How the ford bodies are finished: painting, upholstering, japanning and baking

Painting needs plenty of room and time; furthermore, it must be done by skilled men. At least, that was my belief until I saw the way that it was done in the Ford plant. But here again, one is obliged to alter preconceived conceptions and acknowledge that Ford ingenuity has triumphed.

'As in the chassis assembly, described in preceding chapters, the bodies are painted and upholstered, topped and trimmed complete, on an endless-chain track conveyer. This system of finishing has been but recently introduced.,.) Following one after another like the successive negatives on a motionpicture film, the bodies may be seen in every stage of completion.

Like a railroad system with its stations, side-tracks, depots, and terminalsJthe body-painting and upholstering process line wends its way over three successive floors of the new, big, six-story building on Manchester Avenue, now running straight for 850 feet at a time, turning right-angled corners—now going down-grade to the floor below, back and across, until finally the terminal is reached—the "chassis-body assembly bridge" outside.

Starting in the east end of the fifth floor, to which the rough product is raised by means of an inclined conveyer, page 361, the bodies are thrown onto the endless-chain track and given a thorough sanding and cleaning inside and out. As now arranged, it is necessary to truck the bodies from the head of the inclined conveyer to the end of the track, but it is proposed to put in a short conveyer running crosswise of the building, which will do this work, and on this the preliminary cleaning can be done, thereby giving room on the main track (which runs a distance of 850 feet parallel with Manchester Avenue) for the first priming operation, now done in separate rooms off the line.

Driven at a speed of about 25 feet per minute the bodies soon reach the point where this first "priming" operation takes place. This is the only operation, with the exception of drying, which necessitates the removal of the bodies from the track, and in all probability as soon as the cross conveyer has been put in this method of priming will be displaced by one identical with that used for the second and succeeding coats. At the present time, however , the body is removed from the track, slid onto a truck, and shoved into one of the small painting rooms just north of the track. Here a workman wearing a mask and equipped with a giant atomizer, behind which there is a pressure of 80 pounds per square inch, gives the body a thorough spraying with a brown body metal primer which dries very rapidly. The entire surface is covered in a surprisingly short time, and with a shove, the body is sent rolling across the floor to another man who with a critical eye goes over it and with a hand brush smooths out or touches up any points which, in his judgment , need further attention.

The body is then allowed to dry thoroughly before it is placed back on the track. After being sanded, it is ready for its second priming; a blue-black coat which is "flowed on" in the following manner: standing on opposite sides of the track are two men equipped with hoses, the nozzles of which remind one of fanlike vacuum-cleaner nozzles, except that the ends, instead of being entirely open, are perforated, the holes extending in a line at right angles to the direction of the flow. A large tank mounted on the floor above, and connected to the hose by means of a system of pipes, furnishes a constant stream of paint. The system is operated entirely by gravity, but by the elevation of the tank to the floor above a sufficient head is secured to insure a flow of about 6 gallons a minute.

When the body has progressed to the point where it is opposite these men, they completely shower the surface with the protecting liquid, starting at the top and working down. This they do in an incredibly short time. Some points on the back of the front seat and on the dash, which they are unable to reach easily, are afterwards done by hand, with a brush. The rear end of the body is slightly elevated by a "shield block" which prevents the paint from dripping into the track and also helps to drain the excess liquid back into the system.

On both sides of the track, and directly under the sprayers, are large galvanized-iron drip tanks which drain into a central catch tank below.

Surplus paint, therefore, drips into these pans and finds its way back, after passing through screens, into the paint-supply system again. A smaller gear pump, located in the pipe line about 6 feet from the track, returns the liquid to the tank above, so that a sufficient amount can be used at all times to do the job properly, without fear of wasting it.

About 2 gallons of the liquid paint is flowed on; but it has been found by computation that 1 gallon will cover 11 jobs, so it is easy to compute the amount required per body. About 200 feet of the track are required for each painting operation. The "color varnish" coats and "finishing" coats are flowed on in the same manner. After the body has traveled about 200 feet, it is sufficiently dry to be removed and stacked for drying, which requires about 24 hours.

It is then placed back on the track and "mossed"; that is, rubbed lightly with curled hair and prepared for its first color varnish. This operation is performed on a cross track running from the finish end of the priming track to the starting end of the color-varnish line, which runs back from the west to the east end of the same building, parallel with the priming track.

A similar system of tanks, piping, draining trays and strainers is utilized for this operation. About 200 feet of draining tank is here required to carry off the surplus color varnish. The body is also slightly elevated at the rear, by a cross drain board, as before.

After being allowed to drip for a time which experience has shown to be sufficient, it is removed and stacked for drying. At the end of this drying, it is again "mossed," given a second coat of color varnish in the same manner as before, and stacked to dry.

At this point the upholstering operation begins. Sets of back springs are put on the seat backs, materials needed for upholstering, including partially finished "back assemblies," a big bag of hair, trimming strips, etc., are dumped into the inside of the body, just as it is shoved onto an inclined belt-conveyer which takes it to the floor below.

Here it is deposited on a metal-topped table, turned through an angle of 180 degrees, and pushed onto the "rubbing deck," where the exterior surface is given a thorough rubbing with pumice and water. The same type of track conveyer system is employed here to keep the work in progress.

Instead of utilizing an ordinary 'rubbing deck' where the bodies are turned up at various angles and must be handled by hand, with much labor and inconvenience , the Ford engineers, with their common-sense way of doing things, have mounted the track in the center of a concrete gutter, along which are placed, at regular intervals, water outlets and pans of powdered pumice.

So conveniently arranged is everything that after the body starts on its journey across the deck, there is nothing but rubbing, washing, and polishing to be done. This work is accomplished under the most favorable conditions . The bodies are always at the proper height and in the proper position so that the work can be done without stooping or manual handling.

The pumice and water can be used freely and the work done well, in the time allowed for progress across the deck.

"When it arrives at the other end, at the beginning of the two parallel upholstering lines, it is smooth and dry. At this point the work is turned through an angle of 90 degrees, divided, and started down two parallel tracks running the full length of the fourth floor.

Already provided with materials, and starting with the foundation of springs previously fastened in place at the end of the color-varnish operation on the upper floor, the upholsterers now proceed to fasten the made-up "cushion backs" to the body, by tacking the material firmly to the bottom of the back of the seat, finishing it up with a strip of welt and black-headed upholsterers' tacks.

The sides are treated in a like manner, being built out by constantly introducing curled hair taken from the large bag of hair with which each body is supplied. The burlap is tacked to the edge of the top of the seat, stuffed, and sewed in place. More hair is then forced in and a big roll made by pulling the leather over it. It is finished with the welt, securely tacked in place.

A number of men work on the same body at the same time; some walking along the outside and some riding inside. Each man does his job and then turns it over to the next man, so that the process is a continuous one. The body, all this time, is moving toward the "finish varnish" room.

Finally, when the main part of the upholstering is finished, holes are drilled in the door frame and door, and the door straps put on. The body is then ready to be cleaned, preparatory to receiving its final varnish coat. This cleaning is done by two giant vacuum cleaners, which remove all the hair, bits of leather, threads, and dirt, from the interior.

The exterior, in the meantime, is being wiped carefully and thoroughly by hand. In its progress the body has, by this time, started to enter the final varnish room, through an opening in the partition extending well into the final finishing room.

Here the "finishing varnish" is "flowed on" in the same manner as the other coats, and then carefully retouched by hand, in order to insure a perfect surface free from air bubbles, dry spots, bits of hair, and dust.

A metal cap is placed over the dash, so that when the body is handled it can be set upon this end without injury to the finish.

Individual trucks, fitted with draining troughs running around all four sides, are lined up along the side of the track. When a body comes to the end, it is slid off onto a truck, shoved over to a man who acts in a dual capacity of inspector and final finisher. He looks the job over carefully , touches it up slightly, if it needs it, and then turns it over to a man who pushes it back into the dark part of the room, where the bodies are allowed to stand until dry.

Now comes the only real break in the finishing-process line. There is, as yet, no chute or conveyer down which the bodies go after being varnished . The next operations—putting on of the windshield, top, and other equipment—are performed on the third floor, to which the bodies.

therefore, are transferred as soon as they are sufficiently dry to permit of handling without damage.

In the Top Department is to be found a very interesting feature of Ford construction, because it is one of the few places where individual fitting seems to be necessary. Each Ford windshield and top is fitted to its special body. The putting on of the top and curtains is a real "custom -tailored" job.

Starting on the third floor, at the east end of the building, the bodies are again put on the conveyer track, and the windshields, which have previously been made up in the Windshield Department, and transferred in a finished condition to their proper position in the line, are now put on. Each windshield is specially fitted to an individual body.

By this time, the body has reached a point where it is ready for the top. Top bows are made in a department near by and delivered in a finished condition at proper points along the track for attachment as the body reaches that stage of completion.

From four to six workmen now begin to work on the job. One puts on the rear bows, another the front, another adjusts the brace rods which hold the bows in their proper position.

While the top bolts are being tightened up and truss rods and spreaders adjusted to proper position, the side pads are thrown over the top and nailed on; other men put on the roof of the top, which is composed of the "deck" and "quarters." The "back stays" and "back curtain" top of the back bow; the "quarters" and "deck" are then stretched tightly over the framework, drawn down, tacked and finished with a "welt" strip.

The cushions, horn, and pasteboard for the bottom of the rear seat, the mats and footboard, are then thrown in by a man who does nothing else but make up these things in a package and pass one into each body as it goes along.

Other men are engaged in fitting the side curtains, which is another job requiring special care, because each set of curtains is cut to fit a particular body and top. The eyelets are put in, and after curtains have been "tried on" a second time, the whole job is inspected.

The top is folded down and securely tied, all loose articles secured, the doors tied shut, a box of tools thrown in, after which it is given a shove onto a roller platform. This is set at right angles to the conveyer track, and carries the body to the top of the incline leading to the "chassis-body assembly bridge"—the end of the process.

This, then, is the story of the finishing of the Ford body. The Ford factory is one of the few manufacturing establishments where the visitor is actually able to observe, within a short period of time, the successive operations involved in the finishing of any particular part. The painting and upholstering processes are especially interesting on this account.

The most impressive spectacle in the machine shop, that of the almost magical growth of a chassis, is here duplicated on the body.

Groups of men slowly walk ng alongside the work, seem with almost Aladdin-like ease to transform its exterior appearance, as rapidly as the Hindu fakir causes his familiar bush to grow from the seed to maturity.

They put on the paint, add the upholstering, top, and windshield, interior and exterior accessories, in an incredibly short time; so short that if you did not actually see it done before your very eyes you would declare it to be an impossibility. ^J The ease with which the work is handled, the almost entire absence of trucking operations, the prevention of waste of time, energy, and material, the manner in which the minor assemblies are constructed in bays along the track, so as to be near the work at the point where needed, the fact that all the men employed are not so-called "skilled laborers," but men who have received all their training in the Ford shops—all these things show the careful and common-sense manner in which problems of this character are attacked and solved by the Ford organization.

How the Cushions Are Made

As an illustration of how the "minor assemblies" are handled, it may be interesting to describe the making of a cushion. A frame upon which the cushions are built is first laid; the top of the cushion, which is plaited, is placed over this, and what is known as a "fence" is fastened around the mould. This makes a box-like framework, into which the curled hair is put. The foundation is then laid on this and the whole thing carried to a press where a "follow board" is put on. The cushion is then compressed , washers put on, and the buttons clinched. Burlap is then sewed to the foundation and cushion, the clamps taken off, and the cushion removed from the mould. Cushions are then clinched to the springs, after which the whole job is inspected and transferred to the upholstering line for assembly with the body.

The back cushions are made up in much the same manner. The process of cutting the stock is clearly shown on page 372. The leather is on the right-hand table, the burlap on the left-hand. Material is laid 30 deep and 210 jobs are cut at a time. It takes two men about two hours to do this work. The electrical cutting machine is clearly shown in the foreground above, on the right-hand table. The lower picture on page 372 shows a battery of sewing machines in the Upholstery Department.

Forty-eight girls are employed in this department. Here, as in other parts of the factory, machines are arranged so that the work moves in logical sequence and is conveyed, by means of a belt conveyer, from end to end of the room.

The Top Machine Department

The tops are made in another department, where 148 girls and 12 men work from 7:30 a. m. to 4:15 p. m., turning out from 600 to 700 top covers every 8 hours. This work consists of four main operations : first, laying out and marking ; second, cutting; third, creasing ; and fourth, sewing. The cutting and creasing is done on a special automatic machine of Ford design. There are really six parts of the top made in this department : the deck and quarters which form the roof of the top, the curtains , the lights, the combination back curtain and back stays, the pads which fit on the curve.

How the Bows Are Made

The Bow Department, which has a capacity of about 75 sets per hour, also furnishes a very interesting example of compact assembly.

The ten operations required are as follows: The bows are first broken open; second, inspected by gauge; third, sawed to size; fourth, ends shaped to fit bow sockets; fifth, a small strip is added to the top of the bow to keep the covering from sagging; sixth, the "stockings" are put on—that is, the bows are covered with cloth; seventh, the sockets are examined; eighth, bows are driven into sockets in pairs and then put onto a conveyer on which the straps and fasteners are added. The work is done at a point near the top-assembly line, so that no trucking is necessary.

Painting Ford Wheels

When you stop to think that the capacity of the Ford plant is 300,000 cars per year, and that each car is equipped with four wheels, you will get some idea of the number of wheels that must be painted and the difficulty which might be experienced in handling, painting, and "tireing" such an enormous quantity.

About 1,000 sets are run through every 8 hours, by a force of 27 men. It was formerly necessary to truck the wheels from the unloading dock to the paint shop. This, however, has been done away with by a new form of conveyer, the operation of which is simplicity itself.

The pictures on pages 374 and 375 show the manner in which the wheels are handled. They are put in a runway on the unloading dock and carried up by means of an elevator to a track slightly higher than the level of the third floor of building "H." The wheels therefore run in under force of gravity, and finally reach a point where they are stopped in front of a centrifugal painting machine.

These painting machines are unique. They consist, as will be seen by referring to the illustrations on page 375, of a circular paint vat, the revolving spindle being driven by means of a beveled gear mechanism from the shaft above. The wheels are picked out of the runway, placed in a horizontal position on this spindle, entirely submerged in the paint and then raised above the surface. The paint vat moves up and down— not the spindle. The power is turned on and the wheel is spun at the rate of about 720 revolutions per minute, which dries it sufficiently to be handled. It is then placed back in the rack runway, given a shove which sends it rolling down to the end of the storage room, and there picked out and piled for drying. Later, it is again put back in its track, and rolls around to a point where it is given its second coat of color varnish in the same manner, except that it is spun at a little slower speed— about 540 revolutions per minute. After the painting operations are finished the wheel is put back in its track and rolls to the tire room, by gravity.

Where the Tires Are Put On

The tires come up an incline to the third floor, pass over the body roller track and down to a flat belt conveyer, which carries them finally to the tire-storage room. Here the tires and wheels meet and are put together, after which they are sent down a chute to the chassis-assembly line in the machine shop.

How the Windshield Is Enameled

On page 377 is shown the method used for dipping and baking the enamel on the tube that surrounds the windshield glass. Two endlesschain conveyers, set side by side, with a dripping tank at one end and baking ovens at the other, are clearly shown. The irons are dipped and then hung in a slanting position by a short wire at one end and a long wire at the other. They travel in a westerly direction over a 14-foot drain, requiring 25 minutes to reach the other end, where they are removed by the oven operator and hung in pairs on the cross bars of a traveling chain which traverses one of the vertical baking ovens. These baking ovens are built on the outside of the building and therefore do not take up any of the floor space of the department proper. The ovens are about 30 feet high and contain four gas burners. The speed is so timed that it takes 25 minutes for the rods to make the trip. The temperature of the first oven is maintained at approximately 350 degrees F.

After this baking operation, the parts are placed on a belt conveyer, which carries them back to the dipping end of the second endless-chain conveyer. In the photograph you will notice the man has just started to pick a part off the belt, preparatory to dipping it in the second time.

After its second coat, it is hung again as before, travels the length of the second draining tank, and is taken off and hooked to the cross bars in the second oven. This runs at the same speed. The temperature is slightly higher—from 425 to 450 degrees. The capacity is 120 windshield frames per hour.

How the Fenders Are Enameled

The enameling of the Ford fenders is a very interesting process and one which requires some explanation on account of the unusual manner in which the work is kept in progress. Despite the fact that, owing to the bulkiness of this component , a great amount of room is ordinarily required, by an ingenious system of ovens mounted on the roof very little actual floor space in the shop itself is needed under this improved system.

The accompanying illustrations will aid the reader in understanding, in a general way, how the work is handled and the process of baking made almost continuous. On this page the workmen are seen dipping the fenders for' the first coat, after which they are hung in sets through the Steam-Heated Dripping of lour on the cross bars of an endless-chain conveyer, which carries them through a draining, steam-heated enclosure on the roof above. Page 380 shows the point at which they are taken off and hung on another endless-chain conveyer, which carries them up through another oven on the roof, heated to a temperature of about 400 degrees, by fourteen large gas burners. The illustration on this page is taken along the outside of this oven. Page 380 (top) is taken at a point after the fenders have come through the drying oven and are ready to pass on and be automatically dipped in the tank at the right. This is where they receive their second coat, passing on through a glass dripping chamber back to the oven on the roof again, receiving their second baking. They then return to the same point again, and are removed in a finished condition. The first conveyer can be run at a speed of either 2 3^2 or 5 feet per minute.

The second conveyer running through the oven, travels 5 feet per minute.

The capacity of the fender oven is 480 front fenders or 240 rears per hour, first coats, and 240 front fenders or 120 rears, second coats.

Page 382 shows how the hoods are painted. They are simply dipped in the ordinary way, hung to dry, and afterwards baked. The picture is self-explanatory.