Anything else that needs (?) logging, but that doesn't deserve a page
of its own, is here.
Thursday, August 24, 1995
I had been noticing some water around the water heater for awhile, but I
wasn't sure where it was coming from as there is a lot of plumbing in
the area. Finally the leak got big enough to be sure that it was the
heater itself that was leaking. Dang!
I bought a replacement hot water heater for the leaker. Almost
exactly $300 at Ziegler for a 50-gallon Richmond Miser 10, 10-year
warrantee. Money was tight, but even so the extra for the doubled
warrantee version seemed like a good idea. (My only real question is
whether there is actually any difference in the units, or it's just a
warrantee extension you're paying for.)
Installing it was a pain. To make the leaking question easier to
answer next time I cut a section of oak pallet to set the tank on this
time. The new heater seemed to work fine, but I did end up turning
the water temperature up to 140°F so that my indulgent long hot
showers wouldn't go cold on me.
Friday, December 15, 2000
I hung up a string of Christmas lights in the bedroom, draped from
pre-existing plant hooks and the ceiling fan. Wedding decor, very
festive! They're intended to welcome my bride home tomorrow. They're
tapped into the Variac that runs the lamp on the headboard, so they
can be dimmed too.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
We got maybe 2' of snow yesterday and today. Fortunately it was
powder, so the power is generally on around here, though the roads are
largely impassible—especially ours. We're not going anywhere
soon. I spent the day trying to get the $75 Gilson snowblower I got
at Goodwill years ago running again. It keeps stripping the bronze
gear in the auger drive. Said gears were once a relatively
inexpensive service part, as they were sacrificial, but are long
unavailable at a decent price. (They want $70 for mine.) I've been
trying to make new teeth on it with the acetylene torch and a brazing
rod. I made new bumps, then cut, filed, and sanded tooth profiles on
it. Then I got it all put back together, especially that wretched
drive belt that's so hard to fit. I had to weld a crack that was
starting in the fan chamber.
It fired up fairly easily considering it hadn't run in several years,
a little ether works wonders. I fed it to the snow, and I got maybe a
couple of feet in before the gear stripped again. Crap. All that
work for nothing. The 5 HP Briggs motor runs very well,
it would even idle nice and slowly. I should have taken the $50 I was
offered for it when I took the thing in to see about a new gear a few
years ago. (They wanted the motor. That place is out of business
now, or I'd be trying to take their offer. Snowblowers are going for
a premium right now, and I bet parts on the hoof to fix one would be
welcome too.) I have spent countless hours trying to repair that
gearbox, but I think I have to give up now. If I had a milling
machine I could try to make a proper new gear, but failing that I
think we're done.
In lieu of using the machinery I did a bunch of shoveling. We figured
out why the dog wasn't sleeping in its Dogloo, the entrance was
completely blocked by snow! We've had maybe half the usual annual
snowfall here in the last day, it's record-setting. (But they've only
been tracking it since 1889 or so.)
Monday, February 23, 2009
The under-sink hot water heater I installed holed, and I had to
install a replacement. GE this time, with a 6-year warrantee. The
new one is physically larger, a traditional cannister shape instead of
a suitcase model, and didn't fit as nicely under the sink. Home Depot,
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Fluke IR probe has been flakey for some time now, and it wasn't
the battery. I opened it up to have a look. I found a solder whisker
shorting across the output terminals, I think that could explain its
sensitivity to the position of the battery and its wiring. I cleaned
off the whisker with a soldering iron, set the probe to Centigrade,
and put it all back together. The probe end is pretty elaborate. It
looks like it might have an emitter and a sensor, and there's a large
coil as part of the head assembly.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Some time ago I bought a Harbor Breeze ceiling fan at Goodwill, $15
with lights, and today I started installing it in the gazebo that's
out on the new deck. Everything was there except the mounting bracket
that the rod's ball hangs in, but of course it was all originally
intended to screw to a ceiling box and not into the single threaded
nut that's what's in the gazebo. Enter the acetylene torch and the
MIG welder. Using the dead spring and shackle bolts from the boat trailer rebuild, I made an "X" that lined up
with the screw holes in the shroud. I welded a dead metric capscrew
(originally from the 560 SEL's suspension pump)
that matched the gazebo's threads to the center of the "X". I welded
nuts to the X to take the screws through the shroud. I then hung a
circular ring (formed from another spring bolt) from a basket of old
framing nails such that the fan's hanger rod was happy. Another nail
welded in place gave it a guide to mate with the notch in the ball so
it wouldn't spin in the socket. After bending and forming I got it
all to fit together, then I hung the bracket from the gazebo. I
lashed each of the legs of the "X" to the gazebo frame to catch the
fan if the single bolt should ever break loose. I then assembled the
fan and hung it from the new mount, which was uneventful. For wiring
I dragged an old computer extension cord out of the junk pile, it was
black and quite long. One end was missing, so I wire-nutted that to
the fan. The other end I ran down the gazebo's metalwork to nearby
outlet, lashing it in place with black twist ties, and plugged it in
using a surplus computer power cord. (This extra joint is placed
where it is easy to reach, for enabling and disabling the fan.) Two
40 W candelabra-base bulbs completed the ensemble.
It all works well, but I think the fan needs a tiny bit more space
above it to get better airflow. I'll either extend the rod or the
basketwork at some point, I think I can add about 6" before it
gets low enough to be distressing.
It was slightly off balance, but the plastic spring clip used for
balancing worked well. It took some time to find the right place, but
it seems to have cured it. I replaced it with a stick-on weight from
the fan balancing kit.
[I later found the missing bracket in the trunk of the car I'd brought
the fan home in. Oops.]
Thursday, August 12, 2010
My Norelco Speedshaver (double-header) was crapping out again.
NORTH AMERICAN PHILIPS CO. INC.
110V-6W-AC-DC ≅ 20'
This was bought for my paternal grandfather in 1959 when he was in the
hospital just before he died. He never really used it, and I got it
at puberty. It's been a bit of a trial to keep it running all these
years, about 35 years of daily use, but it's a challenge I sometimes
I disassembled it (four screws, two of them under plastic plugs in the
whisker chamber) and put the dirty non-electric stuff in the
ultrasonic cleaner, it was desperately in need of this. The brushes
are worn down again, which is what is keeping it from running right.
BTDT. I need 2.5×4 mm brushes, about 10 mm long.
They're hard to find, I used to scavenge them out of other same-model
thrift shop shavers, but that supply dried up years ago. I'll
probably have to file something else down.
After work I went to the hardware store (Argonne & Montgomery, the
one I work next to no longer carries brushes) and bought a big brush
(1×5/8×5/16") that should be able to be cut down into
several of these. About $5. We'll see how it goes.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I used the Delta scroll saw to cut two brushes from the face of the
big brush, it came out that I got two side-by-side from one
2.5 mm slice off the face. Perfect. But they're too long as it
turns out, so I cut one in half and used it, leaving one spare. I
then reassembled the shaver, using 70W synthetic gear oil as
lubricant, and tried it out. Works fine again. The brush makings
will go into the shaver's case under the sink.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Went to Olga's (a co-worker's) property north of Deer Park and picked up
some downed aspen (or birch). We took the car trailer. About 2
cords' worth, and largely dry already. Was a very nice day for such
activity, the family had a good time I think. This should ensure that
we have enough wood for this Winter.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Jill's private oboe student showed up with a new Accent oboe. The
joints 'caught' going together the last little bit, and were very
difficult to break apart. This was of concern to all. I measured the
tenon and socket and determined that the inside part of the tenon and
the outside part of the socket were interfering as the joint seated
home. (The corked center is turned down a bit, and can't be at
fault.) I filed the outer 1/8" of the socket using a fine riffler,
gently and with several passes, to loosen the fit slightly. That
seems to have done the trick. I tried to err on the side of not
enough, we can always take off a bit more later. This oboe was (near
as we can tell) the OB790G, a $2,000 horn that's made in East Germany,
out of Buffet's Greenline material. It's on indefinite loan from her
uncle, who has some connection with some school somewhere. (It is
possible that it wasn't the G model as they appear to have a W suffix
in their product line that stands for wood, which means there may be a
suffix-less number for regular plastic, but their web site only has
two G models listed for oboes. The horn itself didn't have a
recognizable model number on it, so I'm not really sure. I haven't
handled any Greenline instruments personally, so I don't have that to
compare to. It was obviously plastickey, with a brushed grain
texture. If it were not Greenline I'd expect it to cost somewhat
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
We bought an entertainment center at the thrift shop. Not quite the
styling we were looking for, but not too bad. (Dark oak and leaded
glass.) It's just the right size, anyway. We've been looking for
awhile, and finding nothing that was just right. (Cherry finish,
Mission styling, tall.) If we're going to compromise anyway, a used
(inexpensive) unit is much more palatable than a new one. It's about
4' high, and 5' wide, so it's got a very nice big space on top for a
medium-large flat panel display. All the AV equipment will fit easily
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Got the truck emptied out and swept, and unhooked from the car
trailer, so Jill picked up the entertainment center. Got the
neighbors (K's) to help carry it up the stairs and in, it was more
than Jill and I could handle by ourselves.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Installed the A/V equipment in the new entertainment center. The back
is open and it's on wheels, so it was fairly straightforward to get
everything hooked up and then rolled back into its niche. There was
about an inch on each side to the walls.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I adjusted and tidied up the door hardware. The TV hole hinges are
nice German ones, they are screw-adjustable for positioning. I used a
chisel to remove the excess polyurethane glue where somebody had
repaired a door that got broken. The unit is not top-of-the-line
furniture, but it's definitely a step or two up from the bottom.
I finished repairing the collapsed stacks in the wood pavilion. Ready
to begin loading in the new wood, once I think it'll stop drying out
in the windrows.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I replaced one of the downstairs 'hallway' globe lamps today. It's
been in daily use since I bought the house in 1993, and who knows for
how long before that. Impressive. Sylvania, 60 W 130 V.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today they finished up the driveway revamp. (All I did was pay for
it.) It came out to about $5100, which is more than I'd expected.
Imagine that. There was a lot of digging and grading
required, though. It's nearly 1' deep in places, asphalt chunks
(cobble) topped with 100 tons of recycled asphalt. It's black, and
tamps down well.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
First fire of the home heating season. I'm surprised she hadn't
started already. (She's less tolerant of cool interior temperatures
than I am.)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Got all the firewood finally loaded into the wood pavilion. About ten full stacks,
total, and the shed's nearly full. With great effort one could maybe
get twelve full stacks into it, but that would be difficult, and a bit
dangerous. We started with 1.5 stacks leftover from last year, and
had three long rows drying outside. They extended from about the end
of the terrace by the steps to the center of the middle garage. Will
need to get about that much each year, I'd say.
The wood outside got wet, in spite of the tarp. (It was kind of
leaky.) I'll need to get started loading it into the shed earlier
next time. I'd left it outside to take advantage of the usual
September weather, but it got wet at the end, and October was also
wet, and I lacked time. The extra drying time was, I'm sure, more
than offset by the water that got onto and into the wood; some of it
is quite wet.
If I could just get ahead of the game enough to get really
dry firewood to burn, I'd probably need less per year. Less work,
total, if I can just get on top of the chore and stay there. Yeah,
Thursday, November 18, 2010
First snow. 1" or so.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
I'd been wanting to put shelves in the garage over the door into the
house since I bought the place, as that spot over its stairwell was
just this vast unusable cobweb collector. Today I finally did
something about it. Yesterday I'd bought some metal shelf brackets,
the cheap zigzag ones, and I put them up today. I used the leftover
plywood from the rickety corner storage shelf I'd torn down recently
(and replaced with a Gorilla Rack) for the shelves. To access the
shelves I built a hinged platform out of the plywood and some scrap
2×4's. It drops down from against the wall, bridging the
stairwell to the utility room and giving easy access to the new
shelves. That'll help a lot.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
0 °F and a foot or so of snow on the ground, it sure would be
nice to have the snowblower working! Monday I'd gotten a start on it,
but there was a lot more to do. Today I took apart the gearbox and
dug out all the brass-filled grease. I put the gearbox back together
with the new gear in place and reinstalled it into the machine, with a
fresh load of grease, but it didn't really want to start after that.
It was really cold, which didn't help, nor did the very stale gas in
the tank. I filled the tank with fresher fuel and sprayed some
starting ether into it to juice it up, then sprayed some into the
spark plug hole. I also used the propane torch to heat the head. I
finally got it firing, roughly, but it never really wanted to take
off, and had no power. I used most of a can of starting ether getting
and keeping it running until it was finally somewhat self-sustaining.
It backfired once and caught the starting fluid on fire, which was a
bit of a thrill considering that it was the exterior of the fuel tank
that was burning. Powder snow works as a fire extinguisher, though
you have to use a lot of it! Unfortunately you've then got
semi-melted snow packed into and refreezing in the works. It
was just pure joy all around, and then I ran out of time. Still no
idea whether or not the thing will work yet.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
I got the snowblower started again and noticed that I was again
smoking the belt. It's very hard to get the auger assembly in so that
the belt brake is in the right place. I figured out that the trick
is two screwdrivers: one to hold the brake 'off', and a
larger one slipped across the transmission pulley face to tip the
brake away from the drum. Once you do that it's possible to get the
belt installed in the right place fairly easily. I then tried it out.
It threw snow, but was anemic. After awhile it started running fairly
well, but was still not clearing well, and I eventually noticed that
the augers were on backwards! They were pushing the snow away
from the mouth of the blower. That explained a lot. So I got to take
it apart again, and put the augers on the right way around.
The engine seemed 'slow', so I found that I could bend the far side
support of the throttle spring to make the spring tighter, which
raised the RPM. I then adjusted the mixture and idle screws for best
effect. Finally this thing was starting to throw some snow!
I cleared the driveway and as much of the walkway and parking pad that
I could, given that there were cars on the way and a lot of
tromped-down icy paths. Near the end of the job I managed to catch a
piece of hidden Trex in the augers, which beat them to pieces.
Literally. I got out the BFH's and two big crescent wrenches and bent
things back into shape, then welded the breaks back together. Looks
less pretty than it did, but seems to work. I then finished the job.
At the end the muffler fell off, the screws had backed out. (I only
recovered one of the two, it's possible that one had been gone for
some time.) It didn't run right when it was breathing its own
exhaust. I shoveled the remainder, and then moved on to deep-frying
the turkey. Clearing the snow was to allow our guests to arrive
Friday, December 10, 2010
Broke into the third stack of firewood (of ten) this morning. (The
first true full-height stack, but I estimate that we've used the
equivalent of one full-height and one short stack to this point.)
Since we started burning on October 12 that's
about one stack per month; we've had some cold weather and, due to
guests, a couple of weeks of heating the downstairs too. Not bad! On
the other hand we didn't need to heat much at first, and it took
nearly the first month to get all the wood into the shed to
quantify, so that first month might not actually count much. At
closer to two stacks per month I'm less happy, but we should
still be fine.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The last of the outside Christmas decorations is up. A few days ago
at the thrift shop I found a set of Musical Christmas
Bells, model MB9-C from 1989. (Hong Kong's Capricorn
Electronics, Made in China.) $2. These are real brass bells, nine of
them in a string, with a small controller box powered by a 12 V
wall wart that drives the solenoid clappers in the bells. What
distinguishes these from the usual schlock is that the twelve carol
arrangements are rather nicely done, much like you might hear a
(small!) bell choir perform. (I've seen a lot of junk since then with
molded plastic bells with speakers in them, complete with a bad light
show and greeting-card sound quality. Ugh.
These were a class act, although they are a bit on the
fragile side—the clappers often need adjusting after they're
handled.) These seem to have entirely disappeared from the
marketplace. I did see one set of these, the exact same set, on eBay
for $75. (A 12-bell set claimed that the original price sticker was
I remember being very taken with these when they came out, enough so
that I'd bought a set as a gift for my parents even though they were
kind of expensive for a Christmas decoration. ($50? More?) They'd
hung them out in the utility room in a garland over the doorway to the
garage. The bells sounded lovely—the first few times 'round!
But it gets old fast. At least they still looked good even when
unplugged. When I bought these Jill was extremely emphatic that they
were not to go anywhere inside. Hey, honey, trust me. If
she would have asked, or even listened, I would have told her what I
I liked the bells, a lot, but a small dose is sufficient. At my
parents' they were far too close to the action. Eventually
someone would step out of the kitchen in desperation and yank the plug
on the things. Sometimes to applause. My idea was to hang
them outside, out where you park. When party guests arrive
they can be captivated by the bells for the little bit of time they're
willing to stand outside in the cold listening, but once inside
they're well away from the racket. Less is more. This morning I hung
them out under the eave of the new garage; the bells aren't rated for
outdoor duty but they should be well protected there. After adjusting
the clappers (again!) they cycled through their tunes. They sounded
very nice, I think Jill might not even mind them there. Daniel
thought that they were kind of cool, too.
Turns out my dad threw away their set of bells, they'd stopped working
and after mom died there was no champion there to protect them. I bet
I could have fixed them, but he was sick of the things. (I'd have liked
them for spares...)
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Yesterday I bought another flange bolt at the hardware store ($1.40,
rapacious!), today I reinstalled the muffler on the snowblower. I had
to remove three head bolts to get the shroud off so that I could reach
the bolt heads. I used a bit of anti-sieze on the muffler bolts.
Monday, December 20, 2010
About 3" of snow today. I fired up the snowblower (second pull,
with ether) and it was working pretty well, but I was catching a lot
of gravel. I cleared the pad and then started down the driveway. Not
even all the way to the end it started making scraping noises and
throwing sparks. One of the welds had broken on one of the fan
blades, and it had thrown against the throat and was scraping away. I
was short of time, and so ran it back and parked it. I think it'll be
easy to weld back. I also lost a pivot screw on the choke lever.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
We got about a foot of snow while we were gone. Today I fixed up the
snowblower again: welded the fan blades, replaced the missing choke
screw, and put back the original muffler bolt, which fell out of a
crevice in the engine where it had been hiding. I also set down the
skid plates, to try to avoid the gravel. All back together I then
cleared the driveway as best I could, but because it had been driven
on substantially since the snowfall it wasn't easy, nor well done.
Still, it beats a shovel. Nothing bad happened this time, for a
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Broke into the fourth stack of firewood (of ten) this morning.
Another full-height one. (You have to crack the next stack before you
finish the one in front of it, because they're too tall to reach the
top unless you stand on the depleted stack's remnants.)
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
More snowblower. The auger seemed to stall at times, I don't know if
it's the seriously-damaged belt slipping, or if it's the gearbox
Friday, February 4, 2011
Broke into the fifth stack of firewood (of ten) this morning.
Another full-height one. About three weeks per stack burn rate?
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Started on next stack of firewood today, #6 of 10, a short one. We
were away (Disneyland) for most of a week last month, but there were
a couple of weeks of arctic blast too so it balances out. The bulk of
the wood in the last stack was partially-rotted but dry fir. A pain
to handle, and buggy, but it heated well.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Broke into the next stack of firewood today, #7 of 10, a tall one.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Picked up the first firewood for next year, filled the pickup and the
car trailer with some of a 100-year-old maple the relatives in Walla
Walla were forced to cut down. (It was starting to threaten the
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Today I noticed that we've finally lost a light bulb in the strand of
Christmas lights I'd hastily hung as temporary
welcoming wedding decor. Well, we liked the effect so after more than
ten years of daily use we finally lost a bulb. Running on a Variac
dimmer really helps extend incandescent bulb life! (They're usually
on all night at a very low level, as a nightlight. When they [and
the reading light] are on at a higher level it's usually about 80% or
so, which I've found provides adequate light yet really extends the
life of the 100 W bulb in the reading light.)
Sunday, June 5, 2011
The water pump has been short-cycling for quite some time now, and the
weather was finally nice enough to encourage tackling such
non-emergency projects. I got out the air hose and coupled it to the
pressure tank, and refilled it with air. This needs to be done a time
or two per year, now. (It's an old-style non-bladder tank, and when
the water system was redone to have a cistern the old air-injection
valve in the well no longer did its job. [It was later removed
altogether when the original well pump went bad and was replaced,
along with several sticks of corroded well pipe.]) If/when the tank
is replaced with a bladder type this job should go away. OTOH,
bladder tanks don't last as long as the old style.
Details: I fire up the oilless air compressor and run hoses out to the
wellhouse. (Some are kept in the wellhouse, others are not.) I turn
off the pumps and open the yard hydrant to remove water pressure.
Once the pressure is down to a dribble I remove the screw-in Schrader
air valve on the pressure switch pipe and replace it (9/16" wrench)
with a fitting that mates with the air hoses, and then jam the air
hose on. (You get a bit wet at this step, it's nice to have a warm
day for the operation.) Once air starts coming out the yard hydrant I
reverse the procedure and fire up the pressure pump again, and put
everything back away 'til next time.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
We have a lemonade dispensing tub in our party supplies, a Tablecraft
953, which got badly cracked while stored outside over the winter. I
used a Mini-weld III (Urethane Supply Company) airless plastic welder
that I got at the thrift shop, using the closest match rod that was in
the kit. (The kit's current equivalent seems to sell for about $200,
I got this one for $15.) It seems to work! I repaired the cracks in
the tub and filled it with water to see if it leaked. It didn't.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
My Dad's going to Ireland this Fall and we were discussing small
tripods. Recently I ran across a vintage Kalimar PE-8 tripod, which
is intriguingly small and was only $4. It's also all metal, except
for the plastic knob on the operating handle, yet still light. It,
however, was missing the camera screw. It will extend to about 4' in
height, with the geared center post extended. It's quite flimsy at
full extension, but at minimum extension (for use on a table) it is
quite nice. I thought it would make a nice gift, if I can replace the
I found a nice Allen capscrew with knurled sides in the junk box, and
re-threaded it 1/4-20, which is a close-enough match to the
camera-standard 1/4-20 Whitworth thread. I disassembled the tripod
head and drilled and threaded the hole in the top of the tripod, then
ground off the screw's neck threads so that it wouldn't grab in the
top once the screw was in. I also had to grind the length down some
so it wouldn't bottom in the test camera. Due to its length the
capscrew cannot be removed from the head except through a hole in the
disassembled head, so it won't go anywhere. The threads are a bit of
a mess, and the knurled head is too small, but I think it'll work for
whenever it's needed. It looks nice enough, anyway.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The wind took out the lemonade tank again. While I was fixing a piece of Jill's 560 SL I fixed the tank again. I must
learn to be more careful stowing it, I doubt it's got much life left
in it at this point!
Thursday, July 14, 2011
A new sprinkler system has been commercially installed with the new
lawn (and landscaping). They reused what was reusable of my original
installation, which had been ruined when the West Wing was
constructed. (The dug-up original control cable is intact on the
surface of the dirt along the west wall, 'til about midway. The
apparently-intact cable from the valve box surfaced near the
north-side window of the music room. They spliced in a new piece of
cable between these points, the northern splice is in an underground
box beneath the window.) All worked when operated manually, but there
were some problems when I turned on the timer. Three circuits (of
six) were inoperative:
- Circuit #2, the red (#2) wire, was cut. Testing at the two cable
splices determined that it was cut somewhere under the dirt
between the valve box and where the (dug-up, snagged) wire
surfaced at the northern edge of the West Wing. Replaced with the
spare White (#9) wire in the cable.
- Circuit #3, the orange (#3) wire, had broken off its valve body
again due to all the handling required by manual valve operation
during the new installation. I scraped and soldered it back on as
best I could. (Again, and for probably the last time.)
- Circuit #5, the green (#5) wire, also was cut. Same deal as #2,
and the fix was the same. Replaced with the spare Gray (#8) wire
in the cable.
We're down to only one spare wire (#7, purple) in the cable! Given
that there are two broken wires it is probable that the waterproof
sheath is open underground, and not too unlikely that the inner
insulation is compromised on currently-working wires. We shall see!
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
The well ran dry this morning. The new-lawn watering schedule uses
6× the amount of water as normal. (1 hour
[15 minutes/circuit] every other day versus 20 minutes
[5 minutes/circuit] every two hours from 8:30 AM
to 6:30 PM, for a total of 2 hours every day.)
There's no way we have enough water during Summer to put in new grass.
Which is why we called the landscaping company two months
ago, during our long wet Spring. They waited 'til it got hot before
they showed up, the jerks. We're probably going to have to let it die
and re-seed in the Fall. Just another dissatisfaction to add to the
(already rather long) list regarding this job.
I have completely stopped the watering system, I want to see how long
it takes until the cistern is replenished. (Jill has also suspended
laundry operations.) I should be able to maintain the non-lawn
watering schedule, but I'd like more baseline information.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Even with the watering system shut off it has taken 'til this morning
for the cistern to refill completely. (I've been checking twice
daily.) That is not good!
Monday, September 26, 2011
The Kenmore dryer (Model 110.76930100, Serial F83818628) has been
making dire noises again for awhile, today I pulled it apart. The
last time it was one of the two drum support rollers. As it is this
time! (The other one, I hope, but I no longer remember. The dead
roller was the one on the cantilevered pin over the motor, not the one
with a support bracket on the other side.) Anyway, as usual I took it
apart too far, before I figured out what I should have done. In fact
for this kind of thing there's no necessity even to pull it out from
the wall. The top pries up after removing two Philips screws in the
screen well. Two more screws inside the top front and the face lifts
off, after you remove the safety switch wires to the door. You then
reach under the drum and disengage the belt from the motor, then the
drum comes out the front. From there you can reach everything. The
rollers are held on their posts with triangular nylon retaining clips,
which can be pried open, gently. The failing roller's center was
hogged out almost completely, there's a lot of debris sprayed around.
One of the two door support ropes is also broken, I'll try to see if I
can replace that too.
I hit the online parts sources, and found that Sears' own site was
kind of a pain. The prices weren't that great, either. PartSelect
was faster to navigate, and less money. One irritation is that
through them the rollers are only sold in 2-packs. Total $33,
shipped, for two rollers and a door cable.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
The dryer parts came yesterday, today I installed them. (The wheels
are FSP, labeled "Support", numbered 349241T code 110206, made in US.
Also marked 4391722 Rev. C, TM Whirlpool.) I only replaced the one
wheel, but I did clean and grease both axle pins. (Axle grease,
naturally.) The spare wheel is taped inside the cabinet for next
time. I had a close look, and the dead wheel is also labeled FSP, so
I guess it's the replacement from last time. The door cable (#230131)
was easy to replace, just clip it in and hook up the spring.
Reassembly was mostly uneventful, and it again works quietly. I did
get the belt cocked off of its idler roller the first time, but it
didn't sound or track right and it was easily put right. I don't
think any damage was done to the belt, but the belt is old and will
need replacement eventually.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Brought back another truck/trailer load of maple from Walla Walla.
The trip was uneventful. (Also brought back a nasty heirloom couch,
the kind that folds down into a bed. Said couch is what's to go under
the downstairs TV, up against the wall. Not really what I'd expected!
It was pretty musty, I left it un-tarped in the hopes that three hours
in the wind would do it some good.) Daniel and I unloaded the trailer
into the shed, the stackable stuff towards the back, the jumble
towards the front. There's still some unsplit rounds on the trailer,
and the truck's still loaded with jumble.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I split the last of the unsplit firewood and stacked it in the shed.
We're up to 6.5 stacks, a bit light. But we have a huge jumble of odd
blocks and chunks to throw in front of the stacks, both what's in the
truck and the pile from the last trip. I think we'll be OK for the
winter, we just need to get it all inside the shed.
Friday, October 14, 2011
Jill and her friend Carolyn unloaded the truck into the shed while I
was at work. All that's left is to move the jumble pile into the shed
Sunday, October 16, 2011
The last of the firewood is in the shed. I finished the seventh stack
with the more stackable pieces from what came off the truck, then
Daniel and I moved the jumble pile inside. It's easily two more full
stacks' worth, so we can safely say we've got nine stacks. Ten is all
we need in a winter, if we heat pretty exclusively with wood, and if
conditions are good and the maple is dry enough it should stretch
further, or if we end up using the furnace more. We shall see!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
It's been getting cold and I've been tidying up. I found a "Freeze
Cap" brand faucet
cover I'd gotten at the thrift shop. I installed it on the faucet
behind the house. It's intriguing because you screw a plastic
retaining ring to the wall and a styrofoam-lined plastic cap bayonets
to the ring. It's easy and quick to install and remove, and the
plastic outer shell is much more durable than the usual raw styrofoam.
The box it came in was styled like the 1970's, and was a bit tired,
but the cap was in perfect shape. It probably sat around a lot of
years. When was the last time you found what was essentially a cheap
piece of plastic crap that was made in the USA and not China? Looks
like they're still available online,
about $9. (No mention of manufacturing location.) I'd like one for
the front faucet too, but because it's a rock wall and the faucet
sticks out further than it ought to (since the brick was replaced
with a rock veneer) I don't think it'll work.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Snow on the ground this morning for the first time. It's been pretty
cold for nearly a month now, especially the last couple of weeks, and
we've been starting to burn wood. I suppose it will begin in earnest
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I bought a Snap-On branded reel trouble light at the liquidation
outlet. The build quality looked decent, though this is a whored
badge job and doesn't carry the usual Snap-On lifetime warrantee.
Costco once carried these, it seems. The notable thing about this one
is that the fluorescent light housing was broken in half! Snapped
clean in half at the neck and the wires yanked out of the bulb socket,
however it looked repairable. I overpaid, $30, but it really did look
like it might be a nice light once repaired, and the cord reel was
metal and looked sturdy. I've wanted a second reel light for the new
garage for some time, to match (sort-of) the one I've had in the old
garage for years. (I later found that those lights were on clearance
for $20 at Costco at one point, so I really did overpay!)
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
I tested the Snap-On light's cord, it had power, so I took apart the
broken light and began gluing it back together. I used JB Weld
epoxy and some spring clamps to hold the pieces in position while the
glue cured. There wouldn't be any real strength to this repair at
this point, but it's a start. I took particular care to make sure no
glue got into the mating flanges of the housing halves where it would
interfere with reassembly.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
I took the Snap-On light's glued housing and fashioned some metal
spring clips (out of an old MB windshield wiper blade spine, they look
a little like box staples) that pinched the housing pieces back
together, bridging the glued breaks. These are very stiff and bite
into plastic bosses in the moldings. I then used JB Weld epoxy
to pot these six clips in position. This should provide some strength
to the repair. I also took apart the fluorescent light socket,
removing the broken spring clip connections to the bulb. I soldered
those back together and put the socket back together, then tested the
loose light guts. Worked great. We're almost there!
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Now that the glue had cured enough to survive handling I reassembled
the Snap-On trouble light. It went together easily, and worked. I
put it out in the garage and hung it near the door, so it could also
be used on a car parked outside that bay. At that point I found,
though, that the cord reel is intermittent and only supplies power in
some positions. Great. I left the light on for a couple of days to
finish the glue cure, since it was so cold outside. (Below freezing.)
The light is a nice one, anyway, and will also work on the end of any
regular single-outlet extension cord.
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
I used the repaired trouble light to see what I was doing out in the
cold and dark on the Chicken Wagon. (On the
end of an extension cord, its troublesome reel cord doesn't reach to
where the car is normally parked.) Worked great.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
We finally finished burning the jumble pile and started on the first
real stack of firewood. If we count the jumble as two stacks' worth,
this makes number three (of nine). Not a bad start, though
temperatures have been down into the teens lately.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Bought an Ariens ST824 snowblower at auction today,
from a row of nine consigned from some institution or another. $150.
Model 924050, Serial 075104. Made somewhere between 1980–1991.
Needs some TLC, last servicing marked on it was 2007. It had
compression, and oil, but no fuel. We cranked it over with the
plug-in electric starter and it seemed OK. I pulled the plug and
found that it had spark once you unplugged the key ignition switch
(for which there was no key, I'll probably replace it with a
weatherproof toggle), so I shot in some ether and put the plug back.
It fired for a moment, so I think the engine will be OK. The auger
turns, but I'm not sure about the state of the 5-speed transmission.
It needs some metal straightening up front, and some orange paint.
I hit the Ariens site and downloaded Owner's, Service, and Parts
manuals, the Owner's manual also has a Servicing section, which is
good because the Service manual can only be opened on a much newer
Acrobat than the one on the machine I normally use. I also asked them
how old it is. They replied back quickly that it was
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I tipped the blower up on its nose and removed the access panel. The
inside looks well-greased and in good condition, though the friction
wheel is definitely worn. One of the drive chains had dropped off,
but I found its master link parts stuck to the cover with grease. It
should be repairable. The differential lock pin is very stiff, it
could use some oiling. So far, so good! Can't leave the blower up on
its nose too long or all the crankcase oil will drip out of the filler
spout, it doesn't seal perfectly.
I bought rattle-can paint at the hardware store. Primer, orange, and
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
I used a piece of wire to snake the high-speed chain back around its
sprockets, and re-pinned it with the master link. Looks good. I made
sure to put the clip on in the 'correct' direction. I then started
wire-brushing rust and paint flakes off of the scoop.
I printed out the Servicing section of the Owner's manual.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Since I had the Chicken Wagon out of the
garage for welding I took advantage of the vacancy and put the
snowblower in. I took off the scoop, following the directions, and
took it all apart. (Tip up on nose and remove the four bolts and then
the bottom plate. While I was there I loosened the idler sprocket and
tensioned the chains properly. I put it back down on its wheels then
removed the belt cover and detached the blower belt. I removed the
two heavy bolts that secure the scoop to the tractor, then tipped the
tractor back onto its handles, then lifted the scoop off of the hook
rod. I removed the auger/gearbox/impeller by removing the side plates
and the plate at the impeller, nine nuts. The auger assembly then
just pulled out, though not without some difficulty due to the
deformed scoop sides. I removed the scraper and shoes while I was at
First up was some anvil work to straighten out the scoop, the lips of
the scoop were bent back and out yet the side planes were, overall,
pushed in. Weird. There was a crack forming where the barrel joined
the scoop, so I welded that shut, and ground the beads down some. I
wire-brushed the scoop and its parts, washed them with TSP, then dried
them and started painting with primer. I hung them all from a heavy
wire in the garage to keep them off the floor, and turned on the
heater in the garage.
I removed one of the augers from its shaft, you have to drive out a
roll pin. I then straightened the bent tips on the anvil, then
wire-brushed off all the rust. It wasn't greasy, so I just started
painting it. I left the other auger on its shaft for reference, no
real reason not to do them sequentially. The gearbox seems good.
This Ariens is infinitely better constructed than the Gilson snowblower
I've been fighting for years. Solid.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
More paint. The orange is not covering nearly so well as the black.
The nice ash bucket Jill got me a few years ago was falling apart, the
ears where the handle's bail attached were merely spot-welded onto the
body, one spot each! I scraped paint off with a jackknife and used
the spot welder to reattach that ear, two spots on the still-intact
flap and four on the flap that fell off.
Broke into the next stack (#6) of firewood today. (Five more to go!)
Monday, February 13, 2012
I brushed off the impeller and gave it a coat of primer. I was out of
orange paint so the scoop didn't get another coat.
I bought another can of orange paint today, and put some on when I got
home at night.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
More paint. Just about time to start putting it back together again.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The main toilet flapper broke. Again. The plug is in great shape but
its rubbery plastic attachment strap broke off. I'd first used a
screw through it, it rusted away. I then used a galvanized roofing
nail, it rusted away. Today's attempt is a piece of bent 10-ga copper
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I put the one auger back on the snowblower, I had to relieve the shaft
a bit with a file. I then took off the other auger, its roll pin was
a beast. Once I got it off I wire-brushed it, straightened the bent
tips on the anvil, and primed it. I emptied the second can of orange
paint on the scoop, I think I'll get one more.
...After work I bought more orange paint, and when I got home I put
another coat on the accessible parts of the scoop. The auger got its
first coat of black.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
The garbage can's plastic lid was all broken and caved in. You can't
get just a replacement lid and the can itself is just fine, and
expensive enough that I don't want to get another one just because the
lid is compromised. I used duct tape to tack it back into shape and
Shoe Goo to fix all the cracks. Once the glue on the top had set up I
used duct tape to cover it all, as Shoe Goo is not UV-resistant, and
turned it over and beaded the cracks on the bottom too. I used more
glue than I'd have liked but it seems solid now, and should hold up
for some time. Half a tube of glue is still a lot cheaper than a new
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Recently we've been having Spring-like coatless weather, but today a
storm hit. Sideways snow, etc., a truly miserable day. It was fairly
wet snow, though, and we got maybe 6" of the stuff, I figured
maybe it was time I finished putting the snowblower back together. It
went well enough, but I did break off one bolt that holds a bearing
collar together. I left off the scraper because of the gravel
driveway; the shoes are down all the way and I don't want any
scraping, in fact. I put in some oil and gas, and it started readily
with the electric starter. The engine RPM seemed a bit low, but it
otherwise worked pretty well. The drive was reluctant to go at first
but as it warmed up it worked well enough. The differential and tire
chains meant that it in fact worked very well for me, unlike my
experiences with the Gilson. I got the driveway cleared, this one did
more for me today than the Gilson ever did. I threw a lot of
rocks in spite of my care, and the new paint on the chute got pretty
scratched up. Oh well, practice will no doubt help that get better.
The lack of knobs on the primary controls was not much of an issue.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
More snow. The snowblower started on the first pull, and cleared the
driveway again without complaint. Nice.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
Broke into another (#5, a short one) firewood stack today. We've just
finished the second load of maple we acquired, and are now into the
half-rotted stuff we got between the two hardwood loads, from the
neighbors. If lucky we won't have to dip into the rest of the maple
before it warms up.
Friday, April 20, 2012
My Norelco Speedshaver (double-header) was crapping out again. It
needed new brushes, and one of the E-clips retaining the motor shaft's
spring retainer had broken. I had an extra brush that I'd made the
last time, so that was OK. I tried taking a
spare clip from one of the broken parts shavers, but that clip broke
too. I couldn't find my pack of Harbor Freight E-clips, so I ended up
wedging a split lockwasher over the post and gluing it into place.
Tacky, but seems to have worked.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The water pump has again been short-cycling for quite some time now,
winter was not a good time to go take care of that. (I get wet, every
time.) Seems to need it every six months? The procedure is now
different than last time, because yesterday I
stopped by Harbor Freight and bought a cheap lightweight 1/3 HP
oilless air compressor and a hose and fitting kit, both on sale, and a
1/4" ball valve (about $85 for all), and today I installed it.
This new compressor lives in the pumphouse permanently, and though
it's really underpowered it was cheap, and it's not like you have to
stand there and watch it work. (It's also oilless, which I suppose is
nice since this is our drinking water supply, after all. My
original plan had been to resurrect my old 'siezed' HF compressor for
this job, but when I finally opened it up I found the integrated motor
fried and the compressor intact. Scrap, in other words.) I replaced
the Schrader valve fitting at the pressure switch with a ball valve
and a male air coupling, and rigged out the hose and comressor with
suitable fittings. Now it only takes me about 20 seconds to get air
going into the tank rather than 20 minutes. Much faster, and I don't
get wet since I only open the ball valve after everything's coupled up
and the pressure is off the tank.
Details: I fire up the little oilless air compressor and couple it to
the tank's fitting with the coily yellow hose. I turn off the pumps
and open the yard hydrant to remove water pressure. Once the pressure
is down to a dribble I open the ball valve on the pressure switch
pipe, letting in the air. Once air starts coming out the yard hydrant
I close the valve, turn off the compressor, turn on the pumps, and put
the hose back away 'til next time. Because the tank pressure is then
below the safety threshhold I have to hold the pump switch on manually
while the pressure builds. I use a shelf bracket as a wrench, it
takes a lot of strain off my fingers, since pressure takes awhile to
build sufficiently to reach the automatic operation point.
Friday, May 18, 2012
The front screen door (wooden) was sagging a bit and hanging up. I
bought a small turnbuckle today and some screw eyes, and screwed the
eyes in the verticals in the center 'pane', diagonally oriented so
that tension would lift the low side up to eliminate the drag. I used
heavy wire to tie the turnbuckle into the center, then tensioned it.
Works great! It's adjustable, too, to adapt to future warping, and
the wire is thin and isn't too obtrusive.
Friday, June 1, 2012
Yesterday I took apart the broken front-yard frost-free hose bib,
first using the dedicated shutoff valve in the pink room's closet.
(There was a burst of stem leakage when I first closed it, but it
tapered off.) The stinger came right out with two pipe wrenches, and
rather than the broken-up washer that I expected I found that the long
3/8" brass tube that connects the handle assembly to the valve was
split and chunks were falling off. Oh. Yesterday while Daniel was at
soccer I checked at Ace, and they didn't have any repair parts for
such things. Today I hit Peters' Hardware and Bill
the Fauceteer, both places with a reputation for service and/or
odd parts. Apparently, however, there are no parts for such
things, they are not standardized and all the manufacturers expect you
to replace the entire faucet. Nice, except for the fact that to do so
you have to tear into the walls! Time for Plan B: make a new tube.
It had been suggested that House of Hose might have such things, but
all they had was a thick-wall stainless steel tubing into which the
pieces wouldn't quite fit. No matter, I can drill it out a bit at the
ends. I had them cut me a 13" length, it was about $4. At work I
checked the galvanic potential difference between brass and stainless
steel, and it was less than the 0.15 V difference that is generally
thought to mark the onset of significant galvanic erosion. Once home
I checked the length and it was a bit long, so I ground off a little.
I then used a drill to ream out a half inch or so at the ends in order
that the brass plugs of the operating mechanism would slide in easily,
and in fact a bit loosely. (They're supposed to be able to wobble a
bit.) These brass plugs have grooves in them into which the ends of
the original tube had been crimped. I pinned one cold chisel into a
vise and had Daniel hold the tube and an end in place over the chisel,
then I used another chisel and the BFH to tap firmly over the groove
in order to stake the tube to the end. We did this twice, once for
each end. When finished the ends were secure, but still able to move.
While I had bought a new washer, the screw that holds the old washer
in had rusted and was falling apart, so I did not replace it. The old
washer wasn't that bad, so I'll just stand pat for now. (I can afford
to waste the 45 cents I paid for it at Peters'!) I used a bit of
anti-sieze in the brass threads of the valve mechanism, and on the
handle's stem. The rubber washer at the outside was pretty chewed,
but looked reusable. I put it back together and it operated very
smoothly, no more squeaking or crunching. I turned on the water and
it worked perfectly!
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The Costco (return) stainless steel gas grill's cast-iron burners have
been rotting away, a feat that I'd somehow thought was impossible due
to the heaviness of the burners, and the main reason I'd bought the
thing in the first place. Apparently they're not as durable as I'd
thought, and naturally enough Costco is not a servicing entity. Oops?
Anyway, I did some surfing and it appears that the maker is Dynamic
Cooking Systems (DCS), and their #12022 16" burner (for 27"
grills) is the part, replaced by #22701. I ordered two from
bbqparts.com, plus replacement electrode boxes. $113.91 all told,
we'll see if this buys us another ten years or so. (Apparently it is
cast brass/bronze, or cast stainless steel, that is the really good
stuff. Maybe next time.)
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
The grill parts came today, I started soaking the retaining wingnuts
in penetrant. They're stuck!
Thursday, July 19, 2012
I replaced all the grill parts. Not as hard as I'd feared. The
castings are a little different than the original, the standoffs for
the stainless steel heat spreader plates moved on one end so they
don't engage the plates properly. No big deal, mostly a cosmetic
issue. I used anti-seize on the wingnuts, which also don't engage
fully due to casting changes. Unless I plan to barbecue in a
zero-G environment this won't be a problem!
Monday, August 6, 2012
I finally replaced the burnt-out Christmas light
in the bedroom, with one from a scrap string I found in the garage.
Close enough in voltage and color.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
We noticed some tent caterpillars getting established in the shorter
new trees along the driveway. (In years past, in the taller more
established trees where I couldn't get up to the nests with anything I
just shot the nests/branches off with a shotgun. I hated doing that,
but didn't want them to spread.) These I could reach with a ladder,
so I used spray Diazinon to stun them, picked off the nests with a
stick for stomping by Daniel, then sprayed again and picked off any
leaves that had wigglers on them for the same treatment. There were
four nests, none too large yet.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
This spring I had collected two full Douglas fir trees that a
friend had scored for me, from the backyard of a house in
town. They'd hired a tree service to take down backyard threats, but
due to the terrain they could not get machinery into the yard. To
save money they'd skipped the healthy surcharge to remove the wood.
The (large!) rounds had to be rolled uphill by hand to the truck. We
got three full pickup-loads, in three days. Jill & Daniel helped
us the first day, Daniel only the second, and the third day it was
just us. Very good wood, but will it be enough? I'd stacked it into
three rows of rounds to dry over the summer.
We split the first (of three) row of rounds and stacked half of it.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
We finished stacking the first split batch, which came out to just
about one short stack in the shed. We then split half a row of rounds
and stacked it.
Monday, September 17, 2012
We split half a row of rounds and stacked it. Two rows of rounds down,
and the shed's sure not filling very fast! It's amazing how much wood
one of those shed stacks can hold. (When filling. When burning they
seem to evaporate pretty quickly!)
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
After work we split another half row of rounds and stacked it. The
wood's evaporating, but the shed doesn't seem to be filling very fast!
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Finished splitting and stacking the wood we had. About 7-1/3 stacks
in the shed, a little light. Sigh.
Friday, September 21, 2012
My friend coughed up another load of miscellaneous wood for
us, a short pickup load's worth. It was fairly far, and the wood was
more sticks than I'd hoped, and the rounds were partially decomposed.
Oh well, it's worth having I suppose.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
I started splitting the wood, but ran out of gas in the splitter
before I got too far.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
More gas in hand I finished splitting everything.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
We finished putting away the last of the wood and bark, and cleaned
up the area. We've got about eight full stacks' worth, plus the
sticks and bark.
Monday, October 1, 2012
No water! Jill was watering a tree with the big hydrant and left it
on for quite awhile, all the way. Oops. I think she just ran us out
and there's no other problem. I did notice that the pumphouse is wet
under the pressure tank, this may be its last season. The replacement
needs to have a bladder, the original air replenishment mechanism can
no longer work due to the reconfiguration of the well system with the
Sunday, October 7, 2012
The outdoor cat house lid has been broken for awhile, the Kyb
automotive shock absorbers that cushioned the heavy lid had broken out
of their wooden upper supports so the lid could drop, and also put
excessive stress on the Pugeot hood strut that holds the lid up. It
was time to reconstruct the upper mounts. The wooden sockets were
inadequate, so I drilled out the shocks' rubber bushings so that the
metal pins could rotate easily. I then installed a new 2×4
upper mount board, drilled 1.5" holes to take the upper shock
ends, and squared 1" slots in those holes with a big chisel.
Washered screws then hold the shock pins to the board, with the shocks
nestled into their rectangular slots, so the shocks can swing easily
in the board yet not come out. I then screwed the board to the lid,
placed (fore/aft) so that the shocks' resistance lets the lid fall at
a slow but steady rate, and placed (left/right) so that the board
doesn't hang up on the sides as it closes. That took a bit of
fiddling. I then re-secured the hood strut, using a piece of drilled
scrap metal to spread the stress out among three screws instead of the
one that was in a now badly hogged-out hole. (The other mount screw
was still good.) Everything is much tighter and more secure, it
should be good for some time now.
Sunday, October 14, 2012
When the pumphouse was rewired to eliminate its separate meter the
cable drop hole into it had been opened up. Birds found it, and
nested inside the insulation within all summer. Oops. They'd torn it
down all over the place inside, so I spent a lovely hour nailing up
lath strips to hold it back in place. I also cut off the remains of
the old cable feed and nailed a plank over the hole. That should fend
off this problem in future. With any luck the insulation will again
do its job and help prevent freeze-up this winter.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
The last few days we've been drying prunes, the neighbors up the hill
had a bumper crop (as normal, except for the last two really bad
years) again, and we came away with about 5 buckets full. Split,
pitted, and placed in the food drier it takes about 1.5 days to dry a
full load, nine trays, a bucket and a half of raw fruit, resulting in
three full 40-oz cashew tubs' worth of dried. This is the third load,
and probably the last we'll get.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Finished hanging a shelf in the laundry room today. Jill had bought
two wooden shelf brackets and a short MDF plank, and four coathooks.
Instant 'kit'... from her perspective! At least she'd had a place
picked out. After ascertaining just where/how she wanted it I screwed
the two brackets into the studs and nailed on the plank. That was
fairly easy, but the coathooks wouldn't have anything secure to hang
on to. I scared up a piece of oak pallet wood and cut it to fit
between the wooden shelf brackets. I sanded it smooth, then drilled
two holes in the center to tie into the stud the shelf straddles and
two on each end to attach to the shelf brackets, countersunk all six
holes, then screwed the board to the shelf brackets. I cut another
little piece of the oak to go behind the center of the board to fill
the space and give it something to cinch down on, then screwed it
securely to the center stud using long stainless-steel deck screws.
(The ends of the board were held to the bracket with drywall screws.)
Perfect! And very secure...and, as I got out a coathook to start
attaching those, very wrong! I should have looked at the
hooks, they're the tall hat/coat combination hooks and ran into the
shelf with the board where I'd placed it. Oops. I had to dismount
the board and move it down considerably, which left all the first set
of holes to look at. Ugly. Other than that the mistake was fairly
easy to correct. I then spaced the four hooks evenly on the board and
drilled their mounting holes, then attached them. Very secure;
oak is nice stuff.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The last few days it has finally cooled off enough that we've been
building fires. (We've had the furnace on, at 60 °F, for
a couple of weeks now. Our policy is that if you want it warmer
than that then build a fire.) The heating season starts! We've
got a lot of bark and sticks, those work well in the early days
and I'm hoping to reduce or eliminate the backlog of this junk
before the real cold sets in.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Today the last of the bark backlog (leftover from years past)
went into the maw of the stove. That stuff is a real PITA. We've
burned some of the sticks, but haven't really dug into them yet.
That'll start now, and just in time too: we had our first snow today.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
The sprinkler controller (troll) also runs the Christmas lighting, and
the post-Thanksgiving part of November has always been a problem.
Thanksgiving, you see, is always the fourth Thursday in November, and
that's not something that cron is capable of finding on its own. I
refuse to have the lights on before Thanksgiving
is over, so the lights have always been a semi-manual proposition
before December. Today I finally rectified this.
I just have cron start a new
postturkey script every day
in November. This script figures out if the day number is greater
than the turkey day number, and if so goes on to run the lights. So,
cron gets told:
00 15 * Nov * at now + 1 minute 2>/dev/null%postturkey sunset deckthehalls 2330
00 15 * Dec-Jan * at now + 1 minute 2>/dev/null%sunset deckthehalls 2330
which runs the lights in January and December, and the guts of the
postturkey script used in November is:
tday=`cal | sed 1,2d | cut -c 13-14 | sed "/ /d" | sed -n 4p`
[ $day -gt $tday ] && exec $@
This all says that every day at 3 PM (while it's
still light out, so the
sunset script, which delays a
command until dusk on that particular day, will work) from the day
after Thankgiving through January 31, run the Christmas lights
from dusk until 11:30 PM. The new script just
runs the old
cal calendar utility and extracts the
Thursday column of data, and takes the fourth non-blank line. If
'today' is greater than this number go on to start the lights at dusk,
turning them off at 11:30. I should have done this years
Sunday, November 25, 2012
The last of the sticks and bark went today. We made it a month on
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Got another pickup load of sticks and crap from my 'pusher', these
from a yard tree takedown. (These for next year, of course.)
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
My grandmother's old silver plate pattern that I like so much
is a 1926 pattern from 1847 Rogers Bros.: Argosy.
Wouldn't mind having some more of that, for daily use.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
Jill has been borrowing a Bass Clarinet from the community college,
since they have a halfway decent one they aren't using, and she
doesn't. (She plays it in the Community Band, so that fee is her
'rental', in spite of the fact that she has it so that she can play it
in pit orchestras.) Anyway, the leather handle on the case,
which appears to be a buckle-on replacement, has torn loose and there
is a shoestring laced through the D rings instead. Jill hates the
shoelace. (I don't blame her.) I took a look at the torn handle, and
decided that perhaps it can be repaired. I removed it and used Shoe
Goo to glue the torn tab back into the handle body, and some
cyanoacrylate glue to close up some of the cracks in the main part of
the tab. Once that sets up I'll use neatsfoot oil on the rest of the
leather to try to keep it from drying and cracking further, we'll see
if this works.
Jill's mother sends us, on occasion, various light-up Christmas
knick-knackery. (She has a bit of a Hallmark addiction.) One, a
snowy village model, didn't light up this year when plugged in. I had
a look, it uses a little wall-wart, labeled 24VAC
0.25A. I had a closer look, and the hatch on the
bottom of the unit opens to reveal a halogen reflector lamp firing
through a color wheel stuck on the end of a low-speed synchronous
motor. The lamp is a 12V 10W unit, and
there is a sticker in there warning to use only that rating of lamp.
Very interesting, the wall wart was being asked to supply 2× its
rated power, quite deliberately! No wonder it burned out (I checked,
I cut it open and its transformer's primary was open), and there was
no way it could have maintained its rated voltage under load, which
explains why the bulb didn't burn out after a few seconds of
operation. This was definitely the mated wall-wart, it has an odd
custom plug between the wart and the unit so it couldn't have gotten
mixed up when in storage. I guess the Chinese (?) engineers (?) at
Hallmark (?) are trying to burn down the USA, one house at a time.
I dug around in the junk pile and found a 12VAC
0.85A wall wart off of which I had already stolen the
cord and connector. (I do that kind of thing, loose wall warts are
cheap at the thrift stores.) It is twice the physical size of the
deader, there's a good chance it'll survive just fine, though it is
slightly overloaded by rating. I dug the connector out of the deader
and soldered it to the pigtail coming out of the scavenged wart, and
wrapped the joint in electrical tape. When plugged in the snowy
village model turns out to be a nightmare in fiber optics, but
otherwise seems happy now.
The same source has gifted us with a little battery-operated string of
LED Christmas lights, suitable for festive holiday beehive hairdos or
whatever, and it didn't work right out of the box. I popped open the
plastic shell and had a look. You know, it is customary for a power
switch to have at least two wires going to it! There was a
loose wire floating around inside which obviously had pulled out of
the switch after a thoroughly inadequate soldering job. That was easy
to correct, and the lights worked after that. As Daniel has used it
to decorate the Hallmark ghetto I needed to scare up a suitable
4–5VDC wall-wart so that we don't burn through
the batteries like they're free. I looked in the junk box and found
the first wall wart I had made for my Yamaha
tuner; it still worked and put out just about the right voltage.
I cut the cord off of a 15¢ thrift-shop cigarette lighter power
cord, whose plug fit the jack, and joined this all together. It even
works, I put the batteries back in the battery pile, no sense wasting
I'm happy. An entire morning of successful R&R (Repair &
Refit? Rest & Recreation? Why not both!) for no outlay, supplied
entirely from the junk box and shop supplies. (Glue, neatsfoot oil,
tape, cable ties, etc.)
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Just used up the last of the wood from that final pickup load of
sticks and crap.
Went out with Daniel to get the Christmas tree today. He wanted to
cut it down, but it was just taking too long so I finished it. Maybe
Saturday, December 22, 2012
It's hard to estimate, but I'd say that we've tapped into our second
stack of wood in the shed. (Estimation difficult because you have to
leave part of the prior stack to stand upon to reach the top of the
next [tall] stack.) This first (extra-short) stack thus lasted about
Monday, January 28, 2013
The last time I used the snowblower it started fading, and the choke
had to be on more and more in order to run. I suspected carburetor
clogging, and the next time I tried to use it it would not start
except on ether, which corroborated this opinion. Today it snowed
again, so I finally removed the carburetor and cleaned it. It wasn't
very dirty but it doesn't take much. I put it back and it ran well.
(You don't really need to remove these kinds of carburetors in order
to clean them, but I usually do.) I turned up the RPM a bit, I think
it was low, and tinkered with the mixture screw until it seemed to run
OK. It may need some final dialing in, but it was working pretty well
and I cleaned a substantial chunk of driveway. (The rubber drive
wheel needs some attention.)
Monday, February 11, 2013
When our second piano came here we
needed to remove the kitchen slider door for access. It's been
squeaking and stiff, and generally a PITA lately, so I wasn't looking
forward to it. (This is not behavior I welcomed in an expensive
Pella door.) Instructions on the web were vague.
In fact, it's easy. There are two access holes at the bottom edges,
into which a long Philips screwdriver is placed. These
screws lower the jacks that the rollers are on, and you can then lift
the door and swing the bottom edge out (having first removed the
retaining guide) and remove the door.
The problem was that one of the access holes in the aluminum cladding
was facing wood, not a hole! The end piece had apparently slid out of
position, rising up, of all things, and thus interfering with
the upper track. (Hence the squeaking and stiffness.) I had to dig
and chew my way in with the screwdriver in order to get access to the
jack screw. At that point everything went smoothly.
I did make one big mistake: I'd leaned the door back into the opening
to cut the draft, and when I went out the front door to get a tool I
heard a huge echoing "BANG!" from behind the house. Oops. The draft
from the front door blew out the panel and it fell flat onto the deck!
Fortunately I had moved everything out of the way, and I happened to
have the handle removed (unnecessarily, as it turns out) so it was
able to land flat. (And it missed the cats.) It was a miracle but
nothing was broken, not even the glass.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I pulled the inside rubber weatherstrip from the sliding door, and
from there the out-of-place edge cladding could then be pried out
gently and away from the door on one edge. It could then slide, so I
shifted it into place and I used a hammer and pliers to reshape the
bent bits at the top, and the damage from the screwdriver intrusion.
Then I put back the weatherstrip, which unfortunately got deformed in
the middle. A heat gun helped put it back into shape, sort of, but it
looks crappy. I'm sure we can get another one if we decide to. I got
the door back on track and jacked into place, but ran out of time to
finish the job.
Also, today, I glued the bottom metal disk back onto the ultrasonic
puck that goes in the blue-glass decorative humidifier. We like it a
lot, with its bowl of fog effect, and it's also practical. It doesn't
look like the glue needs to be waterproof or anything, so I just used
cyanoacrylate glue. It's fast and easy.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I put the handle back on the door and adjusted the height of the
rollers with the screwdriver, we'll see if it behaves itself. My
theory as to why that edge strip had shifted and started scraping is
that the door was experiencing differential thermal expansion: as the
daily sun swept from the top down, with shade following later in the
same order, the top expanded slightly, pushing against the colder
bottom of the strip, and most especially its colder, grippier seal
material, and thus moved ever so slightly upwards. As shade then
crept down from the top it cooled and 'gripped' there first, then as
the rest of the strip cooled it was pulled upwards ever so slightly.
Repeat daily over a period of years and you can account for the half
an inch the strip had moved, against gravity.
To combat this (or whatever it was that did cause the shift)
I drove a screw into the edge of the strip, into the wood interior of
the door. With any luck that will pin it in place. I put bits of
duct tape over the screwdriver access holes in the door, since the
plastic plugs had degraded and powdered. That should help keep bugs
and dirt out of the works.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
We've tapped the last stack of firewood we put in last Summer, which
is both short and partially two-year-old maple. But it's starting to
warm up, too.
Monday, April 22, 2013
A couple of days ago I clumsily traumatized the strand of Christmas
lights I'd hastily hung as temporary welcoming
wedding decor. Turns out I darkened half the string, and after using
my handy-dandy LIGHTKeeper Pro (a miraculous tool!) I found that I'd
fragged two more bulbs. Bummer. In
twelve years of daily use we've only lost bulbs to trauma, none of
them have burned out. Running on a Variac dimmer really helps extend
incandescent bulb life! I replaced them with some used bulbs from
a scrap string.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
I pulled all three bathroom exhaust fans and cleaned the bearings with
brake cleaner, then relubricated with ATF. That and a wash of the
covers and they're all good as new.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I re-aired the well's pressure tank as per the new
procedure, no problems—it just takes a bit of time. I
had thought the tank was leaking, but it was dry
underneath this time so maybe not. This new de-waterlogging procedure
is certainly easier than the old one!
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Yesterday I broke down and bought a new battery for the lawn mower at
Costco, $38; today I installed it and mowed the lawn. Jump-starting it
each time with one of the generator batteries
was really getting old.
While out today I stopped by Lowes and bought electrical supplies for
adding an outlet under the deck where we keep the lawn mower, also
about $38 (we have wire already, I should only need a breaker). If I
can get that in I stand a better chance of keeping the battery alive
longer. I plan to add an outlet and an overhead light, I have a nice
brass weatherproof fixture that was a thrift shop find. I should be
able to run a circuit from the new box, under the crawlway and through
the sill plate under the porch.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
A few days ago at the thrift shop I bought a vintage TI 1500
calculator, bagged with an SR-51A, $3 for the pair. I figured that I
could put batteries in the old-looking 1500 and use it in a
similar-vintage car for gas mileage calculations. Well, the thing
uses two AA NiCd cells! They had leaked, but not too badly. I
replaced them with new ones and it worked just fine. They're not
intended to be easily replaced, you have to take apart the case, but
that's not too hard. NiCd's inherently don't hold a charge all that
long, I'd have to figure out how to charge them periodically while in
the car. The stock charger is a 6VAC unit, and did not
come with the calculator. Today I went to the thrift shop and bought
a cigarette-lighter Game-boy adapter that had a 6 V output, and a
different wall-wart that had a plug that looked like it would fit the
calculator. (Well, it was a bit too small, but I was able to drill
out the barrel and carve away excess plastic to get it to fit anyway.)
I then removed the weirdo GB power cord and replaced it with the
modified one, and got it working supplying 6 V. The calculator
seems to take about 40 mA of charge, when off, which is low but
probably good enough. The unit is ready to deploy in a car, I
suppose. What a PITA, and another $5 of crap! The things I do to
keep cool vintage gear running sometimes...
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Quite some time ago I'd picked up a thrift-shop (garage sale?) box of
laminate wood flooring to use in Jill's office under the roller chair.
Daniel and I tried to install it today. Box said 9 pieces, and that's
what I'd counted when I bought it. Turns out, however, that it was
three different types! They don't even lock together. We tried to
make a floor out of it anyway, it seems to work OK but doesn't look
anything like as nice as I'd hoped. We'll see.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Firewood gathering begins. (Two seasons late.) Yesterday I cut up
the sticks and pieces that had been given to me earlier this year.
I managed to break the starter rope, and had to go to town to get
more. $1. Today we got the truck going and went into the woods.
I needed to get farther into that piece than ever before, so I cut
one small tree to ease access, then we were able to get near the
two standing dead that I had targeted. We got them cut up and into
Monday, September 9, 2013
I fired up the splitter, and we split all the dry stuff that I cut up
Saturday, and all three trees from yesterday. No stacking, yet.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Stacking this AM. Stack #5 (short) is now restored to
glory, and #6 has been started. Unfortunately all of the two dry
trees I cut are in already, and the shed's still more than half empty.
(The live tree I cut down is too wet for use this year, and will be
stacked outside.) After breakfast and then stacking all the
dry wood, #6 is only about half-full.
...In the PM we cut up some fallen dead trees that were
up off the ground, they're dry enough and intact enough to be worth
Thursday, September 12, 2013
More standing (and fallen) dead trees yesterday and today. There's a
surprising amount of still-usable wood in that neglected corner of our
woodlot, and it's dry and ready to burn now. Which is good, 'cause
we're about out of time for the gathering of burnables. Weather's
heating up again, into the low 90's today, but the woods are still
damp enough from the not-too-long-ago rains that there's no fire
danger from chainsawing. Looks like we'll end up with about 7
stacks this year, two of them shorter than normal.
Friday, September 20, 2013
A couple of days ago Jill complained that the lamp in the microwave,
an Amana RR-6W from about 1976, was out. I pulled out the interior
baffle only to find that the lamp's not accessible from inside, but
the thing was so gross and greasy that I tore into it cleaning it.
The door had come apart once and had been glued together, before my
time, and it was looking very nasty, and the glue was failing. I tore
all that apart, and drilled out the broken-off plastic post
sites and put nylon screws in instead of the glue. (This plastic post
construction is the only dodgy part about the design. The materials
are all top-notch, other than these posts, a mechanically weak point,
all the plastic is still in near-perfect condition.) It took a lot of
time to get things cleaned up and put back together, but it looked
more like new after that other than the nylon screw heads that now
show inside the door. The window, in particular, now looked clean.
Oh, and a new 25W bulb was about $4 at the hardware store.
She'd complained that the oven was 'weak', but I tested it. Line
power was about 1450W, normal I hear, and a water heating test said
about 700W, which is correct. (Heat 1L of water for 33 seconds, the
temperature rise in °F times 100 is the effective wattage.) So
it's working as well as it did new, I think, and it's built like a
brick s***house. A pleasure to work on, almost. Good thing it's all
OK, a replacement magnetron is no longer available.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Harvested the last of the usable dead wood I could find today, another
three smallish trees. Got it split and in the shed, along with the
remainder of the sticks (prunings, really), and got the tools put
away. A generous estimate is six stacks, total. Enough, I'd
imagine, but just barely.
While I was at it I cleaned the chimney, it wasn't too bad but it was
definitely time. Guess we're ready for the heating season, as much as
we'll ever be, whenever it should come along.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
We've been burning awhile now, and we just put in the last of the
sticks. The next loads will be the standing dead we harvested.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Jill asked me to help out a friend of hers, the peg on his bass
clarinet doesn't extend far enough and he doesn't like the idea of a
longer peg. He thought a block of wood could be used on the floor. I
didn't have any suitable blocks of wood. I did, however,
have some firewood-length chunks of black walnut, so I cut a length
off of one and sanded the ends smooth, removed the bark, and drilled a
1" hole about a half inch deep into the center with a Forstner
bit. The result is quite rustic, there are some splits, yet it is
nonetheless both attractive and functional. He tried it out and
suggested shortening it about an inch or so, otherwise he was quite
happy with it. I cut it down and glued some sheet cork to the bottom,
and then rubbed on an oil finish. It looks nice, and should work
Jill has been having some pain in her right thumb, some kind of
repetetive stress injury due to all her recent instrumental playing.
A neck strap gives her neck pain, and she doesn't like using one on
her double reeds anyway. There once was a handly little device called
a FHRED, an adjustable stick that clamped onto an oboe's neck strap
ring and propped against a chair seat. She has managed to borrow one
and finds that it works well for her. Unfortunately they just aren't
for sale anymore, and apparently nobody who has one and needed it is
willing to part with theirs. I took some photographs of the borrowed
FHRED before she had to return it, and today at the hardware store I
bought some telescoping brass tubing and some other miscellaneous
hardware with which to fabricate one. We shall see if I can do this.
The tricky part will be making the clip. FHRED's was an elegant
little spring-loaded brass paperclip affair in a block milled out of
strong plastic. (Delrin?) I'm going to try using grenadilla wood, my
only fear is that it will be brittle enough that it will break if
dropped. On the other hand, my envisioned design isn't quite as
elegant as FHRED's, and will be easier to reproduce if it should
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Today I finished the oboe prop. I think it came out fairly well. I
felt unable to make a clip like the original, but I had an alternate,
less-elegant attachment in mind. First I cut out the grenadilla to
shape, cutting a notch in one end, then drilled a cross hole for the
pin. I then spent some time sanding it to shape so that the clip
would fit on the oboe and have the desired range of motion. (I used
the Laubin as a model.) I then drilled
a second cross hole midway in the block. I then took the 3/32"
rod and bent it twice and cut it off, with one leg just long enough to
go through the block, and a second leg much longer, bent to slide into
the two holes in the block. It looks something like this:
I then threaded the long end 4-40. With the pin(s) in the block, the
#3 compression spring on the long end, and a 4-40 brass nut on the end
of that you have a sliding pin assembly that you press on the
spring-loaded nut to slide the operating pin through the jaws enough
to release the oboe. I used a bit of Lock-tite on the nut to make
sure it didn't come off. The spring is fully compressed at about the
point where the pin is fully in its release position. The
spring-loaded bit is much more obtrusive than on the original, and far
more vulnerable to damage, but it's easier to fabricate. The pin/block
assembly looks like this, in closed and open positions:
+-+ +-+ +-+ +-+
||| ||| ||| |||
||||||| ) ||||||| )
I then threaded the end of the main rod 10-32, then drilled a matching
hole in the block and threaded it. I cut the rod to its 10"
length, then cut the outer tube to its 8" length and cut two
3/8" slip rings from the middle-sized tube. After a bit of
sanding to clean up the cut ends I then soldered one slip ring onto
the non-threaded end of the rod, and the other into the top end of the
tube. I soldered the 5/16" nut onto that same end, about 1/2"
down from the end to allow clearance for easy operation of the
thumbscrew. I then cleaned up the solder mess with a file, then
drilled and tapped into one face of the big nut for the 8-32 brass
thumbscrew. Just about done! I then slipped a length of black
heat-shrink tubing over the outside of the tube and shrank it into
place, and put a short piece on the short end too. I then assembled
all the pieces. A dark purple wedge pencil eraser caps the end,
giving it the grip it needs to not slide on your chair, and a bit of
Jill said it didn't fit on the Loree,
and it was true. The neckstrap ring on it is a bit larger in diameter
than the Laubin's. I used a round file to deepen the notch a bit. It
then fit, but wobbled a bit much for her taste because the file also
opened up the width of the notch. I may need to make a new block, and
do a much more careful fitting job as regards the notch dimensions.
It needs to be movable for expressive playing, and so can't be tight,
but not so loose as to allow the block to flop to the side. The shape
of the notch may be important, it might need to have an X-shaped
profile or something instead of a straight notch for best effect.
(Allowing more motion in one axis than the other.) I might have to
make another block. I have plenty of grenadilla, and it's not too
hard to make the way I did it. The worst part will be getting the
holes drilled to match the existing pin. We'll see.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Just brought in the last of the first-burned stack of firewood, #7.
It had been about a full short-stack. (In a tall-stack site.) We had
a skiff of snow yesterday morning, it's definitely cooling off now! I
also changed the batteries in the outdoor temperature sensor.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Some thoughtful soul dumped an entire pickupload of trash half on the
road and half on our property. Very Arlo Guthrie, the Sherrif's crew
will come and pick it up, and try to see if they can identify whom to
bill. It was done between 2:30 PM and
6:30 PM, between when Jill got home and when I
did. They said they'd come out Monday to pick it up.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
A few weeks ago the main toilet plugged again, for the last time. I
pulled it out. I found that the bolts were rusted away, the throne
could rock and had shifted a bit, the wax seal was now partially
occluding the pipe, and the floor was partially rotten. All not good.
We've been mulling over our various options since, including a
complete bathroom gut and remodel. (Jill's preference.) Certainly
nobody likes the old harvest gold toilet, but it's a high-flow model
and well-built, so I'm a bit conflicted about replacing it. (If its
flushing problems can be blamed on its mounting issues.)
Time is passing though, and we're expecting company for the holidays.
Sharing bathrooms is more stressful than one would like, and there's
no way any kind of remodel could be done by when we'd want, not unless
we rushed, and risked not getting what we'd really want yet paying
full, or even expedited rates. Jill is away in Europe for ten days,
so Daniel and I tackled the project aiming for a temporary solution to
be done before she gets back. That will allow us to pursue a final
solution at a natural pace. The damaged floor has dried in this time,
at least, so temporary repairs are practical. (Good thing it wasn't
particle board, or throne one would probably have gone visiting throne
two by now!)
I peeled away linoleum from wherever the plywood floor was damaged,
about a 2' circle was affected. I chipped away the remains of the
rusted iron floor mount ring, leaving the plastic drain pipe poking
through the plywood. Yesterday I'd bought a new ring, it fits the
plastic fitting very nicely but may need a spacer underneath. I used
the belt sander to remove the worst-rotted and scummy surface wood
layer, what was underneath mostly doesn't look too bad. I'd also
bought some wood hardener yesterday and I poured it liberally over the
bad flooring, in several passes. It soaked in like water into sand at
first, but as I was running out it started to look shiny on top as it
dried, indicating some approach to the desired saturation point.
There was some flashing protruding into the drain pipe where it had
been glued, I used the Dremel and a burr to remove that while I was
there. I vacuumed up the mess and left the fan on, door closed, to
dry and air out.
Sunday, November 10, 2013
I cut out eight roughly 2–3" strips of ¼" flat
scrap molding, with the ends mitered at 22½° angles so that
it fit together as a round frame on the floor around the pipe fitting.
I drilled every hole in the mounting ring that was provided for
screws, ten of them, and screwed the ring down to the floor with #12
1-¾" brass screws. They seemed to 'bite' pretty well, so
I'm not too worried about the state of the floor. Daniel and I then
went outside and cleaned the old toilet bowl. There was a lot of
crusted-on calcium, I ended up scraping it off with my antique
carbon-steel butter knife universal tool and wiping things down with
CLR. That was joyful. Daniel handled general scrubbing duties. I
wasn't too worried about scratching or marring it, I don't think this
fixture is going to be there all that much longer. Once it was
sufficiently clean we carried it into the house, one on each side made
the job easy. The wooden floor ring turned out to be too big to fit
underneath the fixture, I'll need to trim off the excess.
Monday, November 11, 2013
I removed the excess wood with a Fein vibratory saw. It worked slick,
and cut the soft wood like butter. Once that was trimmed away I then
found that it wasn't just the wood that didn't fit underneath the
fixture, the metal mounting ears on the ring interfered too. Oops. I
removed all the screws and rotated the ring, and the wooden spacers,
by 20° or so, enough to make the narrowest part of the ring match
the narrowest part of the throne. I then re-drilled and put the
screws back in. Bonehead! It seems to be OK now, the screws seemed
to have plenty of 'bite' coming out and going back in, so the
condition of the floor is still good. I set the throne down on the
floor over the hole, with the T bolts coming up through the mounting
holes in the bowl. It seems ready for mounting now.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
We warmed the wax ring, stuck it to the bottom of the throne, and
turned it over onto the drain. Daniel helped me lower it carefully
straight down over the T bolts so that the ring wouldn't need to be
shifted after touchdown. A little bit of twisting and pushing down
and it was seated, and we bolted down the throne. I then put the new
rubber gasket on the tank and bolted it back into place on the throne
using the old bolts with new sealing washers. It's not as secure to
the floor as I'd like, as you can rock it a little bit on one side,
perhaps due to deformation of the floor, but it'll have to do and I
don't see anything actually wrong. I connected up the water and let
it fill, no apparent leaks. A couple of flushes and still no sign of
"It's beginning to look a lot like toi-let!"
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
I ground the nasty corroded hardware off the oak toilet seat, pulled
out the heavily rusted steel mounting screws, and knocked the ring
apart as the glue was failing. It's pretty icky. As a punishment
detail I set Daniel to sanding the wood, I did the first piece. I'll
glue it back together and slap some sort of finish on it. I'd have
bought a new one, but they're not that inexpensive, and given that
we're just going to end up ripping it all out again fairly soon...
Friday, November 15, 2013
Yesterday I was going to start gluing the seat ring back together, and
had bought some polyurethane to give it a good cleanable finish, but
it turns out I didn't have any glue and already had a small can of
finish. Doh! So today I swapped the surplus finish for more Gorilla
glue, and clamped the first two pieces together. I can only do one at
a time, as I only have one curved piece of wood that makes the thing
work in the bar clamp, and it's not worth making more.
It is interesting that the 'old' can of finish, perfectly usable, was
just about exactly half the price of the new one I returned.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
I finished gluing the seat ring back together, and carved off the
excess that foamed out with a chisel, then used the stationary belt
sander to dress the joints. I set it near the fire to finish curing.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Jill's due back tomorrow, and since the power failed for six hours
early yesterday I had to handle the clock in the bedroom anyway. (An
old-school GE synchronous-motor classic, model 7294K made in Ashland
Mass, metal guts.) Its dial light, an NE-2 I've replaced once already
since I got it, is nearly black again and you can no longer read it at
night, a condition which Jill hasn't appreciated. I dug it out of its
nest and opened it up, and replaced the bulb again. It's not too
hard. I put it back together and it's nicely visible in the dark
again. This type of clock keeps perfect time. (The US power
grid is designed and managed to do exactly that, in fact.) So long as
the power doesn't fail!
I laid a couple of boards across the toilet bowl and covered them with
newspaper, and painted a coat of polyurethane finish onto the two seat
pieces. I hope it dries quickly, I only have today to get them
finished and dry and mounted onto the toilet.
...All day drying and the wood was still sticky, so I put them in the
oven at 200 °F on the backs of cookie sheets, and a few hours
of that and they were barely tacky at all. I turned off the oven and
let them cool in place. After I handled them a bit I decided a second
coat was called for, so I did that and left them drying in the oven
Monday, November 18, 2013
Last day! I screwed the plastic hinges to the seats and put the
assembly on the throne. Not quite centered, it turns out, but good
enough. I then washed the muddy lid cover (weeks outside!) and set it
aside to dry, then put away most of the tools. I kept out the vacuum,
we're not really done but at least it looks (and presumably, works)
like a bathroom now.
I wonder if a broken wax seal can leak air, breaking the siphon and
contributing to our flushing problems? I guess we'll see.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
I screwed the over-the-toilet cabinet to the wall. It had been on
stilts, but the thing was nasty pressboard and had gotten wet at the
bottom, and the removals and all had been very hard on it. I screwed
one of its leg braces to the wall (through the studs) as a perch, and
used another one to clamp it through the back to the wall. I left the
top strap on as well, it seems secure enough. It's a bit higher than
before allowing better access to the tank, and it doesn't get in the
way of servicing anymore, nor can it really get wet.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Just brought in the last of the next stack of firewood, #6.
It had been about a full short-stack. (In a tall-stack site.)
It was 12°F this morning, we're in a cold snap.
Friday, December 6, 2013
...and getting colder, 9°F this morning.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
...and colder, 4°F this morning.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
Just cracked the next stack of firewood, #4. This is a tall stack, of
two-year dried maple.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The last of the maple is now gone. I kept a few of the more
interesting pieces, curly grain without any cracking, for potential
woodworking projects. There is still some of the stack left, but it's
not maple. It was 1°F this morning.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Had to crack the next stack, #3. It was –2.5°F this morning,
the coldest yet.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Jill's been bemoaning the silvering of the vertical cedar posts on the
porch, where the weather makes it under the roof. I've read that one
can use oxalic acid (a.k.a. wood bleach) to mitigate this, so I tried
some. (Bucket and scrub brush.) Yes, it does seem to work, at least
somewhat. We'll work on it some more, see if we can't make it even
Saturday, August 30, 2014
There has been a tree with a kink in it that's been leaning
threateningly towards the garage, and the boat/camper storage, that I
just can't ignore any longer. (When did it get to be so big?
My saw's bar isn't quite long enough to make it all the way through
the stump at ground level. 20 years ago when I moved here the tree
didn't seem like any kind of threat at all.) For months now I've been
mulling over how to take it down before the wind does it for me, and
today I finally did something about it. I suspect that the only
reason the heavy wind storms we've had this year haven't brought it
down already has been the small tree next to it that appears to be
propping it up. The biggest problem is that it looked like the tree
'wants' to fall just about anywhere bad, what with the kink and the
lean, and the only 'good' direction is definitely not on its Christmas
list. There is a potential anchor tree nearby that, if utilized,
should keep it from falling towards the house et al., but it's not
ideally located, being about 110° from the tree's natural
I used an extension ladder to get up into the tree, and a carried a
heavy chain up there and attached it about 30' up. A second chain
reached down to ground level. I went over to the anchor tree and
wrapped two heavy nylon tiedown straps around its base and secured
them with their ratchets. I ran a heavy chain in a loop, one to each
tiedown, and dragged the center of this loop towards my victim.
Between these two chains I then rigged my 3-ton chain hoist, at full
extension, and then started 'hoisting'. I stopped when the chains
were tight enough that I couldn't really deflect them at the center
anymore. The bark on the anchor tree was making cracking noises, and
I was starting to see the victim tree's top being pulled out of line.
I let things stabilize for some time, then hoisted some more, the
victim was definitely moving out of line, the bark was a-cracking, and
I had to wrap the chain host's control chain around some nearby scrap
iron in order to keep it from unwinding when I let go. Ready!
The camper was still on the truck and safely away, but the boat was
definitely in the threat zone, so I moved it with the other truck.
(That was an adventure!)
I then fell the tree in more-or-less the normal manner, aiming it down
the hill in the 'safe' direction. The pull from the anchor was not
directly towards this direction, but rather was aimed at keeping it
from falling in the 'bad' direction, and at getting the tree
sufficiently off-balance so that it could even consider falling where
I wanted it. The fall was maybe 45° from the angle of the pull,
as it turned out. Anyway, the tree dropped more or less right where I
wanted it to go, no muss and no fuss. When it came down it snapped
off its prop tree too, which was no great surprise. I cut them both
up for firewood. Threat averted! (By ring-count the tree was 62
years old, and measured about 80' in length. 'Diameter' at ground
cutoff was approximately 18×24"; pine trees, unlike some,
don't exhibit much of a spread where they transition into the roots.)
I then put the boat back.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
I started loading the rounds into the truck.
Saturday, September 6, 2014
I got out the splitter, and began splitting this (wet) tree. We've
got very good weather again, I need to get these drying ASAP, since I
fear we'll need to burn them this year..
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Got both trees split and stacked out in the sun to dry. It's cooler
now, but they claim we've still got some very good weather due us. It
looks like this might be roughly one stack's worth of wood in the
shed. We've got nearly two stacks left in the shed, they're extremely
dry and I'll move those to be taken first, putting this wettest (?)
stuff into the shed as the new first row. My optimistic estimate is
that we'll have maybe six stacks of wood for this year's supply.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I finished cutting up the standing and fallen dead trees that we'll be
burning this winter. Down to the hauling, splitting and stacking,
Thursday, September 18, 2014
A friend called me with news of a cut-up hardwood tree in a
yard that needed disposal, I brought it home today. It was a
fair-sized load in the truck. Bringing it home was complicated by the
fact that the roads home were blocked due to the activities of our
serial arsonist that day! Far too exciting. The rounds were less dry
than one might have thought, having sat out all summer, but they were
not stacked for proper drying, and I think might have been watered by
a sprinkler system.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Brought another pickup load of rounds out of the woods. There's more
than I thought, I think there's nearly another full load left, and
there might be another fallen dead or two that are worth taking.
Unfortunately during all the bouncing around the solar panel fell off
the dash and shattered.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Brought the last pickup load of rounds out of the woods. Split and
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Got the truck/trailer ready for the trip to Laclede tomorrow. Rolled
the wood splitter onto the trailer, it's a lot lower to the ground
than the truck. The splitter would be fairly hard to get up into the
truck, and wouldn't leave much room for booty on the way home. So we
bring the trailer, it makes it all much easier except for the backing
into place at our destination!
We picked prunes at the neighbors, and brought home two full buckets'
worth. Got the first load into the fruit drier. It takes about a
bucket and a half per load, and about a day and a half to dry.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
We went up to Laclede to help some friends out with a big tree they've
taken down. (A windstorm broke off the top half.) We used the
splitter on the big rounds. (The tree was 3' at the butt end but
they're turning the lowest part into lumber, so the rounds we got into
were more like 2' and down.) We got a generous truckload for our
help. Unfortunately we ran out of time in our one day there, and we
got pretty tired so a longer day wouldn't have been too enjoyable, but
what's left for them to do is the smaller stuff, which is easier to do
We're due for another week of warm and dry weather, but this stuff will
have to be for next year. I think I'll put it into the shed first.
Monday, October 6, 2014
I got the Chevy truck swept out and put away, out of the way, and the
truck/trailer parked down in the wood service area ready to offload
and split. This new wood is wet!
I turned off the fruit drier, it seems ready. I wonder if we can talk
them out of another bucketful of prunes? That'd make for a full
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
I split the remaining rounds. It didn't take too long, there weren't
all that many and doing large rounds in large pieces is very much
easier than what we did Sunday.
After work I chucked the old über-dry firewood leftovers out of
the way so that the wet new wood can be the first in the shed. (It's
a LIFO stack.) They were very dusty and light, they've gotten pretty
degraded over the years and it's high time they got burned, and so out
front they go. Unfortunately in my flinging exuberance I managed to
give a pretty good whack to the rafters, which coupled into the lights
and blew two of my 90W floods. Dang!
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
I stacked the rounds I split yesterday, it makes about 3/4 of a short
...At lunch I bought two new light bulbs. It looks like you still
can get the 90W exterior floods, though they are not cheap! ($9 each.)
...After work I emptied the truck of the split new wood, and stacked
it. There is a total of 1-1/3 stacks in there now. (The first stack
is a short one, the second is a tall.) It's a start!
I put the two new bulbs in, and put the not-actually-dead-but-now-too-bright
lamp in the box on a shelf in the shed. It can be the (short-lived) spare.
I went to the neighbors' and got the last half bucket of prunes, they
were happy to be rid of them.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
I emptied the fruit drier, it filled two large party-mix tubs. In the
evening Daniel and I loaded it up with the last of the prunes. It's
about 2/3 of a full load.
Friday, October 10, 2014
I had to fix the nasty Harbor Freight moisture meter, its battery had
corroded and taken out one of the battery terminals. Anyway, once it
was working again it said that the wood I'd just put in was ranging
around 25% moisture, or wetter. Definitely not ready! The threat
tree we'd cut recently measured 7% (the meter's
minimum reading) or drier, which is dry enough to use. I
began stacking it in the shed. When I had to quit I had brought the
level up to two full short stacks in the shed, it's starting to look a
little less pathetic now.
...After work Daniel and I moved in and stacked the remainder of the
threat tree, which filled the second (tall) stack, and began the
third. We then threw in a batch of the hardwood. Supposedly this is
the end of our unseasonably good weather.
While demonstrating the moisture meter to Daniel I managed to, while
throwing back my wet demonstration piece, wipe out another two bulbs!
At least these weren't the two brand-new ones.
Sunday, October 12, 2014
We stacked all the hardwood, which was maybe 1/2 stack on its own. We
then finished the third stack, and began the fourth. We are down to
just all the standing dead, which should be perfectly dry. It's
beautiful out there again today, though yesterday it rained.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Another nice morning, I got a good start on stack #4, and threw in a
pile to deal with later.
...At lunch I bought two more new light bulbs. Another $18+ lost to
my bad aim...
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I stacked what I'd thrown in yesterday, and threw in another small
pile. (Time is limited in the mornings, it's hard to do very much.)
The thrown-forward old stuff is starting to get in the way, I'm going
to have to start re-stacking it very soon just to have room to work.
I re-aired the well's pressure tank as per the new
procedure. Last time was over a year ago,
it should be done more often than that. (Perhaps I didn't record
...After work Daniel and I had a productive hour, and completed both
stacks four and five! (Number five is a short stack, so it's
smaller and a lot quicker to do.) Due to impending rain I threw
another pile into the shed, and put bark covers on the rest of the
split stuff outside.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
After work Daniel and I had a productive two-hour session, and stacked
all that was left in the shed. This completed stack #6, and brought
stack #7 up to about 2/3.
Thursday, October 16, 2014
I threw a little over half the one remaining split stack into the
shed, and got stack #7 up to head height. I also started stack #8,
which you have to have done in order to be able to finish #7 (a tall
stack). The stuff outdoors didn't seem to have gotten too wet in the
rain, but it was not bony-dry anymore either. What's left outside is
just about enough to finish #7. And, of course, the un-split dry
We shouldn't be short of wood this year, I'd gotten more than I'd
thought. I just need to finish this!
...After work Daniel and I had another productive session, and
finished off stack seven, getting the rest of the standing dead that
was split moved inside and stacked. We then split the dry fir rounds
we'd been given by the neighbors when they moved, and stacked it too.
That takes stack eight up to 3/4 full. The fir rounds were short,
which makes this stack rather precarious. While stacking we had a
nice discussion, about the ever-popular Kiwi Empire and some
of the concepts in Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel
Kahneman, among other things.
There's another batch of dry rounds, cottonwood this time, and a
smallish stack of split stuff from last year. That' all that's left
outside. Oh, and all the bark and the small pile of Stupid Sticks.
I can smell completion on the air!
Friday, October 17, 2014
I put up a center stabilization pole on stack #8, which really could
use it because the short pieces it is comprised of are much less
stable than usual, and moved the splitter over to the last batch of
rounds. I fired it up and did a small batch and threw them into the
shed, but time was limited so I didn't do much. It's getting dark and
Saturday, October 18, 2014
I stacked the split stuff from yesterday, it reaches about as high as
you can stack without stepping up on the next stack, and I laid the
foundation of #9, which will be a short stack. (It's the beginning of
the next [and last] of the three shed sections. Not that we'll get
much farther with the wood that is left to go in.)
Sunday, October 19, 2014
A bittersweet morning. Jill and I loaded up the truck with all the
baby things to take away. She's returning the stuff to whom we had
borrowed a lot of it from, and whatever they don't want will go to
Goodwill, or to the dump. She says it's not coming back,
whatever it takes. With Daniel becoming a teenager soon, it seems
like it's past time to do this chore. The bed of the truck is full,
as is the back seat. This frees up a fair bit of storage, which is
The only things we're keeping are the wooden rocking airplane I made
(for my niece, but we ended up getting it back for Daniel), the
basinette with the Mercedes hood star my family had made up for
Daniel, and the Mexican baby chairs, one of which (the one that was
ours when I was small) my mother had re-caned for Daniel. That's
plenty of heirlooms, the rest was just stuff, and/or not ours to
Later in the day I split some more wood, and Daniel and I stacked it.
Stack #8 is complete, and stack #9 (a short one) is over half full.
Not too much left, but we'll definitely get into stack #10, which is a
bit of a surprise to me.
Monday, October 20, 2014
The last of the cottonwood is split and thrown into the shed. It
ought to just about fill out #9 when it's stacked. Nothing left but
to move the last outdoor split stack into the shed, and clean up.
Bark, litter, etc. There's a few limbs to be cut and split, but
essentially we're done with the splitter for the year.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I stacked the cottonwood. It nearly finished stack #9, so I
went out and grabbed a few more pieces from the last outdoor split
pile to fill it out. #10 is next!
...After work Daniel and I brought in and stacked the last of the
split wood outside. It took about a half hour, and makes about 1/3 of
a short stack. All that's left are the Stupid Sticks, and the bark.
And cleanup, of course.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
I threw the bulk of the Stupid Sticks into the shed and stacked the
bigger ones. Remaining are the long ones that need cutting. I also
moved in one of the bark piles.
One of our main lamps in the living room had stopped working some time
ago, and with Winter coming on its heat and light would be welcome.
It's a mogul-base 500W bowl-shade arm lamp that my mom gave me, so
that I'd return her fancier one. In high school, in 1977, I had
liberated two half-mirrored bulbs for this kind of fixture, as I
recall the gymnasium used them for its main lighting at the time. I
used that lamp for years in the (cold!) basement bedroom I had, as a
work/reading light, and later in my apartment at college, and
thereafter. The first bulb finally blew up, literally, in 2002, and I
replaced it with one (of a pair) I'd found at the thrift shop. (I
also fashioned a blast guard out of heavy steel window screen to go
over the bulb.) That one burned out earlier this year,
non-catastrophically I might add, and I replaced it with the other
stolen bulb. The remaining thrift-shop bulb is in reserve. These
bulbs aren't all that common anymore!
Thursday, October 23, 2014
It was raining, but I want to be done. I chainsawed up all the
bundles of sticks and other odd branches, then split those. All
sticks and splits were thrown into the shed. Everything's very wet,
but should dry off quickly once the rain stops. The remaining bark
piles were not stacked for rain, so that's going to get pretty wet.
That's left to deal with, and cleanup. (Raking up all the bits and
disposing of them.) Getting close!
,,,After work Daniel stacked some of the sticks, and I finished it.
Jill was cold and threw a small fire, I brought in a bucket load
of the dregs that were too small to stack.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
I moved all the bark in today. It was amazingly, drippingly, wet.
I wish I'd gotten to it before the big rains! I photographed the
shed, for posterity. It's a full load, not the paltry pile I was
expecting going into this.
All that's left is the cleanup. Raking up the chip and scrap
piles, and dumping them in the designated burning areas.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
I believe our record-setting, unseasonably-warm Fall is over. It
snowed a bit Sunday night, and yesterday it was 30°F in the
morning. This morning it was 18°F outside!
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Jill's been remodeling Daniel's room the last couple of weeks, during
the day when I'm at work. Yesterday we got the new floating flooring
started, and today we finished it off. It went pretty smoothly, and
we ended up with one plank left over. (And another three full boxes,
which we returned unopened for credit today.) It's looking pretty
nice! This evening I cleaned off and primed the old baseboard
molding. Jill took a chunk out of one while removing it from the
wall, and I'm grafting in a piece of similar wood so that we can keep
using it. I managed to get one coat of paint on it all, too.
The last of the sticks came in to the fire today. Finally we're into
the split wood. It's cold, mornings are in the 12–15°F
range, and it never gets above freezing. Dry, though, my car windows
aren't even frosted in the mornings.
Monday, November 17, 2014
I got a second coat of paint on the baseboard molding, and moved it
into the room to finish drying. (I had been working in, and tying up,
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Paint drips chiseled off of the molding this morning, and it's all set
in place. Looks nice.
...In the evening I nailed it up. The air nailer makes short work of
this sort of thing. We then cleaned up and laid a mattress in the
middle of the floor and brought the new bed (still boxed) to stack in
the room. Freed up the living room a fair amount! Daniel spent the
night there, it's back in business as a bedroom as of now.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Yesterday I assembled the new bed, today we brought home the new
mattress and I also assembled the trundle bed. The old twin-bed
mattress is too tall for the trundle, we'll need to get something a
bit thinner. We had moved Daniel back in last night, today the bird
(and the associated space heater) went in. The bedroom is back in
business, just in time for the upcoming Holiday and related guests.
Friday, November 21, 2014
A day of mourning, Daniel's pet conure Sunny was found dead on the
floor of his bedroom today. He is devastated. We had just finished
remodeling this room to be more bird-friendly, replacing the carpet
with a hardwood (laminate) floor. (We had also painted the walls, and
the little dresser to match. Jill did all the painting, and we
purchased a new bed, mattress and all.) We have several potential
causes of death:
The bird wasn't very old: we expected many more years of life; Sunny
was only about 1.5 years old. The thing is, the poor bird was found
across the room from the cage, over by Daniel's new bed, and I thought
he looked a little flat. I would expect fumes/stress/illness to drop
him from his perch to the cage floor directly underneath. If he fell
to the room's floor and was hurt, would he really drag himself halfway
across the bedroom before expiring? I fear that the death was indeed
due to Daniel, who had a penchant for taking the bird under the covers
with him, in spite of all our warnings of the potential harm that
could come from it. He denies that he did this, but then why was the
bird found on the floor next to the bed? Perhaps more will come out
in time. If he did cause the bird harm, I expect the guilt
will eat him up.
- Fumes, from the paint and all the new wood.
- Stress, from all the moving around during the remodel.
- Fall from the open cage to the (now-hard) floor.
- Squashed/smothered by Daniel in his sleep.
- Random bird illness.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Thanksgiving! And our first stack of firewood, the partial one full
of sticks and et cetera, is done. We're doing very well on
the wood consumption front. It was 50°F this morning, warmer than
it's been in quite a while. Should make the turkey frying a pleasure.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Last night our Keurig coffee machine broke. Its handle had been
getting kind of sticky for a year or so. (I don't use it, I don't
drink coffee.) Last night a piece of plastic broke off. Oops.
Today I took it apart, and found that the only real problem was that
some scale had built up on the cam track on the plastic bucket, and
the plastic pin that slides in it snapped off. Oh dear.
Fortunately the first machine we had bought had gone insane shortly
after we got it. One phone call and they sent us a new one, I never
even had to prove that I even owned the machine in question,
much less that it was still under warrantee. (Methinks mine was not
the first such call they had received!)
Anyway, I raided it for parts, and now it's working smoothly
again. I've checked the new machines in stores, and none of them feel
like they've half the mechanical build quality of the one we have.
Ours has a metal handle, not a plated plastic handle. I'm happy to
have put it back on the road, as it were.
Daniel and I put up the exterior Christmas decorations today. It was
warm, but blustery and a bit wet. Still, warm was a nice change.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
We've been wanting to add a second shelf in Daniel's closet, mimicking
the extras we'd put in ours. I'd gone so far as to buy a
16"×6' board (not full-length so as to not block access to
the attic hatch), to match what was in ours, but as his closet is only
about 2' deep that is actually impractical. Today we decided that a
1'×5' shelf is what is called for, so I cut down the board
(which is a glue-lam of pine strips) and installed it. It looks
decent, and will add some badly-needed storage space.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
When we got home today from a cross-State road trip there was no
water. The pressure tank was empty, but the gauge was stuck at 20
PSI. I think it froze up, I had neglected to plug in the heater this
year. I ran the heat in the pumphouse for awhile and the thing broke
loose and started operating normally. Normal enough under the
circumstances. What was particularly disturbing was that
the well pump was running when I got there. Its only job is
to replenish the cistern. Why would it be doing that if there had
been no water running? Could its floating pressure switch have frozen
and left the well pump running? (It has been very cold here this last
week.) The well doesn't hold very much water, it runs dry fairly
rapidly. The well pump has a pump saver on it, but could it have
malfunctioned? It seems highly unlikely that it could legitimately
have been running when I got home. I will look into it more tomorrow,
in the daylight.
Sunday, January 4, 2015
Snow! I got out the snowblower, and it refused to start. The problem
ultimately turned out to be frozen water in the carburetor bowl, and
once that was removed it ran well again. Got the driveway cleared by
about dark, but the snow is still falling. The new rubber drive wheel
worked fairly well.
When I went out to the pumphouse and turned on the well pump I could
hear crackling in the water line from the well, and then we could
hear water running into the cistern. I'm sure the exit pipe from
the well was merely frozen yesterday, but now all seems well. Must
remember to turn on the pumphouse heat when winter comes!
Friday, January 9, 2015
No water again! I went out, and this time there was no recovery. The
cistern pump doesn't seem to be running. It was dark, I'll look at it
in detail tomorrow.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
We went out today and cleaned off the cistern access lid, and I also
checked the wiring in the buried junction box. The box was entirely
full of wet dirt! It looks like moles or something had been active.
I scooped out the dirt and opened up all the wire nuts, they were
corroded and filthy. I cleaned off all the connections, scraping the
copper clean with a jackknife, but all this made no difference. My
meter seems to indicate that there is not good power getting out there.
I checked all the connections inside the pumphouse, and all looked
good. The way the motor start box is constructed means that it's
difficult to do any 'live' checking on it, so I did not do that. I
did prove that the start box is getting full voltage from the pressure
switch. So, what is bad is either the start box, the pump in the
cistern, or the buried cable between the cistern junction box and the
motor start box in the pumphouse. This is getting a little beyond my
competence zone at this point, so I called for service. (Bartholomew
pump service, 466-4511. They installed the cistern when I first
bought the house, and replaced the well pump when it failed years
later. I believe they were also the original installers of the well
equipment, and had been the servicer of record for the house's
previous owners. They are also used by the neighbors.)
Anyway, none of this was getting us any water, so Daniel and I lifted
off the cistern lid, the tank was full. I got a clean bucket and
started dipping. I filled our two water jugs for use in the kitchen,
then brought in bucket after bucket to take care of flushing the
toilets that had been used before the problem was fully recognized.
While I was there I pushed down the float switch, and the well pump
started filling normally, so that is all right. There was a
thin skim of algae spots on the water's surface, I dipped those out
with the bucket. Once we were done with all the dipping I re-covered
the cistern. Nothing to do now but wait for the the repairs.
Monday, January 12, 2015
Today the pump man came, he's a new young guy that has taken over the
business from the prior fellow who has retired. Anyway, he did a
quick diagnosis and said the pump's run winding was open, and he was
halfway through installing a new $800 pump when he did a pre-dip final
test, and found the _new_ pump also had an open run winding. WTF? He
pulled the wire out of the tank and did a close inspection, and found
where the pump (which was on a length of flexible hose, originally
with the intention of damping out vibrations that were coupling into
the house) had been rolling against the wire every time it started up,
and had eventually worn through the insulation and had broken the
Doh! He re-installed the old pump (this time without the flexible
hose, which hadn't really done the noise-abatement job anyway) with a
new wire, and all was well (ahem!) again. This made for a $180 job
instead for a $1000 job, and we have water again. Yes, the pump is
around 21 years old and could fail at any time, and yes the
solid-state motor controller has been superseded with an older relay
design, which turned out to be more reliable in the end, but why
replace perfectly functional items? It's not like any of these parts
are difficult to replace when/if they do fail. The new wire
shouldn't fail like the old one as the pump doesn't move anymore, it
is hard-mounted to the exit fitting via a bronze slide joint. We did
get some new galvanized pump fittings, the old ones had corroded
pretty badly. Yes, stainless steel would last longer but it is
expensive, and even the galvanized should outlast the pump itself.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
The day before yesterday I tried to heat some water in the microwave,
and it went dark. (Possibly there was a door-closing interlock
problem, I was moving very fast and didn't pay good attention to what
I was doing.) Anyway, this morning I opened it up (Amana RR-6W from
1976) and found the thermal fuse blown. A new one was $11, most of
that shipping, so I went out to the parts RR-9 I have in the garage
and took its fuse. I soldered it in place (it's not just a clip-in)
and now the oven works again.
If it can make it to next February, that'll be 40 years of service
for this particular appliance.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Our crappy toaster has packed it in, it wouldn't shut off and burned
everything, and we've been using the toaster oven in its place. (I
think Jill tossed the dead one, I couldn't find it to try to fix.)
This has been unsatisfactory, as it's not really designed to toast
bread well, so today I grabbed the old Toastmaster 1B6 that I'd found
awhile ago, and really went through it. I cleaned and lubed the
clockwork, and lubed all sliding and moving pieces, and cleaned it
out. I even lubed the air piston that prevents toast missiles. I'd
earlier replaced the cord, so that was OK. The Bakelite base is
broken, and some of it is missing, but that won't really matter, we're
not trying to win any toast concours awards, we just want some
Anyway, it seems to work well, Daniel and I had some toast for lunch.
(With Loganberry jam my sister-in-law had made.) Yum! The toast was
perfectly done, evenly on both sides. Crisp on the outside, and still
soft bread on the inside. Score one for a well-made USA product from
the days when they actually tried to make things well, and to last.
This one's still in very presentable shape, shiny chrome and all.
Saturday, January 24, 2015
I have been neglecting the Culligan Mark 2C water softener for some
considerable time now, and the flow through it has been gradually, and
almost unnoticed, petering down to a dribble, bad enough that
yesterday I bypassed it and was surprised by the flow change! Well,
apparently that happens when you don't put salt in them. Also, small
amounts of iron can clog the ion-exchange medium over time, reducing
effectiveness and flow.
Anyway, the house came with a container of Culligan "Sofner-Gard
Chemical", about 1# or so of a fine white powder. I've never used it.
It says it's composed of Sodium Bisulfite and Sodium Hydrosulfite.
Apparently it binds to the iron and allows it to flush out. I tried
to find detailed instructions, and wasn't very successful, though I
did find some general instructions for this kind of procedure. I
dumped a goodly dose into the brine well, which by this time was pure
water, and stirred it in. I told everybody not to drink or cook with
water except from the kitchen sink cold water faucets until further
notice, as they alone are un-softened. I then triggered a
regeneration cycle. (Actually I did this only after disassembling and
lubricating the timer, again, which got rid of the loud grunching
noises. This gave the chemical plenty of time to dissolve.) After
the regeneration cycle I dumped a bag of salt into the salt tank.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
After the salt had had a good chance to dissolve overnight I triggered
a regeneration cycle.
Monday, January 26, 2015
In the evening I triggered another regeneration cycle. I also cut the
softener back into the water system.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
The shower seemed to be back to its pre-neglect behavior, and the
water was definitely softer. In the evening I triggered a last
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
The wretched Ryobi riding lawn mower has been acting cranky the last
year or two, and this year it not only wouldn't even try to start, it
started leaking gas! Today I finally dug into it. The ignition
switch was failing, that was the no-start issue. I removed it and
cleaned it using brake cleaner, and shot it full of Deoxit. That
helped, though I still have to (sometimes) wiggle the connector on the
back of it to get it to crank. It probably needs to be replaced,
but I guess we'll see.
The fuel leak was the fuel line, which had decomposed. I removed the
air cleaners and blew them out, then removed the shroud. From there I
could remove the carburetor and intake manifold, which I then
disassembled and cleaned out with brake cleaner. (All that I had.)
Nothing looked too bad, but it was clearly time to do this. I had
some new 1/4" fuel hose, from a liquidation store score, and I cut
new lengths of this to replace the bad line. I then reassembled
things. It started right up, but didn't run long. It wouldn't
re-start. I think it had pulled a bit of dirt into the jet, and so I
got it running on starting fluid and capped the air intake pipe with
my hand. The resultant heavy suction cleared things up, and I was
able to go on to mow the lawn.
It needs new belts, that seems clear. The drive belt is slipping
now, and the blade belt has chunks out of it.
From the label under the seat: MTD Model 13AN688G034 619938, Serial
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
The SW corner of the lawn is very dry, even drier than normal. (It's
a difficult spot.) I found that its head was not turning, and it also
had a very small nozzle in it. I upped it from a #5 to a #8.
Twisting on the head got it moving again. We'll see if this helps.
Monday, June 8, 2015
The swamp cooler we picked up in 2007
and finally had installed in 2009 seems to be in need of new pads. (I
believe this was a Costco unit, it looks like a Phoenix
Mfg. Inc. [PMI] Evapcool Brisa unit.) Various sources give radically
different service life for pads, but by any measure six years is too
long! They are 21×36", and appear to be expanded paper
(like expanded metal decking, but in multiple layers) rather than
something more (or less) exotic. Aspen (excelsior) pads are
inexpensive, and common, and by all accounts work well enough, but
seem to be the shortest-life option. (Possibly needing replacement
more than once per cooling season.) If I can find paper replacements
I'll try them, as these worked pretty well. It's only been the last
year or two that we seem to have noticed a reduction in efficiency.
(I would really like to try to retrofit a third cooling panel into
this one, but so far I haven't found anything inexpensive. Ideally a
wrecked unit will turn up somewhere that is the same model/size as
Friday, June 26, 2015
The neighbors were able to get an employee discount on "Coolpad"
material for the swamp cooler. (The discount worked out to about free
shipping and tax vs an online purchase, about $43 for a 20' roll of
overwide material. Made in USA by Research Products Corp.) It came
today, the roll is huge! (Just in time as we're entering
what promises to be a record heat wave, with highs to maybe
105°F.) This expanded paper product looks exactly like
what came in the cooler, so that's one worry gone.
Anyway, Daniel and I installed new pads in the cooler once night had
advanced enough to warrant taking the cooler offline. I removed the
panels and shook them out, and let them drip dry a bit, then removed
the wire retainers. They're starting to rust, the only part of the
unit to do so, but will last quite awhile yet. I had D. take the
panels outside to wash out the dirt and bugs. The old pad material
was very stiff, it was completely encrusted with scale. I measured
the pad area carefully, it's 21"×35" and the old pads
confirmed these dimensions.
The long dimension of the roll is intended to be vertical, and it's
clear that orientation matters so there will be a fair amount of
waste. If not for the orientation issue the pad material would have
fit sideways in our cooler, for a lot less waste. Not only does the
rotation of the material matter, but so does the up vs down
orientation. The expanded material is like little louvers, and it
needs to be installed so that water is encouraged to stay inside the
panels rather than flung out as it drips. (This is clear if you look
closely.) The only orientation that doesn't seem to matter is inside
vs outside, the material looks completely symmetrical in that regard.
Anyway, with orientation all worked out we used big scissors to cut
new material to fit, and we tucked them into the panels and
reinstalled the wire retainers. I drained the cooler to start fresh
with clean water and hung the panels in it, and started the refill. I
let the water pump over the panels while it refilled so that it would
be thoroughly wet when we started the fan. Once started it was clear
that all was working well, but of course we won't know if things are
better until tomorrow. The real question is efficiency, the main
symptom was that it had become no more effective at cooling the house
on high than on low, which to me meant the panels' evaporative
efficiency had dropped.
One thing we did notice was the odor! The new material is
stinky. We left the cooler running all night with the doors
all open so the smell would dissipate. (By morning all was well,
which was a relief.)
Thursday, July 9, 2015
The well ran dry today. We've been having an excessively hot summer,
we've already had twice the 90+°F days of a typical year, and it's
not even halfway through July. Drought conditions, excessive heat,
it's no wonder the well is running dry. Couple that with our attempt
to get the front edge of the lawn reestablished, using extra water,
and the fact that the water softener purge cycle got stuck again and
ran water down the drain all day, and... dry.
After I got home I looked in the cistern, and it was nearly empty.
Jill had gotten the pressure system back up again earlier in the day,
and turned off the automated watering system. I cycled power to the
well and it started pumping, but it only made it a minute or so before
the pump-saver stopped it again. I will look in the tank in the
morning, about 12 hours later, to see how fast it can recover. This
promises to be... bad.
Friday, July 10, 2015
In the morning there was still only perhaps 1' of water in the tank,
which means maybe it only added 6" or so in the night. Not good!
At this rate it would take the tank a week to recover fully. Our
unrestrained use rate, as I recall, is maybe 1/2 tank per day. (Most
of that for watering.)
...In the evening there was somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a tank.
This is going to take awhile!
Saturday, July 11, 2015
This morning there's a solid 1/2 tank, and it began raining, so
the lawn is grateful.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
This morning there's about 1' to go for the tank to be filled.
...By evening the tank was essentially full. So, empty to full took
about three days, with moderate household water use. I turned back
on the watering of the flower pots, and we washed the car in the lawn.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
The tank was completely full, and I decided to water the lawn once
this morning, and see how much water it consumed. Seems to take
about 1/3 of the tank.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Replaced Jill's office door handle with a lever type procured at the
thrift store. (NIB, not junk. $7) She's wanted something she could
open with an elbow for some time, now.
Monday, August 3, 2015
The main ceiling fan was mounted too close to the ceiling. It used
the default down rod it came with, which is intended for short
ceilings and nor our 10' vaulted ceiling. The proper down rod is
about 1.5' long. (There's a chart at the store.) I had bought a
similarly-colored rod awhile ago, and had been laying there looking at
me since. Friday I took down the fan. The fan, a Hunter "Original",
is very heavy. Upon disassembly of the fan I found that its rod, a
piece of iron water pipe, is threaded on both ends, unlike the lighter
weight fans that have the pipe threaded on one end, and use a pin on
the other. Saturday I went to the hardware store to get the pipe
threaded on the other end too, and found that they did not offer that
service. Nor did they have a pipe-threading tool for sale. Time was
short, so I went across the street to Harbor Freight and bought their
cheapest pipe threader. (The same dies as the more expensive sets, just
minus some larger sizes and/or a motor.)
After flailing around getting the pipe clamped so that I could apply
the die, I got it started. It was crunching away making oily metal
shavings, getting tighter and tighter as expected, then it seemed to
jam. I looked, and found that the die had broken, and had
collapsed the end of the pipe. (This downrod pipe is slightly lighter
weight than true water pipe.) Crap! Done for the day, and what a
Sunday I found myself near one of the old-school hardware stores in
town. (Miller's up on 29th.) They cut the mangled end off the pipe
and rethreaded it, for $2. I also bought a rattle-can of paint that
was a close match to the original downrod, since the pipe had gotten
pretty chewed up. (I also returned the POS pipe threader while I was
out.) At home I cleaned the pipe off and spray-painted it, and hung
it in the (hot!) garage to dry.
Today I put it all back together. First I had to extend the wire, it
wasn't long enough to reach through the new pipe. Hanging it back up
there was surprisingly awkward, it turns out the new pipe ran through
the upper nut farther than the old, and interfered with hooking the
hanger over the rubber-isolated mounting pin. I had to unscrew the
pipe some in order to make clearance, then screw it back on all the
way once the fan was hung. After that it was just a matter of putting
on wire nuts, cleaning all the dirt and dust off of the fan, shortening
the pull chain, and cleaning up the mess that I had made.
It works great, and I think it blows more air now that it's not up so
tight against the ceiling, which was the whole point on these 100+
degree days we've been having.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Yesterday Jill reported water on the floor, and I found a pinhole leak
in the copper piping by the water softener. It was spraying the back
of the drywall to the downstairs bathroom. After a night with a rag
wrapped 'round it and a bucket under, I did it better this morning
with some bicycle inner tube and a hose clamp. That stopped the leak,
temporarily, and I put a fan on the area to dry things out. We'll
need to get this fixed properly, and fairly soon I'd think.
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Ugh. Tent caterpillars along the driveway again, two nests. Sprayed
them. <Shudder> I hate those things.
Friday, September 11, 2015
The wretched AFI circuit breakers in the West Wing pissed me off one
too many times. (They false-trigger on light switches, etc.) I went
to Lowes and bought 3 new 15A regular Siemens breakers, and replaced
them. (I left the AFI on the smoke detector circuit—it had
never been a problem.) I understand that these are code for bedrooms,
but there are no bedrooms in the West Wing! And they're crap anyway.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
I couldn't get the wood splitter started today, and it was
hydrolocking. Yikes! I pulled the carburetor and cleaned it out
(which it sorely needed), but it was still doing it. The float sealed
when I pushed it up by hand, but wouldn't stop filling and overflowing
when I tried to use it. I pulled it apart again and eventually
theorized that the bowl vent must be plugged, which kept the float
from rising up enough to shut off the flow of fuel. The vent outlet
was hard to find, though. Eventually I found where a bug had crawled
into a hole on the bottom which (through a labyrinthine path past the
gasket) made it to the top of the bowl, and had plugged things up with
its body, eggs, and a mud wall. I cleaned that out, and after that it
worked perfectly. Better than it had in years, in fact. We split some
wood, in celebration.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Yesterday I could not get the snowblower running well, its carburetor
float cracked and sank, and the adjustable needle was all rusty.
(There was a lot of frozen water in the bowl.) Even cleaned out I
could not get it to run well. I went so far as to steal a float from
a generator, and it didn't help. I had to give up. (I hate
Today I bought a carb kit and a new float, $19. We'll see if it helps
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
I rebuilt the carburetor, and I managed to use most of the parts. The
jet screw in the kit wasn't right, nor was the seal for it. I reused
the old screw, which was in fine shape, and abused the new seal to
make it fit. I got it all back together, and when I hit the prime
bulb it squirted fuel directly out the bottom of the bowl!
Investigating, I found a pinhole. Fortunately I had a spare bowl on
the parts Tecumseh in the shed, and was back in business quickly.
Eventually I got it started, and cleared the driveway. The machine
Wednesday, January 27, 2016
The master toilet hasn't been filling well for awhile, and yesterday I
finally stopped at the hardware store to see what I could get for it.
(American Standard fill ballcock, probably original to the house.)
They had three kits for AS fillers, the cheapest one was reputedly the
oldest. $1.50 later I had a Lasco 04-7229, which I installed this
morning. A 15mm wrench (a bit too big) unscrewed the big plastic nut,
which was very tight with scale. There were two rubber parts inside,
and the main disc was heavily deformed and would not spring open when
the valve pressure was released. The large plunger sealing disc was
slimy, but still usable, which was good since the kit didn't have one
of those in it but only a little O-ring, for which there was no place
in this toilet.
I replaced the main disc with the new one and reassembled, and now the
toilet fills properly.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Added air to the well's pressure tank, just like last time.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
The downstairs toilet overflowed and wouldn't flush, and while
plunging it the drain in the laundry room backed up. Not Good! I
called and made an appointment with Gober and Son, who the previous
owner had told me were the people who had serviced the septic system
for her. (Ages ago...)
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Gober came today, and was unable to locate the septic tank. (They
were unable to locate our place at first, but the dispatcher
had written down the wrong address.) I'd told him I'd been told, by
the previous owner, that the tank was down the hillside, and that I'd
called them because they were who the previous owner used. He was
skeptical about the indicated location because it was so far away from
the house, and poked around here and there with a rod looking for a
shallow burial. No luck. Apparently they have purged their records
since the last servicing, under the previous owner. No charge for the
'miss'. We ended up having to call a locating service, The Drain
Specialists, who was able to come today and inspect the pipe with a
Anyway, the tank is in excess of 100' away, down into the woods and
considerably below the level of the lawn, even beyond where I'd
thought it was. Unusual. The drain pipe was clear until what appears
to be the tank inlet, and the cleanout access points (two) are both
inaccessible. One, found by the camera, is either buried deep or
inside the wall or under the carpet and furniture, and the other is
blocked by the furnace. He had to pull the downstairs toilet to get
access. It all took only one hour, so there wasn't really any extra
charge, but it was still $216. The hope is that all necessary work
can be accomplished from the tank itself. The tank and line are
located via a metal-detector sort of thing that picks up the line and
the camera itself from above ground.
Our instructions were that we could probably use the toilets, shower,
and sink, on light duty, but to avoid baths and laundry. I needed to
do laundry, so I ran two loads anyway! I plugged the drain to the
laundry tub and used the shop vac to ferry the wash water up to the
lawn. There's quite a lot per cycle, I can see why the instructions
were given! I made a big mess, that's a splashy job, but the laundry
is now air drying. As is the floor, etc.
Friday, May 20, 2016
The new appointment is today. I dug up the tank lid, it wasn't all
that deep, and wasn't all that hard. That buried coffee can really
helped! I'll probably replace it with a rusty 55 gallon drum, the
first guy said it didn't really need to be fully buried in this
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Hot! Got the swamp cooler washed out and turned on again. Messy!
There was a mud nest in the water inlet, and I used a long wire
to scrub the algae out of the water pump's line.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
The Peerless kitchen sink faucet has been dripping forever, and when I
tried to take it apart to see if a new insert could be installed the
lime and scale prevented this. So, as the sprayer hose was a mess
anyway I figured it was time to replace the whole faucet, it's been in
there since about 1993. Jill and I went to Lowe's yesterday and
picked out a nickel Moen, $140, and today I started installing it.
It's about as much fun as you might think, and the new one is more
plastic than the old one. (Big surprise.) The fittings are smaller
than what is there, so I'm going to have to procure some reducers.
Monday, June 20, 2016
I bought some brass 1/2" pipe to 3/8" flare fittings, but that
only got the hot water hooked up. (The iron nipple off the hot water
is male, but the feed from the valves are female.) I hooked the cold
water feed to the old faucet and laid it in the sink, 'off', so that
we could at least run water again.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
I bought another galvanized iron nipple so that I could hook up the
cold water too. I think there's a tiny seep from that one, so I'm
leaving things open to see if it stops. Tightening it more doesn't
seem to help.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
I noticed that the rubber coupling between the dishwasher and the
garbage disposal is rock-hard and cracked, so I bought another one
and installed it. Are we done yet?
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
At 4AM I awoke, and noticed a strange little noise
coming from the bathroom tap. Air, leaking inwards. The water was
out, and at 7°F outside I'm not too surprised. Especially when I
went to the pumphouse and found I'd neglected to plug in the heat tape
for the winter. Oops. A little thawing of the pressure switch and we
were back in business.
Saturday, December 24, 2016
A few days ago Jill said the microwave (Amana RR-6W from 1976) made a
big 'bang' and went dark, I opened it yesterday and found the thermal
fuse blown. A new one was $11, most of it shipping, so I substituted
a regular 15A 250V cartridge fuse. But the lamp was staying on, so
today I had a closer look and found one of the door springs, the one
that feeds the door interlock switches, had broken off. Loud noise,
and blown fuse explained. (If the interlocks don't sequence right it
blows its own fuse on purpose.) I re-formed an end on the spring and
put it back, and it seems we're back to normal again.
Merry Christmas! (I'm sure she'd rather have a new microwave, but
I would not.)
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Added air to the well's pressure tank, nearly a year since last time. I used a simpler technique this time,
the tank pressure was down to nearly 40# (the 'on' threshold) when I
attached the little compressor. I just let it pump up to 60# (the
'off' threshold), there should not have been more than leakage usage
during this time. It's a lot faster that way, but with a roughly
1CFM compressor you still have to let it run for
10–15 minutes to do anything significant.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Recently I tried out some LED fluorescent replacement tubes (Costco,
$18/pair) in the old garage lights, the cheap fixtures that consume
tubes like candy, and they worked great. So I bought more. First up
was to put them in the better fixtures, which have more difficulty
starting in the cold than the cheap ones, but which were still on
their original tubes. The problem was that one of them had a bad
ballast. These particular LED tubes require a ballast, and don't have
a direct-wire option. A new ballast, though, pencils out to more than
the LED's! Yesterday I answered a Craigslist ad., and picked up four
older used fixtures for $5. Today I pulled a ballast out of one of
them and substituted it into the ailing fixture. Physically it didn't
fit very well, but a piece of sheet metal bridged the gap. With it in
place the fluorescent tubes worked again, and then I swapped in the
LED's. In these diffused fixtures the LED's are even brighter than
the tubes, because the LED's are more directional, yet the diffusers
tame their higher flux density so they are not objectionable at all.
(They're a bit over-bright to the eye in the cheaper non-diffused
Instant-on, brighter, no flicker or buzz, no difficulties starting in
the cold, and less power. All nice things, but it's a bit hard to
stomach $9 apiece when compared to the 50¢ price of the old
fluorescent tubes! I'll buy more LED's, though, after we use up my
stock of the old tubes. That should not take too long, the way the
cheap fixtures behave.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Jill was unhappy with the bathroom fan/light arrangement after the
remodel. She wanted the lights without the loud fan when
having a relaxing bath. So I bought a pull-chain switch, and
installed it. I had to drill one hole in the fixture, the pull chain
snakes out over the side of the glass. Both the lights and the fan
actually plug in to the box, using standard outlets. So I reclaimed
some connectors from some dead Christmas lights, and made a little
series switch/plug arrangement, so there are no modifications to the
fixture. (Except for the hole.) It works.
Saturday, April 1, 2017
I'd long been enamored of those faux electric fireplace space heaters.
(The better ones, anyway.) If you're going to have an electric space
heater, there are some places (like the basement guest room) where a
dressy one would be quite appropriate. But they tend to be on the
pricey side, and not worth it to me. (They're not that
attractive!) A few days ago I ran into one at the thrift shop, $15
for a broken but complete one. (Claimed to be made in USA, a
Timberline TES500, originally sold new at around $250 or more, it even
had a very poor wiring diagram pasted to the back.) Today I really
dug into it. The two 60W candelabra bulbs were burned out, of course,
so I replaced those. At that point it lit up and the fake fire was
good, the motor-driven reflectors were operable. It still didn't
heat, of course. I dug deeper and found that somebody had been
messing with it, the heating element was disconnected, as was the fan
motor. The squirrel cage spun by hand easily enough, but I used a
needle applicator to put some 5W20 on the bearings anyway. That eased
it some, but when I applied power to the fan motor it locked solid.
Very strange. Some sleuthing showed that the screws that held the
(Micro-motor brand) shaded-pole motor together were a tiny bit loose,
so when the heavy magnetic field came on it would twist the body just
enough to bind the rotor. Made-in-USA to the rescue. It was actually
fairly easy to disassemble the fan assembly to remove the motor, and
to then take the motor completely apart so that the bearings could be
lubricated properly. I then reassembled it, making sure that the
motor screws were nice and tight. Success! When powered the fan ran
nicely. I put it back together, connecting the heater element back
up, and the heater works again. So, it looks good again and is
functional—perfect for the guest room.
Later in the day Daniel and I tackled the sign at the end of the
driveway. When I first moved in and my parents were visiting, they
missed the driveway, more than once, so one day while I was at work my
mom got out her acrylic art paints and made a name sign on a slab
split out of firewood that they nailed to a tree by the mailbox.
(This was within the first year or two that I lived here, in the early
90's.) The paint held up surprisingly well, but the last few years
it's been really hard to read. Since I actually have some
acrylic art paints I scored at the thrift shop, and a brush and
plastic palette, it was time to refresh the paint, while there was
still enough of the original paint to use as a pattern. I used a
bristle scrub brush to remove the dirt and lichens, without removing
too much paint, then I squeezed some white onto the palette and went
to work. It was not too difficult, but since you can't remove the
paint from the raw wood, and you can't cover it up, I tried very hard
to 'stay between the lines', so to speak. The white went well. I
then handed the brush to Daniel, and he did all the black shadow
lines. That also went well. The results perhaps aren't quite as nice
as what my mom did, but they're certainly good enough. The sign is
much more legible now.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Scored a case of new HO fluorescent tubes, and a bunch of used ones,
and six not-all-working fixtures today. $50 on Craigslist. Assuming
the tubes are all good, that should be a lifetime supply at this rate.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
I scored two nice incandescent Maglite flashlights at the thrift store
a couple of weeks ago, a 3-cell and a 4-cell. (These things aren't
cheap when new, and I don't think you can get anything but LED anymore
anyway. I'm not that fond of the color of white LED lamps, so
pursuing used incandescents is worth it to me.) The problem was that
batteries had died inside, of course. Otherwise they looked like new.
I got the dead batteries out that day, with difficulty, but didn't
pursue it further. Today I scoured the insides of the barrels so that
new cells could go in, and put some in. The 3-cell light then worked
nicely. I replaced the broken bulb in the 4-cell with the spare from
the end cap, but no joy. The switch didn't seem to work. With great
difficulty I managed to remove the snap ring that holds in the switch
and bulb assembly. Once I had done that and removed the assembl by
hammering with a broomstick, I was able to see how you
are supposed to take it apart. The engineering on these is
really quite nice. If you pry out the rubber cover over the switch,
you can slip a 5/64" Allen wrench down the middle of it and
unscrew the pointed negative strap screw that digs into the side of
the barrel. There is no need, in fact, to remove the snap ring at
all! With that screw loosened you can just push the switch assembly
out the tail of the body. Once I had that apart I was able to squirt
De-Ox-It into the switch, which I believe had gotten contaminated with
dead battery juice. With the switch working again I was able to
reassemble the light, and then tighten the strap screw with the Allen.
Both lights then functioned like new.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Daniel has essentially outgrown the Otter kayak, which none of us
particularly liked anyway. Jill bought another Pungo 10' from some
online discount supplier, which came yesterday. But, the left foot
rail was broken. (Impossible to see how this could have happened as
shipping damage, it's fairly well protected inside the kayak.
Something heavy might have been rammed in there at some point,
perhaps.) Jill does not expect satisfaction from the vendor, and this
looks like it might be about a $50 item, if you can get one. This
morning I liberated it from the kayak (only two large stainless steel
screws through the shell) and glued it back together with JB Weld,
using a hardwood wooden block as a filler and some metal strips to
bridge over the breaks. We'll see if this works, and holds up. Of
course, if the supplier does come through... [It did, a month
or two later. Of course, the repaired foot rail is working fine, and
installation is a hassle, so...]
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Today was CVHS's annual car wash fundraiser for the marching band, and
one of their popup tents fell apart. Jill decided to use ours in its
place, and it fell apart too! The main joints, of some kind of black
plastic, all got brittle and fell apart, rendering the whole thing a
useless pile of scrap. While I realize that it's some years old now,
it hasn't had all that much use, and such fatigue failure is
ludicrous. We won't be buying "First-Up" brand again, I'll tell you
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Finally got the wood splitter started. I had to replace the short fat
hydraulic feed hose that was leaking, and to do that I had to
remove the hydraulic pump from the engine. $15 at House of Hose. The
stupid chinese design used both 13mm and 14mm head screws, of the same
pitch and diameter, but slightly different lengths. Weird. The oil
was pretty much gone from the weeping and the leaks, so I dumped out
the rest, including the gray grunge that came out with it from the
bottom of the tank, and I sluiced it out with a bit of gasoline. I
then refilled with a 5-gallon bucket of hydraulic oil, $32. I had a
bit of trouble with the carb, so I drained the bowl, and the teensy
little sediment/water bowl, then re-filled with fresh fuel. Once I
got it going I split a few pieces of wood, and was out of time.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Recently I hit the pawn shop and bought a Stihl MS170 saw to serve as
a lighter limbing saw, and as a backup for my good Stihl 036 saw.
$110. Not a great price, but not bad. I tried to use it today, and
the chain is dull. (I tried to buy a sheath for it today, and another
chain, but no luck.) The saw ran great, but wouldn't really cut. The
036 cut, but was not happy running. Old gas? Air leaks? Between the
two of them I cut the two dead trees along the driveway, one was
leaning badly and being held up by the other—not a good
thing to leave unattended for long! I used a rope and was able to
sever the prop tree most of the way, then pull it over with the rope.
Once it was out of the way the other one could be attacked at the
base, and eventually it dropped too. As it was getting dark, I
stopped for the day. I'm not expecting any guests anyway.
Sunday, October 29, 2017
I finished cutting up the trees, and got the driveway cleared again.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
The concrete steps down to the wood
shed have been shifting slowly over the 15 years we've been using
them, and a couple of them had tipped enough to be very treacherous
when slippery. I used the chainsaw to cut some small firewood rounds
on the diagonal, making round-top wedges, and drove them in under the
offending steps to cure the bad angles. The big pry bar was of some
help here, too. While I was at it I cleaned out all the vegetation
that was making you have to step 'wide' to avoid it, and resurrected
the Malibu lights that line both flights of steps. I had enough LED
bulbs left from the camper reading light
replacement experiment that I was able to use them for most of the
lamps in the woodshed flight.
Monday, November 13, 2017
Flood! Jill called me at work and said water was pouring out of the
water heater. So I had her turn off the valve and cut the power. It
was a 10-year warrantee unit that I had installed in 1995, so I guess 22 years is plenty to expect from
it. She threw towels all over the place to try to contain the mess.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
I bought a new 6-year warrantee Rheem at Home Depot. $400 before tax
and accessories. They offered a very intriguing stainless-steel
Westinghouse, with a lifetime warrantee on the tank and at not too
stiff a premium, but they are not stocked in Spokane and delivery was
looking at something like two weeks. Not happening! At home I
brought it into the utility room, and opened up the old tank to drain
into the aluminum drip pan I'd bought, after I rigged a temporary
drain hose over to the floor drain.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
I tackled the installation, first moving the old tank off to the side.
The drain pan I bought is officially too small, but I knew the correct
pan would not fit in the space available. First I rigged the rigid
PVC overflow drain pipe so that it emptied over the floor drain. I
did not glue the joints, they're only friction fit, but that should be
good enough. I just want to direct the water (if any) in the
generally correct direction, the floor clearly doesn't have enough
slope to keep from flooding the general area if (when!) the tank lets
I then had Daniel help me lift the tank into place so that I wouldn't
damage the pan. I re-used the pallet from last time, I like having
the tank up off the floor a bit.
The water fittings screwed on nicely, and (still) don't seem to leak.
As they're copper, soldered into the house, I was hoping not to have
to do any more than that. The tank filled in time and doesn't seem to
leak. I turned on the power, and adjusted the thermostat to the same
140°F that I had the old tank set to.
I then rigged the high-volume fan to dry the area, it got pretty wet
the last couple of days.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
One of the guys at work was decommisioning his
X10 stuff, in favor of wifi switches, and I picked up some pieces,
including a wall switch. I put it on the front exterior house lights,
and it seems to work. We can have them on the walkway lights timer
this way. They are all 4W LED's now, so the entire string is only
32W. (The switch isn't rated for as low as 32W, or non-incandescent
loads, but it seems to work OK.) I prefer a toggle switch,
but it'll be nice to have them automated.
For the record so far I'm loving the Philips clear LED 40W
equivalents. They look almost like traditional clear filament bulbs,
both on and off, and only draw 4W each.
Saturday, April 21, 2018
Yesterday I noticed some water on the rug in front of the kitchen
sink. Investigation showed that the 'new'
under-sink water heater, itself a replacement, had holed. Didn't I
just do this job?
I got the old one out, nasty rusted ant-filled thing that it was, and
went to town to buy a replacement. Home Depot had a German-made
"Stiebel Eltron" that looked like it would fit, $253 out the door.
The only other choice was much larger, physically, more money, but
didn't have any better of a warrantee, which was 6 years.
Well, it almost fit. I had to do quite a bit of wrestling,
including removing the under-sink drain pipes, to get the thing into
place. Eventually I prevailed, and got it hooked back together.
Plumbed, and with the water on, there didn't appear to be any leaks.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
I finally disassembled the wretched First-up canopy that exploded last year, I'd wanted to salvage all the bolts and
nylock nuts. Took quite awhile, fairly tedious, but the weather was
nice outside and it was a bit of quiet time for me. I then used one
of the bolts to repair a WSU-ware folding chair I bought yesterday.
$63 for two, one with a broken rivet. These look a lot better than
the old ones we had, whose armrests were held in place by sliding
plastic rings. (These loosened, and the arms were effectively not
there anymore.) We'll see how these hold up in the long run.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
I picked up my bicycle from Argonne Cycle today. $108 to undo the
damage sustained during the truck
Sunday, May 13, 2018
I fired up the wretched Ryobi lawn mower, and mowed the lawn. Ran
like crap, per usual these days, and just as I was finishing up the
damaged blade belt finally let loose. I decided to take it in for
servicing, and found the mangled belt guard and hammered it back into
shape, and welded the broken-off mounting ears back on. The other
guard had one of its ears broken too, so I fixed that too. Bad
welding, but good enough.
Monday, May 14, 2018
I took the Ryobi lawn mower to the shop today. The blade belt finally
broke, the drive belt is slipping, and the thing runs like crap. Estimate
was about $343.
Friday, May 18, 2018
I picked up the lawn mower. Two new blades, three new belts, new fuel
and air filters, new oil, and a valve adjustment. $320, and it works
again. The major problem was thought to be tight valves, which was
keeping it from breathing correctly.
Monday, June 11, 2018
I dug out the car trailer, using the Mazcedes, and moved it over by the house where
it'll be easier to work on. I need to finish the roof of our band
float, properly this time, as the Laclede parade is rapidly looming.
The trailer needs new tires, it's time to bite the bullet on that.
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Yesterday I bought some primer and black gloss paint and an argon
regulator for the TIG, and today I tried repairing the bad welds on
the float roof's spider joints. It didn't go well, but I think the
TIG was behaving decently. What worked better than trying to re-melt
the mess, though, was to grind off the mess altogether and re-MIG the
welds. I think I will limit my repairs to the angled joints, the ones
that have extra stress on them, as time is getting short. I ran out
of wire, I'll have to get more. I primed one of the spiders for
painting. The main difficulty was figuring out which piece of wood
goes back where. I need much better labeling next time!
... Bought more wire today. I also priced swapping for a larger Argon
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Ground and re-welded the other three peak pieces, and primed them.
Monday, June 18, 2018
Painted the four peak pieces black. Ground and re-welded one top rail
piece (of twelve), this is going slowly!
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Re-welded and ground one of the nastier pieces, then primed four pieces.
Brush painting is slow! Looks like four per workday AM
is the going rate...
Friday, June 22, 2018
More grinding, brushing, priming, and painting. Daniel helped some.
I painted white numbers on the four peak pieces, as an experiment.
The conclusion is that they need to dry horizontally so they don't
Saturday, June 23, 2018
More grinding, brushing, priming, and painting. (Daniel did most of
the brush work.) Just over half the metal is done, except for
marking. The half-inch holes in the wood have swollen shut a bit,
they all need to be re-drilled and hogged out a bit. I got the wood
sorted out as to what goes where. I need to mark things much
better next time, sorting it out was very tedious!
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Got a lot done today, all the remaining metal is ground, re-welded,
and re-ground. I then wire-brushed it all, and got primer on all the
welds, and used up the remaining primer on the metal. (Daniel wielded
the brush.) Probably about four pieces left to prime. I also
installed two wooden shims on the ridge beam ends of the #4 rafters,
and trimmed them to fit snugly using a hand plane. The #3 rafter
shims are gluing. The wood on the left side of the trailer is all in
place, it looks pretty sharp against the shiny black metalwork.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Workday mornings are so short! I got two more shims glued,
on the #2 rafters.
...Today I bought more primer. I also bought four detent pins, we'll
try those on the rear 'gate' rails, see if that works easier than
bolts. After work I finished priming all the metal. I also glued
the shims on the #1 rafters.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
I painted the remaining metal. I don't think I had enough black paint
left to do even one more piece, it was close.
...After work I laid the right-side pieces all out horizontally and
painted large white identifiers on each one. "1R", "2R", etc. They
need to be very flat or the numbers will run before they dry.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
I installed the right-side metal, and took down the left side and laid
it out. I painted "1L", "2L" etc. on it. That's it, except for drying
the metalwork is done!
...After work I put back up the left side. Looking pretty sharp!
Nothing left but the woodwork. I doubt I'll get to painting it, it'll
be tricky enough getting it fitted on time with the minimum necessary
Monday, July 2, 2018
In the morning I glued shims onto the upper wood pieces, fitting them
with the #5 hand plane. This really tightens up the fit of the pieces
into the metal sockets. I'm not done, though, this is a fairly slow
process. I'm only planning to do the upper wood, and the three cross
pieces, though all should get it. Maybe if there's time?
In the afternoon I took the trailer in to the local Discount Tire, who I heard had
excellent made-in-USA trailer tires for sale, rather than the usual
made-in-China IED's. It's been desperately needing new tires for a
year or two, but I've been hearing a lot of horror stories about new,
or new-ish trailer tires failing catastrophically. I put on Goodyear
Endurance ST trailer tires, in 225/75R15, supposedly some of the best
made-in-the-USA trailer tires you can get. $780 for five, only $20
less than I paid for the trailer (with tires) in the first
place! To be fair, the trailer's always had car tires on it, which
are not really adequate to the task. I'd replace them one at
a time as they went bad, with used tires (cheap) in the same
slightly-odd size. These 10-ply (load range E) tires are to be
inflated to 80 PSI, a far cry from the
35 PSI car tires that were on it. These tires
have some sort of full-replacement
warrantee on them.
Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Final assembly day! Lots to do, mostly gluing and fitting, which goes
slowly... very slowly. We knocked off at
10 PM, and we weren't quite done. We were rushing
the glue drying, and knocked one of the shims off. Time to stop!
Going to have to finish tomorrow just after dawn, as we have an early
departure planned. Mostly it's going well, but there are a few places
where there must be bumps in the metal, because the wood just does
not want to go through the sockets. That's frustrating.
In the mid day, while some glue was drying, I spent some time to get
all the lights working. The left brake light problem was actually at
the truck's socket, and was easily cured.
None of the front markers were working. There were a couple of bad
bulbs on one side, but on the other side the problem was that the bulb
socket contacts had entirely rusted away. I had to replace the entire
fixture, a new 1211AD was a bit over $5 at NAPA. The worst part of
that was I broke off one rusted mounting screw, and then destroyed two
drill bits getting it out of the frame. But eventually I prevailed,
and now all the lights (12 filaments) work correctly. The stick-on
reflector at the front on one side was peeling off, I had Daniel
re-secure it with weatherstrip cement.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Sadly, the finishing-off in the morning took much more time than it
should have, but we did finish, and in time to get to the parade.
Barely! All the wood got shimmed and drilled, and I even cut the
extra length off the ridge and wall pieces. Looks sharp. The
structure is still plenty mobile, yet doesn't feel unsafe or rickety.
Showtime! The trailer behaved beautifully, no popped welds. The rear
gate needs work, it was much too hard to operate. I guess we'll keep
Sunday, December 30, 2018
The new American Standard VorMax (dual flapper) toilet we installed in
the bathroom remodel has had a persistent, intermittent problem with
the free float (on the right-hand red flapper valve) getting trapped
under the black (left-hand) flapper, resulting in a tank that won't
fill and endlessly running water. I have tried a few times in the
past to make some kind of tether for the top of the free float, to
keep it out of trouble, but there's no place to tether it to
that doesn't interfere with its free motion. It turns out that the
real problem was merely that the rubber sheath on the float's chain
was not in the correct position. If you slide it down towards its
flapper so that the float can't lean over towards the other
flapper, then it'll never get near the interference zone. Very
simple, but subtle, fix. We shall see.
Monday, January 21, 2019
Added air to the well's pressure tank, nearly a year since last time.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Last week my wooden office chair (an oak tilt/swivel "schoolhouse"
chair) that I've had for 30 (?) years broke, the screws that hold the
bentwood oak back braces sheared, and the back on one side where it
goes through the seat then snapped in half. Doh! It's good solid
oak, though, and looked like it could be repaired. As I'm now
full-time work-from-home, I'm using this chair a lot. It was easy
enough to disassemble, there's no glue, but rather semi-traditional
wood joinery and some screws. Today I finished the job, which I will
I used Gorilla glue (polyurethane) to glue the two pieces back at the
bottom of the side rail, where it goes through the seat bottom. (Two
pieces because the end of the rail is slotted for a wedge.) That
won't actually be all that strong, but there's more to the repair.
One of the lumbar rails also broke off at the seat bottom, and I was
able to drive a screw in and pull the round peg out of the seat
bottom. I used GG to glue it back to the rail, then bored it out and
set a piece of twisted pallet nail into the hole, potted with GG.
That should strengthen the joint enough to make up for the break.
Where the back rail itself had started to split where the brace screws
went in I dribbled in GG and clamped it back together.
With all the wood repaired and the excess glue removed I then had to
remove the broken-off screws, which was a real pain. I used a dremel
with a very thin cutoff wheel to slot the broken screw ends, and then
used a small flat-blade screwdriver to back out the points. The wood
got slotted a bit too, but I don't think this will compromise the
strength, and it won't show because it is under the bentwood braces.
I then re-drilled the glue-filled holes in the back rail, and screwed
the bentwood braces back on with #12 wood screws, which are stouter
than the originals. I drove in the spreading wedge on the broken back
rail, then drilled down its spine and used a long wood screw to
stiffen that up. This should, I hope, make up for the weakness of the
All back together, the chair works perfectly again, didn't break when
I sat in it and leaned back, nor does it make any disturbing cracking
sounds. It seems to be fixed, and doesn't really look like it was
repaired. I'm reasonably proud of the job. This chair has been a
real pain over the years, as it breaks here and there, but when it's
working I find it attractive and supremely comfortable, which is why
I go to some trouble to keep it in good repair.
Monday, June 3, 2019
I installed the replacement ignition switch connector on the Ryobi
lawn mower today. ($10 via eBay.) Cut and solder, not crimps. Seems
to work fine.
Return to Site Home