Kenneth Elwell

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since Jan 01, 2018
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Boston, Massachusetts
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Recent posts by Kenneth Elwell

I've got a trommel screen that I built, so when screening my compost, or sometimes soil to remove sod and stones, I easily can sort them by size. I keep a few of baseball size handy to toss in to shake out the trommel when it gets clogged with wet material
I've used a bunch as roadway fill. Some as drainage in pots, some under the drip line of our walk-in flower cooler.
I also use them as mulch/ballast along our garden deer/rabbit fence line. There's a strip of landscape fabric directly below the fence held down by large bricks on the outside to deter digging and also hold down the flap of chicken wire, and covered in stones on the inside to hide the fabric and not need trimming against the fence.
I've set aside a bunch of pea gravel for a future build of a rocket mass heater for our greenhouse.
I have a collection of the "heart-shaped" stones, set about in random places that I frequent, just because.
5 hours ago
Probably the most wide-reaching thing to do is awareness education. My experience with rabbits in and around my garden tells me there's only so much one person can do with a rifle and road kill.

Cat owners especially, since that's the source of the cats! Whether allowed to roam freely outdoors, or not protected from "escape" from the home, or just "released" due to behavioral problems, or changes in their humans' living/financial situations.
Would-be cat owners about their options for adoption of stray/feral cats (versus 'breeders' and pet stores), and responsibilities of cat ownership regarding wildlife.

Bird-lovers and birdwatchers, many of whom are already likely to be aware. There may be good bird friendly practices for siting birdfeeders to provide cover for birds, safe perches, no/poor access for cats to feeding sites. Birders might also be good allies in effecting legislative change, regarding cat policy for housecats and feral cats, funding for bird research or feral cat capture, creating sanctuaries.

Lawmakers who could pass some beneficial legislation, whether restricting cats (microchips and licenses, ban on outdoor cats? leash laws? fines?), protecting wild birds, limiting habitat loss/degradation, etc.

5 days ago
I also think that a Stirling engine generator would be the way to go. Take a look a the ones they have at Tamera in Portugal, for a sense of how they work and scale of their machine/watts output. Since the Stirling is an external combustion engine, you are only using (waste) heat, which you have in abundance, rather than fuel combusted solely to power the engine (by expansion from combustion, as in the wood gas fueled engine example).
With the ceramics kiln, you likely have a surplus of waste heat from normal operation to also run a Stirling engine generator, and then some. You might also think of how to direct some/all of this waste heat to a mass in your living space.
With the rocket mass heater, it might be the opposite, feeding more fuel then your heating load in order to also run the generator. Either as longer duration, to meet your electric demands, or possibly hotter to supply heat for both?
I think there's some real potential for a RMH barrel-top Stirling engine generator that maybe also makes domestic hot water... Hot end of the engine is on the barrel, cold end of engine is cooled by "hot water" circulated from water heater. (atmospheric system, not pressurized, no "boom-squish"!)
6 days ago
I agree about the tracking of charcoal dust/powder to places you would rather not have it... house, auto, nearby pavement to be picked up by others who thought they were avoiding the mess...
I like the wood chip topping idea, sure it will break down, but that retains your source of compost, now with inoculated biochar! While also keeping your shoes clean.
I'm still amazed at how well our deep woodchip paths work for us by not being muddy, dew-ey, not tracked around by shoes, easy to follow in the moonlight, easy to weed/lack of seed bank to germinate in the first place...
1 week ago
Something that I noticed, in watching the video of the electric mill, and another of a gas powered one:
In the electric version, the motor swings with the blade. Therefore that electric motor needs to fit in the space available, so concerns about larger single phase motors may be valid. On the other hand, motor mounting seems dead easy, 3 bolts through motor base and ample real estate to drill new holes if needed in the frame.
In the gas/ICE version, the motor is kept level (by necessity) and there is some sort of right angle drive in the swing mechanism. The ICE could be replaced with ANY kind of MOTOR (and an appropriate belt) since it is above and away from everything.
1 week ago
I still haven't completed it, because I'm me... but several years ago I opened up a concealed space in my mother's house. My bedroom had a closet on one side, adjacent to the stairs, the entire width of the room. The space above the stairway ceiling included a 3' x3' floor and sloped section, all walled off, only accessible by crawling into a narrow space through a hatch in the end of the closet and entering around the corner between the wall studs.

I cut open the back wall of the closet, following the slope from about 3 feet high down to the floor, and vertically up to the ceiling. I made a built-in shelf to close to upper section, and planned to make two "steps" on the lower, sloped section which would create two triangular cubby holes, as well as a means of reaching the high shelves.

I also "knew" this space was there, I had been through that hatch as a child, exploring, with my friend who lived in the same floor plan house. Ours was a gambrel, his was a garrison, and as such there was an additional 2 feet to that space, his house had a half-bath stuffed in there!
2 weeks ago

William Bronson wrote:
The key is balancing cheap, with fast and good.

As the saying goes, pick two.

I like the lashing /whipping idea since it eliminates the zip ties, and reduces the chance of being poked by the edge of the mesh. (the zip ties might be useful as a temporary fastening to line things up) You could cut old garden hose into ribbons and use that for the cord as well, if you didn't have something else, and time... but a slitting jig could be easily made with some utility blades mounted to a guide.

The copper wire idea for the boards could look quite nice! It would take time but the result would be worth it. Maybe if the wood was ripped into strips as wide as the space between the spoke holes, or some multiple 2,3,4, you could more easily do some sort of lacing without drilling holes.
3 weeks ago
Old garden hose is good for being free, smooth, soft, flexible, easy to cut, long enough pieces, colorful, looks like it belongs in a garden.

Sandwiching the hardware cloth between the bicycle rims and something else would "hide" the edge of the hardware cloth, even if it isn't completely covered, A hoop or band of plastic or metal, which could be pallet banding, strips cut from something plastic like a garbage can (salvage one with a broken bottom?)

Another idea would take the place of the zip ties. Wrap the hardware cloth onto the rim by lacing rope, twine, string trimmer line (the smooth stuff), broken extension cords... through a hole in the mesh, around the rim, through the next hole, and so on until complete. The thicker the stuff, is probably better since the spaces between will be narrower and deeper. This idea for fastening might also be a way of securing the split garden hose.

Some sheet metal thing like a tight U-shape that could slip over the edge of the hardware cloth when flat, and be crimped in place or soldered on, then bent into the cylinder shape together. I'm thinking I've seen something similar done on the edges of lids for fish tanks and terrariums for reptiles. HVAC ductwork is joined using "drive cleats" or "S-cleats" which can be found at the home improvement stores. They are narrow strips that are rolled/folded to have the sharp edges enclosed, and are made to slip the sharp edges of the duct sections into to join them together.
3 weeks ago
So, thinking about the speed rating, if I had the choice, I'd run a wheel like that on a "slower" angle grinder like 8,000 RPM. The larger 7" grinders come to mind, since they are compensating for the faster surface speed of a larger disc at it's perimeter, plus a powerful motor that won't bog down when you engage all those bristles on a rough surface. I too, have watched the bristles on a crimped wire cup brush swing outward at 11,000 RPM! It's all fun and games until the wires reach escape velocity!

I've had my own "angle grinder incident" and it also was a wire wheel. I foolishly tried to steady my work with one hand and hold my 4-1/2" grinder with the other, then it grabbed and bounced towards me. The wheel tore into my t-shirt and wound it tightly up, and pinned my hand against my chest unable to let go of the trigger. The grinder was stalled out, buzzing angrily, I had to unplug it with my free hand.

The wire wheels on the angle grinder are dangerous, somewhere between the thin cut-off wheels (most dangerous) and flat sanding discs (easily torn when deburring sharp edges).
Slow or variable speed motors like a VSR drill, or pneumatic die grinder (pressure regulated) are often good options. A bit slower, so more tedious, but also smaller wheels and shapes available to get into tight spots or texture.
3 weeks ago
So glad you had eye and face protection! I've pulled wire wheel wires from my skin and clothes before too. Gloves would have helped, especially if they were leather. Leather clothing like a welding jacket or welding sleeves, or a leather shop apron are way better than cloth, the wires bounce off rather than poke in like cloth. Denim is a decent alternative, if that's all you have, but those wires will go right through a hoodie and a t-shirt underneath.
3 weeks ago