I bought the improved Jimmy Diresta ice pick 20 years ago (April 1 2021)


I find the whole "Jimmy Diresta ice pick" thing interesting. Lots of folks posting here and there about uses they found for it after they bought one.

But as far as I can tell, it has the functionality of an awl, but with the skinny long handle and very long point, it's an awkward shape for that sort of tool. "improving" this tool for better ergonomics would involve a shorter fatter point and a handle that is easier to grab with a fist. Or making it more like a conventional awl. And awls have been around for over 100 years. So what's the big deal with the Diresta ice pick?

Doing a bit of research, there really was a tool called an ice pick. It was used for separating and shaping blocks of ice in an ice box, before there was refrigerators. This tool had a long skinny point like Jimmy's but a wider, easier to grab handle. I imagine the tool was held in the fist and whacked into a big block of ice at the top of the ice box to break off smaller chunks, such as for putting into a drink. So the long point made some sense because it wasn't used for anything precise, and the ice block would be a bit down from the door at the top of the ice box. Also you woudlnd't necessarily want your fist to also strike the block while hacking away at it.

But for a tool used in the workshop, that shape makes less sense, which is why the workshop version, and awl, is shorter and with a bulbous handle. The bulbous handle is useful for applying slow steady thrust, or to tap the end of the handle with the wrist. The point is shorter for better control, and typically tapers out wider to be sturdier and be able to expand the holes more.

It's a trinket

Of course, looking at the Jimmy Diresta ice pick in terms of functionality is getting it all wrong. People want some physical trinket, a piece of Jimmy Diresta, memorabilia, and they are willing to pay a premium for it, twenty times more than a more than a more practical awl would cost. Or maybe it's to support Jimmy Diresta, though donating, such as through Patreon would be more efficient at that.

The trinket / memorabilia thing is another aspect I personally don't get. The few times I have bought a physical souvenir on travels, it just became another thing that I didn't know what to do with soon after. Of no practical use, but having gone through effort to obtain it, I don't want to throw it out either. The trinket becomes a liability. I think it's much better to accumulate memories and take pictures. Pictures at least don't take up much space and have a natural place to go.

Another trinket of this type is Giaco Whatever's Kinetic screwdriver. Or Simone Giert'z every day calendar. I don't get that calendar. If you want to check off that you did something every day, why not a big piece of paper with a square for each day you can color. Does it need to be electronic? Oh, wait, the paper can only be used once. So make that twenty sheets of paper, and it will probably outlast the electronic version at a fraction of the cost.

But if its a trinket, perhaps it would be best to not pretend it's about functionality. It makes more sense for Destin from smarter every day to send out signed baseballs, or Veritassium sending out signed "shade balls". That way you know it belongs in your trophy cabinet, so there's no risk of getting it scratched up.

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