17 October 2008

The cheapskate pays the most...usually

I've had what Jeff Goldstein would call "A Moment of Unabashed Pragmatism".

Here's the deal, coming from low-end middle American background and growing up in an old industrial environment (although the suburbs of same, to be admitted) I got used to this strange thing known as:  Do It Yourself.

The DIY culture is astounding, today, in that so many people don't realize what they can actually do if they apply themselves to it.  That is why there are all those lovely programs on people doing things to each other's homes and so many of the good reality programs that just show normal, everyday folks doing their jobs.  Really, I do like many of those as seeing good, hard working people at the top of their jobs is a great insight into just how well any of us can do such things.  Even better is you get this strange idea that you can, indeed, do it yourself.

So with that background, I never felt out of place tackling the odd-jobs of home and car maintenance, and took that into my own DIY computer systems (from components) and all sorts of other fun things.  My Pico-ITX build (slowly coming together) is one such area, in which I have all the necessary background to do the build, just not the materials or tools.  Thus, having done all sorts of other manual tasks and observed, closely, thousands more as I grew up, I could scope out the broad outlines of a job and then know all it took was:  time, effort, having the right tools, and getting the right parts.

The first I have boodles of!  Good!

Not being well the second is limited to only a few hours a day, as in less than 5 and usually less than 3.  Not good, but it can be worked around.

Tools... bare essentials with a couple of those missing, but most for the types of things I need to handle.

Parts.  Depends on what I'm doing, usually I can depend upon my self-reliant hunting ability on the net to get parts... if they are made.

Stepping from the Pico ITX build (And much thanks to Beto Ocho on the screw suggestion for the case!  2/56 UNC is what the doctor ordered!) leads me into the strange area of 'retail packaging'.

Here's the deal: for small amounts of good material you usually pay through the nose for it.  Now, not to beat on anyone in particular, but to use as an example, there is the Militec 1 'synthetic metal conditioner'.  Now heading over to their retail section I find 3 of the 0.5 oz bottles for $10.95 (delivered), or $7.95/oz. 

At 1oz. they drop it to $7.90/oz. 

At 4oz it goes for $18.90 or $4.725/oz.

At 8oz it goes for $26.90 or $3.3625/oz.

At 16oz it goes for $39.90 or $2.49375/oz.

As the packaging size goes up, the cost per ounce goes down, which demonstrates that it is a pain to package stuff into smaller quantities and track them, etc.  So, I am a cheapskate and went to Impact Guns and their Militec 1 sales area and see the 16 oz. bottle goes for $29.99 and shipping and handling still brought it under the price from the supplier.  Well, that is normal supply chain and originator pricing at MSRP so that their retailers can look like they are saving you cash.  Which, they are.  Now, 16 oz. is a bit unwieldy and a bit much for me, so the 8 oz did look better for personal needs, but even with the tip on the thing it isn't what I would call 'small'.  Which means I would really like a small tip applicator, preferably in squeeze bottle form.

Now, as you can guess the same goes for the Militec 1 grease and I found a great deal at Brownell's for the 14 oz. tube of the stuff for $8.  I didn't see their case costs for the other stuff as worthwhile, however.  And, if I wanted the grease at a good price, I would also need something to apply it with.

This now takes me to retail use of bulk consumables.

Coming at life from the natural sciences, I got used to beakers, squeeze bottles, flasks, etc. at a pretty young age: our school system really pressed that stuff down all the way to the 8th grade and made sure it stuck.  I'm used to the stuff.  So along with light industrial, electronics, home repair, auto maintenance, I now add in the entire scientific realm of hands-on chemistry up to the college level and geology at the college level.  And it is DIY land for those.

Knowing that something is made, exists and can be had at a price, I then reversed the process and looked for the applicators in a low cost arena.  If I'm going to get a decent price on something, I want it to be useful!  This then took me to the plastics industry and there are more of these suppliers than I care to name, but I will name the one I settled on: HMC Electronics.

An electronics store for plastic goods?

Well yes, dear heart, they are related to each other, especially in the materials creation, measuring and use areas.  Depending on the area of scientific endeavor you will need electronic equipment, like scales, to do your work.  If you need to wash excess *gunk* off a circuit board with a stable cleaner, you need a small bottle to do that.  If you collect specimens for scientific reasons, you want clean, sterile plastic goods for that.  And if you are into needing glues, adhesives, greases, oils, acids, bases, and other things that come in liquids, gels, suspended colloids and such things, then you will be buying in bulk and packaging it for yourself into smaller quantities....

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

I grew up in Buffalo.

Thus at HMC Electronics they have the Packaging area which has Dispensing Bottles & Applicators.  Syringes (Industrial) for grease!  Yes you can get one, precise, dot of grease that way without having to get a nasty metal tip... which I avoid for various reasons of chemistry, heat, static electricity and being unable to cut those down to get a wider applicator.  And a leakproof oiler bottle!  Heaven!  My general rule is: if one shop has it all for decent prices, save on shipping and handling and get it all from them.  Now I also have other gun maintenance fluids (solvents, conditioners, etc.) that would be much nicer in a more compact and easier to carry form... so a few bags of the 2 oz. bottles and a leakproof oiler and some of those lovely 30cc syringes for the grease.

That left one thing, which I could get for a song in an old industrial area, but is damned hard to come by in suburbia in northern VA: a grease gun.  Literally, in Buffalo I could think of at least three places to go to get one used for a couple of bucks.  I could do a 'quick and dirty' on the plunger, degrease it with a bit of gasoline and it would be ready to go.  No dice here, when you are basically stuck at home, and the internet, for all of its wonderful things, doesn't yield up used automotive or industrial equipment like that too readily.  So, new, from Amazon, lowest I could find... ADT-5000 I think it was, but free shipping as I had other things to buy there.

And that is how you find me winding up with a grease gun filling syringes with grease in my computer room.  I now have a great grease gun which I may never use again, but now that I have it, it is a good tool to have.  The grease is all parceled out with one syringe to spare (yes, I am less than efficient at filling the things, though I got better by the last two or three), and having already parceled out my oil.  Next up is labeling, then on to the other liquids, so that I can now have a nice maintenance kit to carry along with me and leave the huge bottles at home as they have instructions on them.  And considering I got 14 syringes of grease, 3 squeeze bottles and 1 oiler bottle of oil out of it and looking at the retail cost, I would say I do, indeed, have a bargain.

Even if it is kind of weird to be wielding a grease gun to fill small syringes early in the morning... but then I do have to live with my constraints in life.  And if a friend needs some, I can toss a spare to them and tell them to 'keep it'.

Accomplishment is not in the thinking, but in the doing.

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