Sunday, 30 January 2011

Claire: Hair Clip Explorer

Taking Hair Clips To Illogical Extremes

Do hair clips and snow mix?
Claire finds out ...
Remember all that snow we had last month? I know, you probably have blocked it from your memory to protect your mental health.

Well, that Siberian Cold Snap had some unintended consequences in our little world of hair clips.

The snow literally stopped your orders going out and also from being delivered for several days. It hit not only Stone Bridge, of course. Thousands of mail order companies were affected, and most courier companies were very backed up in the run up to Christmas.

I blogged about this back at the time, which you can read about here if you're interested: Snow vs. Stone Bridge

While Claire and I were dealing with delivery problems, we also had a spate of customers getting in touch and letting us know that their French Pleat combs were snapping.

As you probably know, we promise you a hair clip that holds your hair properly without breaking or your money back. We stand by our guarantee unconditionally. So if you receive a clip or headband that isn't completely perfect for you, you get your money back. Absolutely not a problem.

Now the material we use in our combs is Italian cellulose acetate, which is strong and flexible. It can become rigid and more brittle over time, but generally speaking this takes decades. So Claire and I were left scratching our heads over these broken combs.

They had come from a factory that we don't get many products from, so it is possible that we had been unlucky and just had an old batch or had received combs made from defective material.

But it didn't seem very likely.

Claire: Fearless Hair Clip Explorer

A few weeks later, Claire had a brainstorm. She took a comb home over the weekend and put it in the freezer.

Claire's family wondered if she had put it there absentmindedly (as you do, putting your personal care items in the freezer). However, they are used to hair accessories or packaging materials showing up in strange places, usually as subjects in one of Claire's complex scientific experiments.

For example, one of her recent experiments came about when she was worried that a parcel delivered in the rain might mean your hair clips arrive water damaged. So she tested various ways of packing and sealing our boxes and then sprayed them with a squirt bottle to see which method protected your hair accessories the best when they were in transit.

These are the types of things we think about.

With the heavy snowfall in Kent in December, massive numbers of parcels were being collected and then taken to sorting offices, where they would be left caged up on open docks until someone was able to sort them properly.  We know this thanks to our many friends and informants inside the Royal Mail. (Yep, if your parcel is delayed, we pull strings!)

While the docks are under cover, they are left open 24 hours a day. The temperature at this particular time frequently fell well below freezing.

Claire wanted to know what effect freezing had on cellulose acetate and whether any change to the material was permanent.

Before Freezing

Cellulose acetate that hasn't been frozen is bendy. You can break it, but it is more like tearing. It doesn't generally snap.

Claire bent different parts of the comb to see how much effort was required to actually break it. The comb was really quite bendy.

Then our brave comb entered the freezer.

After Freezing

Claire froze the comb overnight for about eight hours. She then left the comb to thaw to room temperature for about three hours.

Bending the comb, the material immediately snapped under pressure.

The comb was left for another 24 hours at room temperature, but continued to be brittle, breaking easily.

Inescapable Conclusions

French handmade hair accessories are not suitable for home freezing.

Generally speaking, this shouldn't be a problem for you as a collector of Stone Bridge hair accessories. Your hair accessories will be going from wherever you do your hair (presumably at room temperature) to being in your hair, where they will be next to your roasty warm head all day.

However, if you keep any hair accessories in your handbag or in the glove box of your car, there is a small chance they could get frozen.

Something to keep in mind.

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