The Cast: Erich (the tester), Myself (the tinkerer).
Last week I mentioned how gadgets for crime-fighting were in need. How I came up with a couple of gadgets. Namely the Personality Attuned Weapon (P.A.W.) and Tiger’s Claws. These were pretty amazing, even though the resources I had were simple. I blame T.V. shows like MacGyver and the A-Team for the kind of resourcefulness that would stay with me the rest of my life.
When fighting crime, you gotta’ have the right kind of gear. I would rummage through junk and keep whatever “looked good” and then see what I could build with it. Sometimes it would work out wonderfully, other times… Not so much so. Once in a while when the financial resources were around I would invest in new materials. It is during this time of inventiveness that I discovered all manner of epoxies and materials. I learned what kinds of plastics could interact with other plastics and that sort of stuff.
Between Google and YouTube, I could have found all that information online. But, those things didn’t exist when I was a kid. So, I had to figure this stuff out on my own.
What I needed was a palm-sized device that I could actually build. A practical device. Something that could be slightly modified/themed for each hero… As I sat in my chair, down in the Sewer, looking at what was in my hand, it came to me.
I had picked up a bit of PVC from a previously failed and broken gadget, and as I held it—a bit of rope dangling out the open end—I knew just what to do.
When I was a kid, if someone said Amazon, two things would come to mind: One would be the river of the same name, the other—and possibly more common, even then—was Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter). So, with no internet and no shopping online, I had only the local Ace Hardware store available to me to get parts for whatever I was to build. And, I could only buy what they had on the shelf. If they didn’t have it, it wasn’t an option. I had to choose carefully.
I went to Ace and began to pursue their stock. I held different size PVC caps in my hand, weighing each, getting a feel for them, examining the different sizes for volume and thickness. Once the best one was found, I bought four. Two for the prototype and two more for future builds, or back-up in case I really blundered in my build—and I did. Next, I would need the perfect kind of rope.
In working with the Boy Scouts I have become pretty knowledgeable regarding ropes. I can tell the difference in the material just by looking at it. I have made rope from all sorts of materials—including some that I probably shouldn’t have, but I wanted to see if I could. I understand tensile strengths and durabilities, maximum load-bearing capacities. All sorts of good stuff. With this knowledge, I would have walked into Ace and within 5 minutes have found the perfect rope, have it cut, bought and left. Back then, I spent 30 minutes sitting on the floor handling this rope, then another rope, then another, trying the first one again… Finally, I had it! Not too thick, not too thin, braided, not twisted, manmade, not natural. Perfect.
Then I went down into The Sewer to tinker. I drilled and filed, sanded, tested, tried, (nicked myself—adventure!), taped… Viola! It was done. It was so beautiful in its simplicity. It must be tested!
In the openness of my backyard, I tested the new weapon. I had packed into the device as much rope as I could coil into it. I held the rope in my left hand and tossed the PVC with my right… It flew… Perfectly! Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! Oh boy! Chill, one test is not enough. It must work every time. So I repacked the caps. Hmmm, a different amount of rope fits. I threw it again. It worked. Again!
As I was working out the bugs, Erich showed up. As I explained what I had just created Erich suggested that we try it out on a moving target. So he ran and I threw it at him. It worked on a moving target also! (he’s a good friend)
The concept behind the device isn’t new. However, back then it was to me. But, still, not a new one. All we had to do was slightly twist the rope as we pushed it into the PVC caps and it would line the space inside, then begin to fill the gap in the middle. Too much and it would jam. So, we spent a lot of time throwing and loading, throwing and loading, throwing and loading, until we got the right amount. Now we had a gadget that could ensnare, stop, tie-up, trip, whatever, the criminal scum that roamed the quiet streets of our fair city! (to be fair there was very little crime—sad)
Once the basic design was established, custom models and a name were all that were needed. And since each design was based upon the user’s personality, and customized for them, and fit in the palm of the hand (our hero identities were connected to animals and insects)… P.A.W. was the acronymous name. The Personality Attuned Weapon.
Erich’s had adjustable hooks like tiger’s claws. He could rotate them to hook or grapple or whatever was needed. It was very versatile. Sadly, sometimes those hooks worked too well and he would have to climb back up what he had used it to climb down from to unhook it, and then just jump down.
Mine retained the tip of the threaded point so that I could stick it to a target. I could attach it to a post or something and then descend or pull the rope tight and “clothesline” the enemy. Or, if done just right, I could put a spin on it when thrown and it would self drill into the target wall. Awesome. Not bad for a couple of bucks worth of low-tech stuff from the hardware store.
That little gadget’s success helped lay the foundation for my confidence in my design skills and helped inspire many future designs.
This has been part one of a two-part series.
The banner image shows Correnti’s Event Floral. It once was Harmon’s Ace Hardware, where I would get all my new components for any gadget or device I would build.