DIY Winter Hummingbird Feeder

Wintertime feeding of hummingbirds has been a family goal for quite some time. Providing food in freezing conditions was something my father-in-law solved years ago. You can read about that winter freeze in an article written by my mother-in law.

Winter hummingbird feeder

This is our current model made from a plastic pot and some Christmas lights. With all three lights lit it will keep the food from freezing down to around 20 degrees.

Inside of hummer food heater

You want to use old fashioned Christmas lights, not LED’s. The heat the bulbs produce is what keeps the food warm. We took three sockets from a string of lights and wired them to an extension cord.

Nothing fancy and in warmer weather the pot/light assembly retires to the garden shed. Everything we used was lying around so our total cost is just in time.

When we used to live in Tacoma with a more moderate climate our winter feeder hung over a Sasanqua Camellia (which blooms in the winter) and the hummers would perch on a branch right under the feeder. Close to food and probably soaking up a little heat.

Restraining your computer with a custom strap

A while back we got a call from a company that operates ambulances who needed a custom strap assembly. They were outfitting the fleet with laptops but wanted to make sure the computers would be safe in case of an accident. It wasn’t any little accident, they wanted the computer to be safe if the ambulance ended up on its top, upside down.

The restraint had to be easy to operate otherwise it wouldn’t get used. Since the computer would be between the driver and passenger seats, one-handed operation was essential. It had to be rugged since the laptop was used on each call and there would be many calls every day.

Together we came up with a custom strap, 3″ in width with hook & loop sewn to the webbing. The upper piece of webbing had a large tab on the end so it would be easy to grasp and disengage. A pair of bolts would attach each piece to the aluminum “sleeve” that the laptop rests in. The bill of materials for the project were:

  • Webbing: 3″ black heavyweight polypropylene #560
  • Hook & Loop: 3″ black nylon commercial sewing grade
  • Thread: Tex 70 bonded polyester

The upper strap has the hook material sewn to it. On the lower strap the sewn tab is on the left followed by the loop material. Both straps have two bolt holes melted in to them.

Dye Sublimation Printed Webbing

You want a logo on your webbing and would like it to be in color. Quickly you will enter the world of dye sublimation “printing”, often called dye-sub “printing”. This is a process that turns ink into a gas that will bond with polyester. The end result is something that has amazing vibrancy and longevity.

If you ride bicycles, jerseys are “printed” that way and will last longer than most of us care to wear them. Spandex exercise wear is dye-sub “printed”. Now the industry even coats metal and coffee cups with polyester so they can be “printed”. It is an amazing technology.

Dye-sub “printing” does have its downsides when it comes to webbing. It only works on polyester, not nylon or polypropylene. Webbing is thicker than clothing and dye-sub “printing” only will dye the surface.

Above is white polyester webbing that has been “printed” black. From this view it looks great but-

here is the end of the roll. You can see that the center of the webbing is white and should your strap experiance abrasion, you will soon see that white.

This is the side of the same roll of webbing. Once again the white is showing through.

We are dealing with a dyeing process that requires that the ink be darker than the material being dyed. With webbing one starts with white and then you dye the darker colors. If there is white in the image, you just don’t dye in that area. To get a black strap with white lettering you start with white webbing and dye everything other than the lettering.

Advantages of dye sublimation:

  • Short production runs are possible
  • True 4 color process
  • Fast turn around (compared to production runs of webbing with a logo)
  • You can have different images/colors on each side of the webbing

Disadvantages of dye sublimation:

  • Polyester only
  • Not abrasion resistant
  • Cut ends and the sides of webbing will be white

Is this the right technology for your application? Give us a call and we will help you figure it out. (253) 627-6000

The mystery of snap sizing

You need a strap with a snap installed on it. That should be easy until you call and we ask what size snap, ligne 24 or ligne 20?

First off, how do you even pronounce ligne? That’s easy, it sounds like “line”. Great, but how do you use this ligne thingy? That isn’t so easy unless you happen to be a watch or button maker from the late 18th century. You can read all about it on Wikipedia
Now in the US it is defined as 1/40th of an inch.

Getting back to snaps, ligne 24 is the most common size. Boat covers, bag closures, leather working- you see them everywhere. Ligne 20 snaps are sometimes referred to as “baby snaps”. You might see these on clothing but probably not on a strap.

The two sizes are not interchangeable. Tooling to set them is different and with the ligne 24 size, there are many more options. Straps to Go has all the tooling for ligne 24 snaps. If you have a project that requires the smaller size please allow an extra week for us to get the tooling and snaps.

Stainless snap in orange material

Webbing choice will dictate the ease of installing a snap:

  • 549 standard weight polypropylene: easy
  • 560 heavy weight polypropylene: expect some rejects, stainless steel posts would help.
  • 630 lightweight nylon: expect some rejects and some puckering of the webbing may occur.
  • 7400 heavyweight nylon: must punch a hole prior to setting the snap
  • Polyester: must punch a hole prior to setting the snap. On very light weight polyester you might get away with having stainless steel posts but testing would be required.

The labor to install a snap in heavyweight nylon will be twice that of standard weight polypropylene. Without punching a hole, the post of the snap will just bend over.

Safety tethers for sailors

Many marine safety tethers sold today are not safe.

We have known for years that many of the snap hooks used on the “boat end” of safety tethers can come unclipped rather than doing their job. I was reading an article in Scuttlebutt Sailing News that brought this issue up yet again.

A few years ago we looked into making tethers and determined that we did not have the resources to do it right. We consulted sailors (other than ourselves), equipment suppliers and folks with engineering backgrounds. It’s not like we just took a quick look.

Since our decision, sailors continue to die due to safety tether issues yet suppliers continue to sell products that are questionable and others provide DIY advice for a tether that does not make any sense.

We encourage sailors to research their purchase fully. Practical Sailor has a number of articles on this subject. Look at the racing rules and the ISO specification they reference. Do your homework, this is a life and death decision.

We encourage the industry to stop peddling products and DIY advise that does not, at a minimum, meet current thinking within the safety industry. It is a good sign that some manufacturers have quit supplying products that were poorly designed 20 years ago but it shouldn’t take that long to get crap off the market.

Jute twine protects your trees

You just paid good money for a new tree, the last thing you want to do is to kill it!

It’s springtime in Cle Elum and that means trips to the nursery hunting for that special tree. This time of year also means wind, lots of wind so when you plant that new find you don’t want it blowing over that afternoon. So we use tree straps to protect the tree and provide a way to secure it upright, safe from the wind.

Tree Straps
Various Colors of Tree Straps

Tree straps need to be tied to a stake, post or other secure object to do their job. Jute twin has one feature your trees will love, it rots.

Why is rotting good?

Because some times we forget to remove tree straps and as we all know, trees grow both in height and circumference. Eventually a tree strap secured with wire or synthetic twine will girdle the tree.

Girdled Mature Pine Tree

So rotting, or as the manufacturers catalog says being biodegradable, is a fantastic feature for use in the garden.

Other admirable features of jute include:

  • inexpensive
  • soft and holds knots well
  • it’s a natural fiber- not plastic
  • our 1/2# spools are easy to handle
  • good UV resistance

Straps or Webbing – what’s the difference?

We get calls from customers who don’t know if they are looking for straps or webbing. The difference is akin to line and rope….

My father used to explain that a line is rope with a job. Dock lines are made from a coil of rope, as are anchor lines, guy lines (for your tent) and lead lines for your horses.

Straps and webbing work the same way. Straps (at least the ones we sell) are made from webbing. We sell bulk webbing should you want to make your own strap(s).

As with everything there are exceptions. Years ago I used to sell “crab line”. What the crabbers were buying were coils of rope but it was still called crab line. Metal banding for securing cargo to a pallet is often called strapping even when sold in bulk.

In my world, once I have done something to a piece of webbing it becomes a strap.

Cle Elum Footware

June 2017 saw us moving from Tacoma to Cle Elum, WA. We had been in Tacoma since 1984 but when we sold the life raft service side of our business in 2017 there was no need to remain where we had been for 33 years. Little did I know that moving to Cle Elum would ignite my memory back to the mid 70’s.

At that time I was working for a marine supply company. We sold everything from toilets to fishing gear. There was lots of rope (bought it by the rail car load), chain and even footwear. We sold slip on shoes commonly referred to as “Romeos” that were made by the Currin-Greene Shoe Company. My wife thought they were ¡UGLY!

Fast forward to 2018. We have moved to Cle Elum and learned that Romeos are the footwear of choice. Although I am sure many small towns say the same, here Romeos are called Cle Elum Wingtips. Most likely every man has a pair, or several, at his disposal (they make women’s Romeos too).

Along comes a newsletter from a local vendor titled “The Unofficially Interesting History of Romeos” That got me thinking about the shoes I had sold years before. A bit of research dredged up an article on the Currin-Green company who were sold in 1978 to McKenzie & Adams. They too seem to have been sold and the new owners have quit making Romeos.

So now my wife still hasn’t changed her mind on the looks of Romeos. They are classified in the “comfortable” part of my wardrobe (read UGLY) but I am allowed to wear them. Otherwise how would we ever be able to go out to a formal occasion where Cle Elum Wingtips are required footwear?

Romeo Factoids

  • They still come in brown and black. One hardly ever sees black Romeos in public.
  • Two sole configurations are available- “wedge” which I find works great in dry weather, it doesn’t track dust into the house, and a slip resistant sole which is my choice in the winter.
  • Polish seems to be optional. Sweep them off with a broom once in a while and treat the leather so it stays soft. There are some that have a high polished pair for going to town but it isn’t often you see them.
  • Don’t expect your feet to stay dry if it is wet or snowy out. That is why they are great, just slip them off and don the proper footwear be it rubber boots or Sorel’s in the winter.
  • They are not a substitute for dress shoes when in Seattle. Then again why would one want to leave Cle Elum?
  • They are rugged. I get several years out of each pair. They take a while to break in so it is smart to have your next pair on hand so that you can break them in slowly (and save your feet). The pair in the picture above were purchased in 2014 and are finally in need of replacement.

History of Currin-Green

Cle Elum


Black holes and politics

The New York Times had an article on October 23rd about Steven Hawking’s final paper- How to Escape From a Black Hole. He theorized that it was possible to escape from a black hole but:

“If you fell into one and came back out, you would lack all the details that had made you: male or female, blue eyes or brown, Yankee fan or Red Sox fan.”

Perhaps we all could use a bit of black hole magic. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if everyone could work together rather than hating each other? Our country, and world, would be a better place.

Bourbon and bits

Most mornings I read the Scuttlebutt Sailing News. Today it took me on a trip down memory lane. The Sailing News has a section titled “Crumudgeon’s Observation” and today’s was:

“SHOT OF WHISKEY: In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.”

This sounds like a great story but claims it isn’t true. 

Now on to memory lane. My father always used to call 25¢, 2 bits. The 12¢ in the shot of whiskey story got me thinking about the usage of the term “bit” so a bit of investigating online showed that 2 bits was a common term for 25¢.

So what did I learn this morning?

  • My father was right, 2 bits = 25¢
  • While I enjoy reading the Curmudgeon’s Observation it must be taken with a shot of bourbon (my whiskey of choice)
  • is based in Tacoma, my old home town and where Westpac Marine / Straps to Go operated from 1984 to 2017. You can read about them at the News Tribune