MakeShift Challenge: Retrieve Your Keys from a 15′ Crevice: Most Creative

Peter Davoust’s Most Creative Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
September 25, 2007

I’m not sure if submitting “two solutions” is legit, but I would argue that these are troubleshooting steps, and that if one fails, the other should work. If I couldn’t try both, I’d try the second first.

The pair of headphones will have two fairly large magnets in them. Depending on the weight of the keys (which will largely depend on the style of Swiss army knife and number of keys) these magnets may do the trick. Swiss army knives, being stainless steel, are magnetic, as shown in the attached picture. Attaching these to the nylon rope could be a problem. Nylon rope melts pretty well, so that may be the best solution. Hopefully matches are included in “… a basic toolkit in the car”. If not, a magnifying glass should do the trick assuming there is no cloud cover. Otherwise, ripping out the metal detector’s battery and shorting it out for a small length of time, should do the trick. A plate of metal between the two terminals will short the battery, then pressing one end of the rope to the plate while the battery shorts should melt it. While the nylon rope is melted, pressing it to the magnets and allowing the nylon to harden should fasten them to the rope. Lowering the magnets in roughly the spot where the keys were dropped and then moving it around a bit should catch them. It will take time.

However… if after many tries that doesn’t work, meaning the keys are too heavy: there is another way. Assuming the two headphone magnets were too weak to lift the keys, the next step would be to look for a fairly large iron rod or otherwise piece of iron. The pry bar should be good enough. Hopefully the pry bar has a notch or something that the rope could be tied to. If no, wedging it in a rock and then sitting on it or otherwise bending it should work. Then, you would need to scavenge a lot of copper wire, probably from the metal detector, or maybe even the car. The wire would have to be coated with something, so leaving the wire in it’s casing is probably a good idea. After you had maybe 50 ft of wire, you would need to wrap it around the pry bar near the bottom. Then some kind of load should be placed at one end of the copper wire, possibly your poor metal detector, or hopefully something a little less valuable (or preferably something that’s designed to take 12v, like maybe the car radio). Then that load gets connected to one pole of the 12v car battery, while the wire gets connected to the other. It may also be a good idea to remove the battery and bring it to the hole. Touching the pry bar at this point would be a very bad idea. Lowering this electromagnet into the hole and then doing some fishing should be enough to get the keys out. If not, then they’re seriously wedged, and it may be a good idea to look for some oil in your car to pour down the hole (disconnect the electromagnet first so as not to drain the battery), or to look for an old stick of dynamite. Hopefully the nitro glycerine has separated and you can (very carefully) drip some down the hole in little doses to loosen the keys. Too much, however, will bury them in.

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