Archive for February, 2005

plastic pipe as a raw material

Plastic plumbing pipe is easily worked and can be used for all sorts of things.

plastic pvc plumbing pipe flute described how to make a long lasting musical instrument. The page also has good advice for working with PVC in terms of safety and tools.

Adding a gray water tank is another example of a big pipe solving a practical need.

Flagpoles are another possibility. Normally, plastic pipe is used just as a sleeve in a ground mount for a steel or aluminum flag pole because plastic pipe isn’t really stiff enough for a solid and tall flag pole. But, if you are into demonstrations with flags, Jozef’s Flag Pole Recipe – How to make a Veterand For Pieace Portable Flagpole has detailed instructions on building a plastic pipe flagpole. Of course, if you aren’t making a bit hole with concrete and a plastic pipe sleeve to hold your flag pole upright, you will need something like the hitch mount or RV stand at Banner Marketing or the ladder mount at Camping World. An idea for a homebrew version is in Home & Garden Television: Entertaining:

The pole and base can be made by securing a three-inch flange to a piece of 2-by-8-by-18-inch plank. Attach a 36-inch-long, three-inch diameter PVC pipe to the flange. The PVC flagpole can stand tall in this base because the base plank is anchored under the tire of the car.

Another popular use for plastic pipe is as a holder for the drain hose. A 4 inch drain pipe can be mounted underneath the rig near the axles can provide convenient out of the way storage.

Of course, you could also use plastic pipe for plumbing, but that is another episode!

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For the real boondocker, making your own soap is another way to break ties with civilization.

Surfactant Basics from Dow Chemical – find out how soap works. has a history of soapmaking but an irritating approach to its copyright reflected in page scripting to limit copying and bookmarking.

Making Soap With James Hershberger, A Chemical Engineer – good background and tips from a guy who does demonstrations at historical events.

Soap Making Tools from The Chemistry Store – the chemistry store looks like a good place to find all sorts of interesting chemistry stuff for homebrew manufacturing.

Soap Making – Fort Liberty has a large set of links about soap making and history and safety.

Caveman Chemistry : Hands-on Projects in Chemical Technology– “Caveman Chemistry is an experiential exploration of chemical technology from the campfires of the stone age to the plastic soft-drink bottle. An experiential exploration? Not only will you learn about these technologies, you will learn to recreate them. Instructions are given for making bronze from metal ores; glass from sand, ashes, and limestone; paper from grass or straw; soap from fat; alcohol from honey; photographs from egg whites; chlorine from salt water and celluloid from cotton.” (the guy is selling his book but you can browse it online)

Soap Chemistry – a nice simple explanation with pretty pictures and good hand waving.

Soap Naturally Web & mailing list: soapmaking, soap resources, soap making information, soap supplies for natural handmade soap makers

Soaps and Soap Making Theme Page – a teacher’s resource

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measure battery status

An amp hour meter measures how much electricity has gone into and out of your battery so you can determine its current state of charge. Amp hours are bit more difficult to measure than voltage or current so amp hour meters are fairly expensive.

Voltage is the simplest thing to measure. It represents the ability of the battery to push electricity through a circuit.

Amps is a measure of how fast electricity is going through a circuit. It is measured by a change in voltage through a known electrical load. The known load is kept very small so it doesn’t take too much energy out of the circuit or influence the circuit much. This load is about the same as a small length of wire used to connect the battery to your electrical appliance. As a result, the voltage used to determine current is also very small.

The amp hour meter needs to determine the current (amp) draw out of the battery at periodic intervals and then to average these readings to determine amp-hours.

To get a handle on electrical terms and what they mean, see the owner’s guide electricity page. The page on energy, might also help get straight where amp-hours fits with power and energy and stuff.

See Amp hour meter project if you want to build your own instrument.

Other sites of interest in learning about measuring your battery:

Victron Energy – BMV-501 Battery Monitor

Electro Automotive: Gauges & Shunts has one for nearly $1000! The page also has a gloassary of common meters.

Battery Metering is other power’s explanation of how they think you should instrument your battery bank.

Backwoods solar has their glossary and commercial offering at Meters The Tri Metric meter listed on this page is a very popular ~$200 meter for RV enthusiasts. The manufacturer’s home page is Bogart Engineering: manufacturer of the TriMetric battery monitor which measures volts, amps and amp-hours for battery systems used in homes, RV’s and boats.

Digital Panel Meters by Martel is a resource for basic panel meters. It will give you an idea of what is on the market but the prices on these are rather high.

Watthour Meters from Davidge Controls claims their intent is “submetering applications.” This is oriented more towards billing a relative who parks in your yard and uses your utilities so you can bill him his share.

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Torque Steer in FWD

Ever wonder about the idea of a front wheel drive tow vehicle?

No one’s denying the inherent handling advantages of rear-drive cars vs. front-drive cars. But, even though the industry pendulum appears to be swinging back toward rear-drive, front-drive will never go away. It’s the best alternative short of all-wheel-drive in many parts of the country, for one thing. And for another, it’s much improved over the front-drive systems of even the recent past. [Bob Lutz, GM Vice Chairman. Considering the Drive Wheels GM Fast Lane Blog 18fb07]

The column and its comments provide some interesting ideas about drive wheels and handling.

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For the Do it yourself type

New Home of Me and My Monkey makes me think of junior high school for some reason. Here are some the home brew projects.

It all started back in Iowa while working at the Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA). It was a great place to get in cahoots with the local homeless population, all of whom are very iNteresting people. I often wondered what it would be like to not have a single responsibility other than keeping myself alive. I’m not saying these people don’t have a lot on their minds, it’s just a totally different way of life than the traditional materialistic way of most americans. Anyways, back to topic subject: talking with the local street-dwellers, i heard many stories of scrounging through trash for various items including textbooks. Being a university student at the time, I knew well of the serious value $$ of textbooks. So after a few discussions with my good friend Hu-Ha, he and I decided take our first dumpster diving adventure in search of text-books to sell back to the money-hungry university book store.

An electromagnetic linear accelerator; Coil gun
A tater tossing page with electronic igntion
Your source for cheap n’ easy high voltage, the Flyback transformer
A spark throwing tesla coil made entirely of garbage
Pictures from the trash, a tribute to unwanted photographs
Home built plasma globe. mmm..plasma
Build your own radio controlled switch from a cordless telephone
One of my favorite hobbies, dumpster diving
Spud gun ignitor from a disposable camera
Measure voltages up to 20,000 V with this home built meter
Homebuilt night vision scope
Homebrew telescope
Cheap radio frequency plasma generator

On the bit more traditional side, try Science toys you can make with your kids. Here are some of their projects

A magnet in mid-air
The Gauss Rifle: A Magnetic Linear Accelerator
An electric motor in 10 minutes
A 10 minute railgun
Building your own solar battery.
Building a Hydrogen Fuel Cell.
Building a radio in 10 minutes
A Film Can Cannon
A Homemade Vacuum Pump
Simple laser communicator
Make a solar hotdog cooker
A solar powered marshmallow roaster
Using a video camera as a microscope

What some people do for a hobby! Maybe they need to find an old Airstream, instead?

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west marine

Just got the 2005 Master Catalog from West Marine. They recently opened a new store in Reno and it now ranks as one the most dangerous retail outlets in town for the RV enthusiast along with REI, Harbor Freight’s new store, and the Sportsman’s Warehouse.

As for a boating supplies store, keep in mind that a boat is just a special kind of RV that has to be able to handle more severe conditions and is subject to a lot more contraints than a typical ‘over the road’ type RV.

The West Marine Catalog has a listed $10 price tag but you might be able to get on free from the store. If you removed all of the products from the 1137 page catalog, you’d still have left a healthy book of “West Advisor” columns. Topics include a primer on trailer brakes, solving the mystery of trailer lights, how to select an inverter, and many other topics.

You can also get a lot of ideas from the products, too. They cover everything from hardware to kitchen appliances to flags, and, of course, all the boat stuff.

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Vehicle Safety

Looks like Tait gets into a bit of a diatribe about the side effect of legislation demanding greater fuel efficiency.

a study sponsored by USA Today determined that since the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) law took effect in 1978, approximately 46,000 people died in crashes they would have survived if they had been in larger, heavier vehicles. The National Center for Policy Analysis reportedly calculated that this amounted to 7,700 deaths for every mile per gallon saved by the mandatory CAFE rules. [Tait Trussell. The Great Safety and Fuel-Saving Failure. 18fb05]

The column also touches on some of the interesting things on the horizon that we may actually see some day in RV’s. Can you imagine a hybrid (gas and electric) as a power source for RV living? When you are not moving down the road, why not use the engine – generator – battery system to provide for all the comforts of home?

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Retire the flag

Has your U.S. flag perhaps seen better days? Has it been out in front of your Airstream on one too many rallies? Is it getting frayed and the colors dimmed?

The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning. (Disposal of Unserviceable Flags Ceremony)” [The Flag Code – Respect for Flag § 8.k]

Flags of the U.S. should be retired, not thrown away. Most American Legion Posts collect old flags and dispose of them according to protocol at retirement ceremonies. To find the address of a post near you, you can check the list at flag-retirement-resources – Five Star Flags.

To learn more about how to display the flag and protocol for the Pledge of Allegiance, Display and Use by Civilians, Time and Occasions for Display, Position and Manner of Display, Respect For Flag, Hoisting, Lowering or Passing Flag, Modification of Current Rules, Standard Proportions of the Flag, National Anthem, and Conduct During Playing the Anthem, see the Flag Code

To learn about the American Legions, seeThe American Legion National Headquarters | World’s Largest Veterans Organization and, for Nevada, NASDVA.COM – NEVADA

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propane tank advances

A “Revolutionary” new idea for a propane tank may be showing up soon. It is made of composite materials so you can see the fluid levels through the sides of the tank to tell how full it is.

A study indicated it should cost no more than $50. You will likely see it first with backyard BBQ’s as that is the largest potential market for a cool looking lightweight 20# propane tank.

There is a question about how you’d recertify these things. But, as for Aluminum tanks, a simple inspection would probably do.

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The evening sky

You’d have to be on a high spot in the southern part of the Great Basin in order to see Canopus, but Sirius and Orion should be easy to spot in the evening sky nearly everywhere.

See the article to learn what we know about one of the bright stars.

Canopus: The Great Star of the South
By Joe Rao, in USA Today 18fb05

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When we think of “potluck” we think of a dinner gathering at a rally where everyone brings something for the table. Usually what happens is that the table gets so full of food there isn’t room for anyone to sit at it and eat. ‘Straight Dope’ recently answered a question about where the word potluck came from.

The term potluck comes from the traditional practice (not that it’s entirely unknown among us moderns) of never throwing anything away. Meal leftovers would be put into a pot and kept warm, and could be used to feed people on short notice. This practice was especially prevalent in taverns and inns in medieval times, so that when you showed up for a meal, you took the “luck of the pot.” A related term found its way into French usage, as an impromptu meal at home is often referred to as pot au feu, literally “pot on the fire.” [Straight Dope 17fb05]

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) defines

Potluck Pot”luck`, n. Whatever may chance to be in the pot, or may be provided for a meal.

It does add a bit of excitement to the rally and variety to the meal. Participants should take a read through the article on Food Safety to help make sure that after dinner activity doesn’t go in undesired directions

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Look at your tires lately?

The tires on your RV are another item that tend to be forgot about when the rig is not in use. They sit and are just there. But all is not as quiet as it may seem. The air pressure should be checked at least once a month to make sure they don’t sit flat. The tires should also be kept out of direct sun and other exposure to the elements. Michelin also recommends that the tires be protected from the ground by a piece of wood or plastic and that they be kept at the pressure indicated in the sidewall.

Another common issue is tire age. The DOT Tire Safety Brochure indicates how you can find when your tire was made. “This begins with the letters “DOT” … the last four numbers represent the week and year the tire was built. For example, the
numbers 3197 means the 31st week of 1997. ” The general advice is that you should not run tires more than 5 to 7 years old because they become weaker as they age. Tires age faster the more they sit so RV tire age is a particular concern.

Tire Safety, Brochure (DOT HS 809 361 October 2001)

Petition Calls for Tire Dating

the Michelin RV tire guide

The Howto is about how to make your Airstream a business deduction.The Surreal Gourmet uses his for a mobile kitchen!

If all that snow got you thinking, here are some up close and personal snow pictures. Snowflake and Snow Crystal Photos

If you missed the advertisements during the big game last Sunday and you have multi media capability on your computer, you can find them at IFILM – Super Bowl Ads

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How are your batteries doing? Have they been sitting in your rig all winter ignored and lonely? If so, they probably need some TLC, or at least a few electrons. If you left the battery connected to the converter and plugged in all winter, it might be thirsty. So this is a good time to check the battery and think about battery maintenance when you aren’t able to get the RV out on the road for a few months at a time.

There are three kinds of devices to consider when it comes to your batteries. Converters take household electricity and convert it to battery electricity so 12v appliances in your rig can function. Chargers control the current going into a battery in order to bring it back to full charge. Maintainers keep a battery charged without boiling off the electrolyte and, depending upon battery type, provide what is called an equalization charge to keep the electrolyte mixed up.

Converters will charge a battery, but not very well. This is because very little current will go to the battery when its voltage approaches the converter voltage level. They also don’t make good maintainers because they may be set to a voltage a bit too high for battery storage and don’t do equalization charging.
What is a battery and what kinds are there?
Understanding battery charging
Which Battery Charger is right for you?

How To: Converting the MagneTek 6325 Charger/Converter -upgrading a converter by replacing it with a charger and maintainer.

Full Moisture Pouches/Meals Ready to Eat/MRE – A company that sells those ‘Meals, Ready to Eat’ the military uses. These are pre-cooked and guaranteed to maintain a reasonable taste level for five years. The site has some good information about this food storage method and its limitations. A 72 hour emergency pack for 4 persons costs $150.

Science tip: Determination of cat tongue length using the “White Wine” method There are other methods provided if wine and cat seems it may offend PETA or related groups. The listed method is qualitative and adjustments would have to be made to provide quantitative data. It should probably also be labeled as tongue length extension to be more precise about
what is being measured.

Shoveling and driving tips- The Reno Gazette Journal had some good advice for those of you still trying to dig your rig out of a snowdrift.

An open letter to fellow motorists [Brain Shavings] – I think someone had a bit too much of sitting in traffic admiring the behavior of other drivers. So he wrote his advice for those drivers in his weblog.19 points for all of us.

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