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 Snopes.com 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)
  • Snopes.com 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

Need a hole? We have grommets

Webbing and grommets go together like peanut butter and jelly. If you need a hole through a piece of webbing a grommet will prevent it from chafing. They come in all sorts of sizes and while brass is the most common metal used to make grommets, stainless steel is also an option.

Trying to be efficient we use self piercing grommets whenever possible. This eliminates the need to pre-punch a hole through the webbing making the assembly more cost effective. Our semi-automatic setting machine can handle the following sizes-

SizeInside DiameterOutside Diameter
#01/4″9/16″
#15/16″5/8″
#23/8″3/4″

If you need something larger we have to install them manually. Here you can get up to a 13/16″ inside diameter and there are also more material options.

When specifying a grommet you need to be specific. Are you providing us with the grommet size, inside diameter or outside diameter? Recently we had an inquiry where the outside diameter of the grommet was larger than the width of the webbing, that doesn’t work. We also need to know your material preference. Plain brass, stainless steel, brass with a nickel plating and brass with a black oxide plating are the most common. Not all sizes and types are available in every finish.

Grommets can also be installed without the washer as seen in the image above. This is a polypropylene strap that has the loop side of hook & loop sewn to it. We have then placed a grommet without washer into one end of the strap. Why, I am not sure but it does show another option.

If a grommet is overkill we can melt small holes in to polypropylene, nylon and polyester webbing. This technique does not provide any protection to the webbing but there are applications where that is not necessary. 

Give us a call at (253) 627-6000 if you have questions, we are always happy to talk about grommets.

Good Golly It’s Molle

The other day while wasting some time I was wandering through a sporting goods store and what did I run in to? MOLLE

MOLLE was everywhere-

On the side of a Yeti cooler bag,

On a Field & Stream backpack,

and on another Field & Stream product.

MOLLE needs a friend to work well and we have the Talon Hook

an easy, adjustable way to connect 1″ webbing to the loops on your backpack, cooler bag or whatever.

We have Talon Hooks in stock, order some today

Trail Bum Backpacking Stool

If you are in need of a multi-purpose camp stool check out the Trail-Bum by Trail Dogs. Those beautiful black straps with orange sewing came from our shop (the embroidery was done by a third party.

According to my wife this must be comfortable. Years ago I had an orange T-shirt that I would not give up. I was informed that the “orange thing” must be comfortable otherwise I would have sent it to the dump years ago. Since then by definition everything orange must be comfortable. I am sure that these stools must follow my wife’s decree.

I can attest that the straps are plenty strong. They are all heavyweight polypropylene. The two on the outside are 2″ width and the middle one is 3″.  Sewing is all with Tex 90 polyester thread, in orange of course, which will provide great abrasion and UV resistance.

Belt extenders for Block & Co. tip bags

Looking for belt extenders that fit Block & Company tip bags? We can make them.

A customer called looking for these. They had tried ordering some elsewhere only to find that the buckles weren’t the same so they wouldn’t work. The buckle on the tip bag was an ACW CSR 1″ which is something we have in stock. For under $3.00 each our customer now has belt extenders.

Not having been to more than 2 or 3 casino’s in my life, I don’t have a clue how a tip bag is used but I hope the employees need them because they are getting massive tips and need a secure way to transfer them to their bank accounts.

strap extenders

Here are examples of a 12″ and 24″ strap extenders made from #630 black 1″ nylon webbing and ACW’s 1″ CSR buckle. We can make these any length and this webbing comes in many colors.

Nylon webbing in a marine enviroment

Get nylon webbing wet and what does it do? Shrink. Does this matter? It depends on your Coast Guard inspector.

Years ago we used to service inflatable life rafts. For quite some time a US Coast Guard inspector would spend all day at our shop overseeing what we were doing. Generally they knew what we were supposed to do and stayed out of the way unless they saw something questionable (either with the raft or our work).

Seattle was a training port so there were times we would get untrained inspectors. Either they used their time to learn or once in a while we would get someone who wanted to make our life difficult. One day we had one of the latter classification and he checked the rafts out we were working on, regulations in one hand, tape measure in the other. He came across an older raft that had been stowed in a very wet place on the vessel. The inspector went around the raft measuring the distance from the exterior grab line to the floor. When new there is a specification for this distance but on this raft the grab lines were too far off the floor.

The image above shows the black webbing grab lines and how they are supposed to hang down.

The inspector told us that he would not certify the raft until we had moved all the grab lines down so that the distance would comply with the regulations. He did not understand that nylon webbing shrinks when it gets wet, and this raft had been really wet. Also missing from his understanding was the specification was a manufacturing spec, not one for a raft that had been in service. Still he would not accept our reasoning and once again informed us that we must rectify the situation.

Several phone calls later the head of inspections in Washington, D.C. set the new inspector straight. He signed off the raft and we never saw him again.

So if you are designing a strap where the length is critical, consider the environment it will be working in. If you are using nylon webbing and it is going to get wet, allow for shrinkage.

Lifejacket (PFD) Buckles

uscg life jacket buckles

Your lifejacket (PFD) has a broken buckle, wouldn’t it be nice just to replace the broken half rather than buy a whole new lifejacket? If only it was simple to find the correct buckle.

When a manufacturer wants to sell a lifejacket to the public (in the United States) they need to get it approved by the United States Coast Guard. That entails working with a testing laboratory like Underwriters Labs who will review the design and then test product samples to ensure that they meet the proper USCG specification. After passing the results are sent to the USCG who will then issue the approval. Once in production the testing lab will continue to evaluate the production, making sure that every life vest meets the requirements.

Part of this whole process is specifying the materials used. Foam, fabric, webbing, buckles and even the labels are specified and can not be changed without going through the approval process once again.

Since we are interested in the buckles, take a look at the image above. That Kent commercial lifejacket uses two different buckles on its closure straps. If both male halves (the most common part to break) were to break you would need to source two different buckles which might not have come from the same buckle manufacturer. Most of us who sell replacement buckles work with one primary manufacturer. Ours is American Cord and Webbing (ACW) and their parts are not interchangeable with buckles made by Fasnap, ITW Nexus or others. Even to get this far you need to identify the buckle manufacturer and since most “value priced” lifejackets are made overseas, so are the buckles and those buckle manufacturers do not have distribution in the United States.

If you happen to have a heavy duty sewing machine you might think about replacing both halves of the buckle with something you can easily find. Unless you use the exact buckle and sew it in the same manner and use the same thread you will void the USCG approval. The lifejacket would no longer be counted as part of your carriage requirements. Worse yet, should something go really wrong and the lifejacket needed to be used- and then failed, the vessel owner would be liable.

Enough doom and gloom….

We do carry two products made by ACW that are used on USCG approved life jackets.

    1. Type V Side Release Buckle
      Type V Side Release BuckleDesigned for use with 1″ webbing but no longer in production. We purchased the last of ACW’s inventory and as of March 2018 have a good supply.
      Order 1″ Type V Side Release Buckles 
    2. Type V Slide
      Type V Slide
      Designed for use with 1″ webbing.
      Order 1″ Type V Slides

ACW only makes these parts for 1″ webbing. If you need either, or both, of these place an order online or give us a call at (253) 627-6000 and we will get them right out to you.

Staking trees using web straps

The rainy season is upon us and some of your recently planted trees are leaning over due to really wet dirt or maybe strong winds (or a combination of both). The tree needs to be supported so it can grow straight up, unlike the one above.  In the past many have used wire to do the job. It is easy to work with and we usually have some laying around the house. While this is a quick fix, the tree won’t like it. Over time the wire will cut through the bark and in to the tree and then nutrients have no way to travel past, really damaging the tree.

Arborists tell us to provide padding wherever we support a tree. Wire passed through garden hose has been used or a couple of pieces of wood between the wire and the tree will also work. A simpler way is to use a web strap.

img_1616

Here we have a tree planted in a sidewalk cut out that has been staked using three ratchet straps. This allowed the tension on each strap to be easily and quickly set and adjusted if needed.  The way the webbing was attached to the tree is better than a single piece of wire but would not be good in the long term.

The National Forest Service does not allow tree attachment points for backcountry horse pickets or even hammock suspension to damage the bark. The minimum with webbing used to comply with this requirement is 2″ and that would be a good place for the homeowner to start.  A simple endless sling will protect your investment and provide a safe place (as far as your tree is concerned) to attach a rope, wire, ratchet strap or whatever you plan on using to get your tension. You could also use a single loop strap but this would require tying a knot in the webbing where you plan on attaching your tensioning device. We could also make you a strap with a loop in each end which would really be the best alternative. This way it could just go around the tree and not “choke” it. It would need to be placed above a limb so that it wouldn’t move down the tree as it sways in the wind.

Cannery gear

We were asked to make a knife sheath and adjustable belt for workers in fish canneries. They needed to be rugged, inexpensive and easy to use.

The sheath is made from our 2″ #673 webbing which is extremely stiff and in commonly used for scuba divers weight belts. A pair of rivets and a bit of sewing and you have a functional sheath.

Every sheath needs a belt and this one needed to be adjustable and easily worn over cannery aprons or waterproof rain gear.

Here we used heavyweight #560 polypropylene webbing in an 1½” width. There are a few inches of elastic webbing to keep it taught without being uncomfortable and a side release buckle to make it easy to put on and take off. Finally a slide keeps the tail end of the belt secure and makes sure it doesn’t decide to loosen on its own accord.

Like the sheath there is minimal labor in producing the belt, helping keep the cost down. Is this something to wear around town? No, but it does fulfill the need if you are working in a cannery.