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June 17, 2013
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Trommel maker causing quite a stir

The pipes, the pipes are crawling … and they’ll be doing so through Nevada County this afternoon as a large trommel shipment moves through town.

A trommel, also known as a cylindrical classifier, is essentially a large pipe used to wash rocks or gold by eliminating dirt and clay to make a clean product used to make concrete or washed sands.

This trommel made by Michael Wedel is 10 ½ feet in diameter, 65 feet long and weighs 145,000 pounds and with all associated components 210,000 pounds — equal to 60 sports utility vehicles.

Trommels can be found at various mining operations throughout history, the Gold Country, as well as the dredge in the Yuba Gold Fields outside Marysville.

Taylor Heavy Haul will arrive at the Sierra Metal Fabricators site at 529 Searls Ave., Nevada City, around 7 a.m. with hopes to get rolling around mid-afternoon.

Wedel got into the trommel business after taking an internship with an experienced master in Fremont who has designed trommels since the ’40s.

“He’s the one that basically taught me,” Wedel said. “I never thought I’d be building any of these.”

Wedel was hired to build trommels and helped make the dredge in Marysville and build a trommel in French Corral that was refurbished and purchased by Sierra Metal Fabricators.

After Wedel’s mentor retired, he continued the line of work and also builds hydro-electric powerplants, has worked for Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric and Folsom Dam for United States Bureau of Reclamation.

Wedel moved to Nevada City in 1998 and operates his one-man company, Hydro-Watt.

“I’m kind of an odd bird, you could say, because I’m in the mining industry and making trommels but also doing hydro-electric work and refurbishing the mechanical side.”

When Wedel received a bid for a trommel from Texas, the customer had never heard of Nevada County and, after searching for the area on Google, was surprised that such a small town could manufacture such a large project.

“They didn’t think there was any capability to perform a big job like this,” Wedel said. “We’ve even gotten calls since we’ve been building this thing from Canada and different places.”

The bidders had an authentic Nevada County meal at the Old 5Mile House and were impressed, Wedel said.

“They didn’t think we were anything more than a little hick town,” he chuckled. “We’d had people fly out on private jets to review this because they are hoping to buy more for projects in Texas and back east.”

The shipment will be transported to New Braunfels, Texas, outside of San Antonio and will require a permit load, pilot cars and California Highway Patrol at some parts, Wedel said.

Though Wedel has experience with projects in the Bay Area, he said he prefers the lifestyle and determined folks in good old Nevada County.

“I’ve built these things in the Bay Area before, moved up here and want to use as many local people as I can,” Wedel said. “This is not only a great place to live, but the quality and outstanding people in the area make it possible to do a project like this … obviously our community has a lot more capabilities than people are aware of.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

“They didn’t think there was any capability to perform a big job like this.”
— Michael Wedel, trommel maker


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The Union Updated Jun 18, 2013 05:29PM Published Jun 19, 2013 12:15AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.