Friday, May 21, 2010

A World Where Things Last for Generations: Part 2

A month ago, I was blogging about two of many cases I have seen recently of cheaply made products that are simply made to be disposable. I'm tired of buying things that break only to throw them into our overflowing landfills and purchase another one. I have vowed that if I can't afford something that will last me forever, I just won't buy it. Some exceptions apply as you will see.

My decade old can now functionally obsolete

Case one that I presented was my plastic gas can seen in the picture above. The can is still perfect and has lot of life to it but the black collar that tightens down the spout cracked allowing fuel to pour out on the ground whenever I used it. I tried epoxies to fix the collar but it just wasn't going to work around gas which would just dissolve it.

Cheap crap destined for a landfill near you

Over the course of a couple weeks, I stopped at over a half-dozen stores that carry gas can only to be confronted the spout shown above. Due to some crazy law that states that we now have to have ventless gas cans and spouts that don't leak when the can is held UPSIDE DOWN, we now have to have special caps. I can't buy one like what I already have. The second thing I learned is that my decade old gas can has a two inch opening. Today's variety only have an inch and a half opening or a two and a half inch opening. So I had to buy the whole kit and caboodle when all I needed was the caboodle.

Not a very good photo but you can make out some of the moving plastic parts where failure WILL happen sooner rather than later.

As you can see in this picture, the caboodle is engineered to fail within I would guess a year of gentle use. There is a plastic piece on the side that you have to pull back on and flex down into a notch to lock it into place. That piece rotates around a plastic pivot and another plastic piece acting as a spring which pulls a plunger buried in the guts of the unit. As an engineer, plastic is just not designed for repeated stressing as this application puts on it, especially on something that is exposed to harmful UV rays on weekly basis and most likely sets in a non-environmentally controlled garage where temperature variations also reek havoc. I told the dealer at the last place I stopped that I would sooner have to clean and use my funnel for the rest of my life versus buying that piece of crap and he agreed but he said he they were his only choice to buy. And I would have other than the fact that I still couldn't find a cap that fit my can and so my garage smelled of gas fumes every time I entered it.

Fortunately I got a tip on someone who might have an all metal gas can that they would sell me. They were a tree trimming business south of town and although they didn't have any metal gas cans, the did have what you see above. It, like the other piece of crap shown above, is a ventless design and it is still made of plastic but it has just a plastic button that pushed against a metal spring that pushed a plastic plunger to prevent spillage when I carry my gas can upside down like everyone but commonly due for this law to have been passed. A metal spring takes the stresses and not the plastic parts. It still has a plastic collar just like my old one so I'll probably still run into this same problem again ten years down the road unless I get an all metal gas can. I have a couple leads of people looking through some garages for gas cans they no longer want that fit the bill. Talking with the owner, he said that after he found these and special ordered them, he tried giving his old ones like the one pictured above away to charity auctions. Most of the people who won them at the charity auctions returned them for cash since they don't work well and as stated above, are cheaply made pieces of crap.

In case two, I talked about ice cream scoops that are full of plastic and pot metal parts that are forever breaking. I've literally gone through several scoops in the last five years or so. I pontificated about my mother's forged flat iron like scoop with riveted on wooden handles that her grandmother passed down to her and how they just don't make them like that anymore. After exhaustive Internet searching, I found the one pictured above. It is a solid die cast aluminum model with only a plastic end piece at the end of the handle. I could probably lift my weight with it without bending it. The only drawback is that it is aluminum and thus after a round in the dishwasher, gets oxidized like what you see above. The good news is that aluminum oxidation is mostly cosmetic and won't weaken the scoop over time or flake off like a previous scoop I had. Regardless, I hope this sucker will be around until I'm not.


sage said...

I have to wonder if gas caps designed by the same folk that design well-head caps for the oil industry?

Ed said...

Sage - Obviously even the blow-out preventers are better engineered. If they were made to the same specifications as the gas cap commonly sold today, there would be more oil than water in our our oceans.

Beau said...

You beat me to it again! That gas can "kaboodle" thingy is just awful. I have two cans with them on...

Really shows environmental legislation run amok, now I SPILL more gasoline and make MORE of a mess than I ever did before. You must hold the button in, push down and tilt way up... it's crazy.

That ice cream scoop looks perfect though.

Ed said...

Beau - Everyone I have talked too, including people who sell them, hate the "kaboodle" ones. The one I now have works great and if it were metal, would probably last a lifetime or two. Let me know if I need to buy a couple more and have them shipped down your way.

Murf said...

If an ice cream scoop is really only used for ice cream, what's the point of putting it in the dishwasher instead of just doing a quick handwash?

Ron said...

What about wrapping a hose clamp around the black plastic part that cracked? If you had a junk car in the backyard, you wouldn't even have to buy the clamp... ;)

This makes me glad that I acquired a whole slew of gas cans at an auction a while back. Those fancy plastic lids definitely look designed to fail.


geri said...

It does take more effort to be earth friendly. I'm jealous of the ice cream scoop. I can already imagine what an ube ice cream in a bowl would look like using that scoop =)

Eutychus2 said...

Wow, you must be quite a 'scooper!' one of these days I'll have to drop by while on a journey, I'm bettin you make a mean banana split.

R. Sherman said...

Love the scoop. May I inquire where you got it?


Vince said...

I was thinking at some army surplus place, they must have some of the old fashoned spirit containers for aircraft, tanks and the like.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Reminds me of all the plastic trash floating in gigantic islands in the oceans, especially the pacific.

Bone said...

I sense a sudden spurt in the black market gas can industry.

TC said...

So I had to buy the whole kit and caboodle when all I needed was the caboodle.


Well, you might have issues with your gas can 10 years down the road from now again, but 10 years is STILL way better than a year like you'd have with those other POS's.

Ed said...

Murf - What is the point of hand washing one item when you have a dishwasher full of dirty dishes?

Ron - I actually tried that after the epoxy failed but I didn't have any luck. I keep a bin of hose clamps that I've robbed off this or that because those tend to come in really handy.

Geri - I think ube in any shape would taste delicious.

Eutychus2 - You know, I haven't had one of those in twenty years. I think I need to end that record.

R. Sherman - Zeroll Company They also make a classic scoop version but since our favorite ice cream only comes in a box, the spade is nice because it can get into the corners.

Vince - I think someone else mentioned that before but due to the rural nature of where I live, any military surplus store is halfway across the state from here.

Phil - No kidding. However, all my trash ends up in a growing mountain south of town, also not desirable.

Bone - I hope so. Just let me know where I can get my "fix."

TC - Sigh I know, but I just hate having to settle like that. If I can still find an all metal gas can someday at an auction or garage sale, it is mine no matter what the price and I will live with it for the rest of my days.

Ron said...

If you visit, I might be persuaded to part with a metal gas can or two... ;)

Randall, Pampered Chef has a very similar ice cream scoop. I have no idea if cost is comparable, but it will definitely take a lot of abuse. If your wife gets invited to those events (I'm assuming you don't...), she could satisfy the expectation to buy something and come home with something practical, too. :)