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The plastic tool box...(or A more likely than not, unintelligable rant about oil.)

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Blog entry by BillieAchilleos posted 11-02-2010 09:38 PM 1019 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m becoming increasingly aware that so few people know where their everyday things come from. I was talking a lady the otherday and realised she didn’t know that plastic’s derive from oil. It just wasn’t something she had ever thought about. When people talk about what will happen when oil runs out, they talk about petrol mostly. But they don’t seem to think about plastic. the components in their car, the circuit boards in their computer, the silicone chip that runs them, the chairs we sit on.

I work part time in a pub. Across the road is a vintage clothes store, on sundays Fur protesters religiously boycott the place. It’s become a deep frustration for the residents living there, for our pub, not to mention for the shop itself. The police have been called in and every sunday two police officers have to stand around and ensure that nothing kicks off. I was told that someone in the flat above the store threw a bucket of water on the protesters. And I don’t blame them. They stand around with their loud speakers, being very unpleasant to the community.

Anyway, the reason I mention it, is that it got me thinking about what artificial furs and leathers were made from. I suspected that they might get their core materials from oil and I’m pretty sure I’m right. Any fabric deemed synthetic, is a product of oil. I wonder if any of those protester’s thought about that? I think there will come a day, in not the very distant future where we will have to go back to fur and leather.

Almost all the materials I use in fabrication derive from non-renewable fossil fuel. I’m 90% certain of it. Plastazote, uphostery foam, styrofoam, mold making silicone, plasterlene, chavant, resin. I feel tremendously guilty when I throw away a bag of shavings from carving foam or plastazote, carving is extremely wasteful, at least when you carve wood, the shavings can be burned, and you know that (hopefully) the tree it came from was cut down wisely, and another tree was planted in it’s place.

I’ve always been drawn to an old way of life. I can’t deny that I love my computer, my ipod, my car, even my plastic cassette tapes. But I’ve always loved the ideals of good old fashioned living. Having a log fire and finding your own wood for it, if I had an open fire I’d have no problem finding the fuel for it. Prop shops and set builders have an abundance of timber off cuts. One particular place I’ve worked, produces enough waste that they have a machine that turns their offcuts into fuel for heating the workshop, and even then they have skips of waste wood left over.

Now, you may laugh, but when I was younger they used to play repeats of The Waltons on TV on sunday mornings, and I’ve recently taken to watching them again. For anyone that doesn’t know, it’s set during the great depression, before the war…..and before the invention of synthetic plastics. There was Bakelite, but fabric, tools, appliances, utensils, toys, most everything was made from natural materials. If you got a hole in your dress, you mended it. When the dress got too old, or you grew out of it, you cut it up to make a patchwork quilt. Pa worked off the land, cutting trees off his mountain and working them in the saw mill to make mine props, fence posts, and what ever was needed. EVERY tool in his mill was made from metal and wood. When I look in my tool box, I see an upsetting amount of plastic. Sure it’s more comfortable on my palm, but I’d gladly swap my plastic handled pliers for wooden ones. I don’t know how I’d replace the plastic in my drill though? And John Walton’s saw was powered by a petrol motor.

Are there people in the industry thinking about how to replace the loss of Oil in materials? when I buy my bandsaw so I can work on making wooden puppets instead of foam ones, will i choose a larger machine that’s made of metal, or a smaller one that costs less? What will my possessions be made from in a world without oil, so much of what I own relies on it, from the waterproof material my festival tent is made from, to the housing of my powerdrill and jigsaw. And almost everything in the industries I work in uses materials that wouldn’t exist without oil. I hope someone is thinking about this. I don’t care what my car will run on so much as what my industry will run on.

(OH, and in other news, my blog is now up and running at last, a replacement for my neglected website www.blog.billieachilleos.co.uk )



15 comments so far

View Manitario's profile

Manitario

2347 posts in 1541 days


#1 posted 11-02-2010 11:03 PM

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I’m too, deeply troubled by the amount of plastic our society relies on. I am less concerned by the fossil fuel aspect in the production of plastics as the near infinite lifespan of plastics. Radioactive uranium breaks down into stable compounds quicker than plastic biodegrades! As you put it though, I don’t know how I’d replace the plastic components in my life; most of my tools have some sort of plastic on them, I’m typing on a plastic keyboard right now with a plastic tv remote beside me…One of my frustrations is the amount of plastic waste used in packaging; plastic is cheap and easily produced so a lot of what I buy comes swathed in a heavy coccoon of packaging, mostly unneccessarily. I am trying to consciously choose products with less packaging. My other frustration is that the majority of plastic is not recycled; in the city I live, we can recycle 2 out of the 7 common types of plastic, which accounts for maybe 30% of the total plastic waste.
Anyways, I appreciated your rant, it is a favourite pet peeve of mine too.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View hairy's profile

hairy

2024 posts in 2190 days


#2 posted 11-02-2010 11:18 PM

You sound like a hand tool person. Somewhere I heard that all power tools will someday go to a landfill, hand tools will be passed down to the next generations.

I would like to see recycling become mandatory.

-- the last of Barret's Privateers...

View BillieAchilleos's profile

BillieAchilleos

7 posts in 2382 days


#3 posted 11-02-2010 11:55 PM

I figure my post is related to the tools we all use in our work. That was my intention anyway. How I wish we used re-newable materials like wood both as raw materials and as part of the workshop, in our tools and workbenches.

As you said Manitario, plastic packaging is a nightmare, but I know they can make corn starch plastic to replace alot of that. It’s the hard plastics in our handtools, powertools and bench tools, that I have trouble seeing a replacement for. Could we go back to metal? Could the metal working industries that died in england be revived? It would be beautiful if we could return to old ideals.

This video may interest you Manitario – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7K-nq0xkWY&feature=player_embedded

Sorry if this post wasn’t appropriate. I just thought it was something that other wood working enthusiasts might relate to. I dream of going back to wood and metal and good old fashioned living.

View BillieAchilleos's profile

BillieAchilleos

7 posts in 2382 days


#4 posted 11-02-2010 11:58 PM

Hairy – My grandfather was an engineer on the Cyprus Rail was. I wish sooo much that his tools had stayed in the family and been passed down. I like to think I get my passion for making things from him. But he died when my mother was born and I guess my grandmother (being a practical woman) sold the tools as there was no need for them anymore.

View Manitario's profile

Manitario

2347 posts in 1541 days


#5 posted 11-03-2010 01:52 AM

Thanks Billie; I’ve seen some of his footage from his sailing to the Pacific garbage patch. Sad and disturbing. As for keeping this about tools; at least my tablesaw is plastic free (except for the blade guard!). I’ve heard that Dewalt makes their power tools with plastic gears, with exception of some of their higher end tools, I imagine this is the case for most tool manufacturers. Personally, despite the weight, I imagine a metal cased power tool would be a lot more durable.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

#6 posted 11-03-2010 06:41 AM

I can completely understand where you are coming from. Since I started restoring this old 50’s model craftsman saw I’ve been wondering what tools I could make myself. You mention wanting a bandsaw, why not make one? Or, make a good bowsaw and a workbench. I’ve got a number of books on carving where the authors work with just hand tools. I’m sure you’ve already thought of all that though.

These days my philosophy is build or re-build.

-- Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14753 posts in 2333 days


#7 posted 11-03-2010 10:00 AM

A lot of peole are thinking about these issues, but unfortunately, billionaires wanting to become multi billionaires are manipulating the markets and the solutions. US policy was established to cut foriegn imports of oil in the late 70s, but a subsequent administration took care of the oil people. The rest, as they say, is hiustory :-((

They can say we have enough to last 1,000 years, but when you are increasing uses every year, that supply decreases to 100 yrs or less real fast ;-(

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2818 days


#8 posted 11-03-2010 11:19 AM

we have to have a complete lifestyle change …

and part of that change is moving away from the disposable society mentality. .. so woodworkers, building quality furniture, furniture that will last for generations, in my opinion, is the way of the future. Hope so, anyway.

And I agree with your concern about the waste involved in carving … honouring and respecting the wood means all those little pieces as well. So, I guess, making sure that the shavings are put to good use is all you can do. (oh, you were referring to plastic scraps… but same message in the end)

and on a side note—I think you would like it over at GardenTenders.com where a few people are trying to live the Walton’s lifestyle – growing most of their food, living off the land as much as you can without 1000 acres at your disposal.

this is a good discussion – a reminder to “think” before we purchase. We talk about people buying quality furniture to save the planet but we need to be conscious of our purchases as well.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14753 posts in 2333 days


#9 posted 11-03-2010 11:32 AM

You know this means no more disposable diapers ;-) Have to do it the way we did it! That is going to be a hard sell!!

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2818 days


#10 posted 11-03-2010 11:37 AM

actually, many families are going to cloth diapers again . . I even know of a daycare that is using cloth.
There is a big business out there for diaper service… golden opportunity.

woodworkers just need some big promotion to teach people that buying for “generations to come” is better than buying disposable

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile

TopamaxSurvivor

14753 posts in 2333 days


#11 posted 11-03-2010 11:46 AM

Too bad I’m too old to start another business, I’d jump right on it :-))

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2818 days


#12 posted 11-03-2010 01:00 PM

me too (shaking my head “no”)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View rance's profile

rance

4132 posts in 1818 days


#13 posted 11-03-2010 01:04 PM

Well TopamaxSurvivor, when you get back into diapers, you can ponder that thought more seriously. LOL!

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View HokieMojo's profile

HokieMojo

2101 posts in 2386 days


#14 posted 11-03-2010 04:01 PM

just remember, just because you don’t use a material made from oil (like plastic) doesn’t mean that equal amounts of oil and other fuels weren’t used to produce the equivalent product. For example, consider the amount of fuel required to melt and pour cast iron. It sure makes these decisions a lot tougher.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 2543 days


#15 posted 11-03-2010 06:17 PM

Great Post!!!! I think it is very relevant to wood working tools and good for thought also.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

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