Prepping: Tuning Your IA&O Skills

IA&O means Improvised, Adapt, & Overcome skill.  Yet they are simple as pie to hone.  It’s just that most people are too damn lazy and wouldn’t recognize a chance to increase the surrounding world’s conveniences and comforts if it smacked them in the face.

Last weekend,  I “invented” something I call “Shopaulettes.”  And with that, we’re into another slide into the Odd World of George (OWoG):

My latest honing of laziness – to optimize convenience – harks back to before we sold our airplane.  The old Beech Musketeer we flew on several trans-cons and just had gobs of fun with.

Part of the fun was I picked up several “pilot shirts” which, in keeping with their “uniform look” are equipped with  epaulettes (also spelled epaulets)

Pilots, and people in the right uniform in the military, know that the button-down shoulder belts, seen on the right here, can hold either a folding hat (useful) or, for me, a microfiber clothe that is perfect for keeping the glasses clean when I’m making sawdust in the shop.  I’m staring at the clothe on the left.  The right epaulette wasn’t being used…

As I sat there, thinking around how useful these things were, I was taken-aback by realizing how much more useful my shop apron would be if it only had a lot more pockets on it.

Always wanting to have one, and doing a fair bit of woodworking, I’d picked up a wax -coated canvas shop apron.  $30-bucks at the Zon for a Vulcan Workwear Utility Apron – Multi-Use Shop Apron with Pockets – Waxed Canvas Tool Apron.

Then I got to looking, since I was using the epaulettes so much, what could be added to the apron to make it more useful.  The inventor showed up with a pencil….

Not sure what you’re looking at?  Well…

At  “A” and on both of the straps I’d add about 1.25 in :D”-rings.  This would enable me to put both my glasses microfiber clothe (left) and a tack clothe (when painting) on the right.

“B” shows how a few more stitches would give me assorted pencil-lengths so everyone would stand up straighter and be easier to grab.

“C” is my master stroke:  A hook so I can take off the damn dust mask and remember where I put it.  It would hang there ready for use.  Maybe I’d use it once in a while.

And “D” shows a couple of additional pockets for screwdrivers and small pry bars.

Not shown are several other innovations:  One would be a 1.5 inch piece of metal that would be riveted to the chest just under (or to the side of) the pencil pocket.  My Fat Max tapes are scattered all over the garage because no one except me seems to be so addled that they can’t remember “When you go from the table saw to the chop saw stand, bring the damn tape.:”  Or, on arriving at the drill press, realizing the tape is back over at the chop saw.

A Sitting Apron is Also Needed

I picture something which would be a tool-infested chest-mounted rack for working on mechanical items.  About 8-across so you could have two slotted screwdrivers, a couple of Phillips, maybe an Allen wrench or two, and maybe a continuity-checker; depending on project, of course.

What would make the “sitting apron” unique would be a large “cuff” that would stand up at the end of the lap and around both sides.

I do a lot of small mechanical radio assemblies at my electronics/sitting bench and why in 10,000 years of human history we haven’t figured out how to catch lock washers for 4-40 screws is beyond me.  I must spend at least 2-3 times per project down on my hands and knees looking for things that hit the floor and immediately turn invisible.  DoD needs to use this as cloaking technology.

One more:  None of the shop (sitting or standing) aprons I’ve seen has a self-leveling coffee, water bottle, or soda pop holder.  Why?  It will be warm enough in  the shop for another two or three months that staying hydrated is a good thing.  Again, the water tends to be left on the “shipping bench” outside my office door, safely away from the saws which toss off lots of dust even with the built-in vac system.

I didn’t used to be all about  convenience.  But, when you get on this side of 70, you slow down a bit.  And that is turning what should be short projects into much longer affairs.  Not that the work is any harder, it’s just spending 50-years shagging 10 rulers and measuring tapes over time turns into a fair-sized building if you could use the time for something else.  Instead of wandering around looking for the disappearing tape measures.

If you know anyone at Vulcan, tell them to hurry up and patent the respirator hook and I’ll buy one of those aprons.  Maybe 2 if it has the D rings.  No question about the “sitting apron” with the 3″ hem to catch wildly-flying small parts!

Yessir, Shopaulettes will be a huge success as will be the mightily-cuffed sitting apron.

American productivity will soar, we will sail past China, and I’ll receive a Nobel for a huge leap forward for Industrial Arts.

In the meantime, which this innovation is our gestating, seen my measuring tape?

Write when you get the shop clean,

26 thoughts on “Prepping: Tuning Your IA&O Skills”

  1. Even if your 4-40 lockwasher did, somehow, land as intended in the ‘tool-slut’ apron cuff, you will still not find it until days later. Murphy has his way in all things. I have a well stocked drawer cabinet of spare hardware from 2-56 thru 1/4-20 sizes for those times. As requested, I’m writing because my shop is clean! :-)

    • I would respond, except that my shop, my office, and the gym are in total disarray.
      Fortunately, since I am on weight restriction pending doc-check, I can blame it all on the hernia surgery which keeps everything over 10 pounds from my grasp.
      Which explains the books and small pieces of everything, I’m sure…

      • Good luck with that recovery George! Having read the Saturday PN, I understand your reasons and concerns.

  2. D-rings and suitable hooks are available in small quantity from Amazon, or from JoAnn Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, Tandy Leathercraft, or probably any other B&M or online store which sells hobby leather-crafting supplies, including Wal-Mart. Don’t forget the rivets…

    If you’re like me, you see something which needs done, then you do it — ‘May not be “right” or pretty, but it’ll work. I’ve been taking inspiration lately from Ian Roussel, a custom car builder with a current TV show on MotorTrend Channel (“Full Custom Garage.”) I mention him because he’s another “me” (doesn’t acknowledge the existence of the word “can’t.”) As I was reading your column, I saw him take two Jorgensen clamps and a pipe, and make a brake to bend a piece of sheet steel in an accurate radius (rather than a sharp corner.) I have done this exact thing, with these exact pieces. The guy doesn’t have $200k worth of shop tools, but invariably creates tools with which to do a job, then does the job…

    • “Sew a magnet below the pocket to hold small nuts ”

      Strider….a magnet we o UK lent work for that but they make a special protective pocket to keep them in and not falling out onto the floor..

  3. Clean shop!!? Pish Posh.

    Aprons are handy and will keep your clothes cleaner while offering some protection. However, nothing beats a good pair of bib overhauls. American Roundhouse only as they are the last Merican made. A set of denim for daily wear and a set of hickory stripe for Sundays. Yessir.


  4. Wow! Where do I start?
    I’m 77 and just successfully finished a project of replacing the 17 HP Kawasucky engine on my riding mower. Why? It leaked engine oil out of every engine orifice wiping out the alternator (top seal) electric clutch & belts (lower seal – 2 failures) and last, the governor control shaft. This was originally on a 34Z Gravely. The mower is OK but the engine was a real POS.
    After some research, I bought a Harbor Fright 22 HP Predator. Shaft Diameter and length are different But Ebay to the rescue!
    The problem in working on these things is the unspecified mix of Metric vs English tools! Like you I spent as much time hunting for the right wrench as it did to do the job! I almost drove me nuts (bad pun) and I don’t need any help to do that.
    Got it all together last Monday and just finished mowing 11 acres.
    This engine is a BEAST and not a single drop of leaked oil!
    Got the clutch from on Ebay, finding a proper 1′ Dia shaft clutch was critical or I could have destroyed the shaft on the new Predator. The only problem with Harbor Fright on this kind of project in NO Support – you do it all yourself.
    Concerning your shop apron you left out one thing – the full length mirror so you can find all of that crap, LOL.

    • “I’m 77 and just successfully finished a project of replacing the 17 HP Kawasucky engine on my riding mower. ”

      Did it cost more than buying a new mower?

      Seems everything I go to fix does. Bought a whole new bedroom set for less than the drawer hardware would have cost..

      • “Did it cost more than buying a new mower?”
        No, not even close.
        I paid 6K for the mower about 10 years ago, the deck & hydraulics are still in good condition. The hydraulics on these things are super expensive.
        The new engine was $755, electric clutch $132 and transmission pulley $45. I did split for a replacement warranty which I hated to do but that’ll guarantee no problems. The engine even has lift rings where the Kawasucky didn’t.
        Of course I did the work. Your point is well taken if you paid someone else.

  5. “Not sure what you’re looking at?”

    I to love pockets….. now what pocket did I put the tape measure in again??????

    I read a great article in a paper yesterday…

    Hidden in plain sight..
    ‘about how companies are paying to get illegal’s across the border. they tempt them with the promise of a good job and free rent etc etc.. then get them here to not only charge them with what it cost to get them here but their rent etc. and then not give them the income. in other words.. slavery human trafficking.
    what I found interesting is how some congressmen went and stuck up for the use of illegals coming here for the jobs. even though they didn’t come out and condone this vile method they still tried to say it was good.. this is how some women are trapped into human slavery. promised a good job cleaning then finding out they are nothing more than to be used. I read a case report and listened to a lecture once given by a Chinese academic scholar on how young chinese women are trapped this way then if they are not productive their bodies are harvested for organs for the wealthy. a similar investigation done by our own alphabets at the same time had said basically said the same thing.. this study and several news stories vanished after a nasty fake news story hit the airwaves.. I am not sure because I found the whole sudy disgusting and evil so I haven’t re read the thing again but am pretty sure the Chinese study is still around.

    even with the knoweledge that there is something fishy about an illegal refugee with ten kids and crossing the river with one little girl.. our congress is still against stopping illegal passage.. and with all the studies coming out on how these people are being lured to come here.. our enemies openly saying they will use this trojan horse avenue to enter and position themselves they still go on the networks.. the networks still say how great it is.. all of it makes me sick to my stomach actually…

  6. Yep. Right on! At plus 75, I’ve endured all those shop problems – especially the where’s-that-tape circular walk syndrome. A couple of suggestions for your apron: a side holster hook towards the bottom hem for your ear muffs (you do protect your ears -right?), and at least for me, I would have to modify the shoulder straps to attach to a back brace waist strap in order to help support all that tool weight on the apron front. As for washers, screws, etc., might just glue a couple of magnets to the tops of shoes?
    At my age, one of my biggest problems is to remember to use my dominant eye only when doing measurements. Using both eyes results in being a quarter inch off for me.

  7. George

    “I must spend at least 2-3 times per project down on my hands and knees looking for things that hit the floor and immediately turn invisible.”

    And I thought it was just me with this problem!

    There I am desoldering a 1/2 watt resistor from a circuit board. It immediately jumps from my fingers and takes a bounce off the floor into what I presume to be a wormhole to another dimension. I looked and looked but could not find it. It’s still MIA. When they finally tear down this house decades from now it will re-materialize and some worker will find it and wonder WTF.

    A 4-40 washer that went missing in the kitchen turned up months later in a bedroom. Missing parts Elves??

    This must be a national problem. Get the Feds working on a solution. Then everything will disappear. Problem solved!

  8. George! The most important attribute of a shirt is not funny loops on the shoulders, it’s a proper shirt pocket for extra glasses, pencils and other things. Every tee shirt needs at least one, and almost all tee shirts don’t have any pockets at all. Glasses in a pants pocket are guaranteed to be damaged.

    For those who carry cellphones – where are we supposed to stow those things? Epaulets maybe? The idea of putting one in my pants pocket makes me cringe – it will break or scuff at the least. Putting it in a back pocket is worse. It will fall out of a shirt pocket(not even considering EMF by your heart), and hanging it around your neck is positively dorky. That’s why I never carry one.

      • I’ve had RG in my Favorites section under “Wisdom” for quite some time now. I’m ticked at him, though, for not having any shows close to me. He may make it to Dallas once in a blue moon. Seriously thinking of getting a set of his suspenders, though.

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