AMC was always a leader amongst other motorcycle manufacturers in the amount of in-house production incorporated into their products, rather than sub-contracting their requirements to outside firms.
In order to achieve this position, its factory workshops were equipped with a very large number of machines of all types that, along with the cutting tools used with them, needed maintenance on an ongoing basis.
For this reason it was necessary to have two specialised departments; the Millwrights and the Tool/Cutter Grinders, to literally keep everything running smoothly and so avoid delays in the production of parts for the assembly line. Both of these departments were located on the centre section of the third floor of the factory, close to the Tool Room.
The term 'millwright' dates back to the earliest times of machine use and describes the craftsman whose job it was to install, repair and dismantle mills powered by water or wind.
In modern times, though, millwrights are mainly responsible for the initial installation of machinery including the levelling, aligning and power connection, as well as the subsequent routine maintenance and repair following any damage incurred. (This last point was particularly relevant at AMC due to the predominant use of semi/unskilled machine operators, working on a piece-rate system who would quickly learn how to work any machine to its limit in order to maximise their bonus).
Most of the millwrights' work would take place in the machine shops; bearing changing being a common job. The department was also equipped with its own machinery for carrying out work on the more portable items needing attention, utilising lathes of various sizes, milling and drilling machines.
By its nature, maintenance work is very sporadic and so the staff were often called on to turn their skills to a variety of 'one-off' jobs, some examples of which are described as follows:-
Keith Jackson recalls that during his apprenticeship period in the millwrights, he had to 'remove the gap bed on the big lathe to put up racing
bike front wheels, to re-skim the brake drums that had gone oval'.
This department formed a very important part of the factory, ensuring that all the cutting tools for the many machine shops were maintained in prime condition, without which the production rates would severely suffer.
It needs to be remembered that, in the 1960s, no carbide-tipped tooling existed. It was all standard drills, taper shank drills and what were called core drills (4-fluted taper shank drills that came in all lengths and sizes). These generally had blunt ends and were designed in-house with stepped diameters according to what they were required to do.
Some would need to have three different diameters, to enable the tool to be fed through its guide bush and clear out the bore of the inlet and exhaust ports of a cylinder head casting. The tool room and cutter grinders carried out these changes between them.
All milling cutters , standard drills and modified core drills had to be maintained in good condition and this was all done by the cutter grinders.