ORLANDO, FLA. - Bruno E. Wessinger's early jobs of journeyman plumber in Connecticut and door-to-door cookware salesman in New Jersey hardly presaged what was to follow. But a lifetime of work and accomplishment recently led the German-born Wessinger, now 81, to earn the SPI Moldmakers Division's highest honor - the Distinguished Service Award. Division Chairman Jerry Lirette, president of D-M-E Co., presented Wessinger with the award in Orlando on Feb. 23 at the division's joint annual meeting with SPI's Molders Division.
Wessinger, who as a teenager in 1927 emigrated to Connecticut with his family, got his start in mold making more by happenstance than by design. The owner of Knapp Electric Razor Co. in Brooklyn, N.Y., asked Wessinger, then a general handyman at the firm, to work on a job with one of Knapp's toolmakers.
He agreed, learned more about the trade by attending night classes at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and in 1938 took a job making molds for Stott Tool & Machine Co., where he worked for seven years.
In 1945 Wessinger started his own company, Wess Plastic Molds, in his garage at Corona, N.Y., making compression and injection molds. That firm, now known as Wess Plastic Inc., still is family-owned and operates today as a full-service injection molder and mold maker in Hauppauge, run by Bruno's son Bruce.
Wess Plastic is perhaps best known for its proprietary slide mount for transparencies used in audio-visual presentations; that and associated products account for more than half of Wess' $5 million-plus in annual sales.
In 1948 Wessinger started his own molding operation, R.C. Molding Inc. (the ``R'' for daughter Rickie Ann, the ``C'' for elder son Carl). He eventually welcomed Plastics Hall of Fame member G. Palmer Humphrey as a partner and sales manager.
A charter member and former president of the Society of Plastics Engineers' New York chapter, Wessinger was one of the first to successfully employ the technique of spark-erosion machining, the forerunner of electric discharge machining.
The 31-year member of the Plastics Pioneers Association also has contributed substantial money and energy to the mission of advancing education and training in the mold-making industry.