Damn Interesting | Watersmith Plumbing and Gas

Just a collection of some damn interesting plumber things…

Did a Monkey Invent the Monkey Wrench?

Did a Monkey Invent the Monkey Wrench?

Like the saying, ‘cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey’, no one has actually been able to track down the entire history. For this reason there’s a number of misconceptions about the Monkey Wench.

The biggest fallacy is that the Monkey Wrench isn’t actually a plumbers favourite tool. A plumber’s tool is more commonly known as a Pipe Wrench. There’s a slight difference between the two. A Pipe Wrench has grooved teeth so it grips better. A Monkey Wrench doesn’t have teeth, its jaws are smooth.

We know the first wrench was patented in 1842 by Solymon Merrick. After Merrick’s innovation, other inventors followed suit and made similar inventions. The Monkey Wrench (or Gas Grips as they’re known by in the UK), Pipe Wrench, Ratchet Wrench, Torque Wrench, Alligator Wrench, Allen Wrench, Socket Wrench, Adjustable Wrench were all patented afterwards. A spanner is also a type of wrench, the main difference being the original spanner was non-adjustable.

In the early days, the wrench was made out of wrought iron. Nowadays wrenches are made out of metal.

Wrenches were common in the railroad industry around the 19th century but they have been noted by historians as far back as the 15th century with applications for suits of armour. However, archaeologists have discovered stone artefacts in Kenya carbon-dating back over three million years ago, making them the oldest tools discovered. The tools, a crude wrench included, predate the earliest known humans. So the big question is, which species of primate created them? Was it the monkey?

Monkey Wrench Myths—True or False

Jack Johnson (former African-American Heavy Weight boxer) Invented the Monkey Wrench and it was so named as a racial slur.
False. Jack Johnson did patent a wrench but that was in the 1920s. It was a 2015 internet meme that claimed the term “monkey wrench” was used as a derogatory term.

Charles Moncky, a mechanic in Baltimore invented the Monkey Wrench and it’s named using a purposeful misspelling of his name.
False. This story was refuted by historical research because Moncky was was born after the term, “monkey wrench”, first appeared in print in an English tool catalogue issued by Timmins & Sons.

The screamy bridge of the song Monkey Wrench by the Foo Fighters was done in one breath.
True. The bridge on the CD was yelled all in one breath but is almost impossible to sing live. During many of Foo Fighters concerts, Grohl coerces the crowd scream the bridge out. If he does sing the bridge, there are usually a couple of breaths that can be heard in between.

To “Throw a monkey wrench in the works” means to sabotage or obstruct plans.
True. It dates back to the industrial revolution. If a wrench were to fall into the gears of the large factory machine, it would make everything stop. More recently, it was a famous quote in the movie Die Hard (1988). When asked who he was, John McClane taunts Hans over the CB radio that he’s the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass.

A Monkey Wrench is a cocktail.
True. Pour 2-shots of White Rum or Vodka into an almost filled glass of ice cubes and top with grapefruit juice and a dash of bitters.

The Monkey Wrench was named after the wrench’s appearance.
Maybe. Twisting the tail (or handle) to adjust the mouth feature, could have easily inspire the image of a monkey. However, it’s more likely to be the mechanism of the movable “monkey” that climbs up and down along the shaft—like a monkey climbing a tree—or a “monkey on a stick”.

No, Not The Overlapping Material On The Front Of A Man's Underwear -- Some (Probably Not So) Interesting Facts About Manhole Covers

No, Not The Overlapping Material On The Front Of A Man’s Underwear—Some (Probably Not So) Interesting Facts About Manhole Covers

A manhole is a hole in the ground that gives access to plumbing utilities, like gas, water, sewage and storm water. A manhole cover is the lid used to seal the manhole. They are customarily circular in shape and made from cast iron, although nowadays square and rectangular shapes are common.

Manholes are most typically associated with the opening to a vertical shaft leading down into a sewage drain. The primary purpose of a manhole cover is to protect the manhole from unauthorised access and to prevent accidents from people or objects falling in. Another intention for the manhole cover is to permit air pressure within the sewer system to equalise. For this reason some manhole covers have small openings present to allow air to pass through.

The history of the manhole dates back to as early as 3500BC. Slabs of stone or hunks of wood were used to cover ditches that carried waste. Many civilisations developed this further—the Romans in particular had a complex system of waterworks—however, sewerage system designs that are implemented today were not developed until the 18th Century.

As time progressed, sewer tunnels were used to dispose of waste so as to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. As populations grew there became a need to chain sewer systems together so that the waste could be removed more efficiently. These sewage lines had a hole dug between them in order to connect the two systems together. A cover was then placed over the junction. This junction served as a plumbing point in case the sewer became clogged with debris and backed up.

During the 19th Century the manhole covers started being fabricated from iron and sometimes concrete, plus standardised to round in shape.

Manholes covers have remained largely unchanged since. Something incorporated more recently has been to personalise and decorate manhole covers to give particular cities an extra specialised aesthetic.

Interesting Facts about Manhole Covers:

  • One of the main reasons manhole covers are round is so that they won’t accidentally fall into the hole itself. With a round cover, no matter how you hold it, you can’t drop it in.
  • A circular manhole shape displaces pressure more effectively, is cheaper to manufacture and can be rolled making it more transportable.
  • Nashua, in the US has triangular manhole covers that point in the direction of flow but that design is currently being phased out in favour of round covers.
  • Most iron manhole covers have an artistic or aesthetic prints forged into them. Some are smooth, while others have a pattern to assist traction of vehicles passing over them.
  • Despite the average cover weighing over 50kg, manhole cover pictures are sometimes collected as works of art.
  • The imprint of a manhole cover almost always contains an identifying mark for the company that made it.
  • In Rome, manhole covers carry the legend ‘SPQR’, an abbreviation for ‘Senatus Populusque Romanus’, ‘The Senate and People of Rome.’
  • The size of a manhole cover can vary but must be a minimum of 560mm in diameter and can be as much as 1.5m.
  • Unlike in movies, where a person would fall through a manhole as a joke and survive with minimal injuries, if you were to fall into a manhole unsuspectingly you would be seriously injured or could possibly even be killed from the fall.
  • Manhole cover theft is the phenomenon of manhole covers being stolen, usually for resale as scrap. Long considered to be a childish prank or simple vandalism, this type of theft is often expensive to municipalities, and dangerous to their residents.
  • There has been a spate of 600 missing drain covers in south Auckland alone over the last five years.
  • Large covers are worth around $600 each.
  • Storm drains are know to have been stolen as a substitute for the good old ‘Kiwi’ BBQ grill.

More info: The Beauty of Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers

Get Ready To Scream!

Get Ready To Scream!

Long feared and almost universally reviled, since the start of time, rats have been connected with a horde of impressive feats.

Well, did you know one of those neat tricks is they can swim up your sewer pipes and into your toilet?

Rats are actually excellent swimmers. They can tread water for three days straight and can hold their breath underwater for three minutes, according to National Geographic. Also well documented was ‘Razza’, the fugitive rat that swam from Motuhoropapa Island to Otata Island in New Zealand, a mighty swim of over 400m in open sea.

If they can get their head through, they can get everything through! To supplement their fine swimming skills, rats are experts at squeezing through the tightest spaces, attributable to ribs that are hinged at the spine and collapse when squeezed. This explains how rats are able to twist and manoeuvre so gracefully through narrow toilet pipes.

In addition, rats have sharp claws, which means they are able to climb over all sorts of vertical surfaces.

Scary ha, watch and get ready to scream…


But even though rats can make the journey into your toilet bowl with ease, it rarely seems worth it for them and rats in the toilet are not a common plumbing problem in Wellington.

More info: https://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/news/150811-rats-toilet-swimming-vin
Photo Credit: Nuwandalice

Taking Care of Business

Taking Care of Business

Just recently we featured in a nice little article on Fergus written by Katehrin Irvine.

Fergus is smart software for growing trade businesses. All the tools you need. All in one place. Fergus is essentially job management software built to help tradies out on the job site.

Since the beginning, the Watersmith team has been using Fergus for job management, quoting, invoicing and secure online payments. Everything works through the app and it’s now integrated with Plumbing World for materials.

I highly recommend Fergus for small to medium sized businesses ...and the best part…

Andrew’s still spending most of his time on the tools and just a few hours every week taking care of quoting, invoicing, managing Health and Safety and everything else that comes with running your own business

More info:
Fergus website
Fergus app article

Toilet Talk

Toilet Talk

Toilet humour is often an attempt to replace taboo words related to certain bodily functions with witticisms. Above is a collection of popular sayings, for a full list of toilet slang visit Wiki.

The Largest Drain in the World

The Largest Drain in the World

Tokyo is one of the most populous metros in the world, with the prefecture exceeding 13 million people! It’s also one of the areas most at-risk from flooding.

So how do you protect the millions of residence from heavy rainfall and tropical flooding? Build a large storm water sewer system under some soccer fields.

The official name of this huge underground water diversion facility is the “Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel” but they are more commonly known as the G-Cans.

Work on the project started in 1992 and took 17 years and three billion dollars to construct. The G-Can has a network of tunnels over six kilometres long designed to channel overflowing flood water from Tokyo rivers into five 65 metre deep, 32 metre wide silos before finally depositing it in a 177 metre deep pillared tank called the “Underground Temple”. The tank connects to several 14,000 horsepower turbines and 78 water pumps, which can pump 200 tons of water per second out of the tank and into the Edogawa River.

The feat of plumbing technology is so impressive that it hosts a very popular guided tour every day! Because the main water tank resembles a temple it has been used in a number of movies – the approach to the Capitol scenes in The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2 were filmed in the G-Cans.

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_Area_Outer_Underground_Discharge_Channel
Photo Credit: Stan Chow

World Toilet Day and The Global Sanitation Crisis

World Toilet Day and The Global Sanitation Crisis

Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are an essential human need. Everybody visits ‘the can’ a few times a day. However, “Flush and forget” and “Out of sight, out of mind” are a common attitude for many of us. Since the health of our society has improved, we don’t think about wastewater much anymore.

Yesterday was World Toilet Day. Yes, it’s an annual thing – an actual real day (http://www.worldtoiletday.info). It has been unofficially celebrated far and wide for many years, but in 2013 World Toilet Day was finally recognised by the United Nations as an international day. Its aim is to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis.

Presently, it has many governments, public health organisations and funders supporting and promoting initiatives to build toilets and improve sanitation. Yet it is still a concerning problem. According to Unicef (https://www.unicef.org/wash/) over 2.5 billion people (one in three people in the world) lack access to water and 4.5 billion people (60% of the global population) are without a toilet or one that safely disposes of their waste! Diarrheal diseases are the second most common cause of death in young children in developing countries. Safe water, good hygiene and improved sanitation could prevent over 800 thousand deaths per year!

New Zealand isn’t in danger of these shocking statistics but we are at risk of becoming complacent and not keeping up with the developing stress on our water sanitation systems.

Our tourism market is currently booming with millions of tourists visiting, on top of our own continually growing population, the influx is beginning to place a strain on public infrastructure around the country. Recent news articles have been littered with issues around defecation in public areas and national parks and overflowing septic tanks. Along with earthquake damage, our aging facilities are already unable to keep up in several New Zealand hot spots.

So there you have it. It might sound like just another silly social media holiday, but World Toilet Day is in fact incredibly important. Whilst plumbing isn’t all about waste management, it is important to appreciate the role our plumbers play in keeping our population safe and healthy. Insufficient toilets at work have serious impact upon organisations through problems in the workforce such as, poor health, truancy, attrition, reduced concentration, weariness and diminished productivity. Loss of productivity due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices can be very costly. Investing in good toilets in the workplace and schools, so that women and girls have clean, separate facilities to maintain their dignity and to manage menstruation or pregnancy safely is a must!

More info:
How to Observe World Toilet Day – A Crash Course on Sanitation
World Toilet Day Resources – Facts & Infographics

Tremendous Feedback

Tremendous Feedback

We receive tremendous feedback from our customers. It really helps potential clients feel comfortable hiring us when they see that others have had positive experiences.

Of all the feedback though, this testimonial form Kate at Property Tutors takes the cake!

My biggest fear hiring Watersmith Plumbing and Gas was price point. I didn’t know much at all about the price of a plumber and so wasn’t sure if I would get ripped off.

I now know that Andrew goes above and beyond to make sure I understand all my options from a technical, design and monetary point of view so I get to make informed choices on cost upfront. Furthermore, he’s more than willing to work with me on alternative options to meet price expectations. He understands what I’m trying to achieve and is willing to work with me to find a quality, cost effective solution.

Andrew is a problem solver who doesn’t come at me with problems – just solutions and options. So welcome and valued! A memorable moment is when we had a business partner bring through a relative who was a plumber and he came back to say the standard of Andrew’s work was to a high level of quality. I’ve also received this feedback from our builder.

Not only is Andrew exceptional at his job, he’s a genuine top bloke. He’s flexible, he is timely with his communication, does what he says he will do and nothing is too much of a problem. Why would you go anywhere else?

Do New Zealanders really use a lot of water?

Do New Zealanders really use a lot of water?

We often take it for granted that fresh, clean water will always be available to us, yet in many parts of the country, summer water shortages are a common occurrence. There is a finite amount of water in our waterways and in a lot of cases demand is greater than supply. We rely on water for our homes, farms and industry. Making sure there is enough water for everyone in New Zealand in the future is being driven towards more water efficient appliances, households and industries. At present an average New Zealand family uses 200-300 litres of water per person per day, which is a relatively large amount compared to those in most other nations. The highest indoor water use is the shower, followed by the washing machine and the toilet. It is important to reduce consumption, reuse water where we can and ensure we do not pollute the water we have. The above infographic gives a great insight as to where the average New Zealand household uses (wastes) water.

Tips to help save water waste inside the house:

  • Turn off the tap when you brush your teeth. This basic step will spare many litres of water every time you brush.
  • Use a plug in the sink when washing hands, dishes or vegetables.
  • Showers typically use around 20 litres of water per minute. A half full bath or shared bath often uses less water than a long shower. If you’re not keen on a soak you may be able to have a water flow restrictor or shower head installed that limits the flow of water.
  • Install or convert your existing toilet to a dual-flush system. This enables you to use only as much water as is required.
  • Ensure you have a full load when using the washing machine. Otherwise use the half-level setting for smaller loads. A washing machine uses around 150 litres of water per cycle.
  • Stop the leaks. A leaking toilet or slow drip form a tap wastes thousands of litres or water per year.

Tips to help save water waste around the garden:

  • There are often restrictions on watering your garden in the summer. Make sure you stay within the restrictions.
  • Keep a tab on time if you leave children to play with the hose. A hose running at full volume uses about 2,000 litres of water per hour.
  • Don’t water your garden in the warmth of the day or when it’s windy, as water will evaporate rather than soak into the ground. Rather, water on calm days, in the coolness of the morning or evening. Watering by hand or an advanced controlled irrigation system is most effective. Moveable sprinklers are the least effective.
  • Douse your garden once every couple of days for 30 minutes instead of a light sprinkle every night. Light watering makes plants shallow-rooted. Soaking the ground every couple days encourages deeper roots and healthy plants. Don’t over water as this encourages fungus and root rot.
  • Waste water from baths, showers, sinks and washing machines can be used for watering the garden. This so called grey water additionally adds nutrients to the garden.
  • Mulch your garden with grass clippings or compost and remove weeds. Mulching can prevent up to 70% of water loss through evaporation. Mulching also helps keep out weeds that compete for moisture.
  • For a healthy lawn keep the grass long. Leaving around 30mm of leaf will provide shade to the roots and slow water loss. Again, leave the clippings or mulch on the lawn.