Thursday, December 14, 2006

VW - Wet Sanding Woes

>My hands are so dry the skin is cracking. But, at least the car is almost ready for painting.


Dear Mel,

Aloe vera is perhaps the best kept secret of the Manual Arts and is standard stuff in the custom car world :-)

Aloe is a succulent, a fleshy plant similar to cacti but without the spines. Break off a spear about six inches long, crush it in your hands and smear the gooey green juice all over them. When it dries, you rinse it off with cold water.

The juice is a natural emollient with anti-bacterial properties.

It's very easy to grow, indoors in a pot or outside in a mild climate.

>Can you buy the seeds, or is it pulps? Not likely to find it in Norway....

Dear P.J.,

Ask around among friends with indoor plants. It grows readily from cuttings.

It is an attractive plant, safe around children and pets. It produces a stalk of red blossoms, so seeds should be available. I saw it in a hanging pot at the home of friends when I visited Denmark some years ago so I think you will find it locally, although not in the wild.

One method of 'rooting' the plant is to cover a container, such as a drinking glass, with paper secured with a rubber band, after filling the glass with water. Make a small X-shaped slit in the paper with a razor and insert the cutting so that it's cut edge is immersed in the water for about half an inch. The paper will support the upper part of the cutting, which should be from four to six inches long.

Place the glass on the ledge of a window or wherever it can get sufficient light, and leave it alone.

Depending on the temperature and amount of light, in one to two weeks the cutting will produce a growth of hair-roots. After the roots appear, transplant the cutting into a small pot containing a basic planting mix (ie, typically about half earth & moss). Keep the planting mix slightly damp until the cutting produces new sprouts, indicating it has established itself.

Once it is established you will find it to be surprisingly hardy, able to withstand long periods of drought. But it is fairly sensitive to freezing; the roots are frozen solid it will usually die but it can withstand a light frost without permanent harm.

Cuttings can also be 'rooted' directly, using sand as the media, although it will take longer to establish itself.

To which someone else opined:

>go to a feed store (or some odd specialty stores like some old fabric
>stores) and get "Udder Balm". It makes such a difference it is AMAZING. >(Take it from someone who has had cronic dry/cracked hands from working on >the car, woodworking, etc...)


This sounds like 'Bag Balm.' (Little square green can?) Unless you're in a very cold climate -- and dealing with udders instead of your own hands -- I suggest you try the aloe first. If you've never used it, you'll probably be surprised at how well it works.

Working concrete in cold weather, and commercial fishing, Bag Balm (or similar) would be my first choice. But if you can get to where it's warm, and can dry your hands, the aloe will heal them up where Bag Balm just fills up the cracks. Up to you. They're you're hands :-)

-Bob Hoover