What do you buy for a miner this Christmas?

A lot of people say Christmas has become far too commercial, but here at Australian Mining we say it is a great time when you don't need to find excuses for giving cool gifts to the people you love most. With such a rough year in the industry nearly behind us, there’s still time to think of some good quality kit to treat either a loved one or yourself. Whether you’re in  mining, oil and gas, or construction, here’s a list of the some of the best products on the market that can prove just as useful at home as at work. Remember, if you don’t mind the receiver finding out how much you spent, they can probably claim the receipts off their tax next year as an added bonus.

Don’t forget our competition to win a beautiful CAT 775G scale model haul truck. Simply go to our Facebook page or competition website, find the competition and post your comment about what you think is the perfect gift for a miner at Christmas-time.

 

Footwear

Oliver 34-692 Pull-on Rigger Boot

34-692_lrg.jpgWe were interested to take a look at the Oliver Rigger Boot for something a little different. A lot of companies issue the AT-45 and 55 series, so most of us already know how unbelievably comfortable the Oliver workboots can be.

However we all need a set of boots at home too, for jobs around the yard, because none of us like lugging a set of boots through the airport every break. Also, laces can be a bit of a first-world problem.

Leaving aside the ankle zip option, we thought it would be great to look at a style of boot that is designed for oil rig work.

The pull-on riggers boot is essentially a fancy leather gumboot. They are very comfortable right out of the box, and actually look pretty good.

These are a perfect choice for any gardening or home renovation, because you can pull them on or kick them off with ease, without having to bend over to get the laces or zipper. Yes, sometimes even untying your shoes can seem like hard work.

So if someone you know needs a nice pair of boots for wearing at home, this could make a nice change from rigid site rules about laced-up boots.

Blundstone Executive

Last year we reviewed a new Blundstone executive-style steel capped boot, and it quickly became one of our favourite shoes.

It should be noted that while Blundstone is an advertiser with Australian Mining, our journalist was all too aware of the potential for commercial conflict, but regardless the 783 model became his favourite pair of shoes due to the incredible comfort factor afforded by the workboot sole.

Blundstone_783__44997-1421625867-356-300.jpgHaving worn these boots every day for nearly 18 months and not polishing them once, the review pair look a little worse for wear now, but are still holding up to daily city wear, and our journalist is looking for a second pair to “save for best”.

Typical men’s business and dress shoes have a very thin sole, and all those Christmas parties in Sydney can get pretty taxing, standing around for hours on end drinking free booze and talking nonsense to the PR set: Being a journo is a hard life.

So if we think that’s hard, what about a miner who needs a nice looking pair of shoes to wear out to dinner while he’s on break? If he prefers a moulded to a pointy toe, and if he swears by his workboots for comfort, then it really is hard to go wrong with the up-market Blunnies.

The combination of dress shoes looks with safety boot comfort also make the 783 a perfect shoe for anyone transitioning off the tools and into the office, especially if they need to go back on site from time to time.

Texx street wear [Words: Branko Miletic]

The term ‘work boot’ isn’t usually used in the same sentence along with the word ‘comfortable’. In fact up until a few years ago, the term ‘work boot’ was actually synonymous for soreness and discomfort.

Detroit-Mid_Brindle_FS.pngHow things have changed. Enter the Keen Detroit mid steel toe (mens) safety shoe, a well-made and good looking piece of footwear that has been designed for work in some of the toughest environments imaginable and constructed from the ground up to be both a saviour for the toes and a blessing for the soles.

Overall, the Keen Detroit mid-steel toe safety shoe is light on the hoof but with a ‘chunkier’ mountain climbing boot look. In other words, its easy to wear and easy on the eye.

Weighing in at a respectable 700g, this work boot also moves seamlessly while you work and at the same time delivers stability, support, and of course that all-important steel-toe protection.

With an internal support mechanism, which is anatomically engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of the foot, the Keen Detroit mid-steel toe is made for a variety of job sites, and for working and working hard all day, every day, regardless of the weather or ground conditions.

Waterproof, anti-static, anti-slip, and with plenty of ankle protection, the Keen Detroit mid-steel toe with its ‘anatomically correct’ steel, aluminum, and composite toe provides a roomier toe box and maximum comfort.

While it’s available in only brindle or black and marketed for the building and construction sectors, in practicality, the Keen Detroit mid-steel toe safety shoe can be used just about everywhere where comfort and safety are important attributes to workers, which is basically everywhere on the planet.

Designed with a contoured heel lock, dual density moulded EVA midsole, waterproof breathable membrane, left and right asymmetrical steel toe, hydrophobic/hydrophilic two-zone lining, oil and slip resistant non-marking rubber outsole, reflective webbing for additional safety, removable dual density EVA foot bed, torsion-stable ankle shank and waterproof nubuck leather upper, the Keen Detroit mid steel toe meets or exceeds ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards- AU/NZS 2210.3.2009.

Aesthetics, ergonomics and above all, safety, the Keen Detroit mid steel toe combines fashion and comfort to deliver an easy to wear and modern-looking safety boot that is designed to protect your toes – one shoe at a time.

Bamboo Socks

It’s the classic groan gift: a pair of socks from Grandma at Christmas. Firstly, don’t groan at Grandma’s socks. With a whole set of grandkids to buy prezzies for each year, the budget has to tighten up, and that’s why you all get socks.

However, socks are an important part of life for every miner. You need something nice and thick that doesn’t end up paper thin at the end of the day (easier said than done). Moreover, the simple pleasure of donning a new pair of socks is not to be underestimated, so why not treat your special miner to a few pairs of socks that will make spending all day on their feet just a little bit easier.

bamboo-socks.pngOne of the finest pair of work socks money can buy came to us from Aussie Disposals, who sent out a couple of pairs of the Extra Thick Bamboo Socks from Bamboo Textiles Australia.

And indeed they are extra thick! The Bamboo Sock has a nice silky feel compared to traditional cotton work socks, and is quite breathable.

Anyone who prefers the Explorer sock should definitely try out Bamboo socks. They’re pretty pricey (but so are Explorers these days), but they feel great and stay nice and thick, whereas cotton socks have a tendency to get a bit loose and stretched out over time.

One of the key differences is the Bamboo weave seems a bit more rigid, meaning the socks aren’t very stretchy –  whether this is good or bad would come down to personal taste, but for my money it’s reassuringly snug.

The other interesting thing about these socks, and not exactly a plus, is that they take quite a long time to dry out after a wash. The good people at Aussie Disposals warned us about this when they sent the review pair. The reason is because bamboo fibre is hollow, which makes it an excellent wicking fibre.

The most important feature of Bamboo socks is their advertised anti-bacterial properties. Apparently bamboo is rarely attacked by pests or diseases, and this property carries over to the manufactured fibre. Bamboo Textiles Australia says their socks do not have the same “incubating” properties of cotton.

In combination with its wicking properties, this make bamboo fibre perfect for combatting smelly feet. As a matter of fact, I’ve been wearing a pair inside some Oliver boots for the last six hours and, wait a minute…  

Back again. So my editor, after protesting adamantly that he flatout refused to smell my feet, has been persuaded to take a whiff. He reckons my feet don’t smell of anything. And they really don’t feel very sweaty at all. Call that one a success for Bamboo Socks.

Mining Watches

Accessories always make a fine Christmas gift. No matter what you buy, the recipient will have fun looking for things to match. But a watch is different, especially when you’re buying for men. Men’s watches go with everything. They’re designed for everyday use, and the very best  are made to last a long time.

This is the spirit in which Adina, Australia’s last commercial watchmaker, has produced a watch specifically for miners. The Country Master Underground model is mechanical watch, meaning it is self-winding and doesn’t require a battery. This means the watch is safe for use in coal mines where intrinsic safety is required to prevent accidental explosions.

This watch is so attractive to miners that Whitehaven Coal recently ordered 400 of them to give to their underground employees for all their hard work through some tough times.

The key features of the Country Master Underground are the sapphire glass face and back, which is completely scratchproof. In fact, Adina’s owner and second generation watchmaker Grant Menzies is very keen on making Youtube videos about it. One video shows him attack the face with a pair of sidecutters, then hold it against a bench grinder for a good ten seconds to show just how scratch-proof the sapphire glass really is.

Here's a video of us giving it a go in the office with a small flathead screwdriver.

The back of the watch is also sapphire glass, so that the mechanical movement can be easily inspected (ie. mine security can check there’s no battery in the watch). While this might not sound essential, it’s really cool to see the movement of the watch.

Menzies has also tried tearing the watch apart with a couple of four wheel drives. Of course this is overkill, but it does go a long way to demonstrating the toughness of the watchband.

As a final show of bulletproof quality, Menzies runs the watch over with his truck, then shows the face is still undamaged.

While there are other watches out there designed for mining, there aren’t any others made in Australia, and Adina is a small business producing top quality timepieces. The simple practicality of a polished steel watch case is very classy, and the whole piece weighs 150 grams, which is a reassuringly chunky piece of man-jewellery.

Retailing for around $500, anyone would be happy to find a top-notch watch like the Adina Underground in their Christmas stocking.

 

The CAT phone

Caterpillar has been manuafacturing a line of smartphones which are hardwearing enough that you can drive a Cat 277D over the top of them!

The B15 is a ruggedised smartphone, designed by Cat specifically for the mining and construction industries.

It boasts an aluminium casing and Gorilla Glass screen, and is about half the price of the new Samsung S5, so it makes a lot of sense to keep one these on site with you.

It can be dropped onto concrete from a height of 1.8 metres without sustaining any more than cosmetic damage, and the touchscreen works fine when wet.

The B15 also has an Ingress Protection rating of 67 (same as the S5) which means it is water proof to a depth of one metre for 30 minutes, and is 100 per cent dustproof.

What this phone makes up for in physical strength it lacks in processing power and screen size, but this is reflected in the price.

It runs Android 4.1 Jellybean, has a 5 megapixel camera and only 512 megabytes of RAM, so if you don’t know what these things are, you probably won’t care, as long as you can make calls, check your emails, take underwater photos on fishing trips, and then tag your mates on Facebook.

For workers and operators who love the Cat brand, this might be the perfect phone.

It’s got heavy rubberised, chunky industrial styling and is about 15mm thick, so you’re bound to notice if it’s about to fall out of your pocket, although the screen is only 4 inches long.

We had a quick look online, and you can pick up an unlocked Cat B15 for around $450.

Check out the Cat promotional video to get a good look at what these phones can do.

 

Knives

Gerber multi tool

Every tradie ought to have a multi-tool on his belt. Sure, you can have a chest full of tools on site, but what’s worse than having to walk back to get a Stanley knife or a pair of pliers (or yelling out for an apprentice, more likely) when you’ve had a simple task pop up that needs a quick fix.

A multi-tool generally has a number of fun little gadgets that are useful in a range of situations, but they’re chiefly used for a small pocket knife or handy set of pliers. If you’re holding something up and need to get pliers on something with the other hand, they’re right there on your belt.

Although many sites ban “fixed blade” knives and insist you use those ridiculous retractable safety blades, I never went to work without a knife on my belt, I was never stopped, and I never saw anyone else warned for having one either. A good worker always has a good knife at the ready.

Multitool_Gerber_Multi-Plier_600_Needlenose_7530.jpgAnyway, Gerber recently sent in an interesting little item from their multi-tool range, the Multi-Plier 600 Needlenose Stainless.

There’s a lot of different multi-tools on the market, and needless to say most people prefer the Leatherman brand because it’s been around for a long time, but this unit has a very appealing sliding plier feature.

In effect, these are flick pliers. There’s no need to unfold the multi-tool: With one hand you can reach for them in the belt pouch and with a quick flick of the wrist you’ve got your pliers, perfect for any awkward task when you can’t simply let go and head for the toolbox.

Myerchin riggers knife

I want to mention this knife as a great Christmas gift because Myerchin is not a well-known brand in Australia, but they make beautiful knives that are perfect for all types of rigging. Originally a sailing brand, their knives apply well to any work involving ropes.

These are purpose built folding knives, so the features include a sheep’s foot blade to prevent accidental stabbing, serrated blade so you can tear through rope without quickly dulling the blade, and lockback style for fixed blade safety (can’t close on your fingers).

The real kicker is the blade lock release, which doubles as a marlin spike for undoing difficult knots. While the marlin spiked is locked in place, the blade serves as the release. Don’t make the mistake of opening both at once, or you’ll be jimmying around for a few minutes with a very small screwdriver before you work out how to trigger the mechanism to release both blade and spike.

[Note: Unlike most of the products listed here, Australian Mining did not receive a sample. However, I used to own one and I really, really like this knife. -BH]

Gloves

Gloves go missing off job sites all the time. It’s not desirable, but it does happen. So why not just get your loved one their own special pair of gloves so they don’t have to keep smuggling packets of riggers gloves on the flight?

There are some pretty cool developments on the market these days, the kinds of gloves that you simply won’t see on site because the contractors are too, frugal, shall we say?

One of our favourite new products at AIMEX 2015 was the Cestus DM Hybrid with Maximum Grip. This glove may be overkill for gardening at home, but it would double perfectly as motorbike gloves for an afternoon ride. Padding on the palms and fingers is made with a silicon rubber dubbed ‘Maximum Grip’ and grippy it certainly is.

Rubber guarding across the top of each digit means it would be virtually impossible to hurt your fingers if you accidently smashed them between, say, a 70mm spanner and a gas pipe flange (don’t ask how I know how many stitches you’d need after that). The gloves also have a hard moulded polymer guard across the knuckles like a high-end road bike glove, meaning you could punch holes through fibro without feeling a thing.

Cestus Gloves are available from TechniqueSolutions.com.au.

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