Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Steam-powered pencil sharpener

...nothing more to explain really...
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OK, I know you're thinking "This sounds like a stupid idea". However, what sets this apart from most other stupid ideas is that I actually made a steam-powered pencil sharpener when I was about 11 or 12. <nostalgia>I remembered it last night when I was thinking about the time my physics teacher blew up the steam engine in a physics lesson at school (more about this later). I don't quite remember why I made the steam-powered pencil sharpener - some school project, I should think.</nostalgia>
Anyway, it was powered by a small Mammod steam engine (boiler about 8" long, Meths burner) and connected via a cunning set of Meccano gears to a small turntable with a pencil sharpener glued to it. So all you had to do to sharpen your pencil was to light the Meths burner, tighten the pencil in the clamp, wait for the steam to get up to pressure, connect the gears and then watch the pencil sharpener slowly but majestically revolve.
So, this once was baked, I suppose. All the Meccano is now in my attic (along with some Hornby 'OO' trains and stations but oddly, no track...) and I sold the steam engine to my physics teacher - so it would be difficult to bake again without investing in a new steam engine.

[Update: Moved to Product: Office Appliance]
hippo, Nov 21 2001

(???) Wilesco http://www.hobby-haas.de/WilescoE.html
My steam engine was a bit like this one [hippo, Nov 21 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

...attached to one of these. http://oldenginehou...enworld.com/oeh.htm
[angel, Nov 21 2001, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Electric Pencil Sharpener Gallery http://www.officemu...arpener_gallery.htm
The first one is particularly cool. [pottedstu, Nov 21 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

[link]






       Triumpantly going WHooooHHooooOOoo! after the pencil was sharpened was essential, as the most effective way to stop the pencil sharpener going round was to release the boiler pressure with the little whistle on the top.
hippo, Nov 21 2001
  

       surely "product: tool" would be appropriate. Screwdrivers, beer holsters and pencil sharpeners. I carry all of those in my capacious handbag every day, don't you?
lewisgirl, Nov 21 2001
  

       Maybe, but 'tool' has connotations of portability.
<memories>The only reason it blew up when my physics teacher had it is because he heated the boiler not with a weedy Meths burner, but with two (2!) bunsen burners and some of the pipe brazing blew with the added steam pressure. A sort of early 'overclocking', really.</memories>
hippo, Nov 21 2001
  

       that's kind of difficult, UB, seeing as it looks like it's just the three of us here at the mo.
lewisgirl, Nov 21 2001
  

       My most obvious question is 'Why didn't I think of this?'. *HUGE* croissant for you.
angel, Nov 21 2001
  

       However my steam-powered pencil sharpener is far superior. For this you need one steam locomotive, about 10 miles of railway track, and a long strip of sandpaper. Fix the sandpaper to the side of the train, and hold the pencil at an angle to the track. Now wait as the locomotive tears past. If your aim is true, you will gain a fine point. If not, you will lose a large proportion of your body mass. This may also work without the sandpaper, depending on the condition of the engine's sides.   

       OK, I admit it, hippo's is better. All I ever did with steam was make it turn a little windmill, which sucked [but not literally, UB].
pottedstu, Nov 21 2001
  

       The advantage of such a device is that it's boiler could be fed the shavings from the pencils it sharpens.
Aristotle, Nov 21 2001
  

       Aristotle: I imagine that method of power would only work if it sucked in the entire pencil, burnt it, and gave out charcoal sticks to write with.
pottedstu, Nov 21 2001
  

       It's a nice thought, but not nearly enough of a waste of time and resources. My buttery croissant goes to Sir Stu of Potted.
zaphod12, Nov 21 2001
  

       pottedstu: I imagined pencile shavings as a supplementary power source and way of recycling, not as a method of perpetual motion.
Aristotle, Nov 21 2001
  

       [pottedstu] Excelent link - as you say the first one is cool. Funny how industrial design in the US hasn't moved that much since the last one on that page (1963).
hippo, Nov 22 2001
  

       Bizarre addendum to this idea - I also remember building (also with Meccano) a steam-powereed cinema. Not as exciting as the pencil charpener, it just spooled a sequence of drawings on a roll of paper across a small 'screen'. I could only really make films about trains, because of the steam sound effects.
Sortly after this, I discovered computers.
hippo, Nov 23 2001
  

       Can it also sharpen pens(my electric one could untill the motor blew up)?
dr_photon, Mar 17 2002
  

       I remember those steam engines, I was given one with a large meccano set one christmas when I was about eight. Oh the happy hours spent watching my father playing with it.....
IvanIdea, Mar 18 2002
  

       I remember sharpening the eraser of a pencil when the eraser became flat with the little metal band. Sharpening the eraser would give you a little more eraser.
Amishman35, Jun 20 2002
  

       I guess you couldn't use the pencil sharpener much after that.
FarmerJohn, Jun 20 2002
  

       There's just not enough steam powered office equipment around these days.
zen_tom, May 11 2006
  

       2008 update: I now have a new (car boot sale) Mamod steam engine, and I've got my Meccano out of the attic, so there's a high probability that this idea will be rebaked in the near future. No more blunt pencils in the [hippo] household!
hippo, May 28 2008
  
      
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