Forum: Machining for the Derby

Today’s Machining World Archives October 2010 Volume 06 Issue 08

Your June story about the Soap Box Derby brought back many memories. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1949 with a degree in both math and physics, I was recruited by Cutco cutlery (a division of Wearever Aluminum) to sell their product (knives) door to door. I was to hire 10 salesmen who would be paid by commission on their sales. I would also receive a five percent commission on all their sales plus the commissions I generated by my own sales. It sounded great. I would have been earning about $25,000 per year. This was huge money for a young man in 1949.

However, with my math degree, I soon discovered that a five percent commission of zero is zero.

I then joined Kerr Lakeside Inc., September 1, 1949, to be their accountant (experience—two semesters of an accounting course) and also as the company buyer (experience—none). At that time Kerr Lakeside had just finished making their second order of Soap Box Derby axles. On the first order, they lost their shirt because they had no knowledge of how to machine with carbide. Because business was so bad they decided to try to make them again. This time, they were successful. A third order was received in 1949, and I was to buy the steel. The axles were made out of 5/8” square c1045 hot rolled steel bars. I placed the order for about 80,000 pounds with Youngstown Steel. When the invoice arrived their sales terms were .5 percent 10 days, net 11 days. The axles were about three feet long. We made them by cutting off the steel on a punch press, machining and threading two identical ends on Warner and Swasey turret lathes, and cross drilling a hole in each end through the threads. We special packed them in bundles of 25 to ship and sold them in Akron, Ohio, to Firestone Steel Products and another company called City Machine and Wheel. The latter company was Goodyear’s outlet. The axles were ordered once a year. We also sold special slotted hex nuts and cotter pins to both companies, which we purchased from other manufactures to go along with the axles. We supplied these for many years. At some point in time the business faded away. I don’t remember why.

Dick Kerr
Kerr Lakeside Inc.
Euclid, Ohio

Puzzle Obsession

These darn puzzles and riddles in your “Think Tank” have now become a full-blown obsession for me. The new issue arrived yesterday and all useful work was immediately suspended so that I could devote my full attention to the riddle. It’s important to keep one’s priorities in order! So, without further ado, my answer is “m”.

Bill Hopcraft
Precision Design Craft
Millington, N.J.

Celebrating 10 Years of Today’s Machining World

Today’s Machining World celebrated its 10th anniversary during IMTS with a banquet dinner at Harry Caray’s restaurant in downtown Chicago. In next month’s combined Nov/Dec issue, we will continue the celebration with special articles and features in a commemorative edition.

Please send an email to with any memories, requests, favorite past articles, or comments about TMW. They may be printed!

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