999. The stories are still unfolding new chapters, thanks to our wonderful customers, every day. It’s written for our customers and future customers so that they can get to know our company, our employees, some historical background, and philosophy a little better.

The stories are not told in chronological order. This blog is more of a “Readers Digest” about Katy Spring, written in whatever random order they appear. So without further ado, let’s get started with our second read which is titled; “Wire on Fire.”

Wire on Fire

What is a reel? To a fisherman, it’s a device used to wrap up fishing line as it pulls in the lure. To an actor, it’s a personal collection of small bits of the actor’s work used for auditions. To a spring manufacturer, a reel is a device used in the aid of safely unwinding highly volatile spring-tempered wire as it is fed into spring manufacturing machines used to wind springs. Which, Katy Spring didn’t have in late 1999…a spring reel that is.

A job came in to quote, requiring half-inch spring wire. A spring reel is typically used to run wire this size, so was this going to be a “no quote”…of course not. Many jobs that spring manufacturers run don’t come with a “how to” book, which is why spring manufacturing is considered an art. We knew, even without a reel, we would find a way to make it happen. Although, looking back; this job required all our creativity and sense of adventure.

It was sort of a “catch 22.” We needed a reel, but we needed revenue to pay for a reel. So we manufactured without a reel until we could afford to purchase a reel. Make sense? It’s amazing what can be accomplished when it’s just the owners, when safety concerns are secondary to income, because starving is pretty dangerous too.

Confused? Here’s even more senseless backstory. The job, which we were awarded, required half-inch chrome silicon, spring-tempered wire which is pretty hefty wire that comes in large spools, secured by several strong metal bands used to hold the spool of wire in place. What would happen if one were to cut the bands with no reel in place? Keep reading.

So the big day comes when our monster roll of wire arrives to our “receiving dock,” a.k.a; the gravel parking lot by the side shop door, where the fork truck frequently got stuck. We drove the fork truck out in the gravel parking lot, knowing it was probably going to get stuck, to unload the wire. Since we didn’t have a true loading dock, we tied a chain to whatever was being unloaded and drug it with the fork truck, stuck the forks under the shipment, then lifted it off the truck.

This roll of wire would be the largest that we unloaded to date. Large enough, that we couldn’t drag it to the back of the truck. The fork lift got stuck of course. But this was good, because with the fork truck stuck, the delivery truck cold be pulled forward which allowed the wire to slide out of the back of the truck and drop to the ground, which it did. The monster roll of wire now belonged to Katy Spring.

With the wire unloaded, a stuck fork truck, and a job to ship, we were off to the races. Fast-forward to the good part and a riddle. What did the spring-maker do with a rope, a can of gas, and two matches? Answer’s in the next paragraph. The roll of wire is sitting in the shop, courtesy of a winch, waiting to be wound into a spring. If we were to cut the bands holding this role together, it would release enough stored energy in the spring-tempered chrome silicon to look like a mechanical octopus just had a seizure.

After careful thought, our lunch break, two fifteen minute breaks, and several trips to the restroom, we came up with a plan. We would drag the roll of wire into the field behind the shop. We would then tie rope around the wire in several places, cut the metal bands holding the roll of wire, and hope like heck that the rope would hold it all together. The only thing missing was our good friend duct tape…normally used in every job we did. Now the rest of the plan and the answer to the riddle; Soak the rope with gasoline, light it on fire and get away! As the rope burned, the wire would break the rope; unravel into a big nest of wire that would be cut into developed lengths to run the job. Sounds like a good idea right? I’m please to say it was, because it worked! I must say though, when we were cutting those metal bands, I would have felt safer lighting a piece of dynamite in a windstorm.

One might be asking; how did we get the wire out to the field with a stuck fork truck? Nice catch. Our good landlord, who was also our neighbor, brought his tractor over to assist. I’m pretty sure he was looking to be entertained too. He may have been humored by all this except that we left a circle of burnt grass in his field.

So the mysteries of crop circles have finally been revealed. It’s not aliens; it’s simply spring manufacturers who have not benefitted from purchasing a spring reel.

Go back to Part 1 | Continue reading to Part 3

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