Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My latest Leather Project

Knife Frog and Mini-Maglight Holster

The knife is an E. Jonsson Mora utility knife with it's original plastic sheath from which I removed the rather cheesy button strap.

The flashlight is a standard 2-AA Mini-Maglight that I've upgraded with the Nite-Eyes focus-able LED lamp and IQ Switch multifunction tail-cap switch.  I'm toying with the idea of getting a red Mini-Maglight and swapping out parts so the light will be red over black like the knife.  What do you think?

Oh, the other strap is my keyring holder that I posted about here.  On third thought that may have been over at FaceBook and that's set up so only friends can get at it.  I shall have to remedy that.  (Eventually...)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How it works

I’m much better at explaining complex systems with pictures, so here goes…

I still need to do the math to figure out how much I can actually run with this system.  We’ll get there.

“Cap’n!  I need morrre time!”

(Actually, after fighting with my scanner drivers for much of the evening, and now sitting here listening to Cam & Co. I just don’t feel like writing.  So ask any questions in the comments {assuming the comments will actually work…} and I’ll try to find the answer.)

Introducing HerrBGone’s Power & Light

At HerrBGone’s Power & Light we have entered the testing phase of our newly installed solar powered photovoltaic distributed generation station.


I made the final connections between the panels on the roof and the charge controller last night.  Since it was pitch black night by the time I got home from work the lines from the panels were cold.  I disconnected the hot lead from the battery bank to the charge controller making that cold as well.  Then I replaced the screw connectors with new ones that were sized to fit the posts better.  The first pair had too large a hole and cranking down on the knobs trying to get a tight connection wound up pulling the threaded inserts part way out of the plastic knobs.  Fortunately I was able to press them back in and they were still useable.  The new screw connectors solved that problem and actually had to be opened up just slightly with my drill press to fit on the posts.  Probably metric posts vs. English holes.

This morning before breakfast I grabbed my meter and checked the lines from the panels to see if the were producing any electricity.  Lighting conditions were what the slip of paper that came with your roll of film might call about half way between “cloudy dull” and “cloudy bright.”  Not optimal by any stretch of the imagination.  The meter still showed 20.9 VDC open circuit!  That was with the charge controller switched off.  After switching it on the reading dropped as expected.  Under load the meter read 12.7 VDC.  Maybe enough to put a little juice into the batteries, but not enough to make much of a dent in any kind of regular use.  Still, even with fairly poor generating conditions we are making some electricity.   It will be interesting to see how it runs with actual sunlight on the panels.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photovoltaic System 90% Installed

Yesterday was an errands day including visiting the local home center uber store for the stuff I’d need to install the solar panels on the roof and get them all hooked up to put some juice into my storage batteries.  The panels went up today and all of the inside equipment got hooked up too.  Unfortunately actually connecting the panels to the charge controller will have to wait for tomorrow.  The wires supplied on the panels don’t reach the controller.  I’ll need to stop by the uber store again for a terminal strip, about six feet of wire and some clamp type lugs.

Behold!  The panels:

I got my new solar panels installed just in time for the sun to set.  Tomorrow, before the panels will be connected to the charge controller there will be some sun.  But it will likely be raining before I get out of work.  And the ten day forecast doesn’t mention any sun again until Thursday.  They are predicting partly cloudy for Saturday so I may get to test the system then.

Speaking of the charge controller and batteries, here they are:

One of the other stops we made yesterday was at a local consignment shop.  I was looking for a small table that would let me set up the system pretty much as I have it here.  I haven’t had a desk that size since I was in the third grade!  This one even has a hole through the top for an inkwell!  That’s the perfect place to route the wires from the panels on the roof to the back of the charge controller.  That’s the box to the right where junior’s books, papers and frog for show and tell used to go.  The box to the left is the inverter.  The inverter has two standard house plugs that supply “modified sign wave” 120 volts AC.  It also has a fan so I don’t think heat should be much of an issue.  The charge controller has several options for powering various things with DC ranging from 3 volts to 12.  Both have USB connectors to charge things that need that style connection.

The two cables coming loosely down the wall and in through the inkwell are for the 12VDC florescent lights that came with the solar panel kit.  They are set up temporarily to provide emergency lighting to the area shown in the second photo.  They work – though not very brightly.  I haven’t decided if they will be set up there permanently or not.  You can see their connectors dangling from the bookshelf right next to the charge controller.

All of the ‘stuff’ on top of the desk is generally like kind to what the desk was put here for.  There’s a car charger, a booster box and a really lame ‘plugs into the lighter socket’ booster box there.  Also I’ve put the chargers for my smaller Makita power tools there.  Those will be plugged into a grid connected switched power strip.  Once I get one to go there.
Oh by the way, that’s R2 sitting next to the desk waiting patiently for the next time we’ll need him…

There was one other item I picked up at the home center uber store: an appliance load tester.  I’ll be using that to find out how much juice my stuff really needs in order to determine just how much (or how little, as the case may be) can actually be run from this system.

I am almost looking forward to going to work so I can rest!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Oh realy?

Several west coast Occupy groups are "digging in and calling for reinforcements."

Keep your powder dry.  This could get messy....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This is a test…

Not the one the FCC ran at 2 o’clock this afternoon. 

I just did a very small test of my batteries and inverter.  After moving the batteries to the top of my generator’s frame so I could get at them easier than leaving them on the shop floor, I got out my good meter and checked them both.  I was surprised to find they both are showing 12.46 volts!  They are actually charged!  I has assumed (I know I shouldn’t) that they most likely wouldn’t be.

Having juice available I hooked up the inverter to one of the batteries and tried running my air mover fan.  It worked as if it were plugged into the wall.

This actually leaves me with something of a quandary: Having both batteries charged and in good working order and having the brand new inverter that we’ve now proven actually works and hopefully having the solar panels installed this weekend to keep the batteries charged – what should I do with this power?  I bought this equipment to be able to power an appliance or two, mainly the refrigerator and the furnace, for a few cycles a day in the event of the grid going down as it did last week.  Living where we do that is a fairly uncommon thing, particularly for as long a time as it was out this last time.  In the mean time is it a waste to not use the excess power that will be left over beyond what’s needed to maintain the charge on the batteries?

Hmmm…  You know, I think this is a good quandary to find myself in.  And that’s a nice change of pace!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More on the boat

Sounds like “Moron, the boat!” – only different…

Originally written for an email:

I took a brain-care break this evening and spent some time re-rigging her.  I'd gotten her all squared away back to as-built condition for that picture.  Well, except for the broken bowsprit. 

Tonight she got something of a makeover!  I added four screw eyes to her deck.  Two by the foot of the mast.  Those are for the Main and Jib Halyards, respectively.  She had been built with no jib halyard at all and the main was doing double duty as part of the standing rigging!  Talk about minimalist!  The other two screw eyes are mounted back along the rail just aft of amidships.  Those are for the Jib Sheets.  I suspect that whoever built her just couldn't believe the sheets for the "front" sail belong so far "back."

I made her a new bowsprit from some dowel stock I'd bought a long time ago to build a boat model from scratch.  I'll have to get some stain to match it to the rest of the model.  Also, all of the standing rigging has been replaced with proper black line as if it had been tarred to protect it from the salt spray.

That's about as far as we've gotten tonight.  Most enjoyable play and an even more satisfying model.  There will be more improvements made over time.  But I think we've made a good start so far.

HerrBGone  (who bears more resemblance to a younger E.J.Smith than to Jonas Grumby...)

Monday, November 7, 2011

I bought a boat!

Actually, I mentioned that in last night's post abut the flea market.  I spent quite a while re-rigging her after the mess she was in when I first saw her at the flea.  I actually started untangling the mess even before I bought her. Being in the state she was in, combined with it being the last day of the year, I got her for a steal!  All of ten bucks got me all of this boat!  I suspect the seller might have given some consideration to my sounding like I knew a little bit about boats.  And that I seemed enthusiastic about this one in spite of her condition.

I didn't have a camera with me yesterday to take a before picture and I struck the mast to transport her home in my little VW so I couldn't take one after we got home.  I also still need to make a custom display cradle for her.  Once I do she will be displayed in the front window in the living room.

Here's a preview with her hanging from the chain that is holding a nice red glass candle holder in the window at the moment.

With the proper bracket she will be positioned (and supported) much better. 

I've always been intrigued by gaff rigged boats.  Now I have one!  (Sort of...)

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Here it is barely seven thirty EST as I’m getting started writing today’s update and I’m already starting to nod off.  It’s been that busy a day.  And to foul up my internal clock still further, today is also the day we Fall Back from daylight savings time to standard time.  The clock might say seven thirty, but my brain insists it’s really eight thirty.

Today was the last day of the season at the flea market.  I often get some spectacular deal on the last day.  Not so much today, though I did alright. 

Probably the most useful thing from the flea is the really nice pair of Thinsolate lined deerskin gloves I picked up for a very reasonable price.  They should do me well this winter.  When I showed them to my buddy Roger he went over and got himself a pair too.

At another table I found a small screwdriver set that looks like a Parker Big Red pen.  The clip is a little different, but that’s clearly what they were copying.  I had seen them on a website about Parker pens, but I couldn’t find it again when I looked this evening.

Oh, I also bought a boat. 

Okay, so it’s a display model of a gaff rigged sail boat.  She’s 29 5/8 inches LOA not including the bowsprit which is missing.  I’ve never sailed a gaff rigged boat myself, but I like their looks.  I will have to replace the bowsprit and square away the rigging since it’s rather a mess at the moment.  But that’s part of the fun!  Except for the forward end of the bowsprit everything seems to be there.  So it should be fairly straightforward to fix her all up.  Then I’ll need to make a display stand.  That should be a nice little project to break in my new scroll saw on.  Then I’ll need to decide just where to put her.  I have wanted a model like this for the house for some time.  Lashed to the deck is another boom (or possibly a yard) and sail.  I’m wondering if that’s supposed to be a Genoa and jib boom or if it might be a square rigged sail that I once saw in a book on small boats labeled as a “Captain’s handkerchief.”  I am toying with the idea of adding that later just because I like square rigged ships so much.


After the flea we took Me2 back to the County Store.  Since I had my receipt and the box was unopened and in good condition I had no trouble with the return.  I wish I could have kept the little stove, but I don’t really have anywhere to store it and I need the cash for other things.

Those other things include the 45 watt solar panels that are now sitting in front of the fuel storage shelf in the enclosed porch and the 750 watt continuous (1500 watt peak) inverter I bought to go with it.  I was actually surprised that I was able to get the solar panels in Galileo!  Now that I have all of the primary components on hand I need to get serious about designing their installation.

Between the County Store and Harbor Freight we checked out a new to us Mexican restaurant with some friends from the flea.  I can’t recall the name of the place, but it’s in the Shaw’s Plaza in Milford.  Easy parking, good service, tasty food and the desert was to die for!  We all declared it a winner.  Hopefully this one will be consistently good – unlike the Italian place that on our second visit was so-so at best.

I probably could have broken this up into three or four separate posts.  But I’m just too tired to do that tonight. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Baby Steps…

A few days ago I mentioned repurposing one of the storage shelves on our enclosed porch.  I finally had some time to get to that today.  I didn’t take a junk-filled before photo, but here’s an after of sorts.

I was pleasantly surprised that the blue kerosene cans actually do fit on that bottom shelf.  Almost like it was made for them as a matter of fact!  Next to them are some fluids for the car.  I’m not sure the shelf is wide enough for a gas can. 

On the next shelf up are some more fuels for various things.  From left to right is some lamp oil.  I was sure I had some on hand before this latest blackout.  But not having a good storage place for it I didn’t realize we only had what was in the globes of a couple of my antique lamps.  So we had some – but nowhere near enough.  These two jugs are from our recent run to the County Store.  Next to that is a jug of Tiki Torch fuel with citronella.  Not the best fuel to use in an indoor oil lamp, but it will work in a pinch.  Fortunately the outage didn’t last so long that we would have needed to resort to that.  Then there’s a can of white gas for the little stove that’s hiding in the red velvet bag on the next shelf up.  The lighter fluid in front of the Tiki fuel is for my classic Zippo.  I have decided that it really isn’t the best lighter for my oil lamps, but I made do with it this time around.  That blue watering can is used to refill the oil lamps – when I have fuel to refill them with…  Next to that are two shaker cans of ice melt.

Hanging on the hook on the front of the shelf is my somewhat less than ideal fuel siphon.  I had to add additional length to the draw tube to actually reach the kerosene in the tank out back of the house.  I bought a new one that’s battery powered at the County Store.  I haven’t tried that yet, so I can’t offer a review.

The next shelf up has some candles, the white gas stove and a small tote of lamp parts, wicks and such.  The corrugated boxes are full of various glass stuff that will eventually be moved elsewhere.

There are two more shelves in this unit.  The next up from what’s shown has two or three boxes of various household hardware items.  Light fixtures, locksets, stuff like that.  The top of the unit has flattened corrugated boxes waiting their turn to carry stuff over to storage.  The plastic tarp is there to protect it all from where the awning that is the roof of this enclosed porch leaks a little right where it joins to the house.  A bit of a nuisance really, but not much I can do about it the way it was made.

So there you have it.  A bit more organized and in a secure and handy location but outside of our living area.  I will eventually replace the open shelf with an enclosed fire resistant cabinet once the funding becomes available…

My plans for tomorrow are to return Me2 (the 10.5K BTU heater) and to purchase a solar panel rig from Harbor Freight.  Buy the way, they are on sale this month for $179.95 and as of nine this morning they had twenty five of them in stock at the store I frequent.

One disappointment today:  When I brought the stuff that had been cluttering up this shelf over to storage I couldn’t find the inverter that I had for my camper.  I have no idea now where it might be and the battery back up system is useless without one.  I don’t think it was big enough to use in this kind of system anyway.

To the Wayback Machine!

Now I realize this is a repeat, and a recent one at that.  But in honor of this being the fortieth anniversary of the release of Medal I present Echos:

Go Full Screen.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Busy busy...

This noon on my lunch break I've started writing a spreadsheet to calculate our power needs for the house.  But I’m not making much headway on it.  I'll use it to work out what we can run with the storage capacity available in the batteries I already have.  Once I know that I can determine if the photovoltaic rig from Harbor Freight will be big enough to keep the batteries charged and how much of our ‘stuff’ we can expect to run in a typical day from the batteries. 

I’ve already drawn a preliminary sketch of how I can wire the system to be able to safely switch the refrigerator (or any other appliance for that matter) back and forth between grid power and the inverter that will draw power from the bank of batteries.  I’ll post a link to a better version of the sketch once I’ve redrawn it up to my standards.

Once the generator is squared away I’ll work out how to tie it in to the system both for direct power and to charge the batteries if there isn’t enough sun.

Another thing I want for the house is this really neat ventless gas fake wood stove that can run on bottled propane.  I spotted that at Lowe’s the other night.  It looks much like a larger version of the electric space heater we have in the living room.   At $450- plus installation by a licensed gas fitter I’m afraid that’s out of my reach right now.  But we WILL have one eventually.  We already have propane for the water heater.  It would be silly not to be able to use it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Woo Hoo!

Which, after last night is not how I expected to title today’s update!

Last night R2 was acting up.  I mentioned that he was in yesterday’s posts.  Well we basically had no heat for most of the night.  And last night was the coldest night of the blackout.  My outdoor thermometer was reading 28.(something) when I checked it this morning.  What I don’t now remember is if that’s this morning after I got up or after I gave up trying to fix R2.

R2 is a KeroWorld KW24G.  We got him, as I mentioned previously, to cope with the last major power failure we’ve lived through.  That was the so-called “Great” Ice Storm of 2008.  (I’d still like to know what was so great about it… (Why am I picturing Jeff Dunham’s sidekick, Walter, saying that?))

So anywho, it’s been much smokier than I remember from 2008.  We hadn’t used it since then, but I made sure there wasn’t any old kerosene left in the tank before I put it away.  But apparently I must have had some bad kerosene at some point because gradually the wick stopped wicking and the flame became unstable.  I got up to check it around twenty minutes of eleven last night and there was just one little bit of actual flame visible in the window and a dim glow down at the wick.  But even that was only part way around the burner.  So in the dark working with my way cool camo baseball cap with the built in LED light and one of my Mini-Maglight flashlights (that I’ve upgraded with the Night-Eyes LED kit and multi-function tailcap switch) I tore into a strip, clean and rebuild of our old pall R2.

I was, shall we say, “less than successful.”

I finally gave up a little after one this morning.  After adding another blanket and grabbing one of my cold weather hats I went back to bed.

It was like a meat locker in the house when we got up this morning.

I made the executive decision that Mum and I would hop in Galileo and head off to the County Store in Milford, NH where we bought R2 and see A) if they have power and were open, and B) if so do they have a replacement wick for R2?  And besides, Galileo has heat!

Now I did check R2 before we left and the flame had come back up to nearly half of what it should have been.  The kettle had heated the water enough for hot coco.  But the room was still much too cold to leave Mum at home while I went off to work.

Back to the County Store: The first thing I spotted on entering the store (after the Christmas village decorations) was a small end cap display of lamp oil!  They not only had lamp oil but quite a few kerosene heaters and other power failure supplies too.

Have I mentioned how much I like this store?

Chatting with a very helpful sales clerk about what we were looking for she knew immediately what we were after and exactly where it was.  But she did have a disturbing question for me: “Is your heater a KeroWorld or KeroSun heater?”  I’d written down the model number – but not the brand.  Now I wasn’t sure.  The model number matched the heaters they have in stock so we made the leap of deduction that it must be a KeroWorld heater.  I confirmed that after we got home.

But that nagging doubt…

After paying for our initial purchase and going out to Galileo I made another of my executive decisions: I went back in and bought a smaller 10.5K BTU heater – just in case.  That was a $119- expense I really can’t afford.  But having driven all the way to New Hampshire and being ‘right there’ I didn’t want to have to drive back if I couldn’t get R2 back up and running.

So now we have R2 and Me2.  Since the box has not been opened I could maybe return Me2 and look into getting the Solar Photovoltaic System at Harbor Freight instead.  But that presupposes that I can get R2 running again.  I didn’t bother this morning because…

… not five minutes after we got back from New Hampshire the power came back on!

Woo Hoo!!!

More later.  Right now I’ve got to go to the cafĂ© and grab something for lunch.  What with all the refrigables declared NFG there wasn’t anything left for me to brown-bag-it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Moving Forward

After work I’m planning to go over to Lowe’s to see if they have power and to see if a fresh truckload of things like lamp oil might have come in.  I would be very surprised if they still had any of their stock from before we started with all this fun.  While I’m there I also plan on looking at prices for the components to build a Mother Earth News style passive solar heater.  I’ve decided where I can mount one (or two or three) at home and I’d like to get the planning stages started.  One thing I might buy while I’m there is a better transfer pump to give me easier access to my kerosene.

After that hopefully the Gouge Station – I mean Gas Station – will still have some (way over priced) regular unleaded in stock.  Galileo has gotten much lower than I usually let him.  Timing is everything!  * eyeroll *

So among other things this little practice run has reminded me of is that I really need to get going on my back-up power system. 

I actually have a generator.  I bought it used at a yard sale.  I was told that there was an issue with the engine not wanting to run at a constant speed.  I’ve been meaning to check into that but haven’t gotten ‘round to it. 

A couple of weeks ago I picked up, for very short money at another yard sale, a pair of good sized storage batteries that would work well with an inverter – if I had a way to charge them.  I even have an inverter around somewhere!  Come to think of it, it’s probably over in storage with all of the stuff I pulled out of the van when I was getting ready to sell it.

Another thing I want to set up is a photovoltaic system that can, among other things, be used to charge those batteries.  Harbor Freight has just such a system, though they are almost certainly out of stock.  (Assuming the store has power and is actually open…)

One small thing I can do without purchasing anything else is to continue putting up the plastic over the windows.  Mum may not realize it (until she reads this) but I am deliberately holding off on that to allow some air exchange into the house so we don’t croak from smoke inhalation what with R2 acting up a bit at the moment.

I have also decided that the black plastic shelf just outside the door in the pantry part of our enclosed porch is going to have all of the storage junk removed and boxed to go to storage to make room for fuel storage.  Both 5 gallon kerosene cans will be filled and put on the bottom shelf along with one can of gasoline.  The next shelf up will house our cash of fuel for our oil lamps along with some citronella torch fuel and lighter fluid..  There will be a box or tote of oil lamp parts.  I have quite a bit of that sort of thing scattered around various cabinets and boxes and such.  It all needs to be gathered in one place.

I have a barrel on hand just waiting for me to set up my rain water catchment system.  That’s another of those projects that’s been waiting for me to have the time to actually decide how I want to implement.

So I have a pile of work around the house to get to – much of which will have to wait for the power to come back on.  I’ll try to make a point of documenting each of these projects and post updates as things progress.  So check in from time to time to see how (if?) things are going.  I can use all the encouragement I can get as well as your suggestions for better ways to accomplish the stuff that needs doing.

Brief Update

‘Step 1’ is coming along nicely while ‘Step 2’ is still in development…  Oh, wait!  Not that kind of brief!  ;-)

The power is still out.  This is now Day 3, not counting Saturday since power went out around 10:30pm.

Last night Mum fixed supper on R2 for the first time.  Spaghetti O’s augmented with cut up hotdogs. 

As of today I am declaring ALL refrigerated food in the house unfit for human consumption.  We coasted with some of it as the fridge kept its cool reasonably well and was not opened much to help it at that.  Some items were moved to a large plastic tote in our enclosed but unheated porch.  It’s been too warm for that to work for two days now, so I’m putting my foot down.  Mum actually wanted to use the milk we bought Saturday for breakfast.  You see Mum is a depression baby and is loath to throw anything out.  I would rather chuck food that may be still good than spend a couple of days chucking myself, if you know what I mean…   I will make an exception for the cheese as long as there’s no visible mold, although I probably shouldn’t.  Everything else will go out with the trash Friday morning.

We still have plenty of things like pasta, ramen noodle soup, dry beans and canned goods that don’t need refrigeration. 

Oh, I did remember to fill one of our storage jugs with filtered tap water last night.  A couple of months ago I picked up a little Britta filter that mounts to the kitchen faucet.  I think our water at what I’m still calling the new house is fine.  But still, I'd rather be safe than sorry.