Tool and die making was good for the Chomedey machinist

He has worked for Rolls Royce, Velan and others for the past 45 years

From living in Beirut until arriving in Canada in 1966, Jack Awakim began to think seriously about what he wanted to do with his life.

Would he turn professional as a boxer, stay a presser at a Montreal costume maker, or become a skilled toolmaker and machinist for Montreal’s fledgling engineering and aerospace industries?

In the end, the decision was not a difficult one for the longtime Chomedey resident, now semi-retired at 77 after a sometimes difficult but often rewarding career in machining and toolmaking.

As Jack recounted in an interview with the Laval News, his brother had come to Canada three years earlier to work as an aircraft mechanic and invited Jack, then 21, to join him. From the age of nine in Lebanon, Jack had developed an interest in boxing.

Choice of a career

Thus, by the time he arrived in Montreal, he was participating in amateur boxing tournaments at the Paul Sauvé arena, on the same poster as local boxing stars such as Donato Paduano, who participated in the men’s welterweight at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

One of Jack’s first jobs in Montreal was as a suit presser at Peerless Clothing, the largest manufacturer of bespoke men’s and boys’ clothing in North America.

However, in the mid-1970s, an acquaintance he had met through his boxing connections saw that Jack seemed to have the potential to do more meaningful work. So he invited him to go for a job interview with J & R Weir, a shipbuilding company located at the time along the quays in eastern Montreal.

Rolls Royce, Velan and Nordair

Although he first started out as a cleaner, this became Jack’s first introduction to die making and part machining. For the next five years, he studied at a technical skills institute in Montreal, eventually earning a certification. He then worked for companies such as Velan Engineering, Rolls Royce Canada, Eastern Airlines and Nordair, but also as a freelancer in his own office and workshop.

Tool and die makers are traditionally considered skilled craftsmen. They work from technical drawings provided by engineers or technologists, then cut and shape metal materials using a range of manual or, more often today, computer-controlled machines, which include lathes, jigs, grinders and drill presses.

However, precision in this particular trade is so important that sensitive measuring tools number in the dozens. To illustrate the point, Jack refers to what has become a textbook case among engineers for structural failures caused by imprecise down-to-the-minute measurements.

One of the pieces Jack Awakim is most proud of is this example of a tow bar head he produced for an airline with a fleet of Boeing 747, Boeing 727 and Fokker 100 jetliners. ( Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Lessons from Shuttle Challenger

The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion occurred in January 1986 due to the failure of two O-rings in a seal of the spacecraft’s solid rocket boosters. “Half a tu is something you can’t see with just your eyes,” Jack said, referring to a one-thousandth-inch portion that was later discovered in the seal mount. toric.

As a result, and also because of the record-breaking temperatures on launch day, fluids and gases forced their way through the tiny breach, igniting an external fuel tank on the Challenger.

Among the more interesting parts Jack has made are a series of tow bar heads produced for an airline with fleets of Boeing 747, Boeing 727 and Fokker 100 jetliners. on the ground, aircraft sometimes need to be towed to maintenance or into position. But since airplanes usually have their own proprietary tow bar mechanism, Jack’s was relatively unique in that it could be used on all three airliners.

Well-established training

Notice that the business has changed tremendously since Jack started over four decades ago. With the advent of computers in manufacturing fields, tool and die makers have had to add more and more skills in computer numerical control (CNC), computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing. computer (CAM) to their range of knowledge. However, today’s tool and die makers generally also need to know traditional skills in order to be well balanced.

The business has changed tremendously since Jack started over four decades ago

Mathematics is an integral part of the machinist’s trade. Thus, students also learn the basic concepts of equations, formulas and trigonometry applied to machining problems. As technical drawings and blueprints form the basis from which a machinist works to fabricate simple and complex parts, students also learn to interpret standard industry drawings and accurately identify various critical features and specifications.

Many job opportunities

Those who decide to follow this call can qualify for a range of job descriptions, including lathe operator, boring machine setup operator, machine shop setup worker, precision grinder, drill press, setup operator, milling machine machine shop operator and maintenance.

Jack Awakim with several examples of parts he has machined for customers, many of which were airlines, over a career in tool and die making spanning over 40 years. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Although Jack says the business has benefited him, allowing him to live and raise a family in Chomedey, his advice to aspiring machinists and machinists is that a good deal of skill and know-how will often not be acquired only after getting on the job and gaining experience. “They teach you the basics in school, but there’s still a lot of other things they don’t teach you,” he said.

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