Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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Casio MS-8 calculator

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Ask any Police Constable who has been on the beat for a while and he/she will attest to the truth that the stuff that gets stolen tends to be the more popular items such as iPhones, Samsung Galaxy 8 and the Casio MS-8 calculators. What?

Well, in my house it doesn’t seem to matter how many I buy my light fingered family, if quizzed would crumble and admit that they too had borrowed – yes that it’s there, there in your handbag…. one of my favourites, a design classic and iconic piece of desk hardware – the Casio MS-8 calculator.

The cleanliness of its simple lines, its above average sized display and built in power source with a simple solar cell makes the Casio MS-8 just very good at doing its job. Also, on newer models before it switches off, to save the solar cell’s charge the word “CASIO” is displayed on its screen just in case you may have forgotten who delivered you such a masterful display of calculation.

My parents, despairing at my obvious inabilities with simple maths homework, allowed me in 1975 to be one of the first kids on the block to enjoy the crunchy key technology and fluorescent eight digit display of the Sinclair Oxford 200. It was designed by electronics genius Sir Clive Sinclair, known in the UK as the man who invented the pocket calculator and his fine work certainly saw me cruise certain tricky maths tests.

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It amuses me, forty years on, to see the contents of my old school pencil case’s on display at international design museums – but it was truly innovative.

The paucity of calculators on sale at any major supermarket chain confirms my suspicions that the available calculator apps on iPhones and Galaxies are, for many, the extent necessary of their need for to calculate. Whilst I am very fond of my iPhone and many of its amazing functions are breathtaking its calculator is rubbish and irritates me  – despite a recent update that appears to have done little more than change its colours and fonts!

Whilst my son has mastered the heights of a scientific calculator. His came with a manual the depth of “War and Peace” printed in several European languages but its complexity is daunting for the simplest percentage or fractional calculation.

There is a childish trick that I always perform on a box-fresh Casio MS-8 calculator; my dear Dad was an oil man who worked in for many years in senior capacities at Shell. At some point in 1975, he showed me that by computing the sum “14215469 x 5” the result being “71077345” when the calculator is inverted it reads “SHELLOlL” – go on try it I know you want to…..

Here, get your very own Casio MS-8 calculator by clicking the following AMAZON link Casio MS-80VERII 8 Digit Currency Desk Calculator

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Images courtesy of Casio/Nigel Tout at vintagecalculators.com

 

Citroën Méhari

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So we are bathed in sunshine, time to go to the beach?

I am fortunate to see the beach regularly and am often joined by those who have what they call a “beach car”. This is a vehicle with a particular attribute, namely you’d happily take it to the local shops, pack it out with provisions for a day in the sun but in truth you’d risk neither your nor your family’s safety on the open road or for any real distance.

The most alluring and iconic of all these beach cars is the variant to the Citroen 2CV, the Citroën Méhari. Designed by the illustrious Count Roland de la Poype, the boss of one of Citroën’s plastics suppliers, named after a dessert dwelling but fast camel and the North African equivalent of a cavalryman. The Citroën Méhari was built for twenty years with a production run starting in 1968 and numbering over 144,000 vehicles. A very good 4×4 drive version was made from 1979 to 1983 with a total of circa 1,300 vehicles were built.

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See the amazingly dated 1975 commercial for the Citroën Méhari here Citroen Mehari advert (1975)

Fellow Aestheticons readers will attest to my guilty pleasure that is the Citroën 2CV one of which we enjoyed as a family long before we became overly conscious of the weighty demands of Heath & Safety. We ran our Plums and Custard, “Dolly” around South London complete with large protective car seats for the kids. In truth, you wouldn’t stand much chance in a motorway pile-up but rattling over the sleeping policemen of Clapham, heading no further than Sainsbury’s in Sands End (Fulham, West London) you’d be ok.

See our earlier posts here Citroën 2CV and Citroën 2CV – Rick Stein “Long Weekend”

Interestingly, in the late 1960’s in the USA the Méhari was described as a “truck” thus escaping many US safety features that bugged European car designers in the era.

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Based on the Citroën Dyane 6 (a later and less attractive incarnation of the 2CV with much the same technology including the 602cc engine), a body made of ABS plastic (which faded over time with extended exposure to sunlight) virtually the same polymer as used to make Lego bricks and a “rag” roof and sides. I have always been amused by the rubber toggles used to secure the bonnet.

An amateur car restorers dream, the Méhari like the 2 CV’s are mechanically very simple and spare parts are readily available either new or from the many Citroen specialist breakers yards to be found along the Mediterranean coasts.

In September 2016, Citroen announced that they were re-imagining the Méhari with the E-Mehari, a battery operated version with a passing resemblance to the original. It launched under several banners but one “More Than Just a Beach Car” really appeals to me. With a 200 km range and a top speed of only 100 kph, my suspicion is that the hefty €24,000 price point (that doesn’t include the battery leasing arrangement) is likely to deter even the most determined Méhari fanatics.

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To remind you to build in “Beach Days” to your heavy schedule place this die-cast model of a Citroen Mehari in your office or Person Cave and its allure will make sure you give yourself some time off! Click the Amazon link below the image

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Norev 150922 1:43 Scale “1978 Citroen Mehari” Die Cast Model

Beach decisions include the T shirt to accompany your fine pair of Vilebrequin shorts – see our earlier post here on this iconic French original icon – Vilebrequin swimshorts

My suggestion must echo your taste for the slightly alternative – it would be uncool to wear a Mehari T shirt but this Motorolics Citroen 2CV T-shirt really does the job! Click the Amazon link below the image.

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Motorholics Mens Eat Sleep Citroen 2CV T-Shirt S – 5XL (2X-Large, Yellow)

If you get lucky enough to acquire a Citroen Mehari you will need a Haynes Manual to keep it in tip top condition. Based on the Dyane, the following Haynes Manual will be invaluable to the Mehari owner – please click the Amazon link below the image

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Citroen 2CV Owner’s Workshop Manual (Haynes Service and Repair Manuals) (2013-04-30)

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Photo Credits – with grateful thanks from Citroen, Hayne’s Manuals and Coy’s of Kensington

Bic Cristal ballpoint pen

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We tend to take for granted some of the amazing and truly iconic products that we pick up everyday, use and often throw away in disgust when we realise they are not the genuine article – because they are not working properly…..One such item is the Bic Cristal ballpoint pen. Unless the ink in the reservoir is almost exhausted – which you can tell by the lack of colour in the plastic tube leading to the nib – or the pen is held nib up to write, then in my experience the Bic Cristal will never fail.

It doesn’t shout classic design from the roof-tops – yet it its. It doesn’t say that it’s the best selling pen in the World – which it is!

During the Second World War, Marcel Bich had seen a ballpoint pen made in Argentina by Hungarian brothers László and, his chemist brother, Gyorgy Bíró – which they had first announced in 1931. Their big break came in 1943, when the British Air Force, that had sought a pen to use at altitude, purchased 30,000 of them.

Bich’s (later to change his name to “Bic”) design team developed the Bic Cristal after he invested in Swiss technology capable of cutting and shaping metal down to a 1mm sphere which allowed ink to flow freely.

Bich developed a viscous ink that neither leaked nor clogged and, under a licence from Bíró, launched the Bic Cristal in December 1950 – a huge world-wide success.

When the first ballpoint pens hit the market in the late 1940’s they would have sold for around $10 (circa $100 today) but Bich’s commercial acumen and innovation drove the price down. When the Bic Cristal was launched in the US in 1959, the price was down to 19 cents a pen – similar today’s price.

The Bic Cristal is the best selling pen in the World; the 100 billionth was sold in September 2005 roughly one every 57 seconds for 55 years!

An unparalleled workhorse. Just how many students approaching the exam season can show you on the second finger of their left or right hands a groove made in the skin  by the unmistakeable shape of a Bic Cristal pen!

Photo from BicWorld.com