Earlier this evening, I saw a bumper stick which said "What the hell is a
millwright?", displayed prominently under the center brake light of a late
model Dodge Neon. Does anyone know what it means? I can't figure it out.
"Millwrights install, maintain, repair and troubleshoot stationary
industrial machinery and mechanical equipment in factories, production
plants and recreational facilities."
Maybe the bumper sticker was made up by someone tired of explaining what
they do for a living.
Got a job as an apprentice millwright in a plant back in the '60's. There
it was mostly moving and setting up BIG and HEAVY equipment, as you said.
Learned a lot about leverage. And keeping it all running.
Up here in B.C. Canada Millwrights are trained in their apprentice ships for
five years . They must pass the Inter-Provincial red seal certification. The
training includes Machinist training ( 3rd year Machinist school), Weldor
training to a minimum of level "C" , some electrical control and a lot of
hoisting and rigging. You will find them in mills , oil refinerys and most
often every industrial plant of reasonable size that still does it's own
work. It is a very skilled and highly paid trade. A good Millwright is as
important as the old village blacksmith was in the old days ....... he could
do anything ,any time with next to nothing.
That reminds me of the tombstone I saw while out in California attending
a relative's funeral. On the back side of Betty Stern's tombstone were
WHO THE HELL
Only in California, where in the same cemetary I found a shining white
tombstone with nothing but the deceased's "hadwritten" signature on it.
I'm hoping that my children will have the good humor to follow through
with my oft repeated request that the back of my tombstone bears this
(My last laugh...)
Several decades ago I went to Africa for a few months to help straighten out
some survey problems left by some Frenchmen who had been fired. On the
plane I met a millwright traveling to the same job for the same reason. I
told him about all the precision equipment that I am taking with me
(theodolite reading to one second of arc) etc. He kept quiet about his
After a few days of work I realized that he is working with layout equipment
that far surpasses anything that I had seen or imagined. He would do setups
with mirrors, micrometers, collimators etc. that would align shafts of
equipment that were 30 to 50 feet apart. He would send a light beam around
a 40ft. x 60 ft. rectangle (mirrors) and align equipment to within a
thousandth of an inch at those distances. Needless to say, had I used
surveying techniques my accumulated errors in four setups would have
exceeded (worsened) his by a factor of 20, or so. I was very impressed. He
would explain to me that in a conveyor line (heavy multi-ton aluminum
ingots) one roller out of alignment by a mere few thousandths of an inch
would mean bearing life cut in half, etc.
As mentioned in the other posts he was a jack of all trades. While I was
pretty impressed at my ability to lay out column lines to within an eight of
an inch at distances of hundreds of feet, his everyday accuracy way exceeded
what I could do with my equipment and knowledge.
A good Millwright is as
In fact, it might be interesting to deal with the difference between a
blacksmith and a millwright. We tend to think of a blacksmith as
someone who shod horses, but of course they did much more than that.
I assume the original "millwrights" (someone who made or repaired mills)
was either a good carpenter was well as metal worker, or else had an
associate who was a carpenter/builder. I would guess in many cases the
millwright made the machinery for the mill, while a carpenter/builder
built the structure.
I am really interested in this thread, 'cause I am working on a
historical novel where the leading character is a millwright.
BTW, what was the term in use in those days for someone who did build
houses and other structures?
"AL" wrote: Earlier this evening, I saw a bumper stick which said "What the
hell is a millwright?", (clip) Does anyone know what it means? (clip)
Correct me if I'm wrong, AL, but I don't think anyone has answered your
question. You weren't asking, "What is a millwright." You were asking,
"Why would anyone ask that question on a bumper sticker?" I can't figure it
Back when the Cascades in Washington state
supported dozens of sawmills, each had a
millwright with similar abilities.
In addition to the machinist skills, the
millwright was often the first-line electrician
The jobs, to the best of my limited knowledge,
were often filled by ex-navy/merchant marine
"Emmo" wrote: I think the point of the sticker is that as manufacturing
jobs disappear, so do the skills that were once required. It is a
political comment on the
scourge of outsourcing.
You may very well be right about the intended meaning. And you are
certainly right about the effect of outsourcing, as well as the effect of
high tech manufacturing techniques and products on our job skills.
However, I would never hire the author of that bumper sticker to design a
campaign for me. The message requires you to know the answer before you can
understand the question. (And it helps if you are a mind reader.)
I have a cousin in law who's a millwright -- I'd like to get him one
Of course I'd like one that says "what the hell is a systems engineer?"
Now _there's_ a question who's answer is highly variable.
In the Metro Transit Bus repair shops in Seattle the Millwright is in
charge of maintaining and repairing all service equipment, from overhead
hoists to hydraulic lifts.
My neighbor is an electric bus mechanic for Metro.
Shot in the dark here, but is there a local-ish college team whose name
is "The Millwrights"? A tech/industrial college just might have such a
nickname, and an opposing team might,
no,too much of a stretch. Disregard.
I was watching a "Hands On History" last night and
they were talking about Washington's grist mill.
They said that in those days a millwright was a
carpenter that specialized in fabricating the
(mostly wooden) running gear used in a mill.