Fun Ho! History

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Paint and Powder Coating

Gordon held the new gun firmly, but with a strange sense of purpose and self-consciousness he had not experienced before. He had never really been militarily minded, and was not naturally aggressive, but the well balanced gun in his hand gave him a feeling of power and security.

As the trucks came slowly round the corner into his range of fire, he stiffened slightly, and took careful aim. He was sure of the distance and angle of trajectory calculations he had prepared before hand and now was the moment of proof.

Squeezing the trigger, he knew he would not miss, and was not surprised to see the leading truck burst into a fuzz of red - then the second one, and the third - he had chosen his time just right; as each truck rounded the sharp bend, it was too late to avoid the burst of fire, and the moment each one started on the fateful straight, it was quickly enveloped in the fiery glow, transforming the silver aluminium castings into a velvet red, the 90k.v.amps from the electrostatic spray gun forming a temporary magnetic field, attracting the coloured powder all around the suspended toy trucks as the overhead chain moved them relentlessly past the spray booth.

The big powder coating booth in the roomy new area had large fans sucking all smells, fumes and surplus powder into the tall chimney-like ducts, filtering the fumes and collecting the surplus plastic powder for recycling. The touch of a small green button started the plant with an expectant hum, which could be as easily turned off by touching the big red button on the same console.

The variable speed overhead moving chain, with its 40 droppers to hang castings on, moved the products steadily past the operator. Once they had been coated, the chain carried them around the circuit to the rear of the booth, nearer to the hump-backed oven.

This hump-backed oven took pride of place, and was inconspicuous because of its sheer size. Indeed, many visitors to the paint shop actually failed to notice it at first, assuming it was a wall!

In reality it was a large eight foot square tunnel, some thirty feet long, and suspended about seven feet off the floor. Towering about 12 feet up along one side of the room, it had a canopied entrance sloping about six feet each end, to serve entrance and exit respectively, where the velvet covered products were transferred by hand from the booth chain to the overhead conveyor belts in the oven, using the humble yet essential wire 'S' hooks to speed the process.

Riding laboriously up into the dark belly of the oven tunnel, the furry looking powder melted on the products and fused in the temperature of around 200 degrees raised by the natural gas heater unit under the oven. Some twenty minutes later the products could be seen sedately descending together, down through the exit canopy , shining brightly, as they caught the light from the open room.

Slowly riding past the large cooling fan, the toys shook and waved in the breeze, a last minute effort to cool them sufficiently to allow unhooking and transferring them into large wire caged pallets.

These stillages were convenient transport boxes used to move quantities of any product or assemblies by forklift anywhere in the factory to the next process and were cosily lined with corrugated cardboard sheets. The newly powder coated toys could be stacked in several layers with little if any risk of chipping, since the finish was so hard. Nowadays paint was rarely used.

In the 'old' days when Fun Ho! toys were painted with stoving enamel, Gordon recalled the richly coloured enamels they had used, pouring in four gallons at a time into the deep dripping drum, where it plopped deliciously. Then some thinners would be carefully added to the surface to reduce the chance of 'skinning off' before dipping the castings began.

Gordon smiled to himself as he recalled how the Boss had growled when any of the men had gone off to lunch or smoko and forgotten to put the lid on the drum, allowing the paint to skin over and be wasted.

No need to worry about things like that set-up anymore, it was history, including the splashes of paints and solvents - and the heady fumes that took your breath away. He remembered the oft repeated cynical claim made by his paint team, that no one working in such an atmosphere could ever possibly get lung cancer!

Back in those far off days the toys were hooked up one by one on a wire 'S' hook, dunked into the deep drum of paint and then hung up by the hook on a rack positioned over a metal tray which caught the surplus dripping paint and directed it back into the drum. The thick coloured skin that eventually dried and built up on the drip tray, would be arduously scraped off periodically with an old chisel and taken away to be burned.

Once the paint stopped dripping, the 'S' hooked toys were hung on carriages, which were progressively shunted through a heater tunnel. About 20 minutes later they were dry and hard, the paint stalactites were cut off with a pocket knife, and the toys were stacked in single layers in shallow stackable wooden trays.

These needed to be handled with care and not bumped or they could sustain chipping , even though a high quality enamel was used. The toys were then ready for further processing.

At the end of the assembly when the toys had their final quality check, any slight chip was touched up with a dab of matching air-dry lacquer, which was both time consuming and exacting.

With powder coating this operation was rarely necessary.

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