ShopTalk Sunday: Egg Cartons and Solvent Selection

Last weekend’s column – the part about the Chinese sailboat build?  Well, that led to me mixing up another batch of Durham’s Rock-Hard Water Putty.  And that – in turn – had sent me sneaking into the kitchen.

Elaine and I have very different ideas on recycling certain food containers.  She looks at everything as a gift to be repurposed to an additional household use.  My attitude – until we got this close to The End – was “Screw it – I will buy or build a parts bin…”  You know that is still on the T0-Do List.

God help me if I throw out one of her clear plastic croissant boxes!  She uses them for lots of things:  For a small cleaning tray, cat food dishes outside (so our spoiled cats don’t scrape their whiskers on the cans, right?).  For paint trays.  And the list goes on.

She’s also great about saving jugs that OJ comes in and fruit juice containers.  These get turned into disposable watering cans for small plants and to refill water for the cats. You seeing the picture?

I couldn’t help but notice that even her inventory of plastic egg cartons had overflowed.  The voice in my head started screaming “PERFECT!!!!”

Egg Carton School?  Seriously?

Step over to the fridge and tell me what you see:

Skip the best-by stuff.  They won’t last that long.  Point is this particular carton style (mainly for 18 eggs (Eggland’s Best) has three egg cups by six.  More important is that the “secure top” type carton can give you little tiny cups.  Which, as you can see here, get used around here for things like brown-sugar and borax poison for ants.

(This is in that retiled kitchen project from last year.  Still looks great, but not so much with the ants…)

The tiny indentations from the top of the Eggland cartons are perfect, small and inconspicuous for ant bait.

As long as we’re in the fridge, we can see all sorts of ways to repurpose food containers for real shop work:

Elaine’s often crestfallen by my cavalier ‘tude toward pickle jars.

Way I figure it is this:  Cleaned of their labels and mounted on a rotating board, they make it possible to spend large segments of shop time on organization that seldom pays off as a completed project. Organizers are only tools.  Some people argue the point – from their disgustingly neat workspaces and I hate ’em.  But I can usually get 3-4 projects done while they’re still “organizing to get ready to begin…”

Maybe I was in management too long?  When I enter the shop, it’s like the wild West sheriff – I’m here with a Higher Purpose – right here and now –  not to sweep sidewalks. Stay clear if you’re easily offended.

Which may explain why the shop isn’t as neat as Elaine keeps the House.  There’s a kind of his/hers DMZ between ’em, although I have a carve-out in the Studio where it’s shared toys.

I grab egg cartons and ran for the door…

Safely in the Shop

On the hobby bench, a few minutes with the scissors and suddenly I was up to my Keester in free paint and mixing cups!

Glorious.  A little crude looking, but they work, they’re fast, disposable and blah-blah-blah.

Then it Got Better

Turns out, one of the two egg cartons was the older style.  The kind with a flat top.  Oh, boy!  Paint tray!

Well, EXCEPT there is wording on the inside of the egg carton.  This is sprayed on with a water-soluble ink.  I know: What the hell kind of people actually read the inside of egg cartons but let’s put that aside for now. They’re on social media not having real lives.  Fact is, though, as all home handy bastards KNOW, there are many paints that will discolor off the water-based lettering ink.

Solution!  Always ready with bottles of Grease-Away, Krud-Kutter, and 409 a little experimenting showed that with a 5-minute soak, this:

With a quick fingernail brush stroke or three becomes this:

Suddenly, I was awash in Nostalgia.  One of the (thousands) of authors I have interviewed over the years – while not as famous has Richard (Illusions) Bach or James (Sports in America) Michener – did school me on her secret to super-fast and effective House Cleaning that she had written a whole book about.

“George, the secret to making quick cleaning of ANYTHING is to use the RIGHT solvent and the RIGHT temperature in the RIGHT amount.”

Sure as hell! That little secret has probably saved me more “Arm-Strong” and “Elbow Grease” than any other (non-shop) source I can remember.

Raise your right hand and repeat after me:

Next time you face ANY cleaning project, you’ll spend a moment or two thinking through your inventory of solvents.  Paranoid men have gun safes.  Practical (dangerous) men have solvent lockers.

Water is great, so is dish soap.  Borax is wonderful, tri-sodium phosphate (*TSP) for things like wall-washing is better.  Anything automotive may yield to Bug and Tar remover, bumper sticker remover, WD-40, diesel fuel, or that jug of alcohol used for cleaning the 3D printer tables between print runs.

Seriously:  These are only your “getting warmed up” solvents.  Feel the need for more speed, volatility, and cancer risk?  Well…we can scale up from gentle to paint-stripping nail polish remover, to turpentine, gum spirits and mineral oil (surprisingly good on uncured epoxy on the hands (who knew?), lacquer thinner, ketone and relative MEK, and then we’re out to the welding table where NOTHING will stand up to an extended blast from the acetylene rig followed by the 8-inch disk sander.  Except Space Shuttle heat tiles with lots of titanium in the mix.

Cleaning all depends on finesse, how much cancer risk you’re willing to table (Hint: we don’t live forever, and this week even that is looking dicey!)  Sure, PPE (personal protective equipment) is useful and should be considered, too.  Since my son is an EMT/communicable disease tracking firefighter with his OSHA-30 card and real serious wildland and structure fire experience between skydives, I even put in a “humor the boy” sign outside the shop.  With an amateur grade PPE station inside….

PPE is left and center. The shop “Tape for every season and reason” is on the right.

PPE Notes

The welding skull cap goes on under the flip-up welding mask (which was replaced with a YesWelder clear view wide-angle).  Keeps what little hair remains from catching fire.

Kitty corner from that is an Amazon box with a wide assortment of masks.  Mostly we use N-95’s but some N100s are around for even more dangerous (think Fauci?) products.  Ant mound power and such.

Boxes of nitrile gloves about.  On them is a stack of specialized UV glasses.

Don’t know how much work you have done with lasers and with the photo-setting UV glues (some of which are AMAZING).  But when you are gluing a strip of NIR UV lights into a “light crown” you’ll want the blue blockers on, for sure.

Tell you what – now that I’ve brought this topic up – how about we do a serious shoptalk column next weekend on safety and prepping?

Lawn Blocker

Sam, the Siamese of undetermined gender, is still guarding the tractor.

Yes, the left front tractor tire of the rider is what he’s nestled into.  Damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.

I’m going to slip him another can of food to stay put.  Vacation from lawn chores has been nice!

Write when you get rich,


Short for “Operations Tempo” it’s the kind of thing military commanders coordinate.  One flank moves at a certain speed while another moves at something else.  Between, an enemy is “herded” into a disadvantageous position.

In markets, there is an OPTEMPO, as well. Sometimes sector moves are fast, or at other times, painfully slow.

This morning in addition to retail sales numbers just out, and another 35-more pages of my Collapse-Capable Electronics Operator book, we will look at recent structural moves that may drive back fall events.  But make thing worse long-term since it will all seemingly “hit the fan” about the same time.

Details and the ChartPack are both scary and interesting.

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