J.C. Lee Winning the War on Wear in the Trenches

Mon August 31, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

J.C. Lee’s Vermeer T-655 chain trencher, fully equipped with Kennametal T7 teeth, C30HD blocks, and KenCast ultimate wear-fighter pads, makes a 4 ft. (1.2 m) deep cut on a concrete-highway drainage job.
J.C. Lee’s Vermeer T-655 chain trencher, fully equipped with Kennametal T7 teeth, C30HD blocks, and KenCast ultimate wear-fighter pads, makes a 4 ft. (1.2 m) deep cut on a concrete-highway drainage job.

J.C. Lee Construction & Supply, founded in Petrolia, Pa., in 1977 by John Lee Junior and his son, John III, specializes in drainage projects, primarily the installation of cross-pipes and underdrains, for the highway-heavy construction industry. At one time, the crew spent 10 hours welding on its Vermeer T-655 trenching machine’s 4 ft. long by 12.5 in. wide (1.2 by 3.8 m) chain for every 40 hours of application. Weekends included.

Then, Joe Pistorius, now the firm’s equipment manager and trencher operator for more than 11 years, discovered Kennametal KenCast pads and bars.

“The same set of KenCast pads we installed in 2003 is still on the job — even after almost 1,000 hours of some of the most abrasive cutting we’ve encountered in our history,” said Pistorius. “And, best of all, we strongly feel this set can go another 1,000 hours….with just some routine maintenance involved.”

Kennametal KenCast metallurgically bonds cemented tungsten carbide particles, in various sizes, to air-hardened steel. This combines the steel’s practicality with the carbide’s wear resistance and toughness to create enhanced weld-on (by wire or rod) protection against even the most abusive environments. In fact, KenCast pads outlast and are more easily attached (to trencher base plates and an endless array of mining and construction equipment) versus solidcarbide tiles, AR-type steels, hardfacing materials, and embedded weld overlays, according to the manufacturer.

“They simply keep me in the trencher seat, not in the garage doing maintenance,” said Pistorius.

But Pistorius didn’t stop at KenCast chain protection. After initial application to shield his base plates from the excessive damage incurred by scraping concrete and cutting rock during road work, he realized that chain life was exceeding that of his bolt heads.

“So, I began applying KenCast in a way to deflect material away from our bolts. Now they wear evenly with the plates.”

In addition, KenCast pieces keep J.C. Lee’s base plates square and the sides of their tooth-holders safeguarded. Time savings, though, are just one part of the story.

“By our estimates, we now save up to $400 per week on downtime. All due to these 272 [eight KenCast pads on each of the chain’s 34 plates] marvelous little wear fighters,” said Pistorius.

J.C. Lee also uses Kennametal T7 (1 in. [2.5 cm] shank; 3 in. [7.6 cm] gage) conical teeth and C30H heavy-duty pockets on its 12-year-old T-655 chain trencher that normally is active four 10-hour days per week, performing base-drain work on state highways and some unpaved township roads.

“The Kennametal cutting tools are absolutely the best we’ve ever tried. Always reliable, especially in the most difficult operating conditions. Our T-655 machine recently returned from 60,000 ft. of rough trenching — going right up against the edge of existing concrete — during the installation of pavement-base drainage in central Pennsylvania. The 66 Kennametal teeth held up remarkably well,” continued Pistorius.

J.C. Lee owns a smaller Vermeer T-455 machine, with an offsetting head, as well. It employs 186 KenCast pads (and Kennametal C20 slim-profile blocks) for its underdrain tasks.

“And we get the same top-quality wear performance on it as on our T-655. These KenCast bars are always up to the severest challenge. On any machine — on any job,” remarked Pistorius.

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