2020-07-27 4 min read


Notes, 2020-07-27.

None, except to say that we’ve got a heavy-hitting batch of guest editors scheduled for the next month or two :) Let’s get to it!

-Spencer Wright

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~14% of opens) was a series of maps showing NYC's racial segregation.

Planning & Strategy.

Making & Manufacturing.

  • Most casual observers will think of concrete as something that is poured into a formwork to create a casting, but for a broad range of applications - repair, reinforcement, and high end swimming pools being the prime examples - concrete is blasted from a hose in the form of shotcrete (see shotcrete’s Wikipedia page, and the American Concrete Institute’s short-form PDF guide to shotcrete; and this short video of a pool being shot & finished). For detailed applications, dry mix (where the cement and sand are premixed at the yard and then trucked to the site, with water injected at the nozzle) is typically preferred - though it does make a *lot* of dust and therefore has higher waste rates. Note, of course, that cement production is a *huge* contributor to atmospheric CO2 and also that the world is running out of sand.
  • Geoff Manaugh and friends re-discover a *very* wild "flying" house, built on a custom scissor lift, turntable, and trolley system so that the owner could spin it around and lift it up to see the sea. Thanks to Xavier for helping translate and paraphrase parts of this old Italian documentary in The Prepared’s paid subscriber Slack, noting the house’s proximity to the marble quarries at Carrara - a hub of heavy old industrial machinery. Apparently the owner/designer had realized at some point that he had saved enough money to live until 80, and decided to quit his job to work on his own projects; he passed away at 86. See also this (English) website dedicated to the house and its design.
  • A few good photos of manual motor assembly being done at Ward Leonard, a military and industrial supplier in Connecticut who claim that they engineer “defence supremacy” and have products installed “on virtually every surface and subsurface ship in the US Navy.”
  • A video of the front half of pencil manufacturing, in which logs are converted into shingle-sized blocks. I love the relative *lack* of automation here, with rote operations being done by hand with simple jigs and saw stops.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

  • Baratza’s very good product repair page, which links to exploded views, troubleshooting guides, and repair parts for both current and legacy products. Detailed, complete, and unfussy, Baratza’s efforts should prompt everyone making consumer hardware to question their own commitment to repairability.
  • NASCAR tracks used to be dried using modified jet engines. Starting in 2013, they began using “17 diesel-powered air compressors to push water to the apron, where it is vacuumed by a sweeper truck.” Related, an old flamethrower that was mounted to a train car to help keep Swiss railway switches defrosted.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


NYC automated speed cameras show dramatic increase in speeding during COVID.

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