Worker of the Month - Dan Slay

by J. D. Hanes - Issue #201 January 1990

Our meeting was held on the 18th of November. Our worker was Dan Slay who worked in the Mold Shop at the Cambridge Glass factory. Dan's wife Agnes accompanied him, and we found that she too was employed by Cambridge, in the Selecting Department. Next month's article will tell about Agnes.

Dan Slay Dan worked in the Mold Shop until the first factory closing in 1954. He gave us a list of some of the people he worked with during his years there. among them was Paul Candall, who was the last apprentice in the Shop. Paul never got to finish his apprenticeship due to the factory closing. He also mentioned Ray Kimble who did the drawings for the molds; and Bruce Kimble who made the patterns for the molds.

Dan then told us some amusing stories about pranks, that workers would play on each other at work. Most of these are too long to be told here, but can be heard on the videotape.

Dan went on to tell us about working in the mold department and of the steps involved. He started out as an apprentice in the mold shop. His take-home paycheck each week was $28. He compared this to his current job at the Anchor-Hocking Mold Shop in Zanesville, where on double time he makes $23 per hour. Quite a difference! Dan worked as an apprentice for four years. He stated that, to an apprentice, the Master mold maker was "like a god." He said that an apprentice was given all the "dirty" jobs to do, such as washing the windows, cleaning the restrooms, emptying the spittoons, and finally - cleaning the molds. Dan said he thinks that an apprentice today learns more than they did back then.

Dan then went on to explain the steps in the creation of a mold. The first step was that the idea for an item would be sent down to the Shop. Ray Kimble, in the drafting room, would then do the drawing of the item. This drawing was then passed on to Bruce Kimble, who would make a pattern of the item. The pattern was then sent on the castings company for the cast iron work.

Basically this cast iron work was just the exterior detail of the mold. All of the interior work on the mold was done at the factory. What they would get at the factory was a "block" of cast iron. Up until the time the item reached the castings company, all of the work was done by hand. This included: the drawings, the wood pattern, and the plaster cast of what the item would look like.

When the mold returned from the castings company, the real work started. The holes for the hinge pins would be drilled. The cavity would be cut into the mold where the detail work would be done. Then finally, the detail work would begin. All of this was done by hammer and chisel. Dan said that a small item like the Nude stem took three to four weeks to chip out with the hammer and chisel. Please remember that this is just the Nude herself, not the bowl on top or the foot. Dan said that the last line of molds that he remembers working on at the factory was for the Cascade line. He said that hand chiseling all of that line took many months.

Dan explained that every day he would take a wagon and check with Floyd Williamson to see if there were any molds that needed to have repairs made to them. If so, they were taken to the shop and repaired and put back into service. If a problem arose during the run, Orie Mosser would bring the mold down while hot and have it repaired, then take it back up and try it again.

Dan then explained the difference in making a paste mold versus a regular cast iron mold. The paste mold was made the same way in the beginning, except that instead of all the detail work it was rather rough. The mold was then given to Joe Lynde who would do the finishing work on it. This involved painting beeswax on the inside of the mold and then dipping it into cork. This was repeated several times until there was a buildup of beeswax and cork. The mold would then be put into a furnace where the cork would be burnt. This process allowed the smooth bowls to be made on stemware.

Dan was asked if any of the items had a problem being run in the factory. He said that the only one he could really recall being a problem was the bobeche. He said that it did create problems in being made.

Dan did have an interesting item and a story that should now be shared with all of you. The item was, the original plaster cast of the Monkey Lamp! This was shown to Mr. Bennett before all of the work was completed on the mold to get his approval. What a treasure to have!

The story concerns the last piece of original Cambridge glass taken from the factory. it seems that Dan was asked to fix a hole in the ceiling of the elevator in the factory. Apparently oil or grease from the cables would drip through the hole onto whoever was in the elevator. As Dan stepped off of the elevator, looking for something to fix it with, he noticed a barrel of cullet. On the top was a cut plate. It was in the barrel due to it having a chip in the bottom. Dan took the plate and put it in the top of the elevator over the hole - and it did stop the leak.

In the early 1980s, the Guernsey County Visitors and Convention Bureau had an open house tour at the factory. Dan and his wife attended. He decided to get a ladder and look to see if the plate was still there. Needless to say, it was. Covered with grease and grime, but now cleaned and part of his collection. Definitely the last piece of original Cambridge glass to leave the factory and a new use for a chipped plate. Ah, the versatility of Cambridge!

Next month's article will deal with Dan's wife, Agnes, and her work in the Selecting Department. Until then, keep looking for Cambridge!