Chuck Martin recently sent in this example of what must be the most expensive pizza cutter on the planet ($20) for our Made by Monkeys blog.
He ruined it by putting in the dishwasher.
The cutter has a cast aluminum handle and a stainless-steel cutting blade, and the detergent did a pretty good job on the aluminum. But it wasn't entirely Chuck's fault: There is no "NOT dishwasher safe" warning on the cutter. And besides, Chuck works in the plastics industry so he gets a free pass.
I had a conversation with Ken Russell, our resident forensic metallurgist about it all. He said if he were attributing the blame in this case, he would make it about 90-10 percent with Chuck on the small end. I agree. "The corroded handle is a case of foreseeable misuse, as the manufacturer had to know that Americans throw everything into the dishwasher," said Ken.
What intrigued me more about this case was the fact that Chuck bought the type of item that I personally only would have acquired through my bridal registry. When I walked down the aisle at the advanced age of 38 (to sighs of relief from my parents), I already had a fully stocked kitchen and a personal chef (my fiancÚ). So about the only thing I could think of to put on my bridal registry were expensive gimcracks like a sterling silver lollypop holder.
I wondered to myself: Why would Chuck buy this device? Does he eat a lot of pizza? Does he like thin crusts or thick crusts? Does he own a knife sharpener or have a weapon collection?
My curiosity demanded that I investigate: "Well, it has heft in the hand for one thing, and I guess that particular quality in a product suggests to me that it is made right," Chuck told me. He liked some other things about it, like the screw and Nylock nut fastener. You know, the kind of stuff an engineer would think about.
Pity that such a (mostly) well-thought-out design didn't hold up in the dishwasher.
But the heft thing did interest me. When exactly did "heft" become an indication of quality for certain things? Is it a backlash to the cheap, "Made in Japan" mentality? Or, is it that those of us of a certain age have a preconceived idea of how something should feel in the hand because we remember the way it used to be?
Recently, for example, my husband and I went shopping for a new phone handset for our landline. Having not shopped for a new phone like this for many years, the new floor models were surprisingly light in the hand, and not in a good way. They lacked the feeling of sturdiness that I associate with a telephone (non-mobile, of course).
We wound up buying an industrial-strengthened phone. It's designed to survive a nuclear disaster, which we're not planning for, and it's ugly. But I like the way it feels in my hand.
In the never-ending quest to "lightweight" products, heft is certainly not a great attribute for, say, laptop computers and iPods. Or eyeglasses.
But for many other products out there, I say bring on the bulk!