Shop-Talk: Maker’s Materials & Scrounging

Is there a “Surplus Season?”

We did a column on surplus stores in early January this year.  Must be something about short days that gets the “project juices” boiling.

Some of the best hours of father-son time with Pappy and me involved a surplus store just north of 4th South and Michigan Street in Seattle’s Industrial area.  Timeframe?  Late 1950’s.  And the place was affectionally called “Black & Tan” –  having (according to local legend, anyway) be founded by an enterprising Black fellow and an Italian from over in Garlic Gulch (Rainer Valley).

“Dad, could I have that?” as I pointed at some 500 pound, small diesel powered waste water pump, or such.

“Got a need for it?  Big Project?  Tell me about it…”

Neurons fired, mouth opened, but my sales skills were weak.  Or his sales resistance was high.  Had to be one or t’other.

B&T wasn’t the  only surplus operation we visited.  I think probably half the Fire Department visited the place on the off-shift every few months:  There seemed to be an unlimited supply of anything an off-shift firefighter, inventor, tinkerer, artist (or any other wide-ranging designer) could want for home improvement projects.  Or just for whatever

It you needed some green corrugated fiberglass panels for roofing a shed?  A buck a panel…less if you dickered a bit.

A quarter-horse electric motor for some hare-brained power tool?  Plenty of those and from $3-bucks and up. Depended on shaft size, ease of mounting…everyone knew the dance.  Or learned.  Again, walking away twice and doing the deal on the third pass was generally how it worked out.

For me?  Nested aluminum tubing for antennas.  Sold for between 50 and 75-cents a pound.  Word was a lot of their stuff came from Boeing.  But that was before Boeing Surplus – which has – over the years morphed into “Investment Recovery” at Boeing came along.

Besides the ham radio antennas, Black & Tan was also loaded with prized leftovers from the marine and forestry industries.  If you needed place to pick up 200 feet of 3/8″ steel cable, then B&T (or Northwest Salvage up near fire station #14 south of 4th South and Lander) were the choice destinations.

A young man growing up back then could almost trace the development of his lifetime interests based on which surplus stores were visited.  Order mattered.

Damn shame most of the ship-breakers are in India, now.  They were treasure troves, too:  Hatch covers, port holes,  huge rope – thick as Ure arm.

Achievement Follows Interest

I saw through the eyes of a Cleveland High School student, at the time.  Some of the guys would go with their dads to the more traditional Army-Navy surplus stores.  Across the street from Black & Tan (later formally called Aircraft Supply and Salvage, as I recall) there was Winter’s Surplus.  Later in life, these school chums  might go camping, but that faded. Some I hear played golf.

A lot of dads – like mine- would start off a weekend surplus adventure with a cup of coffee and a review of the upcoming projects and dreams lists.

The whole day wouln’t be wasted.  Just 6-hours typically.  The adventures shoved-off from the house about 8:30 AM, or when coffee after breakfast was done. Couple of cheeseburgers at Dag’s if the surplus spree hadn’t busted budget.

Going through B & T  could take two hours; longer depending on what had just come in.  Once, around 1962, or so, we were going through the piles of goodies and Pappy found box after box of 1/16th inch (or so) net (seine) twine.  Black and green nylon looked like a great find.  We both loaded up.

For me, that treasure haul turned in to antenna hoists. For Pappy?  Well, he had all these spools of seine twine sitting around and then it occurred to him “You know, I could turn these into macramé!”  For years, he perfected various hand-woven macramé shopping bag designs, totes, and so on.  Much to the delight of people receiving them as gifts.  (If I sit for days tying repetitive knots?  Shoot me.)

Winter’s Surplus was a different kind of place: Few hard goods, more softs. Musty smelling, but that was because they had all kinds of wool, nylon, plastic, and ammo cans.  When we had camping or fishing trips scheduled, we’d go to Winter’s first.  Folding shovels, those nested metal mess kits, early canned rations, pilot bread, camo netting, poncho’s, and tarps. Ever notice how military tarps weighed a ton and smelled like tar?

Pappy had a keen eye for making up “kits.”  A couple of ammo boxes went in the cart.  Down the next aisle, leftover railroad flares.  Stored in the trunk, we were always ready to help at any accident should we happen across one.

Thre exspanded metal traction mats cobbled out of B&T stock and the folding shovels saved our bacon, though, on numerous adventures fishing the real back-country lakes of B.C. and Washington.

Pappy never took to fresh water game fishing Oregon.  Premonition about the people be crazy there?  No: maybe it was just too warm.  He believed a worthy fish could never be caught in comfort.  Washington and B.C. ruled.

MRP Killed Surplus

Material (or “Manufacturing”) Resource Planning – as an artform – has evolved over the years.

Gone are the days when you could furnish an entire computer start-up with leftovers from Boeing Surplus.  Back when, my buddy Gaye and I were in Seattle’s early Halt and Catch Fire days, can remember many companies going through the Boeing leftovers on weekends.  Many a start-up was thus born.

Cubicles hadn’t been around forever yet, but filing cabinets? OMG – How many did you want?  Boeing must hve sold off millions.

I imagine the flow would have been similar when Detroit was unwinding.  We still see occasional blips of great surplus manufacturing equipment (like a Bridgeport on eBay, for example) out of places like Connecticut.  But the sun is setting on quintessential “surplus.”

Mainly digital junk some damn fool figures can work for another little while.

Not Dead Yet

After the article in January, reader Ray was kind enough to share his extensive list of online sellers.  Forget about Facebook and the million twits.  Open your mind and change your world.  For the work?  You’ll need parts, so here’s a bunch of sources:

(Disclaimer: Have your spousal unit impound credit cards before clicking on any of these links!)

There are several of my personal favorites, but probably the two most used are and the other is

These two are invaluable.  Because in the case of “Hayseed” thety make modern replacement capacitors for old (tube type) stereo, music, and ham radio gear.  If you can’t find a good metal can replacement for that Fender Amp or that SR-15o transceiver you’re restoring, they’ve got you covered.

As for the Online Metals people?  Well, they have a terribly dangerous new product offering:  What they call “Proto Boxes.”  You can pick and choose from among 16 different types of metals and box weights over here.  I might be tempted on some of these…but having enough projects for now…

Another “Surplus-Like Buzz”

Came up with another variant of the traditional “Surplus shopping” on Amazon this week.  Decided to get a little more methodical or creative in my collecting of project parts.

I could take an outfit that does hardware I seem to use all the time, and search Amazon for their other assortments.

So, under “Glark’s” for example, I was confronted with choices like:

So here are some of the other “maker” brands that I can get lost in for hours over a quiet holiday week:

  • XLX
  • XHF
  • HongWay
  • Sopoby (lots of crimpy things)
  • BSTEAN (syringes for oil, glues, etc)
  • Bridgold (semiconductors, RF transistors)
  • UXCEL  (lots of electronic component kits)
  • WMYCONGCONG (either for cattle-tagging the kids or for the level wire connectors – who knew?)

Anyway, before you copy and paste these into Amazon searches, give the spouse your wallet or change account passwords so only THEY can log in and approve what’s in the cart…

As Times Change, Surplus Changes

With the aircraft industry in a (call the pun police?) “holding pattern” due to CV-19 drops in air travel, most of the aviation-related surplus is likely already gone.  With fewer wars around, same thing with the surplus Army-Navy kind of materials.

Computerized management tools are improving utilization and redirecting resources is becoming the norm, not exception, in well-run businesses.

The one oddity we see if all of the old and left-over computer gear coming to market now.  Old technologies that have run their course, though.  And short of stacked Xeon workstations with 8 (or more) cores, we don’t see much need for big router and other network tech as being useful in the home market.

I don’t know about you, but by the time I get all “shopped into” a  project, there’s hardly any time left to actually DO it.

So, for occasions like these, the answer is more, faster, better Power Tools…but maybe we should save that for another morning.  Big morning ahead – trying to find a power tool I don’t have yet.

Write when you get rich,

44 thoughts on “Shop-Talk: Maker’s Materials & Scrounging”

    • LOL my pickup…. that looks almost exactly like the one I got for free.. well I paid for their oil change the got the truck out of their driveway…. the motor block was cracked.. I just had them drop a new motor in it.. got a really nice pickup for almost nothing.. well tires set me back..

      • speaking about scrap…. I found an old antique 36 volt wind charger last week.. I am thinking of picking it up for a flower pot in the yard.. the blades and everything are still in pretty good shape yet.. the generator would need to be replaced if it was to be a functional yard light.. ( I have one but might just put it on to make it look better) I can totally see this thing as a focal point in my wifes flower garden

    • This reminds me of my dump trailer, which I made from rear clipping an old chipper truck. The hydraulics were made up of an electric pump and valve from a 1950’s plow truck and a reservoir from a small air tank. I cut down the body and reinforced it for dirt and rock hauling, then lowered it so a small loader can reach over the side. This thing has worked for me for years. It’s licensed for the road and I use it with either the truck or a tractor depending on where I’m working. It’s used for everything from metal scrap to manure.

      • No interstate here now or probably ever.

        I enjoy playing in the dirt when the weather is cooperating. I’ve recontoured for proper drainage and many other projects. I don’t have a D-6, but I do have various equipment that I got from auctions/Craigslist and brought back to life. If I can’t tow it on a trailer with a heavy pickup, it’s larger than I want. Let others deal with DOT!

        I can’t even imagine how much money and time this has saved me over the last 30+ years. There’s nothing like unloading or moving things around with a skidsteer rather than wrestling with them. When working alone, a machine or two is almost essential for many projects.

        Sweat equity is the best equity – it has the least chance of a loss!

  1. “Maker’s Materials & Scrounging”

    Salvage stores rock.. but so does the LANDFILL… I worked in waste management for a while drove a garbage scow.. everything is at the Landfill…. got one of my favorite coats at the landfill.. the department store had a poor sales year.. so they tossed all of them out wrote them off as loss… got a socket that broke you go in they hand you a new one.. they toss the rest out.. can’s.. for the older grandkids I would pick up aluminum can’s the length of the truck.. I would put them in a bag and then the kids would use the scrap price for their outings.. its an amazing place.. unfortunately they frown on salvaging stuff out at the landfill and even have people watching to make sure that things stay buried.. my bank.. my bank changed names.. before they sold the old bank they bought all new computers for all of it.. every little branch the works.. two weeks later.. the new bank bought up the bank buildings and moved in.. they threw all of them out.. LOL the monitor I am using right now was one of those tossed out.. its in need to be replaced but hey.. it was free.. My radial arm saw.. came from the landfill.. one day I was there and the whole department store was out.. seems they threw the days cash out.. LOL.. I never did hear if they found it or not.. department stores.. you buy something return it.. it doesn’t go on the shelf.. it is thrown away.. when I was a department head of maintenance.. a guy returned a battery operated jeep… squash it toss it out.. hell it isn’t even put together.. so we put it together and rode the darn thing around the store for a week before they made us squash it up..
    when a company remodels a store all of it is shipped to the landfill… unless a company buys it for scrap prices.. tesla batteries.. you can buy them if you take it out of the car for two hundred.. or a grand if you have them take it out… the nice thing about a tesla power wall isn’t the battery.. but the battery management system and the auto connect transfer switch..

  2. Old computer equipment can be dipped and stripped of the gold. Mining the equipment can be profitable if you don’t have any environmental laws restricting your operation, if ya know what I mean.

  3. Thanks for the memories, George. Back in the early 1970’s, our caving group shopped at the local army/navy surplus store for caving and backpacking items. Viet Nam jungle boots and canteens with small packs for caving. Loved pilot biscuits with cream cheese and tuna. Bought several plastic baby bottles for caving; one for M&M’s, one for fresh carbide for our carbide brass lamps, and one for placing the spent carbide into. Wool clothing was also available, back before we got wetsuits. Remember well the aluminum cookware with the pots that nested inside each other. Kept those for years.

    • “Back in the early 1970’s, our caving group shopped at the local army/navy surplus store for caving and backpacking items. Viet Nam jungle boots and canteens with small packs for caving.”

      Dam Nancy…was your grotto in the sw or on the east coast around DC and Virginia…
      That was one of the best hobbies I had.. I still haven’t carbide lamps.. the rest is pretty much gone.. would love to have some bluewater 2 rope.. if you were in the VA area theres a great possibility that we chewed the same dirt.. I am still on the mailing list for the group..

      • Hi, LOOTB,
        I was a member of the Bloomington Indiana Grotto. We were known for our vertical expertise with ropes. I moved to Chattanooga after our grotto hosted the 1973 NSS Convention and joined their grotto down there. I also was a member of the Dogwood City Grotto in Atlanta in the early 1980’s. Received the coveted Vertical 8 patch; qualified for the Knots patch but never got it. I was the first distributor for PMI Rope; did not get to be one of the founders. Bluewater Rope is still made by the Nuell family. PMI is still made in Dalton, Georgia, although now headquartered in Denver because Steve Hudson died and his very capable VP now CEO Louie runs the show. Great rope for caving as well as for rescue needs. Southern cavers were and remain amazing! I have been a member of the NSS for 48 years. My late husband, Steve, and I were on the cave rescue for Emily in Lechuguilla Cave in 1991. Steve was an expert rope rigger. I was merely a Sherpa. Thank you!

    • Hi, George and Nancy,

      My dearly departed Dad took us all to the Army/Navy stores in the 60’s/70’s, plus other surplus stores across the states we lived in. Gosh, were those the MOST amazing shopping expeditions. We all got our own nested plates, silverware, collapsible cups, camping gear, including camp cots, fishing gear, etc., and WOOL BLANKETS. I still have mine, it is going on 65 years old and not a moth bite in it and when it’s really cold in the house (cause the hubby doesn’t believe in turning on the heater), I put that between the sheets, and I am as warm as toast.

      Don’t forget the REAL CANVAS, that stuff lasted forever, much better than these plastic tarps.

      I remember those ropes. It was the one store, us kids, could scatter in and no one bothered us; we touched everything.

      GREAT memories that I treasure.

  4. If you want a project has anyone ever replaced the end or made an extension for the end of a starter cable for a Ford diesel? The cable itself is about 5/8ths or 3/4 of an inch thick so there’s no convenient off the shelf splices or connectors that would carry that kind of current reliably. Even Lowe’s service entry wire wasn’t thick enough and virtually unbendable at anything close to that thickness.

    It’s just another one of those pieces under the hood that are built to fall apart and cost a humungus amount. This cable is part of an entire harness that costs 650 bucks but can be had for less if you find a genuine part on ebay. The hard part is getting the old out and new threaded back through the grommet that’s between the cross member on the frame and the engine block. The rest would be fairly easy.

    • Cut cable near end. Slide on two layers heat shrink.
      Slide on 1.5″ copper pipe (of right ID). Crimp swage or hammer. Flow solder with let cool.
      Inner heat shrink
      Then outer
      The swage on new end pipe (or fab out of copper pipe, drilled on end as req’d/.

    • Bill, George pretty much nailed this. He did leave out one MINOR detail though.

      For flexible, high current cable that can survive the most abusive environments, Ure going to want to look at welding cable. It is made up of a zillion fine strands which make it very flexible.

      Also, if you look around, you will find solid copper/brass splices for it. They handle all the current you will ever need. Using off the shelf parts is never as fun as making it yourself, but sometimes it’s just a lot easier.


      • I was thinking tinned marine – not as flexible as welding, but better corrosion resistance and friendly to good rosin solder. But either Joe’s rig or my lashup will get you miles into 2-3 lifetimes from now…
        (dealer exclusions for road salt and nuclear winters, see dealer for details.)

    • George did nail it, except for the welding cable part. There are a number of U.S. wire companies. I dunno if they all have Military contracts, but they all make Mil-Spec wire. Their Mil-Spec welding cable will be many hundreds of strands of #40 wire, tinned or silver-plated, and in -40° full-flex jacketing. After watching wiring in my F150 disintegrate from exposure, I strongly suggest if you never want to do the job again, you replace the cable when you can. FWIW I cobbled together an inverter cable last week out of a piece of 1-ga jumper cable. I used 3/8×1/2 copper pipe fittings as the lugs, swaged the 3/8 end onto the wires, then mashed the fittings in a vise, filed off the sharp corners, and bored them — not pretty, but functional, and 15x cheaper (and much faster) than buying the lugs…

    • Thanks everyone. Finding a flexible multi-strand cable is the greatest challenge for such tight confines. I had not thought about welding cable but that’s an excellent place to start for high amperage, high flexibility cables. The rosin core solder I was trying to use on the end piece needed to be higher temperature, too. I was afraid the whole thing would glow brightly when I cranked the engine making the solder flow, short something and make things even worse.

      Looks as if many people have had this same problem with these trucks if they hold on to them long enough. All this has made me long for the old 90s models 3/4 and one ton trucks with the venerable old 460 under the hood and tons, or at least reasonable room, to work on it. People are asking almost new prices for the things because they know what they have compared to what the Big 3 are putting out now. My backup truck is an early 90s F350 and has never logged time on the back of a wrecker the way this diesel has!

    • Did I post a reply to all of you to say thank you and not hit the Post Comment button? My other two comments have shown up but not the one for this thread.

      Anyway, thanks everybody for your suggestions. Welding wire and the other cables are a great suggestion rather than the service entry wire I was trying to use. Flexibility in such cramped quarters is key to this issue.

      I’d gone on to say that trucks now days are basically built to fall apart and what I wouldn’t give to have a good old 90s model 3/4 or 1 ton with that great old engine, the 460 with reasonable working room in the engine compartment. The prices people want for that generation of trucks now reflect the value they have in them. My backup truck is an early 90s model that has never logged time on a wrecker the way this diesel has and has rarely failed to start.

      • The biggest issue is the copper, which comes from the low bidder in China, who doesn’t understand either the concept of annealing or the need for purity. (I have replaced trailer wiring that’s less than 4 years old, because the “wire” decomposed into a powdered copper oxide of some flavor or other — this with no breaks in the insulation!)

        The second biggest issue is the insulation, which is increasingly made from PVC derived from soy oil, which small critters find delicately delicious. Mil-Spec is maximum reliability, annealed, appropriately fine-strand wire, tinned with either tin/lead or silver, and cased in high-temp ultra-flexible, and contaminate-proof teflon or silicone. Marine-spec differs only in wire-count (thus inherent flexibility) and jacket composition (marine wire resists contamination by anything likely to find its way to the bilge, like fuels or parasitic fungus or bacteria) and generally has a less-tough, but thicker insulation jacket. Non-Mil-Spec welding cable is tinned Mil-Spec wire in an extra-thick Marine jacket, so it retains most of the flexibility, yet has a thick, tough jacket that’ll stand up to being dragged across concrete floors.

        There are a bunch of surplus wire dealers on eBay, who sell roll “ends & pieces” for cheap. Some of ’em are even the manufacturers’ (like Continental) disposal outlets. You can find appropriately-sized lugs, but unless they specify “USA-made”) will be Chinese, and made out of the same brittle junk copper as their wire (i.e. likely to crack when swaged.) Alternatively, they can be made from (flexible) copper tubing or fittings (American, not Chinese — trace the brand to source) and if so, you can run the wire clear-through the tubing, crimp or swage, flatten, shape, THEN bore the stud-hole. If you use a premade cable-end, wirebrush the socket, then dribble a quarter to 3/8 inch solder puddle into it, slip heat-shrink over the cable, then insert the wire into the cable-end and swage, then hit it with a torch to melt that solder glob into the wire and between it and the cable-end.

        Either way you do it, after it’s cool, slip the heat-shrink down and shrink it. Presto! Better than factory wire that’ll outlive you and your grandkids, and most-importantly, NEVER require attention again (except for the bolt which connects the B- cable to the engine block. This is a MV’s principal ground connection and everybody forgets it — even highly-trained and experienced mechanics: An engine block will rust or corrode at this bolt, and the oxidation will limit the amount of current going from battery to starter, and also from alternator or generator to battery. I usually sandblast or wire-brush, then treat this with Penetrox, and then IT TOO becomes a non-issue, functionally FOREVER!)

      • I would invite Ray to hep me build a house or a boat.
        But we’re both so crazy on overdoing: The house would end up costing $1,500 /sq ft and the boat would have so much redundancy it would sink!

      • “The house would end up costing $1,500 /sq ft”

        Naw, simpler is better, and WRT construction, I’m a pretty simple man. ;-)

        I just utterly detest doing a job twice, or redoing one because someone shaved pennies.

        Those diesels have 1ga, 0ga, or 00ga cable from battery to starter (depending on year, cable-length, and whether equipped with Ford’s “cold weather package”) and cable that’s one size smaller for crossover and ground. It is not unusual for the starter to draw 600A @ 68°F on a cold start, and twice that @ zero. I’d replace the whole lot with 4/0…

      • George, while I have been accused of “overengineering,” I have also been accused of being unable to hide a smartass “I told you so” smirk when watching someone who ignored my counsel, as they redid a job.

        Pay 30-50% more for materials, do the job right and make it bulletproof, or pay 110% more, every few years, when something fails ‘cuz you were lazy or a tightwad, and refused to listen to someone who’s “been there” and learned better. I yam the way I yam because 40 years ago, that someone I refused to listen to was me. NOBODY can nag you for screwing up, better than your own mind…

  5. I must be living back in time up here in Canada. We still have those kind of stores, from military leftovers to house reno ones.

    • These still exist in Albuquerque. Unfortunately, the military leftover ones charge more than I’m willing to pay most of the time, even after negotiating. That’s probably why they still have lots of stock.

  6. Help! I’ve fallen into a surplus shopping hole, and I can’t get up! Yessir, some familiar names on that list, and many more to explore. One of my favorites is Chaney Electronics “Electronic Goldmine”:

    I remember my teen ham days when a group of us drove 100 miles to Honeywell surplus in Minneapolis. Got a 12.6vac transformer ‘brick’ good for 75 amps… for five bucks! Happily in my retirement, there is a mil surplus store 20 miles up the road in Hilo. Got my fiberglass antenna mast poles there. Owner also runs a coin shop there. Gold and surplus… one stop shop.

  7. “Ever notice how military tarps weighed a ton and smelled like tar?”

    Still do… even the vinyl ones (don’t laugh at vinyl. I bought a 20×30 some months back — ‘must weigh close to 200 pounds!) If’fn you want new, the best I’ve found is Chicago Canvas…

    An explanation:

    My original list to George was sent for Ultra-Make, not Urban Survival, and was simply grepped from my “Suppliers” bookmark list, annotated, and passed-on to give people coming to the site a few links. It is not links to surplus sites, per se, but they’re in there, along with places to buy restoration supplies and general merch.

    However, There do be some surplusses (an mebbe a “minus” or two) here: Surplus Sales and Surplus Center (both in Nebraska) got their start peddling prewar surplus after factories modernized during the ’50s manufacturing boom. Places like All Electronics, Jameco, and Consolidated Electronics got their start peddling WW-II and Korean War surplus (and BTW so did Northern Tool.) — Fair Radio still does, and is the best source on the planet for untouched Collins, Hallicrafters, and National period radios & electronics (it occupies an entire ex-lumber yard on the south side of Lima, Ohio (just off I-75.) Y’all cannot believe what it sight it is, seeing an 8′ wide column in a 40×60 lean-to with a 25’ roof, of nothing but R-390A/URRs or one of HROs or SX-25s, SuperPros or… you get the idea. Looks can be highly-deceiving: From looking at the website, Fair looks like it’s being run out of somebody’s garage.

    Other surplus sources I use are Liquidity Services and The Public Group. This is gen-u-ine surplus — the root sources for most State & Federal auctions (You can buy from GSA but it’s a PITA) and probably the cheapest place there is right now for outfitting a wood or metal shop, or garage. Liquidity Services sites are GovDeals, AllSurplus, DoveBid, Liquidation dot com, and Machinio, TPG’s portal is PublicSurplus dot com. Between the two companies, they dispatch over 80% of all local, State, and Federal government surplus in the U.S. There are others, f’r instance, the State of Wisconsin has their own surplus marketing site; they also use both publicsurplus and govdeals, and there is no merchandise crossover between the three.

    It pains me to pass these out, but it pains me more to see good, irreplaceable stuff sold to scrappers:

    Serious machinery was sold to everyone from small forging and stamping factories to shipbuilders. Machine manufacturers became known, generally, for one machine. For instance Bridgeport makes vertical milling machines, Bullard made boring mills, South Bend makes lathes, Cincinnati made horizontal mills, etc. While I’m sure many of these companies made a broad line of tools, their name became synonymous with one.

    I have watched numerous Bridgeports and a goodly number of the others sell, over the past few years. Most of them come from high- or trade-schools, and have had little use. A Bridgeport will weigh in at 6800 pounds; a decent-sized South Bend at over 5 tons. They typically sell for under $200, so a scrapper can pick one up, drive to the nearest scrap yard, and quadruple his money. Once he does, that machine will never be used again, because it’ll be cut, baled, and sent to China to be made into a junk I-beam or a GM unibody, then sold back to us. New Bridgeports start in the $80k range, South Bends in the $120k range. The latter are made, not in South Bend, but in China, and can not be used for precision work, nor can they be repaired (IOW they’re junk.) The vintage machines? When properly set-up they’ll have a “runout” in the 100,000ths or millionths of an inch. Every single part is replaceable, and can be manufactured in-house in any competent machine shop.

    • I still kick myself for not buying a cooking trailer after Katrina..20 foot long freezersand refrigerators stoves and grill and a 50kv diesel generator pots pans etc..and I could have gotten the whole shooting match for under a grand on auction.. a friend bought a hummer .. lol only time he drives it is in a parade lol ..

  8. My kind of story… the greatest gift is when you help someone that truly needs it.. you can see it in their eyes..

    The old man sat in his gas station on a cold Christmas Eve. He hadn’t been anywhere in years since his wife had passed away. It was just another day to him. He didn’t hate Christmas, just couldn’t find a reason to celebrate. He was sitting there looking at the snow that had been falling for the last hour and wondering what it was all about when the door opened and a homeless man stepped through.

    Instead of throwing the man out, Old George as he was known by his customers, told the man to come and sit by the heater and warm up. “Thank you, but I don’t mean to intrude,” said the stranger. “I see you’re busy, I’ll just go.” “Not without something hot in your belly.” George said.

    He turned and opened a wide mouth Thermos and handed it to the stranger. “It ain’t much, but it’s hot and tasty. Stew … Made it myself. When you’re done, there’s coffee and it’s fresh.”

    Just at that moment he heard the “ding” of the driveway bell. “Excuse me, be right back,” George said. There in the driveway was an old ’53 Chevy. Steam was rolling out of the front. The driver was panicked. “Mister can you help me!” said the driver, with a deep Spanish accent. “My wife is with child and my car is broken.” George opened the hood. It was bad. The block looked cracked from the cold, the car was dead. “You ain’t going in this thing,” George said as he turned away.

    “But Mister, please help …” The door of the office closed behind George as he went inside. He went to the office wall and got the keys to his old truck, and went back outside. He walked around the building, opened the garage, started the truck and drove it around to where the couple was waiting. “Here, take my truck,” he said. “She ain’t the best thing you ever looked at, but she runs real good.”

    George helped put the woman in the truck and watched as it sped off into the night. He turned and walked back inside the office. “Glad I gave ’em the truck, their tires were shot too. That ‘ol truck has brand new .” George thought he was talking to the stranger, but the man had gone. The Thermos was on the desk, empty, with a used coffee cup beside it. “Well, at least he got something in his belly,” George thought.

    George went back outside to see if the old Chevy would start. It cranked slowly, but it started. He pulled it into the garage where the truck had been. He thought he would tinker with it for something to do. Christmas Eve meant no customers. He discovered the block hadn’t cracked, it was just the bottom hose on the radiator. “Well, shoot, I can fix this,” he said to
    himself. So he put a new one on.

    “Those tires ain’t gonna get ’em through the winter either.” He took the snow treads off of his wife’s old Lincoln. They were like new and he wasn’t going to drive the car anyway.

    As he was working, he heard shots being fired. He ran outside and beside a police car an officer lay on the cold ground. Bleeding from the left shoulder, the officer moaned, “Please help me.”

    George helped the officer inside as he remembered the training he had received in the Army as a medic. He knew the wound needed attention. “Pressure to stop the bleeding,” he thought. The uniform company had been there that morning and had left clean shop towels. He used those and duct tape to bind the wound. “Hey, they say duct tape can fix anythin’,” he said, trying to make the policeman feel at ease.

    “Something for pain,” George thought. All he had was the pills he used for his back. “These ought to work.” He put some water in a cup and gave the policeman the pills. “You hang in there, I’m going to get you an ambulance.”

    The phone was dead. “Maybe I can get one of your buddies on that there talk box out in your car.” He went out only to find that a bullet had gone into the dashboard destroying the two way radio.

    He went back in to find the policeman sitting up. “Thanks,” said the officer. “You could have left me there. The guy that shot me is still in the area.”

    George sat down beside him, “I would never leave an injured man in the Army and I ain’t gonna leave you.” George pulled back the bandage to check for bleeding. “Looks worse than what it is. Bullet passed right through ‘ya. Good thing it missed the important stuff though. I think with time your gonna be right as rain.”

    George got up and poured a cup of coffee. “How do you take it?” he asked. “None for me,” said the officer. “Oh, yer gonna drink this. Best in the city. Too bad I ain’t got no donuts.” The officer laughed and winced at the same time.

    The front door of the office flew open. In burst a young man with a gun. “Give me all your cash! Do it now!” the young man yelled. His hand was shaking and George could tell that he had never done anything like this before.

    “That’s the guy that shot me!” exclaimed the officer.

    “Son, why are you doing this?” asked George, “You need to put the cannon away. Somebody else might get hurt.”

    The young man was confused. “Shut up old man, or I’ll shoot you, too. Now give me the cash!”

    The cop was reaching for his gun. “Put that thing away,” George said to the cop, “we got one too many in here now.”

    He turned his attention to the young man. “Son, it’s Christmas Eve. If you need money, well then, here. It ain’t much but it’s all I got. Now put that pea shooter away.”

    George pulled $150 out of his pocket and handed it to the young man, reaching for the barrel of the gun at the same time. The young man released his grip on the gun, fell to his knees and began to cry. “I’m not very good at this am I? All I wanted was to buy something for my wife and son,” he went on. “I’ve lost my job, my rent is due, my car got repossessed last week.”

    George handed the gun to the cop. “Son, we all get in a bit of squeeze now and then. The road gets hard sometimes, but we make it through the best we can.”

    He got the young man to his feet, and sat him down on a chair across from the cop. “Sometimes we do stupid things.” George handed the young man a cup of coffee. “Bein’ stupid is one of the things that makes us human. Comin’ in here with a gun ain’t the answer. Now sit there and get warm and we’ll sort this thing out.”

    The young man had stopped crying. He looked over to the cop. “Sorry I shot you. It just went off. I’m sorry officer.” “Shut up and drink your coffee ” the cop said. George could hear the sounds of sirens outside. A police car and an ambulance skidded to a halt. Two cops came through the door, guns drawn. “Chuck! You ok?” one of the cops asked the wounded officer.

    “Not bad for a guy who took a bullet. How did you find me?”

    “GPS locator in the car. Best thing since sliced bread. Who did this?” the other cop asked as he approached the young man.

    Chuck answered him, “I don’t know. The guy ran off into the dark. Just dropped his gun and ran.”

    George and the young man both looked puzzled at each other.

    “That guy work here?” the wounded cop continued. “Yep,” George said, “just hired him this morning. Boy lost his job.”

    The paramedics came in and loaded Chuck onto the stretcher. The young man leaned over the wounded cop and whispered, “Why?”

    Chuck just said, “Merry Christmas boy … and you too, George, and thanks for everything.”

    “Well, looks like you got one doozy of a break there. That ought to solve some of your problems.”

    George went into the back room and came out with a box. He pulled out a ring box. “Here you go, something for the little woman. I don’t think Martha would mind. She said it would come in handy some day.”

    The young man looked inside to see the biggest diamond ring he ever saw. “I can’t take this,” said the young man. “It means something to you.”

    “And now it means something to you,” replied George. “I got my memories. That’s all I need.”

    George reached into the box again. An airplane, a car and a truck appeared next. They were toys that the oil company had left for him to sell. “Here’s something for that little man of yours.”

    The young man began to cry again as he handed back the $150 that the old man had handed him earlier.

    “And what are you supposed to buy Christmas dinner with? You keep that too,” George said. “Now git home to your family.”

    The young man turned with tears streaming down his face. “I’ll be here in the morning for work, if that job offer is still good.”

    “Nope. I’m closed Christmas day,” George said. “See ya the day after.”

    George turned around to find that the stranger had returned. “Where’d you come from? I thought you left?”

    “I have been here. I have always been here,” said the stranger. “You say you don’t celebrate Christmas. Why?”

    “Well, after my wife passed away, I just couldn’t see what all the bother was. Puttin’ up a tree and all seemed a waste of a good pine tree. Bakin’ cookies like I used to with Martha just wasn’t the same by myself and besides I was gettin’ a little chubby.”

    The stranger put his hand on George’s shoulder. “But you do celebrate the holiday, George. You gave me food and drink and warmed me when I was cold and hungry. The woman with child will bear a son and he will become a great doctor.

    The policeman you helped will go on to save 19 people from being killed by terrorists. The young man who tried to rob you will make you a rich man and not take any for himself. “That is the spirit of the season and you keep it as good as any man.”

    George was taken aback by all this stranger had said. “And how do you know all this?” asked the old man.

    “Trust me, George. I have the inside track on this sort of thing. And when your days are done you will be with Martha again.”

    The stranger moved toward the door. “If you will excuse me, George, I have to go now. I have to go home where there is a big celebration planned.”

    George watched as the old leather jacket and the torn pants that the stranger was wearing turned into a white robe. A golden light began to fill the room.

    “You see, George … it’s My birthday. Merry Christmas.”

    George fell to his knees and replied, “Happy Birthday, Lord Jesus”

    Merry Christmas!!

    This story is better than any greeting card.


    Hilaria Hamm Rogers

  9. This is an off topic suggestion for a column, but it’s “Coping” Sunday. I’d suggest to George, coming from a fire fighting family, that we should have a column on handling uninvited fires at home. Not the typical drivel about running out of the house and leaving everything(except in case of a fully involved conflagration). Many fires can and must be handled by yourself alone if you’re 20 minutes or more from response by a competent department. If not, you’ll lose everything except the clothes on your back, if you’re even wearing anything at the time! Ideas for proper extinguishers – large enough for overkill, tanks on trailers with pumps, design ideas to mitigate the starting of such fires, and of course, detectors and alarms to wake the dead. Other ideas as they occur. Most of us live in wood framed houses, most with unprotected eves and flammable roofs, not to mention everything below them. The idea is to protect lives and property, especially property, since it can’t protect itself. Another point is that security and fire safety often require opposite perspectives. In a SHTF situation, there is nobody to call!

    • “coming from a fire fighting family, that we should have a column on handling uninvited fires at home. Not the typical drivel about running out of the house and leaving everything”

      Mike I am anal about stuff like that .and probably little better setup than most.
      Fire extinguishers fire blankets rescue hoods and emergency oxygen.. but CRAP is just that.. its stuff..stuff can be replaced a person can’t.. so setup to get everyone out safely forget the stuff.. more people have been killed trying to save some crap than. Do fire drills.. we do one every couple of months..

      • LOOB, you have a family living with you and I understand your concern. I don’t have one currently, they’ve all gone to the four winds. I owe it to myself and others to stay alive and don’t intend to fight the impossible, but there’s lots that can be done to reduce fuel, build out with non-combustibles, have effective extinguishing capacity, both water and the more expensive methods. Obviously, education and practice can make for more effective choices. The balance between security and fire safety needs to be addressed.

        People (and pets) cannot be replaced. Stuff often cannot either. It’s better to lose stuff than people, of course, but there’s always everyday risk, and the effort to replace stuff has its own risks, if it’s even possible in your lifetime. I don’t believe we overvalue people, but I do believe we undervalue some stuff and fail to protect it adequately.

        My point is that when you’re the only one there and the fire is small, there’s a chance contain and eliminate it if you’re smart, quick, careful and practiced. There is a risk, but you can minimize it. In a real conflagration, leaving the building quickly and protecting the perimeter might be the only sane choice, but that’s better than just throwing up your hands in despair and waiting for the fire dept, if any.

        Of course, the best option is always prevention. Even this could fill far more than one column! I was seeking out of the box thinking on this, since most of what’s written on the net is few ideas oft repeated.

      • “when you’re the only one there and the fire is small, there’s a chance contain and eliminate it if you’re smart, quick, careful and practiced. There is a risk, but you can minimize it. In a real conflagration, leaving the building quickly and protecting the perimeter might be the only sane choice, but that’s better than just throwing up your hands in despair and waiting for the fire dept, if any.”

        For that reason alone.. I have a fire extinguisher every fifteen feet.. our house we have fourteen.. all marked.. by sources of fire like the kitchen.. the furnace room etc.. there is an extinguisher next to it in side the door and outside the door.. fire blankets..
        Or like we learned in the military.. wool blankets..
        I also have a monitored security system.. and sensors up the wazoo.. there is smoke before there is fire..( three times the fire department had to be called because we had gotten busy and forgot about a pan on the stove and went outside .. the monitor went off and we were shocked to see the fire department show up)
        twice a year the equipment is checked.. especially the dryer… more fires are because someone didn’t clean the lint out.. important papers and photos.. kept on a disk drive.. similar to what we all do for our homes I do for our photos.. for your home we take a picture of each room front back and each side then send it to your insurance agent.. I also keep that on a drive and at the bank.. so that in the event of a fire.. you will remember the big stuff but will forget the little things.. like how many pairs of socks did you have, how many shoes.. how many nuts and bolts or what tools did you have…. take a picture a picture is worth a thousand words.. and in chaos you don’t have a record and the insurance company isn’t in business to help you they are there to make money…. update it every time something new is added.. then if a fire was to happen you have it.. do fire drills.. have your ducts cleaned once a year.. I get mine done every summer and the chimneys to.. a heat sensor in the garage CO2 sensors.. or where ever you have flammables.. also keep your flammables in a sealed chemical closet..
        You can get them cheaper.. but Uline has a nice system..
        the monitored system is sort of expensive.. but then if a fire was to break out.. you need to know.. you will probably be asleep when it happens or not at home.. Prevention is worth a lot.. my father use to teach us kids that prevention was the answer to most serious situation from starting.. sort of like buying a car.. the daughter bought a car.. sold to her as six month old company lease job.. what they didn’t tell her was they paid fifty bucks for it in another state and even though it looked good was an accident waiting to happen and had been in two accidents that the whole thing was totaled our twice by the insurance companies.. luckily I was taking care of an old retired attorney general whose kid is a big time famous lawyer and he helped us out of it.. we took good care of dad so he made sure we got taken care of .. but the lesson learned was you never just buy a car for what it looks like.. you have it checked.. take it in and get the transmission checked have a mechanic go over the motor and a body man go through to see if it had been in any previous accidents.. the two hundred you spend for that is well worth the money.. if the car lot doesn’t want you to do that.. then run.. or have them knock a few grand off of it.. give you a warranty etc.. You should see the look on the salesman when you take it for a test drive and you start stopping at these places.. it is one to be cherished let me tell you.. LOL it is the same thing with your home.. keep a go bag or box.. we have one for each person.. in the event the bags are grabbed.. do regular maintenance.. I am anal about making sure that the tires are good.. ( my toss out tires are usually resold as good used by the tire center.. ) I know I can’t think of it all.. but if something happens it isn’t because I didn’t at least give it my best shot.. play with the fire extinguishers.. I had at one time thought about putting in a sprinkler system but the wife said she thought it was overkill and she was right.. it is similar to having two AED’s in the house.. one in the shop and one in the house.. they really aren’t that expensive the batteries are but the units aren’t.. and you hope you never have to use it… repair, replace, or remove it.. the three R’s…. if there is a potential hazzard.. you fix it..

  10. George, if only the surplus stores of old could talk.
    For Army/Navy surplus stores there were so many, most of the names I’ve long forgotten.
    The Army/Navy Surplus Store on 1st ave. downtown Seattle,
    the surplus store in Georgetown on 4th-name forgotten,
    Pacific Iron and Metal on I think 4th ave. (might have been 1st by the Sears store?),
    and other ones that I vaguely remember around Seattle (when it was still interesting and livable). These were back in the sixties and on, and they still had a lot of WWII stuff. The good old days.
    Then, in the seventies during and after taking electronics at Renton Voc Tech, there were all of the electronic surplus stores around Seattle that was enough to drool over. I think that most or all of them have since gone. Many good memories of spending too much time looking, or buying stuff that cannot be found anymore.
    Then there were all of the mail order places that would advertise catalogs in Popular Electronics, Audio, and other related magazines. Just circle in the numbers on the advertisers cards and wait until the catalogs would show up.
    Good times that will never be again.

  11. Der der der George’s vegenomics !! Dagollio son suicided had enough bullsheet . George wants the job from the ranch

  12. Speaking of Army Surplus – It’s been a few decades since I last heard but they used to tell stories about caves that the military had filled with gear and vehicles up in Alaska then planted trees in the paths going to the locations to hide it all. Every now and then the natives would show up in town with an old Jeep in mint condition, big white star on the hood to sell for Winter supplies. THAT would be my kind of surplus store!

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