Archive for the 'Craftsmanship' Category



Is Penny Wisdom Plain Foolish?

I spent an hour this evening fixing an appliance that I bought at a yard sale many years ago for a coin. Not only that, but I solely and regularly use this appliance for my daily work. You may wonder how I use a potpourri crock pot for my work? As the heater part of a small double boiler for an etchant that can eat through glass or titanium, of course.

And what can go wrong with a crock pot? Well, this one has been dropped a couple of times. But the crack was dealt with well enough some years ago by a liberal application of Acrylic monomer (Super Glue).

So what was wrong? The crack had weakened the heating element (Ni-chrome filament) and it finally burned through. So I took the thing apart and spliced in a bit of fine brass wire that I had lying around. That delicate job was the easy part, given strong magnifying goggles and tiny tools.

But these diabolical inexpensive units are designed to not-be reassembled. They had actually added an extra part to the design to make reassembly impossible. It took me over a half hour to outwit the designers and get the base re-attached in a manner that would let me take it apart again for future repairs.

For a dozen deductible dollars I can have a new one delivered to my house via eBay. Why do I regularly chose to spend so much time to repair disposable appliances?

My parents both went through economic times much worse than the U.S. Depression, losing nearly everything but their lives. They raised me with essential parsimony. Not actual deprivation, mind you. Just a frugal mindset that pervades my being. I hate to throw anything usable away.

But now I have predictable (if meager) income, and no debt. I have money in the bank, and could afford nice things. But it just feels wasteful to throw away something that I can fix. I mentioned this in “How Does a Microwave Work?

Things I no longer need may end up on eBay. I usually net less than minimum wage for my time on most of these sales. But the widget/parts/book gets a new life with someone who really wants it, and the post office makes some money.

So the object at hand today is the realization that I am an oddball tinker living in a throw-away society, illustrated by a stripped-down 4″ crock pot.

Mostly Mixed Nuts

Every handy person has a jar/bin/drawer full of odd leftover or salvaged attachment hardware. I have a yogurt container full of screws and a marmalade jar full of bolts and nuts. Plus a mini-cabinet with drawers labeled by size and pitch from my electronics daze. Um, days.

Mixed Nuts

Click to unsmallify

On the other hand, the collection I hereby declare as today’s object was found lying on the street by my car. It did briefly flash across my surreal cerebrum that my car was leaking nuts. Lovely Assistant suggested that the license plate thief left them. I settled on the thought¬† that someone’s spare parts bin probably spilled from their tailgate. But it got me thinking about the value of such collections.

Is it just that some of us cannot bear to throw anything away? Do we really think that a single rusty square nut will find a home in some future project? Will we remember to search the bin when we actually find an unmatched mate? And “What About Naomi?

I raided my own collection recently: A rivet popped from our recliner mechanism, and I found some bolts and nuts that made an adequate repair. Yes, I wrapped the threads with foil to prevent the mechanism from binding.

The payoff is that I did not have to go to the hardware store. And there is a warm satisfaction in having reused items that otherwise are rarely even recycled. And a bit of relief that I did, in fact, find a use for a tiny part of the whole disorganized collection.

To Tell the Tooth

I am aging. Well, all of us lucky enough to be reading this are. But every once in a while, some object appears to remind us of the process. Here sits an example on the tray beside me in the dentist’s office.

Shells of goldThese two thin shells intricately crafted from a long lasting and organically inert alloy are now installed in the right rear of my bite. “Crowns” they royally proclaim these mundane objects to be.

I am finally old enough that the four sections of some of my molars no longer cohere well enough.  My dentist showed me the evidence on the x-rays and in the mirror. I needed an engineering solution to prevent catastrophic failure of original equipment that was built to last somewhat less then my current number of orbits around the sun.

So I submitted to having some perfectly good (or apparently adequate) tooth ground away to make room for these thin shells. These are expected to keep the rest of those two teeth intact for the next few decades.

But it’s like replacing a tire on the car: You know others will need it soon. At least I am putting my money where my mouth is.