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, $218.

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.
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 enjoy.

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 less.)

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 into it.

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, that'll happen...

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 easily.

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. The big TI chip inside is also marked copyright 1984.) $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 made since these were current 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 $85.)

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 was thinking.

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, they were the fancy set with extra bells, a remote, and cartridges for other song sets...)

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 change.

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 again.

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 house.) Heavy!

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 camera screw.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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 too.

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 soon...

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 made 8/20/1986.

A resource.

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 black.

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 it.)

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 wire.

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 can.

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, in total. 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 cistern.

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 new postturkey script used in November is:
tday=`cal | sed 1,2d | cut -c 13-14 | sed "/  /d" | sed -n 4p`
day=`date +%d`
[ $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 ago.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The last of the sticks and bark went today. We made it a month on that crap!

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. (Thus: ≈6W.) 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 them.

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 next year.

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 two weeks.

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 the truck.

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 processing.

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 well.

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 break.

131K&S$1.891/4"0.014"12"Outer tube
130K&S$1.497/32"0.014"12"Slide rings
166K&S$1.993/16"12"Center rod
163K&S$1.293/32"12"Clip pin
$0.154-40nutThumb plate
¾"¼"1-¼"Clip body

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:
          +-+ +-+                 +-+ +-+  
          ||| |||	          ||| |||  
          |======\	          |||_|======\ 
          ||||||| )	          |||||||     )
[]/=/=/=/========/	    []////===========/ 
          |||||||	          |||||||  
          |||O|||	          |||O|||  
          |||||||	          |||||||  
          +-----+  	          +-----+  
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 whimsy.

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 problems.

"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 overnight.

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 better looking.)

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 inclination.

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, now.

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 stacked outside.

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 by hand.

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 second load.

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 stack.

...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 one?)

...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 rounds.

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 cold outside.

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 always welcome.

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 begin with.

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, the garage.)

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:
  1. Fumes, from the paint and all the new wood.
  2. Stress, from all the moving around during the remodel.
  3. Fall from the open cage to the (now-hard) floor.
  4. Squashed/smothered by Daniel in his sleep.
  5. Random bird illness.
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.

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 wire!

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 well-toasted bread!

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 regeneration cycle.

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 1C133B80155.

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 ours.)

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 not 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 mess.

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 that!)

Today I bought a carb kit and a new float, $19. We'll see if it helps or not.

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 worked fine.

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 video camera.

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 climate.

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 fixtures.)

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 8' 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 that!

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, rated at 1.6HP. (Versus the 4.5HP of the 036.) 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 loose.

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, and 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 wreck.

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 tank.

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 run.

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 shimming.

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. And then...

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 trying.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The new American Standard VorMax (dual flapper) toilet we installed in the main 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 describe in its entirety here.

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 than that. 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 were 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 glued break.

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.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Long past time for iced tea, I made some on our $5 yard-sale commercial brewer. However, the portable Edgestar RV icemaker, also stored outside, failed to start. The motor that ran the bucket (water tray) didn't seem to be moving, though it made pathetic greeping sounds. I checked to see what a new icemaker might cost, and it looked like $100–150, and I'd probably have to order it and wait. (I'd paid $100 some years ago for this one, over the counter at RnR RV and probably on sale.) Not too attractive.

I took the rear and top covers off, and found that the steel bushing and shaft on the synchronous gear motor had rusted together. I liberated the motor to where I could get it lying face-up, and dripped some Kroil on the bushing. I let that sit for a bit then used some pliers to encourage its motion while it tried to cycle. Eventually it broke loose, and would spin freely under its own power. I left it overnight with Kroil on the bearing surface.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

I used a wire brush to remove the surface rust on the icemaker bushing and used some 90W gear oil on it, then smeared bearing grease over the exposed surfaces. I reassembled the unit, and it seems to work now. Yeah, it cost me an hour or so of my time, but I saved the $150 it would cost for a new one (same model), and saved this one from some landfill. For now, at least. (I do so enjoy successful battles against entropy.)

I must say that the cheap made-in-China stuff is now generally more serviceable than USA gear, because they're still using screws rather than glue and press-fit. However, the parts themselves are unobtanium, unless they're generic, or can be subsituted. (Or, in this case, repaired.)

Saturday, July 6, 2019

More water in the downstairs bathroom. The water softener had sprung another leak. I bypassed it completely, using the valves in the house plumbing. I put the big fan on to dry the area, after mopping up.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The tree off the end of the garage that died, slowly, has been an increasing threat to the house and many vehicles. Today we finally took it down, conditions were ideal and time was available. First I had to get the chain saws (Stihl MS170, Stihl 036) running. I'd tried to use them earlier this year, but couldn't get either one started at that time. (They'd last run two years ago.) I think the gas had gone bad, it certainly had that funky smell. I found some newer mixed gas in the shed, it still smelled OK and with it, and removing the spark plugs to get them dried out, both saws started and ran well. (Memo to self: no more regular pump gas in the jerry cans, take them to the Maverik where I can get ethanol-free gas, and always use stabilizer. The additional costs are nothing compared to the damage and pain that can come from the ephemeral fuel that is generally being sold these days.)

I roped the tree, so that it couldn't swing too closely to the house if it started to fall wrong, got Daniel to tug on the rope center while he watched, and I notched and fell the tree. It dropped more-or-less perfectly where I'd planned, and did relatively little damage to the area. (A couple of broken walkway lights, one concrete step pushed out of place, and a damaged piece of old T1-11 siding sheltering the lumber stack.) The chains on both saws were dull, it took forever to fell the tree and was a lot of hard work. I should have changed out for a fresh chain before starting the job. I did change chains before sectioning the tree, and it went a lot faster. I had Daniel limb with the small saw while I cut up the trunk with the big one.

I need to get a couple of spare chains for the little saw, I only have the one that came on it. I think a trip to town for gas, oil, and chains is in order. Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

I visited the hardware store and dropped $60 on goodies. The 2-stroke oil was surprisingly expensive, and I also got a chain, files, and a plastic sheath for the bar. Ready for firewood season! Nobody in town had a fuel filter (that's what they call it, but I call it a strainer that goes under the filler cap) for the Subaru Robin EX27 that's on the Harbor Freight wood splitter, so I had to order one from Jack's Small Engine. X64-13600-10, about $13 with shipping.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

With the new chain I finished cutting up the dead tree. The little saw worked very well, it was a pleasure to use, and only 2/3 the weight of the big saw. It was a little anemic cutting off the butt, but handled the job nonetheless. Since the branches were mostly very dry I also cut them into lengths. The little sticks are fairly nice to burn in the early heating season. I ran out the tank cleaning up in the driveway, etc.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Subaru fuel strainer came today.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Added air to the well's pressure tank, this should be done quarterly. (But I've not been doing this reliably.)

Monday, December 2, 2019

The portable air tank has been leaking down for a few years now, and the gauge face was broken. I replaced the gauge, about $7 from Harbor Freight, and put new O-rings in the Schrader fill valve. We'll see if it holds. You have to remove an E clip and the red plastic handle, and the hose, then you can screw the valve out of the body to release the O-rings.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Kenmore dryer (Model 110.76930100, Serial F83818628) had been making noises for awhile, and recently it just stopped working. I pulled it apart, and found the belt destroyed. No real surprise, it's pretty old. Eight years since the last repair. Jeffrey's has the belt in stock, about $15, and I had Jill pick one up.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Installed the dryer belt, it's working again.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The automated Christmas bells have started flaking out, and today I found time to dig into them. One problem was a broken ground wire on one of the two bell banks. That was fiddly to put right, but straightforward. The other problem is that the bells would only run for awhile, then stop. I re-soldered the PCB inside the box, and used De-ox-it on the connectors to the bell banks. After the surgery it seemed to be working normally again.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

We decided to dig out the Ryobi tiller and plant some garden. It hadn't been run in years, and I knew that it had leaked a lot of oil. I checked the level and added a bunch, and I thought it was full. No, it wasn't. I got it started and soon heard a squeaky-shriek that was getting louder, and shut it down. I couldn't pull the rope after that. Doh! Checking the oil level, more carefully, showed it to still be low, so I added a bunch, hoping it would seep into the big-end rod journal. Even with rolling the motor around physically it didn't seem to help. With Daniel's help we got it on its side and removed enough crap to get a big wrench on the flywheel nut. With that leverage I got it to start spinning again, and it got easier with repetition. We buttoned it back up and checked the oil level carefully, it was good. I got it started again and it sounded OK, so I had Daniel go on and do the tilling. I think we might have dodged a bullet there.
This is the Ryobi tiller I'd foolishly/mistakenly bought at Spokane Discount many years ago. It was clearly brand new, but non-running, and I think I overpaid, even for the condition I thought it was in. I did not know enough at the time to recognize the 'feel' of a thrown rod. Now I do! Once home I examined the Briggs Intek 6.5 O/C engine much more closely, and found the chunk of aluminum laying on top, the piece that covered the hole the broken rod had bashed in the crankcase. At least I had all the parts! I was house-poor at the time, and to avoid locking in that loss I bought some aluminum wire for my MIG welder, and some Argon gas, and welded it back. Badly, but good enough. The crank bearing was completely covered with smeared aluminum, but nothing else looked or felt worn. It is likely the engine had been started without adding any engine oil, causing the bearing to sieze at speed, snap the rod, and punch a hole in the crankcase. I used hot lye in a plastic trough to submerge the steel crankshaft, and when it came out there was no trace of aluminum left, and it looked good. I bought a new rod and reassembled the motor, and after that it ran perfectly. We've used it, lightly, for years after that.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

I replaced the fuel pickup line and filter in the Stihl 036 chainsaw. Once out, I could see that there were cracks in the dry side. Back together, it started and ran. Time will tell if it's behaving better than last time I tried to use it.

The plumbing in the house has sprung a leak, somewhere around the outside front faucet. We sucked up what we could with a shop vac and put a fan on it. I turned off the inside shutoff valve to that faucet.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The water pump's been short-cycling for awhile now, it's been too long since last time. I added air to the well's pressure tank, this should be done quarterly. (But I've not been doing this reliably.)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The battery on the Ryobi lawn mower was dead this season, and it wouldn't start last weekend. I had to jump-start it from the 190D. A couple of days after this I put the battery on charge to see if it would come back. Today I tried starting it, and it did. I guess we probably don't need a new battery this year. The muffler had half fallen off, and it was extremely noisy when we used it last week. I lifted the front up on blocks and had a look, as we had more time to look into this. One of the muffler's two retaining screws was missing, it was hanging down enough that the feed pipe had slipped out of it. The 'professional' I'd taken it to had not put it back together correctly, the two bolts holding the front of the machine together were incorrect, and loose as a result. (Wrong thread length, cross-threaded, etc.)

Idiot. I hit the junk box and found better hardware, and a replacement for the muffler bolt and put it all back together. Better, I hope. I set Daniel to mowing the lawn.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Yesterday I pulled the outside faucet, which had clearly frozen back at the valve. (Bulged pipe. What is odd is that the freeze didn't really do the job, the pipe split circumferentially just past the bulge, and opened up all the way around during removal.) I purchased a replacement, a Woodford 14P-8-MH for about $50. I bought one 2" shorter than the original, to make up for the brick facing that had been removed and replaced with decorative rock. The pipe is actually somewhat misaligned, but with Daniel's help I got the threads started. I decided to finish tomorrow.

Friday, July 3, 2020

We'd bought a tent at a yard sale recently, to accomodate our now-large son on an upcoming camper trip. It was $10 and had a broken fiberglass pole. (The usual folding shock-cord kind of thing, snapped at one of its metal collars near the middle where the stresses are highest.) I found a heavy metal collar in the scrap bucket, like a very rusty 2" length of pipe, that was a little bigger in diameter than necessary. I cleaned it off and clamped it in a vise and slit it down the side with a disc grinder. I then slit a piece of soda straw and wrapped it around the shock cord to keep the glue off of the cord, then used 5-minute epoxy to glue the broken rod back together. This, of course, would be incredibly weak, so after that had set up I slipped the new steel collar over the break and potted it with more epoxy, then used heavy vise grips to squeeze the slit closed to ensure closer contact with the rod and worked the epoxy in and on everything. Once that had set up I painted the repair black to help prevent rust. After curing I put the tent up and it seems to work perfectly.

... The wind took it today, and broke the tent poles again. Tore up my repair, cracked an adjacent segment on that pole, and snapped the other pole in half in the middle. Failure. Also stupid.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

I bought four new pole segments at the General Store, $15. They (three) were easy to put in, and now the tent is fixed properly.

Yes, we more than doubled the price of the tent, but it's still at maybe 10% of new.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Daniel put up the tent, it looks good. He might use it tonight, I had him stake it down to prevent the wind from killing it again.

We needed to fill the camper with water, so it was time to finish off the outside faucet repair. I used vise grips and a locking crescent wrench to tighten in the new hose bib. No leaks, and it seems to work.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Recently I'd found another old-school automatic Schauer battery charger at a yard sale for $15, model CRMF612 and very like the CR612 I've been using happily for decades, which works but had exposed conductors where they go into the case. (Just like mine had done, it's a stress point.) I opened it up today and used electrical tape to re-insulate. I then set it to charging Jill's X5, which has been idle awaiting diagnosis for some time. It was very thirsty.

The CR612's meter is gunked up with cobwebs and the like, and is no longer reliable. I need to look into getting that cleaned up, or somehow replaced.

Friday, July 17, 2020

I had a chance to tear into my old Schauer CR612, and found that its meter is one of those cheap mechanical ones with three turns of the charger's output wire wound around its neck. Cheap and nasty, though, means that in fact you can take it apart and clean it out, which I did. There were spider carcasses and webs inside, gumming it up. A Q-tip and a bit of water cleaned it all out, and afterwards it looked a lot better and worked again. The CR612 is coated inside, perhaps sprayed or dipped, which explains why it has survived so well even when it has gotten rained on a few times. The CRMF612 does not have this protection, it needs to stay inside.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

One of the Ryobi cordless drill's two 14.4V NiCd battery packs would not take a charge, so I opened it up. (Very easy, accessible Philips screws.) A number of the cells showed zero volts, so I set the bench power supply to 5V at 3A, and hit each of the dead ones with it. They took maximum current, and then the voltage slowly rose to 2V. I let them 'cook' on that for 10–20 seconds each, and also hit the 'good' cells the same, though for less time. Once they'd all hold some voltage I then put the pack back on the charger, and it seems to be behaving normally. Googling suggests that the currently-available replacements for this (older) drill are NFG, so this was worth a try. (A few days later I was using it to drill 5/8" holes and run the flashlight, and under light use like this things were working fine.)

Saturday, August 8, 2020

I hit a yard sale today, and picked up a 4' folding solar panel for $35. Made by Arco, in USA. Measures about 21V open-circuit in high sun, and 6.2A short-circuit. Should be nice for use with the camper, if/when.

I also got a propane hose for 25¢, and the stinger fitting on one end ought to screw onto the hose I've already got that hooks to the liquid feed on the forklift tanks. This should perhaps allow direct refilling of my refillable torch cannister, without having to resort to inverting an obsolete BBQ tank, etc.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Recently I'd flanged up a steel brace for the outdoor faucet repair, which was very secure. Today I finally buttoned up the project so that we can put the closet back together, and start using the guest room again.

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Edgestar RV icemaker that I repaired last year died again recently, and today I opened it up. The plastic water tray (bucket, a.k.a. ice shovel) had split where the drive motor's shaft press-fits into it, meaning that it couldn't fill/dump water appropriately. As there are feedback switches on the other end of the tray the operating logic couldn't even be trusted, and the thing certainly didn't even seem to try to behave properly after the tray was loose on the motor shaft. In other words, fix it first and only then discover if it was worth investing the time...

I used brake cleaner to clean the grease out of the shaft socket and the crack in the plastic. That solvent attacks the plastic too, so though messy I think it was a good step. The softened surfaces should 'take' glue better. I cut a piece of scrap plastic (from a dead HP calculator, a crappy newer one and not vintage quality goods) to span the break, smeared 5-minute epoxy into the cracks and clamped the crack back together. I also glued the plastic bridge over the crack and clamped it down. I set it aside to cure. Halfway there! I also need to reinforce the socket itself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I had been doing the icemaker repairs outside, and the wind came up in the night and blew things around. I hope I didn't lose any screws... I smeared some epoxy around the bucket's shaft socket, and then wound iron wire around it and clamped it into place, then potted the wire in more epoxy. I hope that will keep it from splitting again. The root problem is that it often doesn't stop once it's full of ice, and starts shoveling ice cubes around. Lots of extra stress on the bucket that way.

In the evening, once things had fully set up, I reassembled the icemaker. (No missing screws.) It seems to be fine, again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

While working on the X5 I noticed that the second set of green stamped metal car ramps that I was using were damaged, and I used a couple of hammers and the anvil to restore the correct profile. Much of the strength in things like these is in the curve of the sheet metal, we don't want car ramps to collapse in use!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The wind blew over the iron (!) table that the icemaker was on, and it hit the deck. Hard. Broke the plastic shell, and it no longer cools. Game over, in all likelihood.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

It's due to freeze tomorrow, so I winterized the house and camper. Blew out sprinkler lines, emptied hoses, capped the outside faucets. Drained the camper and blew out its lines. Notable was that I could not find the tee fitting I use to gang the two small air compressors together, so I had to make do with only one compressor. Irritating.

While I was outside I added air to the well's pressure tank, this should be done quarterly, but I last did it in May.

Friday, January 8, 2021

More air in the well's pressure tank; this seems 'soon', as I just did it in October.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Heavy rain and wind from the west, an unusual direction. I noticed that the interior lamp over the entryway was out, which is odd since it's now an LED, and investigated. The fixture's glass bowl was full of water! Apparently these bulbs don't like being submerged, imagine that. (A Philips 40W equivalent, the helium-filled 'exposed filament' type that has some kind of [clearly non-waterproof!] ballast hidden inside the screw base.) I can only imagine what's going on with the roof. Meanwhile I put in an incandescent and left the bowl off so that it could dry out. (Eventually, since water was still coming in.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Jill complained that the Cadet CM202 wall heater in her office wasn't working right. The thermostat knob had to be all the way on to run at all, which is not normal. Weak bimetal thermostat? I took it apart, and the Therm-O-Disc thermostat inside is marked with five different numbers: 50T1 L105F J0849 39426 051277, all on a small sticker. Some Googling showed that the best option here was to buy Home Depot's thermostat kit for Cadet heaters, $17.29 with free in-store delivery. I suspect that the bimetallic strip in the original thermostat has gotten weak. Having ordered a new thermostat, I felt 'safe' in operating on the old one. I found that under a rubbery painted dot on the back was a brass setscrew, which I turned. That changed the pre-tension on the bimetallic strip, moving the actuation range of the knob back into 'normal' territory. I guess we'll give that a try for now.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

My trusty old Galaxy box fan, which I've had forever (I either got it in college, or shortly thereafter), fell off a windowsill some time ago and the brittle plastic grille was badly damaged. It was also binding up again, and generally getting decrepit. The marketplace, though, no longer sells anything remotely as satisfactory. They're all smaller, and particularly thin so they're even more prone to tipping over than the Galaxy. Checking eBay, these vintage 20" fans are going for big money! What I have found is that my fan is particularly quiet on the lowest of its three speeds, and isn't that easy to tip over. Current fans are tippy, and loud, and generally feel like cheap pieces of shit in comparison to the old one. Quite a feat, considering that the Galaxy itself was a cheap piece of shit when I bought it.

There was nothing for it but to start gluing the plastic grille back together, although we're missing quite a few pieces. Dabs of Shoe Goo and patience was the key. While I was at it I lubed both sleeve bearings with M1 motor oil, and glued a penny on the hub to better balance it since it would always stop rotating in roughly the same place. Today I finished putting it back together. It still looks like it's been through the wars, but it no longer looks scary and it still seems to work pretty well.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The deck light over the barbecue went out some time ago, and it was not the bulb. Today I dug into it and found that the tab for the center contact in the light socket had broken off. Not wanting to have to try to buy one matching (old) fixture, nor to replace them all, I just made a new tab for the socket out of an old dead spade lug and screwed it into place. There, works again and still matches perfectly in style.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

There's been a rotted board on the old deck for some time, I bought an 8' replacement (treated) board for about $17 Monday, at Ziggy's, and today I finally replaced it. Took about a half hour, a lot of it came out just pulling by hand. (Yes, it was dangerously rotted, but had been covered with junk to keep people off of it.) I used the Fein with the blade to cut the old board, and nailed in the new one with some of the old nails. We really need a new deck on that side...

I then installed the thrift-shop ($5) Kwikset lever handle door hardware in the garage, to replace the smooth (and very slippery with greasy hands) knob it was built with. Was nearly trivial to install.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Finally had the cistern pump serviced. (It had been cycling on and off continuously, getting worse with time. My determination was that the pump was leaking back into the tank, not that we were actually losing water anywhere.) Bartholomew pump service, the people that put the system in originally in 1976 and have serviced it ever since, now are too far away and referred me to TECH2O. They came today, and determined that the check valve was indeed failing. (These don't last so long laid on their side, as is commonly done in cisterns; they do much better mounted vertically.) While adding air to the pressure tank, once the tank was empty of water the air simply boiled out of the pump's intake, proving beyond any doubt that it was the check valve at fault. The steel fittings in the tank were corroding away, they pulled it all out, even the undamaged bronze parts, and replaced it all with stainless steel. They had to drain the tank to do this, we dumped the water on the ground. He said that we clearly don't have a bad iron problem in the water, as the corroded fittings were black, not orange, indicating that the manganese level in the water is above the iron level. Also, the cistern would have been much more full of orange goo if the iron problem was bad. There was some orange goo, but not an excessive amount. When he put it all back together it became apparent that the well pump was no longer working very, ahem, well. The pump was still drawing normal current, but the water output was low, and declining visibly. In his experience this is due to leaks in the galvanized drop pipe, which tend to worsen quickly once they start. All the water's spraying out inside the well casing, very little is making it all the way up to the cistern. I recall that when first installed the water stream was at least half the pipe capacity as it spilled into the cistern. Today it started out pencil-sized, and was working its way down to pencil lead sized, as we watched. It'll all have to come out, we scheduled them to come out tomorrow. (This was all done once before in 2003, when the original [1976] well pump failed.) The recommendation is to also replace the pump, as the labor to pull it again is considerable, and at 18 years old it's no longer that young. This will not be cheap.

We barely have enough water in the tank to flush toilets, if we're careful. Navy showers, no baths. No laundry, dishwashing, or irrigation. I shut off the sprinkler controller, the rest is all on the honor system.

He also pointed out that I'm not putting enough air in the bladder-less pressure tank. His recommendation is that I blow it out, run enough water back into it to cover the exit fitting, then pump it up with air to 25–30PSI, then fill with water normally.

Friday, May 21, 2021

The pump guy was sick yesterday, the operation was moved to today. The cistern feed had slowed to barely more than a drip, though we had at least 100 gallons more water than we'd started out with yesterday—enough for flushing and Navy showers. They got the truck and derrick maneuvered into place and the hatch off the roof of the pumphouse. Then they started pulling up the well pump. Most of the 21' galvanized pipe segments were quite rusty, and we struck water at about the 90' mark. At around 130' we found a pencil-sized hole blown through the side of the pipe. (The expected rust erosion thinned the wall until a pinprick opened up, which rapidly eroded larger under pressure.) With water coming out the exit into the cistern this hole would be under about 60 PSI of pressure, which would be a considerable loss of water, more than enough to explain the observed symptoms. There were eight sticks of 1" drop pipe in the well, and with all the trimmings the well is about 170' deep. Even if the pipe hadn't holed where it did, there were plenty of other likely candidates close behind. (The decision to re-use this 1976 pipe in 2003 was not a good one.)

A new ½ HP Grundfos (Swedish, all stainless steel, expensive) well pump went in, hung from heavy-wall threaded PVC pipe. No more rust! We could have re-used the 2003 pump, but it was old enough that there's a fair chance it could have failed relatively soon, necessitating pulling it all up again. The new pump has a 5-year warrantee; there's a 1-year warrantee on everything. (The 1993 cistern pump we kept, because it is not at all difficult to replace.) They replaced the well's motor starter too because its starting capacitor was beginning to show signs of age.

With the well put back together it immediately started vigorously pumping water into the cistern, very different than the dribble from before. By the time they left, the cistern was already half full.

It is interesting to note that the well was within days of failing when I finally called to get the cistern pump serviced. Had I waited, the first we would have known of the problem was when the cistern went dry, after the well had failed. We'd have been worse off water-wise than we were; at least we had advance notice this way.

The bill was just shy of $3,000!

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Time to start working on the parade float again, we didn't use it last year due to COVID. Yesterday at Lowe's I bought 2 gallons of gloss Rustoleum oil-based enamel, one each black and white. Also a gallon of indoor/outdoor Killz oil-based primer, a gallon of paint thinner, and two brushes (Daniel is going to help); about $116 for all. Today we peeled the old latex paint off the car trailer's deck, it came up in sheets. With a little scraping and a wash, which we gave it, it'll be ready to serve as a paint 'room' once it's dry. (Which we will paint afterwards, covering up any drips.) The trailer paint looks tired, it was flat black last time which doesn't weather well. We'll paint it too, with the new gloss black. That'll look muy better, and last a lot longer.

Using the Dremel I engraved the markings into the ends of the wood frame pieces, so that we can paint them all and not lose the helpful location labels. All the sticks are (finally—after 5 years!) going to get primed and painted white. I may re-paint the marks on, larger and in black paint but where they socket into the spiders so it doesn't show when assembled. We'll see if I have time and interest when we get to that point.

We should have ample time this year to get everything done with time to spare, without feeling rushed and without busting our asses. (That'll be a nice change!)

Friday, June 11, 2021

I've been painting the wood white this last week, as weather and time permit. Today I finished. I didn't quite run out of paint, so there's a bit left for touch-up if we should discover a need. (I had needed to buy a second gallon of primer, $27.15, the weathered deck wood really soaked that stuff up.)

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A couple of days ago I bought masking supplies, about $12 (!) worth, and today I masked the trailer and repainted the flat black with the gloss black. (Yesterday it rained in the morning, so no painting.) It looks a lot better, and it also looks like I bought far too much black paint! I probably didn't use a quart to do the whole trailer, out of a gallon.

So, the float prep this year cost about $155 in supplies, but it should be good for several years. So far as I know, we're still 'on' for the parade.

Monday, June 14, 2021

I decided I had to paint the wheels, and the insides of the wheel wells. The trailer just looked too tired with a mix of old and new paint. Got it done well before the thunderstorm rolled in. Ended up using another quart of the black paint. Still a lot left.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I brought the spider joints out of storage, and found and oriented the 8 vertical posts. I painted on their identifying labels (1L–4R), and now they're laying out to dry, horizontally to avoid runs. The labels will all be covered by the spiders.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

I hung the spiders on the vertical posts.

I painted the labels on all the remaining sticks, except the back two, which don't need them. (They cannot be mixed up.) They're all laying out horzontally to dry. I did not do the #4 labels on the top three sticks, because there are some redundant holes and I don't know which ones are correct until I can trial fit the frame together.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

I assembled the frame, and chose the correct hole to label on the #4 ridge beam. The labels I put on yesterday are on the incorrect holes, and I got the 4R and 4L rafter labels reversed. I will repair those labels when I take it apart again, as the paint will have ample time to dry after that.

Friday, June 18, 2021

I put bolts into all the holes. This required a hammer; a lot of paint dribbles were removed from the holes by the bolts.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

I picked gummy paint out of bolt threads, and ran nuts onto all connection bolts except the ridge. I only tightened a few.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The X5 blew up on Daniel's big road trip. I had to finish putting the lights back together in a hurry and tighten up all the float frame bolts so that we could go fetch the car, and trade him the V10 so that he could continue his trip.

In Federal Way, picking up the car at about midnight, it was obvious that the car would barely fit on the trailer, even without the float frame on it. The four spiders on the rear protruded enough to block the car. We (Olin and I) had to remove the rear part of the frame first, then we could load the car. (Under its own power, but it was cool enough to do that by then. You only have to run it without coolant for maybe a minute.) The mirrors had to be folded in to clear the forward parts of the frame, and I had to climb out the rear hatch because the doors could not be opened. It's all pretty awkward, but do-able.

Monday, June 28, 2021

I put back the frame pieces we'd had to remove. I trial-fit the two rear 'gate' pieces; they're not fitting: the holes for the pins don't line up. Has it 'spread' some? Will need to do a bit more investigation and/or work. In the worst case, more holes! Or, do without two pins on each rear board. You really only need one. [Helen injured her hand, so we're not going to do the parade this year. Bummer. I'll need to start disassembling the float again.]

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

I finished disassembling the float, and put away the trailer. Long past time to get this out of the way! It goes quicker if you leave the spider joints attached to the verticals. With the painting done, there's now no reason to take it apart further.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

After putting away the float pieces I decided I had a bit of time to look into our always-irritating Wayne Dalton garage door opener, which usually refuses to go down in the day. It seems to correlate with light and/or heat, and you have to bounce it down, sometimes inches at a time, with the remote. Very irritating! [If you just hold down the wall switch you can force it to close while ignoring the malfunctioning door safety sensor. Good to know.] We've already replaced the door sensor components once, not that long ago. Now it's doing it again.

I got out the oscilloscope and looked at the signals. There are two, 10 VDC with a several-volt slow square wave (Fluke says 42 Hz) riding on it on the emitter side, and a negative-going pulse train on the sensor side. (The emitter supply is probably just dirty DC, with no intentional signal at all.) The aiming seems correct, as when I flexed the mount on the sensor side it dropped out about equally on both directions. The sensor pulse train is about a 10 VDC resting signal, with a 220 µs drop to zero, and another 200 µs slow rise. The period is about 6.5 ms, and measures (Fluke) at 151 Hz. (Another opener measures around 170 Hz.) With two pulses on the screen (negative trigger) I could see that the second pulse wasn't always there when the door was open to the daylight. With the door down it was always there. The system is clearly quite sensitive to missing pulses, it doesn't have to be missing very long for it to trip.

So, flange up a timer-based pulse train to eliminate the wretched optical 'safety' switch? The prior opener didn't have one, just the standard back-pressure safety switch, and I never felt the least bit unsafe. We don't have crushable babies crawling around the garage door while we're driving in and out, and I suspect that the car itself is a greater threat to whatever than the door is.

I think a 555 timer could do the job. IIRC that's a 555, two resistors and a capacitor for the timing components, and two diodes to ensure a steady power supply from the door opener. Maybe one more resistor to ensure that the 555 output doesn't draw too much current. Do I have any 555's left in the junkbox? [Maybe, but I didn't want to conduct a heavy search. I ordered a pack of 12 new ones through Amazon, I went for TI rather than no-name Chinese. Probably cost 2–3× as much, but they're still cheap enough.]

Thursday, August 19, 2021

The 555 timers I ordered came, I flanged up an old-school point-to-point knot of a circuit, a real mess, using the classic astable form from the datasheet. I consulted a nomograph to get rough resistor values for the mid-range capacitor I selected from the junkbox. I used a 150 kΩ timing resistor (RA), a 6.8 kΩ discharge resistor (RB), and a 0.1 µF timing capacitor. I left no 555 pins unconnected, there's a decoupling capacitor on VREF (5), and RESET (4) is tied inactive.

I had mis-read the wiring on the opener earlier, getting the pushbutton wiring mixed up with the sensor wiring. The emitter and sensor both hook to the same two wires, marked Common (ground) and OBS on the side of the opener. Because power and signal share a pin, I used an inline diode and a 100 µF filter capacitor to isolate the output pin (3) of the 555 from the power (8). (When the [short] low-going pulse of the 555 grounds the OBS pin on the opener, the filter capacitor keeps the 555 timer powered, and the diode keeps the filter capacitor from discharging back through the output pin.)

So in summary, this is a 100% standard astable oscillator, right out of the data sheet, but with a diode/capacitor filter-isolater in the power feed line, and the output tied to the power feed. The component tolerances were not great, but I was using junkbox parts. The signal is slower than the door sensor's, at around a 10 ms cycle rather than the target 6.5 ms, but the opener doesn't seem to care. I didn't have to tweak the resistor values after the first build, I just installed it as-is. (RA probably needs to be around 200 kΩ to better mimic the sensor.) We'll see if it has problems later, but initial results are positive.

Basically a 2-wire circuit blob that hooks to Common and OBS, in place of the wiring to the door sensor modules. Three capacitors, two resistors, one diode, and the 555 timer itself. Simple, and cheap.

[The garage door has closed perfectly ever since this was done, regardless of environmental conditions. The extra fob system I put on so that the car's embedded opener system could be used also is working much better. Removal of the door sensor and its wiring result in less interference? Maybe we can take the remote out of the car now.]

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The door to Daniel's room has been messed up for awhile, and since he's (again) off to college it was an excellent opportunity to fix it. I pulled the door off, and started using polyurethane glue to glue the (flimsy) paperboard skins back to the (flimsy) scrapwood internal frame. (Interior doors are not of the highest quality construction!) Squirt glue into gaps, followed by water, then clamp. Repeat until done.

One mistake is that I didn't put the door back up immediately when the glue was still soft, the door has taken a 'set' with a bit of a twist in it, probably due to thermal expansion from the sunlight falling on only one side while clamped, so it doesn't shut properly. I clamped it into place in the doorframe, we'll see if it takes an overnight reverse set or not.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The door is still warped, but not quite as badly as at first. At least you can pull it all the way shut (latched) now.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

The 20 new Signature (Nelson 6000E) sprinkler heads came yesterday. (Had to mail-order them, the local store no longer carried them. A case of 20 offered a minor price break, but it was still some $176. Should be a lifetime supply, though, as there's only 16 heads in the lawn, and this is only the third [?] replacement in 30 years, and the other two were due to lawn mower damage. This is the first one that refused to rotate, and couldn't be cleared up by flushing.) I installed one this morning. It's actually pretty easy, the old head just unscrews out of its housing, and you can screw the new one in. (First you've got to dig down to the screw collar, and clean things off a bit to keep the grit out.) You've got to put in a nozzle, and aim it, but those tasks aren't hard to do. It seems to work fine. The bozos who installed this system didn't put anything underneath the heads, like rocks, so they're sinking into the ground. I'll probably have to dig some of them up and re-seat them, at some point.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

New battery for the lawn mower today, from Home Depot. I installed it with a battery cutoff switch.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

I told Daniel to 'do whatever is necessary' to mow the jungle. The leaky front tire needed re-seating, and afterwards it would not start. Thinking that the old fuel had jelled I had him take apart the carburetor. (A teachable moment.) It actually looked pretty good inside. I could get it to run on starting fluid, but not on fuel. Eventually... "Daniel, exactly where did you get the gasoline you put in this?" "In the little red can labeled 'gasoline'." "Daniel, they're all labeled gasoline, that's how they come. But that's not what is in all of them."

He'd filled it with diesel, from the tiny emergency reserve I keep off to the side. We drained the tank and put actual gasoline in it, and then after some puking and farting it started running. The jungle was very hard to mow, and eventually the engine started making huge gouts of oil smoke. We let it cool down for awhile, then he finished.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Time to start reassembling the float for the Laclede parade. The recent trailer deck paint had failed miserably, and was mostly flaked off. (The metal all looks good, though.) I swept, wire-brushed, and hosed it off.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Generac pressure washer had been sitting for many years, and I really needed it today, to power-wash the trailer deck. (This was a Liquidation World purchase, many years ago, meaning it was probably a Costco return. About $750 IIRC, with an 11HP Honda motor and an Annovi Reverberi made-in-Italy pump. Rated 4GPM, 3200PSI.)

I removed the gas tank and washed out the oily sludge that used to be gasoline. I removed the bowl and cleaned out the carb. Got it back together and started, honestly it was easier than I'd feared.

The Annovi Reverberi pump, though, was full of grit and rust, and kept clogging its exit fitting, and the spray nozzle. I removed the I/O manifold, and broke off the intake fitting bolt. (That holds on the 'Pressure Washer Unloader' assembly.) I was able to get things cleaned out, and was able to use the washer so long as Daniel was holding the broken-off plug in place with a socket and a long extension. Wet work! The high pressure removed a lot more paint, and also took off what looked to be a haze or bloom, which might be leftover sealer or something like that. Whatever it was, I'd say it was clearly a problem for paint adhesion! The wood surfaces look a lot more 'toothy' than before.

The pump is an AR XRCV 4G.32, No 13827970079, long discontinued.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

I washed the trailer deck with a scrub brush and deck cleaner, which is some kind of soapy alkaline solution intended (in part) for paint preparation. I rinsed it off well afterwards, and let it dry.

I then sprayed a 50% bleach solution on the trailer deck, and let it dry. A few hours later I rinsed off the trailer deck with the garden hose, removing the bleach residue and some more paint that had loosened. The idea here is to kill anything living in the surface of the wood that might prevent the paint from sticking well.

Friday, July 1, 2022

I primed the trailer deck. The primer this time was Rustoleum "Deck Start", supposedly by Zinsser, and is some kind of weird latex-based gluey substance that dries clear. I used most of a gallon, the deteriorated wood was very thirsty. (The trailer could really use a new deck, but that is a Big Job, and the current price of lumber would make it a Big Expense as well! One estimate for Brazilian Apitong, the current 'good stuff', was around $1,000, more than I'd paid for the trailer in the first place. Another estimate for (thicker) rough-sawn 2×8 Apitong was nearly $2,000. Even dimensioned fir from the local lumberyard, not nearly as strong, would run over $400 at today's inflated prices.)

The primed wood is slightly tacky even after it's fully dry. Grip?

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Got the trailer deck painted. One coat of white Rustoleum used most of the gallon. (Heavily weathered wood has a lot of surface area.) There wasn't enough left to do a full second coat, but I think I covered all the thin spots before I ran out of paint. (I used a few dabs to cover the fresh flaked spots on the towing truck.)

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Daniel and I put up the frame. Took us about two hours, and the result looks good.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Parade over, Daniel and I took down the frame. Takes about an hour.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Jill used my microphone stand as a cowbell stand during the parade, and managed to snap off the mast (thinwall pipe, with pipe threading) at the heavy cast-iron base. It was plenty sturdy, but could not take the abuse it got rolling around in the bed of the truck during transport. Anyway, today I cleaned the inside of the pipe and found a scrap slug of steel that fit almost snugly inside. (The cut-off end of a scrapped ball joint.) I mixed up some JB-Weld and glued it back together, with the slug spanning the break. The threaded outside collar ring was used to hold the broken-off threaded piece into position while it cured. The stand screwed back together afterwards, we'll see if it holds.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

The swamp cooler stopped cooling, and investigation showed that the pump was no longer making quite enough pressure to push water out the top nozzles. (It would pump well over the side and out, just not up.) Phoenix Manufacturering Inc, Cooler Pump LSP-93. Looks like I might be able to get another one for maybe $60, but before I did that I thought I'd try a repair. It's a standard shaded-pole induction motor with a long shaft driving a submerged impeller pump. Not much to go wrong barring rust or plastic rot, and no physical contact inside so it can run dry with impunity. The only thing wrong with it that I could find was that the hub of the plastic impeller was cracking, and rust was showing. Probably the usual water intrusion causing rust, expansion, and cracking of the material. (Same thing happens with steel-reinforced concrete.) It's possible it was slipping a bit. I broke the impeller off the shaft and took everything apart and cleaned it out. I put some M1 motor oil on the motor sleeve bearings, though it didn't feel like it needed it. There was, I think, a rubber slinger washer on the shaft that had fallen apart, so I glued it back together and on with Shoe Goo. I used CLR, brushing, and scraping to get the rust and scale off of the shaft and out of the remains of the impeller hub, which I glued back in place with JB-Weld. I cut a collar of .410 shotgun shell plastic to go around the hub to hold it together, and glued it in place. If this doesn't work the next step is pump replacement.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

I reassembled the pump and reinstalled it. The swamp cooler works perfectly again, though the pump seems to be noisier than before.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Recently the garage chest freezer got unplugged by accident, and we didn't notice until the smell started picking up in the garage. Fortunately there wasn't all that much in there at this time. We lost maybe 10# of hamburger (Steve's cows), and some frozen things like pot stickers and a couple of pizzas. I'd plugged it back in and it re-froze, which made it a lot less nasty to handle. I'd thrown out the things that were 'loose' already, but what remained was frozen into a lump in the bottom. Yesterday I unplugged it again and attacked it with a crowbar, gently, and got it all out and into the garbage for this morning's pickup. This evening I washed it out with a strong bleach solution. There were a lot of crowbar pecks in the bottom, but the coils are all up in the sides nearer the top, so it should be good. I suspect a soda wash is next, followed by an ozone bath. We shall see. In the worst case we end up tossing the freezer too, but I really don't want to do that.

[Several bleachings, airings, and ozone-ings were required. Filling the bottom with bleach water for a soak was ultimately key, as guck had wicked up into the jacket. The freezer was returned to service.]

Friday, September 2, 2022

Ordered a new Frigidaire standalone icemaker to replace one that was the killed earlier. It was even cheaper than the first one, $79, and a name brand (Frigidaire), though looks to be essentially the same (discontinued) model. I've been getting tired of making ice cubes in trays. This unit is a little larger than the current crop, the bucket holds more ice.

[Was a scam, never showed up and credit card number got stolen. Fake tracking information was used to string me along.]

Friday, September 30, 2022

Borrowed Olin's Kioti tractor (with loader) to push the firewood bark pile down the hill. We need the space for wood storage, and working, and we'll never need that much bark.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

De-mossed the garage roof. Did it barefoot on an unseasonably warm dry day, for maximum delicacy. Rolling the dried chunks loose with the feet seemed to work very well, the broom wouldn't quite dislodge them on its own. Sprinkled some copper sulphate crystals along the ridge line to try to discourage future growth.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Last night I noticed that the (Rheem) furnace seemed to run all night, once the night setpoint of 60°F had been reached. I suspected the furnace was no longer heating, this has been a problem in the past. (From before this log, so I have no formal records.) Today I opened it up.

Problems! I saw several overheated spade lugs, with bubbled and burned wire insulation, and one burned-through wire. I cut off all the overheated wire, back to good copper, and re-crimped new spade connectors on them after scraping the oxidized stranded wire with a knife and a fine wire brush. (This time I was able to use the nice AMP ratcheting die pliers I'd scored a few years back.) There was enough slack in all the wires that I didn't have to use any new wire. All the spades themselves still looked good, it was only the crimps to the wires on the female connectors that had seemed to fail. I needed five new connectors. (There are five heating elements. Coincidence? I think not!)

I fired up the repaired furnace, and all five heating elements seemed to be getting powered: the amperage on the six 220V feed lines was 43/43/40/40/20/20, which is nominal. There was no sign of trouble in the wiring vault. The vents in the house were blowing warm air again, instead of cold.

Furnace fixed, for zero cost. Again. Should be good for some years now. Again. (In my 30-year tenure I've only needed to buy one (special) circuit breaker for this furnace. All other repairs and maintenance have been zero cost junkbox repairs like today's. The furnace is approximately 47 years old.)

Friday, December 16, 2022

Daniel broke the starter cord on the Subaru Robin EX27 that's on the Harbor Freight wood splitter. I've looked, and while the engine can accommodate an electric starter basically none are available, nor does the engine's flywheel have the necessary ring gear. If these parts were available, it looks like it's be in excess of $500 to put electric start on it. Not Attractive! Half of what it might cost to convert over to an electric motor and pump from gasoline.

The necessary flywheel looks to be 279-79251-01 (15/40W), or perhaps 279-79252-01 (200W). The ring gear is 267-071002-03.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Yesterday the little space heater we use to preheat outside-parked cars failed. Pop! And a bad smell... I'd worked on this heater before, and bypassed the (failed) overtemperature fuse with a piece of fine wire. That finally corroded under heat and fused. The crimp-on contacts to the heating elements had also corroded. I scraped, replaced, and soldered it all back together. Seems to be fine again. I like this one because it's got a tip-over safety switch, and is compact yet not prone to falling over due to its squatty cubical shape. And you can open it by just removing some screws.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

A (failed) gag Christmas gift this year was a used quad-copter drone, of the toy variety. It turned out the charger was missing from the package, oops. (Everything else necessary was there, including the manual.) Opening it up revealed a 3.7V 300mAH flight battery, presumably LiPo or equivalent. I soldered some stiff wires to the terminals on the PCB, arrayed for easy alligator clip access, and Googled how to charge a single cell. I set the bench supply limits to 4.2V and 200mA, and let 'er rip. It appeared to charge, and hold a charge after charging for awhile. At least, enough to operate the flashing orientation lights when switched on.

I tried flying it, and one propeller didn't spin. I soldered its broken wire back to the PCB. After that, it flew. Badly!

Monday, May 15, 2023

I have 5 Presto heat dishes, which I really like as they're quiet and you can aim the heat for personal comfort, and they're less wattage than the usual space heater. They are, however, prone to a sticking thermostat, and I'd like to put in a switching triac to relieve the load on the contacts, or perhaps an arc-suppression condenser. Something. The cold resistance of the rated 1kW heating element is 13.7Ω, which is 8.8A or 1050W at 120V. This drops somewhat as the element heats and its resistance goes up. So, a 10A 400–600V triac should do the job, but will need a heat sink. These are roughly $1 components. I bought ten BTB10-600CRG (BT: Triac, B: non-insulated, 10A, 600V, C: 25mA gate, RG: tube packaging) in TO-220AB from Digi-Key, for $13.52, shipped. (This is a now-obsolete part, hence cheaper.)

|  O  | A2
|     | BTB10-600CRG
|_____| 10A 600V Triac
 | | |
 | | |

 A A G
 1 2

There's plenty of room in the spine for a triac, but mounting it will probably be interesting. I just need to feed the existing thermostat output (A2) into the Gate, through a 1kΩ resistor. (Possibly with a pull-down [to A1] to prevent floating-gate noise sensitivity.) At 10A the two-junction triac's going to dissipate 11.5W of power, so it will definitely need a heat sink.

Ugh, that's actually a pretty significant heat sink, I wish I'd done this calculation before I pushed 'Buy' on the triacs! Also, the waste heat from the sink would rise in the heater's spine and plume against the thermostat itself. Also far from ideal. Maybe an RC suppressor is actually better? One source (C.C. Bates, 1966) suggests 10µF in series with 120/(100(1+50/120))Ω, or 1Ω is appropriate. Of course, a 10µF non-polar capacitor is not insignificant. Also, there will be 'leakage' current through it at all times due to its reactance, approximately 250Ω at 60Hz, or 1/2A. (≈60W. Non-ideal!) Much, much too large.

Another option would be a pair of MOSFETs in series, as those have very low ON resistance, but the control circuitry would be a lot larger (than a resistor or two) and they're more money. At best the waste power is still maybe only 1/3 what the triac would have, which is still not great. A problem is that two MOSFETs have to be in series, which means that the body diode of one is always in-circuit. (Each MOSFET handles one-half of the AC cycle.) So, not as different from the triac solution as you might think.

A beefy relay would probably do the job without a lot of waste heat, but would be fairly noisy. Clack-Clack-Foo, heaters that suck. (In a heater we would welcome the waste heat from semiconductors, but it's in the wrong place.) No good solution?

Monday, May 15, 2023

I happened to be at Wal-Mart, and they had a pallet of standalone Frigidaire icemakers. Plenty cheap at $88, so I bought one to replace the dead EdgeStar. Interestingly, the refrigerant is now R600a, Isobutane, and not the R134a of the dead one. It's much quieter, too, though it is significantly smaller, and lighter.

The only real problem is that the ice bucket is quite a bit smaller than the old one, it can barely provide ice for two glasses at a time.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Jill's wretched LED music stand light broke, again. It's one of those lousy push-on/off modern things that uses an always-on computer to decide what to do. (Off-dim-on via a momentary switch.) As usual, the little computer got confused, and in this case refused to do full brightness. (Why use a mechanical switch when you can make it more complicated and expensive, and less reliable, using electronics? I had taken it apart before for the same problem, and a resoldering seemed to have brought it back to life. But not for long, the POS.) Some time ago I'd bought a thrift-shop lantern flashlight that had an obvious mechanical push-on/off switch that looked like it might fit, and today retrofitted it into the light bypassing the electronics altogether. It seems to work correctly, and doesn't look too bad.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

The cistern pump had been short-cycling for some time now, and it's past time to put more air in the pressure tank. Last time was roughly two years ago, the 'new way' seems to be superior to the old.

The new procedure is simple, and seems to last pretty long:

  1. Open up a faucet somewhere;
  2. Turn off the cistern pump;
  3. Start air compressor, and when its pressure is higher than the tank pressure connect it;
  4. Walk away until air starts coming out the faucet, then turn faucet off;
  5. Wait until air pressure in the now-empty tank is 25–30 PSI;
  6. Disconnect air compressor and turn on cistern pump again.
It's extremely dry out right now, so I let the tank water out onto the crispy lawn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

A couple weeks ago I bought a Haier HPN10XCM roll-around 10,000 BTU air conditioner at a yard sale, for $25. (This was approximately a $4–500 unit when it was new.) It was claimed to be working, but noisy. (I had intended it for my son's room, which gets very hot due to the afternoon sun and the fact that his computer, a MacPro 2,1 running Windows 10, can't go to sleep and wake up again, so it's usually always on—24×7. However, he showed absolutely no interest in using it to tame the heat in his room.)

Today it was very hot, the third or fourth 100+ degree day in a row, so I fired it up in the living room where the swamp cooler just can't reach effectively. Yes, it's noisy indeed! But it cooled well. Very smoky (stale) smelling, though, it could use a thorough cleaning.

I opened it up. The plastic squirrel-cage blower on the condensor was severely out of balance, and had numerous blades that had broken loose from the free end's ring. It wobbled fiercely, enough to have developed a crack in the housing where the fan motor attached, exacerbating the noise and vibration problem. I used Shoe Goo to glue 20+ fan blades back to the ring, and to pot over the housing cracks. I also noticed that the fan always settled at the same point when spun by hand, rocking backwards if necessary, so the static balance was clearly off. I deposited Shoe Goo in layers on the light side of the fan's free-end ring, until the fan, when spun, would stop and stay stopped at random positions, indicating that the static balance was now pretty close to optimal. Once it had dried some I fired it up again, briefly, and noted that the noise and vibration were much reduced. Success? I'm going to let it cure thoroughly overnight.

The condenser was also heavily coated with dust bunnies and pet hair, which I removed. I straightened some bent fins on the evaporator.

After the glue had all dried thoroughly I ran the unit. Much quieter!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Some time ago I procured a cheap Polycom SoundStation 2 conference phone, which I had been very impressed with when they first came out and we were buying them for work. I'd set it up in my office, and run the phone line over to where it came into the basement, but was missing the 'last inch' of connectivity. I had hopes that the sound quality would be better than when using handset 'speaker' buttons. But I needed to finish hooking it up.

Recently I found a wall-mount jack (for hanging a wall phone) at the beach cabin, which we'd used many years ago when we had a landline there. It was perfect for tapping into the phone cable near where it comes into the house. I screwed it to the foundation sill, and soldered its pigtails to where I cut into the phone cable. (Red wire in jack soldered to blue wire in cable.) And... it works!

However, I'm told that the mic level is overly low, though the speaker quality is excellent. (The remote sound is good too, just low.) On this model it's non-adjustable. Stuck with it?

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Moved formicapeak.com over to Tim's new site: (from My site used to use Hurricane's free NS1-5 servers, but I no longer know how to get into it, if I ever did. However, GoDaddy offers to take over DNS duties as well, so with little to lose (at this point) I just changed my account's DNS servers to their defaults, away from Hurricane, and changed the A record to:
A @
It is claimed that this process could take as long as 48 hours to fully complete.

On crone.us the file /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/formicapeak.com.conf:

<VirtualHost *:80>
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
        ServerName formicapeak.com:80

        ProxyPreserveHost	On
	ProxyPass /
        ProxyPassReverse /
and the file /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/formicapeak.crone.us.conf:
<VirtualHost *:80>
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
        ServerName formicapeak.crone.us:80

        ProxyPreserveHost	On
	ProxyPass /
        ProxyPassReverse /
and the file /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/formicapeak.com-le-ssl.conf:
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost *:443>
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
        ServerName formicapeak.com:80

        ProxyPreserveHost	On
	ProxyPass /
        ProxyPassReverse /
ServerAlias formicapeak.com
SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/crone.us/cert.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/crone.us/privkey.pem
Include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-apache.conf
SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/crone.us/chain.pem
and the file /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/formicapeak.crone.us-le-ssl.conf:
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
<VirtualHost *:443>
	ServerAdmin webmaster@localhost
        ServerName formicapeak.crone.us:80

        ProxyPreserveHost	On
	ProxyPass /
        ProxyPassReverse /
ServerAlias formicapeak.crone.us
Include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-apache.conf
SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/crone.us/fullchain.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/crone.us/privkey.pem
seem to be doing all the heavy lifting. (These are all links into same-named files in /etc/apache2/sites-available/.)

Sunday, January 14, 2024

The cabin's tube TV crapped out last week, and I had D bring it home. Zenith Model B25A11Z. He said the vertical deflection shrank down, and then there was a loud noise, black screen, and bad smell. I don't want anything newer down there, as this one's nearly theft proof, so I'd like to fix it (myself) if possible.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

I found a schematic of the TV, enough to look at, anyway. There is a big power transistor in the power supply, and in-circuit probing with the Fluke DMM shows a B-E short, which cannot be good. 2SD2499, which is a Horizontal Output Transistor. (Which means a certain class of specs, along with an internal flyback diode and a biasing resistor.) I can get 10 of them from China for about $5, so I ordered them. Shipping to be slooooow.

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