Clarence Woolf founded Woolf Aircraft Products, Inc. as the country began building aircraft at the start of World War II. As one of only 200 certified aircraft welders, he began teaching many of the welders used to produce the B-24 bombers at Willow Run. From these he chose the best, and they began welding when they would come off shift. But what inspired this man at only age 23 to work with aircraft in the first place?
Born on July 1, 1919, in Akron Ohio, Clarence was raised an orphan. His mother died a year and a half after his birth from the cancer she had carried during his pregnancy. His father, unable to care for the baby and the grief he had for his wife left him to be raised by his aunt. The roaring twenties was a time of great change in the country as the automobiles began replacing the streetcars in front of his house. And this young boy began to look for adventure to take the place of a family.
Nearby they had just completed the Akron Airfield. Aircraft would buzz over the house as the blue eyed boy would look up to their ever enduring freedom. Only a few short years earlier, man had never flown and the marvel of this new invention intrigued him. But their noise was nothing compared the grandeur and grace of the new monsters of the sky Goodyear was creating down the road. As a teenager the sky would suddenly darken over the house as the Akron and Macon Airship began their maiden runs. You could hear their synchronized engines beating, as they would reach for the upper sky, then just as suddenly they would idle as the wind silently floated them by.
Clarence moved in with his father and other siblings and began working nearby at Taylor Craft Aircraft. He soon learned the skills of welding and custom building aircraft. Stenson Aircraft was hiring in Wayne, Michigan and with 34 dollars in his pocket he moved into a boarding house and was on his own at age 18.
But aircraft were changing, and in Tecumseh, Michigan, Al Meyers was building the first all metal monoplane. All metal would require a lot of welding and riveting and Clarence was up to the task. Years ago I flew into that airport and talked with an old timer restoring some of the old planes. Overhead in the rafters were ribs and other parts hanging with the dust of time. He remembered “Woolfie”. “Woolfie” wanted to learn how to weld the landing gear. That was the hardest part. It was the highest grade of welder.” And he soon accomplished that. Clarence was active in much more and served as a volunteer fireman, a sky watcher for the Civil Defense and as an instructor for the Department of Defense.
As the years progressed, Clarence raised a family and was an asset to the community. It was said he had a “Dogged Determination” as he led the local community as Councilman, Kiwanis Club President, and assisting in starting the local chapter of the YMCA. He noticed the need to keep industry in town and formed the “City of Wayne Industrial Development Committee”. His effects paid off when he worked for the rezoning of land on Van Born Road and was able to convince Garwood Industries to stay in town. When Ford Motor Company was looking to build a new truck assembly plant, again it was Clarence who worked with the city to purchase additional property and vacate Cogswell road to provide them the site. Other companies came to town including RFP Industries. One committee Clarence bragged he chaired was the deadest committee in town, that of the cemetery committee!
Sadly Clarence’s dream to relocate to a larger facility never materialized in his lifetime as cancer took him at the young age of 54. But he had inspired others to continue his dream of being the best in the industry. “Woolfie or Woolf” as he became to be known did have a “Dogged Determination” and that was to make life better for everyone, his employees, his family, his customers and his community. It is that spirit that lives within Woolf Aircraft, and we remember best, to care for your fellow man.
A HISTORY OF TUBING
Tubing is an item that most people think little about. Other than the obvious exhaust pipe or water lines, many do not know what it is used for. Yet each day they travel by planes, trains and automobiles to their homes. They find comfort using the gas range and furnace, sitting in comfortable lawn and kitchen chairs, or loading the dishwasher after eating out of their refrigerators. All are made available by the use of tubing. Lightweight and practical tubing is used by almost everyone in the world every day, but where was tubing only a few short years ago?
You would never think of tubing as being the DOT-COMs of the metal industry, but truly tubing is relatively new. Other uses of metal have been documented since the early ages of man, but tubing as we know it has been around for only 200 years and even less! The Bible talks about metal being melted and cast in Exodus 32:3 as the Golden Calf, (also Isaiah 44:10) and of being cut by file (1 SAM 13:2). Iron tools are mentioned in 1 KINGS 6:7, as well as metal being formed and soldered in Isaiah 41:7, but nowhere do you hear about tubing. To move water, solid rock was hollowed out or aqueducts were built. There was no need for gas lines and oil still came from whales.
The Chinese were one of the first civilizations to use tubing in the form of reeds to pipe water. Here in the United States, hollowed out trees were used for waterlines and in some places still exist in our water systems. Cast iron was used to pipe water in England in the 1700’s in the form of seamless pipe. While iron could be curved inward and could be soldered closed, it was not practical.
The Bessemer converter furnace process of making malleable low carbon steel in 1926 allowed steel to be rolled practically into a hollow bar. Adding the technology of electric arc welding we had a method to produce tubing economically. Today we call this Cold Rolled Electric Welded steel tubing (CREW), or if using hot roll steel (HREW). That means electric weld tubing has only been around for 75 years. Compare the computer in 1986 to Woolf Aircraft Product’s start in 1942. It was only 15 years after CREW was perfected that we fabricated our first tubing. Truly we are one of the few DOT-COMS of the tubing industry.
World War II gave tubing its greatest start. Here was an inexpensive lightweight product useful in aircraft, automotive and shipbuilding, easy to make, form and join together in large quantities. Tubing changed many applications, providing a lightweight alternative to castings and forgings. With the improvements in metal technology, tubing was developed which could withstand sustained high temperatures, which has allowed us to build the jet engines and make space travel common place today. Today hydroformed tubing is used to produce automotive and truck frames with intricate shapes, making vehicles lighter yet stronger. New technologies are being applied to tubing making our lives easier and more fulfilling. The use of tubing continues to grow. Can we be a part of that growth with you?