Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Three more projects

The postman has been busy delivering the trailer electrical components ordered from China.  I’m only waiting on the 100A circuit breaker and the flexible conduit.
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The three Watt Meters will be used to measure the following
  • Volt/Amps from the vehicle alternator to the battery
  • Volt/amps from the solar panels to the battery
  • Watts from the battery being used by the various trailer consumables
Jan and I have agreed my new ‘Man Shed’ will go in the bottom right end of the back garden where the dilapidated old fibreglass shed currently stands.
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I’ll need to dig a trench from the main switchboard on the side of the house down to the shed for the 240V power.  The existing sewer pipe also runs down the left side of the shed to the deep sewer main on the other side of the boundary fence.  The pipe from the house has partially blocked a couple of times and I suspect the roots from the orange tree beside the shed are responsible.  If I’m going to run electric and sewer in the trench I might as well run a water pipe.  This can be used to supply water to the swimming pool Jan wants.
There isn’t much to the existing shed but I stopped demolishing it when I realized that without a trailer I’d be double handling everything.
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Jan suggested the best place for the clothes dryer was in the garage.  That way the humid hot air will rust my tools in the garage rather than make the house damp and hot! Smile
Fitting the dryer to the wall proved to be a two person job.  Jan picked it up and held it against the wall whilst I did the technical stuff. Smile
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She might be strong, but still needed a break afterwards.  Guess its and age thing!  Obviously I checked the dryer worked before it was mounted.  After 7 years in storage there was a doubt.  Then I temporarily connected the washing machine to make sure it also worked. 
Rather than mount the washing machine on the floor in the laundry (where Jan would have to bend over) I’ve decided to make a 400mm high cabinet that it will sit on (see how thoughtful I am).  I’ll fit a drawer to the front of the cabinet to give her some additional storage.  The cabinet won’t cost much as there are plenty of melamine panel offcuts from the office desk.
Whilst moving everything around in the garage I stumbled upon a rusty old pruning saw.  The wire brush and some engine oil has restored it.
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My plan is to take it on my outback trips where it will be useful clearing small trees that have fallen across the track.  It will also enable me to cut firewood.  However I don’t want an oily sharp toothed saw floating around in the 4x4.   I ripped a small piece of Jarrah timber to create a groove before gluing a side and end cap over the groove.
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Just a little more work to do once the glue has set and I’ll have a timber scabbard.
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Test fit

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Arriving by camel train

You realize Australia is a big country and Perth is the most isolated city in the world when you buy an item that has to come from somewhere else.  We were obviously spoilt in the UK where items were delivered within 24 hours.

Ten days ago I purchased a 12V air compressor for use (or hopefully not) on my outback trips.  It takes three days for the freight train to cross Australia and the courier company website indicated delivery would take seven days.  I assume they hold onto freight until there is enough to fill a container and make the journey financially viable.  However by Day 8 I was starting to get grumpy.  By the ninth day I knew the air compressor could have made the trip twice!  Obviously it was crossing the desert by camel train.

It’s the largest (and cheapest) 12V compressor I could find online.  The supplier had to be Australian to ensure I received a 12 month warranty.  It’s twin cylinder with a maximum output of 300 litres per minute and 150psi.  The manufacturer is unknown to me but in all likelihood, Chinese (as is almost everything these days).

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There were smaller and cheaper 12V air compressors, but the 4x4 has large tyres and if you physically remove the tyre from the rim to do a major puncture repair the tyre frequently doesn’t reseat on the rim bead afterwards.  This means you need a large volume of air into the tyre very quickly to pop the tyre back onto the bead.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a carry bag included along with a complimentary puncture repair kit.  Actually I’ll probably discard half the repair kit.  The thought of a plastic handle breaking and the steel shaft puncturing my palm brings tears to my eyes.  I’ve already started looking for replacement tools that have metal handles. 

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Of course I’m going to do some modifications to the compressor.  The 12V power lead isn’t very long and I’ll need to replace the battery terminal “alligator” clips with an Anderson plug.  Hopefully some of the items I’ve ordered from China for the trailer modifications will start arriving shortly.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Covering the map

Lately we’ve been remising about our six years in the UK and our journey around the inland waterways.  It’s true we miss the lifestyle and canal community.  I did a quick internet search and found a map which I think is from British Waterways.  Using a drawing program I overlayed our travels in bright green to see just how much of the network we managed to cruise.

canal network

As you can see we didn’t manage the Ribble Link and Lancaster Canal.  Neither did we make it to the Fens.  But we did manage to cover most of it.

Rain has been forecast for the weekend which will be a change.  Autumn has started to put in an appearance and it’s interesting to read boater’s blog where they are starting their six monthly cruising season <sigh>.  Ah, but some of the components for the modifications to my camper trailer have started to arrive from China.  The trailer is due towards the end of June and I’m planning my first trip for August. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Noisy black strippers chew our nuts!

This blog post title will have either pricked your interested or result in a comment about offensive racism. Smile

Once again it’s that time of the year.  The nuts have ripened on one of the large native trees located on the front lawn.

tree The tree is abundant with leaves and ripe green nuts which have attracted a large flock of native Black Cockatoos.  They are raucous as they quickly start stripping the tree of it’s foliage.  Not only do they eat the nuts, but also break off minor branches leaving the tree looking almost naked.  All the stripped foliage leaves a mess on the ground for me to gather and dispose.

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There’s nothing small or dainty about these guys.

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And that’s a large and powerful beak.

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Last autumn the foliage on the ground had to be racked and collected by hand otherwise it would cause the reel mower to stalls.  However our new rotary mower is far more brutal chomping it's way through the stuff. 

What’s most annoying is the birds only eat 2-5% of the nuts with the remainder discarded on the ground.  But then I suppose that’s what nature intended to happen.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Stuff from the sky

Yesterday there was “stuff” falling from the sky, it was cool, opaque and slippery!  A Brit tourist told us it was rain!   Of course…. I should have remembered.  We last experienced it six months ago!  Autumn has arrived with the temperature dropping to the low 20’s.  I’ve turned off the water reticulation controller which should have a positive impact on our electricity bill.

Jan has been issuing veiled threats towards Australia Post.  The delivery of her UK magazines has been very erratic and they’ve also been arriving in the wrong sequence.  She has come to the conclusion Australia Post should outsource their postal deliveries to the Jehovah’s Witnesses because THEY ALWAYS KNOCK!

Rather than sit around watching the rain I decided to see what small task could be completed.  All the small scraps of plywood and pine had been consigned to the rubbish bin several weeks ago.  However the hardwood is more valuable and I’d been keeping it.  Today I made this interesting box from scraps of Jarrah.

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After all the rough edges had been planed smooth I gave it a quick sanding.  The oil stone is a perfect fit.

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I think I found this oil stone 44 years ago in an overgrown ditch I was clearing.  It’s taken me a few years to make a case. Smile

Jan then told me our new bed required burping.  She had already removed the bedding in anticipation.  For those who have never owned a waterbed you never manage to extract all the small air bubbles when you fill it.  Eventually the all combine to form one or more large bubbles on top of the water which can result in some uncomfortable nights.

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I’m unwilling to purchase or rent an extractor pump so my technique is to carefully remove the filler cap and place my mouth over the opening sealing it.  I then pull the outlet upwards with my hands.  This draws all the air bubbles to the outlet as it’s now the high point.

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Then it’s a case of exhaling through my nose and inhaling through my mouth whilst keeping an eye on the mattress to avoid inhaling the water.    

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Energy Matters

But first……. Jan became quite excited this morning when she woke to find a blog comment from reader Caroline informing us they had recently seen Waiouru on the Ashby Canal.  It was good to read Waiouru is out and about.  Even more interesting was Caroline & Martin have a narrowboat, Sonia Louise and a blog.  Of course the link can now be found on our Blog List.

Readers might recall I fitted an electrical consumption monitor to the house shortly after we moved in.  The monitor is capable of recording electrical usage by the second and also has the ability to produce various reports.  Today I created monthly reports of our hourly usage for the period Jul 17 to March 18.  The system allows users to download these in CSV (comma separated value) format.  This information can then be inserted into an Excel spreadsheet.

If I’m going to analyse the data then it’s easier to look at it graphically; which is what I did.

The first step was to average the data by month, day of week and hour of day.  Next I produced graphs for average monthly usage by day of week into daylight and night (day 0700-1800) (night 1800-0700).  The logic behind this was to identify our usage so I could establish the size of a proposed future solar panel array and also the size of a battery for use when there’s no sun.

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The first thing I noticed was how much lower our consumption was between July and October 2017.  It jumped significantly from November onwards.

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This situation is replicated during daylight.

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The same during the night

So I had a look at the data for July 2017 by day of week and hour of day.

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Except for the time around breakfast (kettle, toaster, etc) were averaging less than 0.5kW per hour.

There was a dramatic change in November which has continued.

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You’ll notice the three major spikes between 6 – 7am.  Also, the consumption has risen between midday and 6pm.  After thinking about it I realised those three large spikes were on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.  This is the electric water pump running the bore water reticulation system for the lawns and gardens.  Also, it was getting hot in November, which is when we started using the air conditioning unit.

With this information I could start calculating the required size of a solar array and battery.  One of a size to enable us to be self-sufficient.

The resulting table looks like this.  If you are interested you should be able to double click on it to see the original size

table

First column is obviously the month and the second is the average daily hours of sunlight from the government website.  My variables are the size of the solar array (proposed 5kW) and the battery capacity (5kWh with 4.8kWh’s usable)

I’ve assumed the solar panels are 80% efficient.  I’ve also assumed the solar panels have to add an additional 30% to the battery capacity to fully recharge it.

Surplus kWh’s are sold back to the power company at $0.07.  The daily utility company service charge for the privilege of being connected to the electrical grid is $0.9498753. 

The figures that matter are in the last column.  If in red that’s the money the electrical company will owe us.  If it’s black then we owe them. 

Based on this monthly average data we would actually produce more electricity than we require.  However if we wanted the security of being connected to the national grid then we would have to pay during the winter months.

I now need to do a cost comparison of the solar array and battery –vs- paying the full cost of remaining on the grid. 

Monday, 9 April 2018

Saving the clothes

Jan mentioned the retracting clothesline under the carport probably needed to be replaced.  The cords are brittle, frayed and discoloured.  The box the lines retract into was faded and covered in rust.  After checking the price of a new clothesline I decided to see if it was possible to purchase new line.  The current clothesline is located against the edge of the carport close to the neighbour’s boundary fence.  It gets some sunlight but is also exposed to the rain.  I decided to move the line so it ran down the middle of the carport.  This would get it away from both the rain and sunlight.  The fierce Australian sun rapidly fades clothes whilst the former just delays the drying process.

The mounting bracket was moved to the middle of the garage door lintel.  At the opposite end the mounting bracket was bolted to the last carport beam.

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The retracting box was disassembled before the case was wire brushed back to bare metal and primed before receiving three coats of silver paint left over from the refurbishment of the 4x4 wheels.

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Sixty metres of clothesline cord cost me $26.20 from Bunnings.  The line was laid out and I replaced the original cords.

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It was then a matter of reassembling the mechanism and mounting the clothesline in its new position.

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The lines are slightly higher, but that would only be an issue for the vertically challenged (sorry Jaq).  Of course Jan can’t use the clothesline because the carport is currently my workshop.

I’ve also had a failure.  I wanted to jack up the 4x4 and add 70mm of Nulon G70 additive to the gearbox.  Despite several hours of strenuous effort I’ve been unable to level the vehicle on the ramps and stands.  Consequentially, when I removed the filler plug, oil started to run out.  I’m going to need to find an alternative method.

Readers may know the Commonwealth Games are currently underway on the Gold Coast in Queensland.  Australian athletes appears to be winning many medals.  Which probably isn’t surprising because if you were watching the Australian commercial TV channels no other country is competing. Smile 

Of course the local media latched onto the story about used syringes being found discarded near the Indian athletes accommodation and there was muttering about cheating until someone mentioned the cricket.   Cricket…. mention cricket around here any everyone will profess to only knowing it as as small insect. Smile

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The knock at the door

We slept in this morning only to be woken by a knock at the door.  It was the parcel courier from Australia Post.  I leapt from bed dressed in my birthday suit and ran to the front door.  The courier was knocking and calling out “Is anyone there?”.  If you don’t promptly collect the package the courier will depart as he has a tight schedule.

Well I grabbed the doorknob of the front door and gave it a quick twist only to feel a “crunch” and be left holding a wobbly knob in my hand. (obviously I need to cut back on the breakfast Wheatbix).  Now the door was locked with no knob on the inside. 

This resulted in a frantic sprint to the back door whilst simultaneously attempting to get both legs into a pair of shorts (don’t want to frighten the neighbours……. or their dog!) unlock the back door and run through the garage to open the electric roller door where I met a somewhat amused courier driver.

After breakfast I made a trip to Bunnings for a new door lock.  Of course the current lock is so old (1986) that it’s no longer in stock.  The replacement is stainless steel rather than the original brass……. and it wasn’t an exact fit!  Out with one of the recently sharpened chisels to widen the recess in the doorframe and the barrel hole in the door.

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I even managed to fit the lock with sufficient accuracy that the door no longer rattles in the wind.

On the way home from Bunnings I stopped at two chemists and obtained a price for them to fulfil the two prescriptions the doctor has given me.  Australia isn’t like the UK; you have to pay for your medicine; albeit the cost is subsidised.  One chemist quoted me $50 and the other $79.  It pays to shop around! 

The quarterly house electricity bill arrived by email this morning.  Total owed was $49.85.  We had used $0.38 of electricity.  The balance of $49.47 was the service charge (ie, the cost of being connected to the grid).   It’s not hard to see why I’d like to build a lithium battery and wave good bye to the utility company.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

More Thinking

I’ve previously mentioned the requirement to fly a ‘Sand flag’ when travelling remote outback tracks.  I made a flexible mast from an old fishing rod and Jan made the flag from a Hi Viz vest purchased from China.  My thoughts had moved on to the positioning of the Sand flag on the 4x4.  For $30 I could buy a Two-Way radio aerial mount which would be fitted between the top edge of the front passenger side mudguard and the bonnet.  However this position gave me some concern.  Firstly, it was a potential obstacle when working on the engine (I’d tear a hand or arm on it.  Secondly, the flag and mast will violently whip around which might create stress fractures in the vehicle panel at the mounting point.  Finally, on the side of the vehicle isn’t a good location as the flag is likely to strike overhanging branches.  Mounting the mast on the vehicle centreline would be a better position.

It would be possible to manufacture a mounting fitting behind the front radiator grill.  The bracket would then protrude through the front of the grill where the mast would be attached.  There were three problems with this location.  The mounting bracket would be expensive.  I’d need to make a hole in the insect and grass seed mesh I’d already made.  The flag wouldn’t be very high.

Then I had a revelation.  I could mount the flag on top of the trailer.  The cage on top of the trailer is 2.1m above the ground which would mean the flag was 5 metres above ground level.  I could also mount it on the centreline.  Aldi became my friend when I re-discovered a strong metal bracket I’d purchased six months ago whilst following Jan around the store.  I modified it with some mounting holes and then gave it two coats of paint.

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I’d already threaded the fibreglass core of the rod using my Aldi Tap & Die set.  Sikaflex on the thread of the bolt and the base of the rod assisted in ensuring a strong bond between the rod and the metal bracket before apply two coats of anti-rust paint.

The Aldi 240V reciprocating saw was a lazy way of cutting four small strengthening plates from the remains of the flat steel bar I’d purchased to make the 4x4 fuel pre-filter bracket.  These were then drilled and threads cut before applying four coats of paint.

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The plates will be used to ‘sandwich’ the bracket to the mesh on the cage.  Whilst wandering through Aldi with Jan today I noticed a box of various sized machine screws which will be most useful in mounting the mast.

With that done I started looking at what else might be useful.  There were plenty of odd sized small pieces of scrap plywood lying around so I made these.

IMG_2298 Caravan owners will probably identify them  A caravan (and our camper trailer) has a wind down stability foot at each corner.  My four flat blocks with a lip around the top will go under the stabilizing feet preventing them from sinking into soft ground.  The fifth piece of plywood is a double thickness of 12mm ply which will be the base for my vehicle jack.   

Monday, 2 April 2018

Another Tyre Fact

I’ve discovered something I didn’t know about tyres.  I’d always assumed they needed replacing when they reached the minimum tread depth.  Yesterday evening I discovered they also have a time life.  Prior to 2000 this was 10 years and since then it’s six years.  The clock starts ticking from the month of manufacture.  This means you might purchase a new tyre which has been sitting on the shelf for years thus leaving you with a minimal residual life.  Obviously this is something to remember when purchasing new tyres!

The date of manufacture is on the tyre, usually after the letters ‘DOT’.  It’s in the format of four numbers.  The first two are the week of manufacture during the year (01 to 52) and the last two are the year.  With this information I checked the four used tyres I had intended keeping for the trailer.

4911  (49th week of 2011)

4111  (41st week of 2011)

2 @ 0215  (2nd week of 2015)

The first two tyres expired towards the end of 2017 and the latter two will expire in 2021.  I doubt a tyre reaches six years and then immediately fails.  Therefore I’ll stick with my original plan and keep the two tyres made in late 2011 as my trailer spares.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Nine and Five

You may recall months ago I managed to buy four used 16inch steel rims with the same stud pattern as our Isuzu 4x4.  More recently I managed to buy a further five used rims and tyres.  Again with the same stud pattern and wheel offset.

The first four steel rims were in good condition.  However the last five rims were showing signs of rust.  Yesterday the five rusty rims were wire brushed before being given a coat of rust kill (Fertan equivalent) and left overnight.  This morning the rims were given a coat of steel primer before I applied four top coats of gunmetal grey paint.  Feeling enthusiastic, I then blacked the tyres.

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All the used tyres have approximately 10,000km of tread left,  Three have the same tread pattern with the remaining two being orphans.  Of the three the same, one has some damage to the sidewall.  I’ll keep this as a puncture practice tyre.

So the current situation is I have nine 16 inch steel rims and four used tyres.  The objective is to have a standard set of outback rims and tyres for the 4x4 and trailer.  As a minimum I need five for the 4x4 and three for the trailer (total eight).  There are nine rims which gives me an additional spare rim.

The standard rims and tyres on the 4x4 are 255/60/18 with a tyre diameter of 763.2mm.  My plan is to replace these rims and tyres with 235/85/16.  This will provide a tyre diameter of 806mm.  The four used tyre are 245/70/16 which gives a diameter of 749.5mm.

After looking at the above I have decided to fit three of the rims with the best of the used 245/70/16 tyres.  These will go on the trailer.  Six rims will be fitted with new 235/85/16 tyres for the 4x4 (two spares).  I will keep the fourth good used 245/70/16 tyres as a second spare for the trailer, but it wont be on a rim.  The 2nd spare for the 4x4 and the tyre without a rim will be carried on top of the trailer. 

My tyre repair strategy will be to replace any punctured  tyre with a spare and then repair punctures on the evening of the day they occur.  Knowing my luck, if I left repairs any longer I’m almost convinced it would result in multiple punctures, with me having to complete a repair in the blazing heat of the middle of the day, in a most inopportune place.  Of course carrying two spares will probably result in me never getting a puncture!