The Little World – It Was Just Sitting There

How many of your good ideas have just been sitting there in the store waiting for your brain to come along and see them? I say your brain, rather than your eyes, because you can look at something for months and years without perceiving it. It is only when the brain stirs that the magic begins.

My latest Ahah! moment was in our local electronics parts store whence I had repaired for plugs, sockets, and pilot lamps. These got, I dawdled through the place marvelling at the rubbish they sold. A spring-powered fly swatter? Disco lights? Don’t need ’em. I mean I’m 69…I can get disco lights by standing up quickly…

But they also sold parts for radio-control model cars and buggies. These were unattractive, but the spare electric motors for them were wonderful. I have to wonder what the operators are doing if they burn them out, but then the large number of spares for suspensions and steering are a clue. They are thrashing the guts out of the stuff.

I won’t be that hard on the electric motor I bought. I’ve no idea what it will power, but at $ 17 for a 6900 rpm 12 volt motor that looks like it could power a bomber, I couldn’t resist.

It was just sitting there calling to me. Hold my beer and stand back.


Trash And Treasure Is Never Treasure

We have all gone to the Trash And Treasure, flea market, retro market, bring and buy, parish jumble sale, or weekend market in our time. Some of us have picked up bargains – the rest have picked up garbage. The really fortunate ones have picked up a bacterial infection and vowed never to do it again.

It is a basic feature of human psychology – that desire for a good buy. If it can be a swingeing bargain or a criminal rort, so much the better. But it does lead us down some dark passageways of the soul:

a. We seek for these El Dorados of dreck in the worst places. Council car parks on Sunday morning when we otherwise we could be asleep in bed or awake in the arms of a lover. It is the unwashed bottom of the top of the morning – either cold and wet or hot and distressing, and we’re out there looking for bargain clothespegs? Sheesh…

b. We deal with people we would avoid under any other circumstances. To a man, or woman, they have the look of wolves fattened on babies. None of them love us, and we do not love them, and the emotions are entirely justified from either side.

c. We do not need what we seek. We do not seek what we need. It is all greed or grot.

d. Just as Quentin Crisp eventually had to admit that there was no great dark man, we must eventually admit that there is no great dark treasure to be found. We can’t even find Quentin Crisp.

e. We do need the money in our pocket that we think we do not need. Just today a letter arrived from the water supply racket telling me that the state government will remove a subsidy they used to give to old people to help them pay for water. The money will presumably be given to mining magnates or their bankers. I now need to save my money for water. I would like to make water on the state government…

f. The things discarded by others were discarded for a good reason. They are ugly, broken, useless, poisonous, sad, or superfluous. What they are for others they will be for us, but doubly so because we spend real money on them. And if we want to resell them we will have to return to the garbage sale and become the persons we bought it from to get even a pittance back. Do we really want to exchange our souls for that?

g. We can live without it. We lived without it until we arose this morning, and we can make it through to the evening without it.

h. No-one looks cool at a junk market. Sellers, buyers, pickpockets, etc…All have a patina of naff on them, that they could have avoided assuming by staying home and doing something useful.

Well, that should make Sunday morning a lot more fun. See you at the markets?

The Little World – The Chef’s Knife

I am always fascinated with the fancy kitchen sections of the local Myers and David Jones stores. All those implements! All those pots and pans! All those knives! It makes the kitchen drawer at our place look like a scrap heap.

The fascination continues when I see professional chefs whacking away at the raw ingredients on the television cooking shows – or setting out to work on restaurant kitchens. The preparation of their knives, with the hours of sharpening and honing…It amazes me to see that much effort being put into something that very quickly becomes as blunt as it was before it all started. I used to cut meat with knives – human meat, with tiny little knives – and when I was worried about whether it was becoming dull, I just took out the blade and slotted another one in there. The chief trick was not to stick it in the nurse as I did so.

Operating theatres and professional kitchens must be on another planet, if the circumstances of the average home workshop are taken into account. If you are a modeller I would be willing to bet that you can sit at the workbench, stretch out your hand, and find:

a. An Exacto, Stanley, or Excel knife. It will have a blade that is still good for a few more cuts…even if you have been peeling the armour belt off a battleship. There will be a packet of spare blades in the tool cabinet but they will be going slightly rusty from not being used.

b. A chisel-like object. I have no idea what it started life as – a teaspoon – a ruler – a Barbie doll – whatever. It has now been sharpened to a fare-thee-well and is used as a chisel. Not well, mind…not efficiently…but it has the ideal shape to get in and horse out whatever will not yield to the Exacto knife. At some stage of the game this chisel has gone into your hand.

c. A drill that does not work. It might be an electic drill with a bad cord or a yankee drill with a bent spiral. Occasionally it is a perfectly functioning pin drill that has never actually gone through anything in its existence  – but looks so cool that you keep it.

d. Five paint brushes. One too good to use, one quite good, one acceptable, one slightly damaged, and one that is horrible.

e. A ruler with many of the markings worn off.

f. A pair of pliers that pinches the fold of skin between your thumb and fingers every damned time you use it, no matter in what position you hold it.

g. A pencil that is about 3 inches long. It never gets any shorter, no matter how much you sharpen it, and you cannot remember it ever being any longer than 3 inches. Quite possibly it was used to write the Bible.

h. The Thing. It may have been a marlin spike from a clipper ship. Or a fuel rod from a reactor. Or the last remains of the USS MAINE. Whatever it started life as, it is now the Thing, and it is used to Do Stuff. Weird stuff like drift wheels off axles or remove ear tags or evert the insides of stuffed toy Koalas for sewing. There is no way of knowing what it can do or when you will need it, so keep it close.

Of course this list says nothing about the tools we find that we absolutely need at Bunnings, nor the useless junk that other people waste their money on when they go to the same store. Or the siren call of the used-tool hawker at the markets. These mechanical schmatter merchants know us better than we know ourselves.

The New DIN Units Of Measurement – How They Will Affect You

dscf5520For years we have been able to go to the DIN – the Deutsches Institut für Normung – for a series of standards with which to measure the world. It is associated with the ISO and has been active for nearly a century. Like other national and international bodies, the units of measurement that it has given us are basically useless when it comes to actually living a happy life.

An example would be the DIN A standards that we all adhere to when we use paper – you know, the A4, A3, A0 stuff. Have you ever tried to use A4 paper in the toilet? Slick, hard, and liable to get stuck to the bottom of your shoe at the worst time. You might as well use old SATURDAY EVENING POST covers with the staples still on.

Because of this, and worse, we have decided to establish an entirely new set of measurement units. It should allow us to circumvent the advertising agencies.

a. The Metric Gerbil – MG – is a basic measurement of light. 1 Metric gerbil is enough light to find a tub of leftover pudding in the refrigerator when the little bulb burns out. 2 Metric Gerbils are sufficient to find change down the back of the couch.

b. The Mixed Blessing -Mb – This is a fractional unit of measurement based upon the fact that when something good happens – the clothes all come in dry from the line – there is a downside – they are as stiff as boards and need to be folded with a sheet-metal break.

c. The Whew – Ww – This unit quantifies the sense of relief one feels when something ceases. For every 5 minutes of something you get 1 minute of not-something. But sometimes that 1 minute is enough to prise open a window and escape. This is frequently used at cocktail parties around election time.

d. The Smorgasbord – SGB – is the unit used to measure the degree of nutritional regret. It may be used to analyse meals taken or avoided ( -ve SGB or +ve SGB ) and is further broken down into courses. 3 SSGB ( soup  ) equal 1 DSGB ( dessert ). No SGB scoring is available for tofu.

e. The Imperial Sniff – Imp Snf – is used to rank members of the social elite who visit retail establishments. It is never used in single digits – these are the better classes, after all. Wealthier Sniffers can achieve 10X to 100X of the Imp Snf – nobility sometimes goes to 1000X, particularly if they are associated with areas of Europe that have regressed into the 16th century. Royalty are never measured for the Sniff – it being thought that they are obliged to be above it. Must make having a head cold a messy affair for them…

f. The Shaughnessy Index of Truth – SHit for short – is named after Hap Shaughnessy of the Red Green Show. It has the distinction of being the only negative index in regular use. Hap invented it while working with NASA on the artificial diamond venture. Ask him. He’ll tell you.

Finally, you may have been wondering how DIN could abandon their old standards so quickly – well, they haven’t…the DIN we were referring to is Dick’s Index of Niceness. All the measurement and none of the umlauts.


The Little World – The Pup

dscf5464Twenty years ago a small hardware store that was near my first surgery closed its doors – the owner had been offered a redevelopment buy-out and was ready to retire. As he had been a patient of mine and I had been one of his customers, he gave me a parting gift. From somewhere in the recesses of his old shop he pulled out a 1950’s or 60’s hobbyists kit –  A Picador Pup.

It was made in England to old designs and standards by a firm that wanted to help miniature engineers. The basic device was an adjustable grinding machine, wood-turning lathe, and miniature circular saw. It was configurable as a sanding machine and horizontal drilling machine.

dscf5465A friend found an ex-washing machine motor and rigged a couple of pulleys to drive it. In its first mounting it was noisy, smelly and frightening…but it did sharpen drill bits, sand accurately, and cut strip wood. It went out of commission for years, though, as there was nowhere to put the awkward mounting block.

This week I changed that. Our local hardware store sells a line of Chinese shelving units in modular form, and they are inexpensive and very well made. I had several components already so a few more struts and shelves gave me a way of making the Pup work correctly. It no longer groans as it works nor moves alarmingly. I can now saw strip wood for models…and if I can find even finer blades I’ll be able to stop buying the Artesiana Latina stuff at the hobby shop. Note: The stick with the duct tape is the pusher that keeps my fingers out of the blade.

All the twist drill bits in the shop are going to get a damned good sharpening. A man with a Pup is never at a loss.

Thank you, John Sweet, for such a kind gift.

Hot Rod Heinies

dscf5142Wait a minute. That didn’t quite come out the way I meant it.

dscf5113Oh well, at least it sounds better than Kustom Krauts.

It’s all because we just don’t see all that many German cars that have been taken through the hot rod or custom car mill. But there is no reason why not.

Well actually there is, the older Volkswagens are becoming thin on the ground, the middle-aged Volkswagens are pieces of junk ( I owned one… ) and the new Volkswagens are immutably locked into computers – either honestly or dishonestly, depending upon who programmed them at the factory. And the BMW, Audi, and Mercedes cars are generally too expensive to fool around with. Add to that the fact that they have attracted a sort of unhealthy idol-worship amongst the well-to-do…and they are just not available for the car enthusiast to rod or customise.

dscf5144Here are two exceptions, however. The first one is the VW with the football knees. Or at least I think that is the problem – the rear wheels seem to have deviated ever so slightly from the vertical. It might be a trick of the light, but I don’t think so. I do hope the driver has some way of rectifying it as driving past a Goodyear, Bridgestone, or Beaurepaires shop would probably set up a series of screams from the staff.

dscf5145The windscreen adjustment is nice, however…if a little impractical in the face of dust, insects, and rain.

dscf5112The Mercedes seems to have been subjected to the sort of bonnet work that we see on the drag strip or in the more extreme of the street race cars. I was surprised to see the grill work lift up with the front of the bonnet, but Google images show that happening to other 1971 280 SE cars as well, so I guess it is stock. The blowers are a good idea if you want to make a street sleeper out of it but the fact that they poke pipes up through the bonnet is a bit of a give-away.

dscf5115I think the rear venetians are a nice period touch – do we all remember them from the late 60’s… and the cushions and stuffed animals on the rear window sill? They were a trophy of love in many cases, as well as a practical aid to accomplishing  it.

dscf5114And are the rear wheels of the Mercedes suffering a bit of the Volkswagens or is that just imagination?


The Little World – The Pickle Jar For Scale Modelers

dscf0206Here is a hint for all scale modellers – Polski O’Gorki.

Those of you who do the weekly shopping may recognise the word – it is a form of dill pickle popular in middle Europe and North America. I would be willing to bet it is a form of preserve that is enjoyed wherever in the world that people can find cucumbers, salt, vinegar, and dill.

We used to get the Bick’s brand from Ontario in Canada and I always made sure that we picked up the largest glass jar. The pickles were excellent. The Bick’s seem to have disappeared from the local shelves but now we get Hengstenberg gherkins from Esslingen in Germany. Equally good food and equally large glass jars – and it is the jars that we are concerned with as modellers.

Leaving aside the classical use of glass jars to store nuts and bolts – a workshop thing – I have now found that the jars and their tops are vital to my model painting ventures. I use a lot of the acrylic paints from Tamiya and Mr. Hobby and the little glass jars they come in are too good to waste. When they are empty I seal them up and set them aside for cleaning. This used to be a real chore as I tried to brush all the residue out of the jars under running water – if they had dried out at all, the task was all but impossible.

The turning point came when I started to keep a large pickle jar half full of a water/methylated spirit mixture and got to dropping the freshly emptied Tamiya jars into it straight away. I now seal the pickle jar with the metal top and leave it as the weeks went on. When the jar is full of old paint pots I empty it out in the laundry trough and the long soaking means that the labels come off slickly and the softened contest frequently rinse straight out with minimal brushing.

Okay, I am about to start trying the lacquer-type of paint and will devote the next pickle jar to it with the appropriate solvent inside. It will probably be equally successful.

If we can eat enough pickles between now and April…that may mean putting them on the cornflakes…I will also dedicate one to a spray cleaning catchment jar with a filter top. I’ve seen the commercial jobs and there is no reason that I can’t make one for free.