Coping: With the Air Tool and Diorama Connoisseur

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Reader Note:  UrbanSurvival will be opening up comments early next week for a test period.  It’ll give you a chance to post feedback and to pass along thoughts on articles easier…now where were we?  Ah…..

Home Handy-Bastard’s Notebook time…

I don’t often mention that UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics are “solar-powered.”  But they are:  Outside, just down from the garden and before you run into the ham radio tower, there are two racks of solar panels.  Each holds 10-solar panels; one rack is of 170-watt panels while the other is 180-watt panels.

All 3,500 watts worth of power is shoved underground down to my office/shop area where there are two Outback Power Systems Outback FM60 Charge Controllers , and a pair of OutBack FX2524T Sine Wave Inverter 2500W 24VDC 120VAC 60Hz sealed w/turbo and two racks of six-volt golf cart batteries (a total of 16-batteries, Interstates, and they work fine.

When we put in the system (which is grid-interactive, designed by Ures truly) the price of solar gear was considerably higher.  With the falling price of solar, you can now pick up panels for about half what we paid for the raw watts just 8-years ago.  (There are two in depth reports on designing and putting in your own solar panels and various design considerations over in the Peoplenomics archives for members and one can be found in the Master Index by searching the word “robust” – as in robust home power.0)

Which has what, exactly, to do with air tools?

Hold onto your horse, I’m getting to that:

Since we’ve built our little compound in the woods to be fairly robust, in terms of whatever the future can throw at us, I made a decision a number of years ago that we would want to have all kinds of power tools in an uncertain future and that’s what the solar panels are about (besides lowering the month power bills, which goes without saying, or does it?)

What was an eye-opener was when I went looking at the variety of tasks that could be done with air tools versus the number of jobs that could be done with electric tools, there was almost no contest.

This was proven to me yesterday when I went looking for a powered (electric, solar, air, natural gas…I don’t care what) caulking gun.

We’re using this winter to refurbish one of the few areas of the house that has not received its “designer treatment” from Elaine.  It’s the “screen porch” which is a common room in the South:  It’s where people can go outside when the temps are 90 (or lower) and not be carried off by wildlife and bugs to be eaten alive.

The problem with our old “screen porch” is that it was put together using 2-by-6 joists and 2-by-6 decking.  I can improve the floor stability easy enough with some house jacks and additional joists (I actually enjoy that sort of engineering) but when done, we will still have the problem of the decking.

What covers it now is old indoor-outdoor carpet which sucks.  Over the years, the cats have turned it into a killing room floor from a slaughter house:  Eating birds, squirrels, mice, rats, snakes, and even large bugs on it. Elaine’s a meticulous homemaker and she’s tired of cleaning indoor-outdoor carpet so we’ve decided to put on a couple of coats of this new super deck paint that’s become vogue in the last 10-minutes of home remodeling.

And that is where we get to the air tools.

Turns out, you can buy an air-powered caulking gun for under $40-bucks, which is what I did yesterday.  Campbell Hausfeld PL1558 Air-Powered Caulk Gun $35.

Reason?:  At age 60-something, you start to run the numbers of everything.

So for example this screen porch is 13-by24 feet and it’s decked with 2-by-6’s as I mentioned.   Everyone knows that a 2-by-6 is only about 5 1/2” wide,  so with the deck being 288” long, that leaves us with 52 boards too be caulked and since each one is 13 feet, that’s 680-lineal feet of caulking.  Not counting edge seams.

But wait! (As the late Billy Mays might have said…There’s more!).

Since we are going to put deck paint on the top side, Elaine figured that we would be smart to caulk both the top and bottom layers. 

Holy smokes!  Now we’re north of 1,300 lineal feet of caulking and if neither one of us had carpal tunnel before the project, I figure one, or both, of us would by the time we’re done.

No thank you.

Hence my decision to postpone the start of this mega project until the proper tool shows up, and as long as I was thinking about it, I remembered that as part of your prepping, you might want to have a good assortment of air tools for after whatever calamity comes along.

We’ve got several power sources:  The solar and the old diesel genset, so power shouldn’t be an option.  And with the welder (gas) I could cobble the 10 KW power head off the genset to a tractor-run genset and that, in turn, could power the big compressor in the shop, which could if need be, used to fill the pancake compressor for small stuff.

I know that doesn’t explain everything:  Why not just buy an electric caulking gun?

It’s true that Amazon carries several battery powered caulking guns.  Example:  Makita LXGC01Z 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion 10 oz. Caulk and Adhesive Gun (Tool Only, No Battery) but check the price.  With electric tools, you’re buying a motor and either a battery charger or long extension cord problem with every too.  But check the price; yee gads.

This may sound odd, but there are several safety issues that come to mind when dealing with power tools:  Air tools aren’t going to shock you if you drop one on a wet worksite.  You can use them with relative impunity, even barefooted (yes, steel toes are required, but let’s pretend for a moment that it’s 97F and dripping hot and you’ve got flip-flops on).

Air tools are cheap, in comparison.  I can do die-grinding with my die grinder air tool, or I can dig out the Dremel, but for many jobs the air grinder is better.  Ever try to find a big framing nailer or electric-powered finishing nail gun for those fun shop projects? t

That cabinet at the top of this morning’s report was a 3-hour project (excluding paint drying time) because using a chop saw with stops, a dado set, and a belt sander, everything can be make quick-=as-you-please and then out come the air tools and some clamps (to keep everything square) and Presto!@!  Done project!  Elaine gets her cabinet (lower part is where the vacuums for the house live), with this and that’s on shelves above) and I get to build another piece of whatever we call it look furniture.

With Christmas just around the corner, if anyone in your circle doesn’t live in a coop (e.g. rent instead of own a home) then there’s only two things you really need:  Air tools and a book on how to build real-life dioramas.

“What’s a Diorama?”

Well, it’s the secret to taking a kind of average-looking mobile home on the outside and turning it into a kind of museum like experience on the inside.  The general idea is that there’s a kind of interior decorating that is a cross between television and film “set design” and museum-level dioramas that flips just being in a “house” to being “transported” is Elaine’s word for it.

The Wikipedia entry will get you started:

The word diorama /?da???r??m?/ can either refer to a 19th-century mobile theatre device, or, in modern usage, a three-dimensional full-size or miniature model, sometimes enclosed in a glass showcase for a museum. Dioramas are often built by hobbyists as part of related hobbies such as military vehicle modeling, miniature figure modeling, or aircraft modeling

To be sure, there is a certain amount of trial and error to it, but do some looking around for hotels with “period rooms” and go check out museums which have large dioramas and next thing you know, air tools and dangerous thoughts will be wandering through your head – all but displacing the visions of sugar plum fairies at this time of year with dreams of a Wild West Man Cave, a Trader Vics-looking dining room…and oh, yeah…the air tools that Santa needs to bring you so you can actually build some cool places.

You mean if I wanted to build my house so it looks like Superman’s Fortress or the inside of a Mayan temple like in an Indiana Jones flick, I could do THAT?”

Shoot yes, Bubba.

I’ve got designs for an tropical ocean beach diorama that may turn the washer and dryer off the dining room into a shipwreck bar in the South Pacific.  I’ll do before and after pictures.

It’s all according to the limits of your imagination and problem-solving ability.

Oh, and how much you’ve let yourself get sucked into social conventions that burn out your life with nothing in return which gets us to Wednesday’s Peoplenomics report…

Sports As a Waste Of Time

“Where am I going to get the time to do thing kind of radical home treatment?”

As I explained in a discussion of sports economics over on the Peoplenomics side of things Wednesday, people let their lives dribble out into television sets without getting anything of substantive value in return.  At huge public costs, too.

Let me share a dandy letter from a reader who whole-heartedly agrees with our unconventional view around here that while do-it-yourself sports are great (exercise and so on) the spectator sports, especially those that depend on taxpayer bonding authority are a rip.  We then got into the nubbins of the problem:  Pro spectator sports are now a major output of the USA.

Subscriber RJ gets it:

LOVE your commentary on sports today.

I’ve been lamenting about the parental hysteria around youth sports for some time, and after receiving grant money will be embarking upon a documentary film on the matter: working title is currently “What is Winning?” Many double-entendres within.

There was a great article in The Atlantic back in 2013 on the youth sports topic: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/10/the-case-against-high-school-sports/309447/

But what truly stands out is a comment my mentor, Dr. Bill S, made to me a few months back. He’s a life-long educator, born in the mid-west, who has made Austin his home for the past few of decades, and who does a lot of work attempting to coach the principals in the Houston School system.

His comment was about the American education reform debacle. To paraphrase, “Individual nations truly can set the course of what they want their countries to be good at. A decade or so ago South Korea decided to be tops in Mathematics, Brazil in soccer. And what are they both known for today? Exactly. The United States? There’s a lot of lip service around education, but what do you see put on a pedestal? Entertainment. And what are we the best in? Exactly.”

File under You Read What You Sow?

And, how chilling your comment “Being anti-sports hype ain’t popular.”

We recently encouraged our 12 year-old to step away from his top-tier travel soccer team. He followed our advice, and our entire family is happier, more balanced, and better for it. He now spends the minimum of 18 hours a week that would have otherwise gone to practice time and the time needed to drive there and back video-gaming, coding (Java), watching movies (which he has always loved), and, get this, playing outside. Not organized play. No parents. Playing. And often he and I simply go outside to throw a Frisbee around, because we can.

Thanks for all your writing,

You’re quite welcome. 

Most of what we do around here is for fun…which is what Life should be.  There are just so many people that are asleep and who go along as victims who never pick up a tool, never have a grand vision of what their home should be.

So while you could be building the throne room of Louis XIV for a bathroom (I’m still thinking about that one) most people will be sitting on the couch watching some silly sports program while allowing excess consumption habits and me-too thinking be ground into the space between the ears.

Like money, time can only be spent once.   Between now and when we move into permanent underground housing, we’re trying to be very careful about how we spend both.  And after watching a little bit of sports on television and asking the question “What, if anything, of value did I take away from that use of my time?”

Maybe you get something out of it, but not us.  I respect the bike riders, mudders, and golfers.  But the butt-sitters who watch the playtoys of the Rich Man’s Clubs?

Thanks…we’ll pass.  Life is shorter than it should be…and with enough air tools around, we can make it anything we want.

Write when you break-even

George  george@ure.net

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