There was probably a time in your life when, had someone suggested a wedgie, you would have blushed, stuttered, adjusted your underwear in a defensive manner, and high-tailed it to safety. There’s no shame in that – we’ve all been there. But what if I were to ask you the same question today?
Okay, before you’re weirded out any further, let me explain. The wedgie I’m referring to today, as a mature adult, is actually the Wedgee®. Spelled with a double “e.” That already makes it less intimidating, don’t you think? And you should feel even more at ease when I say that the “Wedgee-with-a double-e” is actually a cord organizer, not the cruel misuse of an undergarment. Yes, a cord organizer. Whoever named that one had a sense of humor, but you know what? I like the thing. It’s useful. It works.
The cord I just referred to isn’t a cable cord, as you might expect, but actually a bungee cord – and it’s included with the Wedgee. The whole reason this even came to mind is that Summer is here, the sun is shining, and there are outdoorsy fun times just waiting to be had. The thing is, a lot of those outdoorsy fun times require outdoorsy fun equipment, the schlepping of which can be extremely tricky business.
That’s where the Wedgee® enters the picture (and saves the day). It holds stuff together, so you have less juggling to do. You just detach one end of the bungee cord from the Wedgee, wind it around your gear, and then lock the bungee cord’s end back into one of the Wedgee’s slots. Easy.
The Wedgee Cord Organizer is perfect for sporting goods, camping equipment and fishing gear, but personally, I’m taking this baby to the beach. That’s right. My beach blanket, towel, umbrella and umbrella pole are about to become a single, unified entity, which I’ll be able to grab and carry with one hand. It’s going to be a good summer.
Lately I’ve been loosely involved in the purchase and repair of ceiling tiles, and it surprised me how lightweight and flexible the things are. I guess the whole lightweight thing makes sense, considering how they have to be suspended above a room and all (anything weighing in at more than a few ounces would probably be dangerous in the event that one fell), but I wasn’t expecting them to have so much give.
That said, drop-ceiling products like the Erico-Caddy Fixture Stabilizing Clip are beginning to sound like a pretty smart idea. While drop ceilings aren’t too common in the average home (unless, of course, you want to snazz it up with funky patterned ceiling tiles), they’re pretty much all the rage in commercial properties. From offices to retail stores, this style of ceiling just seems to work, because it allows for easy access to ductwork and cable runs, and is easy to repair in the event of water damage.
There’s just one catch: commercial environments tend to have things like exit signs hanging from the ceiling, which means extra gravitational pull on those sag-prone ceiling tiles. It doesn’t take much for a bulge to form, but no one wants a deformed ceiling. What to do? Well, remember how I said those Fixture Stabilizing Clips have started to sound pretty smart to me? Here’s why. They actual help to increase or relieve tension between above-ceiling sign mounts and ceiling tiles as needed, so instead of having a wobbly sign or bulging ceiling tiles, you get a nice, smooth ceiling and securely-mounted signage to boot. Best of both worlds.
Who knew that something so simple could be your #1 weapon in the Battle of the (Ceiling Tile) Bulge?
No too long ago, we talked about a great type of solder to use when you want a joint to form smoothly, without too much or too little flux. But today we’re going to talk about what to do when you need to get rid of a soldering joint. Depending on exactly what type of project you’re working on, you may need to disconnect a soldered-on cable connector, or maybe remove a solder bridge from a circuit board. Melting the joint back down is usually enough to break the connection, but how do you remove that little bead of molten solder that’s left over?
Some people like to use a solder suction device, which literally sucks up the solder as soon as you’ve melted a joint. But other people prefer a gentler approach, which involves gradually wicking solder away as it melts with a product known as desoldering braid. Desoldering braid is really pretty simple: it’s woven out of very fine copper strands, which, when held against a melting solder joint, “soak up” (or wick away) the liquified solder, to the point that the braid actually becomes so saturated that it loses its signature copper color, and picks up the color of the solder, instead.
MG Chemicals makes a nice desolderer known as Fine Braid Super Wick, which works as well with jewelry and plumbing as it does with circuit board work. Using Fine Braid Super Wick is easy – just match the diameter of the joint to be removed with braid that’s the same width (or a little bit wider than) it. From there, you fire up your soldering iron, lay the braid across the joint to be removed, and apply your soldering iron directly to the braid. This heats up the copper, which in turn transfers that heat to the solder, causes it to melt, and finally soak into the braid. When you lift away the braid, all of that old solder comes right along with it.
Filed under: Server Racks and Enclosures, Tools and Cases, Workplace Safety
Workplace safety isn’t limited to ergonomics, lockout/tagout and PPE – sometimes, it’s all about the storage. Take flammable materials… you can’t just leave them laying around or stack them in a corner somewhere. Aside from the obvious ignition risks, many fuels and flammable solvents can also cause chemical corrosion or damage to other materials, so the smartest and safest bet is to keep them well-contained in strategic areas of your facility.
As for what to actually keep them in, I suggest Flammable Storage Cabinets by Eagle Manufacturing. These double-walled enclosures provide an excellent buffer between hazardous flammables and the things that might set them off, such as sparks, open flame and high heat. And they’re just as good at keeping flammables in as they are at sealing ingnition sources out: a 2″ raised door sill keeps liquids from trickling out, even if there’s a leak or spill inside the cabinet.
Leveling legs and an all-around 1.5″ air cushion (remember those double walls I just mentioned?) keep vibration at bay, to prevent seals from loosening and containers from toppling over. As for warning workers of flammability risks, these Eagle enclosures are emblazoned with unmistakable safety warnings in 3 languages (English, Spanish, and French) to eliminate any confusion as to the cabinets’ contents and their potential dangers.
And there’s one other little thing that these help with: OSHA compliance.
It’s a classic device that’s been used in sitcoms and movies for decades: the main character accidentally drops something small yet very important, and then watches in helpless horror as it skitters away and then falls through a grate or goes down the drain. You’d think that writers would get tired of this little scenario, but it just keeps coming back. And do you know why? Empathy. They know that no matter how many times this plot twist pops up, we, the suckers in the audience, will always gasp and think “oh, noooooooooo!!!!” And that’s because we’ve all pulled the exact same ridiculous move before. Way more than once. We know how much it bites to have something happily in-hand one minute, and then be frantically trying to get it back the next.
Well, apparently the folks at Triplett have gotten good and fed up with this ongoing plight, and have decided to do something about it. While you can’t keep someone from being a butterfingers, you can give them tools to dig themselves out of predicaments, right? That’s the kind of thinking that inspired the GrabLite. Thanks to a little crafty engineering, Triplett’s newest hit not only lets you seen where your lost items are hiding, but also equips you with an extremely handy extension for retrieving them.
Here’s how it works: to the untrained eye, the GrabLite looks just like an LED flashlight, which it is. But here’s the catch: there’s a telescoping, magnetic retrieval arm hidden inside. Just pull on the small, round metal piece in the center of the light, and you end up with a slim and flexible third arm that can reach into tight spaces that you’d never be able to maneuver into on your own. And the fact that this extendable arm is tipped in an incredibly strong Rare Earth magnet just makes things better. With this baby, you’re not limited to picking up only the tiny, practically weightless things like screws and bolts. My coworker actually snagged a pretty substantial full-sized screwdriver, no problem at all.
Heads up, Hollywood: looks like you’re going to need a new comical plot device.
When you hear the words “butane torch,” it usually conjures up images of the tougher stuff, like welding, plumbing work, metal shop – those sorts of things. Anything that throws a flame pretty much belongs in a tool box or arsenal, right? Sometimes. As I mentioned a few posts back, there was a time in my life when I thought that soldering was fun, and as a kid, I even had a woodburning set that got some occasional use. But I’m really not much of a pyro at all, and up to now I’ve never considered owning a lighter, much less a torch. I’m starting to change my mind.
It’s not that I’m planning to go into the trades, or take on a DIY project of Rosie the Riveter magnitude. I can be pretty handy with the fix-it stuff, but flamage usually doesn’t play a role in my home improvement jobs. No, I’m thinking more along the lines of creme brulee. The truth is, I love to cook, and for the past couple of years, I’ve been intermittently hell-bent on conquering the French classics. I’ve already knocked out the easy stuff like Pommes Anna and bordelaise sauce, but have yet to work up to things like homemade demi-glace and creme brulee. I’ve put off the demi-glace becasue I can’t seem to find a spare 24 hours to dedicate solely to simmering a bunch of roasted meat bones and aromatics… that’s understandable, non?
But my reason for procrastinating on the creme brulee is far lamer – I just never had a torch to caramelize the tops. See? Lame. I had been waiting to score another gift card to Williams-Sonoma, so that I could purchase the last, flaming piece of the puzzle. But suddenly, the other day, I stumbled upon an article that said that one of the most popular “chef’s torches” out there had actually been originally intended for use by plumbers. It turns out that when the pros need to create a delicate sugar crust on a fragile custard, the more macho the torch, the better.
It looks like my wait has just been dramatically shortened, thanks to the fact that we actually sell the Pro-Torch 200 by Solder-It. I’ve always thought that this compact, handheld butane torch was pretty neat, but to me, it was more of a cool addition to a tool kit… not my next kitchen appliance. As it turns out, it’s both. The Pro-Torch 200 has a refillable butane canister that provides up to 60 minutes of burn time, and it’s just at home with plumbing and auto repair as it is with haute cuisine. Looks like I just met my match. Sorry, Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table – I still love you, but this time, I’m going to have to go for the Pro-Torch…
Now where did I put those vanilla beans?
Back when I was just a little kid, way before blogs were invented, my Dad ran a side business installing sound systems in churches. I remember hanging around and watching him solder custom audio cables at home some evenings, and for some reason, I was always dying to get in on the soldering action. It just looked fun. But far be it from any responsible parent to allow their 8 year old daughter to wield a soldering iron, so I was out of luck.
My Dad eventually wound down the custom audio work, and as a result, I pretty much forgot about soldering as less lethal-for-kids projects like friendship bracelets, crepe paper flowers and paint-your-own ceramics came my way. Fast forward to 8th grade, that magical year when public school kids get to experience the wonders of Home Ec, Sewing, Drafting and Wood/Metal Shop, all in two whirlwind semesters. When the “make-a-wire-guy-and-permanently-weld-his-feet-to-a-piece-of-sheet-metal-so-he-looks-like-he’s-walking” portion of the program rolled around, the almighty soldering iron came crashing back into my life, but this time, I was the one holding it.
It’s been around 17 years, and despite the fact that I enjoyed my brief stint as an underage solderer, what I remember most is the flux. The gunky, nasty, greasy tins of flux that we had to dunk our solder into. Without fail, we’d always use too much or too little, and would either end up with a joint that wouldn’t take, or a mess of excess flux spitting and running everywhere. But believe it or not, flux issues can get even worse.
While the excess flux issue was annoying for Junior High-aged me, I imagine that it’s even more frustrating for people who, say, make a living soldering printed circuit boards. While soldering is a vital part of electronics in general, residual flux on circuit boards can cause shorts and electrical leakage, or interfere with a board’s thermal properties. And if you’re not careful while trying to remove flux residue, even more damage can occur.
That’s why MG Chemicals’ lead-free flux-core solder is so great. Filled with a core of just the right amount of flux, this solder leaves behind a bare minimum of residue, so there’s little or no cleanup involved. Whatever flux residue does remain is hard and nonconductive, so it doesn’t carry the threats of diverting electricity or causing shorts. As a bonus, the silver-infused lead-free formula saves you from inhaling potentially harmful lead vapors, but also leaves you with solder joints that have excellent conductivity.
How do you drive a DIY’er insane? Hand him or her a screwdriver, then have them try to dig ancient, stripped screws out of some drywall. From there, you just have to stand back and wait for the sweating and profanity to ensue – don’t worry, it won’t take long.
It’s pretty amazing how something so small and seemingly insignificant as a stripped screw can jeopardize a person’s mental state and waste so much time. Working on a family renovation project a few years back, I couldn’t believe how much of a pain it was trying to remove old curtain-rod hardware, but unfortunately that one seemingly piddly aspect of the process had to happen before we could patch the walls and paint. No getting around it.
Sigh. Wish I’d have known about the proGrabit back then. This ingenious little bit set would have gone great with my brother’s power drill, and would have saved more than one member of the fam a heck of a lot of time. Let me explain: Rack-a-Tiers’ proGrabitis a double-sided drill bit that works with just about any power drill. It has two ends: one acts as a reamer, to grind out the center of any screw head. Once everything is cleaned out, you just flip the bit and use the other side to actually bite into the screw and draw it out.
Where has this thing been all my life?
We’re talking stud finders today, ladies and gents, but girls, don’t get too excited. I hate to disappoint, but nothing about these babies will alert you to the top-secret, undisclosed whereabouts of Gerard Butler, Bradley Cooper or the like. While these handheld scanners will tell you exactly where the studs are, it leans much more toward the wood and metal types (you know, what your drywall is nailed to?) rather than the Hollywood variety.
Ever witnessed a “handy” person looking for studs using the old “knock along the wall until you hear a change in sound” routine? Word to the wise: never, ever, allow that joker to attempt to hang your gorgeous new Plasma screen. One’s knuckles may be a suitable stud-location system when you just want to hang a hefty picture, but when it comes to mounting a small fortune in electronics that weighs as much as a small person, think again. I don’t know your opinion on the matter, but personally, I think I could end up facing manslaughter charges if I lost a new flat screen because some well-meaning but knuckle-dependent installer missed the studs by half an inch when putting up my TV mount. A barrage of profanity from my general direction would be the least of that fool’s problems.
Lest I sound mean, let me assure you that I don’t intend to – I’m just trying to stress the importance of a accomplishing a task with a certain degree of precision – one that can only come from a high-tech gadget. When you can’t afford a mistake, spend a few extra dollars and get a tool that will guarantee success – in this case, the Greenlee Stud Sensor. Based on its readings, you’ll be able to miss studs when you need to, hit them when you need to, and avoid making contact with live AC lines at all times – all pluses in my book. Believe me: the small investment in a stud sensor is a lot less expensive than a new TV, a trip to the the hospital, or, in my hypothetical case, legal defense.
Ahhh, staple guns. For most of my life, I’ve considered them to be the perfect tools for either roofing or shooting goofy burglars in sensitive areas (sorry, looks like Home Alone made a bigger impression than I realized), but now I’m seeing how great they are for running cables. In new constructions, it’s common practice to route low voltage, data, coax and Romex cables along studs, and when you do that, you have to do something to keep them in place. So why not just staple them down?
You do have to be careful, though, because using the wrong staple gun and staples can lead to crushed wiring, and we all know that that’s no good. To keep the fastening easy but still play things safe, opt for a cable-specific staple gun, like the Cable Boss™ from Gardner Bender. Why the Cable Boss™? First of all, it’s built to dispense a particular type of insulated staples that have integrated cable guards, which prevent cabling from being squeezed or crushed. Secondly, the Cable Boss™ staple gun is designed so that you can wield it single-handedly and still prevent your cables from twisting at the same time. This cool little feature is made made possible by two things: a lever-action handle that operates with minimal force, and a rear cable guide that holds the wires down, and in line, for you.
Add to that the fact that this gun can accommodate cables of many shapes and sizes, and you’ve got a great little multitasker that works effectively and cuts down on the number of tools you need to tote between jobs. They don’t call it the Cable Boss™ for nothing.