Monday, December 24, 2007

Sticky Fingers

Before Chinese factories began putting antifreeze in cold medicine and toothpaste, coating toys with lead paint, and producing counterfeit prescription drugs, China produced generally reliable yet inexpensive goods.

Many "American" brands are actually manufactured in China. You don't even need to look very carefully. For example, Black & Decker produces sealed lead batteries intended to start cars and provide electricity during emergencies.

The actual battery is manufactured by the Vector company in China, and the consumer product is apparently assembled in Mexico.

But let's not pick on Black & Decker, whose power tools are dependable. Although model lines change so rapidly that last year's rechargeable battery is unlikely to fit on this year's driver, or drill.

Some tools are still made in the U.S., and they generally work the best. American hand tools from the 1950s are magnificent.

Which brings us to Bushnell, maker of optics of all sorts, from telescopes, to binoculars to rifle scopes. Virtually all of it's products are made in China, including an inexpensive pair of zoom binoculars with rubber grips.

After a few years in its case, under normal environmental conditions, the rubber grips underwent a chemical reaction of some kind. They're no longer rubbery, they're sticky. Like tacky paint. And since they got sticky just sitting in a case, it seems unlikely that the grips will "dry."

What were the grips made out of? Plastic mixed with industrial waste? Plastic with insufficient plasticizing chemicals? Recycled rubber with leftover epoxy or cyanoacrylate thrown in? Modeling clay mixed with black paint?

We have a heightened suspicion of Chinese goods these days, but it's possible that the American importer insisted that the Chinese contractor make binocular grips out of bubble gum mixed with powdered coal.

Whatever the reasons behind the stickiness problem, the binoculars are useless as binoculars.

When the weather gets warmer, they could be suspended from a ceiling to catch flies.

1 comment:

  1. Ewwww. I'm envisioning a kind of Laurel and Hardy scene, wherein you try to use them anyway and end up with black rings around your eyes that you don't know are there. And then you walk around town and your hands stick to things and you can't get them off, and you end up arrested and in jail. Hey, can I have those binoculars? I know someone I'd like to give them to.