(and it feels SO GOOD!)
by Marc Friedlander


Nut and Bolt



There's a story behind this nut and bolt.

Some years ago, I parked my car and when I stepped out, I saw a beautiful bolt lying on the ground (see picture above, of ACTUAL bolt). It's a high quality, structural steel bolt. Notice the "grip" (unthreaded area under the hex head), and also the markings on the head, indicating the grade of steel. It was nice and pretty clean looking. What mechanical designer could resist such a thing? I picked it up, continued on to my job a few blocks from there, and put it on my desk.

I admired it for a long time as it became a fixture on my desk - after all, it's a marvel of human engineering - but I always felt it needed a mate. What's a bolt without a nut? A few years passed, and I had it in my mind to find a mate for the bolt when the opportunity presented itself.

One day I was passing a small hardware store in Manhattan and went inside. Long before, I had miked the bolt's thread diameter and counted the pitch. I gave the old guy in the store the specs (5/8-11UNC-2A), and the old guy sent a teen-age boy to the back to get the nut. He rummaged around for awhile and finally emerged with what looked like too big a nut. I asked him: You SURE it's a 5/8-11? He said yes, he was sure. I took it to work the next day and it turned out to be 3/4". It slid right over the threads without engaging, as I silently cursed the boy. The bolt remained solitary and celebate.

Months later I was again passing a (different) hardware store and went in. This time I verified the thread diameter and pitch of the nut (not as easy as it sounds without the proper gages) - I was satisfied it was indeed 5/8-11. I brought it into work the following Monday and ran it on the threads of the bolt. It fit, but something still seemed wrong - cheaper steel, too shiny, okay I guess, but not the bolt's true mate. The bolt was like a guy that gets so lonely he finally succumbs to the idea of ordering an on-line bride from Russia. The girl might be pretty, but the poor schlump must soon realize that they aren't - and never will be - true counterparts or soulmates. I took the nut off, and again the bolt sat alone in unhappy bachelorhood. I remained determined to someday locate a true mate for my threaded compadre.

Today (perhaps 5 years after I first found the bolt), after parking in the same area, I stepped out of my car and spotted the nut you see in the picture. Looked like the right proportions! It was raining but I paused to pick it up and put it in my pocket. Brought it to my desk. Tried to run it on the threads of the bolt and at first it would not go. Looked at the threads of the nut and there was some hardened gunk in them. Used a straightened paper clip, then a key, then a pair of scissors, then a straight pin, and scraped out the gunk. I blew through the hole in the nut, and the gunk - now dust - flew away. Again I ran it over the threads and it spun up the bolt like the long lost mate that it was. They embraced - a perfect fit. Something in the universe clicked into place - the bolt finally had its mate. The world was again whole, birds sang harmoniously (in my mind anyway), and peace and serenity were restored.

Kurt Vonnegut could have written a book about it - or actually, he did. A similar story is actually a sub plot in The Sirens of Titan. Of course there are a few details that differ - in his story there was a robot stranded on Saturn's moon Titan for a few hundred millenia, because his disabled spaceship required a specific piece of scrap metal to replace a damaged component, and the Tralfamadorians had influenced human evolution and subsequent world events in order to someday cause that spare part to be delivered to the robot who could then repair his spaceship and continue his journey to a distant galaxy - so there are a few small differences between the Vonnegut tale and my own. Still - I'm very excited to have found this today, and to have reunited the male and female threaded fasteners. Maybe after awhile I'll have a few little #4-40UNC-2A cap screws and little #4-40UNC-2B erector set nuts rolling around on my desk like little rug rats, a big, happy, threaded family.




Home    Back To Ramblings