Thursday, Sep 27, 2012

Putty in your hands
New fix-it product is one of '50 Best Inventions'
By MAG RUFFMAN, Special to QMI Agency

Just a few of Mag Ruffman's creative uses for Sugru fix-it compound.

Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the expression “brand new”?

Hint: Shakespeare used the term “fire new” to describe the same thing.

Brand new means straight from the fires of creation, whether from the forge, the kiln or the holy blaze of the human imagination.

And you probably know at least one person who you would describe as a “firebrand.” Originally meaning “a stick that’s on fire,” the term is now used to describe someone who’s an instigator, provoker or inciter; in other words, a wildly creative person.

So today I want to introduce you to a firebrand who has created a brand new product that’s been on fire since it was introduced to the world one year ago.

That product is Sugru, a moldable silicone rubber compound that permanently bonds to metals, glass, ceramics, wood, stone and most plastics. It cures in about eight hours at room temperature to a tough, slightly flexible, waterproof, dishwasher-safe, freeze-proof, resilient grippiness that makes it roughly 800 times more effective than duct tape or cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue) for fixing, repairing, appending, extending and augmenting your stuff.

Play it forward

Sugru (an Irish word for “play”) is the brainchild of Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh, who was studying product design in the UK when she needed something moldable to make a small model. She experimented with mixing sawdust into silicone caulking. It stuck horribly to her fingers, but it was the start of an unquenchable desire to create a moldable compound that could be formed by hand, without tools.

After five years of development, Sugru was introduced on December 18, 2009, to the online community of hackers, inventors and crafters. Three thousand packs of orange, green, blue and black Sugru sold out in less than 24 hours. I was lucky enough to get my order in that day, and I’ve spent months testing and experimenting (read “playing”) with Sugru.

I’ve fixed a whack of stuff that was malfunctioning, lame or busted. I made my phone grippier and my mouse pad backing stickier, extended my cellphone dock, made custom holders for my make-up brushes, fixed frayed cables, repaired glasses, created ornamental cases for USB drives and reclaimed busted hair accessories.

Slick stick

To experience the insane creativity of hackers worldwide, visit Sugru’s online gallery. You’ll see fantastic photos from people who’ve used Sugru to:

• Reattach handles to mugs

• Make custom earbuds

• Create comfortable handles on favourite tools

• Repair shoes

• Waterproof backpacks

• Make jigs for electronics

• Upgrade utensils for arthritic hands

The photos will give you so many ideas your fingers will be itching to try some projects of your own.

Hack to the future

You can blend Sugru’s four colours to create browns, turquoises and darker shades. It would be great if there were a few more colours of Sugru – red, yellow and white, for example.

Jane reports that her team is very close to formulating white Sugru. And Sugru made it into Time Magazine’s list of 2010’s 50 Best Inventions. Not bad for a brand new product in its first year of production.

Sugru has a slight odour and may cause an allergic reaction in people with extremely sensitive skin, so wear tight-fitting gloves if you’re delicate that way.

Availability: Sugru comes in single- or multi-colour “hack packs” starting at about $10 for six 5-gram sachets (shelf-life is 6 months). Delivery via airmail takes about 10 days.

Makes an indispensable gift for the firebrands in your life.

Mag Ruffman appears weekdays on Real Life on CTS. Visit her online at

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