A Carpet Installer's Notebook: Tool Prep
October 1, 2006
I know this issue is about floor prep, but I'm a fuzzy stuff guy and I have talked with you before about floor prep, scraping up staples, sweeping the floor, ramping to doorways and the like. There is only so much you can talk about for carpet floor prep that the hard surface guys won't cover and probably better. So I thought I would revisit some tool prep items as we move into the busy season.
I was up in Rochester, NY, and walked into one of my distributor's branches and saw an old Roberts Senior Stretcher, (head, tail, and four tubes) with a for sale sign taped to the handle. This was before they were being made again and were getting rare. I turned to Jim and said, "Wow, an old senior, how long has it been sitting here, how much are you asking for it?" He said, "Two weeks a hundred bucks is all." "Hundred bucks! Two weeks and nobody bought it! Well it's sold now!" I said as I reached in my pocket. Jim asked what was I going to do with a senior stretcher. I told him I didn't know, but for a hundred bucks I couldn't pass it up.
Well, it was pretty rusty so Jon and I added it into our regular stretcher maintenance routine.
Separate all poles into their two parts, inner pole and outer sleeve. (Photo 1) Spray the inside of the outer sleeve with WD40. (Photo 2) Don't be shy; give them a good soak. Spray from each end for an even coat. It's probably best to do this in the garage or basement with a drop cloth or newspapers to protect the floor. Let the WD40 soak in while you deal with the inner tubes. The WD40 will loosen and dissolve the built up rust.
For the inner tubes all we are concerned about is the outside. If there is any rust take it off with some steel wool. Use spray furniture wax (like Pledge) applied to a cloth and rub down the outside of the tube giving it a good coat of wax. The furniture wax will help the tube slide in and out of the outer sleeve, while protecting from rust and moisture.
Now for the inside of the outer sleeve, attach some steel wool to the end of a broom handle. Garbage bag ties, plastic cable ties, or wire works great. Brush the inside of the tube with the steel wool. Just like cleaning a gun barrel. (Photo 3) This will break free the rust loosened by the WD40. After the rust is broken free, force scraps of carpet (nap out) or rags though the tube with the broom handle, swabbing it clean. You may have to reapply WD40 and swab the tube again. (Photo 4) Do this until the inside is clean and you have the excess WD40 wiped off. All you want is a fine treatment left on the inside of the tube to protect against moisture. There should not be enough left to come off on a cloth or mark the carpet.
Be careful the first time using your stretcher tubes after this cleaning. They will slide faster than when they were new.
Why clean the bottom of my iron and the iron tray? A clean iron means less smoke and odor and the ability to seam at a lower temperature. The blackened build up of burnt thermoplastic on the bottom of the iron becomes an insulating layer between your iron and the seam tape. This insulating layer can lower by as much as 100 degrees the sole plate of your iron. In order to melt the seam tape requires a higher setting on the iron. Even though not all the heat gets through to the tape the rising heat can over-heat the backing of the carpet leading to distortion and seam peaking.
If you have a Teflon coated iron, the following trick makes for effortless cleaning. After you've finished seaming place the iron on a piece of seam tape let it cool. Before turning the iron on the next day, grab the tape give it a yank and the old adhesive will peal right off. This will work for days or years, depending on how you care for your iron, until the Teflon gets scratched up.
If your iron has reached the point where the old glue doesn't release, or is not Teflon coated, the first thing you need to do is clean the old gunk off. Turn the iron on. Set it on 1 (this makes it a little easier to remove the build up). Using a wire wheel on a drill or a grinder, remove all of the blackened, burned on, thermal plastic. Take it down to the bare metal. You can stop at this point and repeat the process every few weeks when it gets bad again. Or, there is a product called TFL 50, a spray Teflon. Once you have cleaned the iron bottom down to the bare metal. Leave the iron temperature on 1. Spray the bottom of the iron liberally with the TFL 50 (the low heat from the iron set on 1 makes it dry almost instantly). Voila`, you have a Teflon coated iron once again. The seam tape trick only works for a week or two with this spray Teflon then you will need to retreat the iron. Not re-clean, just re-spray once it starts sticking.
Oh yes I almost forgot. How the heck do you clean out all that glue in your tray? This one's easy. Put the tray in your freezer over night. Immediately after taking it out of the freezer go outside and drop it from shoulder height onto a concrete floor (Photo 5). The frozen, brittle, thermoplastic will shatter from the blow (Photos 6 and 7). Now spray it with TFL 50 or line with aluminum foil for even easier cleaning next time.
One last little trick and I will let you go. I was on the FCI website; if you haven't checked out the FCI bulletin board you don't know what you are missing. Well any way, one of the threads was about sharpening scissors. I don't know if you have much luck in your area finding someone to sharpen your napping shears; it's been a constant struggle for me. The sharpening trick was so simple I thought no way! I tried it, and way! It worked!
This works using a hook knife; it doesn't with a razor blade; just lightly stroke your scissors on the blade of the hook knife like you are trying to cut off the blade. Simple as that! A couple of strokes and your scissors are re-sharpened all the way out to the tip. (Photos 8 and 9)