Heat Your House with a Ceiling Fan!

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At yesterday’s home inspection, WIN Home Inspection Salem, I was reminded once again that most people do not understand how to use a ceiling fan. There is more to a ceiling fan than just being decorative and spinning blades. Most ceiling fans, at the very least 99%, are three speed and they are also reversible. Ceiling fans can blow air down or they can blow air up. It’s easy to understand that if we are sitting under a ceiling fan and it is blowing air down on us we feel cooler. Without going into a bunch of science, as the air blows across our skin, the moisture on our skin, sweat, evaporates. Evaporation is a cooling process. I can still remember, barely, the days when people in arid climates would hang a canvas bag of water on the bumper of their car so they would have cool water to drink when they stopped for a break. The canvas would let water slowly seep to the outside of the bag, the sun would evaporate the water and the water inside the bag would cool. Simple science, but effective. You can think of yourself as a bag of water seeping moisture though the skin. In the summer the air from the blowing fan will cool you. If the fan isn’t cooling you fast enough, mist your skin with water.

In the winter you don’t want to be cooled so you reverse the fan and blow it up against the ceiling. Blowing up causes the lower cool air to be sucked up through the fan and forces the warmer air at the ceiling to move along the ceiling, down the walls and back along the floor to the fan where it is sucked up by the fan, pushed against the ceiling…etc. This slow moving current in the room fills the room with warm air.

You are probably wondering, why not just suck the warm air off the ceiling, sit under the fan and let it warm you up as it blows down? Two reasons, you are a bag of water and the warm air blowing across your body will evaporate any moisture on your skin, cooling you. The second reason is that if you blow the warm air down it will quickly rise again and the area under the fan may be warm but the perimeter and corners of the room will be cool. Blowing the air against the ceiling, down the walls, into the corners and long the floor warms the whole room.

If you could see the warm air, you would see it coming out of your heat registers, wall heater or baseboard heaters, rise to the ceiling and stay there. If you have a well insulated ceiling the heat will eventually build up in the room, first heating your head and slowly moving down your body until the heat reaches the height of wall thermostat, about 5’ off the floor in most cases, telling the thermostat that the room is warm, shutting the heat off, leaving your lower parts cool. This is a very ineffective use of heat and energy. If your ceiling is not well insulated, it takes longer for the heat to build from the ceiling down, because a lot of heat is escaping through the ceiling, and your heater will run much longer. (see my blog, “Insulation Matters.”)

So how do you know which direction the fan is blowing? 99.9% of the time if the reversing switch is switched up, it blows up, switch down, air blows down.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

Rarely will your fan have a side to side switch, but if it does, switched to the right it blows up and left it blows down. Another easy way to tell which direction it’s blowing is if the leading edge of the blades are tipped down, it’s blowing up. Conversely, if it’s tipped up, it’s blowing down.

If you’re not convinced, take this challenge. Turn on your heat, let the room warm up until the thermostat shuts the heat off. Quickly take a temperature reading at the ceiling and then one at the floor level. I promise you will be surprised at the temperature difference. The next time the heat kicks on, start blowing your ceiling fan against the ceiling. When the heat kicks off take the temperature at the ceiling and floor again.  I did this test in my own home. With the fan off the difference was ten degrees. With the fan on, the difference was one degree. I can honestly tell you that in our home the ceiling fan blows against the ceiling day and night, all winter long.

The cost of running a ceiling fan is about 20-25 cents a day on high speed, depending on the size of the fan. If the fan keeps your home warmer and keeps your furnace or heater from kicking on only one less time a day, you have saved a lot of money.

If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, consider installing some. If that’s not a possibility or until then, read my blog, “Leave Your Furnace Fan ON!” Using both these suggestions your home will be warmer and cost you less for energy.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Getting Organized and Clear Your Head

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My boys once called me the “Master Rattle Canner.” I do love rattle cans and have painted many things, transforming them from junk to a jewel. The good thing is that the fumes from the paint have not affected my BrA1n N0n3. Over the years my wife, my boys and I have bought hundreds of cans of spray paint for projects we have done. When I moved my stuff from our garage to our new shop we had accumulated over seventy cans of practically used spray paint. To move them to the shop, we put all the cans in two large plastic containers, moved them to the shop and in those two containers they stayed for a year and a half. The problem with having that many cans of paint is that you have to be able to organize them so that you know what you have and so you don’t keep buying more of the same colors over and over again. When I moved into the shop I wanted to organize it so that everything had a place. I put up pegboard, built a bunch of shelves, bought small boxes to organize stuff in, but the two plastic containers of spray paint had me stumped on how to organize them.

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The other day I was shopping at Goodwill, which used to be my favorite store until they raised their prices higher than regular retail, but I still shop there in hopes that I’ll find a bargain. So I was in Goodwill and found a metal rack for displaying wine in a store and I thought, “hey!”  The rack was marked $6.99 and would hold forty bottles of wine/cans of spray paint and with some minor alterations, it would hold sixty cans.

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Today I started going through the two containers of spay paint, properly disposing of six cans that were empty and cleaning the heads of the other cans that still had paint, but wouldn’t spray.

Over the years I have learned that when you are done painting something, if you really do turn the can upside down and spray until the spray is clear, the spray head will be cleaned and will work the next time you want to use the can. I now will even go as far as spraying the little spray hole with carb or brake cleaner and wiping it off with a cloth just as an extra precaution. With that said, I don’t always remember to do clear the head and it gets clogged with paint and won’t work. I hate that, having a paint can with paint in it, but won’t spray because the head is plugged with dried paint.

Out of the two containers of spray paint there were about fifteen cans that had paint in them, but would not spray, so I cleaned the heads. This is my method of cleaning a spray can head: I use brake or carb cleaner, a straight pin that is exact size or smaller to insert into the little hole the paint sprays out of, a utility knife, safety glasses and latex gloves.

First remove the head from the can by simply pulling it out of the can and spray a little carb or brake cleaner into the hole in the top of the can where the head was and let that sit while you clean the head.DSCF6949 Next, using the utility knife, scrape off any paint that has dried over the little hole.

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Sometimes that’s all it takes to clean the head, so test the head to see if it is clear by inserting the thin red tube that comes with every can of brake or carb cleaner up the neck of the of the head and being careful to point it away from my face, spray the cleaner into the neck.

CAUTION: You will need to secure the head on the tube by pinching it tightly with your fingers where the tube goes into the neck or you will shoot the head across the room and/or you will get cleaner on your face.

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If the cleaner sprays out the head’s small hole, it’s clean. If it’s plugged, take the pin and carefully push it into the small spray hole and up the neck to clear the plug.

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To make sure the head is clear, spray some cleaner in the neck again. Some plugs can be stubborn and you’ll have to repeat the process a couple of times, but this method will unplug the head. When the head is clear, point the head away from you, push it back in the top hole of the can, turn it upside down and check the spray. This cleaning method worked on all but two of the fifteen cans that I had that were clogged. As an extra precaution, I sprayed the head with cleaner and wipe the small hole with a cloth. Next time you want to use the spray paint it will be ready to use.

When you use the can of spray paint up, remove the head, clean it and save it. There have been many times I have dropped a can or knocked it off the bench, losing or breaking the head. Having a few extra heads around will allow you to still use the can of paint until it is empty.

Anyway…, for what it’s worth.

Loosen Stubborn Screws With a Wrench

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When something is broken or not working I have to fix it. I think there’s a physiological term or medical term for it, something like fixoholic. If my tractor is not running or broken, it gives me a knot in my gut and depression sets in. Rarely do I hire a professional to make the repairs. Well, at least not until I’ve tried to fix it and have made it worse. Over many years, yes I’m old; I have tackled repairs from rebuilding a Fiat motor to repairing a mechanical pencil. Am I an expert, no, but I am getting better. I’ve learned a lot because I try to learn a lot.

Over the years I have accumulated many tools, but I don’t have everything and I am always discovering tools that I need. Recently I bought an impact screw driver and an extraction bit set.

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So many times in the past when a screw would not budge or the head slots were stripped out, I would have given my eyeteeth for both or even one of those tools. Even after days of applying penetrating oil some screws will not break free. I have struggled for, wasted, many hours of my life trying to remove stubborn screws. I have gone as far as taking a fine metal saw blade and re-slotting a screw, which actually works.

The other day I was reading Handyman Magazine. There was a good article on how to remove a stubborn nut or bolt. The article didn’t offer me anything new really, but I did pick up one tip about using heat on the stuck bolt and then spraying it with cold water. The expansion and contraction is supposed to break the rust and allow the bolt to come out or the nut to come off. We tried it on my son’s car, trying to remove the nut on the bracket that attaches the strut to the axle. It didn’t work, but none of the other six methods we tried worked either. Anyway, as I was reading the article I realized that I had never read or seen the method I use to remove stuck, stripped or stubborn screws.

What I have learned about removing stuck screws is that after you have tried with all your might to remove a screw, don’t keep trying and strip the head slots out. But if you do keep trying and you damage the head slots a little, STOP and try this.

One day I was trying to remove a screw from a break fluid reservoir on a motorcycle and was damaging the head slots. I couldn’t push down hard enough to keep the screwdriver point in the head. I realized that what I really needed was help to keep a lot of pressure pushing down on the head so I could turn the screwdriver and not have it pop out of the head slots and damage them, but there was no one around.

I love clamps. It’s like having more hands to hold stuff. Over the past three years my clamp assortment has gone from a dozen clamps to three dozen clamps. I have a variety of sizes of “C” clamps, I have those clothes pin type spring clamps, some quick grip clamps, I have strap clamps, and 4’ long pipe clamps. Sometimes I go into my shop just to sit and admire my clamps. Did I mention that I love clamps?

So, I’m trying to get this screw out and it occurs to me that I could use a clamp to apply pressure to the top of the screwdriver. The best clamp for my purpose was a quick release clamp.

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Here’s an important tip, use the shortest screwdriver you can and with your grinder, flatten the end of the handle so the screwdriver will be more stable under the clamp. Here are the two screwdrivers I use most of the time when applying the clamp technique. Note that the tops of the handles have been ground flat.

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To do this method, place the short screw driver in the head of the screw and clamp it in place with a lot of pressure and turn the screwdriver. It’s really easy, if you have a grip like a gorilla. I don’t, so I use an adjustable wrench to turn the screwdriver. Most screwdrivers have handles that have six sides so they are easy to grip and as it turns out, to put an adjustable wrench on.

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I have used this method of removing stubborn screw several times and each time when I hear the screw pop loose, I get all giddy inside.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

A Better Motorcycle Windshield

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I Love to Ride IN Comfort

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 I love to ride motorcycles. Every time I go for a ride it lifts my spirits and makes me whole. Those of us who ride, ride for our own reasons. I ride for the feeling of freedom and for the thrill. I love corners. There is nothing like the feeling of taking a corner too fast and thinking that you’re about to die and then you don’t. I don’t actually take corners too fast on purpose, but if you ride you know what I mean.

As I get older, I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m riding. For my V-strom, I made a custom seat that fits me better and gives me better support. When I bought my Volusia with an $800 Corbin seat and I can ride it all day in comfort. My dual sport, Honda XR650L came with a $600 custom heated seat. My hind-end has got the comfortable seat issued covered, so to speak.

Another area that I like more comfort as I have aged is protection from the wind. It puzzles me to see guys running down the highway at 75 mph with ape hangers and no windshield or windscreen. They may look cool, but I know that they are not comfortable. It takes a serious grip to hold on to your handle bars with wind hitting you at 75 mph, not to mention bugs in your teeth and the road debris that gets flipped up and hits you in the face. That kind of riding is not for me.

My stock V-strom windshield is known for not offering good protection and for those of us who are a bit taller, head buffing and wind noise can be a problem. When I bought my Vee I knew that I would be using it for long trips, so I needed to solve the wind issue. After much research I found that I had two choices, buy a bigger windshield or add to the windshield I had. I didn’t want to buy a larger windshield because I use my Vee for dual sport riding and I was afraid that a larger windshield might get in the way in tight trails and would be difficult to see the rough road directly in front of me when the shield got dusty. I decided to add on to my stock shield.

In my research I found an add-on shield that would probably work, but it’s not ideal. The one add-on that I liked was designed to attach to the top section of a stock shield, extending up over the top a few inches. The thing that caught my attention was that it was engineered to catch the wind that was flowing up the stock shield, compressing it, accelerating the wind and shooting up and over your head. I like the concept and the physics of it told me that it would work, so I decided that was the one for me. The problem was that, like I said, it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to add some width to my stock shield too. I’m two foot across the shoulders, so being a homegrown engineer, I went to work designing and making what I thought would be ideal for me.

The first thing I did was cut a pattern out of cardboard. I wasn’t sure what shape would work best, so I cut and trimmed the cardboard until I felt good about the shape. Next I searched my shop and found a piece of plexi-glass that would be the right thickness and size. Using a scroll saw with a fine blade, I carefully cut the plexi to the pattern.

Once I had the plexi shaped and the edges sanded round I heated the plexi with a heat gun and formed it in the curve of my stock shield. I also wanted any wind hitting the new section to be diverted up and over my head as much a possible. To accomplish that, I heated the upper five inches and when it got pliable, I used gloves and a tightly rolled towel to curve the top of the new section forward slightly.

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Showing plexi-glass cut to pattern heated and formed to shape

When I considered how I was going to mount the new section to the original windshield I felt it would be important not to drill holes in the original windshield and to mount it with plastic bolts. I didn’t want to compromise the original shield and I used plastic wing nuts and bolts so if I crashed, the bolts would break and in theory, not the windshield. I figured out how to use two of the screws that held the original windshield for the two top brackets and two screws in the fairing on each side of the windshield for the lower brackets. I made the four plastic brackets out of, say it with me, plastic barrels and bought two plastic bolts with wing-nuts. I carefully marked the new shield so I knew where to drill holes for the bolts in the lower brackets, the four small screws in the upper bracket and carefully drilled through the plexi-glass.

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Showing plastic brackets mounted to bike with factory screws

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Showing new shield mounted to brackets with four small screws and two plastic bolts with wing nuts

After I got the new addition installed and gave it a run down the road, I notice that at 60 mph, or faster, that the plexi-glass compress too much, leaving only a small gap between the two shields. To solve the compression problem I added two medium size suction cups under the upper brackets. With the suction cups in place, the wind could only compress the new shield so far before the suction cup stem stopped the plexi-glass from compressing too much. The nice thing about the plexi compressing some was that the faster I went the smaller the gap between the two shields got and the faster the air flowing between them moved directing it up and over my head.

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The new addition to my windshield worked great. Riding down the road at any speed the new shield completely eliminated the wind hitting my head. No more sore neck from head buffing and the wind noise was cut by at least 60%. The new windshield combination looks unusual or even funky, but I gave up cool for functional a long time ago.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Portable Computer Stand

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Computer Stand that does it all.

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Several years ago my tool belt became so heavy with tools that it started to hurt my back and hips and I didn’t like carrying my computer around or leaving it sitting someplace in the home. I needed something better to carry tools and my computer and something I could keep with me during home inspections.

On a flight to Mexico I was looking through a Sky Mall catalog and noticed a roll around podium. It kind of looked like a music stand with wheels. Instantly the wheels in my head started turning and within a few minutes, about 150 miles at 500 miles an hour, I designed a computer-stand/tool-carrier I could use on my inspections.

For the next 75 miles I put together a materials list from items I might have in my shop or would have to purchase. The list included:

  • A five gallon bucket with a lid.
  • One 3’x3/4” pipe.
  • One floor flange that would screw to the top of the pipe.
  • A plastic gun case that my computer would fit in.
  • Some foam rubber for the computer to sit on in the case.
  • Some fine chain to attach the case base to the lid and keep it from opening too far.
  • Some miscellaneous nuts, bolts and screws.
  • A used office chair base with wheels.

When I returned home from vacation I rummaged through my shop and put together the parts. I ended up buying the 3’x3/4” iron pipe and, the chair. I picked up the pipe at our local ACE and stopped by the thrift store to pick up a small office chair for a couple of bucks.

Starting with the bottom, I removed the base from the chair. It was ideal because it had five feet with little plastic wheels. Some chair bases have four feet, which might work fine, but I figured five would give the stand more stability.

The 3/4’” pipe fit loosely into the center of the base neck, so I used some electric tape to take up the gap and make the pipe fit snug. I also drilled a hole through the base neck and the pipe and put a bolt through with a nut on the end to make sure the base would not fall off when I carried it up stairs.

The bucket lid would have worked fine, but my wife had one of those seat lids that you put on a five gallon bucket so when you are gardening you can sit comfortably on the bucket to pull weeds or whatever. The lid also came with an apron that goes around the outside of the bucket to put your tools in. I had never seen her use them, so I stole them out of the garden shed.  I drilled a ¾” hole  exactly in the middle of the bucket bottom and lid.  The bucket was pretty stable, but to stabilize it more I cut a round ½” piece of plywood, OSB, and drilled a ¾” hole in the middle to match the bottom of the bucket. With short 5/8” screws, I screwed down through the bottom of the bucket into the round piece of plywood. The bucket and lid slide down the pipe to the chair base neck. As a final touch, I sprayed the bucket with black spray in bed-liner.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

The tool apron seemed ideal for my purposes, but it needed to be on the inside of the bucket, so I reversed it, attaching  it with some small screws, and removed the excess material at the top. The apron fit nicely on the inside of the bucket and now I had pockets for my tools.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

For the plastic computer/gun case, I cut a piece of 1/4” plywood panel to fit into the case to make it more ridged and to give me something to attach the floor flange to.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

I screwed through the bottom of the case up into the ply wood and mounted the floor flange to the bottom of the case with nuts and bolts. I cut the piece of foam rubber to the shape of the case and laid it in the bottom of the case, covering the screws and bolts. The foam protects the computer and elevates it in the case it to a nice height for typing.

Showing 1" thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

Showing 1″ thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

To keep the lid of the computer case from opening too far, I added two pieces of light chain, bolting them to the lid and the base with very small nuts and bolts. I thought it would be nice to have a pocket attached to the lid to keep pens, pads paper and some small tools in. I had salvaged the material off a camping chair which included a netted pouch that hung on the back of the chair. Cutting a piece of 1/8″ panel the shape of the lid to back the pouch, I attached the pouch to the panel with some hot glue. To hold the pouch in place place I stretch a small bungee cord across the lid, attaching it to the chains on both sides.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

My new computer has a real sensitive touch pad and will jump the curser all over the screen if the pad is even lightly touched even after I made adjustments to the pad’s sensitivity. My solution was to add a small platform made of 1/4″ hardboard and two mouse pads cut to fit and glued to the hardboard. The platform fits across the front  of the case and there is a small cutout attached to the bottom that fits snugly in the the handle to keep the platform in place.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

I have been using the computer stand for several years now and love it. My clients are continually telling me that I should patent the idea. They usually ask me whats in the bucket. I tell them, “beer and ice,” and then show them the tools. Occasionally I have to touch up the black spray in bed-liner and oil the wheels, but it is holding together very well. The stand is incredibily stable and has never tipped over.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Lose weight by being taller

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Fun With Film, Digitally Speaking.

They say that the camera can add ten pounds. The thing is, I don’t need any help looking larger. I’m sure that an additional ten pounds on some people would be flattering. I know a couple of people that need to gain ten pounds, but they are few and far between and no,… it’s not you. If they can make a camera that will add ten pounds, I have to ask, why can’t they make a camera that can subtract ten, twenty, thirty or even forty pounds?

As I thought about it, I realized that even though a camera can’t make me look thinner, I knew how  to edit any photo to make me look thinner.

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say, or have said it about ourselves, “I’m not over weight, I’m just too short,” or “according to my weight I’m really six inches taller” or “I don’t need to lose weight, I just need to be taller.” Well, that’s probably true, if we could stretch ourselves taller we wouldn’t be over weight, so why not just make ourselves taller in our pictures. It’s pretty easy to do using basic programs like Microsoft Paint.

Here is a picture of me on a trip to Glacier two years ago. I look kind of wide at 240 lbs and 6′-1″

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Here is the same picture. I’m the same weight, but in this picture I am 9′ tall. Thinner, right?

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And finally, here I am in the same picture, only now I’m 240 lbs and I’m 12′ tall. Looking good, right?

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By now you are probably wondering how you can do this. It’s simple.

1. Find the picture you want to “Improve” copy it and post it someplace easy to find, like your desk top.

2. Right click on it and click on edit.

3. Your computer will probably open your selected photo in paint. If your photo is too big to fit on the page, click on the view tab and reduce the size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the negative sign until the photo fits on the screen. If it fits on the screen, skip to #4.

4. Click on resize and when that opens be sure to make you un-check the “Maintain aspect ratio” box.

5. The “Horizontal” box should say 100 and the “Vertical” box should say 100. Now we are going to change the 100 in the “Vertical” box to 150, or 200. Be sure that you only change the “Vertical” number because if you change the “Horizontal” to 200, well here I am twice as wide. Not flattering.

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You can use the “Horizontal” setting and not use the “Vertical”, but make it a smaller number than 100, like change it to 50.

6. Now all that is left to do is to close the screen, save your changes, post your new picture on Facebook and wait for the compliments to roll in.

Anyway…for what it’s worth and for the fun of it.

Making a Hawaiian Sling

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For the Love of Snorkeling.

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I was fortunate to spend the last two and half years of my college experience in Hawaii. (That’s right, I have a college degree, a BS in Vocational Management.) I loved Hawaii. I loved the ocean, the weather, the beaches and I love to snorkel. Back then I could hold my breath for three minutes and free dive down to forty feet. I feel at home in the water and sometime I wonder if I wasn’t a sea snail in a previous life. Or fish, I could have been a fish.

In Hawaii I had roommates that were Hawaiian, Tongan, Chinese, Nigerian, Australian, and Japanese. It was my Japanese roommates that taught me to night dive. Night diving is snorkeling at night with a waterproof flashlight and a Hawaiian Sling. A Hawaiian Sling is a five-foot, three pronged spear with a loop of surgical tubing on the end. To use the sling you hook the rubber tubing over your thumb on an outstretched arm, you grab the shaft by your other hand and pull it back toward your chest, stretching the tubing. With the hand that has the rubber tube hooked around the thumb, you grip the shaft tightly. When you are ready to shoot the spear you let go of the shaft and the spear rockets forward, powered by the stretched out rubber tubing. It’s simple, but deadly.

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Around midnight at least once a week, my diving buddies and I would drive to a stretch of beach that had a coral reef about fifty yards off shore. I still remember the feeling of fear and exhilaration when I would walk up to the rocky shoreline, look down at the black water and wonder what the hell was I thinking, turn on my light and dive in.

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We would fish for an hour or two, diving down to the coral caves and spearing fish that were napping for the night. On our nighttime forays we would collect fish, eel, squid and lobster.

When I left Hawaii, I left night diving and spear fishing behind. I still snorkel every chance I got, but on the mainland it’s illegal to spear fish in rivers and lakes.

A couple of years ago we were invited to vacation with some good friends and their family in Mexico. We had vacationed in Mexico several times in the past, but always at a commercial resort. On this vacation we stepped out of our comfort zone and stayed at a private home in a little town, El Cardinal, on the Sea of Cortez.

The home was a beautiful, custom built, Spanish style home with a swimming pool and very large covered patio. The estate sat on about two elevated acres that overlooked the sea below.

As a big fan of snorkeling, I was in heaven. A reef ran from the beach out into the sea. It was some of the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. On one swim I snorkeled over a school of fish that was so large and so layered that I could not see the sea floor. After that encounter the grounds keeper offered to lend me his Hawaiian Sling, or Mexican Sling, whatever the case may be. Unfortunately, when I snorkeled with his spear I didn’t see any fish that were edible.

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After that vacation I decided that I needed to own another Hawaiian Sling. I wanted one that would break down into three pieces so that it would fit in my suitcase, so I started shopping on line. What I found was that they are pretty proud of slings that come apart. So, as usual, being a cheap guy, I decided that I could make my own.

I realized that I needed some kind of rod that would screw together so that it would come apart, but it had to be strong and flexible. My college Hawaiian Sling was a one-piece fiberglass rod, so that’s where my mind went first. I remembered from my fifteen years working as a retail manager in a home improvement center that we use to sell three-foot rods for cleaning chimneys. The rods screwed together to form a single rod long enough to shove a brush down a chimney to clean the creosote out of the flue.

I decided that I would need two of those fiberglass rods, a 3’X1/6” round steel rod to make the three prong end and two feet of heavy duty rubber tubing. Once I procured the items at Ace I was ready to make my spear.

The rods were three foot long so when I screwed the two together they were way too long. I wanted the overall length to be about five foot. That meant each rod could be two foot and the tip could be 12”. I cut one foot and the female end off one rod and a foot of rod and the male end off the other. The female end I would use to make the spear tip, but I needed to reattach the male end back onto the other shortened rod. I cut the male end off the one foot piece of scrap rod and drilled the fiberglass out of the fitting. Using JB Weld, I epoxied the male end back on the two foot piece of rod that had a female fitting on the opposite end. JB weld is great stuff, but to make sure the glued male end wouldn’t come off I drilled a small hole through the fitting and rod and put a small nail through the hole to pin them together.

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Through the top end of the other rod I drilled a 1/8” hole and put a short piece of cord through it and a tied the rubber tubing to each end of the cord forming a loop.

I drilled the fiberglass out of the female fitting that I had cut off so I could make the three pronged tip. To make the tip I first cut the three foot steel round rod into three, one foot pieces and sharpened the ends to a point. I inserted the other ends of the three steel rods into the socket end of the female fitting and welded the fitting and steel rods together. Now I would be able to screw the spear end onto the male end that I glued and pinned back on the fiberglass rod.

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I made a carrying case for the spear out of PVC pipe with a cap glued on one end and another cap that slips on the other end and I cap the spear with a short piece of rubber hose so I don’t hurt myself when I’m not using the spear.

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I hope that with the written description and the pictures these instructions will be clear. I’m not sure how many people will want to make their own Hawaiian Sling, but anyway…for what it’s worth.

ATTIC INSULATION MATTERS!

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IS YOURS  DAMAGED AND DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH?

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I’m a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection of Salem Oregon. Part of my job is to inspect the attic area of homes for possible issues: roof leaks, electrical dangers, proper venting, ducting, chimney leaks, animals, mold, insulation, anything that may negatively affect the home or the people living in the home. Over the last fifteen years I have seen it all.

A couple of years ago I inspected a nearly new home for a lady. Three months later I got a call from her telling me that her master bedroom was cold, much cooler than the rest of the home. We scheduled a time for me to go over the see if I could figure out why. When I got there I could clearly feel what she meant, the room was much cooler than the rest of the home. I checked the airflow from the heat duct and it was good and after checking windows and doors I found no visual reason for the cooler temperature. Fortunately I have an infrared camera that I use to inspect homes, so I got it out of the toolbox and fired it up. As I scanned the walls and ceiling I discovered a large area of the ceiling that was showing a cooler surface than the rest of the ceiling. This was a little disturbing because when I inspected the attic during her full home inspection the insulation in the attic was perfect.

I asked her if anyone had been in the attic since I had inspected the home. At first she told me that no one had, but when I showered her through the camera the cooler area, she then remembered that the cable guy had been up there to install a cable for her wall mounted TV.

When I went up into the attic to investigate I found an area, about one hundred square feet, where the insulation had been disturbed. There was even a small area where I could see the top of the ceiling’s sheet rock. The cable guy had moved insulation to try and find the top of the wall so he could drill a hole to run the cable for the wall mounted TV.

Some time ago I was inspecting a home where the seller was at the inspection. As I got ready to go into the attic, the seller told me proudly that they had two years earlier, spent a lot of money to have the attic completely re-insulated to a R-38, about sixteen inches of blown-in insulation. Unfortunately, since that time they had a home security system installed, the phone company had added phone lines into two of the bedrooms from the attic and the cable company had added cable to all of the bedrooms from the attic. The new insulation in all areas of the attic was completely destroyed.

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A couple of weeks ago I inspected an older home with a newly remodeled kitchen. When I did my infrared scan of the home I knew what I was going to find when I went into the attic. There was no insulation over the kitchen. The contractor had pulled it out of the area to install new light fixtures and add more outlets in the kitchen.

Recently I inspected a home out in the country. It was only ten years old, so it had been insulated to an R-38. When I inspected the attic if found that squirrels and raccoons had found their way into the attic and for ten years they had been making it their home. The insulation in the attic had been completely destroyed. The animals had trampled down the insulation throughout the attic. The insulation was still there, it hadn’t been moved out of place, but it was compressed, eliminating all the small air pockets in the insulation. The fluffiness of the insulation is a big factor in its insulating properties.

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On a more personal and embarrassing note, I had done some minor work in our attic over one of our bedrooms. That next winter I noticed the room was much cooler than the other bedrooms. I looked in the attic and found that I had forgotten to repair a four square foot area of the insulation when I was done with my work.

If I had to put a percentage number to it, I would have to say that at a minimum, 75% of attics I inspect have damaged insulation. The issue ranges from major damage to as minor as someone forgot to put the insulation back over the ceiling access panel. To whatever degree the insulation is damaged in your attic, it does make a difference in the comfort of the home and the cost of heating it.

Just because the temperature throughout your home is relatively even doesn’t  that you don’t have damaged insulation, it all might all be damaged equally throughout.

A couple of summers ago I inspected a home for my daughter Rondi and son-in-law, Mark. When the weather got cold I got a text message from my daughter saying that her house was freezing and she wanted to know why. I text back, “Read your inspection report”. The home only had about three inches of insulation in the attic. I had told her this when I had done the inspection and clearly stated in the report that the home needed more attic insulation. Of course, me being her dad, she didn’t pay attention to what I told her and they hadn’t read the report. Being a loving and caring dad, I helped Mark, insulated the attic up to the standard of a R-38.

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If you haven’t got my point yet…ATTIC INSULATION MATTERS! If someone goes into your attic, make sure they agree to fix any insulation they damage. If you look in your attic and see that the insulation is damaged or that you don’t have enough insulation, do something about it. If you’re not comfortable going into your attic to fix the insulation or add insulation, hire a professional. Good attic insulation will pay for it’s self fairly quickly, but more importantly, your home will be more comfortable, you’ll spend less money heating it, you’ll be using less energy and you’ll be helping to save the environment.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Hops garden/Fire pit.

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Hops-not just for beer!

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When we first started building the project now known as The Farm it was just a grass seed field with some trees and an old shack at one end. We have come a long way since then. We started by building a pump house for the well and to store tools. Then we built a garage, a house, a barn and last year, a shop. We have fenced and crossed fenced, planted lawns, built gardens, planted trees, dug a pond and maintained it all to the high standards of my loving wife. This place takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time and sometimes I think we should move to a small house with a small yard. But the truth is, I love this place and I plan on living here until the day I die.

Over the last few years we have made an effort to make The Farm less work by reducing the size of the lawn that needs to be mowed, reducing the number of animals we keep and even hiring help with yard work. Even with the goal of making The Farm less work, I sometimes get a wild hair and we take one step backwards.

One of the first things we did when we were building this place was to make a fire pit out in the field by the pond. Over the years the fire pit has become a place to burn all the branches that get trimmed off the fifty some trees we have planted around the yard. A couple of years ago my wife mentioned that it might be nice to have a fire pit closer to the house so we wouldn’t have to haul the marshmallows so far to roast them.

I’m sure she envisioned a small ring of stones with a couple of benches around it when she mentioned it to me. However, my brain doesn’t work that way and the simple idea of a fire pit grew into “The Hops Garden/Fire Pit.”

Once we agreed on where the new fire pit would be built the creative side of me was awakened and I went to work. I had a vague idea of what I wanted the end product to look like, and since it wasn’t brain surgery, I decided to let the creative juices flow and see what happened.

The location of the pit was near one corner of the yard, exposed on two sides to the open field. I wanted the pit to be a little more private so if I decide to dance naked around a fire, the neighbors wouldn’t complain. I also wanted it to be shaded so that in the late afternoon we wouldn’t be sitting around a fire in the hot sun. So here is what happened.

The place we agreed to put the pit was on a long hump of ground that covered out septic field. My first task was to level the area by hauling in dirt with my tractor. It took several loads and a lot of shoveling and raking, but I got the area level.

After the area was level I built a metal sculpture or column that would serve as the centerpiece of the hops garden/fire pit. Like most projects, I work on a very small budget, so the column was made from three 20’ pieces of rebar that my son Marcus helped me braid together. I cut out a half dozen large leaves from sheet metal and welded it all together. Eventually the hops got too heavy and I added a ¾” length of black iron pipe to keep the the plants from bending the column to the ground. The base of the column is planted in a foot of concrete and weighted with rock.

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I wanted an arbor like entrance to the pit area, so I welded together an arbor. It too was made from rebar. To give it a good stable base I used concrete to set it in place.

My idea was to plant hops around the perimeter of a large circle, 36’ across, and train them to climb strands of wire up to the top of the column that was in the center of the circle. To accomplish this, I drove a dozen 7’ T-post around the perimeter of the circle and ran three strands of heavy, 10 gauge, galvanized wire around the circle of T-posts, one at the top, one midway up and one a few inches from the ground. I then started stringing lighter weight wire from the bottom wire up to the middle and top wires and then to the 5’ metal circle at the top of the column. I spaced the wires about 12” apart so there would be plenty of wires for the hops to climb.

There was a sprinkler head near the outer edge of the new garden that would be blocked from view by hops once the hops started to grow. I dug a trench from the sprinkler to the center column and then laid black poly pipe in the trench, added a 90 degree elbow and ran more black poly pipe to the top of the column. I removed the sprinkler, attached the poly pipe to the system and put the sprinkler head on the top of the pipe at the top of the column. I adjusted the sprinkler so that when the sprinkler system came on the sprinkler would water out to the perimeter of the garden.

Next I removed a 12’ circle of grass around the center column and filled it with pea grave and bordered the circle with concrete edging to contain the gravel.

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The Willamette Valley is known for the production of hops, so finding hop starts was easy. I purchased three varieties of hops to add a contrast of green to the garden. The first year hops will generally grow about 6-8’, but once they are established they will grow 20-25’ long and they will grow about a foot a day. To add color to the garden I planted purple morning glories.

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We had purchased several years ago, a large concrete bowl that we used as a water feature in a garden near the back deck. One year during a very cold winter it cracked and would hold water any more. My wife wanted me to get rid of it, but it occurred to me that it would be the perfect fire pit, so I moved it to the garden.

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We have enjoyed the new hops garden/fire pit for two years now. When the hops and morning glory have climbed to the top column the garden becomes a very large green, shady tent where we can enjoy a fire closer to the house and where we don’t have to carry the marshmallows so far.

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