April 2019


Pretty label undone by chemistry

by George Taniwaki

When it was new, the travel-size container of Gillette Series sensitive skin shaving cream was pretty. Rather than print directly on the can, they print the design on a sheet of plastic. It’s either polypropylene or polyester film, I am guessing. Printing on film provides a wider range of color options and allows for printing of finer details and at higher resolutions. That’s especially important if you have small text.

The film is transparent, so the design is printed in reverse and then the label wrapped around the can with the printed side on the inside. The plastic protects the label from scratches.

Seems like a clever design. One problem though. The ink on the label is soluble in one of the ingredients in the shaving cream, likely the triethanolamine. The shaving cream comes out as a gel and expands. If the gel gets under the label, it dissolves the ink and then oozes back out and onto your hands. The problem is worse if you get water on the container.

Another problem, why does sensitive skin shaving cream contain triethanolamine? I believe that ingredient can cause allergic contact dermatitis.


Spring is in the air, get planting!

by George Taniwaki

My wife, Sue, bought three plastic planters shaped like oak wine barrels and three shepherd hooks to put in them (two shown above). Before putting the planters in the garden, I noticed several problems with them.

  1. There are no drainage holes on the bottom. Real oak barrels have gaps between the staves which will allow excess water to drain out. A plastic barrel will fill with water and may allow the plant roots to rot.
  2. There are no feet to elevate the bottom. If I add drain holes to the bottom of the planters, they will eventually get plugged if the bottom is in contact with the ground.
  3. The shepherd hooks are heavy and will tilt over if not supported.
  4. Once filled with dirt, the planters will be too heavy to easily move and may break if lifted.

Naturally, I could not just ignore these problems. So I spent a weekend fixing them before transferring the plants into the new planters. My solutions to these problems are listed below and illustrated in the pencil sketch (Fig 1).

  1. Add three drainage holes to the bottom of each planter.
  2. Add four rot-resistant feet to the bottom of each planter.
  3. Add a pillow filled with lightweight and rot-resistant foam peanuts to the bottom of each planter to reduce the amount of soil needed to fill it. It should also help keep the drain holes from getting clogged.
  4. Add a vertical sleeve made of copper plumbing pipe in the center of each planter to hold the shepherd hook.


Figure 1. Pencil sketch of the planter

Make the feet and attach them

Using a 5mm (3/16”) diameter bit, drill seven holes through the base of each planter.  Six holes  are equally spaced on the rim (a hexagonal pattern) and the seventh goes in the center (Fig 2a). Three holes on the rim and the center hole will hold the feet. The other three holes will be for drainage.

Using 100mm (4”) diameter hole cutting bit, cut out four feet for each planter from a scrap piece of 125x20mm (5×3/4”) plastic decking (Fig 2b). If needed, use a Forstner bit to countersink the bottom of each foot to accept a fender washer (Fig 2c).

Using 5x60mm (#8 x 2-1/2”) bolts with fender washers and nuts, attach four feet to each planter (Fig 2d, 2e). Actually, only the center bolt needs to be long so that it can hold the copper pipe. The other bolts can be shorter, but I didn’t want to take the time to buy and sort different length bolts.

DrillHoles  CutFeet

CountersinkFeet  FootParts

AttachFeet  InsidePlanter

Figure 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d, 2e, 2f. Drill seven holes in planter base; Cut out the feet; Countersink feet to accept fender washers; Bolt, washers, foot, and nut; Attach feet to the planter; Inside of planter showing bolts

Make the sleeves and attach them

Start with a 1m (3’) piece of 13mm (1/2”) copper pipe and cut it into three 330mm (12”) long pieces. Drill a 3mm ( 1/8”) diameter hole, 50mm (2”) from one end (Fig 3a).  The hole will allow water to drain out of the sleeve.

Mix up a batch of epoxy putty (also called wood filler or Bondo). Find the end of the copper sleeve with the drain hole and fill 25mm (1”) of the end of the sleeve (Fig 3b). Push the sleeve onto the center bolt and add putty around the base of the sleeve to securely attach it (Fig 3d).

CutSleeve  MixFiller


Figure 3a, 3b, 3c. Cut the copper sleeve and drill drain hole; Mix up epoxy putty; Attach the sleeve to the bottom of the planter

Make the donut-shaped pillow

Lay out a roll of nonwoven polypropylene ground fabric. Trace out two instances of the top of the barrel (Fig 4a). Cut out the fabric, outside the lines you have drawn, making a donut shape. Sew the two halves together, leaving a 100mm (4”) opening to allow filling. Pour about 0.02m3 (0.5 cu.ft.) of foam peanuts (Fig 4b) into the pillow and finish sewing the seam (Fig 4c). Place the finished pillow over the copper sleeve and lay it at the bottom of the planter (Fig 4d).

SackCut  FoamPeanuts

Sack  SackInPlanter

Figure 4a, 4b, 4c, 4d. Cut out the fabric; Example of polystyrene foam peanuts (with cat); Sew the two halves together and fill with foam peanuts; Place the pillow in the bottom of the planter

Finish and admire

Clean off any excess rust from the shepherd hook (Fig 5a). Place the planter in the desired spot in the garden, fill it with dirt, being careful not to detach the sleeve or get dirt in it. Transfer any plants. Slide in the shepherd hook (Fig 5b). Water the plants. Admire your work.

This project took a weekend and only cost a few dollars since I had almost all the materials already on-hand. (I guess I keep a lot of junk around in my tool shed.)

ShepherdHooks  SleeveCloseup2

Figure 5a, 5b, 5c. Clean the shepherd hooks; Detail of copper sleeve with shepherd hook

All photos and drawings by George Taniwaki