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Designed by my father (RIP) rather tongue in cheek.
But grow your own engine.

Need a few hundred years spare..
That Lignum Vitae won't grow overnight..
 

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Wonderful account in the pdf file. He sounds like an amazingly innovative man. I know you must be happy to have his account of the project.

I read it in suspense waiting for the smell of burning wood to arrive;)
 

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Glad you like it, here is another one about his Shed project. (Man cave)
 

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With your skills, you must be a chip off the old block! :D
 

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Want more?

Well is you want more he has a basic website I maintain at

Discontented Jottings British Humour Web Site

The link buttons at the bottom of the home page take you to various sections of the site.
He wrote over 100 essays, did 600+ cartoons etc etc

The content can be controversial, British and perhaps offensive to some.

Couple of example cartoons and an example essay on 'Value for money'...

A Rainbow for 99 Pence.

I have here a set of felt tip pens. They are called 'Graffix 30 Quality Coloured Felt Tip Pens', on a bright printed cardboard insert in a long plastic case. The clear plastic case has a flap, thirty little grooves, each for a pen and a plastic carrying handle. The pens themselves are the colour of the ink they contain, with plain barrels and fluted tops. The felt tip itself draws thick or thin with a swish, and lasts. The colour of the ink is just the colour of the plastic pen, so far as I can tell. No two colours are the same. There are about four varieties of yellow fading into umbers. Three reds going either way to oranges and purples. Cold blues, three of them, leading to black one end, and the greens the other. What a boon they are for 'colouring-in'. O.K., you may say, we know, we've all seen them, it is a set of ordinary felt-tip pens. Yes it is. And they cost 99p.

99p !

How is that done? I often think it with other things as well as pens. There are five cigarette lighters for one pound that make my senses reel, but we will stick to the pens. How can they be made and sold to me for 99p as an advantageous commercial transaction to all concerned? Raw materials, thirty different coloured plastics, and moulds to make the pens. The inks, which I suppose are water based and coloured by chemicals. Thirty black stoppers in the pens. The fibre tip, man made, or bamboo perhaps, processed and moulded to the thin point. Assembling one pen would involve putting the ink and black stopper in the barrel and the fibre tip in the end, and the top on the completed pen. The clear moulded case is a combination of thicker plastic for the little troughs and handle, and thinner plastic for the flap. There is a printing press somewhere, printing the cardboard insert, in colour, then it would be trimmed and slid into the case. Going back one generation, the cardboard had to made somewhere, and the printing ink used on it. The caps of the pens allow air through, I suppose in case they are swallowed, but there is a small and snug airtight cap which encases the felt tip itself. The tops have a perfect interference fit, accurate to about two thousands of an inch I'd say.

How do you do all that for 99p?

You don't of course. You do it all for much less. I bought the felt-tips from the shop across the road. It is not a charity, run by a philanthropist. The shopkeeper will have required a profit. Imagine he took a third, it couldn't be worth while to sell them for less. That's 33p gone as the retailers profit. We now have to make the pens for 66p. If I made them at my house and took them over there, I would have the whole 66p to do the job. But I think they come from afar and were not sold to my shop by the original makers at all. A middleman, or wholesaler will be involved. There may be many hands through which these pens pass but we will lump them all together and call them one. This wholesaler will be paid for his pains and may take a profit of, say, 16p per set. The maker has now got to do all I have described in paragraph one for 50p. Allowing for the printing and the case we can now just about allow the manufacturer one penny to make each pen.

One Penny to make each pen!

There is no clue on this particular set, but it is probable they were made on the other side of the world.
The middleman, or wholesaler, who has discovered a market for these pens, which in this case is seven thousand miles from where they were made, must transport them. I can imagine them as a huge load of cardboard boxes on a pedal cycle trailer propelled by a thin man. Packed in a humid, battered, Japanese made van. Then in a container in a ship, rubbing steel sides with noodles and computers. Unloading. Unpacking of containers. More lorries and vans, until it completes the journey, having been picked up and put down many times, to my local shop. I carry them to my house for nothing. This is the only part of their movement that was free, all the rest of the transport had to be paid for. Every hand that lifted, every wheel that turned, every wave pushed aside. All taken from the 16p which I have arbitrarily guessed as the margin between maker and seller.

One penny to make each pen! A penny is a pathetic sum these days. If someone asked me to make one felt tip pen in my wooden shed I would probably have to charge them about five thousand pounds for it. Then I would be doubtful if it was as good as a 'Grafix Coloured Felt Tip Pen'. I'd need Injection moulding machines, granulated raw material plastic, ink from goodness knows where. The more pens I made of course, the less would be the unit price, but I don't see how you can ever get down to a penny. I am going to need a profit too, all that work in the shed must be worth twenty thousand pounds a year. This may be the nub of the matter. My counterpart in some part of the World, probably the Pacific Rim, will not get twenty thousand pounds a year. He or she or a child may get a pound a week for the work and be poorer than our church mice. Exploitation, no less. It would be much easier on my conscience, in buying these pens, and things like them, that whoever made them for me was able to enjoy much the same sort of life that I can. But this is not the whole case. The World changes and the pen-maker in the Far East may earn twice the pay of a buffalo driver, and would have remained as poor as he, if at present the World had not asked him to make my felt-tip pens. Who is to say that the descendants of the felt-tip makers will not buy, from their corner shop, pens made by my descendants, when the economic wheel has turned right round again?

An expert determined to put the production and distribution of these pens into perspective for me would explain about the astronomical quantities made, the extent of automation, the low cost of vast bulk purchasing of raw materials. Oddly, however logical this may be, it does not lessen by one iota my wonder at the Modern Miracle of these thirty 'Grafix' pens for 99p.
 

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Vast and interesting site. Browsed through some of the cartoons. Especially liked "Fatal (computer) Error, and the one with the Oracle of Delphi as subject(thumbnail to permalink #7). Several play on British humor and aren't decipherable to my American background.

I did however enjoy the ones which were in the vein of Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks."
 

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Peter,

Fascinating stuff. Your father was obviously a talented man.

Interesting tidbit on Lignum Vitae: Many years ago, US Naval vessels (and likely many sea going vessels) used lignum vitae to line their 'stern tube' bearings. These were the bearings that supported propeller shafts where they pierce the vessels' hull and go into the sea water. Lignum vitae has the beneficial quality of become slippery when exposed to water, and withstood the harsh conditions of sea water very nicely.
 
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