Just a Little Smoke

With aluminum shavings flying about I was enjoying an after work session in the machine shop.

Machining the mirror cell from an aluminum scuba tank on the lathe
Making the heavy cuts to rough out the part I needed to remove a lot of material with a boring bar, I was cutting hard. The tool was also getting bogged down with aluminum sticking to the steel tool, to prevent this I was using a little machine oil while cutting. Predictably things got hot and started smoking, no problem, just stop and let the metal cool as I watched a streamer of smoke waft up from the spinning part.

Then the fire alarm goes off.

A moment of disbelief ensues, this had never happened before, and this was certainly not the first time I had created a little smoke in the machine shop. Nothing to do but call our facilities manager and let him know that I had just set off the fire alarm, not that he could mistake the loud ringing in the background of the phone call.

I also realized that earlier that day the fire alarm company had been about, replacing old sensors on the alarm system. This had to be related. With my phone call complete I joined everyone else outside. Admitting responsibility led to a round of good natured joking at my expense… Yeah, I will hear about this for a while.

Fire alarm reset everyone went back to work. I hope my disruption of the night crew preparing to observe was not significant. It was still quite light out and observations had not yet begun. I returned to finish the part, this time carefully not creating any smoke in the process.

The next day I found out what really happened. It had been decided to replace the heat detectors in the machine shop with smoke detectors. To my mind not a great decision, they will get set off. It is not a question of if, but when and how often. I just find it amusing that this occurred the first day. No worries, I expect it will get fixed. The same person who made that decision gets the phone call when the alarm goes off. Sufficient motivation to deal with the problem I expect.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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