Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quick Fixes

"If it weren't for duct tape and sheet rock screws the whole damned State would fall apart." This proclamation from a student in an "improvised first aid" class I taught at a fish processing plant in Aniak about 18 years ago has stuck in my brain because of it's obvious truth. The so-called "red necks" of Appalachia have nothing on Alaskans when it comes to improvised repairs with the handy-man's secret weapons.

Compared to the average red-blooded Alaskan alpha male, television's MacGyver was a slacker. Mostly that's because we have better tools and supplies than he had. Here are some examples.

The ultra-liberal television character relied upon his trusty Swiss army knife as the tool of choice for improvising solutions to all problems mechanical and chemical. No Alaskan male would be caught dead carrying such a flimsy and cheesy device. No sir, REAL Alaskans carry a Leatherman, and we carry it 24/7. I'm not talking a generic "multi-tool" either. If it ain't a Leatherman it just ain't chit.

Leatherman tools have been used to make every conceivable repair in Alaska. Broken airplanes have been virtually rebuilt in-flight using one of these things, and many a vessel has been saved from a watery grave by a master of improvisation with nothing more than a Leatherman and a roll of duct tape.

Macgyver was probably the guy who made duct tape famous, or at least infamous. Duct tape is another handy tool that has kept aircraft aloft and boats afloat. Referred to as "they handyman's secret weapon", I've splinted many a fractured extremity with nothing more than last month's issue of Outdoor Life and a roll of duct tape, and I've even used duct tape to restrain patients on spine boards. It may not be the recommended use for the stuff, but it damned sure worked when the patient desperately needed it to work.

I don't think Macgyver had sheet rock screws around back in his day, but if he'd have had them he'd have used them. Anything that can't be duct taped together can be screwed together with rock screws. They are useful that I can't think of anything so badly broken that it can't be screwed up.

Probably the most important thing I never saw Macgyver use was the modern zip tie. Okay, it's officially known as a cable tie, but 'everyone' knows you can use it to tie more than mere electrical cables. Although originally invented for use on airplanes, I think airplanes are probably the only thing I've not seen held together with zip ties. I think back in the day before zip ties were available Alaskan handymen probably used small animal snares for the same jobs, as they work in a similar manner.

Of course zip ties are just too flimsy for some applications. In that case, a hose clamp is probably the fastener of choice. Hose clamps are especially popular with dog mushers for repairing dog sleds, though they also have a few applications for repairing dog trucks, plumbing fixtures and all sorts of other stuff as well.

The ultimate Alaska construction material is the blue tarp. One isn't considered a "real" Alaskan unless you've spent at least one winter in a house that is roofed over with a blue tarp or two, and a truly clever Alaskan alpha-male handyman can construct an entire home with nothing more than a Leatherman tool, a roll of duct tape, a bag of zip ties, a handful of hose clamps, a box of sheet rock screws, lumber salvaged from alongside the Dalton highway, and of course four or five blue tarps.

1 comment:

  1. G'day Swanny. Now I agree with most of your comments but I have to say that I have carried a Swiss Army knife for more than 30 years and wouldn't be without it. (It did have a holiday at the ocean once for a couple of days but I got it back.) My daughter carries a Swiss Army knife and a Leatherman - that may be overkill... Will be in your neck of the woods soon. Cheers.