PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I spent long enough with the pointer to enjoy its bold form and graphic look. It seems to turn everything around it into part of an Art Deco abstract. This is where the man plugs into the machine. The machine is essentially a 19th century battery.
I watched George pull and shove and lift and turn each heavy tube repeatedly. I photographed the constantly shifting arc of his back when he leaned into the work, pushing the pipe forward and when he cradled his fingers under it and pulled while pushing as much with his feet as he pulled with his hands near the pointer jaws. Each time he found the position he wanted, his foot fired the hydraulic hammers that drove the wedges into the thick-walled tube, gradually hammering it into a nipple of the correct size for a draw bench to grab. Every length of tube must be pointed. Sometimes I saw George at it all day long, and he still had all his fingers and a smile.
The OSHA sign hanging behind George is for a code violation that was remedied, I was told, by installation of the plastic guard in front of the pointer’s jaws. While most of the jobs in the brass mill required more monitoring than doing, running the pointer required constant attention over long periods and the strength to move the heavy lengths of tube constantly backward and forward.