The OSH How-To Fair is fun and informative, and it’s free!

#580 in a series of true experiences in real estate
March 2009, Hills Newspapers

We had a great time at the How-To Fair last Saturday afternoon at the Alameda county fairgrounds in Pleasanton. We walked and talked and looked for more than 5 hours, and we brought home free samples of glass cleaner, dish soap, plant food and socks to fill with birdseed for the finches in our backyard.

This free event has been going on for many years but for some reason we’d never heard of it until this year. So glad we did, we learned a lot, and will be back again. It’s a large fair, 5 big buildings of products with representatives manning hundreds of booths. One building held hand and power tools, others had plumbing products such as shower heads and water filters. Electrical and housewares were gathered in a third building and in the others, gardening, paint and hardware.

In other words, quite a lot of what is available for sale at OSH stores – OSH being the sponsor of this event – was there to see. The majority were represented by OSH people but there were a number of manufacturers’ reps there, too. Demonstrations and lectures were offered on a variety of subjects and there were giveaways and chances to win prizes.

But there are no sales. One of the best things at this fair is that no one is selling anything. You see the tools, the products, and you can see how they work and learn how much they cost, but if you want to buy, you have to go to OSH, or elsewhere, after the show.

This was fun: Quake-hold, which makes putty to secure glassware and such during an earthquake, brought their quake simulator, a living room stage set in a trailer. You sit in an easy chair and while experiencing hard jolts, you watch everything on the built-in bookcase fall onto the floor.

We stopped to talk to many reps and to report to some why we like and use their products. One of these was the owner of Howard’s wood finishes, the son of the originator. His dad had started the company in the family garage in the 1960s and began by selling his products in antique stores. We said we use Howard’s Restor-A-Finish to repair scratches in furniture and woodwork, and it works great.

The Rustoleum paint man showed off new colors and containers, paint that needs no primer and can be used on any surface. There are new metallic and hammered finishes and numerous solid colors. We said that we are devoted to Rustoleum because of the dependable quality, plus the nozzle doesn’t gum up.

It was the tools building that Anet liked best and she gave her rapt attention: Callipers that measure little things such as the diameter of pipe, DeWalt and Skil and other power tools, low-voltage garden and path lights, adjustable clamps, and so much more. We listened to a short talk by the smoke detector man. Best discovery of all was drill bits that come in a pack of 5 useful sizes and cost about $30. Each bit drills holes in hardwood, metal, ceramic tile and brick. It takes some strength to apply sufficient pressure to the power drill (I’ll bet that guy who demonstrates by drilling holes all weekend has a sore shoulder) but these bits are exactly what we have needed in the past to hang address numbers and mailboxes.

We’ve suspected for years that hardware stores stock items we would use if only we knew about them. I think we found out about quite a few at this fair. All afternoon we found ourselves saying, “Is this new? It’s been available all along?”

For example, we saw a toilet flush assembly by Hydroworks that saves, it’s said, 5 quarts of water with each flush. On a table in the booth was a water tank where the truth of this was being demonstrated and they handed out leaflets containing estimates of water savings. For a household of 4 having 2 old-fashioned (not low-flow) toilets, the savings are estimated at 6500 gallons a year. These same people have a model that detects leaks and gives an audible signal if a leak is found. This was not demonstrated at the show. Too bad, I do wonder what sort of sound is made?

There were a few people manning booths who didn’t seem to want to talk or answer questions; they were bored and seemed to want to go home. Most, however, were enjoying themselves as they worked and they talked about their products with knowledge and pride. One was a rep for garbage disposers who traveled from Arizona where he works for In Sink Erator. He talked about the superiority of stainless steel grinders and of feeding disposers properly with the water running.

We learned that there are disposers with multi-grinders that can even take slippery potato peels but cost about $300. It might be worth that much. I had to call the rooter man on Christmas once due to potato peels stopping up my disposer. I think that cost about $150.

We’d never heard of the fly and wasp traps that a company named Rescue makes but are interested in trying them. Both disposable and rinse-out types are made, priced at $6 to $15. They are recommended for outdoor use near home, camp or picnic site. An attractant of food and feed ingredients dissolves when water is added. Insects, lured by the scent, are captured.

I could go on and on; it was vast. We must have seen thousands of products, many familiar but many new to us. Hardware store shopping has always been interesting and fun but it’ll be even better now because now we know more.

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