June 26, 2012
I’m about to show you something that’s going to make some of you freak out and so push some little button inside you that you’re going to find it impossible to resist shooting me off a comment in the hopes of making me repent and change my ways. All I can tell you is when you’re as old as I am you’ll understand. You might even feel some compassion. So before you comment, consider this; one day you will be old enough that any writing smaller than a 12 font will make you squint. Even with progressive lenses. Even with the writing held up to the tip of your nose. Enjoy these years of crystal clear effortless vision, and judge not those who have little more than faded memories of being able to read a book by candlelight or getting past the fourth line down on the optometrist without resorting to reciting the letters as a question.
“I think it says R – T – M – Q – G ? Is that right? Am I close?”
Having laid all this as the foundation, let me now turn my attention to piping tips and more specifically the miniscule tip size numbers etched on them. I don’t care what the brand is (I have Ateco, PME and Wilton), it’s nearly impossible for me to read the number on each tip and so for the past year when it came time to separate a handful of tips I eyeballed the end and got pretty good at guessing the number tip by the size of the opening. I don’t have any problem distinguishing a 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 tip from one another but when I added 1.5 and 2.5 tips to the mix, life got more complicated.
There had to be a better way than guessing, squinting, and whimpering when it came time to separate a collection of washed and dried tips. In my perfect world, piping tip manufacturers would be attune enough to their customer base to make each size tip in a different color but until then I took matters into my own hands. Literally.
I tried to draw a different colored band around each number tip using permanent felt markers and craft paints made specifically for metals but after one washing, little to no color remained. That’s when I resorted to do something I’ve never done before in my life. I entered the . . . gasp . . . cosmetic section of the nearby drug store and bought . . .double gasp . . .a selection of fingernail polish.
Oh no, she didn’t!
Oh yes, I did.
Yes, I’m telling you the truth despite the conniption fits that may follow. I came home with my arsenal of fingernail polish and proceeded to draw a line of color around every single piping tip according to size, and then just add to your heart clutching I let it dry and added another coat. I don’t need to tell you the smell was potent enough that for the rest of the afternoon I was in some “yellow submarine stairway to heaven puff the magic dragon” state of mind and odds are, one or two brain cells were damaged in the process. A concerning possibility when I have so few to spare as it is.
After each tip had a double-thick band of polish around the center circumference of the tip, thus avoiding the icing from ever coming in direct contact with the acrylic polish, I left the tips out in the open for three days until the smell was completely gone. And then I left them out for two more days as added assurance.
It’s strange how my piping tips went from being non-gender specific objects to becoming high fashion glossy girls. So pretty.
After five days of having them in the open to dissipate any residue smell, I quickly separated them by color into plastic containers to store them away by color/size. This is how I store and use them.
Since coloring my tips I’ve run several experiments to test the durability of the polish. I began by putting them in the closed utensil basket of the dishwasher which was my usual way of washing my tips. This proved to be a dismal failure as the colors faded after only one normal cycle and after two complete cycles the polish began bubbling and falling off. The second test was soaking them overnight in soapy water. Same results and totally not acceptable.
The third and final test was to fill a large mixing bowl with hot soapy water and placing the used tips in a wire strainer basket smaller than the bowl, rapidly lift and plunge the strainer into the water bowl for one to two minutes. I then removed the strainer from the bowl and using the sink hand sprayer hit the tips for another few seconds to thoroughly rinse them before laying them out on a kitchen towel to dry. This whole process took about 4 minutes to clean 20 tips at once and in the end they were thoroughly clean and the polish was unaffected. Overall, I learned that as long as the tips aren’t soaked in water for an extended period of time, the nail polish will retain its color and continue to adhere to the metal surface.
Before you get all up in my grill please note; I’m not saying this is the best way to easily distinguish your number tips from one another but it’s the way I came up with that’s working for me. It now only takes me seconds to separate my tips by size using the color identification, in terms of food safety there’s no contact between the nail polish and the icing, and while it was easier to wash my piping tips in the dishwasher, using the strainer and bowl method takes only a little more time and effort and ends up getting the tips just as clean while preserving the polish. Even if I have to occasionally touch up a ring of polish, it’s worth it to save my eye sight. Even at the expense of a brain cell or two.
Now do me a favor. If you have a family member or friend who works in product development at Wilton’s, tell them about my idea for coloring their numbered tips. Even if they can’t add color the metal persuade them to design small colored clips or bands that could be attached to the tips. There’s money in this idea people. Just remember where you heard it and then make a donation to the ALS Association from your vast windfall as a thank you.