The latest trend in American home decor is the wildly popular “Picking,” or salvaging items and repurposing them as decorative conversation pieces for the home. The trend has its earliest roots in programs like the Antiques Roadshow, and it has reached a fever pitch thanks to programs such as American Pickers, where the hosts salvage everything from old advertizing signs to industrial equipment. Millions of Americans are even today bringing home old sections of train track, antique trolley cars, old school desks, and even old gas station pumps. With a bit of work, they intend to turn these industrial garbage items into funky coffee tables, plant stands, or even just conversation pieces to display in their living rooms.
There is one element often missing from these shows, however, and that is the fact that most people do not have access to the kinds of tools needed to actually repurpose these items. Veteran industrial restorer Vince Guppi has answered many hundreds of emails from frustrated rookie Pickers. “They see it happen so smoothly on television,” said Guppi,”but they have no idea that you need something more than a screwdriver or an Allen Wrench to do this sort of work.” Guppi notes that most industrial material was put together (and thus needs to be taken apart) using high powered pneumatic hydraulic pumps. The United States actually mandated in 1949 that foundation bolting should become a standard practice. Trying to dismantle or repurpose an industrial item without pneumatic hydraulic pumps could easily result in torque bleeding, a common problem in the railroad industry that occurs when the nuts are not fastened properly and become loose, usually due to using the wrong tool (hydraulic flange spreaders should be used for any remotely high pressure flanges).
The problem, of course, is that not too many people have hydraulic flange spreaders or pneumatic hydraulic pumps just sitting about in their garage workshops. This presents a fantastic business opportunity, according to Guppi. “I was able to use my contacts to put together a local network of businesses,” said Guppi, explaining how he was able to gain access to the pneumatic torque wrenches and other tools necessary for his vocation. “There are plenty of businesses, some of whom are in serious financial distress in this economy, who have these tools sitting in their properties. Oil, gas, mining industries, power plants, shipyards and more all have some or all of these tools, and have employees with the expertise to use them.”
Guppi suggests that these companies organize a business plan. “They have the tools, and thousands of pickers have items that they can not repurpose due to the nature of industrial construction (fastening bolts are usually located in cramped and tough to reach areas, further necessitating proper tools). Put the two together, and you can net a tidy profit by running a simple, once a week service catering to this demographic.”
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