Small team in unique profession makes big product in Waynesboro

Precision Pattern Makers built the forms for a slag pot that will serve a steel mill in Argentina. The main body stands at 12.5x12x11.5 feet. When all the pieces are assembled, it will be four feet longer, the largest product the Waynesboro company has made. Pictured are owners, from left: Joe Florence, Bob McCardle, Greg Crunkleton and employee Daryl Woodring.

The family turned out for Monday’s shipment from Precision Pattern Makers in Waynesboro. Company owners Greg Crunkleton, Greencastle, and Joe Florence and Bob McCardell, Waynesboro, were sending out their largest ever product — a  slag pot pattern for a foundry.

Crunkleton’s parents, Darryl and Mary Jane, and son Josh, wanted to see two pieces of the project loaded onto a flatbed, to be transported to Johnstown. There Johnstown Specialty Castings would use it to make a 76,000-pound metal casting for a steel mill in Argentina. It anticipated using the PPM form to make six castings a year.

“We’ve never made anything like this before,” said Crunkleton. It was by far the biggest creation the team produced since they started in business together in 1987.

The main section of the huge oval pot barely made it out of the manufacturing facility at the corner of Fifth and Church streets. Sunday the three used two forklifts to squeeze it out a door, first removing some side parts. They had just over an inch of clearance to make it to the parking lot. The wooden sections were replaced and repainted to again look brand new. A rounded cap was easily rolled to the door on a cart. Several other pieces will be shipped later.

The blueprint was designed by the Johnstown company. PPM started working on it in August, with construction taking place in half of its 10,000 square-foot plant. Crunkleton, 52, Florence, 50, and McCardell, 55, hired Daryl Woodring, 25, to help with the complicated task. They made templates for each part, which were then cut from one and three-fourths inch pine planks, glued and screwed together, and finally painted.

In Johnstown, the pattern will be placed in a large open-ended flask and packed with chemically-bonded sand. When the pattern is removed, metal is poured into the open space left behind, hardening to form the product ordered by the customer.

“It’s like pouring chocolate into a candy mold, except it’s steel,” explained Florence.

In South America the steel company will use the pot to hold scrap metal and impurities prior to disposal.

The PPM trio entered their joint venture after being laid off from Landis Tool Co. They still contracted with the company and others, and watched the competitors fade away.

“It’s a dying trade,” said Crunkleton. “Foundries are closing and going overseas.”

The partners make patterns for machine parts small enough to hold in hand, or large enough to require a tractor trailer for transport. As they handle each order, they work in mystery as far as the general public is concerned.

“People ask me what I do,” Crunkleton said with a smile. “I tell them, ‘You really wouldn’t understand.’”