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Made by Monkeys
The Mill Is Peppered With Problems
3/6/2013

A close-up look at the ratcheting surfaces of the peppermill.
A close-up look at the ratcheting surfaces of the peppermill.

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Nugent_56
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Gold
Quality looses
Nugent_56   3/7/2013 9:26:50 AM
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It's always a shame when quality is pushed way down the priority list over profit.  I spent some time in Germany working at an engineering firm. I was really taken back by their focus on quality above everything else. It's no wonder BMWs and Mercedes are premium priced cars. They build their houses the same way.  But I suppose in a country (USA) where everyone demands a premium-living lifestyle, a bit of greed must come into the equation in order to finance that lifestyle and unfortunately, quality must take the back seat.

Bob985
User Rank
Gold
Re: Quality looses
Bob985   3/7/2013 9:54:42 AM
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If we value low price over quality, often we end up spending more in the long run. In addition, a grinder on the top of the container may create less mess, but the reason for a grinder in the first place is to have _freshly_ ground pepper. Putting the grinder on the top means that partially ground peppercorns work their way to the bottom and loose their pungency as they sit inside the grinder over time. This results in lower quality ground pepper. That's why I personally prefer the grinder to be on the bottom. I'm willing to put up with the mess to optimize the taste and smell of the pepper.

dbell5
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Quality looses
dbell5   3/7/2013 7:48:12 PM
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I love my BMW 528i ... but:

WAY too much plastic, especially in heavy or continuous use locations.

All (two - really? 2?!?!) drink holders are broken, necessitating replacing the entire section of the console panel. I won't bother, as they are essentially worthless anyway. Any containr with a C.G. above 3" simply falls off the tray.

 

Worse, we've gone through three interior door handles. They *look* like chrome plated metal, but are flimsy plastic, guaranteed to break when an unfamiliar rider pulls hard on a locked handle, expecting it to unlock and open the door.

 

 

warren@fourward.com
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Platinum
Re: Quality looses
warren@fourward.com   3/8/2013 10:54:05 AM
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Truer words were never spoken, " I did what any engineer with four kids would do -- I set them aside for some time when I could figure out what was going on."

But as engineers we don't mind spending thousands of dollars in engineering time on products that cost a few dollars.  We are driven to it.  It is in our nature to get to the bottom of things.  Who cares what it costs!

And the way many things are are built, we have gobs of things to work on.  This peppermill is just the tip of the iceberg.  In these Design News articles we have repaired washing machines, rescue robots, toilets, and Retro Encabulators. 

Don't you just love being an engineer?

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Quality looses
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 10:26:20 AM
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I agree, I loved that statement. I don't have kids, but I do that a lot. problem arises, I let it go for awhile and think about it. Sometimes the solution comes to me when I'm sleeping!! lol

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Quality looses
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 10:36:16 AM
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On that note. I've sat on problems for weeks sometimes. The answer always seems to have a way of finding me. I don't know about the rest of you, but once I have a problem to remedy....I am constantly thinking of solutions. Do they call that a restless mind? 

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
The peppermill and the problem with plastics.
William K.   3/7/2013 10:32:15 PM
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There are a few plastics that perform better than metal in strength and wear properties, but unfortunately thos plastics often cost more than metal. parts. So the challenge is to design for performance and durability rather than minimum price. THE TRICK is to find a way to convince the consumers that the higher priced (whatever) is the item that they want.

Ken E.
User Rank
Gold
Plastic? Really?
Ken E.   3/8/2013 7:38:35 AM
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Author, are you sure the grinding surfaces were plastic, and not ceramic? (The ones I have are a white ceramic.)  I doubt if even the single use grinders that come with peppercorns in them are plastic, but I'm going to look next chance I get.  If they can make a plastic up to this task, I am truly impressed.

I like the idea of the ratcheting action, a pity they didn't get that right.  And I love fresh ground pepper.  I purchased a number of them over the years before I found the great grinders I now own.

loadster
User Rank
Gold
Re: Plastic? Really?
loadster   3/8/2013 1:48:40 PM
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Here is another case where the user drives the mechanism. Since you have kids you cannot have nice things or things that must be used with care and kindness. So for the kids, I'd recommend the disposable grinding mill that comes with McCormick pepper and salt spicejars. And for you, find the Trudeau Graviti grinder. As an engineer you'll appreciate the clever concept of grinder on top and it operates by simply flipping the unit upside down. Though filling it takes some forethought. Only shortfall is it doesn't have built-in illumination as many other battery driven grinders do.

And consider your time in this world. Some things are simply not worthy of your time and effort to disassemble and rehabilitate. Like plastic grinders.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Plastic? Really?
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 10:30:30 AM
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I seriously doubt an engineer would mistake ceramic for plastic!

Ken E.
User Rank
Gold
Re: Plastic? Really?
Ken E.   3/9/2013 12:40:39 PM
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One finds very many pepper mills with ceramic mills, which is orders of magnitude harder than any plastic. I'll go out on a limb, and assume the grinding surfaces aren't plastic, the author glanced at them (white!) and made an assumption, as do you.  Alternatively, the grinding surface may have had plastic molded around it.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Plastic? Really?
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 12:52:21 PM
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I still doubt an engineer could mistake plastic for ceramic!

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Plastic? Really?
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 12:53:04 PM
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You guys don't give him enough credit.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Plastic? Really?
Cadman-LT   3/9/2013 12:54:19 PM
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Maybe he bought cheap ones and you buy expensive ones! I still believe him.

Ken E.
User Rank
Gold
Re: Plastic? Really?
Ken E.   3/9/2013 1:17:01 PM
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Good engineers make wrong assumptions all the time.  Your last three posts in quick succession, 4 sentences total, certainly suggests an impulsiveness on your part, (No edit buttons?) not to mention a willingness to make an assumption about the author, and anyone else.

The author wasn't really concerned about the grinding surfaces, nor did he say anything that suggested he even looked closely at them.  No brand name even, so I couldn't look it up.  If he's wrong, no big.  If I'm wrong, no big.  If you're wrong, well, probably someone elses fault, right?

Bob Salter
User Rank
Iron
Re: Plastic? Really?
Bob Salter   3/11/2013 4:44:20 PM
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The pepper bottles with their own grinders I've seen have a pressed on cap in order to discourage re-filling. For a "throw away" item, they supply a fairly good grinder. Now any one clever enough should be able to pull the cap off in order to refill. Just be careful you don't break the glass bottle, gash a finger severing a tendon, and end up with a $ 10K hospital bill. Risk versus reward study anyone?

Keldawwg
User Rank
Gold
I'm not sure what the one I have is, or even where I got it.
Keldawwg   3/11/2013 5:45:59 PM
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I suspect we might have picked it up at Sur La Table in Walnut Creek...

It's plastic, and it's a combo Salt Grinder/Pepper Grinder. It has two levers at the top that you squeeze to dispense. It has a little S in the window on the side when it's grinding Salt, and a P in the window when grinding pepper. You just rotate the levers around to change it.

My wife has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and she has very little hand strength. Most rotary grinders are too difficult for her to use. She has trouble unscrewing the cap off a bottled water.

The levers are very easy to use, and it dispenses from the bottom. We've had the thing for years, and it's still working like new... I've refilled it several times now, and it's been a really great little addition. The wife has been having me put Sea Salt in it... She thinks it tastes better, although the only real difference that I can see is it doesn't have iodide added to it... (We get plenty of salt with iodide, in any case...)

I also like the looks of this one... http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-184229/Kuhn-Rikon-High-Output-Ratchet-Mills Ceramic grinder that has an easy to use ratchet mechanism, adjustable grind, easy to refill and inexpensive...

Kelly

 

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Plastic? Really?
Cadman-LT   4/10/2013 11:16:04 AM
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Well Ken...GOOD engineers don't assume all the time for one, and if I seemed impulsive I apologize. I was just giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Jeff_A
User Rank
Silver
Pepper Grinders
Jeff_A   3/11/2013 7:19:52 PM
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We use a pepper grinder that we inherited from my mother in law.  It has been used regularly for at least four decades. It works great. If I tried to take it apart to analyze its superior performance, my wife would kill me.   

Last year, we received as a gift a very nice looking pepper grinder that did not work out of the box.  It looked good, had the screw top adjustment for grind, and either gave out nothing or locked up on the first few tries. On the next turn, the mechanism kind of just fell out of the top of the grinder.  It went in the trash.  We went back to old reliable and use it daily.

Tool_maker
User Rank
Platinum
So who is really at fault?
Tool_maker   3/12/2013 1:03:29 PM
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 It quit working a few days later so you set it aside until you could work on it. Did you write a letter to the manufacturer? Probably not. So the bean counter who chose profit over quality has won. If everyone who bought one of these inferior products took them back to the retailer soon they would disappear from inventory and would end up in Big Lots or Dollar Tree store until the supply was exhausted.

  I keep repeating the same mantra: If we accept garbage any CEO who is doing right by the stockholders will maximize profits by producing and selling the cheapest product he can. When the item was bought and kept, even though it was of poor quality. you confirmed that attitude. In the future, I hope you take deffective items back and demand a refund.

Cadman-LT
User Rank
Platinum
Re: So who is really at fault?
Cadman-LT   4/10/2013 11:09:45 AM
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Tool_maker, I agree. If we accept garbage products then that's what they will sell. The cheaper they can make them the better for them. A 2 cent part might make the difference in a good or bad product, but they don't care. My mom does it all the time....she sees something for cheap...buys it, then wonders why it breaks days later. I doubt there is a solution to this.

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