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Hardware store owner protects bomb handlers

Glenn Hurd of Hurd's Custom Machinery, Inc. shows an explosive ordnance device trailer at his shop in Harrisburg, which is in the back of his family run hardware store.

Glenn Hurd of Hurd's Custom Machinery, Inc. shows an explosive ordnance device trailer at his shop in Harrisburg, which is in the back of his family run hardware store. AP Photo/ Albany Democrat-Herald, David Patton

HARRISBURG (AP) — Like thousands of other smalltown shops across America, Hurd’s Hardware in Harrisburg carries everything from 10-cent washers for garden hoses to barbecue grills.

But unlike at those other stores, customers at Hurd’s, purchased in 1947 by Roscoe and Elinor Hurd, can walk through a side door into Hurd’s Custom Machinery and for about $48,000 buy a 20-foot explosive ordnance device trailer.

In layman’s terms, a bomb disposal unit.

The third-generation family company has built more than 100 of them over the last 30-plus years in their full-service machine shop, where most days they also build trailers and specialty farm equipment.

Hurd-built trailers are in virtually every state and several were used in the war in Iraq, according to owner Glenn Hurd, 67, who along with his wife, Karen, took over the shop in 1982.

Their son Mike, 45, is the third generation to operate the shop, assisted by longtime employee Kevin Grimes.

“This is the 115th unit we’ve built,” Glenn Hurd said. “We make eight different models that vary in length from 15- to 20- feet.”

Hurd said he got the idea from a friend who was a police officer and bomb technician in nearby Eugene.

As would be expected, everything about each unit is heavy duty.

The two tubes that contain explosives or chemicals are crafted from 5/8-inch high-tensile steel that starts out as flat sheets.

One tube is placed into the other and they are separated by 4½ inches of sand.

The trailers are called “top vent” models, which means they do not have lids, allowing the explosion to dissipate upward into the air.

Trailer lengths vary based on the needs of the purchaser, Glenn Hurd said. Some trailers have space for equipment boxes or to store a robot that can locate and move the ordnance into the tubes.

“We build them like someone builds a house,” Hurd said. “We start with the frame and work our way up.”

Hurd said each unit is constructed in-house and by hand.

“We built 24 trailers that were used in Iraq and we built a jig for them,” Hurd said. “But every other unit is built individually.”

Another six trailers are in service throughout Europe.

Each trailer weighs about 6,000 pounds and costs from $40,000 to $48,000, plus up to $3,500 to ship to the East Coast.

“There was a time when police departments used old hot water heaters or 10-yard dump trucks filled with sand as their bomb disposal units,” Hurd said.

Hurd said it takes about 220 hours to fabricate each unit, and work is done between projects for local customers. For decades the family has built custom trailers and other equipment needed by farm families.

Hurd-built ordnance trailers are used by police departments in Eugene and Portland and by the Oregon State Police in eastern Oregon.

“Everything is made right here in Harrisburg,” Hurd said. “We have the tubes rolled for us, but other than that, we do everything else.”

Hurd said it takes about 160 days to construct each trailer.

Although there are eight employees in the shop, only two are allowed to work on the trailers.

“The tubes are replaceable, but really, these are built to last forever,” Hurd said.

Some police departments use robots and operators are 100 feet away, Hurd said.

Hurd said the company tested its first units in 1979 in New Mexico.

In 2011, they tested their latest version near Brothers, Ore., east of Bend.

“We used a 155-millimeter shell,” Mike Hurd said. “And, we lit off two blasts with the equivalent of 21 pounds of TNT.”

In both tests the inner tube was damaged, but the outer tube held up. The trailers remained towable.

“We’ve gotten lots of good comments from customers all around the country,” Hurd said. “We’ve got units in 45 states, including Hawaii.”

In addition to the big trailers, the family also started building ammunition and fireworks disposal trailers in 1991.

So far, 150 units have been constructed; they look like large, wood-burning stoves.

“The tube is designed to hold a 30-gallon garbage can of fireworks or 80 rounds of ammunition up to 50 caliber,” Hurd said.

Again, the concept was suggested by a family friend.

Hurd said the units are being used by nearly every branch of military service and cost about $25,000 each.

Hurd said the trailers are especially in demand on the East Coast, where communities are trying to safely deal with ammunition that got waterlogged during Hurricane Katrina.

Do the units come with a guarantee?

“As far as the door,” Mike Hurd said with a laugh. “Actually, we’ll take care of any problems with workmanship, but it would be really difficult to make a guarantee, not knowing what’s going to be put into them.”

Roscoe Hurd, the company patriarch, grew up on a farm and spent World War II at North American Aircraft in Los Angeles, building planes to support the war effort.

He and Elinor’s original store carried everything from nuts and bolts to work clothes and televisions when they became popular in the 1950s.

Roscoe Hurd was always good with his hands and used the expertise gleaned building airplanes to create specialty equipment needed by farmers.

He built bulb-diggers and carrot pickers, mint stills, fertilizer buggies, even a cranberry picking machine.

Elinor died in 1982 and Roscoe died in 2000.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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