Give me a wooden ladder is not a euphamism
September 30, 2010 6:23 AM   Subscribe

The San Francisco Fire Department has a ladder making shop (SLYT)
posted by zerobyproxy (19 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:29 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neat. I wish they had spent the time to follow one ladder's construction from beginning to end -- it would be interesting to see all of the steps that are taken, what tests they do, etc, in that process.
posted by Forktine at 6:35 AM on September 30, 2010


Awesome! I love to see places who still employ actual craftsmen, and understand the value of quality goods.

That said, I'd never have thought that wooden ladders would have made a great choice for fire departments...
posted by schmod at 6:40 AM on September 30, 2010


That said, I'd never have thought that wooden ladders would have made a great choice for fire departments...

Solid wood actually holds-up quite well to high heat, and retains structural integrity long past the point where an aluminum ladder would begin to warp and fail due to heating. Also, it's really quite rare that firefighters would place a ladder directly into flames.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 AM on September 30, 2010


Interesting hearing about the combination of conditions in SF that make these a reasonable choice there. "They're heavy? Great — that makes them stable in high winds! They're flammable? Well, we can coat them to cut down on that — and meanwhile, they're insulators, so we don't have to worry about all these damn power lines."

One of the disadvantages of living in a young country is that a lot of shit still isn't very well adapted to local conditions. (Hell, here in Austin people haven't even figured out what to do with their yards yet. It's too dry for grass lawns to make sense, though lots of people have 'em, and too cool and wet for xeriscaping, though some people try that too. Give us a few more centuries, I'm sure something really suitable to the local weather will catch on eventually....) Always makes me happy to see a local institution that's said "Forget the tools they're using other places; this is what works here."
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:54 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love to see places who still employ actual craftsmen, and understand the value of quality goods.

Sure, if you have the coin for it.

The City’s (San Francisco's) final $6.55 billion balanced budget closes the once-projected $482.7 million deficit through City government efficiencies and reforms and significant public employee union concessions.

"The budget reduces management salaries and positions by 10% and reduces overtime by $17.7 million, a 16% reduction over the previous year, and eliminates 613 positions overall, leaving City government with the lowest number of city employees since 1998. Though once confronting thousands of layoffs, more than $240 million in wage and other concessions agreed to or pending agreement by the City’s public employee unions over the next two years means less than 350 layoffs are anticipated this summer, far fewer than even the cap of 425 agreed to in labor negotiations this spring. The budget also reduces the City vehicle fleet by 80 vehicles, reduces cell phone costs by $1.6 million, cuts city department travel and office supplies by at least 10% and saves $19 million in health costs through aggressive rate negotiations by the Health Service System."

Newsom squeezed some USD500m out of the city budget, how did the wooden ladder factory avoid the axe?
posted by three blind mice at 7:11 AM on September 30, 2010


San Fransisco's ladder shop could very well be making ladders for other smaller fire departments in the area, thus making the shop a profit center for the department.
posted by leaper at 7:24 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a single link vimeo, not a single link you tube!

That being said, I loved this. It was wonderful seeing craftspeople who not only are excellent at what they do, but are properly appreciated and get to see their handiwork put to legitimately valuable use every day.

I wonder, when the one man explained that the weight of the wooden ladders made them stable, and they've never had an accident from someone toppling off of one because of this stability, what are the statistics for other cities with different types of ladders? Is there a rash of firefighters injured from poorly balanced metal ladders every year?
posted by Mizu at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2010


Wooden ladders are indeed nice, but they require way more maintenance than an equivalent aluminum ladder. If you don't have people in-house who know how to maintain them, they're not a good choice. The only wooden ladders my department has are on our 1942 GMC truck, which only goes to parades.
posted by tommasz at 7:43 AM on September 30, 2010


how did the wooden ladder factory avoid the axe?

-------------

how many successful political careers have an electrocuted firefighter on their resume?
posted by any major dude at 7:51 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


how many successful political careers have an electrocuted firefighter on their resume?

Dick Cheney?

/back to the bunker
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:14 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is cool, and I love to see the craftsmanship and tradition. That said, I wonder why they never mentioned fiberglass. Seems like it would be the obvious choice in a strictly pragmatist view.
posted by echo target at 8:29 AM on September 30, 2010


"The oldest one we have in service now was manufactured in 1918." Incredible. A brand new fire engine in 1918 looked like this.

I had heard that San Francisco did this, but the video was new to me. Another justification I've heard for wooden ladders was that they give clearer indications of pending failure (both visual and audible) than aluminum ladders do.
posted by itstheclamsname at 11:12 AM on September 30, 2010


See also: the NYC Parks Department blacksmiths who hand-forge basketball rims.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 3:52 PM on September 30, 2010


Used to have a wooden ladder that my grandfather used to maintain. It would probably be a century old by now.

I can see how this would become a disadvantage. $5000 for a 50-foot ladder that retails for $300 (but probably most departments use more expensive pro brands like these, up to the $2500 range) is not necessarily cost-effective to a bean counter (and even repairing one you have in inventory probably exceeds that). They're heavy, but you can stabilize ladders other ways (SF isn't the only city with wind). The main disadvantage may be the number of crew for setup.

But that wooden extension ladder is a thing of beauty, and I want one. Now there's your profit center.
posted by dhartung at 5:44 PM on September 30, 2010


That said, I wonder why they never mentioned fiberglass. Seems like it would be the obvious choice in a strictly pragmatist view.

I believe fiberglass has slightly worse strength to weight ratio than doug fir, it's more wear resistance and less maintenance, to be sure, but a big fiberglass ladder could well be even harder to put up.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:26 PM on September 30, 2010


Fiberglass ladders develop fiberglass splinters and the resin might not hold up to heat. Aluminum ladders conduct heat, electricity and can buckle. Wood can be repaired. Wood doesn't fail catastrophically you can see when it needs to be fixed, this is one of the reason they use varnish, rather than paint. Also you can repair wood. Plus this ladder shop can make the exact size ladders with exactly the features they need.
posted by Runcible Spoon at 10:24 PM on September 30, 2010


The San Francisco Fire Department has a ladder making shop

I want this on a sticker. Shades of Andre The Giant Has A Posse
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2010


They're heavy, but you can stabilize ladders other ways (SF isn't the only city with wind). The main disadvantage may be the number of crew for setup.

Not really, dhartung. Most other ways to stabilize ladders only do so at their bottom edge, which makes them pivoting poles in a high wind. Weight stabilizes the ladder at both ends. In a high wind, you adjust the angle of the ladder to put the weight ratio closer to 50% - less efficient climbing, but less flying ladder-climbers, too.

The only solution that probably compares is a ladder-truck, with a fixed ladder. Very expensive, and much less mobile/adaptive to access on-site.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:31 PM on October 3, 2010


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