Sunday, April 19, 2009


My friend Bob gave me an "empty" laserjet toner cartridge. They threw it away where he works. We thought it looked almost like a space gun just as it was. There was a big double barrel end on it and it even had pump action. There were lots of ribs and textures and buttons all over it too. It looked like something they might use in an Alien movie.

The only really important thing it needed was a handle grip. I made one out of wood and screwed it in place, and then I thought about a broken tape-recorder I had. I screwed those pieces onto it to make it seem more bionic and technical. Then it needed sights, so I glued an ink pen onto it. I strung wires through any openings I could find. It was a lot of fun, and the more things I added the more I liked it. I found a bunch of old broken plastic junk like gumball machine bubble containers and toy cars, so I screwed/glued those onto it wherever space allowed. I had lots of plastic gears out of empty correction tape dispensers so I used those too. I just kept drilling holes and adding new pieces. 

In that picture above, which is the finished pistol, you can see a long stick poking up near the back with a bubble lens to look through. That's where things all went wrong for me. The picture below is where the incident took place.

I was working on it in my TV room while I watched an old movie called Alligator People. That's not really important but it's burned into my memory now. I drilled a hole in the top of the gun to accept that plastic stick piece, and black toner powder started pouring out of the supposedly empty cartridge into my TV room floor. It must have been pouring out a lot before I'd even realized what happened, because it was everywhere. Toner powder is very fine too. It poured out of the cartridge like water, and it wouldn't stop. When I covered the hole, black powder started pouring out other various cracks and holes in the cartridge. I must have drilled 20 holes in that thing. It was the blackest messiest mess I'd ever made. If I even tried to move, the lightest motion of air would make the powder already on the floor ripple and spew outward even further, as if it were black water. Actually it was worse than water. Water has a surface tension which holds it in place up to a point. This was like dust in space. It freely flowed anywhere and everywhere, and it just wouldn't stop like it was alive. I could even see it flow around corners and change directions.

When I looked up away from the floor, I saw there was a big black cloud in the room, floating over all my things. I could hear Alligator People snarling on the TV, but it looked like it was off. That's because of the nature of toner powder. It's designed to print onto paper by clinging to statically-charged areas. My TV screen must have had a lot of static on it, because there was a completely even covering of black powder over the screen.

While all of this was happening, my wife was in the next room completely oblivious to any of these goings-on. I feel like that toner cartridge was full, and maybe there was just a glitch in it, and that's why they threw it out, because there had to be enough toner powder on my floor to print a full set of Encyclopedia-Britanicas.

It took about a week to clean it all up, and sometimes I still find black on things in that room. I used 2-part epoxy putty to seal every crack I could find in that space pistol. The way I found them was by giving it a squeeze and watching where the jetting black cloud was coming from. Now it won't squeeze anymore so I guess it's air-tight.

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