No one can represent patriotism quite like Turlock native and CEO of LOCK-N-STITCH, Inc. Gary Reed. Reed, born on the 4th of July, also shares an affinity for cast iron; a feature which designer Thomas Jefferson and architect Thomas U. Walter found necessary in building the U.S. Capitol’s Dome.
Since its final construction from 1855 to 1866, the cast iron Dome has cracked over time due to exposure to freezing temperatures, strain, and seismic activity which caused many small exterior cracks that allow water to seep in. Its stature stands for democracy and government, especially in the wake of independence from the British rule. The previous wooden dome was burned down twice, once during the Battle of 1812.
The Dome is made of 9,909,200 pounds of cast iron. Due to the difficulty in repairing cast iron by conventional welding processes, Reed designed and patented different technologies for repairing damaged castings with a process called metal stitching. The LOCK-N-STITCH technology has been specified for the renovation of the Capitol Dome that will start later this year upon funding approval from Congress.
In July 1998, with over 25 years of experience under his belt, Reed was invited by the Office of the Architect of the Capitol to consult on the repairs that would be needed. Since then there have been many delays for this most important project, such as the response to 9/11 and the construction of the new visitors’ center at the Capitol.
With over 27,000 inches of crack, this could be the largest project to date for the Turlock based company that operates manufacturing and repair service divisions.
“One of our biggest projects was a very large engine in a power plant we repaired. There was no way to move it. We had to fix it exactly where it was. There were big chunks of cast-iron, some weighing as much as 300 pounds that were broken off when a 600 pound connecting rod failed. We used our metal stitching products and our skilled craftsmen to mechanically stitch the block back together.”
LOCK-N-STITCH employs 45 people and is considered a relatively small company, but provides its services worldwide performing on-site repairs and portable machining.
“Many people believe that cast-iron cannot be fixed,” Reed said. “Unless you are highly skilled, and have the right products it is almost impossible to do. I would rather work with cast-iron compared to any other metal. It is totally predictable. Most people have never heard of such a thing, but I’ve been doing it successfully for over 40 years.”
Phase I of the Dome renovation took place in 2012 on the skirt of the Dome; approximately 200 inches of crack was repaired. Due to the very weak cast iron that the Dome is made of (about 25 percent of the strength of today’s cast iron), Reed needed to develop a special product just for the Dome repairs. Only those certified by LOCK-N-STITCH will be allowed to work on the project.