Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Last Tyre Rolls Off the Line

The production of tyres officially ceased a week before Christmas in the Michelin factory at Joué lès Tours. However, the factory is not going to close. It will retain 200 employees, but their output will be membranes, flaps and fabrics, according to the newspaper.

A page of Tourangelle industrial history has turned. More than 53 years after the first tyre was made - a radial destined for a 2CV left the workshop on 6 June 1961 - the employees of the Michelin factory have quality checked their last tyre, this time destined for a heavy earth-moving machine.

Between the two dates the site at Joué made millions of tyres and employed 4000 people at its height. Even just three years ago the factory produced 3600 tyres a day, compared to 250 in the last few weeks.

In reality this is just one stage of several in the process of transforming this factory by Michelin. In June last year the loss of 706 of the 906 jobs on site was announced, due to the relocation of the manufacture of tyres for heavy vehicles to La Roche sur Yon. The new manager, who arrived three months ago is directing some big social and industrial changes in the factory. Of those who have left, 380 simply retired. Another 162 took up jobs in other Michelin factories, so have moved away from the Touraine. The final 164 lost their jobs altogether, but 30% have since found new employment.

Very shortly there will only be two workshops on the site, manned by no more than 200 people, making flaps and membranes in one workshop, fabrics in the other. 22 million euros will be spent building a new factory, taking up 8 ha of the 32 ha site. The unwanted land will be sold.

The demolition and rebuild will run from January to October next year and the first job is to pull down all the buildings on the 24 ha which will be sold. By mid-2016 the site will be clear and the land on the market.

Ultimately Michelin is committed to creating 300 jobs on the site and another 100 or so in Indre et Loire. They will get some state assistance to do so and those who lost their jobs will also receive assistance so that the economic impact of so many job losses in a rural area will not be so great.
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Au jardin hier: I lightly sanded all the handles on my garden tools yesterday and dressed them with linseed oil. I'm not totally convinced by the use of linseed oil -- there is a lot of nonsense spouted about having to 'feed' wood -- but it is the traditional treatment to maintain wooden tool handles and Tim did a beautiful job of dressing my broad fork handles last year. Linseed oil works like face cream ie it's hygroscopic, so it attracts moisture and gives the sensation of smoothing and enriching, but isn't necessarily having any real positive effect. It's easy to slop too much of it on, in which case you could end up with every little particle of dirt and dust stuck to the oiled wood, forming an immutable 'mudpack'.
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A la cuisine hier: Pizza, from homemade dough topped with supermarket tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms, slices of chorizo and grated cheddar cheese, served with a green salad. Gut busting. Simon didn't have dessert! Unheard of! There are leftovers for lunch today.

20 comments:

  1. Have a happy and prosperous 2015, both of you!

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  2. No real need to sand...
    unless the handles have rough spots that need it.
    The idea is to put on excess and leave for 24hrs...
    then wipe clean and leave for a week.
    The cloth you wiped with can be hung up down at the verger and used to wipe the handles down after cleaning when you finish work....
    do not hang it up anywhere enclosed, or stuff it in a tin...
    linseed oil cloths can spontaneously combust in hot weather...
    better a pile of ash at the base of a tree as food...
    than the misery of an insurance claim, or worse.

    As for feeding the wood, it feeds the outer wood that dries out...
    keeping it moist and supple...
    therefore, not so prone to splintering...
    and, perhaps more importantly, it keeps the timber waterproof!
    Remember that your handle is dead wood that was beautifully wrapped in a waterproof coat by Mother Nature...
    it was cut out of that coat...
    and then turned into long baulks of around 2" section....
    and then turned to shape on a lathe...
    all of which exposed more and more openings in the old xylem tubes....
    the oil fills these to protect the wood further down the tube...
    it also keeps those outer fibres supple and less prone to come apart as the wood flexes in use.

    Old "bodgers" used to try and use long straight lengths of wood...
    such as hazel or ash...
    often NOT removing the bark...
    but letting it season and "shrinkwrap" the timber of the shaft....
    that still needs some oil...
    to keep the bark from drying out too much and starting to flake...
    all dry timber becomes fragile...
    using a natural oil helps it live longer.

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  3. I wonder whether resisting dessert is going to be Simon's new Year resolution???

    We have a large Michelin plant which is a major employer on Stoke-on-Trent. hope the repercussions of the closure aren't too widespread.

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  4. This was interesting to read. We didn't live that far from the factory, and had a friend at the time who was in management at a Michelin factory somewhere in Touraine, but I'm thinking maybe it wasn't in Joué? Maybe Monts? Not sure...

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  5. Abbe P: Many thanks and the same to you.

    Tim: The NT did some studies and doesn't entirely agree with you. The use of linseed oil is banned as a result. However, some very fine Swedish wood oils were occasionally used on things like bare wood front doors which were exposed to the weather.

    Nevertheless, I really appreciated the care you took with my grelinette and I must say it looks and feels fantastic. That's the reason I decided to go ahead and oil the other handles.

    It was interesting taking a close look at the handles on my tools and seeing where the stresses are.

    Gaynor: Michelin seem to be moving things around quite a lot. The tyres for the Tractions are currently manufactured in Slovakia, and before that, Romania.

    Betty: I get the impression from the article that Michelin have smaller operations elsewhere in 37, but I don't know where.

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  6. No doubt due to the cheaper labour costs in Eastern Europe and beyond!!

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  7. I used to regularly oil all my wooden cooking instruments and knife handles in the kitchen, because somebody said it was a good thing to do to make them last longer. I stopped doing that about 15 years ago, and everything is holding up just fine and is still usable, not brittle or splintering. So who knows?

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  8. Gaynor: probably, and a less regulated atmosphere altogether I would guess.

    Ken: The organisation I used to work for in the UK did the science, so they are likely to have the best idea. There is a lot of received wisdom with regard to this sort of thing and it doesn't always stand up to scrutiny.

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  9. Tosh, Piffle and Balderdash!!
    Modern science doesn't know everything...

    No, seriously, I would prefer to use good Swedish wood oils...
    but they are too damned expensive for what is 50% linseed with additives.
    And IKEA's is just linseed and turps...
    which I will admit will penetrate deeper...
    but you can make it yourself much cheaper...
    the ratio is 60% Linseed to 40% Turpentine...
    don't use White Spirit!
    And don't use hardener [sicatif]...
    and after about eight years, you won't have to oil again...
    just wipe down with a linseed oil rag.
    The oil that has gone in will have plasticised by then...
    like the oil round a chip pan.
    Basically, you are taking eight years to matt varnish your tools...
    but it is varnish that never cracks or flakes.

    That is also why Ken's tools are now fine...
    there is only so much oil that will penetrate... after that it isn't worth doing.
    Kitchen tools need a bit of walnut oil before their first use...
    after that greasy hands keep them "oiled" enough.

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  10. And Susan, I am not talking about doors, chairs, etc...
    I am talking about working tools...
    there is a slight difference...

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  11. Tim: It's very true that there is a difference between working for a conservation organisation with a remit to care for objects in perpetuity and caring for your own domestic objects. The main problem with overuse of linseed the Trust had was on beams and especially exterior window surrounds and sills, but the Trust's collection of objects is vast and includes tools. The difference is they are no longer (or rarely) used, as you correctly point out.

    Stéphane made us a batch of linseed/turpentine mix which we used on the bathroom beams. I remember he had to heat it to precisely 65C. We've still got some of that left -- maybe I'll use that next year.

    The other thing to remember is that these days new tools (kitchen and garden) frequently come with handles already varnished in a synthetic lacquer. There's no point oiling that.

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  12. Yes Susan...
    there is a very good need to oil outdoor tools with varnish on the handles...
    use a stripper to remove the varnish...
    turps to remove any excess stripper...
    and then oil.
    Then they are unlikely to rot at the joint between the metal and the wood!!
    Left varnished they will rot at the unvarnished joint.

    Sneeboer tools are unvarnished, but oiled, for that very reason...
    and they are the very best garden tools that money can buy....
    provided tjhat you win the lottery!!

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  13. Also, varnished handles on cutting tools...
    handhooks, billhooks, etc...
    are very dangerous if hands or gloves are wet.
    The best billhooks...
    and hammers for that matter...
    have handles made from concentric rings of oiled leather....
    but that is another topic entirely.

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  14. Over-enthusiastic use of 'raw' linseed oil, whether on tool handles, wood panelling or terrcotta floor tiles is to be avoided. 'Raw' linseed oil dries very slowly indeed and that is why so called 'boiled' linseed oil justly became so much more popular, since, far from being boiled, it contains solvents which speed the drying. If like me in callow youth you mixed linseed oil into 'oil' paint that was too thick in order to thin it, you will have learnt that the result is non-drying paint. I once lived in a C17 house with beautiful oak panelling. Misguided previous residents had given this panelling the 'traditional' linseed oil treatment. Years later the resultant gummy residue was still ideal for capturing long dog hair!

    If you use linseed oil and want to be able to handle or have contact with the item then dilute with spirit of turpentine or turps substitute. It will penetrate more and dry more quickly. Repeat coats are then also possible.

    Excess raw linseed oil is also food for mildew and things not to be encouraged on wood. Whilst it will waterproof and stabilize to a certain extent linseed oil is not UV proof. UV zaps surface wood and textile fibres.

    Whilst significantly expensive Swedish 'Deks Olje' D1 – sold as a marine wood treatment – is also great for tool handles. It penetrates well and dries reasonably quickly, though the aim is always to get as much into the wood as possible with repeat coats. It is particularly good for dribbling down into the ferrule or sockets of tools to stop the wood drying out and things getting loose in the summer. It also helps lessen water penetration and rusting of the tang. I don't have loose shovel or trowel blades.

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  15. Tim: Have you spoken to anyone who owns any Sneeboer tools? I was keen to get some a few years ago but I spoke a couple of people who had used them and didn't like them, despite their reputation. We went for mid-range Bulldog tools when they were on special as the best all round value for money.

    John: Many thanks for the excellent tips. I've seen panelling that's been linseeded. It's like someone's smeared vegemite all over it and it's dried out a bit. There is nothing that will remove it unfortunately.

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  16. Sneeboer tools are good and well designed...
    but as far as spades and forks are concerned...
    only for people of average Swedish build!
    The ones to get for normal Europeans are the more specialist planting tools...
    these are almost always shorter shafted.
    Someone on our alloments had the planting spade with the heart-shaped blade...
    she regarded it as the best tool in her armoury.
    The one I covet is the little planting fork...
    and the kids tools are marvellous for shorter adults like myself.
    Rakes and hoes have far longer handles than normal UK ones...
    but that is far better for your back anyway....
    you don't have to semi-bend to work efficiently for a long time.
    The finish on Sneeboer tools is fantastic.

    However... most of my gardening handtools are either Bulldog or Spear&Jackson... for the same reason as you.

    And I agree with John on the overuse of raw linseed oil...
    coat, leave for twenty-four hours and wipe all the excess off and leave to dry off...
    it does!
    And as I said above, after five to eight years, it plasticizes and any oiling after that is futile...
    unless you have to repair surface damage...
    and then you only have to concentrate on that area.

    One of my foresters used to hot wax his handles because he was allergic to linseed... that seemed to work, too... but it was a very long process and involved a lot of blow-torch use to keep the wax hot...
    the wax treatment for kitchen surfaces would have been easier...
    but not available in 1970!!

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  17. And that new header isn't going to do anyone with a hangover...
    any good at all... come tomorrow morning!!
    I love it!!
    Happy New Year to you and Simon...
    may 2015 be kind to you both...
    not forgetting Celestine and Claudette!!

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  18. Tim: That ties in with what I heard -- Sneeboer are great for tall people.

    And we'd better all have fingers crossed for C&C.

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  19. Whether you be gardening or out on the road in C or C, or exploring flora and fauna or socialising may you have good health, wealth and happiness in 2015.

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  20. RiF: Many thanks. May you have the same.

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