ShopTalk Sunday: Industrial Arts Revival?

I keep looking for Educators to get sick of re-dividing America.  Rather than tell us how we are “All different” and “All special” it would be refreshing – as we see it – to bring back at least some baseline “Not a Victim” hands-on skills.

I looked over the last month of two of Amazon orders to see what kind of goods we were buying.  Beyond cans of excellent Canadian maple syrup.  When the nukes go off, we want some flapjacks, by God.  Some canned bacon and a cup of coffee would be good, too.

But this review got me to wondering “How much do people really know about “hands on?”  Thought we could do an overview today on a few projects and get you thinking along those lines…

Ham Radio section is the last part of the column. We begin with the “general interest” stuff, first.

Greenhouse in Winter

A year ago, we had just finished our lean-to greenhouse and were at the “getting compost and dirt in” stage.  Today? Harvestable munchies!

As we explained in the article on the “Chineseum” diesel heater we installed, the name of the game in winter is soil temps and keeping ambient air above freezing.  Light matters, so grow lights.  We monitor the soil temps closely, too:

Even when we had our 9F overnight low, a few weeks back, the soil temp was held in the 50-degree range.  This was done by preheating to the 60F range and then running the heater at 17C (about 62.6F) overnight.  Used about 1.5 gallons of diesel and while that doesn’t make sense on the surface, we only run the heater when the soil cools to 50 F, or so.

Remember, the heater runs only about 50% of the time, and almost always at night, so there’s not much impact from heating costs.  Certainly, not compared with electric heat for the same space!

What really makes a difference is the grow lights put in a few weeks back.  “Except, there’s just one problem,” as our favorite physics lecturer puts it.

See, when there’s warm soil, but the plant thinks it’s time to go to seed based on lighting, you get bolting.  Common in Lettuces, but even more so with the bok choi.  Nice flowers from which we may try to collect some of the seeds.

Speaking of “just one problem” we did lose the temp controller on the Vevor brand heater a few weeks back.  The replacement control head from Amazon (off brand) didn’t work (as it’s a crap shoot, seems, with such devices, QC and Covid, right?).

But the one from a seller on plugged and played nicely. About $18 bucks and I’ll likely order two more (one per heater as spares) once the second heater goes into service.

In the meanwhile, the non-op unit was cheerfully returned by Amazon.  However!  They now charge a $7.99 “pick-up fee” if you have them send out UPS.  Which was coming here anyway but don’t get me started…

Hose Notes

Canadians have long called me a “fair weather hoser” and it must be true.  The drinking-water safe white hose in the greenhouse is damn hard to coil up neatly when we’re in 40F and colder temps.  The answer?

This is one of those self-coiling jobs and it’s much more flexible.  On Amazon here for a penny off a $30 bill.  I’m not saying it will work in freezing weather.  Just much more flexible in cold temps, making it easier to hang up and keep the greenhouse neat. Hate tripping on hoses!

Tree Trim Before Sap!

This is the time of year for serious tree shaping work outdoors.  Leaves are off and that really makes pruning trees a lot easier.  We have two 100-foot-high trees between the house and shop, A couple of professionals will be out this week to bid the job.  Falling 100-foot trees single-handedly OVER the house, shop, and electric service entrance – when (almost) 74 – argues my IQ isn’t as high as it once claimed.  After thinking it through, I’m willing to write a four-figure check to keep up the illusion. Four figures for pro’s beats a hospital bed, or worse.

RAS Progress

More parts have landed for the radial arm saw refurbishment project, scheduled to begin after the sheetrock project in the guest quarters this week.

I’d always wondered why the Sears saw (197.19771) was made with four pieces of wood for its top.  Now (helps to read the manual, huh?) it all makes sense.

Notice the blue lines here:

To the left of the left-most blue line is where the front table piece goes; about 20-inches wide.

The double line at the front of the saw (left side) is where the table top meets the back fence rail. To move the saw into the (right feed) ripping position, you rotate the saw head 180 degrees which puts the blade at the fence.

In the ALT (left feed) ripping mode, the boards are rearranged with the table top front meeting one.  Then, the blade (now further in) meets the repositioned fencer. Which makes the front board about a 6 to 7-inch piece. This explains why the 2 back pieces, not one.  Where the “normal” rip (feed from right) is Big up to about 24 inches with the boards just so.

ALL of which is clamped into place with two of these guys at the back of the saw:

Which will operate smoothly after a few days in the Aerokroil Spa. Followed by some Boeshield or other anti-corrosion juice from the metal shop side.

Ham Radio Time

The K4TR version of the W5GI “Mystery Antenna” will be going up to the top of the tower in the next week, or two.

Speaking of which, if you do ever get to the towering insanity part of ham radio (maybe you win the Lotto or marry a goddess) don’t forget to space your low band wire antennas out from the top about 2-feet, or more.  This will vary by budget, common sense, and materials on hand:

The reason for this is when you have twin lead (high impedance ladder line) it tends to unbalance (thus lose power) into the (grounded metal) tower which is not a good use of energy.

While the antenna waits for a block of time (and a break in showers) I will be getting some parts of the antenna super-doped up with silicone conformal coating.

The stuff isn’t widely use in consumer gear.  But the first time I ran into it was as a varnish on old radio gear.

A reader, while back, gave me a vintage (I mean cherry!) BC-348-Q receiver and as all BC-348s it was coated with “tropical varnish” on damn near everything in the component section.  It wasn’t parylene (discussed here) but damned if I can remember what it was called.

Ran into “modern” conformal coating when I was at Cruising Equipment in Seattle.  Production Boss whiz, Bill M. had found some really great spray-on conformal coating – just the ticket for keeping solid-state boards safe (and operating) in the presence of water and salt spray.  Made a note then to remember this for antennas.

Conformal is a little different than Corona Dope, which we also keep on hand.  But looks from the spec sheet like it may provide good additional weather resistance at the parts of the “Mystery Antenna” where there are tubing covered solder joints.

Not free – about $25-bucks and change.  But only slightly more expensive than MG’s corona dope which is about $22-bucks.

Main thing when putting up new antennas is to use the right products.  CoaxSeal is great over the feed line connectors.  on bare antenna wire, corona dope around the center insulator is not a bad idea when running higher power. I occasionally run 1.3 kw out on the low end of 20-meters working far-away DX stations in code mode.

My expectation is the W5GI will provide a bit better receiving compared to the big OCFD.  But really curious to see if it’s better than the Beverage’s which are great on 20.

Two Other Radio Notes

One of these days, we will have a whole write up on the Radioddity mobile unit that’s on the way.  A seller on eBay had the Radioddity QB25 Pro Quad Band 25W Car Mobile Radio Transceiver + Long Antenna for $107 and free shipping, so around $116 with the Texas Tax Bite.

This is not portable (needs a 12V source) but in value?  Can’t beat it – right up with the earliest of the Baofeng handhelds.

My friend, Dr. J (there a “j” in his name somewhere, lol) has a really slick write up on how to get this (tiny, small) radio into an ammo can along with everything you’d need to pack it about in a grab and go kit.  I’ll see if I can talk him into permission to share on here.  Meantime, though, part of my calamitous computer collapse mess will involve reinstalling CHIRP which you can download from here.  Makes it so you can have a comprehensive set of choice frequencies on all kinds of mobile/portable VHF gear including like GMRS and weather and cops and fire and…and….

Still, setting up CHIRP and loading up 2-meters and 440-MHz  is only one of the neat things about the radio.  (Comes with a programming cable, antenna, and mobile mount and mic…)  The other is that I may use it as a dedicated 137 MHz NOAA Weather Satellite receiver.  Promises to be fun.  I’ve already got the 137 MHz quadrifilar for Wefax with a preamp in it, so may only need to add a bias-T to get power up to the antenna.

The QFAs come up on eBay used, from time-to-time.  Mine came off a Chilean commercial fishing boat which went to a different (direct from space) weather fax distro system.

Final point, I expect my buddy (The Major) had a great time with the Mic and Key Club doing a Zom conf. intro to NVIS antennas. Near Vertical Incident Skywave antennas. He’ll be down here sometime this spring. No telling what kind of trouble we can get into.

He doesn’t think the ground counterpoise under an NVIS adds much, but that’s one of those gentleman (or beer) bets to be settled with data collection.

For the shack (radio room section of office): Got some marine-grade tabletop casting resin coming.  Figure the Major will need shades just to look at the ham station when rebuilt…

World’s Still Crazy!

Remarks in passing:

Don’t forget prayers tomorrow morning for our Houston Bureau chief.  She’s got surgery coming Monday.

Our backup consigliere out in Century City (Boss Angeles as local 1960s radio once called it) sent this along Saturday as ongoing evidence of the pending world decline into collapse: British Museum bans the word ‘MUMMY’ out of ‘respect’ for 3,000-year-old dead.  Seriously? If I can’t call ’em “mummies” can I call ’em “daddies?”  Does anyone (*not in woke rehab) honestly believe a spirit 3,000 years into their afterlife adventures gives a shit?  “Not I,” said the fat man at the keyboard.

For another input from George’s circle of brain feeding stations, take a gander at Kit Webster’s column today.

Peoplenomics subscribers will be interested to see that Kit, along with me as discussed in the Saturday ChartPack, sees a POSSIBLE optimistic change of direction as POSSIBLE this spring, although two important points here:  1) We haven’t compared notes at all – but remarkably interesting timing.  2) the underlying news flow sure isn’t confidence inspiring in the least.

Lumber prices are rising, now on the commodity markets. Recovery or a bigger invasion from Mexico coming?  Ask stupid slow Joe.

We shall see if the world includes a lot of “flash parts” shortly.

For this morning’s third cup of coffee, off to the 3806 LSB hangout while reading the new Micro-Mark hobby catalog.  If yours hasn’t landed yet, the PDF is here so you will be able to waste the entire day in “hobby research!”

A boy can dream, can’t he?

Write when normal returns,

ShopTalk Sunday: Woo-Woo Event? Fire Tank Arrives

Since this is a holiday weekend (no work Monday for many) I didn’t get serious in the shop real early Saturday.  Too damn cold.  It was 26 F and will be in the high 70’s today.  You know the saying: “Pappy didn’t raise no fool.”

Besides, I’m grappling with a case of woo-woo. Hell of a tale.

Saturday morning over breakfast, Elaine tells me “I found something odd this morning when I went out to feed and water the crows.  I think you ought to have a look at it…”

Yeah, sure.  But, like an obedient puppy, a few hours later she showed me.  I’ll give you the running narrative (roughly paraphrased) so you can follow along.

“I went outside this morning to fill up the water jugs as part of the morning crow feeding routine.  And as I reach down to pick up one of the jugs, I lifted it up and it was broken…right around the bottom…look….”

There was also a hole in the side of the jug, but oddly, no sign of the missing piece of glass from there.  Hmm…

“So, then what happened?”

“Well, I lifted it up and looked at the bottom…here, I’ll show you:”

What’s really strange is that I then went to pick up the second jug and it had exactly the same thing – bottom was out of it.  But not only was the jug broken, the piece that should have been in the bottom was nowhere to be found.  It gives me goosebumps…”

“Wait.  Let me look exactly where it was sitting…”

“Well, no glass at all there.  What do you think happened?”

“I’ve been thinking about it all morning, and nothing makes sense,” Elaine explained.

I came out here, like I always do, and there’s no way the raccoons or possums could knock out the bottom of wine jugs.”

I sort of shrugged; not sure what to think.  “No, and animals don’t knock the bottom off of jugs and then run off with broken glass…”

That’s why I have goosebumps.  Makes my scalp tingle.  You know, what could knock the bottom out of two wine jugs which didn’t have any wine in them – I’ve been using them for hauling water out to the tub out front for a couple of months, now…”

We kicked it around for a while and still haven’t found either the glass or any clues as to what would do thing kind of thing.

Well, except I was doing some experiments with sound-stacking this week.  OOPS!

If you missed the woo-woo on that, click over to the Thursday column Mexico Invades U.S. – CPI Data – Woo-Woo “Day of 12”.  Scroll down to the woo work report there.

The last time Elaine watered the crows was Wednesday morning.  The water doesn’t get used very fast and the deer are mainly drinking out of the creek which is flowing good in a few places.

Not going off half-cocked here and claiming this is a major woo-woo event, BUT the bottom of one jug is plum missing and I’ve never heard of animals doing this kind of thing.

I don’t reckon it’s a human because they aren’t so neat and who is going to poke around a ranch uninvited in the middle of Texas at night?  That’s just asking to be Castle Doctrine 9 mm and 7.62 test cases, which the perp wouldn’t see for the face full of bear spray, anyway…

Elaine assures me both jugs were empty, so it wasn’t a big ice expansion that broke them.

And even if it was, I MIGHT buy that explanation, except, as Colombo would have said:  “Sir, sir, ders juss one ting dat bothers me.  The bottom of the jug, sir.  Where’s the bottom of the jug?”  [Spoken in a poor imitation of Peter Falk’s perfect character delivery…]

My head hurts on this one. No, Sam, the Siamese doesn’t do Memorex…let alone pick up after himself…

Since you might have the day off, go ahead and set up 300 wine jugs around your house, have windows and doors open, and here’s the sound frequencies to start with (Second and third harmonics are shown in case the feds want to talk about setting off earthquakes…):


Fire Drill?

My firefighter/EMT/construction site safety whiz son made an important observation before heading out on his latest adventure.

You know dad, even if I got from here, up to the fire station, and drove the wildland tanker down here as fast as I could, there’d still be 10-minutes involved and the house or shop could be fully involved in that time…  Think we should look at a make-shift firefighting rig here…”

Believe me, there’s a lot stacking up on the side of fire prevention lately.  My consigliere has been ragging about how all the tall pines (antenna supports) within 150 feet of the house need to be taken down, too.

Sometimes, when Universe speaks (as it does  – always through other people’s voices) you need to listen. I did a little local horse trading (the Texas way!) and came up with a fresh-water safe IBC tote!

Let us know how many more you need, George,” said my neighbor S. who uses similar clamp on bucket forks on his tractor as we use for moving such things around.

No worries on the hazards – this is a one-time use for food grade organic hydrogen peroxide in food processing, so no tank worries!

I have never owned an IBC Tote before, but they are really neat.  Big filler and a standard barrel bong insert on the top.  And an inexpensive valve at the low point.

How you planning to fill it?” my neighbor wondered.

“I’m thinking about alongside the shop building.  Guuter it up. That’d give me harvest area of 40 feet by about 22, so call it 880 square feet.  I figure we’ll get about 48-inches of rain this year, anyway.  So, make that about 3,500 square feet of capture which translates to, um…232 cubic inches to a gallon, so 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot…um…7.45 gallons in a cubic foot so, er….25,900 gallons a year refills 275 how often?  Something like 90 times over?”

Of course, this is not something that will be simple to move around.  128 pounds of tote with 275 of water will weigh just over one ton; call it 2,330 pounds.

The Fire Plan

Yeah, we have lots of extinguishers – 5 LB dry-chems and the like.  But this will up our firefighting game to a whole new level.

But the balance of system won’t be cheap.

Part of me wants to spring for a nice Davey Firefighter 5 High-Pressure Twin-Impeller Fire Pump w/GX200 6.5hp Electric Start Engine.  For $2,100 and change.

Hose isn’t too bad – if you keep a canvas cover over it, decommissioned used 1-1/2 inch line in 100 foot lengths isn’t bad.  Like any big ranch investment, buy firefighting gear while California is dog-paddling.

Balance of system – a 100 watt starting solar panel, battery, and MPTP controller isn’t too big a cost.  Square tubing to weld up a big-ass rack for a big hose reel?  Different story.

Dixon Valve makes a hose reel that will hold a hundred feet (+) of fire hose and then some – depending on whether you go with pre-connect or not.  But that’s where you start to run into real dough.  A pre-connect is really what we’d be after since this would all be set up for a one-person operation.  Run out the hose, hit a remote start and here comes water.

If you had to run back to the pump and spin up a hose fitting and start the pump and run back to the nozzle which would be out there a way, that’s wasted time.  But only $200 and change for a reel, though.

For now, this is in the same bin with uncountable projects around here:  Acquisition of parts.  George2 can deal with the specifics when he gets back in state this spring sometime.

Or we could just put on scuba rigs or Airpacks, flood the office with halon-5 and wait around to see what’s leftover after the fact?  Naw…not as much fun as more power equipment to maintain…

Write when you get rich,