Coping: Material Science for Preppers

If you are going to survive an ELE (extinction level event) it might be a fair thing to print off in your “Secret Sauce that I Might Need Some Day Journal.” (SSTIMNSDJ for short).

What got me onto this totally overlooked part of prepping?

Two things:

A) Friends of ours are buying a mountain home in Aridzona up on the Mogollon Rim – some of our favorite digs. And a house they had an inspection done on had issues with dry rot on decks.

B) A reader who sent in the following comment:

For one thing, a wood car body is lighter on a per tensile strength measure than gross vehicle materials like steel.”

You mean like a big V8 engine and steel chassis? Um, like that?

Now show me a balsa wood, solar powered one without any ‘gross material’ content. And thanks for the LAFF.”

In each of these cases there is an important lesson (or 10) about Material Science. Reading a book, or three, on topic may see odd for a Prepper’s library, but then the people most likely to live through an ELE will be either incredibly lucky or just plain damn smart. And likely both, although it depends on a lot of factors beyond the scope of yada, yada, yada.

As I told our friends on house hunting:

Aw crap….sorry to hear that house failing inspections.

A lot of problem with decks, esp. since EPA made it illegal to use real rot preventives. Now about all you get is decking soaked in salt water. Pickling.

I have to spray my deck undersides for mildew and d/r again this winter. Only solution is to put in TREX or other engineered decking, but even that doesn’t fix any beam issues.

I love building decks, but maintaining them is a PITA. So maybe composite will be the next go-round or weld up some used oil field scaffolding – comes up on Craigslist now and then.”

The only housing that’s really permanent seems to be a Pyramid or a Coffin. In either case, long-term dwellers don’t seem to be around to complain about materials.

But if you don’t know that a galvanized fastener mixed with aluminum siding is asking for trouble maybe that book on Material Science would make sense.

I’m not saying you need to go the whole MacGyver route, but the more you know, the more you flow with change.

On the second reader’s skepticism of wood for strength, there are two very good learning points I can share.

One of these is that a (Bellanca 17-30) Viking 300 with a six-cylinder engine powering it is one of the faster price/speed deals in air machines out there. Lots of wood in them wings.

A review if the Viking 300 over on the most-excellent website includes this note:

“As any engineer will tell you, there’s a lot to be said for wooden wings; they have an infinite fatigue life (almost), and they can be made incredibly smooth. But they cost more than the same animal in metal and not only is quality spruce getting tough to find, but finding men who are artists with chisels is no easy task either.”

At Last – A Point!

It is simply this: A visit to the Wikipedia discussion ofs “specific strength” of materials is really in order. You will learn (in part):

“The specific strength is a material’s strength (force per unit area at failure) divided by its density. It is also known as the strength-to-weight ratio or strength/weight ratio. In fiber or textile applications, tenacity is the usual measure of specific strength. The SI unit for specific strength is Pa m3/kg, or N·m/kg, which is dimensionally equivalent to m2/s2, though the latter form is rarely used. Specific strength has the same units as specific energy, and is related to the maximum specific energy of rotation that an object can have without flying apart due to centrifugal force.

Another way to describe specific strength is breaking length, also known as self support length: the maximum length of a vertical column of the material (assuming a fixed cross-section) that could suspend its own weight when supported only at the top. For this measurement, the definition of weight is the force of gravity at the Earth’s surface (standard gravity, 9.80665 m/s2) applying to the entire length of the material, not diminishing with height. This usage is more common with certain specialty fiber or textile applications.”

There is a dandy table of examples here.

Most important is to understand the difference between tensile strength (yes, Chrome-Molly steel rocks the category) but when you talk about specific strength on a weight basis, you will see oak in the area of 115-130 (kN*m/kg) whereas poor Chrome-Molly is a meek 85.

To be sure, the wood internal combustion engine is not in the works – I never said it was.

But the “thinking inside the box” that keeps us wedded to old results is slowly breaking. Some progress is being reported – in fits and starts – on the composite and ceramic engine front.

Take a look at some of the concepts kicked around on the LITUS Foundation website. Certainly, that’s a biggy.

Another one to keep and eye on is the Five Cycle Engine which is another novel and effective way to get rid of cooling systems.

If five works, why not six strokes? And so enters the Crower Six-Stroke engine with his state-of-the-art but not in the mass market – yet. A good AutoWeek article on point from 2006 is here.

Meantime, off in background, Mazda filed a patent earlier this year for an updated Rotary engine design.

Marry this engine with the RX-Vision platform that was tossed around in October of 2015, and now you have a good reason follow engine evolutions.

All of which has what to do with prepping exactly?

Damned if I know.

<Must have forgotten the ADHD meds this morning, but it has been a fun adventure.>

Oh yeah, here’s the point:

Materials and Design, Third Edition: The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design.

Sure it’s $59 bucks.

But treat yourself.  The cost of ignorance could be higher.

Around the Ranch: 80-mile Paint

As you may remember (I know, it’s asking a lot), when we left our hero in yesterday’s episode, he was working like hell with the Mrs. to finish up the remodel of the guest quarters before the guests get here.

Although I suggested we give them a Skil saw instruction manual and one pass through the jointer of a 2-by-4 by way of demonstration, then let them do with what they would, Elaine thinks guests shouldn’t be bothered to make their own bath facilities and such.

Best part of my plan?  Guests would sort of “earn-back” their keep/  Elaine cringes, cries a bit, and asks how I can be such an insensitive lout.  After giving her about a third of the list she generally stomps off muttering like a longshoreman wronged by a stevedore.

Go figure. (*How are the young to learn if not from us geezers and our geezer-pleasers?)

Still, fearing celibacy more than death, the painting went on until about 4 PM Thursday whereupon it was time to open the next can of E’s favorite color. It’s a medium/dark coral called “Fire on the Mountain” red. Looks great in the house.

Turns out – since the paint was obviously not the right hue – that it was mixed wrong – using the wrong shade of tint base.

Elaine promptly got in the car, drove to the local Lowes, where they were out of the right tint base. But they were kind enough to reveal the right color was available at the Lowes in Tyler.

If the coffee has kicked in, you should remember that’s a 40-mile each way ordeal. And THAT in turn means 80-miles of driving just to get another can of paint.

We went through about a million options last night trying to figure a way around this drive this morning. Flat black on the unfinished wall might work, since it’s the TV wall…

Elaine agreed in the end that the only way to do the job was right. So I set an alarm when I came over to the office to sort out the financial bubble, telling her I’d set an alarm for her.

What I didn’t tell her was I have no idea when the alarm will go off. Not so much because I set it in the dark. No, it’s more like the alarm is all-black, furry, and overweight. Answers to “Here kitty kitty…” or “Hey, Zeus!” which was my original play on illegals coming through Texas.

Say “Hey Zeus” a few times quickly and read up on Hispanic names if you’re not proper-like beaned yet.

On her local Lowes run last night, she picked up tile which will be turned into semi-Mission style bedside tables, all this while she’s on the 80-mile paint run this morning.

The one other note from the HHB (home handy bastards) section is the Wagner Power Roller “Sidekick” that I told you about yesterday really works like a charm. I got all but about 40 SF rolled in about 2 (grueling, sweat-ridden) hours Thursday.

Clean up was (to my demented way of thinking) easiest of the three “short-cuts” we tried on the project.

There’s a video on Youtube over here about how to do it. Mostly, you toss the roller and stick the machines business-ends in soapy water and go have a beer.

My kind of tool, except that the first beer would turn to steam (I mean If I drank beer). When you’ve sweated off a couple of pounds, one beer is only half as good as Pedialyte, but two is just about right. Look up how much salt there is in beer sometime. You may be surprised.

Still, I did the math and I should be OK drinking 170-cans of beer a day.  Speaking of math:

Check my Math

Yes, the annual inflation rate is 4.907%, not 6% as Mr. Dunderhead reported Thursday..

Always check my math when I do a calculation for you.

It’s not that I don’t know what I’m doing. It is that most of my columns are written long-before the Circadians have come to work.

There will be errors.

As one reader suggested “Try =1.004^12 to get the right number…” D’oh.

Smart Readers Department

Have a look at comments that readers post sometime. They are usually pretty good.

Off to play furniture-building economist now.

Write when you get rich and the turkey thawed…

12 thoughts on “Coping: Material Science for Preppers”

  1. Regarding wood decks … my best outcome was using “OneTime” that provides 7 years of coverage. It is described as a liquid solid.

  2. As a power/stationery engineer, I am familiar with the strength and hardness of materials etc. You made me chuckle this morning as the last time I saw a doctor to get my Cialis prescription refilled, he informed me that the medical profession had done hardness tests on Cialis and Viagra. Needless to say, I switched prescriptions. Talk about WOOD!

  3. yeah, those power rollers will work yer azz off.

    And they just. don’t. ever. stop. pumping paint. Brutal taskmasters are they.

  4. ferro-cement ( check Pierre Luigi Nervi) is super easy, cheap and strong, earthquake resistant, has insulation properties, can be free form shapes, and can be built without much training or other skills.

    i built a 38′ sailboat hull when i was 21, finished it and sailed it 20000 miles with zero problems. and you can build cathedrals and many other things (Turin Domes, St Mary’s in San Francisco).

    very overlooked. here in Hawaii, the permit process to use such an odd building form probably doubles the cost, but in a sane place such as E Texas I’ll bet I could make you shelter in two weeks. a finished house, no. but shelter that works perfect in many ways (perhaps could have Faraday qualities if you laid in copper screen??)… no rot, no paint, few problems.

    lose the wood except for furniture and inside walls.

    sailing a boat on oceans is better but the dirt people have to have something too.


  5. I generally don’t like decks, since you can get the same results from a concrete patio and I if I’m outside, I’m working. If I did build a deck, I’d frame it in steel always. The surfacing could be anything, but bugs and weather will always take wood back to the nature it came from.

    BTW, Elaine had it easy. If I wanted such a can of paint, I’d have to drive 140 miles round trip. I tried several search engines to find the color using the search string “Fire on the Mountain” “red paint”, and ended up with nothing useful. We really do need to find an obligate boolean engine that can either return something relevant, or nothing at all. I still don’t know what shade it is!

    • So when TSHTF how much power does it take to access a TB?
      \They have this stuff called books and paper
      EMP proof too

      • This archive, if printed out at 1kb per page, would literally cover a football field in over a foot of paper. It’s an incredible library of open source knowledge.

        The laptop consumes less than 10 wh. There is an option for an EMP protected laser printer as well.

      • OK, but with 3.5 kw of grid optional solar I’m still not readyhh to trust ALL my knowledgebase to a power source. Luddite, I guess…yep, that’s me. Lud Ure

  6. If you want a tremendous book on materials get this one “The New Science of Strong Materials, Or, Why You Don’t Fall Through the Floor” by James Edward Gordon, Philip Ball. It is absolutely fantastic. It’s one of those books were they patiently explain things to you in terms anyone can follow. Most material books are for engineering and don’t really cover the big picture. I can not recommend this enough.

    Speaking of strong materials look at this NanoCrystalline Cellulose (NCC). Super strong and comes from trees and even brush. Look at the tensile strength on this stuff! 10,000(MPa). Compare to carbon fiber in epoxy at 503(MPa). It’s supposed to be dirt cheap. They’re mixing it with plastics to make super strong plastics. Gonna be big. I’m thinking flywheels. It could beat lithium cells and last virtually forever unlike lithium cells.

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