A Machinist’s Holiday

Behind every celebration is a meaning or an appreciation that needs to be renewed each year.


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Josh, the shop manager, glanced at the calendar. “It’s only two weeks before the Festival of Lathes,” he thought. Josh made a mental note to remind Ted, who used to head the turning department (these days, the shop is organized into flexible cells, so the turning equipment is well dispersed throughout the shop) to get gift cards for the turning center operators.

“It seems like Grinding Day was just yesterday,” Josh sighed. The year was flying by. But it was pleasant to think about the round cookies with a hole in the center that were passed around on Grinding Day. The cookies were decorated with the customary pink or light green icing to make them look like miniature grinding wheels. This traditional observance reminded everyone in the shop about the importance of grinding and its unique capabilities. Grinding needed that yearly boost, it seemed to Josh.

It wouldn’t be long after the Festival of Lathes that the shop would be celebrating Parson’s Birthday. Josh had mixed feelings about this commemoration. It had been added to the calendar rather recently to honor “the man who invented numerical control,” as the day was often explained. Unlike the other celebrations, the day wasn’t associated with long-standing traditions, yet Josh thought it a worthy remembrance — not only because it recalled a genuine turning point in machining history, but also because it showed the power of innovation and how one person’s contribution could change an entire industry. Mostly though, it was the day that the CAM software vendors promoted special discounts on their NC programming products, a commercialization that irked Josh a little.

Still, Josh considered the cycle of annual shop holidays, feasts and commemorations a significant part of life’s natural rhythms. Behind every one of the celebrations was a meaning or an appreciation that needed to be renewed each year. That was how the culture of metalworking passed on its values and maintained its pride. All of the days had their own customs or special activities — fun things that symbolized some aspect of the day or event. Enjoying those customs strengthened the feeling of community and togetherness in every shop and plant.

He remembered one of his favorite days. It was the First of July, also called EDM Day. That’s when everyone from the shop started the shift by lighting sparklers out in the parking lot in honor of electrical discharge machining. Even shops without any EDM equipment usually followed this tradition. Families often joined in—a great way to keep the youngsters aware of metalworking processes and of the livelihoods build upon them. Josh always said that it was on the First of July when he was 15 that he realized he had a calling to be a machinist.

So, Josh did his part to keep the traditions and customs alive. His shop never missed one of the special days or memorials.

The door from the front office opened. It was Ted. He walked in and pulled something out his shirt pocket. He fanned a small stack of gift cards and waved them above his head.

“I know what you’ve been thinking, Josh,” he said. “This year, I got the festival shopping done early.” Josh smiled and nodded in approval.