War Work Carries on in the Fight against Covid-19

War Work
War Work Carries on in the Fight against Covid-19
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Chris Stoate

Chris Stoate

Chris Stoate holds degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Toronto. He founded and operated LaserNetworks, an international IT services firm in the print space with a significant environmental contribution. Chris has an interest in public education and served on the Halton Learning Foundation Board and the United Way Board, chairing the Oakville United Way campaign in 2012. He has also been an Oakville Town Councillor.

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Remember stories from your parents or grandparents about doing war work in the evenings during the Second World War or reading in history books about people sewing, knitting and packing parcels for the troops at the front?  Or pulling down the wrought iron fence so it could be melted and forged into tanks and munitions?  Jenny Scott does…her mother, then a 13-year-old Andrea Snowdon followed the instructions from this Red Cross pamphlet to do her part in the war effort.

Knitting Instructions for War Work – 1940

Scrolling Facebook in the early stages of lockdown boredom in the middle of March, Alix Scott, unrelated, ran across a request from a company in Kitchener-Waterloo for people with 3D printers.  The company, Inksmith, had developed a 3D print file for a protective face shield holder.

Alix immediately thought of her friend Dale Egan, a former software engineer who has harnessed her exceptional creativity to found and operate Lantern Cozies, using 3-D print and laser technology to manufacture decorative wooden lighting fixtures for weddings and other special events, among other crafts using both modern and vintage equipment.

Dale leapt at the opportunity to contribute to protecting medical professionals in the Covid-19 crisis.  She and her husband Jim quickly adapted the 3D printer and successfully printed the file…producing the first one in two hours.

Combined with a clear plastic sheet produced from an overhead acetate 3-hole punched, and an elastic band for the back of the head, and you have a critical piece of Personal Protective Equipment that was still in short supply.  Protective Face Shields are very important because they allow medical personnel dealing with coronavirus victims to reuse their face masks…another item where stocks were expected to be very stressed.

War Work - 3D Printers

Private schools including St. Mildred’s, Linbrook, Walden and Maclachlan, quickly volunteered their 3D printers

Even with a new print file that cut production to 25 minutes per unit, Dale knew she needed to be able to handle more volume, so she put Alix on the search for printers and Oakville schools, from St. Mildred’s to Linbrook, Walden and MacLachlan, quickly volunteered their 3D printers to help with the cause.  Set up for the schools’ robotics programmes, the printers had to be rejigged for their new purpose, but fortunately Dale’s engineer husband Jim was able to get them ready.

A shoutout on Facebook brought supplies of elastic from all over town, including a large donation from the Oakville Sewing Centre by way of Carolyn Dell. Trudy Hart, a teacher, unearthed supplies of overhead projector acetates from fellow teachers at the Peel Board of Education, and many local churches.  Grace Kidney got acetates from Clanmore Montessori and other sources in Oakville in Toronto, and Kathy Blakelock Hogg scooped up all of New Central’s stocks.  It turned out Staples sells the acetates still, now as covers, and Trudy bought out their whole supply and donated it to the cause.  Friends with 3-hole punches were enlisted to sit endlessly in front of the TV punching through the acetates…the clear plastic part of the face shield which has to be sanitized before use is not reusable, so hundreds and hundreds of acetates had to be punched to fit the 3D printed holders.  All of this was communicated by Facebook shares that were forwarded and forwarded until they got results.

This box is filled with elastic bands everyday.

There are now 5 3D printers working constantly in Dale’s above garage studio, needing attention between every shield holder from either Dale or Jim.  They have capacity for 3 more as they have to be monitored constantly.  The Town library has several but bureaucratic barriers have made them inaccessible despite the efforts of the local Councillor, Janet Haslett-Theall, and several neighbours and friends who have petitioned the Mayor.

Even if they could have that extra capacity, it is clear that the demand for these shields far outstrips their ability to supply.  Soon, full-scale manufactured and imported shields will become available more easily.  In the meantime, Alix and Dale meet every morning by 7:00 am on FaceTime, sometimes as early as 5:30 am, to plan where they can get more acetates and elastic, who is going to source and three hole punch, drawing on all their friends:  including Jenny Scott whose mother was knitting for the troops at the age of 13.   Then they decide who, among the list of qualified recipients, can properly sanitize the shields and should get how much of the day’s production.

Dale Egan

Dale wearing one of the Face Shields

Project Northern Lights (www.projectnorthernlights.ca) is an organisation with volunteers who help distribute the output from Dale and Jim’s production to hospitals, care homes and outreach projects, as well as helping to source acetates.  The biggest beneficiaries are the Trillium Hospital network and Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital, who have been receiving the shields at no charge from this motivated community-minded group of volunteers.  The group has been operating under the Temporary Measures Act, but soon Dale’s home manufacturing plant will be licensed.  Supplies of factory-made units are still sporadic, so efforts like Dale’s, which are taking place in communities across the country, are still needed to protect our front-line workers.

Canadian families supported our troops with war work sewing, knitting, packing food parcels and donations of scrap metal in World War II.  As we fight the battle against Covid-19, the technology may be different, but the community spirit is still very much alive in Oakville.

Follow Dale War Work on Instagram @LanternCozies


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