Monday, 28 May 2018

Missed posts

There haven't been may posts during the last fortnight and I attribute this to both Jan resting on her laurels' and the doctors attempting to 'top' me by experimenting with chemicals. Anyway, I've given up on their attempts to help me and have been purging my system of the chemical cocktail that's been making me feel more than a little unwell. Consequentially there isn't much to report.

However I did read about Jeremy Corbyn. Apparently he walked into a bank on Oxford Street to cash a personal cheque. The discussion went along these lines.

JC: I'd like to cash this cheque.

Teller: Certainly sir, could I see some form of identification?

JC: <pause> I don't have any identification on me.  I've never previously been asked for it. I'm Jeremy Corbyn!

Teller: I'm sorry Mr Corbyn but the bank can't cash cheques without identifying the person.

JC: Why and when did this change?

Teller: It's the new government anti-money laundering laws and banking regulations.

JC: Well I don't have any form of identification on me and I need the money.

Teller: Perhaps you could provide some alternative form of identification.

JC: How?

Teller: Well.... we had Tiger Woods in here a month ago in the same situation. He produced a putter and tapped a ball across the foyer floor into a Costa coffee cup. Two months ago Rod Stewart was back in England and wanted to cash a cheque. He sang "We are Sailing" to the entire bank.......

JC: <hummm> Well I've been a parliamentarian for more than 30 years. I've twice won best MP beard of the year. I was recently elected leader of the Labour Party. There really isn't much else I can mention!

Teller: Would a mix of large and small denominations be satisfactory.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The tree fellers came

The two large trees on the front lawn were removed in a two hour operation today.  A five man crew, two of which were new employees on their first day.  That worried me as there was no pre-start safety briefing and neither of the two new employees were given any safety equipment (boots, helmets, safety glasses, ear defenders).  The owners of this company obviously don’t understand new employees are far more likely to be injured than experienced employees.

Only one man used the chainsaw and he was very good felling both trees and cutting them in manageable sections within 90 minutes.  I had anticipated all the large timber would be cut up and sold a firewood, however it was all pushed into a large shredder and converted to mulch.  One assumes there is just as much value in mulch as firewood.


The large green machine is the mulcher.

We had paid for the stumps to be removed and this was completed by a remotely controlled grinder.  A rotary spinning head containing sharp blades mad quick work of grinding back the stumps.  They were ground down to 30cm below ground level.  I didn’t want the stumps taken any lower as one of the trees was on top of the gas, electrical and data lines to the house.


As we anticipated, the house is receiving far more sunlight.  That will be very useful when the solar panels get fitted to the north facing side of the roof.

Severe winds are forecast for tonight as a storm heads towards southern West Australia.  It’s already gone prematurely dark.  There hasn’t been any rain this winter and I’m assuming the farmers will be hoping this storm breaks the drought.  We’re almost a third of the way through winter and still wearing Tshirt and shorts. 

Today we realised it’s a year and three days since we left the UK.  Still missing life on ‘The Cut’.

Monday, 21 May 2018

The next big project

We’ve made a start on our next major project.  I’ve been busy with the tape measure and Google SketchUp producing a 3D drawing of the house.


Stage 1 will be a replacement kitchen and a new scullery for Jan.  Stage 2 will involve building a dining room and a walk in robe with en-suite.  The final stage is to extend the front of the existing house by several metres to create a new master bedroom.

Jan wants a country style kitchen (ie natural timber) with glass splashbacks and a granite transformation bench top.  She prefers the granite transformation to natural granite as the latter can chip if hard objects are dropped on it.  The granite transformation is a composite material which looks like granite but is harder wearing and heat resistant.

She bought the large french door fridge last December and has placed an order for a Neff (German) wall oven.  Today we went to one of the Perth appliance retailers and purchased a 900mm long stainless steel five ring gas hob.


She has always wanted a scullery and as we plan for this to be our last house (after 24 homes) it seems logical for her to have one.  The scullery will go in the location currently occupied by my study.  The study will be moved to the 3rd bedroom where I’ve recently installed the new internet port and computer wall cabinet.

Jan has opted to continue with the granite transformation bench top and glass splashbacks in the scullery.  However she has decided on shelves rather than cupboards.  The big chest freezer will also go in the scullery.

scullery. We will remove the existing floating timber floor and replace it with a hard wearing vinyl plank timber floor.

One of the first tasks I need to complete is remove the wood burning stove which is occupying too much room and which is labour intensive to feed and operate.  Heating will come from a reverse cycle split air conditioner which will be powered from a solar array on the roof.

Should be an interesting project.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

When Tom got it badly wrong

Is it over… can I come out from under the bed?  Best of luck Harry!

Hi  Jan here, I thought I’d share this with you……

Last night Tom and I were dressed and ready to go out for a lovely evening of dinner and theatre.  This is something extremely rare for him (buying me dinner).  Anyway, having been burgled in the past, we turned on a 'night light' and the answering machine, then put the cat in the backyard. When our taxi arrived, we walked out our front door and our rather tubby cat (takes after Tom) scooted between our legs and back inside. Because our cat likes to chase the budgie we really didn't want to leave them unchaperoned so Tom ran inside to retrieve her and put her in the back yard again.

I didn't want the taxi driver to know our house was going to be empty all evening and explained to him that my husband would be out momentarily as he was just bidding goodnight to my mother.  A few minutes later he got into the cab all hot and bothered, and said (to my growing horror and amusement) as the cab pulled away.

"Sorry it took so long but the stupid bitch was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her bum with a coat hanger to get her to come out! She tried to take off so I grabbed her by the neck and wrapped her in a blanket to prevent her scratching me like she did last time. But it worked!   I hauled her fat arse down the stairs and threw her into the backyard....she had better not cr@p in the vegetable garden again."

The silence in the taxi was deafening.....

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Don’t you hate it….

Don’t you hate it when thinks go wrong!   It happened to us today when I moved the media server computer to it’s new location in the cabinet I’ve made.  The simple act of moving it between rooms resulted in it not working.  I spent the entire afternoon fault finding.  Initially I suspect there was a problem with the boot software and spent several hours looking for a solution.  Then I got smart and disconnect all the hard drives only to find the problem still existed.  That meant there was a hardware problem.  Eventually I updated the bios also noticing only 4GB of RAM was being recognised by the system.  After fixing the RAM the system started.

Our new cabinet has been fixed to the wall.


There a a couple of outstanding tasks to complete the cabinet.  It needs a front cupboard door and the screw heads need to be covered.

On a more positive note, I was browsing eBay when I noticed the level in the photo below.  It seemed a bargain at $1 so I placed an order.  My idea is to find a flat horizontal surface on the camper trailer on which to install it.  Hopefully it will be an easy reference point for levelling the trailer at a campsite.


We’ve been checking the letterbox on a daily basis in the expectation of receiving Harry’s invitation to his nuptials.  No sign of it yet and I was starting to get disappointed when I realised….. he is probably holding me in reserve for his next wedding Smile

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Catch up

Suddenly I realised several days had elapsed since the last post.  I wouldn’t want you to think I’ve fallen off my perch so I’d better catch up on what’s been happening.

I dropped my Triton Biscuit Joiner and broke the safety guide on one side



The successful Triton range of tools was designed and made in Australia and I thought it would be relatively easy to purchase spare parts.  How wrong I was!  Eventually I found a supplier… in England of all places.  Well the postage almost cost more than the part. 


However the tool is now repaired which will enable me to continue with the manufacturing of the display cabinet.

The Lithium battery experiment has been completed.  The six good Lithium-ion cells fitted snuggly inside the old battery case for the portable drill.  I needed some wire and eventually managed to “harvest” some by cutting a few surplus plugs off one of the spare desktop pc power supplies.


The BMS was then connected to the cells


That’s when I realised the top of the battery case was damaged.  Fortunately I had some two-pack epoxy glue


Everything went back together and I now have a working Lithium battery for the old portable drill.

My sister and brother-in-law came around on Saturday which was very useful as I needed help to move Jan’s heavy altar into the house.  She no longer has to abased herself.  The new altar position allows her to worship on her knees!


The drawer for the stand still needs to be made and installed.

The latest project is a cabinet for the two desktop computers, router, Raspberry Pi and network switch. 


It will go on the wall in the back bedroom where it will form part of my study.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Trees, batteries and the flue

Where to start; I suppose with the flue.  Yes winter has arrived and the temperature in the morning warrants the wearing of a fleece.  However I’m not writing about the onset of a winter cold.  The house flue is attached to a large cast iron wood stove in the living room.

wood burning stove

My father used to collect and chop wood during the summer which they would then burn during the winter.  The firewood was kept in that dilapidated garden shed I demolished last week.  We have decided the stove will have to go.  It will be replaced with a natural gas connection for the gas heater we’ve had for 25 years, but never used <work that one out>.

Obviously the stove has a flue and it’s not the only one in the house.  There is was a second flue for the hotplate extractor fan in the kitchen.   By removing both flues and the old solar hot water panels on the roof we will have a long north facing section of roof clear of obstructions making it ideal for the placement of a large(ish) solar array.  One problem with this idea is the concrete tile clad roof which was installed in 1984.  When you remove flues you are left with “holes” and obviously we need to find suitable roof tiles.  That actually proved to be easier than I’d anticipated.  Yesterday we travelled north to a demolition yard in Yanchep where we were able to purchase six recycled tiles at $1 each.  We probably won’t require six, but it’s good to have a few spares. I need to use the water pressure cleaner to prepare them for installation.


They are the wrong colour, but then the solar panels will cover them.

The second issue is the large gumtrees on the front lawn.  They cast a shadow over the north facing roof of the house and will adversely affect the solar panels.  The roots of one is also breaking up the driveway paving and the other is located directly above the gas, electrical and phone lines into the house.  They will have to go!


They are too big for me to remove at my age (I would have attempted it 20 years ago) so we are paying to have the trees removed and stump grinding done to ensure they don’t re-grow.  The third, smaller tree, I am removing  This process started four weeks ago and have been slowly clipping back the branches placing the foliage in the rubbish bin.  It’s the capacity of the “wheelie bin” that’s dictating the pace of the removal.  This tree is also located on top of the gas, electrical and phone lines.


Had it’s final haircut

There has been some good progress with the lithium battery project.  I’ve “tricked” all six cells from the laptop battery into being recognised by the SkyIC battery conditioner and have been able to recharge all of them.  I’ve then run them through a discharge cycle on the SkyIC to establish their capacity.  The capacity has been written on the cell so I can match up those of similar capacity.  The cells are then recharged.


Identified cell capacity in milliamps

It takes about 24 hours to test and recharge each cell.  When I have six good cells I plan to build a battery for the old 12V drill.  Lithium cells require individual balancing using a Battery Management System (BMS).  I can’t simply plug the new battery into the old charger.  To resolve this I’ve purchased a BMS which will fit inside the battery case.  The BMS was $2.50 from eBay.  My wiring will look like the following


By fitting the BMS inside the battery case I will (I hope) be able to use the portable drill’s original 12V battery charger.

Meanwhile poor Jan has been choking on smoke for the last two days.  Currently there is a massive pall of wood smoke over Perth.  Actually it extends 50km north and south.  The cause is a controlled burn in the state forests and national parks by the fire and conservation departments.  This is part of an effort to minimize the risk of summer forest fires by reducing the fuel loading (branches, twigs, leaves, bark, etc) on the ground.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Reader Comments

Local blog reader Ken left a message expressing some concern that my washing machine stand may be insufficiently braced and the continual vibration from the washing machine might cause the stand to start disintegrating.  Amongst other things, Ken is a builder so I take his observations seriously.  I doubt the top of the stand will fail as it’s a solid panel held by glue and multiple screws.  However the base doesn’t have any diagonal bracing apart from triangular blocks in the four corners.  So today I made and fitted some cross bracing which has been both glued and screwed.


I’m not sure if my explanation of the adjustable feet in the last post was adequate so here is another photo.


Ken also mentioned the possibility of water leaking from the washing machine onto the top of the stand and getting into the joints.  The glue I’ve used is PVA and will eventually dissolve when it comes into contact with water.

I’ve decided to try sealing the four sides of the top of the stand by employing the method used by Nick, the engineer who sealed the shower panels on Waiouru.  The important thing to do is to NOT use a silicon sealer.  This type of product eventually fails and it’s a messy job replacing it.  Nick used construction glue (No More Nails, Sikaflex, etc).  This is both waterproof and almost permanent.

His technique was to use masking tape to mask either side of the joint to be sealed.


Then apply a bead of glue into the join before smearing the adhesive between the two edges of the tape with your index finger.  Keep dipping your finger into mineral turps (or white spirits) as you do this.  The turps will prevent the adhesive from sticking to your finger and create a smooth surface.  Then remove the masking tape.


I removed the tape too soon and also didn’t have the correct pressure on the adhesive when smearing it.  Obviously this is an acquired skill.  Fortunately these joins will all be obscured by the washing machine.

I just need to drill a drainage hole through the back timber support.

Hi Jaq,  One of the many qualities I liked about Les was his willingness to give things a go.  Whilst I don’t think he had any formal training, he was skilled with his hands.  Moreover if he didn’t know something he was quite willing to seek advice and then attempt to complete the task.   

Monday, 7 May 2018

The feet have arrived

A courier arrived this morning with a small package addressed to Jan.  After opening it I immediately realised it contained the four plastic feet I’d ordered for the washing machine stand.

The feet come in two parts; a foot and a base.  The base is fixed to the bottom of the cabinet and the feet then screw into the bases.  This enables the height of each foot to be individually adjusted.  The two plastic clips to the right clip to the front feet and are used to secure the cabinet “kickboard” thus concealing the feet and the gap under the cabinet.  Being a sensitive and compassionate husband I’ve decided not to install a kickboard.  This will make it much easier for Jan to clean underneath when she’s down on her hands and knees.

Just waiting on the plywood to make the drawer and the project will be complete.

Sunday, 6 May 2018


You may recall I had “harvested” six 18650 Li-on cells from our old Asus eee netbook computer battery only to discover they were so flat the charger wouldn’t recognise them.  Today I managed to solve that problem with one of the flat cells and have charged it.

My method was to use a second partially charged battery to add some charge to the flat battery.  This resulted in the battery charger “recognizing” the battery and fully charging it.  To do this I needed one partially charged battery; which I didn’t have.  However whilst at the rubbish tip recycling centre yesterday I managed to “acquire” an old Li-on battery for a portable tool.  Upon dismantling the battery I discovered 10 water damaged 18650 Li-on cells.  Fortunately one cell still had a partial charge and I was then able to fully recharge it using the charger. 

Once the cell was fully charged it was connected in parallel with one of the cells from the computer battery.  The setup looked like this…


The voltmeter showed an initial voltage of 4.7V which steadily dropped to 3.7V as some charge from the good cell flowed to the flat cell.  The Lithium cells shouldn’t be connected together more than 40-60 seconds because there is a risk one of the cells might overheat and catch fire.

After 60 seconds I disconnected the two cells and then connected the flat cell to the charger.  Sufficient charge had gone into the cell for the charger to recognise it.


You can see the charger display in the photo below. 



  • Top left – one Lithium ion cell in series
  • Top middle – charging at 1 amp
  • Top right – cell voltage is 4.08V
  • Bottom left – charging cycle
  • Bottom middle – elapsed cycle time in minutes and seconds
  • Bottom right – number of milliamps charge put into the battery

The cell has been charged and is now on a discharge cycle.  The plan is to conduct the charge-discharge cycle three times and establish the capacity of the cell in milliamps.  Hopefully I’ll also be able to recover some storage capacity.  If I can do this for all six of the laptop cells then I will have sufficient cells to make a replacement Li-on battery for my old Panasonic portable drill.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Untrustworthy GPS

The trailer was loaded with the shed and some additional rubble.  A long and hard job.  Actually I didn’t discover quite how hard until the following morning.

The council tip is 20km from our house, which meant a relatively long drive.  The didn’t worry me until I was ¾ the way only to discover the road had been closed as part of the new “Northlink” motorway construction.  The gps then took me on a long detour in the opposite direction adding 14km to the journey.  Eventually I arrived at the site of a very remote recycling centre.  Not a tip!  Everything brought to the site is sorted into various recycling receptacles with a small amount destined for landfill.  Whilst I had established entry was free before leaving, I hadn’t realised I was going to be the person who sorted my rubbish into the various bins.  This proved to be a time consuming task as I had bits of fibreglass sheeting attached to timber which was attached to steel.  All this had to be separated.  Three hours later it was done!

I programmed the gps to take me home and was delighted when she (yes the gps is a ‘she’) found a shorter route home.  Instead of turning left and going east she directed me to turn right and go west.  Great, that’s the direction of home.  After 4km we ran out of bitumen and I was on gravel.  No problem, it’s a 4x4.  Another 4km and the gravel turned to a corrugated sandy road.  The track got narrower and the vegetation on either side closed in.  Surely things would improve?  I trusted her directions.  Eventually I reached a hard left bend followed by a steep descent.  At the bottom of the sandy hill was a sign “Mining Area – No Admittance – Trespasser Prosecuted.  With a trailer on the back and vegetation either side there was nowhere to turn around.  I had to go up the other side of the hill and hope there was a turning point.  There wasn’t…. instead the track had been dug up making further progress all but impossible.  I was going to have to back the trailer down the sandy hill and up the other side, then reverse around the sharp bend to find somewhere to turn around.  This was going to be no easy task.  Then the low fuel warning light came on.  Fortunately there was no one else in the vehicle to hear my expleted deletes.  I had visions of bogging the trailer/vehicle and/or running out of fuel miles from any help.  No one would be able to find me because I didn’t know where I was.

Well engaged 4x4 low range and managed to slowly reverse the trailer back to a very tight turning point before reversing my route to the tip.  All the time “she” was trying to get me to drive further into the ‘never-never’.  I’ll never trust her again!  It was a slow trip back to the nearest service station as I carefully attempted to conserve what little fuel was left in the tank.

Eventually I made it home to find a very worried wife.  Lunchtime had long passed.

After a very late lunch I cut down our orange tree and pruned the bowers off the neighbours overhanging trees.  All of this was loaded onto the trailer and tied down ready for a second trip.

This morning I woke to find myself very sore around the upper body.  It’s a struggle to get out of a chair so I’ve obviously overdone the exercise.  The mind might think I’m still 40 but the body knows I’m much closer to 70.   The second trip to the recycling centre can wait.  No heavy work for me today.  After looking around I decided it might be a good idea to clean the reverse cycle air conditioner filters.

My mother had the unit fitted after my father died.  He always chopped the wood and lit the log stove during winter.  She couldn’t manage it and had the reverse cycle air-con installed to keep her warm during winter.  My guess was she’d never had it serviced.  Of course there are no manuals, but then men don’t need manuals.

The filters in the interior half of the unit were filthy.


Brushed on the left and original on the right

After removing the top cover on the outside unit I could see it also needed cleaning.


I would never install a unit like this at ground level where it’s likely to suck in all types of debris.  It should be higher on the wall.  But then mum wouldn’t have known any better and probably agreed with the installer who selected the easiest location.

Most of the filter was clogged with dog fur, dust and leaves.  I managed to extract six balls of rubbish from the filter.


The unit was then run to test it worked and to measure the electrical consumption.  Were getting more heat and the electrical consumption has dropped from 1kWh to 0.5kWh.  No doubt a consequence of the unit being able to breath easier.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Disappearing Act

It’s the end of Day 2 of the disappearing act and I’ve staggered inside for a refreshing cleansing cold ale.

You may recall I planned to remove the old garden shed.


It’s taken me two half days to demolish it and load all the components onto a borrowed trailer.


The hardest part proved to be the seven vertical post which had been concreted into the ground.  After digging out three, I realised the plan was to lay a larger concrete slab for the new shed.  This meant I could leave the concrete foundations in the ground to be covered by the new slad and cut off the steel posts with my Aldi angle grinder.

I had planned to load the trailer with both the shed and tree pruning's but then decided separating them at the council tip might involve some strenuous exercise.   I’ll make separate trips instead


The orange tree will need to be removed.  Its to the left of the rotary clothesline.  There’s no point in keeping the tree as the fruit tastes foul.  I suspect the roots may have grown into the sewer pipe.  The neighbours trees have also grown over our boundary fence and will also have to be cut back.


My plan is to erect a slightly larger shed on a concrete pad.  Once the shed has been constructed I’ll remove the rotary clothesline.   Jan will then use the linear clothesline which is where I currently have the workbenches.

No rest for the wicked!