BelMetric • Tyngsboro Massachusetts

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Over the weekend a buying decision coalesced.  The belmetric metric hanger boltbanjo refurbishment had come to a halt.  Made by an obscure Japanese company in the 1970s, it appeared someone had used an automotive threaded pin instead of a lag screw to attach the neck.  A threaded pin screwed into the hardwood heel of a banjo neck will not work.  Yup, you guessed it.  Pulls right out.

full thread studTo complicate matters, while a new hanger bolt is easily obtained, the banjo connecting rod was metric.  Without a solid fix the neck wobbles at whim.  Its wavering notes bring to mind a Theremin.  The solution is to find a piece of hardware virtually unused in the United States.  A “wood screw by metric machine thread hanger bolt”.  To whom do I turn?

If it is metric, you turn to the experts.  Second-generation masters of all that is metric, Bel-Metric.  Owner and founder Ralph Lomando incorporated Bel-Metric in 1976 after four years of apprenticeship in the metric field.  He named the company after his mother Bella and set to work selling automotive hardware to dealerships and automotive repair shops from a re-commissioned mail truck.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Delivery was prompt and amazingly well packaged & labeled.  The banjo has regained full musical health!  Next project?  My Lamborghini head gasket replacement.  I’ll have Bel-Metric on speed dial, in case I strip out another threaded stud.

Behlen Buffer’s Polish

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workbench cello behlen buffer's polishSlowly, cello refurbishment inches to completion.  With as much time spent correcting my mistakes (learning 57 ways NOT to mix varnish) as with actual progress forward, months have galloped along.  Mindful always of Shakespeare’s words: “Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well”.  I’m learning to back away and contemplate.  All good things, however, come to an end.

The top and back, after varnish, I treated with a slurry of wool lube and rottenstone.  Experimentation with a fine scratch remover formulated for plastics followed.  But what is perfect for nitrocellulose lacquer is not right for varnish.  There was a better choice for final polishing.

To internet research I turn.  Clues point to North Carolina’s Mohawk Finishing Products.  The undisputed expert, Phillip Pritchard, Mohawk Finishing Products Technical Service Representative, is again enlisted.  Without hesitation he suggests their own Buffer’s Polish.  The product is ordered, shipped, and received.

Upon the cello sides stray marks of top removal, scraping of glue, various blemishes and blisters of a 65 year life, are examined, exfoliated, and finally exit before my eyes.  Hand-polishing is not easy work, but with effort comes reward.  No need to rush as the cello is so close to completion;  half today and half tomorrow.  Behlen Buffer’s Polish has a nostalgic smell – reminds me of a bowling alley – maybe a similar polish is used on the hardwood lanes to maintain their gloss?

So with the sides looking ship-shape, I try a little elbow grease on the top. Stunning!  I may go ahead and remove the strings/bridge/tailpiece and buff the entire top!  And why not?  Behlen Fingerboard Oil was shipped with the Buffer’s Polish.  This mature cello could use some professional refurbishment of her fingerboard.  We’ll keep you updated!

Oatey Epoxy Stick

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oatey epoxy repaired cast iron pipeA customer’s desire to spend no money had succumbed to relentlessly dripping water.  The leak which had slowly destroyed expensive plaster would finally be addressed.  First I had to find the pipe.

A century after this opera & vaudeville theater opened, as spaces became repurposed, pipes tend to run in unpredictable directions.  In this case, the offending pipe was not buried in a wall, but above a newer ceiling.  A horizontal offset taking rainwater from the roof into the basement sewer, it was.  Cracked along the top, one piece spewed water like a clam when thunderstorms and flash flooding occurred.  How old was the pipe?  A plumber had shoved a few risqué handbills into a dark corner for me to find sixty-five years later.

oatey fix it stick on benchGetting another piece of cast iron service weight pipe 14′ above the floor into this area would be difficult;  a second plumber, a helper, tools, lights, it was to be a festival of plumberly noises and smells.  For now, a quick fix would protect the ceiling, walls, and floors from further damage.

I turned to the leader in plumbing materials, Oatey.  Decades have I used their blue MEGALOC pipe dope after endorsement from the gas company.  Oatey Plumbers Putty sets every kitchen sink within my hands.  Had they a repair material for cast iron?

Sure enough, along with all the Oatey products I’ve used for years I found Fix It Sticks.  Two part putty epoxy rolled together.  I cut the stick in half, kneaded and rolled the epoxy into a consistent color, and began pressing the putty into the crack as the epoxy was heating up.  Wow, I should first have read the instructions!  It is ready to go 2~5 minutes after mixing!

The second half of the stick was all it took to complete temporary repairs.  The epoxy will probably outlast the pipe, but being a concealed location, we’ll swap out the pipe in a couple of weeks when the weather is more cooperative.  Perhaps another article on Charlotte cast iron pipe?

Cabot Hosiery Mills ∆ Vermont

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darn tough vermont socks run bikeKenny is a consummate booster of American products.  With the family’s 3rd Generation retail chain of stores, Kenny specializes in the finest shoes made in America.  While visiting to inquire of his health, he saw me perusing  a rack of biking socks.  “Made in Vermont.  Guaranteed for life”, he quipped.

“Impossible”, I thought.  Socks that will either last forever or be replaced?  But sure enough, right on the packaging are Ric Cabot’s words.  With endurance bicycling one of the painful pleasures among my vices, these socks look a natural for me.  Especially the lines:  “Fine Gauge Knitting.  High stitch count ensures a foot hugging fit.  Less bulk.  More comfort.”

ric cabotA little pricy?  All is relative, Kenny again points out.  Earlier this week I chose the hottest, most humid day Philadelphia can offer for R&D.  The new socks went on. 

WOW, Ric’s endorsement is not an exaggeration.  Firm fit, like a thousand tiny angels surrounding my feet with love.  Into my sneakers and onto the Raleigh.  Ten miles later, cooling off, I remembered I was product-testing.  Humm …  An hour later, at home, I realize how comfortable my feet are.

These socks cost more that other bicycling socks I own.  With wicking, deceptive body, and comfortably snug fit, I see the value.  Add Ric’s ric cabot's socks areguarantee, and we honestly access this product Six Thumbs Up, our highest rating.

Editor’s note: I am upon the cusp of sizing.  Mediums, sized to 9 ½.  Large, Size 10 and up.  9 ½ I am, went with the Large, and they are PERFECT.

Milwaukee Super Sawzall

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ARCHIMEDES famously said, “Give me a large enough saw and a perch on which to stand.  Into halves I shall divide the earth”.  He was speaking figuratively.  Ancients’ quest to separate Good from Evil would get nowhere without the right saw.

Two thousand years later we have just the tool.  Take mine, for instance.  Near two decades young, still zalling along.  The ultimate confidence builder.  No stubborn pipe dare refuse its persistent bite when matched with the correct blade.

mid 1990s milwaukee super sawzall profile rightLast weekend we cut and dropped several tons of radiator pipe with nary a whimper.  About the only service it has required is a good cleaning of the Quick Loc Blade Clamp, a relatively new option twenty years ago, at that time found only on Milwaukee’s upper tier sawzalls.

There are now models with higher amperage ratings, built all over the world, as Milwaukee has gone global.  Clyde’s has a Milwaukee sawzall in stock labeled, “Assembled in the USA with domestic and foreign parts”.  Some of the other Milwaukee power tools are labeled, “Hecho En China”.  With care, my Milwaukee Super Sawzall will make a buying decision moot.

But I do want a cordless drill.  Battery technology has advanced;  Milwaukee’s battery warranty is 3 years, with 5 years on handheld tools … far longer than the 90 days or one year I remember back in ’00.  Let look into percentage of domestic content and get back to you.

Near Vintage Milwaukee Super Sawzall

Park Tool – St. Paul, MN

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sunset over schuylkill philadelphiaIt is always the last place you look!  A perfect complement to our 97˚F / 82% humidity would be a sunset bicycle ride along historic Kelly Drive.  The Art Museum Loop, we call it.  As the day before, hitting a trail of somewhat smooth asphalt as Rush Hour hits its finest knuckle-whitening tension.

Yesterday everything was perfect.  Pedal, sweat, hydrate.  Using my E.U.-Approved water, I did not resolve my dehydration, but satisfied my thirst  (no wonder the Brits Brexited).  My 1980s Technium had performed like a champ.

park tool SW-20.2But today?  Its front wheel sounded like my back after cutting out three tons of boiler pipe.  Once again, the spokes want service.  Our local bike shop would have suggested -again- new rims, but until the wheel completely collapses,  I’ll use the original Rigida wheels Raleigh installed three decades ago in Kent, Washington.

After searching everywhere, the Park Tool spoke wrench I’ve used for years is found.  In, naturally, my Executive Tool Bag.  An hour of tranquil “tuning” of my spokes returns the rim to true.   The clatter is no more.

BisonDesigns Coyote Pattern Belt

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Purchasing decision has been made.
30mm - Millennium™ Black Buckle - $19.75
Pattern: Coyote (COY)

bisondesign coyote weave 3My nephew turned 13 today.  That is a tough age for which to buy, now that kids speak a different language than my generation.  Fortunately, good looks never go out of style.  Who cannot use a nice belt?  One strong enough to save their lives, if need be?

We turned, last Monday, to our favorite designer of nylon belts, Brian Kelleghan.  Pictorial weaving with nylon?  Brian was the first.  When his suppliers said it could not be done, Brian figured it out.  The results?  Pages and pages of designs, enough to find something a 13-year-old will think is cool.  We chose, the belt was made to order, shipped, and arrived in time for the party. Yipeee!

Additional information was requested and answered:


Have you recollections into how the design came up?  What you were thinking when choosing the colors?   How about the “Millennium” buckle?  Was that a Y2K idea, and the name stuck?

The Coyote pattern is filled with colors chosen from all of the “Docker” style pant manufacturers. That is an easy call. Weaving the colors into an attractive pattern is always the big challenge.

The buckle pattern is an echo of a popular climbing harness design from the 80’s. It communicates that the wearer is an active outdoors enthusiast. – Brian