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Mining industrial artifacts

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    For father’s day, I got a pair of cufflinks made of a material called “fordite,” or “motor agate.” They’re pretty cool, it’s a mottled looking mineral that kind of looks like a jawbreaker that somebody’s been working on for an hour or two. What this stuff actually is is kind of interesting: historically, when cars are painted on an assembly line, there is an accumulation of overspray in the booth on the conveyer belts and walls and such. The parts are then baked in an oven, and move on to the next station. After awhile, all the different colors of paint that have been through the oven hundreds of times form an accretion that is as hard as a proper mineral. This is a nuisance material to the process of actually making cars, but if you put it in a rock tumbler or otherwise polish it, you are left with a material that looks very much like an Agate stone and is hard enough to be used in jewelry. Cars aren’t painted this way anymore (at the manufacturer level), so there is pretty much a finite supply of this stuff now that needs to be mined from older production plants. I was captivated by the idea of this material, and mining industrial byproducts to be repurposed when I found out about it. Does anybody know of other items like this?


    This is so cool!


    Its not an industrial byproduct the way Fordite is, but Trininite is an artifact of human actions. Its radioactive glass from the Trinity Nuclear Tests. It has an extremely complicated structure and the color is determined by the materials that were vaporized into it. Most of it is green but Black Trininite contains iron from the Tower structure, and Red contains copper from the detonation device or from the communication cables.

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    Wow, that is pretty awesome. Not sure I’d want cufflinks made of it though


    If my cufflinks can set off a Geiger counter, that may be bad for my health…

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    I’ve heard of fordite before. I’ve been meaning to get some. Ford has a history of that going back to Henry himself. He used the boxes that parts came into the assembly plant in as floor boards to the model-T.

    For more recent innovations…

    1) PB2.
    This was originally a byproduct of peanut oil production. Peanuts are crushed to squeeze out the oil and what remains is a powder that want good for much until a few years ago. Apparently some workers were taking it home to use as flavor in Asian dishes.

    2) industrial foam glue
    This one I’ve not find a link for yet. It’s strictly an industrial product. But basically, there is a polymer that has been a wasteful byproduct of oil refinement. Normally it happens when your refinement processes are out of spec and the formed polymer is trashed. Someone figured that this stuff works wonders as a hot glue particularly for packaging foams made from petroleum products. The owner went as far as buying digging rights to pull up what has been trashed in dumps, and has now refined the polymer model to produce new batches.

    3) Bike Chain Picture Frame

    This is a group that reuses what others throw out, repurposes it and sells it. My mother-in-law gave me one a year or two back. Pretty neat.

    4) salvaged sandal sculptures
    Take those lost flip flops, wash ‘m, stack ‘n glue’m together, then carve them into something new.

    Last one

    5) bricks made of words
    Most paper mills recycle paper to one degree or another. All of that ink used in letters, magazines, newspapers etc gets pulled out in the process and goes somewhere. I heard recently of a company that is testing a way to make bricks from the dried sludge byproducts. I think the goal is to use them in retaining walls and places like that.


    On the topic of Ford, I don’t think he invented the charcoal briquette as such, but he did find a way to turn wood scraps from model T production into them. Kingsford charcoal talks about how it was originally named Ford Charcoal but renamed itself in honor of the Ford family friend who ran the charcoal business for him on their About Us page:

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