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(Pre) King of the Hammers 

With this year's King of the Hammers -- aka "The Ultimate Desert Race" -- right around the corner, Ultra4 fans are gearing up for a bumpy ride! 

We stole time with King of the Hammers competitor and driver of the WIDIA Rock Racer, David Buchberger, for a quick interview in hopes of capturing the excitement that goes along with race prep. Here's what David had to say about his relationship with 4x4 racing (and the WIDIA Rock Racer), his past KOH experiences, and his thoughts going into this year's competition.



Q: David, tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been involved in racing?


Well, I'm 36 and I've been wheeling since I was 16, so I've been off-roading more than half my life. All that time, I've been involved in building my own rigs. When you don't have a lot of money, that's how you get started. Growing up, I was welding, grinding, and rebuilding whatever I could to get out there. Racing is a relatively recent development -- within the last five or six years now. The support from WIDIA really took it to the next level.


Q: Good for you. How did you get hooked up with WIDIA?


Hi-Speed Corporation, where I've worked for nearly 12 years now, is the WIDIA representative on the West Coast. My dad was a distributor and I met Jonathan Saada, Hi Speed's owner and founder through him. Jonathan's one of the smartest people I've ever met -- and not just in machining knowledge but how to assess situations and solve problems. Give him a challenge and he'll come back at you with more options than you thought possible. 


I had competed in two King of the Hammers Races and was in the process of building a new race car when Bernie McConnell (VP, WIDIA Products Group and Services) called. We were talking about how he had heard about KOH and what I would think of WIDIA sponsoring the car. Considering my first one took seven years to build and I had already come to grips with sitting out at least the next two seasons to get my next one built, the word that came to mind was "unbelievable." I wouldn't have to miss the next season and the car would be incredibly competitive.


Q: King of the Hammers is right around the corner. Can you tell us what it's all about?


The hammer trails in Johnson Valley, CA, are definitely some of the wildest around. King of the Hammers started with 13 teams (the OG13) racing for a case of beer. This year, it's 215 miles of desert-floor racing with stops for rock-climbing without. Competitors start side-by-side, two vehicles every thirty seconds, and must complete the course in less than 14 hours. Each team must pass through seven checkpoints while staying wihtin one hundred feet of the centerline of the course. KOH is a no-chase-team race; repairs can only be done on the track by the racers or in the pit area. It's the fastest-growing motor sport today, bar none -- the wildest to watch and that much wilder to compete in. There were 13 teams in 2007 and more than 300 last year.


Q: And it spawned its own class of racing, referred to as Ultra4, right?


Right. Ultra4's only requirement is that the race car is capable of 4-wheel drive and strict but fair safety requirements. Beyond that, the class in unlimited, meaning all cars are custom-fabricated and come in all shapes and sizes. To win, you have to be capable fo speeds over 100 MPH and have gear ratios low enough for rock crawling.


4x4 Pre-Running, Nito Tire National Championship, Reno NV. Photo Courtesy: Ultra4 Racing 


Q: There's no sugar-coating it, this course chews up race cars as well. How has yours changed over the years?


It's a progression. The design is 100% mine front to back. My first effort was good, but not competitive. When WIDIA got on board for the 2012 race, that all changed.


Q: How did that change?


Well, I mentioned my first race car took seven years to design and build, and I was prepared to sit out a season to add all the things I wanted before WIDIA got involved. Take trusses for example; they stiffen the axles and support the upper suspension. Most fabricators weld different thicknesses of plate together because you need the perfect balance between light weight and high strength. I was able to take bars of cold-rolled 1818 steel, a grade known for a good balance of strength and ductility, and mill truss components down to 0.040-inch honeycomb for a very strong, yet light component. This kind of work can really eat up hours, but with the new WIDIA-Hanita VariMill II End Mills, we were able to ramp into the material at 40 inches per minute, roughing it with a half-inch mill and finishing the pockets and carving the edges with a three-sixteenths mill.


Let me add how important truss strength is. Last year, another guy hit me so hard it shoved my axle over about eight inches. I went end over end, seven times. There was a quarter-inch plate on the car that peeled away like a pop can, but the truss was perfect. In fact, none of the millwork failed. I wish I could mill the whole car.

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"Turning" Over a New Leaf 

If you live in a part of the country where the seasons visibly change, going from the end-of-summer slump into the bright colors and cool breezes of fall seems to stir a need for change within ourselves as much as it changes the landscape.

For many, fall is the time of year to try something new, or do something familiar in a different way. It’s the time of year we consider turning over a new leaf.  


Change It Up

If you’re ready to change it up, take a close look at your shop and the tools in it. Is your turning production in a downturn?

It might be time to switch to new tools to improve productivity … think of it as a new leaf for turning.

Are you using the same carbide insert styles that you’ve used for years, simply because you’ve used them for years?   

Consider this: 

  1. When did you last assess the type of inserts you use, how long you’ve used them, and why you use those styles?    

  2. Is the trend in turning productivity in your shop increasing? decreasing? staying flat?

  3. When was the last time you switched tool styles to improve results?    

Advancements in metalworking technology are moving as fast as your lathe’s spindle. Each of these breakthroughs offers a new opportunity for you to turn faster or bore deeper

Use this time of year to bring a season of change to your shop. Make the commitment to assess your turning operations and take action to turn things around. Be open to trying new tools and machining approaches in the name of improved production.


Need help? Try our new WIDIA Victory carbide inserts for turning. Try the inserts for free, and receive a free hat (for a limited time). See the WIDIA Victory Carbide Insert Offer.  


2014 Cardinal Manufacturing Open House 

On November 19, Cardinal Manufacturing will host their annual Open House to showcase the student-operated machine shop run out of Eleva-Strum High School.

Craig forecasts the event to be

  The most exciting Open House ever!  


© 2014, Creative Technology Corp. 

With prize drawings that range from a laptop computer to a chicken grill, several hands-on activities for students and attendees supported by the Chippewa Valley Technical College Mobile Lab, and last but not least, a celebrity appearance of Luke Duke, from the “Dukes of Hazard”... could you blame him? We're getting excited just thinking about it!  


WIDIA is Proud to Sponsor Cardinal Open House

WIDIA proudly supports Craig and his hard-working team at Cardinal Manufacturing. It's no secret that "Addressing the Skills Gap" is a very hot topic in the Manufacturing Industry right now. Through the Cardinal Manufacturing Program, students as young as 14 years-old are granted the opportunity to experience hands-on projects with high-class machinery. They are addressing real-time tasks and answering to paying customers. They are creating loyal partnerships with not only their customers, but the community and many businesses that support them. 

Could you dream of a better path for moving forward in this industry? 


Bernie McConnell, WIDIA VP, is a huge fan of Cardinal Manufacturing.    

WIDIA is a proud sponsor of Cardinal Manufacturing in Wisconsin because of the focus they place on educating tomorrow's workforce on real-world manufacturing experiences, technical knowledge sharing, and problem-solving techniques. One of the most important things we can do is effectively educate our youth, and open their eyes to new opportunities that exist in all industries, especially manufacturing -- the backbone of our economy. Cardinal does a great job of showing students how highly technical the world of manufacturing is today. Everything is computer numerically controlled with high levels of sophistication and micron type accuracy. Machine shops of today are a lot different than they were 20-30 years ago, and we need to make sure our students know this is a viable career opportunity. 

Applications Engineers and WIDIA representatives, Don Barta and Kevin Meyer, will be in attendance to showcase the latest WIDIA products and innovations. WIDIA is excited to announce that both men will also be presenting live NOVOSphere demos for Open House attendees. NOVOSphere, a single-source, on-demand performance solution for tool advising, selecting, and configuring, was recently released during IMTS in September 2014.


A Well-Deserved Celebration

Though much has changed with Cardinal Manufacturing since its beginnings back in 2007, one thing that has (and always will) remain the same is Craig's passion for teaching his students what business is truly all about.

Open House is the ideal opportunity for the students to stand as professionals in the business they've helped to build. But more importantly, it gives them a chance to exemplify the soft skills that they've developed. 

  © 2014, Creative Technology Corp.