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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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Strange shopping: American Science and Surplus


Nestled in an area of town where you'd least expect it (6901 W. Oklahoma, to be exact) sits one jewel of a store, American Science and Surplus. Perhaps you've been there as a kid; it's that wacky store with all the gadgets, toys and miscellaneous bits and pieces for all sorts of random projects.

If it's been a while since your last trip to this most unique shop, or if you've never had the privilege to drop in, maybe it's time you do. It's a great way to kill a Saturday afternoon, and if you are clever enough to figure out what to do with Zephyrette (it's a tiny, 2" sq x 7/16" thick 5-blade plastic blower), you can have lots of fun for real cheap.

If you're not in the neighborhood, American Science and Surplus is now online, and you guessed it, they're eCommerce enabled. Take a look at some featured items from their rather unusual catalog and decide if it's worth a trip to this great store or if you'd rather shop online at www.sciplus.com. In absolutely no particular order:

DIY Tiffany $6.95 / each

Make you own Tiffany lamp shade in a hurry. You get a clear plastic shade that clips onto a light bulb. It is 1—1/2"square at the bottom, curving up to 3—1/2" square at the top. 4—1/2" tall, it has a brass ferrule at the top. It comes with (4) stickers in a flowery stained glass pattern. Stick them on to create the Tiffany look, or get out some thin paints and create a design from your imagination. Use with a bulb under 100 watts.

Advent Sampler $7.50 / each

A 14" sq lightly padded cloth advent-like calendar hangs from a plain wood dowel with knobs on the end. Santa, a teddy bear and a penguin stand in a wintry scene in the middle and (3) black wire hearts are the hanging apparatus above the dowel. Around the edge are the numbers "1" through "24", each with a button over it. You get to make whatever you are going to hang on each button to count down to Christmas! Or, you can just move the included wooden heart from date to date. The color scheme is predominantly rusty red, grey and white. The tone of the piece is more craft and sampler than holiday, and it is entirely devoid of any religious symbolism, although it is advent calendar-like in use.

Zephyrette $3.00 / each

Or perhaps we should say, "Zephyrian device." This tiny, 2" sq x 7/16" thick 5-blade plastic blower is a real marvel. Made by Euna it has a brushless motor that runs on 12 VDC @ 70 ma and moves a surprisingly large amount of air. Super silent, it has (2) hook up leads and (4) corner mounting holes. Great for cooling little CPU's, and single tarts, or providing air circulation for your parakeet's HVAC system.

Paper Rope $2.00/each

Crafty people love this roughly 1" dia x 12 ft long twisted colored paper. Tie it into giant bows as part of the party decorations or let your origami skills rip and fashion giant bunnies and angels with the stuff. Check the listing for the colors available.

Brain Erasers $1.00/each

A second brain for erasing the mistakes your first brain made! One eraser is half blue to erase pencil, half green to erase pen and about 1" square x 2" long. The other eraser is all blue, slightly bigger, and has a pencil sharpener on the bottom. Erasers should not be eaten by kids under 4.

Lawn Decor $5.75/each

Smiley-face lawn ornaments: perfect for the holidays. For Halloween there's Dracula, a standard yellow and black smiley jazzed up with fangs and a black collar. The slightly smaller Santa Smiley, complete with Santa hat, goes in the ground two months later. Both are roughly 1' sq, corrugated plastic with 7" long metal rods. You get (3) as our each. Use them as picket signs! Protest Christmas with the Dracula Smiley and vice versa.

Body Shield $3.75/each

An apron is one of those good ideas you wish you had earlier. Before you ruined your shirt. These are 28" long with a neck and waist strap. Flexible but sort of stiff, they come in (4) varieties: brown with ranch motif, green/yellow flecks, orange/brown flecks, solid gray. We decide your look. Buy a bunch for the lab, or just one for the kitchen. They're a lot cheaper than a new wardrobe.

Hip-Hop O'Saurs $5.00/each

Finally dinosaurs have caught up with the times. Sure took 'em long enough. Stuffed fabric ‘saurs of the hip-hop generation wear sideways caps and high-top sneakers. Stegosaurus, about 6" tall x 12" long, is blue and purple with two rows of fabric spikes on its back. Cap and sneakers are pink. Brontosaurus, about 10" tall x 8" long, is green with a purple cap and matching sneakers. They're not quite cuddly, but they look cool. And that's what really counts.

Pocketed Pouches $2.75/each

Heavy duty reinforced olive drab canvas gas mask pouches, designed to carry with the opening on the side. Large is roughly 4" x 10" x 10" deep and small is 3" x 8" x 10" deep. Both have a 2-snap closure flap, are gusseted, and have (2) small snap closure pockets on the side and one without snaps inside. Both have a 1—1/2" wide adjustable woven shoulder strap with snap attachment and small has a 3/4" wide waist strap. The big difference between the two is not the size which is really negligible, it is the condition: Large has been through at least one war, small is new. But both are great for carrying heavy items!

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