Favorite Tools: “Old Gray” and “RedTop”

A friend of mine sent me a link today to a NY Times article on the “satisfying sound” of staplers, which brought back childhood memories. When I was growing up I enjoyed helping my father with his business paperwork.  He traveled for his job and every weekend would come home with papers to be organized and filed, verbal notes recorded on Dictaphone belts to be transcribed, and paper clips down in the bottom of his lawyer’s style wide-mouthed leather briefcase.

The loose paper-clips never seemed to bother him, but they did me.  Most of them had come off sets of papers and every week Dad would have to put the sets back together.  That’s where the stapler came in: he would get a set of papers together and hand it to me and I would staple them using his old gray stapler, which I still have.   I’m not sure why Dad didn’t just carry the stapler with him on the road, but I suspect Old Gray was just too heavy.  It is an “Ace Cadet Liftop Model No. 302” (sometimes listed as “half-size”) made in the USA by the Ace Fastener Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, possibly back in the 1940s or 50s. I’m not sure how much the 302 weighs, but for a half-size model it’s pretty hefty: I’ve often used it as a paper weight in gusty wind situations and as a book-opening weight when doing research reading.

At the time of my use of it with Dad’s papers Old Gray had a mind of its own and frequently jammed.  Looking back, I suspect the problem was with the staples.  By the time I inherited Old Gray, staple strips had improved and I’ve rarely had a problem with Old Gray jamming so long as I stick to Swingline half-strip staples.  I’m glad to report that as a consequence it’s still in use many decades after it’s creation.  Considering how often it’s not only stapled papers but also things to apartment walls, box closures, and other surfaces, the fact that it still works smoothly is pretty amazing.

Somewhere along the way Dad bought a new stapler and I have it as well.  It’s a red-topped Bates “88P Hand-Grip Stapler” stamped “A 572” in the inside top of the staples compartment.  These apparently were produced in the 1960s. The stapler is great to use as it was made to fit the human hand when held, but was an annoyance for many years as it spins when set down horizontally and has a tendency to fall over sideways. It can also be set down on it’s nose, like some of today’s models, but tends to fall over from that position as well if the desk so much as vibrates slightly.  Dad never really had a good place to store it on his desk, though the stapler has a hole to hang on a nail or peg.  Never having a nail or peg or my desk either, I finally discovered the stapler’s open space between the staples compartment and the anvil base slides nicely over the edge of a medium-sized pencil cup, with the top of the stapler hanging on the outside for easy grabbing.  The cup has to have enough contents to counter-balance the weight of the stapler, of course, but after overcoming that minor difficulty the red stapler has been happily hanging off my pencil cup for many years now and is in constant use when I print drafts of my writing.

I wouldn’t trade either of these staplers for a newer one.  I’ve used plenty of those at offices over the years and have yet to find one that makes me want to run out and buy it to replace these two.  Old Gray and RedTop have been adopted into their “forever family.”

What’s your favorite tool story?


Recommended Tool: ReaderWare Book, Music, and Video Cataloging

Recently Harold Taylor, a Canadian time management expert (https://www.taylorintime.com) mentioned in his newsletter that he has over a thousand books in his home library.  I, too, have over a thousand books at home and over the years have tried many ways of keeping track of them.  Years ago I found a great tool for cataloging books: the very reasonably priced (USD $75.00) ReaderWare (www.readerware.com).  Using the “CueCat” wired bar code scanner that comes with the software, I simply scan the bar code on newer books and/or type in the ISBN number or US Library of Congress (LCC#) and ReaderWare automatically scans the internet for all information pertaining to that edition, including cover photos, then it pulls it all into a single extensive catalog entry for each book.  Any books it can’t find, or older books with no ISBN, can be entered manually very quickly. I’ve been using ReaderWare for close to ten years and have cataloged both a small library at work (we scanned and cataloged 200 academic books in less than two hours) and my library here at home, which I’m still working on as time permits.

Each book’s entry has a huge number of fields, all of which are optional.  This includes Location information and a way to notate if a book is sold, loaned out, given away, etc.  There’s also room for recording edition/printing information (ReaderWare lets you know if your book may be a First Edition) and even for recording a narrative description of cover details if the one you have doesn’t match the photo ReaderWare came up with.  Or you can locate your cover’s photo on the web and copy and paste it into ReaderWare, or upload your own photo of the cover.

One interesting feature is the capability to know the pricing history of a book.  I tend to keep price stickers on my books and so was able to enter what I’d actually paid for the book.  ReaderWare often provided the original selling price and what the book is currently worth.  Sometimes it was thrilling to see that the book I bought secondhand for $1.00 was actually a first edition.  Other times it was disconcerting to see that a book I’d paid $19.95 for was now valued at $0.25!

Search capabilities enable quick searches by Topic, Keyword, Title, Author, or other entries for any book in your collection and allow you to know where to find it on your shelves without using stickers that might damage the cover and reduce the value of the book.  There’s even plenty of room for your reading notes as well.   And there’s more, too many features to list here.  Go to the Home page of the website above, click the Features link, then scroll down on the new page to see all this software does.

Not only is the price reasonable for a book cataloging program, but the $75.00 is actually the 3-program bundle price that includes similar software to catalog your Video and Music collections as well as your books.

I whole heartedly recommend ReaderWare and the CueCat offer.  For those who might want to go wireless or already own a barcode scanner, I recommend reading the information under the OrderàBar Code Readers section of the website above.

If you purchase it, I’d be interested in hearing how you’ve put it to work and what you think about it.