Basic Hand Tools

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channellocks-screwdriver-flashlightTools Of The Trade are chosen without thinking.  Not the fix-it tools, but the “check it out” tools.  Not knowing what is broken, I grab a few of the most common hand tools an amateur or professional can use when poking about the mechanical systems of a house or restaurant.

A 4-in-1 screwdriver.  I’ve managed not to lose my Craftsman 6-in-1 for over a decade.  Although well qualified for free replacement, with a shaft collar which pops out of the handle, I’ve refrained from enjoying Craftsman’s Lifetime Warranty.  With occasional replacement of the reversible bits, the screwdriver has gotten me into problems and out of trouble countless times.

Channellock 430 pliers are perfectly sized for tightening compression nuts on a 1 ½” trap under most sinks.  It doubles as a hammer.  Punches holes through drywall with ease.  A digging tool?  You bet!  Anything that needs squeezing, Channellocks will make quick work of it.

Lastly, a good flashlight.  Some years ago this super-bright Surefire was gifted to me.  Surefire has since developed brighter LED handlights, but the Executive E2E has proven both indestructible and handy.  Small enough to conceal in a pocket, bright enough to expose the issue at hand, in the darkest of crawl spaces.

As the chain-smoking plumber taught me decades ago, I do know need to know what we are doing.  “Plumbing” was often the only answer I’d receive.  Whenever reprieve was given to hauling his 80 pound toolbox, it was in response to my question, “What do I need to bring?”

* Channellocks * Screwdriver * Flashlight *

Triscuit • Wheat Thins

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field-of-wheatEven before I could count past eleven, I knew there was a difference between “adult snacks” and the stuff pawned upon non-voting kittle.  Within the latter group I waited.  Better nibbles would have to wait until I could see over the kitchen counter.

wheat-thins-triscuitEventually counters lowered.  I saw what I was missing, and began to appreciate.  As the Art of Cooking took hold upon my imagination, I marveled at the Triscuit ingredients:  “Wheat, water, salt”.  That’s it.  Amazing.  Simply amazing. 

When calories consumed surpass necessary, appreciation of a good snack increases.  If you’re gonna snack, go for the good stuff.  Triscuits and hummus.  Maybe some Cracker Barrel Asagio, olives, a few pepperochini with your Wheat Thins?  Don’t forget the pickles!  WHEN is our Vlasic article coming out!?!  Product testing calls ~

Editor’s note:  From the very start  AmericanToolbox has endeavored to present entertaining, positive, and non-political articles on American products, people, and companies.  With sadness we learn Mondelēz,  parent company of  Nabisco,  is laying off half their Chicago workforce.  Associated production will be performed at an upgraded plant in Mexico.

I stopped purchasing York Peppermint Patties when production moved from Reading PA to Mexico.  The days of buying four or five packages of Oreos to take to the kid’s birthday parties may likewise be coming to a close.

Support American Nabisco workers in the following ways:

1) Check the Label: There are two ways to know if your Nabisco snacks are made in the U.S. or Mexico:

  • Check for the words “Made in Mexico” under the ingredient list
  • Check the plant identification code, which is part of the expiration date code: do not buy if the initials “MM” or “MS” are listed.  The initials AE, AH, AP, AX, AZ and XL all indicate American-made products.

AlohaLand Hawaiian Shirts

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Ray King had me in his studio to install copper irrigation pipe.  A noted sculptor in glass and optics, metal and light, Ray had his mojo working.  He wore the coolest linen batik shirt.  I immediately bought one and wore it everywhere.  After eight sweaty summers my shirt began to revert, shredding back to thread.  The vendor was long gone.

Never one to be without a “favorite shirt”, I began the search two years ago; came into my orbit.  Among dozens of fabrics, I choose “Mauve Island” with its earth tone reds, browns, and greens.  A fantasy land on fabric.

A few months ago, discretionary funds appeared while the linen batik shirt fell to rags.   An AlohaLand order was placed.  My two year ordeal ended just in time.  Judi tells me vendors usually discontinue patterns every few years.

My shirt came after ten days.  Made to order and a perfect fit.  I marvel at the quality of Judi’s sewing.  I have a shirt to last another decade, at least!  Judi, care to comment on an upcoming article?

Here’s what I say:  The best Hawaiian shirts in the world made right here in Oregon. I match up the pocket so some people ask to have a pocket.  They can’t see it. I do a flat felled Levi seam on the side so they never fall apart  (I noticed !!!❤ )  The fabric is pre shrunk so it will not shrink with washings.  I use great buttons, some coconut shell, some agoya shell and some very high quality plastic that looks like shell.  (Like mine❤❤ )  I also reinforce the collar, the center fronts, and the top of the pocket. I hope this helps.  Thanks, judi

The school bus print shirt below?  His shirt is made by Richard Tison, Paperhorse Creations,  Leesburg, GA.  It is a cool shirt and a great photo.  ATB’s “Six Thumbs Up” Honorary Mention Extravaganza Award. – editor/publisher


Sloan Flushmate

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WITHIN THE CAVERNOUS Lutheran Church at 5th & Olney, a huge renovation was ongoing.  It was there I first witnessed the genius of a Sloan Flushmate.

Sloan 501-A SeriesA solitary basement powder room, undiscovered (and unused) by the faithful featured a toilet without handle.  It had a round metal button on top.  Taking the lid off the tank, I found no water.  There was a metal and plastic cylinder instead, with an actuator on top activated via the lid button.

In response to conservation concerns in the early 1990s, low water consumption toilets entered the market place.  Early gravity/siphonage designs were poor •••.  In response, Sloan designed a revolutionary flush mechanism which harnessed municipal water pressure.  Water entered a closed cylinder from the bottom, compressing a quantity of air trapped within. When one flushes the toilet, the compressed air forcefully propels the water into the bowl. Hence the term “power flush” or, as Gerber says, “pressure-assist” toilet.

In the later 1990s a commercial customer trusted her plumber.  Instead of traditional gravity toilets which rely on siphonage, she agreed to purchase a dozen of the new, more expensive “ULTRA-FLUSH” toilets.  Savings were dramatic.  No more weekly service calls for damaged handles or misaligned flappers.  No more ballcocks to replace.  Two decades later, about a third of the original tanks remain in service.

•••  The pros & cons of low-water consumption toilets since the 1992 Energy Policy Act have been tabulated.  Municipalities note water savings but increased sludge within their sewers.

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?