Monday, June 28, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There are still Typewriter Supplies

Apologies to Francis Church, but there are still a wide variety of typewriter supplies available.  Although the popularity of typewriters has been steadily declining there is still a wide variety of applications for, and fans of, those writing machines of yesteryear.  While you are able to buy yourself a brand new typewriter it is much more common to need supplies for your current typewriter.  Unlike the modern word processing computers, a typewriter has a much lower rate of failure, so you can still technically use the same typewriter your grandparents used.  Of course your grandparent's typewriter doesn't have the same set of features that a modern electric typewriter has, but you are still talking about a typewriter that could theoretically be 30 years old.  Do you know anybody using the same computer they had 30 years ago?

All typewriters, for better or worse are based on the same general technology.  You press a key and an engraved letter presses on a piece of paper.  A ribbon between the letter and the paper transfers ink in the shape of letters.  In the very early days of typewriters the only thing you needed to worry about was your ribbon, so it was easy to keep a large supply at hand and never have to worry about it.  If you ran out, you could go to just about any store and find a replacement.  Unfortunately, as typewriters have fallen out of fashion very few stores carry any typewriter ribbons.  Thanks to the internet you can easily find a wide variety of typewriter ribbons that are probably compatible with the typewriter at your office.

As typewriter technology advanced they figured out that they could fairly easily include the technology necessary to help people easily undo a mistyped letter or two.  By creating the backspace key the typewriter manufacturers introduced a product that immediately made the current typewriters outdated.  Along with the new typewriter a new kind of typewriter ribbon, ink and correction ribbons, was needed so you had to throw out your old typewriter ribbon with your old typewriter.  By combining the ink and the correction in one cassette the typewriter manufacturers made it easy for the end users to find the one product that their typewriter needs.

The last great advancement of typewriter technology before they became word processors was the creation of Typewriter Printwheels.  These handy dandy pieces of equipment allowed you to replace one piece of hardware on your typewriter and change the font it used.  The printwheel is such a sadly forgotten piece of technology that the word "printwheel" isn't recognized by spell check.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Rubber Band Usage Part 3 (Finale)

Did you think we were done talking about Rubber Bands?  Well we aren't, there are lots more topics to cover, but this is the post about rubber bands for a while.  If rubber band based projectiles and rubber band balls aren't edgy enough for you there are of course some more odd uses for them.  As always, a simple mass produced product drives people to create works of art and rubber bands are perfect as they are available cheaply and in an array of colors.

The artist/designer William Hodges came up with an interesting set of pieces made for some large walls at a Martini Bar in Denver.  The Corner Office tries to go for a kind of after hours office theme (as near as I can tell) so the rubber band pieces fit the theme.  Since I was only in Denver once in the 90's I don't know what kind of place The Corner Office really is, but their website makes them look legit enough.   William's own page on the pieces doesn't attempt to read a lot of pretentious deep meaning into these pieces, so they should probably be appreciated as objects with a unique look and feel rather than be critiqued for their composition. He states that 40,000 rubber bands were used and I would assume that half of them were the white rubber bands and the other half were the multi-colored variety.

I can only begin to guess as what rubber bands he used here, but by looking at the photos the rubber bands don't appear to be particularly shiny.  That shine is an easy way to identify the PlastiBands that are sold at Arts and Crafts Stores since their unique composition lends them to different uses.  I'm going to assume that they are rubber bands made from actual rubber and judging by the size and color the closest I can come up with is the Swingline SWI71750 Rubber Bands.  These come in multiple colors, appear to be an appropriate size and are made from rubber so they won't be shiny.

In a drastic shift from the art world, it has come to my attention that many people do use the previously mentioned pallet bands as an economical substitute for the pricey resistance bands.  While you can use them in the specific manner above, there isn't any reason you can't find other methods to work out using a pallet band.  Just throw "Resistance Band" into your favorite search engine and you'll find scads of videos and articles describing exercises that can easily be duplicated with the Pallet Band of your choice.  Unfortunately, you'll have to do your own measuring to find out what size you'll need.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rubber Band Usage Part 2 (The Sequel)

If you aren't the kind of person who would shoot a rubber band at another person or use rubber bands to power a Lego Arsenal (since you are a loving and caring individual) there are still lots of other wonderful non-traditional uses for rubber bands.  The first thing that should spring to mind is creating a Rubber Band Ball.  While people can get into the Guinness World Records for things like large balls of twine or barbed wire that isn't anything you'd want to keep around the office.  Pee-wee Herman was well known for large ball of aluminum foil, but it got to big to keep in his Playhouse.  A Rubber Band Ball is a perfect option for those people who like to have a spherical object made from smaller things that is appropriate to keep in the office.

Thanks to the magic of modern technology you can even purchase a Rubber Band Ball already constructed.  Made from approximately 275 rubber bands, it is advertised as fun way to relieve stress by squeezing or bouncing it, but we'll let your imagination decide what you want to do with it.  If nothing else it will add a little splash of color to your desk, or the contents of your drawer of pens.

If you are shooting for the stars you'll have your work cut out for you as the current World's Largest Rubber Band Ball is a thing to behold.  Something like 700,000 rubber bands were used to create that giant ball of rubber bands so you have a ways to go, and unfortunately you'll notice that most of the rubber bands you'll find around the office won't be able to stretch to a 25 foot circumference.  But don't worry, just because we mainly talk Office Supplies doesn't mean we don't can't help you find giant rubber bands.

These giant rubber bands are called "Pallet Bands" as they are commonly used to secure large groups of boxes as they are loaded on pallets and moved around warehouses and onto trucks and such.  They are available from with a varying circumference so you can get yourself anywhere from a  72" Rubber Band or a 112" Rubber Band and several sizes in between.  Now those are the measurements of the bands before they are stretched, so you'll have some room to grow.  Now if you are the kind of person who likes to shoot Rubber Bands I would advise you to not use one of the extra large pallet bands as ammunition.  Nothing good would come from it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Do We Use Rubber Bands For?

I checked my office for rubber bands and couldn't find any.  I soon realized that my usually slim supply of rubber bands had disappeared.  I can only assume that this was directly due to the fact that every time I have an extra rubber band I end up shooting it at one of my co-workers.  Luckily for us, those rubber bands do tend to get caught behind desks and filing cabinets so our ammo is depleted before hostilities could escalate.

Nobody has taken the time or effort to construct or build a Rubber Band Gun, but they are quite common.  It is all probably for the better because the low prices on rubber bands mean that available ammunition is nearly infinite.  As always I do recommend purchasing your products in bulk when you have the opportunity.  Maybe you don't need 200 bags of rubber bands, but they are cheap to begin with and only get cheaper when you buy them in large quantities.

Rubber bands in general come in a natural rubber or latex-free variety.  If you have an allergic reaction to the latex rubber bands you need to get the latex-free version.  The rest of us have a different dilemma.  The all natural rubber bands are made from rubber that comes from the Para rubber tree and are biodegradable so after many many years they may start to fall apart or stick to the things they are holding together.  On the other hand, the latex-free rubber bands come from 70% recycled polyurethane but aren't biodegradable so they'll be in your office or landfill for longer than you'll want to think about.  So do the research and ultimately buy whatever you like.

Maybe you don't care if your rubber bands are actually made of rubber because you just want to use them to shoot pieces of small red plastic at your friends and family, and I can respect that.  Just remember that if you build your own rubber band powered arsenal to bring to your office I won't be held responsible for the cold war that will inevitably occur.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Office Supplies as Art (Staples)

Every so often we come across somebody else who finds somebody else that links them to some great artwork created using office supplies.  While it is very common to make great pieces of artwork using pencils, pens, or markers it takes a certain different kind of creative spark to create artwork using a wholly different medium.   In the case of these two artists they have chosen to create fairly common pieces of art, but made them interesting by choosing a large scale and an odd medium.

Today we have a piece from the French artist Baptiste Debombourg called Aggravure with two individual parts "Air Force One" and "Air Force Two".  As near as I can tell Aggravure is a completely made-up word by combining the French word for staples (agrafes) with the French word for engraving (gravure) and essentially creating a word that means staple-engraving.  You can visit the link above to view the artists page and read their take on the piece, but be warned that the English isn't great.  To me it is the classical artistic take on contrast by creating flowing, flying images of humans (a very organic subject with a lot of movement) by tacking staples to a wall (a harsh metallic, immovable medium).

The artist claims that 35,000 staples were used in the creation of these pieces, and we have no reason to doubt them.  A standard box of staples has 5,000 staples so you wouldn't even need to buy them in bulk, and at the end of the day, it is probably even cheaper than the cost to paint them.  If you wanted to really one up the Aggravure piece and create your own Staple encrusted Sistine Chapel you can save money buy buying in bulk.  If you buy 200 or more boxes of staples you can get a bulk discount and really show everybody that you not only know how to create massive art, but you know how to save money.

Assuming that you do want to purchase 200 Boxes of staples and get the bulk discount, that's 3,500 staples in each box so you'll have 700,000 staples.  So if you use all those staples you will be guaranteed that your unique foray into the world of art will automatically be 20 times better than the Aggravure.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Fridge That's More Than Meets The Eye.

One of the most interesting products that has crossed our paths recently is the MicroFridge Garage Refrigerator.  A mini-fridge that is designed to match the look and feel of the tool chests in your garage.  At first glance anybody would assume it is just another boring metal box used to hold screwdrivers, or spare chainsaw parts but upon pulling the handle they'll find a new surprise.
The door will swing open to reveal a treasure trove of whatever goodies you decide to keep in there.  The garage is a great place to keep a few beverages for when you need to take a break from fixing up your old Mustang.  Weather you get a hankering for a simple cola, a brew made from fermented starches, or a tall glass of soy milk, the fridge won't discriminate.  You won't have to worry about wiping greasy hand prints off the door-knob or the fridge in the kitchen when you keep your cooled beverages in the garage and that'll save everybody a lot of time and hassle.

On the off chance that you share a garage with a group of other beverage seekers there is enough room for a few 2-liter bottles and has a convenient can dispenser.  Once that same group of beverage seekers has worn out their welcome you can easily lock your garage refrigerator and take the key with you.  If that group of beverage seekers is particularly rambunctious or thrill seeking you'll be glad to know that it also has a set of casters so you can roll it out of harms way.

Alternatively, a fridge on casters could be its own entertainment.  While I don't condone it, and I haven't tried it I could imagine a nice long extension cord and rather than just taking a can of cola out of the fridge and passing it around, why not just pass the fridge around and let everybody take their favorite.  I could also imagine an awesome project where you could tack a motor onto the back and automate beverage delivery.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Ballpoint Pen Day

Today, June 10th, is unofficially recognized as Ballpoint Pen Day. It was on this day in 1943 that the Biro brothers first patented the real ballpoint pen. If you've been a long time reader of Office Supplies Talk then you'll know that I'm not a fan of the conventional ball point pen. However I do recognize that it has it's own unique uses and flair.

Any time anybody talks about the history of the ballpoint pen they inevitably point to that fateful day in 1945 when they were first sold on American soil. A department store in New York, Gimbels, sold their entire stock of 10,000 ballpoint pens in one day for $12.50 each (that is $1495.45 adjusted for inflation). To put that in context, Apple was able to sell only 300,000 iPads on the day they were first released, at a lower price point (adjusted for inflation) and with 222 different retail locations (not just 1 in New York).

So in recognition of the ballpoint pen go ahead and put aside your felt-tipped pens and fountain pens for the day and take a moment to appreciate where we have come from. I know I get down on those ballpoint pens from time to time, but I am a real fan of the Pilot G2 pens. Technically they are "rolling ball" pens and not ballpoint pens, but there is really no difference. A smooth writing pen with the heavier gel ink. The Pilot G2 is a little on the light weight side, but the grip is fairly comfortable. Also, the G2s are made so replacing the ink with a new refill is completly painless. There are a slew of other products in the Pilot Gel Ink family but I do prefer the classic G2.

I Recommend Pilot G2 Pens

Sadly, another vital office supply was also patented on June 10th, but nobody takes any notice and I certainly haven't heard about it having a day declared for it. Unfortunately, the transparent envelope window lobby is not as far reaching as those in the pen industry. On this day in 1902 an envelope with windows was patented.

More From The Paper Clip Menagerie

James was talking about paper clips yesterday and got me thinking about all the other fancy styles of clips out there. There are many more clips out there than your standard gem clip. Yeah, apparently they're officially called gem clips. I'm on board with joining the French and calling them trombones. They may be metal and a must for every Apple user or amateur lock-picker, but elevating them to gem status is a bit much.

Granted, none of these other clips have as many alternate functions as the trombone. They can't measure your carpet to determine which chairmat you need. They certainly can't be bartered for a house. Then again, they also won't insist on helping you with your Microsoft Office documents. They can, however, do a better job of keeping your papers together, especially when you have a larger stack that even the "Trombones Geants" can't handle.

The best part about these clips are the names. No more musical instruments, but rather a full menagerie of aptly-named paper fastening goodness- butterflies, bulldogs and owls.

First is the butterfly- light, graceful and designed to land on documents without leaving marks. It holds a little more than the trombone, but otherwise serves the same purpose.

Here's the bulldog. It bites down on papers and doesn't let go. Great for large stacks up to an inch as it fits a lot into its jowls.

The owl clip is apparently nocturnal as it's not seen nearly as often as the others. It is similar in function to the trombone and butterfly, but with a smaller presence than the butterfly without scratching papers the way the trombone's business end can.

There is also the binder clip, which adds a pair of latching handles to the bulldog clip but lacks a clever name. I'm thinking venus fly trap, but open to suggestions. While you're coming up with names for that, this clip for panel walls desperately needs a cool name. Not sure whether to go with a bird of prey or some sort of spaceship.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

An Homage to the Paper Clip

The other day I was digging around in my desk drawer for a pen, and I had to push aside a few boxes of paper clips to get to the back. I briefly glanced at bilingual labeling on a box of Jumbo Paper Clips and chuckled to myself after reading "Trombones Geants." It brought to mind a marching band of giants all playing giant brass instruments. I put it out of my mind and got back to work. I didn't think anything of it until a few weeks later when I noticed that most of our paper clips were labeled as "Trombones". It turns out that the French call paper clips trombones, and when you consider the shape of the typical wire paper clip it is an apt name. Sadly, the Spanish translation for paper clip, sujetapapeles, is more literal and a lot less interesting.

The Wikipedia article on paper clips is long and boring.  I didn't waste a lot of time reading the details, but here is a good generalization for you.  Nobody quite knows who made the first paper clip or what it looked like because nobody ever bothered to draw it.  A lot of people have come up with odd stories involving paper clips and most of them aren't true.  Probably the most interesting part of that Wikipedia article is the current defacement "i like bologna and cheese."

If you've ever worked on Apple products of almost any vintage you no doubt have or had a straightened paper clip in your tool arsenal.  It was neccessary to remove any stuck disk for a number of years and they even distributed paper clips as an official tool to remove the SIM card from your iPhone at one point.

Even more recently Lindsey Lohan made the news due to some complications with her alcohol detecting leg shackle.  Some gossip magazines say that she once attempted to remove it using a paper clip.  She of course denied anything like that happening.  Maybe she was just trying to swap the SIM card in her iPhone while holding it near her ankle.  It isn't my place to say.

Well there shouldn't be anything stopping you from buying an excess of paper clips and doing whatever you want with them.  Use them to hold papers together or straighten them and use them to fidget around with electronics. If you're extremely outgoing why not try to fold them into the old jumping paper clip toy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Office Supplies as Art (Packing Tape)

Between the 10th and 15th of March a group of sculptors and performance artists put together a unique installation piece in Vienna.  While primarily meant to be a stage for the dancers the installation of a giant spider-web style structure in the middle of an abandoned stock exchange building has drawn a lot of interest.

The artistic collaborative group "Numen/For Use" created this structure from 530 rolls of packing tape.  Their website says that was 35,600 meters of tape weighing in at 45kg.  For those of you who are not metrically inclined that is 116,797 feet and 99.208 pounds.  Just because I liked word problems in school that means that each roll of tape measured 67.170 meters (220.372 feet) and weighed 84.905 grams (2.995 ounces).

To further investigate the tape usage I decided to check out the most common tape lengths available and see what kind of comparisons we could make with the packing tape commonly found around the office.  The most common packing tape by far is the Standard Scotch Packing Tape on a 165 foot roll.  Now a 165 might seem like an odd number, but that's actually close to 50 meters, which is a nice round number.  That means it would have taken 712 rolls of standard Packing Tape to create this monstrosity.

If you are ready to start on your own path to Packing Tape structure building I'd recommend you start with a huge pack of Commercial Grade Packing Tape.  This is 3Ms toughest, thickest packing tape so when you are creating structures to hold dancers it is a worthwhile investment.  The standard pack only comes with 48 rolls, but unless you have an abandoned stock exchange building to build in you should be okay.

This pack of tape will only get you roughly 7% of the way toward your own Vienna Semitransparent Spider tubes, but everybody has a beginning.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fellowes Makes a Great iPad Stand

With the release of any new Apple product you can only expect to see a flood of new accessories on the market. With the iPad, Apple seems to have lifted the accessories market to new heights. The selection of iPad cases, iPad sleeves, iPad docks, and iPad stands is overwhelming. Most people already have a bag to carry around their sleek new friend in, and a lot of people wouldn't dare to sully the sleek metal case with some neoprene or silicone cover-up. I have a feeling that iPad stands will probably be the biggest piece of the iPad stand pie.

If you have an extremely keen eye for design and demand that all your accessories fit your product like a glove you can find some nice options for $49.99 or even $129.00 but if you are like the rest of us and your iPad purchase has forced you to limit your food choices to Ramen or Toast you are probably going to want a stand that's a little more economical.

The Fellowes Study Stand was designed to hold books and magazines upright at an ideal angle for hands-free reading.  This ideal angle for reading is coicendally also the ideal angle for watching movies or viewing a slide show.  You can get them at such a great price you'll probably want to buy one for the kitchen, one for the office, one for the living-room and one to keep at the in-laws.

This alternative iPad stand is made from a heavy duty wire that is plated with chrome.  It has some rubber stoppers on the ends to help to keep things in place.  You can see some photos of the Fellowes Study Stand in use as an iPad stand over at Just Another iPad Blog and see that it looks great in portrait or landscape mode.  If you are worried about the coils of wire possibly scratching the back of your iPad you could easily put a piece of felt between your iPad and your Study Stand and you'll have just upgraded yourself to a Premium Study Stand.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

You'll Never Have Another Paper Jam

I was shocked when I first read it. A paper with a guarantee that every sheet will be 99.99% Jam Free. I'm not a lawyer so I don't know exactly what that means, but it sounds awesome to me. I know I've spent more than my fair share of time spent at a copier or printer trying to remove one jammed piece of paper that got crunched in between a two rollers.

Trying to remove paper from a printer is never fun. Between the heated parts on some printers, sharp edges on other, and the possibility for ink and toner to easily escape while you are digging around in side it's an accident waiting to happen. Last year my wife was trying to deal with a paper jam and she managed to seriously tear up her thumb (that was not a fun trip to the hospital). I would prefer if everybody everywhere could have one less trip to the emergency room so I'm here to tell you that you should spend some extra money on paper that's a little better and save yourself time and hassle.

Hammermill (a subsidiary of International Paper) guarantees that all the paper in each ream in each box is 99.99% Jam Free. Hammermill's Tidal MP line of paper is their Multipurpose paper so it is ideal for copiers, printers, fax machines, and those all-in-one units as well.

Who can argue with paper with Zebras on the packaging?  If you haven't bought a case of paper online previously you should really give it a try.  You don't have to remember to lift at the knees or get a ladder to try and get the box down from one of those big-box office supply stores.  The friendly UPS man will drop off the box at your front step.  All you have to do is drag it inside.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stop Ballpoint Pen Leaks

The ballpoint pen is aptly named because the ball at the tip is the most important part of the pen.  If the ball is held in place to tightly you won't get smooth lines.  If the ball is held in place to loosely you'll get extra ink on the page.  If that ball falls out completely then nothing will be holding the ink in at all and you'll get a great flood of ink in your pocket, on your desk, or all over your important documents (it happened here at the office).

Ballpoint pen technology has come a long way since it was first patented in 1888, but it still relies on a ball held in place perfectly to create your ideal lines.  If relying on a metal sphere that's measured in millimeters isn't your bag of tea then I'd recommend you look at Sharpie's line of pens.

These aren't the same Sharpies that your Mom used to label your T-Shirts in High School, but they do use the same tried and true porous tip technology that all markers have relied on for generations.  These pens write just as you'd expect them to.  Just be careful to make sure you remember to click the pen again when you are done using them.  These aren't standard pens, and just like markers once the tip has dried out you'll greatly decrease the usefulness of the pen.