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Kenneth Elwell

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since Jan 01, 2018
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Metalworker, Blacksmith, Machinist, Welder, Woodworker, Builder, Farmer, Composter,
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Boston, Massachusetts
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Recent posts by Kenneth Elwell

Mike Haasl wrote:Sorry Carl, I neglected to mention that the engine is a sort of slow piston compression device.  I'm thinking it would compress a hydraulic piston 4" on a heating stroke, then retract on the cooling cycle.  Those cycles would not be fast, maybe a cycle every 4-10 seconds.  So that's why I think it would need a small accumulator to average out those pulses for a downstream hydraulic motor.

I don't have a good feel for the cycle rate until we build one.  Or we find someone who's really good at calculating thermal effects on metals...   If it's 4 seconds per cycle, I calculate 1 liter/min at 338 bar (4900 psi).  I have no idea how much energy needs to go into it to get that power out but I'm assuming it's 30-60% more.  The key here is that this engine would take low grade heat differences and convert them into usable power.

If a single piston's cycle is 50% heating, 50% cooling, couldn't you add a second or third piston at 180* or 120* phasing to get full use of the heat and cold sources? I'm assuming that the "low-grade heat" (waste heat?) is constant... and maybe you are pumping cooling water?
8 hours ago
I have since gotten that tool, and make good use of it. I find it works well on pallets in "good condition" and the swiveling pads do make a great difference over other pry-bar methods.
On pallets of "fair" or "poor" condition, I find it a crap-shoot as to whether the boards will split or crack at the ends, usually the middle makes it whole, but not always... Sometimes the nails pull out with the boards, sometimes the nails tear through the boards and remain in the stringers. A 3 foot nail puller is a good companion, since these nails get in the way of further use of the pallet buster.

If I am realistic about my use of the boards, I acknowledge that I will often cut away the nail holes and splits at the ends. So, depending on that, I may opt for just sawing off the two side stringers and only pry the boards off of the center stringer. I may even just cut all the stringers out, resulting in two shorter deck boards, but without the risk of splitting at all.

Another thing is too be realistic about yield. You will break some boards... The wood is usually some form of "reject" to begin with, despite how nice some of it looks. It's either wood that is un-graded air-dried (maybe) stuff that wasn't ever going to become furniture or framing lumber, or it is stuff that didn't meet the grade, or culls from the lumber yard. I just used some OSB from a pallet/crate that was stamped "Reject - all other stamps VOID" so, consider your re-use, if it might be structural... Plan ahead for this and get an extra pallet, or three? They're free right?

The nails used on pallets are usually (almost always) nail-gun (not by hand) nails, and often have ribbed or spiral shanks for better grip, and may be coated with glue as a means of "collating" the nails for the gun. The glue melts when it enters the wood as fast as it is driven by the gun. Another thing that happens to pallets in the weather is rust. All of this makes for difficult pulling of the nails. Sometimes a hit with a hammer will break the nail free before pulling. Sometimes a mallet to strike your nail-puller will do the same, although you may tear off the head. (nail pulling pliers are amazing here). Sometimes driving a nail in or folding it over is adequate, if you aren't sawing it there. And, finally, these nails can be difficult to straighten and reuse... It can be done, but you'll spend a lot more time.
I also got a de-nailing gun, which drives the nails OUT of the boards once pried apart, which is great if you are serious about this. It can turn the nails into flying projectiles though!!, So over a garbage can or pail helps but not even a sure bet... I haven't tried a water-filled one, or through a sacrificial garbage bag over the top, but those might help?

A magnet sweeper. Free lumber isn't free... if you have a nail in your tire. If you dismantle pallets in your driveway, or garage, be EXTRA careful to clean up ALL THE NAILS! Seriously, price out a tire (installed) plus that lost time, and price out new lumber.
19 hours ago

Derrick Reid wrote:The question as to wax container.  .  as silicone is used for cooking containers, muffin tins for example,  finding some kind of silicone container should remedy the who expansion and burning point issue.

Welcome to Permies, Derrick!

Possibly even just a silicone lid... there are silicone tops for Mason jars for fermentation. It would depend on whether the jar was confined within a cob bench (expansion space would need to be within the jar) or if it were a "hot water bottle" style warming device, where a flexible lid could bulge out when heated.
2 days ago
R and Robert both have good ideas.
You say that the top part of the screw fell out, could you post a picture of the screw fragment? We could tell quite a bit from seeing it (type of screw, it's material, how it broke?)
2 days ago
I feel like I have seen tires used as a means of "mechanically stabilizing earth" in areas that it might otherwise shift away, such as on a slope, or fill over a soft base. I think the tires had at least one of the sidewalls cut out, for ease of filling, and the remaining hoop (tread of the tire) is laid flat on the ground in a tight pattern of hoops, and packed full of gravel. There is a commercial product that is a "honeycomb" mat that ships folded up, which gets opened up and staked in place then filled with gravel. There is also geo-textile for placing under gravel, to keep it from mixing/sinking into soft base material.
2 days ago
The boxer shorts could be very easy to make without elastic. If the waistband is a casing with an opening (possibly just a wide buttonhole?) for a drawstring. A wide drawstring sewn from the same light fabric, or a ribbon, might be more comfortable than an actual string (like what's common on swimming trunks or sweatpants).
Another option would be to add a button at the waist, and a fly, to open like a pair of pants, with buttons or hooks (some boxers, not the ones in the video above, have a buttoned opening in front "for access"). The waist would need to be a measured fit, like pants. One could possibly have a row of buttons (like on a shirt cuff), or some other ties, or tabs with buttons at the hips, to be slightly adjustable.
2 days ago
Yeah. Liquid Wrench is another penetrating oil spray that works better than WD-40.
The physical plant guys at college HATED WD-40! , students would "fix" their squeaky heater fans themselves with some WD-40... Truth is, it is a better cleaner and solvent than it is a lubricant, so the oil-filled bronze bushings in the heater fans would have what little oil was remaining in them dissolved and flushed away by the WD-40. They'd go from squeak to squeal in a few days, at which point it was a crap shoot as to whether oil could save the fan.

In a pinch, it sure is better than dry, but it won't last and should be replaced with the correct lube on moving parts.

Aha! I see that I'm cross-posting... stuck sewing machine screws? It's likely that they are not stainless steel... probably highly polished or plated steel. Sewing machine parts need to be hard to not wear out, and that gets expensive to make in stainless. (You can sniff out stainless with a magnet, no attraction, or weak attraction, is or could be stainless)

One thing I always have to remind myself is that penetrating oil takes time... it's not a magic wand to spritz on with immediate results. Tiny screws are easy to break or strip if forced. One last thing, sometimes a screw won't budge when trying to unscrew it, but there could be just a little more that it can be tightened... which breaks it free to be unscrewed and/or allow the oil to penetrate further/faster. It's tricky working with delicate parts. Patience.
2 days ago
Northmen have done at least one house project with packed wood shavings as insulation.
2 days ago
It is of course a fallacy to equate time spent at home with one's wages earned at a job... unless you are "stealing" time away from your potential earnings/workday hours, like you said.
One is also paying taxes on the wages, possibly taxes again on the purchased fuel, plus other costs such as: delivery, commuting, gym membership, meals away from home, etc... The wood is free from many of these.
It could also be function stacking, like clearing fallen limbs or unwanted trees of your own, or for others (possibly for pay/rewards). Burning in your stove rather than hauling to a yard waste site, or not lugging your junk mail to the curb...

Your priorities as to which hobby gets your time are up to you to decide... I'm struggling with this right now as well. Opportunity both in the time/calendar sense, and in the physical/space/equipment sense. There's always deadlines and limitations. If you want tomatoes, there's a schedule you need to get on to guarantee a harvest, if you want dry firewood to burn, the same... If you have a woodshed or a greenhouse it is different than a woodpile under a tarp or plant starts on the dining table. There's work and day-to-day life that often fills up all the time, leaving less time for hobbies.

What is your measure of success? Enjoyment? Reducing external costs? Flavor? Self-sufficiency? Is it all-or-nothing? or is a partial victory good enough?
You could burn a fire only when it suits you, when it could be enjoyed while reading a book, or some other transient/passive tasks, and NOT when you need to focus on gardening, or some other tasks.
Incremental changes can free up time/space/thought. Reducing here, frees up something there... It could be anything; shrink film over windows to reduce drafts, enough socks to make laundry day just every other week, giving up on one idea in favor of a new idea, one-pot meals, take-out meals to not have to spend time cooking on your "_____ day" to have more time for "_____". Sometimes chipping away works, sometimes one big focused effort is best.

3 days ago
William, don't tell Mike his wasn't the first name that popped into your head...Mike's passive solar greenhouse build

Paul Robinson's YouTube channel or Geo-Dome website has some neat ideas about structures (mostly domes). His pyramid greenhouse is neat, and his segmented designs don't require long/large pieces of lumber. Lots of sawing though...

Tractor Supply is a source for livestock panels, looks like there's a few in the suburbs of Cincinnati, maybe 15 -20 miles out.

4 days ago