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IBM Computing Cheese Cutter Restoration [video] (youtube.com)
128 points by zdw 44 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Just for anyone coming to this who, like me, assumed that "IBM Cheese Cutter" was a nickname for some 1970s bit of computer hardware that hung off the side of an S/360.

This is a device for cutting big round "wheels" of cheese. It dates from the 1910s, and would have been used in retail outlets selling cheese. In those days cheese was sold wholesale in big "wheels": round blocks of cheese weighing maybe 70 or 80 lb. (High-end cheese is still sold this way, if you really want to buy that much of it).

A retail customer would ask the counter-clerk for 6 oz of Gorgonzola, and he would pull out one of these big wheels, probably with a segment already cut out for previous customers, and slice off 6 oz.

Problem: how to get exactly 6 oz first time. Customers don't want a couple of little chunks added to make up the weight, and slicing off chunks from what you cut to bring the weight back down is wasteful because nobody wants the scraps. Solution: this machine. It has a lever for setting the original weight of the wheel, and another for the weight the customer wants. A nifty bit of mechanical analogue computer underneath rotates the cheese by exactly the right amount.

Cheese is still sold in wheels, or slices off wheels. You just have to go to a cheesemongers, rather than the supermarket aisle :)

In fact, that's how most cheese is made in the first place: in wheels. They can be smaller, like a camembert (about 250 grams), or larger like a gruyere (that's about 40kg) but a cylinder is still the most convenient shape for any cheese harder than a cream cheese. There are some decent quality, usually semi-hard, cheeses made and sold in various kinds of oblongs though. And of course there's processed cheese which usually comes in slices, I guess.

The other day our supermarket broke down half a wheel of Gruyère, wrapped the pieces, and rearranged them back into the original configuration in the display case.

I will note that the name is the "(IBM) (computing cheese cutter)", a computing cheese cutter being a device like this, not an "(IBM computing) (cheese cutter)", which is how i originally parsed it.

Sadly, modern devices from the likes of Apple don't even grate cheese properly. Yet.




Brilliant work and a good video to boot.

Fellow handle polishers — this guy is probably aware of the danger I’m sure, but it’s easy to forget that getting a rag up near a drill chuck is very risky.

If the rag (or more often with this kind of accident, a glove) gets caught up in the chuck it might wrap your hand and bind it to the shaft and you won’t be able to stop it.

There were a few points during the video where I thought “that guy doesn’t like his hands very much”

A nice result, but I was getting the heebie geebies watching him push a round piece of metal though the band-saw with his knuckle across the line of the blade. One slip... Why didn't he rough it out in the mill?

I’m surprised he has all his fingers with that lackadaisical approach around the table saw.

I really appreciate that there's no filler music or unnecessary dialog. The nat sounds are perfect.

The narration is Patreon-exclusive.

Does IBM still make any mechanical tools like this? I’m curious if there are any ancient lines of business still carrying on under the radar.

They've gone full CNC with the cheese, unfortunately.


I'm hoping that thing was slowed way down for the purpose of making the video. Otherwise, that seems like a total waste of everything. Maybe I'm just upset it wasn't a milling machine for cheese.

The YouTube algorithm has been trying to get me to watch this for the last few days. I'm a little miffed. I really just wanted a quick explanation because it seemed like an interesting device.

Skip the first... dang... 42 minutes and 30 seconds if you just want to hear about how it works.

The channel is about restoration, and the regular viewers are there for the first 42 minutes mostly (including yours truly)

I tried and they got me with a stealth mid-roll ad (i.e. advertising landmine). Closed immediately and will not be re-opening.

Ha, I posted this two days ago [0]. I knew it was front-page material :)

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28848009

Back when IBM was cutting edge!

The division would have been shuttered long ago if it weren't for that lucrative Government Cheese contract...

Off topic, but I have been following his channel for a long while and the intro still cracks me up. I don't just envy the mechanical skills, but (assuming he does it on his own) also his video directing/editing skills.

There's some laugh-out-loud moments in some of his other videos too, but it's like a Where's Waldo to find them. Somebody should make a highlight reel...

As unique as it is, there is another restoration video of the IBM Cheese Cutter : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plOPh_UygJ8

I searched the Youtube because I wanted to share the video with my farmers market 'cheese guy'.

Wow this is cool! It would be awesome to learn more about its history. The nameplate (visible at 11:10 [0]) says patented with a date of 1901, which is 10 years before IBM was founded [1]. This was curious to me so I looked up the patent [2], which was granted in 1905. Based on this it seems that IBM must have purchased the rights to this patent and that it was either made or refurbished after 1911.

[0]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8VhNF_0I5c&t=670s [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM [2]: https://patents.google.com/patent/US800979A/en

wow this was satisfying.

He cuts a wheel of cheese with the restored machine in the last 2 minutes and it really is amazing!

Slicing the Babybel cheese wheel at the end had me cracking up.

Slicing and dicing cheesy data gets a whole new meaning.

Some cheesy pie chart would be fine, too.

With coffee on the blockchain, of course.

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