This stuff is Gore-Tex in a can! You can make any nylon garment waterproof and still breathable by spraying it with TX.Direct. You don’t need to spray the underarms (unless you need ultimate dryness), so breathability is enhanced. I’ve been using this stuff for years. I initially used it just on Gore-Tex (it really helps bring old Gore-Tex back to life). Then I gave it a shot on a nylon jacket and it worked just like Gore-Tex. Why spend hundreds on a waterproof jacket when you can spend much less, use this spray and get the jacket of your choice? (one can treats about 4 jackets). I also use TX.Direct on my boots that have nylon uppers, and spray my Woolrich felt hat, which works great — water just beads up on it; can’t even tell it’s there. The spray is somewhat smelly, so it’s best to spray it on outside or in the basement, and it does need to be re-applied after washing. Nikwax also makes a wash-in product you put in with your laundry. I don’t like excessively washing my technical gear, though, as it seems to wear out faster. I save the wash-in stuff only for when I do need to wash things, and freshen up my waterproofing when needed with the spray-on. I also don’t really like the idea of having those chemicals directly against my skin, so I prefer the spray-on generally because you’re only applying it to the exterior of the garment.
Cyanoacrylate (CA), aka super glue, in 1 and 2 oz sizes is a boon to the hobbyist, woodworker, and handy man. However after 20 or so uses, the typical CA bottle becomes terminally gummed up, tempting you to crack open the cap and obtain glue by dipping a toothpick or piece of wire, opening up the possibility of a CA-tastrophic spill. I resisted trying the Glü-Bot until I knocked over a 1 oz bottle CA in a very inopportune place, and have since found it to be much more effective than a standard glue container.
The Glü-Bot has a precise applicator tip, a widened base that makes it hard to tip over, and it uses a two-chambered system that allows for complete clearing of the dispensing tip at any time. About an inch from the bottom, the bottle divides into two cylinders: one is fat (the reservoir) and the other is skinny (the dispenser tube). When the reservoir is squeezed, the glue is forced into the dispenser tube and through its tip. Because the reservoir has a larger diameter than the dispenser tube, it doesn’t take much pressure to fill the dispenser tube, which allows for fairly precise control of the flow of material out of the tip. The tip of most standard glue bottles is a slender cylinder, which grabs glue due to capillary/adhesive action. The last 1/8th inch of the Glü-Bot tip is very narrow, allowing a controlled delivery, but it then widens considerably, forming shoulders that help keep the glue from forming liquid plugs.
After careless use, the tip orifice can plug up, but this is easily remedied into “good as new” condition with a straight pin. Also, tapping the bottle down on a hard surface will often clear the spout of low viscosity glue. Also, once the glue has been dispensed, you tip the bottle so that the dispensing tube drains back into the reservoir. In the “neutral” upright position, the glue level is held at the bottom of the dispensing tub, independent of the amount in the reservoir.
With the Glü-Bot, glue also rarely comes into contact with the filler cap, so it remains easy to open and close. In the upright position, the glue level in the dispensing tube is maintained below the tip, so if a Glü-Bot is dropped it does not automatically result in a spurt of glue from the tip. And the surface of the glue exposed to air in both reservoir and dispenser is big enough to prevent an evaporation or curing-based skin to form on its surface.
The bottom line is that if used correctly the Glü-Bot keeps itself clear of obstruction and is ready to do its job day after day. For glues that cure by drying out, the Glü-Bot minimizes problems caused by infrequent as well as frequent use, so that a house-holder would benefit as well as a professional. It won’t keep aging glue viable indefinitely, so those that use glue once in a blue moon would be better off simply buying a fresh bottle whenever the occasional need arises. But for those of us who have an active interest in putting stuff together, the Glü-Bot is a big help.
Following behind the juggernaut of high-tech industry is a trail of odd bits and stray leftovers. This surplus is a tinkerer’s delight. One legendary source of cheap parts, weird stuff, cheap knockoffs, and plain junk is American Science & Surplus. They sell “closeouts, inventory overruns, mis-manufactures, and items whose time has not come. When a surplus item is gone, it is gone.” It’s the ultimate hacker’s mail-order junk store.
They don’t take themselves too seriously, either, often belittling the scrap they are selling. The items are illustrated with crude sketches on yellow newsprint paper in their crowded 95-page paper catalog. It’s a cornucopia of irresistible bargains. Science fair motors! Chemistry kits! Craft tools. I dare you to open it without finding something you have to have. (AS&S’s rustic tone is part of their “crazy cheap” schtick. On their website, in addition to the doodles you can also click to see a photo of an item as well.) While funny, their descriptions are always honest, and the stuff delivered will be entirely useable. More so than most catalogs, the bulk of the items listed are inspirational: ” Oh, I could do that!” Prices are, as they say, incredible.
If you “make different,” click here.
Samples from the catalog:
Got A Horse Of A Different Color?
Recycle old crayons. Now you can finally color him, with custom colors from the Crayola Crayon Maker. You get the machine and (24) mix-and-match colors. (You’ve already got that whole box of broken crayons and leftover nubs the kids keep digging through!) Just start melting and molding completely new crayons. There are even (18) sheets of labels included, in which to wrap the new ones. The Crayon Maker measures 9-5/8″ tall x 7-3/8″ wide x 9-5/8″ deep, with a 6-foot power cord and a power switch. It uses a 60W candelabra bulb (not included). It turns off automatically if it’s tipped, and the lid locks until the crayons are cool, but it’s still for ages 8+ only. UL.
CRAYOLA® CRAYON MAKER
$9.75 / EACH
Rejoice, we have finally found a source of reasonably priced borosilicate lab glassware. This is the kind of glass in the trade marked Pyrex(tm) and Kimax(tm) labware. The stuff you can put right over the flame of the Bunsen burner, or directly onto the hot plate. This stuff is imported from China, and is considered student grade, which is good enough for anything but the most exotic applications. We have beakers, test tubes, graduated cylinders and flasks. Compare the prices below and you will see that they are around half the U.S. equivalent. Call us for larger quantity prices.
88984 BEAKER, 50ML $1.95/EACH
88985 BEAKER, 250ML $2.95/EACH
88986 BEAKER, 600ML $4.50/EACH
Better Grade Dental Tools
A variety of shapes and ugliness, but unbroken tips. Some single ended, some double.. Super for all manner of hobbyism, save do-it-yourself-dentistry. Excellent price in today’s weakened dollar market. All stainless steel.
It would be nice to have a place where you could inspect samples of new materials. There you could hold, bend, twist and study the latest plastics, fabrics, and construction materials as they come out of the lab. Second best would be a website/book that linked to sources and descriptions of new stuff. That’s what this book and website do. Artists, inventors and makers will find it a fantastic source for information about new innovations in material science. Author Blaine Brownwell has collected, annotated and sourced as many imaginative, green, and unusual materials for sale as he could find. His collection includes metal fabrics, metal-coated plastics, paper concrete, wood-plastic hybrids, and so on. Two hundred new materials in all. You still have the problem of getting your hands on small samples, but having some photos, the specs, and the website of the manufacturer is a huge first step. (Brownwell co-edits Materials Monthly, a publication that sends out one sample per month, but the subscription price is dear at $200/year.)
Photographic bas-relief ceramic tiles
Mineral, Interfacial product
Map Tile: These tiles were created from a satellite image of a sports arena. This 8″x8″ ceramic wall tile has a semi-opaque/semi-matte glaze.
Photo-Form LLC is a tile studio that provides designers the ability to create bas-relief tiles from photographs. Utilizing their patent-pending Photo-Cast process, Photo-Form can create bas-relief ceramic tiles from any 2D image.
Photo-Cast tiles are available in sizes ranging from four inches square to eight inches square, with larger custom sizes available, and may be finished with a wide range of nontoxic glazes or bronze, brass, nickel/silver, or aluminum metal finish.
Contents: Clay, non-toxic glaze (metal powder, gypsum polymer)
Applications: Wall tiles, accents
Types/sizes: 4 x 4″ (10 x 10 cm) up to 8 x 8″ (20 x 20 cm), custom sizes available
Contact: Photo-Form LLC
15440North 71st Street, Suite 322
Scottsdale, AZ 85254
Zinc-foam plates, sandwiches, and 3D parts
Metal, Ultraperforming material
Developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology, Zinc Foam is a low density, low weight, and resilient manifestation of zinc. These properties make it a great material to be used in fast-moving components and/or components demanding absorption. The zinc foam can be either glued to another material or become a metallic compound with the material.
A zinc-foam sandwich, consisting of two cover sheets and a layer of zinc foam in the middle, greatly expands the field of application. The cover sheets greatly contribute stiffness, while the foam contributes cushioning. The sandwiches can be welded together just like normal sheets of metal.
Contents: Zinc and zinc alloys
Applications: Cushioning, thermal isolation, shock absorption
Types/sizes: 59 x 55″ (150 x 140 cm) maximum plate size, 3D shapes
Environmental: High strength-to-weight ratio
Limitations: Thermally unstable above 392 F (200 C)
Contact: Fraunhofer Institute
Reichenhainer Strasse 88
Recycled Compact Discs
Plastic, Repurposed material
Confiscated illicit CDs are crushed and dispersed within a pale blue, transparent polycarbonate matrix that is comprised of recycled cold-water drink containers.
Contents: Recycled compact discs, recycled polycarbonate
Applications: Work surfaces, furniture, backsplashes, shower surrounds
Types/sizes: 47 x 31.5 x .5″ (120 x 80 x 1.2 cm) thick panels
Environmental: 100% recycled content
Contact: Smile Plastics Ltd.
Mansion House, Ford
Shrewsbury, SY5 9LZ UK
Tel: +01743 850267
Translucent resin with encapsulated materials
Plastic, Recombinant products
Lumicor’s patented technology creates a new class of material by combining the beauty of natural botanicals, fine textiles, decorative papers, glass, metal, and stone within a choice of high performance resins. Lumicor provides exceptional depth and clarity and outstanding UV properties. It is a lightweight, high-strength material that is easy to fabricate and install and may be recycled.
Contents: 100% high performance resins plus interlayer
Applications: Furniture, lighting, partitions, sink bowls, vanity tops, table tops, shower enclosures, signage, displays, cabinet doors, column wraps, door inserts, ceiling panels, interior windows, acoustical panels
Types/sizes: 4 x 8′ (1.2 x 2.4 m) and 5 x 10′ (1.5 x 3 m) sheets, with thickness from 1/16″ (.2 cm) to 1″ (2.5 cm)
Tests/examinations: ASTM E84 Class B rating, suitable for interior use
1400 Monster Road Southwest
Renton, WA 98055
Decent consumer solvents — for say removing graffiti — are pretty much unobtainable because of their abuse (“huffing”) and paranoia about carcinogenicity. So I was very happy to run across this industrial-grade stuff in an urban San Francisco hardware store.
Not only does it tackle every kind of marker and paint graffiti, but it’s perfect for those sticky removal situations like price tags and tree-sap-on-your-car that the consumer-grade citrus solvents still have trouble with. This stuff is also the perfect solution for those otherwise intractable remnants of double-sided foam tape: one shot of this and they rub right off with a paper towel.
It’s a pretty potent blend of solvents (including MEK, toluene, and trichloroethylene). So you will want to use it in a ventilated place away from flames, and minimize your skin exposure, but it really does work better.
They call this stuff caulk, but I use it as a general purpose glue. It pretty much sticks anything to anything. It may not hold as strongly as epoxy, but for 90% of my attachment jobs it does the trick. Almost everything in my mobile illusions museum is adhered with Lexel. It sticks better than silicone sealant and is not as obnoxious to work with.
Used to stick everything to everything.
In addition to everything else Amazon sells, you can now secure small portions of materials and mechanical parts suitable for building and repair. Amazon has teamed up with the supplier Small Parts (reviewed in Cool Tools previously) to supply a huge variety of metal tubes, springs, raw materials (titanium, nylon, polycarbonate, glass, etc.), gears, plastic parts, fasteners and bins of other stuff that tinkerers and mid-night engineers might need. Of course you can order from Small Parts direct, but Amazon’s option takes advantage of their incredibly handy interface and billing system. Go to their “Industrial & Scientific” tab.
I have been building small portable solar systems for camping and power outages using 12 volts. You can run regular 110-volt devices by sending the 12 volts through an inverter, or more efficiently, there are some really great 12-volt products out there. Unfortunately, most of the 12-volt devices you can buy come with a cigarette lighter plug. These plugs are often of poor quality, and are much too bulky, especially when you want to hook up multiple things to a power source.
I went searching for a better connecting system, and it turns out the ham radio crowd found a great solution years ago. They are called Anderson Powerpoles, and are perhaps the perfect 12-volt connector. Some of the advantages:
* Flat wiping contact system (cleans the contacts every time you use them)
* Interchangeable genderless design
* Colored, modular housings
* Polarized, so you can’t hook things up wrong way
* 15/30/45 amp contacts use the same housing
I chopped off every cigarette lighter plug I have, and now put these on everything. Of course I still keep one lighter plug around (with a powerpole on the other end) for when I need juice from a car.
This is a great tool for touching up paint in your home. There is nothing to clean up at all. Simply unscrew the cap, paint the area that needs to be touched up, and replace the cap. A real time saver.
– Phil Slight
[This product is not consistently available online, as of March 2010. For now, you may have luck on eBay. If anyone knows of a similar product, please let us know in the comments or through our Submit forms. -- es]
Electrical tape simply does not work in a marine environment. Even duct tape won’t stick to something wet. Try getting any tape to stick to a rope or line on a boat. Or try to get a waterproof seal on a hose leak. X-treme tape can do all these chores with flying colors because it is a non-adhesive, self-bonding wrap. It’s not really tape since it’s not sticky. This stuff is sort of magical. You stretch it on and it self-fuses tight under tension. It works in cold and wet, and won’t melt on hot surfaces, so you can use it on engines. It is easy to apply even when it is below freezing. The tape doesn’t stick on itself until you want it to. Once tightened this silicone based wrap forms a reliable bond even in water. I use it as an insulator around wires, like electrical tape. I wrap the end of ropes with it. X-treme tape bears up for many seasons under constant UV and sunlight and the extreme cold, heat, and wet of harsh weather. It’s so good I use for any outdoor tape application.