Category Archives: household

Just hold on there

Jorre Van Ast is a young designer with a thing about clamps.

This table made from a door with ready made legs that clamp on

is a spinoff from his clampology project,

a series of clamps that can be adapted for a number of uses.

So, a few clamps, some pilfered bricks, milk crates and fence palings, a few pallettes, hey presto, you’ve furnished a student household.

The production of a range of products that can be used to adaptively reuse other products is an idea with a great future, but also a great past – his jar tops are a welcome reprise of products commonly available in the period from the Great Depression to the early fifties, an early heyday of adaptive reuse. It was common, for instance, for glass jars to be designed and decorated to be reused as drink tumblers, but more about that some other time.

Reindeer droppings

Decorate your tree with adaptively reused circuit boards, then buy presents

like this American Gulag bracelet from richterstudios inc,

or wineglasses from the Eden Project store

or a paper pot maker

or a personal solar panel

or a Rockbox open source mp3 player (photo by Andrew Mason).

or a MAKE warranty voider (go on, you know you want one) or any number of other geeky goodies from The Open Source Gift Guide or good gifts from the Good Gifts Catalogue.

Wrap them with last year’s reused wrapping paper (that always feels so pov but hey, Christmas is a stupid idea anyway), or check out some equally pov ideas from curbly

then set your fruit clock and if you’ve been a good primate all year (I have, I have!)

Santa* just might bring you the Christmas present you dream of……

* the existence of Santa is only a theory and is disputed by many children. However, it hardly needs saying that if Santa doesn’t bring the presents, who does? If there is no Santa why are pictures of him seen everywhere in stores and on cards? Furthermore, without Santa’s commandment to “Be good or you won’t get any presents” everyone would be bad and western civilisation would collapse. The “Christmas Conspiracy” theory, that all parents in the world secretly buy presents for their children on the same day every year, is so clearly paranoid and implausible that only anarchists, communists and other unbalanced secular extremists continue to defend it.

Pedal power

We were delighted to get an email from Ben Denham (thanks for the kind remarks) where he sent us some links to sites about bicycle powered machines. Mayapedal produce bikes, trailers etc, but also a range of bicycles adaptively reused to power machines

that perform a range of agricultural tasks like dehusking,

pumping water,

even washing clothes.

Our favourite was the bicycle blender, probably because we do like our banana smoothies and it will probably do margaritas as well. As Ben said

It gives you a whole new perspective on the stationary exercise bike. I always thought they were an absurd invention but this just goes to show that so long as the energy that you are generating is sensibly harnessed the stationary bike is actually one of the most beautifully efficient pieces of machinery you could imagine.

He also sent us a type of man bites dog story. We had been musing on the strange proliferation of chairs made out of bike parts,

his link was to a project to make a bike trailer out of aluminium chair parts. Eureka! If we could combine these into a pedal-powered banana chair so that you could lie down while exercising while also blending we would have the recumbent-exercise-bike-smoothie-and-margarita-maker (REBSAMM).

Now, we all laugh at recumbent bikes but they are actually far more efficient than the normal bike, and promoted by the great engineer Paul McCready in his role as president of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association. McCready is known as the father of human powered flight because he designed and built the first workable human powered plane, first solar powered plane, GM’s electric car and various other forms of efficient and comparatively environmentally sound hi-tech transport. He is also on the board of the Society of Amateur Scientists (Citizen Scientists, Unite!).

And in case you were wondering whatever happened to his pedal powered plane that once flew across the English Channel, well, it’s in the Smithsonian but its related technologies seem to have been captured by the US military who are probably adapting them to their own evil ends. It’s all too depressing, just pedal me another margarita.

Access all areas

The world is full of products that, for their pointless waste of the world’s resources, should have earned their manufacturers a community service sentence in an impoverished third world country to assist them in regaining a grip on reality.

The battery powered pooper scooper for cleaning the cat tray is a typical example (and for even more FUN!, as they say, check out this site, proof that there is something for every taste or lack of taste somewhere on the web). The Guardian recently listed a few more small crimes against the planet.

We’ve always thought electric toothbrushes were also in that class and an example of a solution that is worse than the problem….except we can’t work out what the problem is with using an ordinary toothbrush.

The electric flosser would be an even more stupid product except that it can be adaptively reused as something occasionally useful, a lock pick.

Half an hours work on your flosser and you’ll be able to get through any padlock.

Click on the image to see it in action. Use this knowledge wisely, and with discretion.


The ScrapHouse was built exclusively of scrap and salvaged material on Civic Center Plaza adjacent to San Francisco City Hall in conjunction with World Environment Day 2005.

According to the press release

“With walls sheathed with everything from street signs and shower doors to fire hoses and phonebooks, ScrapHouse is a sight to be seen, the ultimate example of architectural recycling, and reuse,” according to architect John Peterson, Founder of Public Architecture, the nonprofit organization that has coordinated the effort.

ScrapHouse was conceived by documentary filmmaker, Anna Fitch, who came in contact with Laurence Kornfield, chief building inspector for the City of San Francisco, who then pitched the idea to Public Architecture. Over the course of just six weeks, an eclectic team of volunteers scoured Bay Area dumps and scrap yards, often discovering unused materials with the price tags still affixed. A group of architects, interior designers, landscape architects, lighting specialists, and metal fabricators gave these materials new life and ScrapHouse its final shape. Based on their design, ScrapHouse has all the amenities of a traditional American home: a kitchen, a bathroom, two bedrooms, a deck, and beautifully landscaped yard. The design is intentionally bold: an L-shaped layout, with a mezzanine-level bedroom, and a roof inverted like the wings of a butterfly.

Still, what is most intriguing about ScrapHouse is the creative use of previously discarded materials—most of which were destined for the landfill. On one wall,

500 old phonebooks, stacked vertically, provide both insulation and texture. Another room’s floor is tiled with leather scraps, leftover from upholstery jobs. For landscaping, day-old flowers from local outlets surround the house in hundreds of tiny vases cut from garden hoses, which protrude from the green grass lawn.

ScrapHouse was only open for four days. In its entirety it’s a bit overwhelming but it is meant to be an exhibition house, demonstrating creative problem solving, rather than a livable house. There are some great ideas and the overall design,

especially the cladding, is irresistible.

Raptop computer….

that’s what it says, honest, go see for yourself. Although the site does seem to have lost something in the translation, or at least adaptively reused the english language.

However, we did like the way the bell was described as “The latest foppery equipment” and that morse key mouse has a strange appeal. We found it on Make. It’s perfect for accessing an internet that is a series of toobs.

Why didn’t ya call?

The most extreme adaptive reuse of mobile phones is to detonate bombs

(And if you need more proof of the militaristic brainwashing that has infected parts of the US, read the rest of that site.).

But a better use of old mobiles is to recycle them. Smile Plastics recycle anything made of plastic into solid plastic sheets,

from mobile phones

to film

to my favorite, banknotes. The sheets can be made into benchtops, flooring, you name it. They even chop up children’s old coloured wellington boots to make recycled rubber flooring.

It seems like life following art to me. Remember Arman?

You’re going to see more and more of this stuff around, better learn to like it.

Adaptive repair

We’ve been a bit slow with posts in the last few weeks because we’ve been moving this blog and a few others we are involved in from blogger to their own websites, a small sign of their growing success. But we’re back to work now.

Let’s start with Bower, a repair and recycling centre in Addison Road Marrickville that does a neat line in new products…

hey, more inner tube bags…

nice light shades…

and The Platters.

But they also have a very sane argument in support of developing a repair and reuse culture. Nothing could be more unfashionable but as an occasional antique dealer with a very big shed full of half fixed furniture I can only agree with their worthy sentiments.

Clock watching

I haven’t worn a watch since my early teens, a long time ago. If I want to know the time I just ask someone else, I’m a social kind of guy. But I have to say that the Nixie watch is almost enough to change the habit of a lifetime. It’s even got a rocker switch so that you twist your wrist once to show the time as hours and minutes, then twist again to show it with seconds. How can anything be that geek cool?

A product like this can stave off existential questions about the futility of existence for say a whole day, or a few hours at least. It’s made by nixiebunny of Cathode Corner using old nixie tubes, the sort used in the displays of prehistoric calculators before most people were born ie in the 60s (61.5% of the world population is under 35 years, trust me, I worked it out). He also makes clocks from cathode ray tubes.

Can I have one of those watches for Christmas? No, I won’t settle for a kit even if they are pretty fabulous, I already have several lifetimes of unfinished DIY projects lying around.