This time of the year, millions of Americans take some time off.  One of the most popular ways to do this is by taking a ‘recreational vehicle’ and going somewhere.  But few people realize that to a large extent, RV’s had theirs roots in the original build-out of America.

The February 1905 editions of Popular Mechanics featured pictures of ‘Construction Wagons’ and gave a few examples of companies, like Tri-State Telephone using such wagons to house workers instead of tents.

See if their description doesn’t sound a hell of a lot like the modern RV:

Sounds to us like the major upgrades to RV’ing has been  the addition of slides, air conditioning, and the teamsters driving mules to the big Detroit-Allison combos of big pushers today…

(You can get incredible insights into how crazy we are by getting any old set of hundred-year (or older) magazines.  We have all be ‘solving the same problems’ repeatedly.  Doesn’t say much for us, does it?)

Speaking of A/C

This time of the year if idea to make two important investments in extending the life of your air conditioning systems.

For one, our outside unit gets a good hosing-off this time of the year.

Elaine usually remembers before I do.  The approach on the outdoor unit is very simple:  Kill the adjacent breaker, pop the top, and get a hose inside for a good reverse flushing.

Don’t know about yours, but my wife as an “Auto-Remind” setting in case I forget to turn the breaker back on.

Take care not to use excessive hose pressure so you don’t bend any of the soft fins (or Swedes).  Occasionally, you can get lucky and find a very fine-tooth comb to straighten many at once, but rarely.  Going a bit slower and using due caution is the more time-efficient attack.

Then go indoors and take a turn through the window mounted units if you have any.

This is the window-mounted unit in our palatial offices.  You didn’t think we were going to put a big unit in the shop, did you?

The front grill on this model pops off easily and can be given a half-strength dose of Krud Kutter Kitchen Degreaser All-Purpose Cleaner that you can procure locally or at Amazon.

No special technique.  If you don’t have a few spray bottles for solution-mixing, use full strength and spray on.  Soak for as long as it take to consume one beer and rinse thoroughly.

If you are fortunate enough to cut it in half and spray, give it a good coating but lengthen the soaking time to two-beers duration.

If it doesn’t come clean upon rinsing yet, another good soaking for a period of one to two beers.

If it STILL isn’t getting clean, install the screen cleaned as well as you can (dried with paper towels) and put a check-mark on this project.

We won’t tell.

New Cabinets?

As long as we’re measuring projects “by the beer” we should mention that although it is still too hot to begin big projects like the new kitchen cabinets because of the heat, we’ve been wiling-away the summer reading books on cabinet making and sorting out the cost-benefit of several approaches.

We employ one of our economic “social status indicators” based on how you approach an ‘UrbanRenewal’ project like this.

Upper 5%.  These people have deeper pockets that you and me. They are too busy being too successful to actually do physical work since they likely make so much dough in virtual work that anything “outside the OS” isn’t worth their trifling.

They will simply call their designer, tell them to fix it, and trust the designer to get the job done in a way that will impress other 5%’ers.  Cost be damned.

The upper 20%:  These people, too, can afford to buy completed kitchens.  Sure, there may be a HELOC (home equity line of credit) but the wife will be happy with the speed and look – if you get a good contractor.  Both will be in debt forever, but then again, ain’t we all?

The 30-80%’ers:  The kitchen makeover calculations are most vexing here in this middleground since we’re in this group.  The Choices?

  • Step up and write the big check and have what you want done by someone else.
  • Buy pre-assembled units of an acceptable style from the local Big Box Hardware Stores (Low’ed and Home Despots)
  • Buy pre-assembled units online and hope the freight doesn’t eat the savings.
  • Buy “RTA” – ready to assemble:  And hope you can follow the ‘simple directions’
  • Buy More Power Tools:  And make a run at building your own.  Save enough to buy uppers and the drawer units if you over estimate your skill set.
  • Use a Hybrid Approach:  You can find outfits online that will sell you custom dovetail drawers and custom door facings, too. This way, if you can build the big casework, the rest should be plug & play, but only if you know how to measure.  (There’s some question about my skills in this area, lol.  Eye surgeries didn’t help.)

Lower 5-30%:  These people have to roll low-ball.  Their best option may be to ‘go fishing’ on Craigslist and offer-up.com.  Look for homes being torn down and really focus on daily checks of ‘material’ and ‘free’ sections.  All kinds of interesting goodies, but you need to be patient.

Shy away from pressed wood if it’s old.  If you’re broke, though, you can get new plastic-faced MDF (medium-density fiberboard) ordered-in by a good lumber yard.  My MDF-topped workbench has stood up to all kinds of terrible abuse.  No question it’s not the ideal counter top.  Not as good as Formica or Wilson Art, but here again, lots of good stuff pops up on C/L if you’re patient.

The Bottom 5%.  These people don’t own cabinets, homes, cars, or much anything else.  Their idea of success is finding a way to live and eat for another day.

When you take out an existing kitchen, see if there isn’t some way to recycle the old cabinets.  Use ’em in the shop, or clean up and repaint and use them in the garden shed or in the garage, or downcycle to others not so fortunate as you.

A call to a couple of kitchen remodeler’s might score some salvageable cabinets that could be cleaned up, repainted and resold.  Or, there’s that dream shop you’ve been trying to afford.

Green Lawn Secret

Our yard has looked like August National (at least after mowing and a beer, or three) in part because I actually read-up on how to take care of mowing.

Previous to this year, I had been a “one-setting” kind of guy.  I’d been setting the mower deck for 1-1/2 inches.

But, it turns out, especially if you live in the South, that a 2 or even 2-1/2: length will be best.  Texas A&M has a good four-pager on best practices for lawn with Bermuda grass.

Until reading that, it hadn’t occurred to me that we could overseed with a cool weather grass so I could mow more often and well into winter….

Hell no.

The applicable Ure family staying is:  “What kind of damn fool would fertilizer a lawn so he could mow it more often?”

Most important rule of all:  Don’t cut more than 1/3rd of the grass length at any time, super-especially in hot, dry conditions.

New Tool of the Week

Don’t tell Elaine about this one, but here it is:  A one-handed soldering iron with a pull trigger to feed solder!

This makes it possible to burn my left fingers on wires only, not wires and solder.  Progress at any price!

It was under $22 on Amazon when I spied it.  If they catch on, I expect the price to go up.  That’s the American Way, right?  (Even if the tool comes from China!)

Next Time the Wife is Shopping

Here are some great electronics and computer workbench tips that may involve liberation and extraction from Her sewing and decorating stores…:

(Shop Tip: I dip Zeus the Cat’s front paws into yellow paint to insert these finely crafted letters…He may still be inside your computer for all I know.  haven’t seen him since..)

Left to write….er…right

A.  A small curtain rod or dowel over an inconvenient window can be used effectively as a wire hanging center for test leads, clips, and so forth.  Also works for bungees, short bits of chain, ties, and what-not.  “No, what curtain rod, dear?”

B.  When “She who must be obeyed” is shopping, long0term borrow a dressmaker’s tape from her sewing kit.  Makes a much neater job of many projects like wiring to have everything the same length.  If caught, vigorously deny any knowledge.

The “obey part” is commonly assumed to apply ONLY when She is present…

C.  A Dixie cup dispenser is a nifty way to hold the screws for small projects.  Line them up as you take something apart  The top screws, the bottom screws, and so forth.  Theory is to reassemble in reverse order.

When you spill them and it become an incomprehensible pile of trash, simply over-engineer holders for them.  Another way of saying In your cups…

D.  Waxed lacing twine for electronics is cheap and has a thousand uses.

Back in the day, seemed like everyone used string for almost every project.  Now, we have progressed to Super Glue and lawsuits.  But you can still cut your fingers on waxed lacing twine – its about two dental-flosses worth in thickness.

I have never established that it has any measurable breaking strength.   It’s the undiscovered “Space Elevator” tether. It’s like steel thread for most homely things, too.

Today’s Course Credit:  1/2 a BS (Basic Survival) Unit.  We will soon be offering both free shop wall certificates and wallet cards for the UrbanSurvival Home HandyBastard’s Club which operates our Tool Slut Shelter Program.  Sit by for details.

Write when you…hand me that hammer, would you?

george@ure.net

Sustainable–At the End of the World
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