Saturday, September 13, 2003

Junk TV? Hebron man shows gift for garbage

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Jeff Hartline, a Hebron firefighter, will appear on the television show Junkyard Mega Wars.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
HEBRON - Jeff Hartline would rather be in a junkyard than a cubicle.

He'd rather fix a toaster than buy a new one, and he'd rather build a soda-can-crushing machine than throw a can in the recycling bin.

The 36-year-old is a mechanical engineer, firefighter, and all-round gadget guru. But Wednesday night he is "The Crusher."

That's his name on Junkyard Mega Wars, a Learning Channel reality TV show on that pits two groups of gear-heads, welders and grease monkeys against each other to build a machine out of what else? Junk.

"They give you some basic guidelines, then turn you loose," Hartline said.

On his episode, taped in California in May, the goal was to build a "Combat Harvester" in 10 hours.

"The machine that cuts the most crop in a pristine oat field will be crowned the combine king," the show's Web site states. The prize? A trophy of junk.

For Hartline, Wednesday may mean admiration or humiliation.

"I'm getting a little nervous," he said, noting that two days of footage was edited to an hour.

Hartline's no stranger to junkyards.

"I used to go to junkyards quite a bit to get parts for demolition cars," said Hartline, who competed in many demolition derbies and won the Ohio State Fair's competition. That's how he picked up the nickname "Crusher".

Hartline, a native of Bellaire, Ohio, started fixing things as a child after his father Ken instilled in him a curiosity about how things worked.

"My dad used to get so frustrated at me because I would take things apart just to see how they worked," Hartline said. "...I usually never got it back together."

But his father was an expert at doing so and taught his son.

For the last three years, Hartline has worked as a mechanical engineer at TSS Technologies in Cincinnati. But a full-time desk job isn't in his nature, so about a year ago he switched to part time and a pay cut, to fight fires full time.

Hartline works 24 hours at the fire department, then gets 48 hours off, time to work at his engineering job. He's also starting a company, Prototype Technology. He plans to make and sell one-of-a-kind gadgets.

And if three jobs weren't enough to keep Hartline busy, he's earned another. His wife Stephanie gave birth to the couple's first child Aug. 20. Rachel Hartline was born just time for her father's TV debut.

The arrival may make the junkyard challenge pale in comparison to Hartline's next one - a daughter.

"Everything else, I know how to fix," Hartline said. "All my technical skills will not prepare me for this."

Junkyard Mega Wars featuring Hebron firefighter Jeff Hartline will air Wednesday at 9 p.m. and Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. on TLC. Insight Channel 53.


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