Using Olive Oil in the Factory

The first and last time I tried the recommended industrial rust-inhibiting agent on the milling machine that we use to make shoe sole molds, I coughed. Living in beautiful Central Virginia, I’m just not used to breathing in toxic vapors. Furthermore, it’s not something I want anyone else getting used to. That’s one of the many reasons why I wanted to make our shoe soles here rather than in China, where within an hour of being in a factory, I’d get a headache. Imagine what it must be like to work there.

I swiped the can of organic olive oil from our kitchen and the next time the milling machine had to be sprayed down, I used that instead. And guess what? No rust after milling an entire run of shoe sole sizes. And what a pleasant smell.IMG_0700

So I got a couple more cans. One to replace the can I took from the kitchen and another to spray down our foot form molds (called “lasts”) after they’re cut on the waterjet saw. Most shoe factories use “lasts” that are made out of plastic but ours are made from untreated steel cut with water and garnet. The first set of forms were proudly oiled down by our youngest daughter, Zoe. Child labor? Hmm, maybe. Here’s a picture of her amidst an olive tree in Sardinia, Italy.


Then I got one more can…to try as a “mold release” agent. Mold releases are typical in manufacturing to keep the product from sticking to the metal mold from which it is formed. Many mold releases, while effective, can be fairly toxic. I thought why not give olive oil a try? The worst it could do is not work. But guess what? It works just fine. Best, the soles are left with no toxic residue.

You undoubtedly won’t notice any of these manufacturing details when you open your box of new OESH, but if you do notice a scent that vaguely reminds you of the Mediterranean, you’ll know why.

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