Archive for December, 2009

The Lion in Winter

Thursday, December 17th, 2009


I should probably get a car cover.  Or move south.

Packaging – Filter Paper Edition

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009


From an era when commercial artists may have worked more cheaply, we have this salvaged box of filter paper.  I didn’t think that I needed filter paper, but then I noticed the box.

This impressive seal must have been worth many thousands of sales.  After seeing this, how could you purchase a lesser brand?  The pinstriping and font choices alone guarantee the respectability and reliability of the product.  From the sober “Chemically Prepared Paper” banner at the top to the little fleur-de-lis at the bottom, the thought that went into the design is evident.  Lesser companies might not expend this effort on the label, it seems to say, but we at W. & R. Baltson consider *all* aspects of our product.  The orange stripe that looks like a ribbon is in fact a paper ribbon that ensures that your fine purchase has not been tampered with by postal workers intrigued by your box of paper.

(I am pleased to note that the company is still more or less in business, though now a division of GE Healthcare.)


Mini Tool Roll

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

One of the niggling problems that attend my too-small apartment is depicted below:


Those of you who have sheared the heads off of bolts or screws at one time or another may recognize the above pile as being composed of screw/bolt extractors, sometimes called “EZOuts”.  (This last name is, I believe, a specific, trademarked, version of this sort of tool.)  If you break the head off of a bolt or cam out the head on a screw, you drill a hole into the fastener and put one of these extractors in.  They are designed to bite in as you rotate them (and, hopefully) the screw, out.

In any event, having purchased these extractors during a particularly frustrating bout with a clutch of rusted 10 millimeter bolts, I could not figure out where to put them.  The original packaging was inadequate once opened, and I didn’t want to just throw them in the toolbox since a) I would be unlikely to find the smaller, fiddlier extractors easily, and b) they are made of hard, brittle metal that might be damaged by banging about with less, shall we say, “refined” tools such as the “free” set of pliers obtained when opening a bank account.  Due to a lack of available shelf space, the extractors were forever finding their way into my sock drawer.  This situation was intolerable to the degree that I put off worrying about it for at least 6 months.  (Socks are, after all, soft and unlikely to damage the extractors when they roll into the drawer).  However, in my recent efforts to become a bit more organized/presentable/able to find things, I decided that I should find a more permanent solution.

Those of you who have looked at the title to the article know what I decided on, of course.  I like tool rolls, especially leather or canvas ones.  They are compact, easy to carry, and present themselves as delightfully purposeful when you theatrically unroll them and remove a tool from its own, individual, slot in the roll.  (Pride of place here may go to Brendan Fraser’s gun roll in The Mummy, which is frankly and quietly ridiculous).  They also lend themselves to tool compartmentalization, allowing one to bring a few tools along rather than dragging a 30-lb bag or box.  I understand that tool rolls are popular among motorcyclists for these reasons.   One of my most veteran tool storage devices is a tough nylon roll from Duluth Trading that has proven useful for carrying “misc.” tools in the trunk of my car.

These screw extractors are very small however, ranging from 1 1/2″ to 3″ or so, which means that there are few/no correctly sized rolls available, and any normal-sized roll would cost approximately as much as I paid for the extractors.  Obviously, I thought, I should simply make one out of inexpensive cloth from the fabric store.

Problem the first: I am terribly bad at sewing anything resembling a straight line.  Uttering one is, perhaps, another story, but my skill with a needle and thread is minimal at best.  This problem was (hopefully) addressed by the purchase of a $2 tube of fabric glue.

Problem the second: cheap cotton fabric isn’t very strong and tends to fray when cut.  Vaguely remembering some Cub Scout project, I figured I could simply burn the loose threads off.

Fortunately, the low weight of the pile of extractors means that the roll doesn’t need to be very strong.


Space the extractors out across the fabric, and cut the fabric approximately to size.  Burn the loose threads, remembering not to let too much of the edge catch fire at any given time when you move the lighter too closely, repeatedly  (see brownish areas in the below photographs).

Fold over the cut edges into something resembling a straight line, and glue them, to hopefully eliminate most of the fraying.  Note that the glue, if over applied to thin fabric, gives the impression that a slug has oozed along the surface.  Ignore this minor cosmetic problem due to much worse option of having to sew.

roll-edgesPlace largest extractor near left edge of the fabric.  Cut a roughly pennant-shaped piece of cloth, and put one of the long edges parallel with the bottom edge of the fabric.  There should be a flap at the top of the larger piece to fold over the exposed ends of the tools when the assembly is rolled up.  Glue a blind “tunnel” together for the largest extractor, pinching at the bottom to close off the end.  Repeat lots of times.  I eventually started using the next extractor to space the previous two apart, giving a proportionally diminishing spacing that worked pretty well.



Astute viewers of the above picture may note that one of the extractors (5th from right) is damaged.  This is a frequent, unfortunate occurrence.  The problem when this happens is that you are left with a bit of hardened steel embedded in the already-damaged screw.  At this point, you may not even be able to drill the damaged fastener out.  I should throw the damaged extractor out, I suppose.  That I have not done so thus far is due to my irrational feeling that tools grow accustomed to their fellows.

In any case, the roll has held together thus far and has a pleasant weight in the hand.  A strip of rawhide acts as a tie to hold the whole thing together.  It does not possess much visual appeal, particularly since the inexpensive black cloth I used tends to pick up and show dust, but the glue has held up better than I have any right to expect.