ACID-FREE PAPER IS the good stuff. The paper stays brighter. At first, I thought my eyes were exaggerating problems associated with old, musty paperback books. After reading the manufacturer’s warning, I’ve begun to treat my eyes to better-quality printed goods.
A very nice spring day last week found me on an evening walk through a small grove of cedars, up to the front door of my favorite municipal library. A list was consulted and a selection made. Approaching checkout, an obligatory scan was made of $2 choices on the surplus books cart
A library-quality David Liss novel produced jaw-dropping surprise. Hardback, nice paper, the perfect gift to a buddy. What’s so special about David Liss? Historical fiction and thrillers wonderfully combined.
I was lent The Whiskey Rebels on CD a couple of years ago, a thriller of historical fiction. After several attempts to get past the first disc, I became hooked with a complex plot closely woven among Alexander Hamilton’s attempts to fund the fledgling Bank Of The United States, a muddy frontier hamlet called Pittsburgh, a discarded spy of General Washington, and the routine of colonial life. I’ve since enjoyed several more of David’s novels.
The Coffee Trader I’ve read. This novel takes us to Europe, 1659, and the life of a Portuguese Jew trading in a new product, coffee. The drink called The Devil’s Piss, the subversives who consume, and the schemers and rogues who make up the trading mecca of Amsterdam are all rolled up in this excellent thriller. This copy I’ve just bought will make an excellent gift to a friend who loves history, Judaica, and reading, And coffee.
PAUL KEARSLEY, DIRECT descendant of mid-1700s builder & architect Dr. John Kearsley*, said to me a while back, “Hey, Woodman, what’s with the tile mosaic in the coffee shop bathroom?” We had just enjoyed a private tour of Christ Church, at one time the most sumptuous church in the colonies, as well as the tallest structure in North America. And now, down the street, we find ourselves in Old City Coffee, where he noted the dual tourist-friendly customer washrooms, one of which sported a cut-tile mosaic. While not exactly in the style of Isaiah Zagar, clearly there was an influence.
Zagar made a name for himself throughout the 1960s onward as the premier cracked-tile mosaic artist, covering vast areas with his images. This bathroom mosaic was different. The tile was cut and arranged into a private story, the interpretation being at the sole discretion of the viewer. The key word here is cut, as in sliced on a wet-saw. Someone put a lot of work into it.
When walking through the area years later, I noted a tasteful renovation had rendered the bathroom to an employees-only area. Thus, this mosaic qualifies for Hidden Treasure status. The creator is rumored to be a wanna-be-artist plumber.
*** Paul Kearsley’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle was Dr. John Kearsley, the architect/builder of Christ Church. But, disappointingly, the Doctor didn’t get the commission for Independence Hall, narrowly losing out to a design by Edmund Woolley and Andrew Hamilton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall
“Free” and “Made in U.S.A.” were the buzz words.
NORTH CAROLINA HAS ALWAYS been one of my favorite vacation destinations, particularly the Great Smoky Mountains. I love the states’ abundance of flowering trees, especially fruit trees, like peach, pear, apple, & cherry. The Garden of Eden, indeed, along with its rich history of furniture manufacturers and knitting mills.
But sadly, much of the knitting has been outsourced overseas. In the early 1980s, Jim Throneburg set out to change that, and invented the Thorlos brand, vowing Thorlos will always be made in Statesville, North Carolina.
I hadn’t remembered hearing the name Thorlos, but when an acquaintance posted Free socks offer* on a sportsmen’s chat forum, I tuned in PDQ. A little research revealed Thorlos makes purpose-designed socks for outdoors people, tradesmen, medical conditions [diabetes], and leisure. Their core is developing relationships with people who want/need “engineered padded socks” which reduce blisters, pain, pressures, and moisture. Their mission is to be the very best padded sock manufacturing company in America.
The DeFeet Aireator® blog posting remains one of the most popular on AmericanToolbox. DeFeets, however, are different from Thorlos. DeFeets started out making a light, breathable sock, and Thorlos makes a heavily padded sock. Both great American companies, but with different focus.
My free pair came today. I chose the hiking, crew length. My feet will be loving these socks, from an easy start through springtime meadows to the hottest August hill-climb. And the bonus, I’ll be absolutely stylin’ on the trails in these sage-colored socks, with my Danner Boots. Turns out, I do have Thorlos experience, as the knitting is recognizable. I inherited several pairs of Thorlos when my brother passed, but never knew the brand. His collection is pushing 15- to 20- years old, and still serviceable.
GOOD THINGS COME in small packages. A motto I’ve often reminded coworkers who remark upon my diminutive stature. So when I spied a small flat leather case on the top rack behind the hardware checkout counter, my interest was piqued.
At this time in my life, my efficiency as a tradesman depended upon compartmentalization. A box for this, a pouch for that. Having the right copper fitting or wall anchor, perhaps a handful of cement or two wire nuts, determined if the job would be completed in one trip. Small, efficient, purpose-build cases were the rage. And that flat leather, snap-closed case looked interesting.
Clyde glanced over, spied the case after a bit, and said he wasn’t sure what it was. A step stool aided retrieval, and a moment later, I was holding a case of thick leather, well-stitched & riveted, with the heavily embossed words, SCHRADE TOOL. Childhood presents had impressed upon me the value of small heavy items, and the case’s heft intimated something good was within!
“How much?” Clyde shrugged, said “Twenty bucks”. I responded with a skeptical frown, but peeled a twenty from my pocket, dropped it on the counter, and let him figure out how to handle a sale with no SKU or stock number. Got the case in my pocket before he could change his mind!
Stamped SHRADE U.S.A., this multi-tool is perfect for an outdoorsman, tradesman, hobbyist, and anyone who likes to be prepared. I’ve actually acquired another; one for the truck and one for the desk drawer. While I’ve yet to use the saw or metal file, the multi-tool has more than once completed its task, saving me a trip to a more complete toolbox.
Many of the Schrade multi-tools are now imported. Their lifetime warranty is nice, but I still prefer the domestic tools when you can find them. USA production Schrade multi-tool, about $1 to $20 at a garage sale near you.
THE ROLLICKING ’20s were a grand time in Philadelphia. Luxury “flats” stretched entire blocks. Inside these aristocratic apartments, room after room unfolded in a maze. As an apprentice plumber, a kid in a man’s body, I once found myself on the 8th floor above 15th and Spruce, snapping a piece of 6″ cast iron pipe. We were replacing part of a cracked stack in just such a grande dame near the Academy of Music.
Snap! Crack! Ouch! . . . wait, what happened? The pipe jumped forward a funny way, and smacked my ankle. The boss, grinning through his cigarette smoke, christened me Hoppy, chuckling at the swelling. A few minutes later, he promised we’d visit Vern at the boot store. My health benefits were about to kick in.
Vern ran the local Red Wing Boot Store. For ten bucks, Vern handed me a used but serviceable pair of boots in my size from out back. I was now officially a plumber, with the boots to match. 8″ of leather protected my ankles. Sturdy soles protected my arches in the trenches, where I practiced the Art of Digging. I’ve been buying Red Wing exclusively ever since.
There is a city called Red Wing, in Minnesota. The heart of a country engrossed with mining, logging and farming needed the Right Boots. In 1905, local shoe merchant Charles Beckman, along with 14 investors, opened a shoe company to develop work boots to fill industry needs. A new standard for excellence was born!
My current pair was bought as closeouts a decade ago, and finally put into service a few years back. After the heels became mushy, I belatedly discovered these boots were not recraftable. New boots looked to be in order. However, a shoe genius located, at all places, the corner of 15th and Spruce, cut off the heels and glued on new ones for $40, saving me a thick stack of crisp Yankee dollars.
Red Wing is a city in Goodhue County, Minnesota, United States, on the Mississippi River. The population was 16,459 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Goodhue County.
LET THE TRUTH be told. I didn’t read the book. But I was deeply entertained with the fine narration by Richard Ferrone. Richie’s voice came through my truck speakers, via a library loan of the book on MP3. I highly recommend an audio book over news stations and most music.
Face it, you don’t need to hear the news. You don’t want to hear the news. It is so often mindless content, inflicted by media conglomerates in greedy desire to suffer upon you countless product advertisements for which you have no interest.
The story (yes, we are now back to literary discussions) is a neat tale of a loafer computer dude working at a bank, who discovers a narco criminale’s bank account. Humm. Easy pickings! Back door, multiple wire transfers, buy lots of gold. Scram! Easy! Done! Not!
Then comes the DEA, the Mexican Federales, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, 22 million in gold, the narcos, and of course, Lucas Davenport. John Sandford writes an exceptionally successful and hugely popular series (judging by the number of his books at the library!) featuring Lucas Davenport, an agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Lucas has BUCK$, wears Italian loafers, and drives a Porsche. Clearly, your typical law enforcement officer.
What I liked about the story was that it was simple enough to be believable, but had enough twists to keep me guessing. The story line was never lost or disjointed, which is great when listening a few minutes at a time. The bad guys got their just deserts (some of them) and the deserving got theirs. Most importantly, the humor is supreme. So are both storytellers.
The great hand-cream discussion, continued . . .
IN THE COURSE of human events, the typical male receives several containers of hand cream EVERY YEAR from those who know better. So it sits. And sits. And sits. The Burt’s pictured above, I received . . . ten years ago? Maybe longer? The Badger Balm is a year old, and I just opened it. The fancy stuff, the Boticario, was a holiday gift which I do not use. But here are the basics of hand cream for males:
Burt’s – Waxy but effective. Great for landscapers.
Badger – Fantastic in a medicated manner. Perfect for the semi-retired plumber.
Boticario – A bit more water-based, so it seems to moisturize and protect less. The most perfumed. Excellent choice for the stockbroker who commutes by train, walking to the station in all seasons.
In truth, smaller is better. Burt’s sells a little green tin of goo I put on my cuticles just before they begin cracking, and that’s enough. Res-Q Ointment.
THE KNIFE IS the most important tool ever invented. Five of the 20 most important tools are derived from the knife (the chisel, the lathe, the saw, the scythe and the sword, in case you are testing your game show skills). Is it any wonder so many men choose to carry a pocket knife everywhere they go? How handy it is for cutting, prying, poking, and slicing.
An American knife maker came to my attention through his perfectly proportioned work; graceful blade, substantial handle, artistic mating of wood to metal. Although not a hunter, I could not resist doubling my collection of fine cutlery with the addition of this knife.
Why own a knife like this? If you ever go camping (not INSIDE the Franklin Institute with the Boy Scout Troop, mind you), a knife is the #1 tool you’d want to improve your site. This beauty from Sandown Forge features CM154 stainless steel heat treated to a Rockwell C hardness of 59. Bad a§§ hard! Go ahead and hack down the surrounding forest! You won’t hurt the knife. A hunter in the family, you say? This is the perfect belt accessory for wild pigs through bison. Gotta process the harvest for transport.
And for the gentleman philosopher, tilted back in his office chair after another nail-biting day on Wall Street? It’s a really well crafted knife, screaming QUALITY. Great for making your buddies jealous. A gentle reminder that it’s just a few steps from the trenches, knife in hand, fighting for your life.
TRIANGULAR properties left over after subdivision may be a burdensome possession to the developer. Fortunately, there exist the intrepid builder and amateur architect willing to take lemons and create meringue pie. Passing such a property regularly as I walk to the Post Office, one comes to appreciate, six decades ago, a young man’s vision to mate a six-sided home into a three-sided corner property.
In the mid-1950s, a young cabinetmaker, just married, built this house on newly subdivided farmland a ten minute walk from City Hall. His practice thrived. He lived there the remainder of his life. A decade after his
death, his house was being cleared out for the next occupant. Walking by, I struck up a conversation with the laborers, and was offered a glimpse into the basement workshop. All the tools had been passed to a younger generation. There remained, however, this nice box made by the cabinetmaker early in his career. Rather than allow the locking aluminum-clad craftsman’s toolbox a one-way trip to the rubbish hauler, I brought it home. At present, the box stands on it’s end by the corner of my living room, a pedestal to a flower-pot under a window.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – Cicero
First, with a partner, came Big Jar Books on North 2nd Street, Old City, Philadelphia. Big Jar eventually sold; Pat then opened Brickbat Books on South 4th as a solo-owned boutique collection for the more esoteric among the literaria.
Unto this sparse establishment was lent a collection of wooden benches, platforms, and tables, all carved from lengths of 12″ x 12″ solid oak and poplar. The story, not independently verified, is that a local plumber found a pile of giant landscape ties discarded by a century-old insurance firm in West Philadelphia. Inspired hours with chainsaw, belt sander, and angle-grinder transformed some of the wood into the pictured objets d’art.
The collection has become famous although the identity of the artist remains shrouded in mystery.
What to give a blacksmith?
WHAT a fantastic book! The detail Mr. Lent incorporates into his main characters’ trade, blacksmithing, is sure to appeal to any tradesman. A solitary man, living alone, living with his demons, rediscovering love. Again, a complex effort by Mr. Lent, which will enrich your life. I invite you to visit any library in America, locate this book of fiction, and try the first three paragraphs in a quiet nook. Time permitting, you’ll sit for the first chapter of 50 pages and leave with the book under your arm.
Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms powered mainly by draft horses. He lived for many years in North Carolina, an enriching and formative experience. Lent currently resides with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont. – Grove Atlantic
Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade • Choreographer: George Balanchine
IF YOU WERE permitted one cultural performance your entire life, what would you choose? The Doors in Madison Square Garden? Pavarotti singing below the Eiffel Tower? A recital of wooden flute in an Aurignacian cave?
After attending the first ballet performance of my life, I can attest there is one answer only to this question: a ballet performance of Serenade.
“Now, hold on a minute”, you are probably thinking. Just who is this George fella? George Balanchine was the finest choreographer that ever lived, says just about everyone who studies this for a living. “And what, exactly, is this Serenade?”
Backing up a little, we remember Tchaikovsky wrote, in 1880, Serenade for Strings in C. Inspired by his time in Italy, this piece supremely exhibits a relaxed buoyancy and melodic richness. Perfect, one thinks, for ballet. This piece, however, was not written for Mr. Balanchine. Sadly, by eleven years, the two men missed the other’s worldly existence.
A few decades later, as a young man, Mr. Balanchine heard Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, and wrote, to accompany this music, a perfect dance he also called Serenade. To answer your question, finally, Serenade, first performed in 1934, is a ballet by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.
Tchaikovsky’s score is fulfilling and romantic; the ballet performance is this but so much more. Beauty and grace one rarely encounters in a world of survival comes alive through the imagination and vision of one man. The dance designed by Mr. Balanchine will transport one in a manner the Manly Man, hiding tears, may not acknowledge. Women, however, will openly be thankful for the beauty of all Mankind.
Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Serenade, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev
Chinook Winds harvests fiber from bison, or buffalo as they are commonly called, then blends the fiber with varying amounts of alpaca and/or wool.
All fibers come from animals raised on South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming ranches. The fibers are processed at regional and US owned mills. Once the yarn comes back from the mill, it is sold in its own beautiful natural colors or kettle-dyed and handpainted in deep rich tones.
Why am I so excited?
Because Heather had some extra time, bottled up on her farm in Iowa, during this famously cold winter. And I asked, very nicely, if she’s knit me an extra warm watch cap with extra special yarn. AND IT’S DONE !!!!!
It’s 70% Rambouillet which is one of the softest wools with high crimp for warmth and bounce, 25% bison which is strong, light, warm, and soft with a micron count comparable to good cashmere, and 5% Suri which is strong, light, warm, and soft. There are two types of alpacas, and Suri makes up only about 10% of the total population. – Heather
Hats by Heather of Iowa. From $55 to $225 delivered. This example cost $125.
WE ARE officially in mid-season for one of my favorite Venezuelan imports! Discovered at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, this cross between the Washington navel and the Brazilian Bahia navel is a phenomenal treat.
You don’t like oranges? You’ll love the cara cara, regardless. Slice one up! Go ahead, I dare you ! The carpels tear cleanly off the pericarp and melt in your mouth in a complex explosion evoking notes of cherry, rose petal, orange, and blackberry. Carpels, you ask? That’s the flesh of the fruit, also called the segments. The inner core is the pith, and even that didn’t go to waste in the orange I just consumed. This cara cara was $1.25 at Wegmans, and well worth it!
Pressure Drop Toots & The Maytals
LONG long ago, a son gave to his father the nicest tire pressure gauge one could get from the auto supply store. It was made in the USA, and featured a hose and easy-to-hold brass chuck. But the father didn’t bother with tire pressures; he allowed the garage to handle any and all routine maintenance. So, as often happens after the best intentions, the gauge was given back to the son several year later with a rueful excuse and a smile.
I used the gauge for over two decades before something went amiss. It began giving off-readings, telling me a tire was flat when visual inspection clearly showed a healthy sidewall. What to do? Meiser, the manufacturer, apparently had all their domestic market product made in China, sold under the Accugauge label.
I called Meiser, and discovered the gauge had a lifetime warranty. “If I would only mail it in with $3 return postage, they would repair or replace the product.” WHAT? No, sir, I want the gauge repaired. “Fine. Note that you want REPAIR, NOT REPLACE on your contact information.”
“Why don’t you make gauges here anymore”, I asked. The short answer was that their distributor stopped carrying domestic production gauges, so production stopped. I offered to take over sales, accepted the financial impact of a one hundred gauge order, and began selling them on eBay and sportsmen’s forums. The venture, after postage, fees, and promotional samples, does not make any money. But Meiser is very pleased to keep their guys busy, and Meiser’s suppliers can’t but feel the same way. Buyers invariably rave about the quality.
Never has an unfavorable comment been received. A quality gauge and a fair price
Rolling Rolling Rolling
EVERY DRIVE, long and short, was rumbling thunder. Head-rattling, tension-inducing, muscle-cramping agony. Especially highway miles. I was in sales, a genuine road warrior. 300-400 miles a day was not uncommon. The 1994 850 Turbo I bought from a lawyer in Haddonfield was well-maintained, but he had his mechanic mount a cheap set of tires before the sale. The tires were aggressive, but loud!
After a purchasing decision was made, several months were spent scouring online resources. Lengthy visits to tire stores, exhaustively gleaning every last bit of information regarding tread noise, durability, performance under all driving conditions, price, looks, and country of origin. Tires are classified by their characteristics. Given my wants, I chose a Luxury Performance Touring tire.
The best tire in my speed rating is made by Michelin. The best price? Costco [spend some time becoming familiar with their Road Hazard Warranty, which is excellent & free]. Tirerack is the acknowledged go-to resource for online information and comparisons of tires.
Michelin manufactures tires in six states: Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition, there are three plants in Nova Scotia, Canada and one plant in Queretaro, Mexico. All of the Michelins I’ve purchased have the words MADE IN U.S.A. imprinted on the tire.
When I sold my Volvo, the Primacys were over 60,000 miles old but still had usable tread. I next mounted a set on an ’01 Acura TL, and again enjoyed excellent handing and wear characteristics. We put a set on the Subaru. The car is unstoppable in all weather. When my GMC Sierra pickup needs tires, alas, the Primacy will not be chosen because it is not a truck tire. But I will purchase the Michelin LTX M/S2. From Costco.
EIGHTEEN Hundred & Thirty Eight was the date. The location, somewhere between New Hampshire and Canada. A very sparsely occupied area with the roughest of living. The inhabitants prefered to be left alone. Both countries thought it their territory.
A man pushes his wagon deep into the wilderness, looking for a place to set up trade. Far from the law, far from questions about his past. The wagon’s load? Two barrels of Jamaica rum, powder, lead, fabric, small housewares, a woman.
Mr. Lent captures the dirt, grease, and hardship as a first hand observer. The depth of his observations will transport the reader back to a time before electricity, automobiles, telephones. You will not notice they are missing. You will live in this world not so long ago when survival depended on your work and your neighbor.
Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms powered mainly by draft horses. He lived for many years in North Carolina, an enriching and formative experience. Lent currently resides with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont. – Grove Atlantic
IN THE mid-50s, men still wore suspenders. One man with vision, thinking belt sales would eventually far exceed those of suspenders, had just sold his suspenders company and was walking along Chestnut Street near 8th, thinking. He was in the heart of Philadelphia’s vibrant Financial District, and he had a pocket full of money.
He’s offered a business deal in a chance encounter with an acquaintance, the purchase of a cable company in Tupelo, Mississippi. Knowing nothing about cable TV, he nevertheless purchased the company. His name is Ralph Roberts and his company became Comcast.
The Financial District is long gone, along with it’s NewYork-style diners. Change comes to everything, however. Renaissance is striking even this area of Philly. We are graced with a new eatery which makes an authentic Cubano Sandwich for nine bucks [comes with plantain chips]. Clean and shiny, visiting Rosa Blanca @ 707 Chestnut will be a pleasant and memorable experience.
Something a little more hearty? Try the Masitas de Puerco, a bowl of fried pork shoulder and other very tasty stuff. The side salad is strongly recommended. Fantastic blending of flavors!
It will be very east to over-order in this place. On a date? Stick with one entry and one sandwich and share. You may still need a take-away box.
In honor of President’s Day,
Surefire offers free ground shipping this weekend.
Remember the American Toolbox post about a great headlamp? The batteries that it uses, the CR123, can be bought this weekend direct from the manufacturer with free shipping. A great value just made better! 10-year shelf-life. Made in U.S.A.
την σκαφην σκαφην λεγοντας
IN 1925, a builder constructed a row of attached brick homes on farmland outside Philadelphia, across from a new high school. In time, sidewalks were added. Travel forward to the year 2014. I am standing on the same sidewalk, in front of my home, contemplating the approaching nor’easter. 10″ of snow is due to begin falling at midnight. My neighbor’s shovel, borrowed by me since time immemorial, was stolen off his front porch a week ago. A hanging crime in these parts.
Selected was a mid-level product, suitable for home owners and perhaps even contractors. 18″ wide, all aluminum, heavy-duty riveted steel wear strip. Roomy handle for gloved hands. About $20 at The Home Depot.
NOTHING adopts a personality of owner as nicely as decent leather wear. Your first thought is a pair of shoes or a belt, perhaps. But today we’re talking about a guitar strap from Bitterroot Guitars!
Yep, who would have thought! Usually one purchases a padded nylon fake-embroidered strap to go with their new guitar. What else does the music store stock, anyway? It’s all economics, and Jake the Snake doesn’t want to tie up his crisp Yankee dollars on a display rack.
After playing my new acoustic for a few months, it became clear a guitar strap was necessary to keep up with my bluegrass buddies. I wanted leather. I wanted USA production. A little post-internet investigation turned up a great online seller, Bitterroot Guitars.
The strap was promptly delivered, smelling tannery-fresh! Perfect execution! At the time of purchase, the year 2013, the cost was about $17 delivered. Bargain to boot!
PHILIP R Craig, I’ve never met. Yet I feel a kindred, a bond, with one of Craig’s best buddies. Craig was an American writer who, among other accomplishments, produced 20 mystery novels set on Martha’s Vineyard. The star of the series was J.W. Jackson, retired cop-turned-fisherman, who lived a simple life but got caught up in some complicated situations. I’ve lived vicariously through Phil’s writings, for which I will be forever grateful.
J.W. loved to fish. What he didn’t sell or give to the needy, he ate or smoked to eat later. J.W. made, and consumed daily, his own smoked bluefish paté, on sandwiches and among cocktail nibbles up on the balcony.
J.W.’s recipe was reproduced on the flap of one of the books, and, I’m told, is listed within the collection of J.W. Jackson’s recipes in the book Delish, by Shirley Prada Craig.
Smoked Bluefish Paté
5-6 ounces shredded smoked bluefish *
8 ounces whipped cream cheese **
½ tablespoon finely diced red onion (more, please)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce if desired
* Trout works fine. Bet any good smoked fish would do.
** Package of cream cheese, softened, in the mixer with a little milk or sour cream.
When it’s time for a scrubby
WE HAD a quick nip above freezing today, up to 44˚F. Since it is headed to 8˚ tonight and firmly nestled below freezing temperatures all week, what could be more constructive this balmy afternoon than to hose off the
vehicles! Goodbye winter road grime, slush, & dried de-icer.
Out back, I dug my faithful Craftsman hose out of the snow. She came willingly, eager to once again bend her supple curves across the pavement. After a bit of ice pushed forth from the nickel-plated brass end coupling, I had full water flow from the generous 5/8″ inside diameter hose. Once again, the hose had performed perfectly. And well it better!
Although the cost is a bit more than most hoses, the diameter is larger, the rubber does not crush and kink as easily, and it has a lifetime warranty from a company that will probably outlast the hose’s eventual demise under a lawn-mower blade. Ever have grand landscaping plans dashed after finding your skinny green hose kinked, flattened, and beyond the best medical attention? Doesn’t happen with the premium Craftsman hose. Restless from anemic water flow from a cheap hose? You’ll get professional, problem-solving volumes of water from the Craftsman! And for play, you’ll want a second mortgage to pay your water bill if your kids get unlimited use of this hose!
This garden hose works best with unreduced water flow. Have your plumber cut a 3/4″ tee right after the meter, pipe it to a 3/4″ full port ball shut-off valve in the basement, and through the wall to another full-port ball valve with hose adapter. You’ll be playing with the big boys, with water flow like that!
Not all Craftsman tools are made alike, a sad commentary to profit and globalization. But this hose has been made in the U.S.A. since I’ve been buying them for business and pleasure.
Lamp of Learning
NOTHING is as annoying as inadequate lighting when you decide to read in bed at night. Eye strain, wrist cramp, and thought interruption are all symptoms of a poorly designed book light.
Whether camping with the kids at the Franklin Institute, assaulting a defective circuit breaker in a blacked-out debris strewn basement, or preserving your marriage during marathon midnight Machiavellian mental musings, a quality headlamp is an investment which, time after time, will pay handsome dividends.
Personally recommended is the Surefire variable-output LED series of headlamp. Designed for our nation’s fighting forces, this item has crossed over as a favorite of spelunkers, tradespeople, bookworms, and Hollywood [recently featured on “Glee” during the power blackout episode].
Variable-output means that you can crank the brightness from a super-dim to a blinding beam. LED means it is a low-power-consumption, practically indestructable light bulb. Meets Department of Defense qualifications for being US origin. Order a box  of Surefire CR123 batteries to go with it. You’ll be set for a couple of years.
The list price is pretty high, as one would expect for a device that can blink S-O-S for days on a tossing life raft, but that online photo video place has them for much less. I buy my batteries direct from Surefire, however, two boxes at a time, and suck up the delivery charge.
Survival With Clean Socks
A FEW years back, when a hundred miles riding bicycle through the open country *on an empty stomach, without water* was a lark, I was given my first set of DeFeet cycling socks from the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia. Snazzy white socks, open mesh across the top of the foot, low to the ankles, with a bright yellow stripe at the top. So began my stylin’ bike gear collection.
Despite care and hand-washing, these socks began to fall apart after about ten years. The horror! But since The Internet had by now been invented, I was able to track down the manufacturer. Interesting story here, but the short copy is that a cycling guy wanted a better sock, invented it, and used his family background to open a knitting facility. It was the first open mesh weave airflow design sock, totally customizable. DeFeet was born. The year was 1992. –DeFeet
The Grab Bag is recommended. A dozen pair of seconds or over-runs, delivered, works out to about $3 per pair. Significant savings over standard per-pair price. You get an eclectic mix, possibly including logo’d socks from Triathlons in far-off lands as well as Benefit Runs for well-deserving causes.
Editor’s note: The Grab Bag apparently comes and goes. At the time of this edit, Web Deals appear to be the only “special”.
SAFETY IS NOT AN ACCIDENT
BACK when starting out, a few years into the manly occupation of tradesman, I quickly discovered one thing about cheap eye protection. It didn’t work well. Uncomfortable, foggy, loose, scratch-prone, easily broken. Did I mention uncomfortable?
Searching high and low, it turns out that good eyewear could not be bought off the shelf. Specialty eyewear = specialty supplier. I headed to Grainger [pre-internet].
This is where I discovered the Uvex S3960C Stealth Safety Goggles. Great fit, even over my eyeglasses. Replaceable lens. I eventually bought them for all my people. Anyone swinging a hammer or grinding an old pipe apart would get eye protection. Then came replacement lenses, 10-to-a-pack. Everyone got new, clear replacement lenses when required.
You can’t spend too much to protect your eyes. Quality eye protection, at about $10 a set, is cheap. Uvex by Sperian. Anti-fog. Scratch-resistant. Gap-free fit. Made in USA.
GIFT-giving time again! With the giving comes the re-gifting. But not all is bad. This year I received a post holiday re-gift, more of an Anytime Present actually, from my dad. A tool pouch I gave him last year. But not just any pouch.
One I’ve wanted for years but never splurged on. Usually, I buy the canvas bags for cost savings. But Klein makes a beautiful bag in leather. This one is made in the USA with mostly domestic materials.
Mmmmm! Smell that leather! See the brass zipper glint! Built to last. Lifetime warranty!
Klein offers a lifetime warranty on material defects and workmanship for the normal life of the product.
Klein makes tools and supplies for the hardcore professional. Any task you set out to accomplish is easier and more enjoyable with top-quality tools. Next time you need hand tools, treat yourself to the best. The job will turn out better, and you’ll have invested in tools that will last. – jim s. –