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---Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles---
A couple of years ago I went through a phase. I decided that rather than spending my money on tattoos, alcohol and cool and pretty objects I would finally start filling my house with useful objects. In this spree I got new file box, a Pac-man alarm clock (which lasted maybe three nights before being turned off and shoved in a drawer; apparently "waca waca waca waca" doesn't wake me up in the best of moods) and a few books to put on my new shelves. Yay for being a grown up. When I was transferring all of my files from their old, battered folder to their newer, shiner box I realised that I had a lot of files that were older than 7 years. That, by the way, is the best piece of advice I could give anyone who is baffled about how long to keep your paperwork for. After 7 years, however, you can normally safely discard your paperwork without a care in the world. Or can you?
My mum used to work in a dump. The things people throw away are crazy. Brand new furniture, clothing, toys, appliances, anything you can imagine you can probably find a brand new one at the dump. You can also find reams and reams of paperwork. Due to the mass amounts of essentially free household goods on offer, you can always spot a keen eyed observer at a dump just waiting to have a raid through one mans trash to make another's treasure. Now, before you throw away your paperwork, have a look at it. What can you find out about yourself from a credit card statement? Couple that with an electric or gas bill? A council tax statement? Even a general letter could give one more piece to the puzzle that could eventually lead someone to know your name, address, phone number, who you bank with, your bank details, your balances, your pins. If you've scribbled passwords down on them, you're screwed. If you haven't, then there's also a good chance that in the wrong hands you are screwed. As much as I advocate a good screwing, this kind will leave you wishing you had been more sensible. What can you do to stop this happening? A good first step is a shredder.
---Squares vs. Stripping---
You can get two types of shredders on the market at the moment: Cross cut or Strip cut. The difference is a big one and you'll probably notice a large price difference between them. Cross cut shredders are the best security wise as they essentially cut your paperwork into hundreds of tiny little squares. Put your self in the shoes of a fraudster, would you try and put this jigsaw back together when there are bags of other people's trash with full letters waiting on them? Not unless you were really desperate. Unfortunately a decent cross-shredder will set you back upwards of £30. A step down from that is a Strip-Cut shredder. You'll pay between £10 and £20 for a decent one however it is less secure. A strip cut simply cuts your paper into strips about 6mm wide. While that still means your shredded paperwork will be a complete hassle for anyone to put back together, it is still a lot easier to do so than with a cross shredder if you are determined. Still, hopefully the extra work will be enough to put fraudsters off, knowing that there will be lots more effortless paperwork out there to snaffle.
---Cheap as Casino Chips---
So, now that I had pondered my identity security I decided that I would invest in a shredder. After spending all my money on pointless clocks and less pointless file boxes, I had a little less money to throw around so I thought I'd try out the cheaper option. Texet's 10 litre strip shredder was the cheapest and you can currently pick one up for around £13 online and a tenner in store. This was a much more acceptable price than the £30-£70 range of cross shredders.
---Girl, look at that body---
The main shredding unit is black plastic with any text or symbols in white. It isn't huge either, being about 5 inches depth and breadth and about 2 inches wider than an A4 sheet of paper in portrait. The unit sits on top of a 10 litre capacity bucket so that the paper has somewhere to go when you feed it through the opening on top of the unit. The bucket is about a foot tall with only about an extra inch on the breadth of the shredder. The bucket is also black plastic (though not as durable as the main unit) so the whole unit matches nicely and looks fairly clean and professional.
The plug (also black) attaches to the backside of the shredding unit and is about 2 meters long. Perfect if your have a plug under your desk or near where you want to put it but it can become a bit of a pain if the plugs are further away. You can easily get an extension cord but if you don't like using them or creating more wires than are really needed you might want to consider something with a slightly longer reach. Looks wise it's fairly unobtrusive and probably quite easy to match to other stuff in your household / office. Let's face it, black goes with everything. You may want to be a rebel and peel off the big yellow warning label on the face of the shredder, but the more safety conscious may want to keep it as a reminder to not put your fingers in it.
---Push my buttons---
The shredder is very simple to operate. Above the slot where you feed your paper into there is a small slider with three settings. The main worry I always have is that there is no "off" setting unless you switch it off at the wall. The first setting (slider to the left) is On / Auto. This setting basically leaves the shredder in idle. There is a sensor somewhere near the middle of the letterbox that detects when there is paper incoming and turns the shredder on, sucking your paper through. The upside of this setting is that you can save yourself a bit of time if you are shredding lots of stuff. It also gives the motor a bit of a rest between sheets. That, of course, is assuming you are not like me who likes to create a continuous feed for the shredder to get through it as quickly as possible.
There are also a few downsides of this setting. If you leave it on this setting, you could easily find your cat and / or children being sucked into the shredder. I'll let you decide if that's a good thing or not. It always makes me a bit squeamish if I'm picking the shredding unit up to clear the bin so I always make sure it's turned off. There are also times where I've been shredding paper smaller than A4 and the sensor doesn't always pick it up leaving me doing that thing you do at a queue for the bank; repeatedly shoving your card in the slot waiting for it to accept it. Occasionally, the sensors don't pick up that there is paper in the slot even when it's A4 sized. This doesn't happen often but it can happen.
The last issue with the auto function also effects other functions. When you are feeding the paper through the shredder, there's a good chance that your paper will go through squint. If it does, it starts crumpling and getting caught which is a total pain in the bum. Not only does this mean that the sensor switches the shredder off as the paper is at a funny angle and no longer covering it, sometimes it means that the paper that crumpled was too thick or awkward to cut, leaving your documents and information intact or at least connected. That is obviously a touch insecure as it makes it a lot easier for that bin-raker to put the pieces together.
How do you tackle this issue? You basically just have to be careful. Make sure the bin isn't too full as that can make the paper go squint. Make sure you hold the paper firmly and straight. Occasionally I've found myself gently pulling on the paper as it goes through to correct any directional errors. If it does go squint, double check that it has shredder. There are, of course, the other two settings that can help if you get yourself stuck.
---Being forward with hot stuff---
The middle setting on your slider is "forward". This puts the shredder into a continuously "on" state. I tend to only use this if the shredder has jammed or if the sensor is having a bad day. It basically forces the shredder to shred whatever is stuck in it or at least let it pass through. The downside of this setting is that it really heats the motor up. Being that I'm fairly conscious of not wanting to burn the motor out, I try not to use this setting much. Even if I'm continuously shredding using the auto feed, I'll do about 20 sheets and then wait half an hour to give it a chance to cool down. It really does get very hot quite quickly which is a bit of a bummer. Obviously this product is more suited to light home use.
As with anything in life, sometimes being forwards just doesn't work. At that point it's sometimes best to try a little back-pedalling to save your ass. The same is true with the shredder. If you get a jam and the forward setting doesn't work, usually the next setting, furthest to the right of the slider "Backwards" will sort you out. It will push whatever is stuck back up through the shredder for you to grab. Hopefully whatever comes out is big enough to get your hands on without going near the blades! This is the only real use I can think of for this setting unless you have an elf that lives in your shredder bin who wants to give you all his old paperwork.
As you may imagine, shredders are noisy. I seem to recall an episode of NCIS where the cute little geek who was also in Hocus Pocus has his life threatened by a neighbour due to his obsessive shredding. This one, being small, doesn't create as much noise as a larger machine but it is still quite noisy. As long as you live in a house with decent walls and keep your shredding to daylight hours, I don't see it creating much of an issue. It's also not loud enough to be uncomfortable to use for prolonged periods.
---Filling your ten litres---
If you are on a shredding spree, I have to say that the 10 litre bin does fill very quickly. About 15 sheets will have your bin overflowing. If you are only shredding the occasional thing, then it won't be much of an issue. If you are doing a clear out, however, the capacity can be a bit of a pain. Worry not though! Texet have foreseen your moaning and whining. They have ever so nicely made the bits that sit the shredder over the bin adjustable! That means that you can, if you want, take the shredding unit and put it over a bigger wider container. When I was clearing out my 7 year old bumf, I took the lid off of my kitchen bin (a typical large sized swing lid bin) and adjusted the unit to sit over it. It wouldn't go any wider than that, but really if you need something bigger, you might want to consider something industrial. Doing that can save you a lot of running backwards and forwards emptying your small, ten litre bin.
---Don't waste your waste---
Performance wise the shredder works well as long as you don't over tax it. So, now that you have a shredder is there anything else it comes in handy for? Yes, in fact! All your shredded paper is great if you are having to pack things in boxes. If you are moving house, it might be an idea to keep hold of your cuttings to help pack your valuables in. If you aren't a total scrooge then it might come in handy for winding your mother up at Christmas time by filling a box with paper cuttings and hiding her present at the bottom. It can also help with protecting any presents when you're wrapping. If you use your bills to pack stuff with, there is even less chance of them being pieced back together as they will be going to a few different households to discard. If you want your packing in your presents to look a little prettier or you don't want your relatives snooping, it's just as easy to shred a box full of Christmas paper and use that.
If you have pets like rats, mice, hamsters or rabbits (or anything else) you could consider using the shredded mess as bedding for your furry little friends. Not only could it mean that your bills are safely covered in poo and mangled further by your gorgeous little critters, you might find yourself saving money on their bedding.
---Warning: Live without warning---
As with everything these days, the Texet shredder comes with some permanent warnings tattooed in white across the top to assist you in using your new toy. You will have to be adept at deciphering pictures for some of them but mostly they are easy to understand.
**Warning number 1:** No putting birds with big tails near the shredder. Or possibly strawberries and sticks. I'm really not sure, it's a bit unclear. Either way, probably best to take that advice!
**Warning number 2:** No shredding hands. Not only is it not very nice to shred peoples hands, the bin will just get messy. The blood splatter would probably later incriminate you anyway. Best use a tree shredder if you are going down the route of body disposal. Also, it's probably best that you don't put your hands in either. You might need them. It probably won't do terrible damage but it will be very painful. It is possible, however, that I've interpreted it wrong and that it's saying that you are best to operate the shredder without using your hands. Possibly change the slider with your nose and put paper in with your teeth? Who knows?
**Warning number 3:** No wearing tacky ties. Not only does it offend my eyes but it doesn't go with anything you are wearing. Throw in that we've all seen those comedy / horror moments where a person is slowly dragged towards the slicers due to accidentally shoving their ties in the shredder.
**Warning number 4:** No shredding paperclips. I would assume this goes for staples too which is a bit annoying if you have stapled all your stuff together. It means minutes of picking staples out of things but it all goes towards a good cause of not mangling the object you just paid £13 for.
**Warning number 5:** This one is either no shredding people wearing hats, no shredding gingerbread men (wearing hats) or no shredding children. All of which I would have to agree with. Not only do I enjoy a good hat now and then (I grew up watching Alex Mack and her plethora of jaunty hats, ok?) but I'd have to wonder why you'd rather shred a gingerbread man than eat it. Shredding children I'd say was probably more suitable for a tree shredder again, but that's up to you. Probably best keep them away from this if you don't want to have to sew bits back on.
**Warning number 6:** Don't wear deodorant. Or hairspray. The shredder has asthma and is very sensitive. It may also be a good idea not to spray paint your shredder. Mostly because it would probably end up looking tacky anyway, partly because some plastic has a bad habit of melting when spray painted.
Last but not least is a written warning under the shredder opening which is much less difficult to decode: Max. 5 sheets (A4, 70g). This basically means that if you want the paper to shred, don't put more than 5 sheets of 70g A4 in it at the same time. As bills and stuff sometimes come on good quality paper, more than 2 will be hard work for it to get its slicers into. Alternatively you could request that everyone writes to you to inform you what type of paper they use and figure it out from there. Personally I just exercise my patience and shred no more than two sheets at a time. Not only does it stop the shredder from breaking, it lets me play with it a little longer.
The shredder looks simple and works well for what I need it for. I don't think it would work brilliantly if you were shredding stuff all day, everyday as the motor heats up quite quickly so probably best to keep this one for home use. It is not a cross shredder so it's less secure, but it also leaves your paper waste in a much more recyclable-round-the-home format. I don't like how quickly it heats up or that it doesn't have an "off" setting, I could save myself some crawling around to get to plugs if it did. It's adjustable if you do need to do the occasional one off larger jobs which is grand. The sensor is a bit temperamental but can be over-ridden. Over all it's a decent product that does what it intended for and for a very low price compared to the competition / other shredders. I'll give it a respectable three out of five stars and would recommend it for light household use like getting rid of unwanted bills.