web analytics

Unpopular Mechanics

April 8th, 2017

Wrong Articles Lovingly Crafted by Men Wearing Spanx

I guess I’ll never get tired of bashing Popular Mechanics. I subscribed a few years back, and I let the subscription lapse because the magazine was worthless. It was full of articles introducing suspiciously diverse startup executives with an average age of 15. “Chu Ming Wai is one of Silicon Valley’s first lesbian, Chinese, vegan, body-mod enthusiast 3-D printer designers, and her new printer, the Sapphobot, only prints using free-trade tofu thread!” Yeah, okay; I’m aware that people who aren’t old white men start companies. What does this have to do with choosing the best drill press?

They also filled their pages with articles that were really ads, and the ads were for bad products. One wonders if payola was involved. “You really need this wi-fi-ready solar-powered hammer that also plays Justin Bieber MP3s! Watch as transgender startup exec Devadip Jaigurudevaom-Gonzalez uses it to peel sustainable-farmed vanilla beans for his homeopathic mocha and quinoa-paste enema!”

The magazine proudly features articles written by people who admit they don’t know anything about tools. What????!!!! I don’t think it was always like that. I’m pretty sure it used to be staffed by incredibly savvy old guys who wore khaki pants up to their armpits, slicked their hair with Vitalis, killed all sorts of Japanese on Okinawa, and knew how to weld mine-damaged landing craft hulls with a Zippo.

Glenn Reynolds writes for Pop Mech. Come on. You and I both know what’s in his tool collection: a hammer with one broken claw and a butter knife he thinks is a screwdriver.

I just found an interesting Internet post from Pop Mech. Some Redditor was using an angle grinder with a cutoff disk, and the disk blew up. He posted a photo of himself wearing safety glasses in which a disk fragment is deeply imbedded. Pop Mech’s title: “This is Why You Wear Safety Glasses.”

Here’s the thing. When you use a cutoff disk with an angle grinder, you don’t wear safety glasses. You wear a face shield, ear plugs, safety glasses, leather gloves, a leather apron, and a dust mask. Better yet, hand the grinder to someone like Reynolds and dare him to do the job.

It’s no wonder they were wrong. The guy who wrote the piece is a kid named Eric. From his aggressively hip, kooky byline photo, he appears to be about nine. I looked at his stuff. It’s all about encryption, ISP’s, and wearing women’s underwear. I may have made that last bit up. Anyway, he’s no Charlie Allnut. He probably whispers “lefty loosey” when he backs out the screws on an Ipad.

Electronics and Mechanics, in the Pop Mech sense of the word, are about as closely related as the Bolshoi Ballet and plumber’s crack. There is nothing mechanical about turning on your PC and logging into 4chan.

Grinders are fascinating, because they look safe but they’re incredibly dangerous. I was using one a few years back, and even though I was wearing glasses and a face shield, a piece of a wire knot flew right into my eye. I never did understand that. But grinders are treacherous.

The guy in the Reddit photo did not do it right, regardless of what Eric the Half-a-Handyman thinks (obscure reference). He only wore glasses. If the fragment had missed them, it could have torn through his lips and gone into his mouth. It could have shredded a thumb. It could have gone into his belly.

Grinder bits have been known to go through face shields, enter people’s abdominal cavities, and tear fingers off. Writing this, I’m starting to wonder why I own one.

When you use a grinder, you have to be very smart. You can’t put pressure on it. You have to keep as much of yourself as possible out of the disk plane. You can’t twist the disk. You have to leave the guard on the machine. You have to make sure no one is in front of you. Come on, Eric. You’re getting paid. You should know this.

Of course, while I’m willing to lecture and criticize, I use a grinder unsafely all the time. I have to knock that off. I don’t even own an leather apron. I don’t wear gloves when I use it. I really need to get on top of that, as of today.

I read an interesting remark about combat, from one Paul Schussel. He’s a World War Two vet. He said you go into battle thinking, “It can’t happen to me.” Then you start thinking it can happen to you if you’re not careful. Then you realize it WILL happen to you, no matter what you do. If you don’t get sent home, eventually you will be hurt or killed. Tools work the same way. Bad stuff is going to happen, and the more you like and use tools, the sooner and more often you can expect it. You need to be serious and knowledgeable about safety. Unlike Eric, Devadip, and Chu Ming.

Pop Mech used to be a neat and very manly magazine. I know because you can find PDF’s on the Internet. “Build Your Own Metal Lathe.” “Build a Bullet Trap for Your Basement.” “Use Your Cranium as an Anvil for Making Horseshoes.” “Set Fire to Your Face With an Acetylene Torch, Deliberately, and Stand in Front of Your Horrified Kids Laughing to Show Them What Kind of Men Came Back From Iwo Jima With Sea Bags Full of Japanese Ears.”

Those days are gone forever. Maybe the smart move is to collect old PDF’s.

I don’t have time to gripe about safety all day, so I’ll offer a brief tip. If you haven’t been trained to use a drill press, bench grinder, angle grinder, table saw, or metal lathe, and you use any of these tools regularly, you are probably going to send yourself or a pal to the ER one day. For no good reason at all.

Eric, meanwhile, will be defying the odds if he scalds his pinky steaming almond milk for his cappuccino.

Happy tooling.

Stumble it!  Save This Page

2 Responses to “Unpopular Mechanics”

  1. Stephen McAteer Says:

    My young brother, the most accident-prone person I know, has been using an angle grinder on his bike restoration project. (No safety equipment whatsoever.) I’ll pass on your advice about the dangers. Thanks.

  2. Steve H. Says:

    If you can get him to watch some accident videos on Youtube, you might save his life. Believe it or not, an angle grinder can jump back at you and cut your throat.