Saturday, January 18, 2014

Flopcakes and a Screwdriver - Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

How can you screw up a pancake? Well you can.  

After a hard week, I had a serious craving for them. Work had me where I could sleep at home (albeit briefly) the last few days which was good and on my first morning off it was in the low teens and snowing and I didn't have a long drive to get home.  A perfect morning for pancakes. I was seriously tired, (when your eyes look like Chinese flags even VISINE® is not going to help) but was determined to make them, turning down Partners offer to make some eggs and toast..  I decided to try a new recipe using some self rising flour.  Once on the griddle, I noticed how, well, thin, they were.
They weren't puffing up at all. Partner looked in on them and said "are we having French crepes?"

No, Flatjacks.

I looked at the counter at the two flour containers.  *%#@  I used the NON self rising flour.  I was making hardtack.
OK, I can make another batch, except I was out of eggs and butter and though the store is just a 10 minute drive, it IS cold out (that 18 degrees is the temp inside the garage).  To the Internets!  I found a vegan pancake recipe on a blog, made with no butter or eggs and the picture looked like regular pancakes.  I made them as instructed and they looked like the picture.  But let's just say, assuming they have a long shelf life, they'll be perfect for the first aid kit to pack wounds. Absorbent, not edible.  Another failure.


Attempt #3, with fresh butter and eggs from the store (and look, bacon fell into the cart!), went much better.
But I realized, until I catch up on my sleep,  it's best to putter around using the simplest of tools.  Perhaps like 3 or 4 new screwdrivers that showed up on the Range last weekend.

The screwdriver, the tool that likely every household has at least one of.  It has long genealogy, with Archimedes considered to have invented the screw in the third century B.C.with others saying it was Nebuchadnezzar II who did. Actually, what Archimedes of Syracuse invented was designed to transfer motion (as in the continuous worm of a worm and gear assembly), rather than to fasten two things together, so I'd say he didn't really likely "invent" the screw, though no one really knows for sure.  What we do know is that  around the first century, screw shaped tools became common,  with early  screws were made from wood and were used in wine presses, olive oil presses, and such.
If you have enough books, you'll find there's historical records on everything, tools, cars, party boats (which according to famed tool guy Red Green, date back to Cleopatra and the crew of the Exxon-Valdez). But there is a ton of information on the Roman Era and the many developments in tooling and building that came about during that time. Romans had most of our other hand tools and also invented the stiffened backsaw, whose blade is reinforced at the top. This prevents straight-through cuts, but in combination with a miter box, can be useful for cabinetwork.

Cranks showed up in the The Middle Ages, as did the carpenter's brace.  The handsaw, too, is even more ancient.  Archaeologists have found metal-toothead Egyptian saws dating back to 1500 B.C., with  broad blades, some as long as twenty inches, curved wooden handles and irregular teeth.
A soft metal was used, copper, which required the saw to be pulled, not pushed to keep it from buckling.  Since during the pull you can't bear down on the cutting stroke, sawing wood for the Egyptians must have been about as much fun as plumbing.  The Romans used iron for the blades, making them stiffer.

The Romans also added something to the world's toolbox of cutting tools that was beyond ingenious for its time. The frame saw. A fairly cheap narrow blade is held in a wooden frame and is kept taut by tightening a cord. Wooden frame saws worked so well that they continued as the most common type of saw well into the 19th century and if you look at your hacksaw in the garage closely, you can see the principle is still alive (though if your spouse catches you in the shop fondling and staring at your hacksaw he or she  may cut off the beer supply).
The first metal screws used as fasteners date back to the 15th century. They had square or hexagonal heads and were not turned with a screwdriver, but a wrench. Screws also appeared as a spinoff from Renaissance warfare, keeping the parts of a matchlock rifle linked. The screws of the 16th century were hand-cut which is both expensive and less than reliable, but they were needed for timepieces as well as armaments. At the end of the 1700s, screw-cutting lathes were developed, making screws more widely available and consistently sized.

But when did the "screwdriver" show up on the scene?

Scottish crafts manuals from around the time of the American Revolution give screwdrivers as "turnscrews"; the same word in French, tournevis, turns up in 1723. .But the origin of the screwdriver itself is obscure and not widely mentioned in texts even though screws were evident in many applications during this early period.
Now, there are multiple types of screwdrivers, cabinet screwdrivers, stubby screwdrivers, electricians screwdrivers, spiral ratchet etc, and assorted tips, Parallel tip, Pozidriv,  Phillips, Clutch, Robertson.

Some handles and shanks can take multiple tips, and one of them here, even has a magnet built into the shaft.  You might laugh at the Ronco Food Dehyradator/Flashlight/Auger but combination tools have been around since ancient times, the two oldest woodworking tools being the ax (timber!) and the adz, with its blade turned ninety degrees, which is then used for dressing the timber.  The Minoans in Crete were using it  long before the Romans started getting that bigger tool box.

Some of the modern screwdrivers have the head as you see in the pictures here, others have a bulbous head, which  provides a little better grip, with a greater area of surface contact between paw and tool, but that's just my preference.
But the other day, there was a Sears Hardware going out  of business and well



Need I say more.
Just a few were picked up, with one deciding difference.  Something you all may know, but I didn't catch on to immediately.

Square versus round shank.  What's the advantage of the square?
You can place a wrench on the square shank so you can apply torque with one hand and downward pressure with the other which is more effective than simply trying to twist the handle, especially when you don't have the upper body strength of most handymen (but more than Justin Beiber).

It's also more effective in stripping out slots on screws on 1960's British Cars.

And that is your HOTR range tool lesson for today. See, I've mostly figured out a screwdriver and Lucas Wiring (I think Lucas is difficult because Britain is an island and they have to import their electrons :-)  After that,  completely gutting a kitchen update done in the 40's and starting from scratch doesn't seem so intimidating
It's not perfectly to scale and the right side is the antique farmhouse sink with drainboard that will be on the perpendicular wall underneath the stained class window, but here is the proposed, tiny but efficient, Range kitchen. AutoCAD, then add color, even the Romans couldn't have this much fun.


  1. Really good pancakes are an art form.

    3/4 cup milk
    2 tablespoons white vinegar
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    2 tablespoons white sugar
    dash of vanilla
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons butter, melted

    I prefer screwdriver bits in a drill motor to the hand crank variety, not because I'm a wimp, but because I'm lazy.

  2. LL - I know that recipe well. It's world's fluffiest pancakes, there on my sidebar, except I use lemon juice to sour the milk. That's a classic! Thanks for sharing.

  3. can never have too many of em or a wide enough variety. I never thought about square vs round shafts before, I learned something new. I have to chuckle because this reminds me that all the furniture is gone, and so much biz related inventory (at a loss), but I have hoarded every single tool. Not just mine, but my father's and grandfather's as well. Priorities, LOL.

  4. Cooking goes south, life goes on. Screw driver, on a bad day vodka & OJ of course. If the week has been a Bloody Hell why Bloody Mary is even better...;)
    We had 6" of snow last night, so over winter Bloody Hell..

    I have seen canned pancake batter, and shake n pour, just add water.

  5. Pancakes are always better if made with buttermilk, but it's not available anywhere near where I live apparently. I'm sure you're not beset by such supply problems.

  6. It took me a while to learn that a torque screwdriver was the secret to installing modern ceiling fans without wobble.

    Add another "must have" tool to keep track of in our next move.

    Sears. I'm in the generation that hears Tim Allen's grunts whenever that name is mentioned. Pre-"Home Improvement" and post-prison sentence Tim Allen was the funniest person in standup comedy in the 90s IMHO.

  7. It warms my heart to see something come out of the HOTR kitchen less than optimum! Gives us hackers in the kitchen hope =)

  8. Rob - if you mix Vodka and Milk of Magnesia you get a Phillip's Screwdriver!

  9. Some pictures really are worth a thousand words:

  10. I thought screws on 60s British cars and motorcycles were engineered to strip with the least amount of torque or pressure...

    Dann in Ohio

  11. Hmmm ... you didn't mention "sonic". Maybe it's just me?

  12. I have to confess(and don't shun me), but 90% of my pancakes start from a Krusteaz bag. I usually add extras(cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and my favorite, peanut butter powder and chocolate chips), but in the end, it's still just Krusteaz mix, and water.

    Although, I have been know to make special ones on special occasions.

  13. Screwdrivers also make excellent bag of cheap pancake mix openers. Fine motor skills are required doing this to keep the dry mix from forming a haboo in the kitchen.

  14. naturegirl - there's quite a collection here, little of it fancy, but almost all with some history.

    LL - pretty good stores around where I hang my hat, but I usually just sour the milk on my own, to save money.

    Roscoe - I'll remember that little tip. When the enclosed back porch is done, there will likely be a small ceiling fan.

    Keads - failures are few but they are usually spectacular, the kitchen equivalent of that Wide World of Sports skier tumbling down the mountain.

    adabsurdum - love the photo, and yes, I have heard of that as well.

    Dann - it's all at the whim of Lucas, god of darkness.

    Rev Paul - ah! Can't believe I forgot that! Good one.

    greg - Krusteaz is the only "mix" my Dad's house ever has (their lemon bars are pretty darn good as well). I like doing from scratch, one less thing to store in a small kitchen, but if I was to get a mix it would definitely be that brand.

    Brighid - indeed!

  15. Ah, yes, pancakes. They are so wonderful when made at home. The best ones I remember in my life were the ones my Dad made on weekend mornings.

  16. I once made pancakes while not fully awake. I started by cracking 2 eggs.......into the flour canister. So I added several more eggs and a lot of milk, melted butter, etc.. The cakes were good and I had about a bazillion extra for the freezer.

  17. The upside of Home Depot and Lowes forcing Hunter's manufacturing overseas is that the manufacturing tolerances of the fan blades are now tight enough to make the weight kits unnecessary IMHO as long as consistent torque is applied to the relevant screws.

    Be warned, though -- a nit picker might look at the result and claim that being 95% there with torque alone isn't good enough. As they say, "Your mileage may vary, especially in CA".

    Of course, I haven't put up a fan in four years since we currently live in PDX and rent. Made In China quality tends to slip over time if the importer isn't paying attention.

    We may head a warmer place to live this summer, however, so maybe I'll get to install a whole house worth of new fans.

  18. "Since during the pull you can't bear down on the cutting stroke,"

    You can if you cut the teeth facing towards your hand instead of away.

  19. Speaking of fluffy pancakes, I got a recipe for fluffy waffles. The main change was to use some club soda. Not too much, mind you. It takes some experimentation.

  20. The topic of hand tools calls out a very recent experience. I'm performing in an opera ( and spent a week ago Sunday building the set with the rest of the cast. It turns out that very few of the cast a) owned any hand tools, or b) knew how to use them - never mind power tools. The cast are all young musicians of accomplishment - everyone (except me!) has a B.A. in music, and the ones that don't have a Master's in some music concentration are working on them. All of them have lengthy bios listing the productions they've sung in and the roles they've filled.

    Expertise with tools? Not so much. One of the women showed up with a Milwaukee cordless drill, but the rest were mostly involved in dealing with costuming, etc. The men? Well, it can be summed up by what one of them loudly commented - "I'm a gay man, what do I know about tools?"

    We need to bring back Shop as a required course. No, it won't help you get into college. So what? It'll help you deal with life, which seems to me to be the point of school. And maybe convince you that you'd rather be a carpenter than someone with a useless degree and $100,000 of debt.

  21. And then there's the German Kreutzschlitzschraubenzieher, or "Phillips screwdriver"


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