Sunday, June 19, 2011


Have you ever in your life invented anything useful? I have invented three things, all of them vices. Their usefulness is, unfortunately, inversely proportional to their originality.

First, I invented the strip of rubber cut from an inner-tube. Man I'm clever. Actually I nicked this from a bow laminating technique, and how it got there I do not know. Your fourteenth-century Turkish bow laminator did not have rubber inner tubes. Laminating fibreglass to make a leaf-spring - which is what a bow is - is difficult. While the epoxy sets the leaves must be held firmly together with more clamps than anyone possesses. So the bowmakers lash everything to a form with innertube strips and the pressure increases with every lashing. I took to lashing roof racks onto cars with inner-tube, and the lashing is stronger than the steel clamps made for the purpose. Now I lash anything I can think of with inner-tube strips. You get the inner-tubes from your bike shop. Ask and you shall receive, esp. if you have a pair of scissors with you and cut straight through each tube as they watch, because they always suspect you of taking the tubes home and patching them. Bike shops make their profits from inner tubes and cables, and if you deprive them of this income they would have to charge a fortune for their bikes, which they very kindly don't.

Second I invented the horizontal vice. How many times has that been invented elsewhere? - I don't know. - But it suddenly occurred to me that, not having six hands, it would make it easier to grip several things together if gravity wasn't trying to disassemble them while I was doing up the vice. And it jolly works, too.

Third, I invented the free-standing vice so angle-grinder dust wouldn't go all over my lathe bed. This was pre-invented by Ron Hickman who eventually called it the Black and Decker Workmate. Hickman's first was a free-standing bench with a vice on it, and he - and subsequently I - found this tremendously useful. Hickman tried to sell it to Black and Decker but their Board of Directors, all wearing smart grey business suits, dismissed him contemptuously, and a few years later they gratifyingly had to crawl to him on hands and knees, salivating all over the carpet, for permission to produce it.

I did once invent sumpthingk else, sort of another vice I have, a vice with a different sort of meaning, sort of thing, like. It's gloriously illustrated on pages 135 to 138 of a certain book that we never mention. You could use it to remove warts from your middle finger, if you live in Doncaster.


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