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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]
the scavenger gospels

This post is a bit late and more than a bit incoherent. :)

Amoung the many things I was rushing around trying to get in order before heading out to Boston (finish hawthorne blade and handle and sharpen bits as want sharpening, look for cutlery rivets, look for pressure cooker to sterilize gengineering petri dishes with, help repair spring for the legvice, set up funding meeting with NASA people, get drunk with people I won't see for months, library booksale to look for more linguistics books, etc) was a trip to Boeing Surplus, that beacon of shininess unique to Seattle.

Boeing is a huge company that makes airplanes, both military and commercial. They maintain a large poorly-organized warehouse of stuff they're done with and willing to sell to the public.

Like an eighteen-foot tall DRO hydraulic drillpress! For all those times you need to drill holes straight through cars, life-sized stone elephants, small buildings, or the fabic of spacetime. Everyone needs one of these, I swear. :) Also, small cranes, machining tables, mills in various and sundry forms, and all sorts of things whose function mystifies me.

And you can get bits in sizes ranging from "needle" to "bigger than Corvi". :)

They also sell off somewhat more normal things, like office furniture: the bastard offspring of a filing cabinet and a safe, triple-locked, comes with it's own certificate stating the US military has certified this piece of furniture to hold top-secret level documents. Okay, maybe that isn't really much more normal. Drafting tables, an electronic whiteboard that prints copies of itself, jousting desk chairs. Computer keyboards in bins by the thousands, obscure computer peripherals, drafting tools, safety goggles, obsolete maintenance manuals for machines I can't figure out even with nicely labeled diagrams, computer cable and zipties in five-foot-tall reels...

I just like this picture because the rotary files have an odd texture.

Also, extra airplane bits: mad scientist control panels with keyswitches and warning lights, bits and pieces of motors, aluminum ladders, panels of pale white plastic butressed with some unbreakable shining green fiber. I am utterly convinced that if some government agency was looking to apprehend a mad scientist, all they'd have to do is tell Boeing Surplus to have a 50% off sale, and they could nab 'im there.

Aluminum stock. Made half of metal, and half of light doing strange things in confined spaces. This is presumably what's left after you take an enormous block of aluminum and cut away everything that doesn't look like an airplane. It's very good for making into That Damn Robot.

These are parts of one of the gigantic wing-cutting mills, replaced when the threads wear enough to slip. My big find here - they're very high quality steel, good structure, lots of carbon, and make excellent blades. They have a wonderful bellring when you hit them with the hammer, like an anvil strike. Plus they're $1/pound, which means very good metal for a blade costs me about 30 cents each. gfish got a post and two plates to weld to the leg vice for repairs.

There's something very satisfying, even spiritual, about this sort of thing, scavenging. About knowing where the metal came from, to know that the piece of steel I bring you sharp-edged as a gift shaped the wind-cutting edge of the plane that brought me to your city. About finding mill pieces by the thousands in a hidden bin under a stack of toolbelts. Grinding them to watch the cascade of molten metal sparks that branches out like a living snowflake, all the lightning-flicker of carbon, trace the fires back, see how the crystals in the steel line up.

I like knowing which gutters to look in for street sweeper bristles to make into lockpicks, which demolished buildings you can find plate glass to knap into knives and arrowheads, which bridges to look for abandoned cable for faux damascus, which hidden bin at Boeing Surplus contains steel that sings when the hammer touches it, where to find hawthorne to carve into handles and shatterglass to etch and mushrooms for ink and wire to coil and braid. Urban scavenging. These things are the breath of my city, steel and glass and twisted wood, and it is by them I know the tides of the seasons of stone and mortar; and by hammer and torch and chisel I touch them.

I wish I knew how to explain this better.


I think you explained it very well. (smile) Though I have to admit, the thought of drilling holes through small buildings has a ... certain appeal... (and made me laugh. Grin)

Or, to quote Leslie Fish's 'Mount Tam'...

Cities live. The stones have soul
As long as one dweller stands up whole,
And here are three million lives.
Their spirit runs through the nerves of wire,
Through the concrete bones and the furnace-fire.
The body of stone survives.

Ooooh, that's neat. Thank you.

Ooo. We should learn that one.

The second one looks like the coolest chest set ever.

I should go. But I shouldn't go until the garage is clean.

And it wouldn't be a bad idea to figure out if we're going to be selling the house...

I like the idea of an airplane hewn from a single piece of aluminium.

i have a ginormous wrench i got from there, intended i think for removing the lug nuts that hold the wheels on airplanes. i love that thing :)

that's freakin' fantastic! i want one!!! i mean, iainzard bought a drill press for his dremel, and i got all excited about the things i could drill holes in :) (dominoes, small churches, lead....)

and, hey, it looks like i'm around for socializing over the weekend, as it turns out -- sunday?

Unfortunately, the schedule got drastically rearranged, and I guess I won't be in NY this weekend, and I think not at all this visit. :/ Come to Seattle, and I'll let you try out the forge and take you to Boeing Surplus!

oh, pooh. next time :)

and, yay, i'd love to visit boeing surplus! :)

For the record, before anyone accuses me of mistreating an antique entrusted to my care, I'm not welding anything to the legvise. I'm welding the scrap bits together to make a stand to which the legvise will be bolted. :)

You explain it wonderfully. Better than I ever could.

Must.... get... to... Boeing Surplus. That's the kind of place I could spend hours in rummaging for precious things, and working out how I could justify taking out a mortgage on an 18ft drill press.

(no subject) - (Anonymous)

russian typewriter! drool!!!

I second that drool!

It would please me greatly to go scavenging with you sometime.

I used to compulsively pick up street sweeper bristles. Eventually I mailed my collection to a friend in Colorado, and was able to stop.

I wonder how many people besides us collect both linguistics books and street sweeper bristles?