Anchor Tenants

There seems to be a social-media contest for messiest workbench. Many modellers get chest-puffing macho affirmation by claiming that they can still produce amazing work even when the bottles of paint and boxes of partially finished kits are threatening to obliterate the remaining 6 square inches of usable work surface in a cataclysmic avalanche.

I am not such a modeller. My stress gets higher as the mess gets deeper. Usually I clean up every time I post to this blog, even if that means I will have to get everything out again the next day. Usually.

This summer the workbench, while still not likely to win, place or show in the messiest workbench competition, has started to get out of hand. The beautiful weather and summer commitments are not the only reasons my progress on 622 has slowed: it is getting harder and harder to sit down at the workbench because the accumulated debris has made the workbench a less pleasing place to work.

What happened? Well, usually I find when some mess starts to accumulate on a flat surface, it is due to what I call “anchor tenants.” Normal people (by which I mean people other than myself) use this term to refer to the big department store in a mall that provides critical mass so that all the little stores can survive. Malls that lose their anchor tenants don’t survive.

Messes accumulate around anchor tenants in the same way. You acquire something new and because it doesn’t have a home yet, you put it down while you consider where it should go. It sits there for a couple of days, and soon it’s underneath another something that needs a home. Sure enough, those two items attract a bunch of things that already have homes, but you’re just too busy today to put them away. Before you know it, you’re diving for cover as the whole lot slips off the top of the bureau while you’re pulling underwear out of the bottom drawer.

The key to cleaning up a mess is to deal with the anchor tenants.

Over the two years that I’ve been building 622, my workbench has gained a couple of anchor tenants. The first was the etched sheets of phosphor bronze and nickel silver (far left in the photo), which have been there since the beginning of the project. They didn’t fit into the project box, and I can’t recall why they never went into a drawer, but there was a good reason at the time. Various papers have accumulated around them because they’re flat.

At the other end of the mall, the soldering irons and the RSU ground plate are behaving like Zellers shortly before they went out of business; they are always a mess, even when the bench has been thoroughly tidied. Being awkwardly attached to the RSU, the ground plate hardly ever gets put away. The foil on the grounding plate got eaten by acid flux a couple of months ago, but it’s too big anyway, and the whole tool is waiting for modification when I get around to it. This tends to be a place where bottles of flux and other nasties sit when I’m too lazy to put them away.

Between these two anchor tenants a third tenant has taken up residence over the course of the build: 622 itself consists of many parts and subassemblies, which never get put away. Some of them may now be lost, but I won’t know until final assembly.

Joining all 622’s subassemblies is a host of tools, and a selection of wire and strip off-cuts. Now, to be fair to myself, these do get put away regularly. However, it is easy to leave them out from one blog post to the next because, well, the rest of the bench is a disaster anyway.

The major lesson from 622 is that I should have been figuring out how to safely stow all the odd-shaped parts as they came together. There is no reason for the check valves to be on the workbench, and what am I doing with those tiny smokebox inspection ports loose at the top of the cutting mat? It would be okay for the motor to be sitting in a bowl together with its screws were I actively working with them, but I’ve not needed them out for months.

It’s almost too late now, but the next locomotive(s) will get stowed as they are built, and I won’t admit the first anchor tenant when they inevitably show up.

7 thoughts on “Anchor Tenants

  1. Brilliantly observed post, Rene! I keep following and reading, I actually know nothing to comment about usually but this strikes a chord with me and no doubt, many others.
    Thank you!

  2. Rene
    Your recycling bin will be full of those small plastic containers in which so many supermarket items are packaged. Margerine, houmus, yoghurt – the list is endless. They all potentially have a further life as ways to hold odd little bits, like the various components for 622, that will otherwise get buried on the workbench.
    My personal favourites are the clear, hard, plastic boxes in which some brands of chocolates are packaged. Dispose of the contents in an environmentally friendly way (my wife is usually happy to help with that) and you have a perfect container for keeping kits of parts together in one place. They are also perfect as drying booths for items that you have just painted – or just simply for keeping dust off a project.
    Best wishes

    1. Thanks for the ideas, Eric. Are you certain it’s the clear hard plastic boxes and not the contents that you like?
      In actual fact, I have a nice project box for this locomotive, complete with movable separators to make different sizes of compartments. It is not the container that is wanting, but the discipline to use it.

    1. ROFL, Brian. My sister had a cat when we were growing up, but apparently I was the one he liked to wake up. He would do so by jumping onto my desk and start pushing whatever was there onto the floor, working his way along. He could walk from my homework desk to my modelling desk, and as soon as he got close to the models, I would jump up. Maybe I fed him; I can’t recall. I was certainly well-trained!

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