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O/T: New use for swarf


Jun 4, 2016
Brooklyn NYC
ive been using lathe swarf to plug up urban ratholes around here for years, I try not to use the bronze unless im out of everything else!

NYC rats are pretty tough, but it does slow them down a bit. they got out of hand anyway though, and I got more serious with the classic Victor snap traps. im at around a dozen this winter.


Nov 4, 2005
Upstate NY
Joe -

Like RPC says you need to write a book. I always used to tell my one uncle the same - he died 16 months ago at 91. He was born missing his right arm, put himself through Ohio State as a petroleum engineer. Worked the West Texas oil patch for a few years for Mobil. One of his bosses convinced him to go to Iran - and except for a short period of time he spent from 1955 to 1989 working about every country in the middle east, retired from Aramco as a drilling superintendent. The family joke was that if he left a country you had better follow - too many times things went to pieces shortly after he left. His letters are legendary in the family, I have some stories on video but really wish he would have written that book.

I hear you on the state of the power industry - like I've said, my sister who has supplied/designed sub stations her working life tells me all the same. We live SW of you on the PA border, but on the NY side. There are about 3,800 customers here who are on PENELEC and thus part of the Pennsylvania system. In the 2003 blackout we never lost power. Good part is it is a pain for them to file for increases due to the cost and so few customers. Bad part is we are literally the red haired step child. A few months ago they announced they are (subject to approvals) selling all of us to a rural electric cooperative just west of here in PA - but due to geography they already have some odds and ends in NY. I'm actually hopeful that maybe things will be better once the cut over happens. Dealing with something like a service entrance here is a nightmare currently.

Squirrels are bad. A few years ago I heard a bang and the power went off. We are about 1/4 mile off the road on a dead end supply line, 3 poles worth. I called it in and went outside - I figured the fuse up by the transformer popped but the leg had not dropped. Crew happened to be nearby doing something even though it was a Saturday afternoon in summer. They finally figured out the fuse had blown and got that straightened out. The one guy noticed the dead squirrel further away from the pole than I had looked. He asked me if he could have it. Told me it was going to be an attachment to another line truck when he got back to the barn. Lineman are as bad as the rest of us playing tricks - and payback can be interesting I'm sure.

You really do have to start writing that book.



Jun 16, 2001
St Louis
...................This approach leads to more encroachment of foliage along transmission and distribution lines, and more chances for wildlife to be the critical link in causing line outages. Add the same operating model in terms of high voltage switchyard and protective relaying engineering and maintenance, and a downed tree or wildlife incident on a line can cascade into a more major outage. In that respect, the customers do have grounds for complaint about what the utility industry has become.

Each block here has a 4160 volt line going up the middle, alternating A, B, and C phases. every group of three houses has a transformer The next block over, across the street, has a branch of the 3 phase the lines all come off of. It goes further west down into the valley to supply a school, and some other buildings

A while back, a tree dropped on that line. It knocked one wire down which then crossed the drop line to the last house this side of a small river.

I knew the guy who lived there then. He asked me what to do, so I took a walk through the house after verifying that his wires were down and way clear of the broken 3 phase line.

That house was a mess. The breaker box had been fried, the breakers were hanging out the front, looked like a bomb went off in it. It did it's job containing the arcs, though, nothing outside was burnt.

Various outlets around the house were either smoked or hanging out. Everything electric in the place that had been plugged in was destroyed.

I had to tell him that I was surprised there was no fire, and that the entire electric wiring system in the place was in need of replacement, as well as all the stuff that was plugged in.

He got a payment from the powerco, although he wasn't allowed to say how much.

Apparently he was the only one on that transformer, so the adjacent houses had no particular damage. Otherwise there would have been 3 houses with damage, and probably one at least of the others would have had a fire.

This was all due to not having trimmed trees on the line for 10 years that I know of. Now they have contract crews out every few years checking and trimming. They apparently had quite a few of these incidents around the area.


Mar 22, 2007
On Elk Mountain, West Virginia, USA
Anticlimax after Joe's great stores and other wildlife adventures, but closer to topic. I saw a pile of bandsaw swarf rusted into something like concrete once upon a time. I know cast-iron borings and sulphur used to be used as an alternative to lead for packing bell-and spigot joints, foming a "rust joint".

I have tried to duplicate this (without the expensive ingredient, the sulphur), to fill small holes in the driveway.....without success. I think you need a finer grained material that packs more densely than the miscellaneous chips and tangles I usually produce.

But not entirely unsuccesssful, as the swarf was gone.


Cast Iron
Jan 13, 2009
West MO
Haven't seen mention about rats and wiring. Here, despite deer, raccoons, squirrels, coyotes, opossums all over the place, rats don't seem to be a problem. Woodchucks, and moles, I see their evidence occasionally at parks but not intown property.
The chemical make-up of wire insulation supposedly contains animal fat, which attracts rats. They chew it off which causes shorts and worse. A connection to this is in dog and childrens yard toys, certain trash cans, especially products made by rotational molding (roto-molds), the powdered plastic it starts out as, has similar ingredients.

Our old house (c 1901) was hot water heat. Where the supply and return piping goes through floors, had a mouse problem. Wife tried Dollar store stainless scour pads with some success, a few holes just too big. I remedied those with the pads, and wound a hitch of baling wire through them as binding. They just cannot pull it out from below. Smaller holes, just packing the pads tightly with a screwdriver was sufficient. A hinged plumbing escutcheon finishes it off.
Her first reaction was to use the trap door variety of small live traps, she the type who wouldn't kill anything with sentience greater than a fly. Kept a chalk and blackboard tally of catch and releases. Reaching about 20, became suspicious they were re-entering, marked them with nail polish, proving that to be the case. So, released them even farther away, and over the solid fence! Still had some return, tally up to around 50 now.
Well, got home from work one day, they'd drawn the final straw. Sent me right back out for a box of snap traps, "Nicht mehr Frau Nice Lady" in her Swiss-German accent "nicht de keine Mäuse mehr" ...! (der punkt, punkte, punkte!) or so. Certain conditions were emphasized 'GmbH' a little joke about etched in stone.
She'd opened underwear drawer to find a little family camped out in a brassiere cup; end of mouse-dorm party!


Dec 21, 2012
Brisbane Qld Australia
Ive had a bit of problem with geckos shorting out the leakage breaker ....if the whole system isnt completely sealed a gecko of some size from microscopic to large will get in,especially to wall outlets which often have large holes hacked in them for wire access.


Feb 22, 2016
It's even worse than that! The retards are using soy based wire insulation in cars!
It saves the environment and of course does not last as long so you can more cars! What a wonderful to sell more cars that won't last. Of course buying more cars MUST be good for the enviromrent right?

It more amazing because I far as I have found they did not even test soy based insulation on chewing rodents. Yet there are thousands of complaints for the cars that have it. Pure garbage!

There are currently 4 class action law suits against 4 large auto companies because they refuse to cover rodent damage in cars that have this terrible soy based insulation.
Soy Based Wiring Class Action Law Suits

Joe Michaels

Apr 3, 2004
Shandaken, NY, USA
I can relate full well to the slide rule. When it was known I would be attending Brooklyn Technical HS (a 'specialized HS', admittance by exam), my father's buddy went into Brooklyn Progress Blueprint (up the street from their office, and that was THE K & E dealer for engineering supplies and surveying instruments). He bought two K & E "Log-Log Duplex Decitrig" slide rules for me: a pocket model and a 'full length' one. Both came in leather sheaths. I was presented with these as a gift. Made more sense than the usual fountain pens given to boys entering HS in those days. I used both slide rules thru HS and engineering school. We were the last surveying class (I went to 'surveying camp' as a Civil Engineering elective in college) to do our calculations longhand, using logarithms of trig functions, interpolating to get minutes and seconds of arc, and being up most of the nights doing it. I still have those 2 slide rules in my desk here at home, along with K & E drafting instruments, a K & E planimeter, and assorted other stuff us old dinosaurs still use, tho I do use a Texas Instrument pocket calculator instead of 'logs' or slide rules. I still use an 'engineer transit' (made by Brunson) for field surveying and field layout work, and still keep my field notes in a hardbound 'field book'. I do my drawings on a ca 1900 drawing table with a "Vemco" drafting machine with Dietzgen scales on it. 'Point my leads' in a wrinkle-green finished sanding device where you crank the 'lead holder' (parlance for a draftsman's mechanical pencil) and it runs against a sanding cup (which you can't get anymore unless you find New Old Stock). I have been doing a lot of structural design calculations for high end home alterations, additions and some new builds. Covid has sent real estate prices into the stratosphere and people are buying decrepit houses and pouring 7 figure sums into them. I average two structural jobs a week for unlicensed designers or contractors, filing them as a PE. A game I play is to do the calculations mentally, or at least 'get a rough number in my head' and 'race the calculator'. Old school, where we were taught to literally use our heads rather than relying on AI.

Getting back to the original thread: got another use for swarf. Bear repellent. We have a black bear or two who know when garbage pickup will occur. These bears make the rounds of the big plastic garbage and recycling containers and wreak havoc. Bears tore the side of the plastic garbage container with their claws, and routinely will drag large bags of garbage off into the brush, or will strew garbage all over. The garbage pickup is done by a truck with hydraulic arms that grab the containers and go thru a dump cycle into the compactor body, so the driver does not leave the cab. When the bears strew the garbage, the drivers will get out of the trucks and do a cursory policing-up, but there is still some cleanup. A few weeks back, I cleaned out the chip pan on my LeBlond engine lathe. I had been machining a lot of steel, taking hogging cuts to rough some larger shafts to size and then finishing cuts and chasing threads. The chip pan was filled with oily, jagged swarf. I got a few brown-paper grocery bags and a pair of work gloves and packed the steel swarf into the grocery bags. The cutting oil was soaking thru the brown paper as I rammed the bags into the garbage container. I took the garbage & recyling containers down the driveway that evening for trash pickup early the next morning. We found the bear had left the garbage container alone, but had still gone for the recycling container (likely attracted by remnants of cat food in the tins, and remnants of food and condiments in empty cans and jars). Some cleanup and a resolve to solve the problem across the board. I sprinkled a couple of handfuls of oily swarf on top of the recycling container's contents and added a dash of diesel fuel to both containers. No more bear problem in that regard. We know the bear is around as he leaves some large 'scats' on the lawn and driveway. However, the oil swarf seems to do the trick for keeping him out of the garbage and recycling. We have to use plastic containers furnished by the 'private sanitation company', and those have no latches on them to keep the bears out, nor will the plastic stand up to our local bears' claws.

Bears have an incredible sense of smell and will eat very nearly anything including soiled infants' diapers. Apparently, the smell of cutting oil and cut steel must have over-ridden the allure of household garbage. Wife and I do like seeing the bears, and we like them as wild animals. I've wound up within about 4 feet of a black bear a couple of times, and have a healthy respect for them. They are highly intelligent and reasonably dexterous as well as incredibly strong for their size. Wife is worried that the bears might get a mouthful of steel swarf, swallow it and wind up dying in agony of lacerated innards. I tell her the bears are too smart to woof down a mouthful of steel swarf, and 'dark sulphur cutting oil' even though it contains lard oil, must not be a condiment bears like.