"" Writer's Wanderings: Zippers Gone Wild (Or Why You Pack Duct Tape)

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Zippers Gone Wild (Or Why You Pack Duct Tape)

Back in 1851, Elias Howe who invented the sewing machine applied for a patent on a device he called "Automatic, Continuous Clothing Closure." His sewing machine was so successful however that he didn't pursue marketing his idea. Along came Whitcomb Judson in 1893 with a "Clasp Locker" that was a complicated hook and eye closure that had little success. He was however considered the inventor of the zipper because of his attempt at marketing his idea through the company he formed with Colonel Lewis Walker, the Universal Fastener Company. But credit for the more modern design we are familiar with goes to Gideon Sundback, an electrical engineer hired by the company who also married the manager's daughter. By 1913, he had designed a more workable unit and the rest as they say is history.

Zippers hold much of our world together and have long been the fastener of choice on the modern day suitcase. Considering what our suitcases go through--over packing, tossing, rain, bearing the weight of twenty more stacked on top, it is amazing that they hold up so well. But on occasion, they don't.

It was on a trip to Europe with Bob's brother and sister-in-law that we saw what happens when a zipper gives in transit. Dick's suitcase came sliding down the luggage rack with duct tape wrapped around it. After determining they hadn't lost anything, Dick managed to fix the zipper and it worked for the rest of the trip.

So, what do you do if your suitcase zipper fails, gets stuck, or goes off the track? Here are some suggestions.

1. If it gets stuck, try some Vaseline, lip balm, or soap on the teeth to get the clasp to slide again.

2. If the teeth don't want to stay closed it usually means there's a bent tooth. Borrow some pliers if you don't carry your own and find the tooth, apply a bit of pressure to straighten it and it should work okay.

3. Zipper tab lost from the slide? Buy a cheap souvenir key chain and attach it to the slide. You'll also have a unique way to identify your luggage.

If everything is totally out of whack with the zipper, there is a way to remove the bottom metal bar, pull the slide all the way off, realign the teeth, put slide back on and sew the end of the zipper together where the metal bar was. But that's a lot of work and I'm thinking at that point duct tape wrapped around the piece of luggage just might do a better job. And, it's available now in designer patterns and colors!

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