Stainless steel bar on my workbench

When working on a recent project I wanted to hold some small items in place. I hit on the idea of using some short pieces of angle iron. I was making small trinket boxes out of thick card, and needed something to hold two pieces of card together whilst the glue sets. Effective gluing requires patience. Finger or hand-held pressure is excellent, but one can press on with other things. Strips of non-sticky tape are useful, but it wasn't available at the time. (Mmm...lack of preparation...)

Selection of small steel blocks
Some blocks. Although small they weigh a fair bit!

A stainless steel block in hand
One of the blocks. Its dimensions are shown for interest.
It was ordered as 100mm long
~ but cutting is only offered to approximate lengths

The angle iron pices I had were too light in weight to maintain the position on the bench, and also (as is the way with ordinary mild steel) any water-based spilt glue will cause rust within hours. Rust, and so mild steel, is not helpful when dabbling in papercraft, bookbinding, calligraphy, or box making. In spite of all this I felt the idea of a small block of something heavy, to support, the card was worth pursuing. My larger pressing weights could be used, but are too heavy for a quick grab, and there is not normally room for them on the worktop. I began to think about what to do.

Mild steel square bar is readily available, and it has the necessary weight for my need. Stainless steel bar would be rust-free. Ideal. I felt the extra expense of stainless steel over mild steel would be worthile. The difference in cost of materials is insignificant compared alongside that of cutting, polishing, and small-order charges, and carriage. It is not always possible to buy steel bar by the short length. Many on-line people are selling lengths of various items, but I soon discovered that most of these sellers are only stocking whatever left-overs they can get as left-overs from larger suppliers. What I wanted was frequently advertised, but unavailable ~ marked as "out-of-stock". Eventually I found a supplier who stocked just the thing, and was prepared to cut accurately to any length on request, and who did not charge exorbitant prices for the service.

I bought some short lengths and found them to be ideal for my intended use.

The success of the stainless steel blocks did not stop at the original job ~ as a right-angled pressure-prop. Once on the workbench I found I was grabbing them and using them over and over ~ as paper weights ~ light pressure weights ~ and most importantly and frequently as self-standing set squares. Here are some pictures taken over a week or so. I am sure readers will find their own uses, and would be glad to share further ideas.

Stainless steel weight being used for light pressure
Just a paper-weight. Chamois leather marks very easily,
and so it is protected by a piece of chip paper,
and a steel block stops things from blowing around
(and is not too heavy to mark the fuzziness of the leather)

Heavy block as a hobby-tool paper-weight
The cards are being wrapped in a paper strip.
A dab of glue holds it in place,
and a block applies pressure whilst the glue dries

Metal weight as a temporary hold-down
Preparing to paste down a leather cover.
It kept springing back and got in the way as I pasted the paper.
Here the cover is shown being held out of the way by a block.v Note several other blocks lying around on the desktop for any other use that crops up.

Cuboid  blocks make useful squaring guides
Two blocks are being used to keep a pile of loose papers tidy
~ whilst some marking-out is done.
They were also a help for tapping the pile into tidy squareness.

Steel blocks used as temporary buttress-props
The chamois leather is being glued to the spine.
Four blocks were used to keep the book upright.

The pictures and captions should be self explanatory, but if you wish to enquire, or better still make suggestions for more uses, please drop me a line.

If there is sufficient demand for these useful blocks I may stock them in our shop. Be warned - they are not oddments left over from the corner of a garage. They are made especially, and being chunky, and stainless, they will last for several generations. They would make a wonderful gift to yourself, sometime! They do need some smoothing off at the ends with a file or emery paper.




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Last updated 2020~0602