Two stories in one today:  Mastering label removal and a discussion about workmanship.  You see, a lot of young people today didn’t have the advantage of an in-charge male figure in their household to pass on certain traits once lumped under the working-class term “workmanship.”  Not PC?  Oh, darn. Here, take this TS chit to the chaplain.

Workmanship has its roots going back to craft guilds and what it means is doing an exceptionally good job of ANY job site task.  You’ll also find it in Ephesians 2:10…so definitely old-school concept.

There is slap-dash which looks like whoever did it didn’t give a rip and the project was just being “gotten out of the way.”  But the same project done with pride in workmanship give you an entirely different look to the completed task.  In the work setting, things will appeal to the careful eye of an inspector.

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I’ve seen this on jobs sites as a kid.  There was a four-plex being put up next to our home and I was about 8 or 10 at the time.

I noticed the city building inspector showed up.  Took a cursory look, got out his thermos and had a cup with the guy putting up the building.  Simone  was the family name – an Italian family from Rainer Valley in Seattle, back in the day.

I asked my dad:  “Why didn’t the building inspector go over Rudy’s work more closely?”  I wondered because it was more like a couple of buds taking a coffee break.  MY work as a kid was always gone over most thoroughly.

“Rudy’s been doing construction for a long time.  He’s got a great reputation as a quality builder.  Well-deserved, too.  Doesn’t cut corners or go cheap on materials.  That four-plex will outlive you.  The building inspector’s seen his work and admires it.  So he just looks at one of two things where a builder might cut corners – which Rudy doesn’t – and stays out of his way.  Time for a coffee break…they’re professionals.”

You see this workmanship in electronics, too.  Some radios built from kits or “home-brewed” look like something rescued from a land fill.  Components go this way, and that.

But in electronics you can see real workmanship  when the components run parallel to the sides of the chassis – giving everything a “squared-off” look.  Even cable lacing is applied so that what would be a “jumble” of wires done by a hack turns into a gracefully composed piece of art.

When one of my uncles built a 43-foot fishing boat (on a Tacoma Boat fiberglass hull) I remember my dad spent about a week in the boatyard.  Asked what he was working on, my dad who later in life got seriously into macramé explained he was lacing the electrical cables below decks.

Never forgotten that.  I still keep a big roll of waxed cable-lacing string at my electronics bench.

One of these days, I will finish my book on restoration of old-school tube-type radios.  But as part of the book’s research, Rockwell-Collins gave me permission to include a couple of pages from their workmanship book (125 pages).

Included is the proper way to break a line out of a lacing.

This may not seem like a “big thing” but it’s this level of detail when “making” anything that makes the difference between a so-so piece or a really first-class work of art.

Every time I have talked to the Antarctic on my ham radio – and come to think of it, all the transoceanic flights I’ve worked on ham radio, care to guess whose brand of single sideband gear was in the cockpit and in the tail antenna panel?

Workmanship applies to everything you make.  Even if it’s something  as simple as…

Assembling a Garden Cart

The garden cart assembly was supposed to be a quick project.

You know – how much art and workmanship can you put into such a thing?

Turns out, a surprising amount.

As I got to looking at the plastic tub for the cart I saw this horrible cheap paper label.

Got after it with a fingernail.  Not coming off.

I cannot, for the life of me, fathom what goes through a product designer’s head.

Here they have a serviceable cart and they cheapen it up by putting on a crappy label that’s not going to come off nicely or neatly.

One of the tricks to getting this kind of label off is to grab your heat gun. Most adhesives used on labels soften with heat.

heat guns are not expensive and they are useful for other things, too, like putting on heat-shrink tubing.  Quick-drying a paint touch-up spot. and so on.

Since this is a plastic tub, you have to take time to heat it slowly and evenly.  Like shrinking and stretching metalwork in auto body work, plastic can be persnickety if you get too anxious.

Do I look anxious?

Say, that’s a nice shot of my operated eye (right in picture) which looks way different from the other one, lol.

The reason I hate labels is simple:  When they are made of paper, they look like crap instantly.  They hold dirt, fall apart in the rain. Yuck.

Just doesn’t look…strack if you’ve been in the .mil.

Here’s another one so we can zoom in on technique:

I took a couple of test picks at it with a fingernail (the best tool of all!) but even when I got hold of it, no soap.

Again, patient application of heat.  Hold the heat gun far enough back and remember the adhesive only needs to get up to 200-F, or so, before it will soften.  (The older the adhesive, the more patience and heat…)

Eventually, the paper comes off.  Adhesive will remain.

Now you have this patch of glue to remove but that’s easy.

There are some people who like Goof-Off, others swear by Goo-Gone, and there are oodles of knock-off brands at the dollar-store.

They may be OK for household use, but in my shop, any leftover label goo is gone in one pass with Turtle Wax T-529 Label & Sticker Remover – 10 oz..  Great stuff…like their bug and tar remover which also works.

Remember, though:  If the label remover will remove adhesive, it might be hard on the finish, so test it in an area that’s out of sight.

In this case, one squirt, one pass with a paper towel, and now no sign of anything having been there.

Here’s another area where you can add a small dose of “workmanship.”

Plastic that is cast or molded involves a thin layer of what’s called “parting compound” between the mold and the workpiece.

I’ve always laughed at people who drink water out of plastic bottles for this reason.  I haven’t researched how good food- grade parting compounds are, but I’ll stick with a steak, thanks.

Meanwhile, looks like this tub came out of an industrial setting, so hitting it with Krud Kutter 305373 Kitchen Degreaser All-Purpose Cleaner, 32 oz will make it OK to haul veggies around in it and such.  Yes, they get washed too, but it just looks better cleaned up.

So in addition to whatever else you to assemble a project, here’s our stable of label tools to enable a workmanlike job on something as basic as assembling a cart:

Label and sticker remover, Krud Kutter, one-handed knife, paper towels, and a cheap $16 heat gun like the Nicole- Multi-purpose Heat Gun Tool with Stand Is Perfect for Embossing, Drying Paint & More (Colors May Vary).

Thing about workmanship is this:  People will think you’re a craftsman even when things go wrong.  In an industrial setting, someone who does slap-dash work won’t get as many “chances” as someone who’s got a professional, workmanlike approach.  Can’t say that’s right.

But, I can tell you that’s the way the world really works.

(No Making column next weekend because we’ll be traveling.  Panama & his bride will be holding down the ranch along with Zeus while we’re off to Oklahoma to see a show at a casino.)

Write when you get rich,

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