Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Happy 3rd of July

My company's offices were closed for July 3rd, since the Fourth fell on a Saturday. My plans for that day were set pretty well in advance - I wanted to go to Metalliferous and shop for tools (which I seem to love to buy even more than I love to use). This year, for some reason, the store was not having Saturday hours - I think it's because they couldn't get staff to work, not because there wasn't enough business. The Tuesday evening hours are not really convenient, since I needed to drive in and a weeknight schelp into NYC from work would take about an hour and a half.

Taking the train was also not in the cards - my shopping list consisted of a number of fairly heavy and bulky items - a brass deadblow hammer, an annealing pan filled with pumice, a small crockpot for pickle, and other assorted tools. The thought of schelpping back from 46th and 5th Avenue with those items, through Penn Station and a possibly crowded train filled with semi-drunk holiday-minded workers was enough to make me consider mail order.*

As much as I was looking forward to shopping there, I was also a bit leery. My friend Valerie of http://www.barneybeads.com/ had a truly awful experience there a few weeks before, involving the extremely uptight and quite nasty store owner and a box of dropped metal beads. Marie from http://www.eastofoz.com/ also reported a less than satisfactory experience with the store's climate control system. Armed with the knowledge that they staff at the store is not known for their friendly and helpful attitude (check out the yelp.com reviews), I had made up a shopping list the night before, took out my backback (they want you to leave your purse unguarded at the front of the store) and set my alarm for 8 am.

Friday morning dawned clear and bright - a mild breeze and low humidity would make for a perfect day to be in Manhattan. I was on the road by 10:30 am, and through the Midtown Tunnel by 11:00 - unheard of on a weekday morning! My preference was to park on 46th Street, but I was not expecting to find a spot on the street between 6th and 7th - but I had to try. I was surprised to find MANY open spaces on the street, and after contemplating the extremely confusing parking signs, I pulled into a spot near the corner of 6th Avenue, between two private vehicles with NJ plates that disregarded the admonition that the area was reserved for commercial vehicles only between 6 am and 7 pm .

I put $5.50 in quarters into the Muni-Meter, stuck the receipt on my dashboard, set an alarm on the iPhone for the time that the meter expired, and merrily and warily made my way to Metalliferous.

Where I was very pleasantly surprised.

The A/C was cranked up to full blast, and although there were a lot of customers in the store, it was comfortable to shop in. I had a slight moment of aggravation when I found I left my carefully prepared list at home, but since I had been thinking about this shopping trip for several months, I knew exactly what I needed to buy - the list was more for those catalog items that would have been nice to have.

I was disappointed to see that there were no deadblow mallets out, and when I asked for a brass hammer, the salesclerk showed me a tiny little watchmakers' mallet. I nearly burst out laughing, but we got that settled quickly when she pulled out the catalog and I showed her just what I wanted. I also picked up a 7" annealing pan, the mini Crock Pot for pickling, an assortment of sanding sticks, tinner shears, soldering pick, Solderite 6x6 board, a block of charcoal, and a metal scribe.

I also asked about the "Junior Polishing Set," and this is where certain members of the Metalliferous staff really shined. The female salesperson first thought I was asking about a set of polishing burs for the flex shaft, but I showed her what I wanted from the catelog. She didn't know if the kit - a 1/16th HP two spindle variable speed buffer was in stock, so she asked one of the guys - a Russian I'll call Yuri (probably NOT his name). Yuri told me that the kit in the catalog was "no good" but he had a better one, for less money. When he showed it to me, I saw that it was the same one that Linda had brought to class last week (the polymer clay session), which was fairly low powered, but I thought would be ok. I pointed out that I really needed tapered spindles for both sides (it came with a fixed-size chuck for the left hand spindle). Yuri said, rather good naturedly, that that could be a problem, but he'd see what he could do. He checked the Foredom catalog, found the correctly sized l/h spindle and said if I wanted the chuck, it would be $7.95 extra (he swapped it out for the tapered spindle). Now that the tool shopping was out of the way, I wanted to explore the metals.

I had gone through the stampings the last trip, so I concentrated on the oddities in the very back, and picked up some interested "faceted" brass flatback "buttons" in various sizes (they are more like very large sew-ons), a few strips of textured brass, some 6x6 copper sheet in 20 and 24 gauge, a package of bezel wire, 6 inches of patterned gallery wire, a small strip of 22 gauge fine silver, plus easy, medium and hard solder, a small bottle of flux, some flux brushes, a set of needle files (which HAVE to be better than the crap set I bought at Micro Center), a full size flat and a full size oval file, and a couple of leather finger cots. Gathering everything at the front counter, Mr. Full of Himself (the one who gave Val such a hard time) told me I was making a mistake buying the low powered buffer. We talked a bit back and forth, and I actually thought he was right - at the end of the day, I'd seriously regret the purchase. So, I ended up treating myself to a hammer handpiece for the flexible shaft machine**, a chasing hammer and a texturing hammer (this last item I don't know if I'll really ever use).

Checking out was a real pleasure - the salewoman who helped me was a doll - young, but really talented - and a Star Trek freak. She remembered that one of the Dabo Girls from ST:DS9 had the same first name as me. We talked a bit about holiday plans - she's heading home to San Francisco for the week that the store is closed. I left, feeling very satisfied - and about $500 poorer.

I walked back to my car, which reminds me - funny story about parking. When I was getting ready to check out, the alarm on my iPhone started to ring.*** I commented that I probably should run back to my car and put more money on the Muni-Meter, and four people promptly told me I didn't have to bother - it was a holiday and all meter requirements and parking rules were suspended.

Anyway - when back to my car and was going to go bead shopping at the two stores Val told me about on 47th Street.

So I walked around the block, only to find that 95% of the store fronts were empty, and some had signs "Closed for Jewelers' Holiday - 7/1 - 7/13". A guy comes out of one of the buildings, and sees me looking. He asks what am I looking for, and I say there's an arcade with a bead store - he tells me that they are closed until mid-July - like everyone else.

Oh, well, it's not like I really need to buy more beads. I walk down 47th Street, some of the windows still had jewelry on display - I admired one store with some pretty spectacularly large mine cut diamond earrings. There's a vendor on the corner selling "Pashmina" for $5 a piece - I bought four. So the walk shouldn't be a total loss.

I though I'd also stop in at Allcraft - which was located (according to my iPhone) at 45 W. 46th Street. No, it wasn't. I think it's on 29th Street now. So, I bought a bottle of cold water, went back to my car and headed home, a happy shopper.

*I hate doing mail order for tools. It costs a fortune to ship, even though the store is probably using a flat rate Priority Mail parcel.

**I just love saying/writing "flexible shaft machine" - especially to people not in the jewelry trade.

***If you're keeping score, the alarm was "Coultergeist".

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