On the Wonders of Mechanical Ingenuity

The Trimming Disc, designed by Robert Piepenburg.

My mother is my hero for a lot of reasons, but what I want to discuss now is her MacGyver-like ability to make almost any piece of equipment bend to her iron will. When I was a kid, I remember her fixing the washing machine, the dryer, the vacuum cleaner, various sinks and pipes, and even the television – all with stuff she found around the house. A true duct tape disciple, she believes the adhesive has magical qualities. And in her hands, it really does. Just last week, at the age of 64 (please don’t tell her I told you that), she almost single-handedly fixed her riding lawn mower using duct tape, a rock and a couple of sticks.

I’m in total awe of her mechanical abilities, mostly because I inherited absolutely none of them. If an appliance breaks in my house, I’m basically out of luck until she comes to visit or I buy a new one. I’ll never forget the time I told her I’d replaced a vacuum cleaner that smelled like a tire factory every time it ran for a while. She said, “Well, did you try putting on a new belt?” I said, “What belt?” She rolled her eyes and sighed, I’m sure in complete disgust that I wasn’t adopted.

Mom would love the artists that Anne M. Bracker profiled in her “Inventive Tools” article (PPP March 2008, pp. 29-31). These folks either saw a problem with their existing tools or identified an opportunity to make an improvement – and then they actually created the tools they wanted. It might as well be magic, as far as I’m concerned. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing tool wizardry, a link to Anne’s article is included below.


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