Today is Sunday November 8.

Lazy weekend here in the McKee house. It is my weekend with the kids. Neither one wants to talk about their on-line homework. Son finally had a play date…only four hour’s straight of video games, two medium pizza’s and several soda’s. Daughter has a riding lesson this afternoon and is sequestered in her room doing art and stuff. As for me, I think about work, spend some time reading and cleaning up around the house.

Outside it is cold and windy. Rain last night with snow and cold weather in the forecast for the week. Haven’t spent much time on the computer since the election. Still collecting my thoughts and have read some stories about where things are heading. Not surprised by either outcome. That said, I am not happy with the outcome either.

In 40 days I will eclipse another milestone. I will have worked at Los Alamos for 30 years. Even I cannot believe it. So I will get some Nambeware, lunch with the lab director (not sure how that will work under COVID restrictions), and then the hard decisions: How much longer do I want to work?

Nambeware example of Butterfly bowls.

Nambe is an eight-metal alloy whose major component is aluminum. It was created at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s and is exclusively produced by the Nambe Mills, Inc., which was founded in 1951 near Nambe Pueblo, some 10 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Nambe was made by a small group of Santa Fe craftsmen using sand molds. A bowl or platter is broken away from its mold and shaped and polished to a silvery luster that, with age, acquires a patina all its own. Because each sand mold is used only once, no two pieces are exactly alike.

Was is the key word because like just about everything else, it is no longer manufactured in the USA. So where are those distinctive, silverlike dishes and housewares made from a special alloy and named for an Indian pueblo north of Santa Fe being cast now? “In India and China”, said Nambe President Bob Varakian. “To our exact specifications and quality.” Nambe’s Santa Fe foundry, off Siler Road, is not operating, although it’s possible the plant will reopen, Varakian said. That was reported in 2009 in the Albuquerque Journal. The overseas casting started “probably a year ago,” Varakian said.

The company was sold in 2019 to a British manufacturer and worldwide distributor for $12 million. The headquarters is in Santa Fe, distribution and polishing operations still exist in Española, but none of it’s products are made in either New Mexico or even the United States. Nambe is now considered a design company. The company’s crystal comes from Europe, and wood pieces and dinnerware from Thailand, flatware, currently produced in China, and castings from India and China.

In order to turn this country around, we need to do more than design (think of Apple), finance (Goldman or JP Morgan), and retail (Amazon or Walmart). We need to make things. Very little is made in this country, and that is another lesson that we must learn from the pandemic. In America, we assemble automobiles from parts manufactured elsewhere. In America, we develop new drugs, but most of the manufacturing is outside the country. To make things, we need to use automation and computers. This will rebuild the middle class, create well paying jobs, improve education.

We lead in science and discovery but we somehow cannot take those achievements and capitalize on them. It is much easier to license the work and collect a fee. And while that is OK for the short term, it is destructive for the long term. There is much science to explore, much work to do to help America rebuild and restore the country, independent of the election.

Arial view of the Standard Steel factory in 2011.

In my birthplace of Lewistown, Pennsylvania the local steel mill still exists. Standard Steel has been in existence since 1795, one of the longest continuously operating forging operations in the United States. The company’s history throughout the 20th century was punctuated by several milestones. In 1904 it produced the first solid forged and rolled wheel in the United States. By 1939, Standard Steel was making one-fifth of all the locomotive tires in the United States. During World War I, commercial operations modified to include artillery shells and howitzer forgings. Then, when World War II arrived, the factory was retooled to include the production of gun barrels, tank castings and military forgings. Annual steelmaking capacity was 160,000 tons.

But around the time that Standard Steel celebrated its 200th anniversary, the steel industry in the United States was under assault from both foreign imports and from a general decline in manufacturing here. In 2001, the company, which had been calling itself Freedom Forge again for about two decades, filed for voluntary protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to reorganize, although it continued to operate during the bankruptcy process. The firm also made some very difficult choices, one being to focus solely on its core railroad business. In 2003, the company slashed its payroll when it exited the product line at the plant that produced steel rings for jet engines, power plants, mining and oil exploration.

Their singular product today is wheels and axles for railroads around the world. That’s what they made when I lived there in the 60’s and 70’s, where members of my family worked, and they still do this today.

From http://www.standardsteel.com/history.php

Currently owned by a Sumitomo Corporation, a Japanese Company, Standard Steel is a leading manufacturer of forged steel wheels and axles for freight rail cars, locomotives and passenger rail cars. It is the only producer of forged steel wheels for rail cars and locomotives in North America. Much of their steel comes from recycling.

Well that about sums up the thoughts for today. Hope you liked today’s post as it offers some though about where I may go with some future posts.

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