Friday, September 17, 2010

Keying really big bore

Here's nice job we did recently: Keying some 50" four blade bronze propellers with 5" bore. We broached 1-1/4" keyways in the props with our Mitts & Merrill keyseater. This big old beast started out life on a WWII aircraft carrier and will key just about anything we can get in the shop. We've done a lot of large couplings on it, too.

This is a job we did for another shop that wasn't able to handle it. We're seeing that more often--shops that have gotten away from custom hands-on maching in favor of CNC production type work.

We can do both. With a Milltronics CNC lathe, lots of manual machines, and a machinist who can operate them, we can do production work quickly, inexpensively and accurately, along with custom stuff that requires actually getting someone's hands dirty.

Can your prop shop boast that?

Propeller packing advice

We get quite a few props in for repair via UPS or FEDEX or USPS and I always hate opening a box filled with the dreaded styrofoam popcorn packing. It flies all over the place when you try to remove the prop, and a slight gust of wind sends the stuff everywhere. I usually end up on my hands and knees chasing the little rascals across the floor.

Here's what I do to contain the little buggers: Fold the box flaps up, and secure them to each other at each corner, making the box taller. Pull the prop out. The flaps contain the popcorn. Deposit box with popcorn intact in dumpster.
So keep those props coming, no matter how you pack them. I'll deal with it. But don't count on getting your popcorn back.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Vintage Volvo Penta attaching hardware

The old Volvo Penta Aquamatic drives (pre-1994) used a cone system to secure either a long hub or a short hub propeller. We get a lot of questions and confusion about what cone goes with what propeller series. Today I was talking to Rick Myrick of RNR Marine in Bradenton about a customer situation and provided the attached picture and the following explanation.
The long hub propeller uses the cone in the middle, which sits down in the propeller. An allen head bolt runs down through the cone into the prop shaft to secure the cone and keep the propeller in place.
The short hub propeller uses a longer cone--either the one on the right, or the combination of the cone in the middle and the spacer on the left, which makes an assembly that looks like the one on the right. The cone is secured by either the aforementioned bolt, or a tab washer that bends into the serrations in the cone (or spacer).
Of all the drives, the Volvo Penta seems to lose props most often. Main culprit seems to be the bolt coming loose. Using a little Loctite will keep the cone and prop in place.

Friday, September 3, 2010

If we can, we will

Here's a great customer service story that says a lot about our company.

Yesterday a good customer, owns a big dealership, called at about 11:3o a.m. and said he'd bent the 1-1/4" shaft on his inboard boat badly and needed it straightened quickly so he could do a trip this weekend. We said bring it on. Due to some delays it didn't show up here until 3:30 p.m.--normal quitting time for our head machinist, Nick. He agreed to stay late to get it done.

Problem was, the shaft was bent REALLY bad--I mean, the tapered end of the north/south shaft was pointing east/west. So only option was to build a new shaft. Which we did, and the customer was on his way back to the boat before 4:30 p.m.

This was a testament to our people, who are willing to do just about anything for the ultimate goal--keeping people boating. And our preparedness. We keep stuff in stock, and we had a shaft on the shelf with a machined end on it ready to go. All we had to do was cut it, key and fit the coupling.

This kind of thing can't happen every day. Somedays, we're just too slammed. But if we can, we always will, even if it takes a little extra effort.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is the Internet fad fading?

The headline is a joke. Looks to me like the Internet is here to stay.

But I'm wondering if the bloom is off the rose a bit when it comes to Internet buying. In a generally down business year our new outboard and stern drive prop sales are trending up--Mercury Quicksilver, Michigan Wheel, PowerTech and Volvo Penta, our primary brands.

In previous years we steadily lost new prop business, and it wasn't hard to see why. Just google boat propeller. There are dozens of companies selling propellers and the prices just keep going lower and lower.

But I can't tell you how many people have come to me asking for help making props they bought on the Internet work on their boats. In most cases, no way, Jose. Wrong prop, and the guy clear acrosss the country won't take it back.

Admiral/C&B started selling propellers with the help of Internet advertising long ago--we called it "mail order" back in the old days of 2001. But I always felt that propellers were too specialized to slap up a shopping cart and let the customer pick his prop. Too many props will come back. I've always reasoned that it's better to communicate with the customer to figure out what he really needs, by phone in the old days and by email today. Our "Internet" sales have steadily declined, victim of the big guys with shopping carts and slim profit margins.

So we've adjusted our "retail" prices to reflect the reality of the Internet world while steering clear of undercutting our dealers who really make an effort to sell new props. Our prices aren't cheapest, but you'll get 100% expert advise and 100% guaranteed satisfaction. Returns and exchanges are no problem because getting the right prop on every boat is our primary goal. Our customers are more local, but they're likely folks who would have bought online in the past.

And we're still stocking a lot of props, in contrast to many dealers and distributors. That seems to be helping wholesale and retail sales. Had a guy come in earlier today to buy a prop for a 25 hp Yamaha that nobody in our big town had in stock. Should've called the prop shop first because I've got plenty.

Maybe consumers are ready to start worrying about something other than price. Our experience with new prop sales indicates that it may be starting to happen.