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The Hidden Poetry of Industrial-Supply Catalogs

The Wonders of Industrial-Supply Catalogs

Stashed in: Words!, Tools!, @alyankovic

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Sounds like something out of a Weird Al song.

Grainger sells mail-room organizers, carpet deodorizers, hairnet dispensers, and gutter-deicing cables. They sell a three-stage, heavy-traffic floor-matting system designed to entrap heavy debris. They sell miniature high-precision stainless-steel ball bearings with extended inner rings. They sell 550-foot rolls of foam for protecting electronics and an oil-filtration system for high-viscosity fluids. Their catalog contains a proliferation of heavily modified nouns that denote things I never knew existed, or things I’d intuited to exist, but had never really considered.

Metalized polyester film tape.

GMP/GLP data output moisture analyzers.

Electrostatic dissipative (ESD) gloves.

Cup point alloy steel socket set screws.

In the specificity of its language, the catalog summons a rigorously taxonomic legion of hardware and stuff, the matter from which cities and roads are composed, the contrivances that keep machines running and power flowing and ventilators ventilating. It puts a real gleam on human ingenuity. We made these things. They’re everywhere. Spend enough time poring over the catalog and it begins to color your world; you’ll close it and walk to the refrigerator only to find yourself marveling at the hinges, screws, grilles, handles, nozzles, toggles, crisper drawers, and various constituents of the appliance instead of getting a beer. Who needs a beer? You could own a wide selection of pneumatic solenoid air valves.

Or push/pull paddle tubular locksets.

NIOSH-approved ISCBA industrial SCBAs.

Wall-switch occupancy sensors.

NSF-listed plate casters.

"Electrostatic dissipative (ESD) gloves" do not sound fashionable.

Functional is not always fashionable.

Enjoy the Weird Al video:

I did not realize you were referring to an actual Weird Al song!  I'd never heard "Hardware Store"!  Perfect.

Yes, it's poetic and matches the contents of this post. :)

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