Monday, March 13, 2006

The Presses #2 Mulder

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The Mulder is a Dutch press made by the company Tegelem.

Its the oldest press in the factory and the bitch never breaks down. Its the last press that still requires someone to physically catch the tiles in their hands as the come out.

Dangerous, very tiring, dirty.

The clay gets squeezed out of the toothpaste tube mill in half-round or pyramid shape, depending on the tiles to be made and cut into appropriate length slugs.
They travel along a conveyor and then a 4our-fingered plaqueur slaps them into the press.
The press carries 5 lower mould and 1 upper mould. The mould with the fresh clay slug rotates to the top and the upper mould descends and the tile is pressed. Another 72 degree rotation and the tile is trimmed by the ebarbeur. 1 more 72 degree rotation and the tile is now in fronto of the press operator, who has to reach in and get the tile.
Depending on the type of tile and whether or not it has a glaze the tile will either fall out of the press and have to be caught before it does so, or it will be stuck to the mould and has to be prised off before the press turns again.

Sounds like fun doesn't it?

Once the tile is safely in the operator's hands he twists around an places the tile on the wooden chassis that is on the chain behind him. A sensor detects the tile and advances the chain so a fresh chassis is waiting.

5000 times.

Jesus. Its no wonder we take it in 1 hour turns, because after 600 tiles my left shoulder is always burning and my feet hurt from doing the same little 2 step over and over.
The big 50cm demi-ronde tiles weigh over 6 kilos, and they're bloody hard work. If the tiles have a glaze, they are wet and the compressed air blowers built into the mould to help disloge the tile blow wet glaze over me each time, about the time I'm turning to place the tile, so the left side of my head and neck get a speckle of glaze, as doo my glasses.
Often the air blowers get clay in them, and this clay gets shot out by the blowers as a high-speed pellet which hits you in the neck or chest.
At the ebarbeur there is also an electric current to help shock the clay out of the mould. If for some reason the mould is empty that makes big electric sparks that land in your hair and burn.

Sounds like fun doesn't it?

If the tiles have no glaze themn the moulds are covered in blankets of rubber. This stops the tiles sticking to the moulds. No electroshock used thank God, but bits of clay get inbetween the mould and the rubber sheet making uglu dimples in the tile. Some operators don't care but it drives me mad, I can't bear making crap tiles, so after removing and posing the tile, I quickly put my hand behind the rubber and try and scrape off the bits of clay stuck to the mould. Potentially dangerous as the press is about to turn again.

The Mulder was the first press I started on In January 2005. I spent 7 months on the press with Pascal and Cyril in Team E before moving to train on the DTP. I was so pleased to have left the Mulder behind. Then in February 2006 they change my team again and I end up in Team A with Fred "Nounours" and Gerard back on the fucking Mulder again. Shit.


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