The Graff-Pinkert used machinery business, or the “treasure hunting business,” as I sometimes call it, is often fueled by events which some people would characterize as lucky or serendipitous. We often go into a customer’s shop to sell a machine and end up buying a machine instead. A random tip from a customer or dealer we’ve never met before has led us to a source of equipment or information that altered our business dramatically. But you only find treasure when you’re ready to receive it, you have to make your luck. The following are a few big deals from 2013 in which I believe we made our own luck.
We bought a 2007 INDEX MS 32C at an auction in Australia and shipped it all the way to the U.S. (It cost us $70,000 for the shipping and duty alone). This was a ground breaking deal for us, as we had never paid as much for one machine before and we had never before owned a late model completely CNC multi-spindle screw machine. A few months after its arrival we sold the machine to a customer in Europe, who was found by a dealer of long time acquaintance, but who we had never worked with before. The dealer was totally off our radar. We had never gotten a promising lead from him before. But somehow, he found out we were selling the machine, probably from an email blast or an online advertisement. He called us up and before long the machine was on its way to Europe.
Later in the year, we bought some disgusting looking Acme Gridley 8-spindle machines in a little online auction. The swarf on the end-tool slides of most of the machines was caked on inches thick. They were some of the dirtiest machines we’ve ever bought. The machines were stored so closely together at a rigger’s warehouse that my associate Rex Magagnotti and I weren’t able to get conclusive end-tool slide to stem readings. I also ruined a pair of jeans while climbing on top of one machine to look for snubbers (carrier clamping). We ended up purchasing the machines for modest prices because most people never went to inspect the machines. The other bidders were scared off by the awful photos of the machines online, so they weren’t going to risk the cash. Because we had inspected the machines ourselves we knew they were complete, so we decided that the worst case scenario was that we would get some decent spare parts machines. Yet in the end, we were pleasantly surprised by several of these ugly machines (after all, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts). After our cleaning department worked their magic, scraping away gobs of thick swarf, the machines looked quite presentable. The oily swarf that had been caked on for years had actually prevented the machines from rusting. We were also very happy to find that several of machines had good end-tool slide to stem readings, when we were finally able to test them properly.
One of my favorite recent deals was for a 12-station Hydromat. One of our Hydromat customers had contacted us looking for a specific spare part. We didn’t have the part on the shelf, but we took it upon ourselves to call around to various Hydromat shops we knew of to see if anybody had one they would sell. I reached a shop in Iowa, and the shop manager said he would check for me. In the end, he couldn’t find one, but after talking to him a little while, I found out that his company was phasing out some of its Hydromat work. I asked him if the company had any machines it wanted to sell and he told me that there was a 12-station that had been sitting idle, trapped in a container behind some other iron odds and ends for two years. He said there were few units and he had no idea what the machine’s condition was. After months of persistence, we finally got the company to take the machine out of the container. We drove up to see the machine and bought it that day for modest price. Was that deal lucky? No, I don’t think so.
This year I’ve witnessed that if you put yourself out there and try things, stuff will happen — you will find deals. Go visit a customer, make a cold call, scour the Web, tinker with machining issues in the shop. Then, allow yourself to be in the right state of mind to realize when you’ve discovered an opportunity. You won’t find anything, unless you are ready. Keep your eyes open in 2014. Treasure is out there if you can just recognize it.
Question: Tell us something you will remember from 2013.
Noah Graff has been Features Editor at Today’s Machining World since 2005, and a Treasure Hunter at Graff-Pinkert since 2011.