Computer-Aided Design (CAD) used to be only for those with high-end computers and very expensive software. I remember a designer at GM telling me 20 years ago that the company paid more per year for the workstation and software he used than they paid him. That has all changed with the average home computer becoming more powerful and low-cost or even free software. For many years Sketch-Up was the leader in free software. However, that has now changed since the free version has gone away, or at least hasn’t been updated in a few years.
Enter Fusion 360 from AutoDesk, a long-time leader in CAD software. This is top of the line software and get this, it is completely free for students and hobbyists. It stays free until you make something like $100,000 using the software. This isn’t a crippled version, it is the full version. I don’t believe that the free users will be using anywhere near all the features of Fusion 360, but everyone can learn and benefit from it.
Once you learn to design your projects digitally first, it will open up whole new worlds for you. You can try several things without using materials. You can discover and work out problems sitting in your office chair rather than in the shop or at an outside site.
There is a bit of a learning curve. I took drafting in school and since I work in the computer field I fully understand the concepts of CAD. However, I’ve tried several times over the years to learn it on my own without much success. Our local community college has classes, but that meant committing to going into the school twice a week for 3 months at a time, and my life is just too busy for that. I’m now going through a course called Fusion 360 For Hobbyists and Woodworkers at Udemy and it is just the jump start I needed. Further, right now the course is only $10
For anyone that wants to design their own projects, I consider this a must-have skill. Therefore why don’t you give it a try either with or without the class?
There are some things every homeowner should know, one of them is how to turn off the water to your house. Knowing this, and ensuring that the valve works, can prevent a small plumbing problem from becoming a complete disaster. If you have some kind of leak being able to turn off the water that prevents other parts of your house from damage. Replacing drywall and flooring can get very expensive very fast.
For most houses, the water enters at one point and if you have a basement it will likely come close to the floor. If you live in the north then it will have to be below the frost-line which in my area is at least 42″ deep. In my house, it comes in about 1′ off the floor.
In order for water valves to keep working they need to be cycled through on and off periodically. One word of caution, trying to turn off old plumbing can actually create problems. If it has become corroded then forcing it to turn can cause it to start leaking and then your problem just became worse. This means turning off the water at the street and replacing the valve. If you really know what you are doing and have the proper tool you can do this, but likely it means calling a plumber, and if you create this problem after hours then the price will be much higher.
The picture at the top is the main shut-off valve for my house. It is the ball valve type and is better than the gate valve type. Take a few minutes and find your main shut-off valve and assess it’s condition.
For those of us that cannot justify a pick-up truck, but still on occasion need to haul items famously labled as “Stuff” a small utility trailer can fill that need quite well. However to pull a trailer you need a hitch on your vehicle. Fortuntly most cars now have tapped holes in the frame for an easy install, provided you get a hitch designed for your car.
In my case I ordered a hitch and wiring harnes from etrailer.com
Since the holes were not protected from road dirt I needed to clean them out before the bolts would thread in. I spent more time looking for a brush in my garage then it ended up taking me to install it. Only 5 bolts in holes that were already tapped meant that once I actually started mounting it I was done in less than 15 minutes. The whole job including the wiring harness was only a bit over an hour. It did take 2 people as it needed to be held up while the bolts were started.
Over the years I have hauled all kinds of things in a small 4′ x 8′ utility trailer that I got from Harbor Freight. Everything from lumber to moving to compost. I have several projects planned for the next year and this will help me get the materials to get things done.
A simple upgrade you can do is to convert your can lights to LED. In recent years LED lights have become widely available and very reasonably priced. I got the above light from Costco at about $15 for a two-pack. In my case, I have 10 of them on my front and back porches.
One problem I had with my old lights is they were open around the bulb and this allowed wasps to get up above the soffit and build nests. If you look at the picture you can see this problem and there really isn’t any way to fix it that I have found. With an incandescent bulb, there isn’t a cover that you can put over it due to the heat created.
Looking at the replacement LED you can see that it simply screws into the existing socket and has what is in effect two springs that hook into the can and draws the light up to be flush with the ceiling.
Installation could not be simpler:
Remove the old bulb and trim ring
Screw the plug into the socket
Hook the springs over the lugs in the can
Push the light up and it will snap up to the ceiling
I cringe whenever I see a galvanized pipe in a plumbing project I’m involved in, I cringe. It is difficult to work with because it is almost always corroded, all joints are threaded and you either have to make the lengths you can buy at the store work or you have to buy expensive threading tools. It is best to go back to a joint you can get apart and switch over to something else – I prefer PEX. Note that if you are moving to copper you need to use something called a dielectric union, otherwise bad things happen between the two metals.
An Example of the Problem
I got called to work on a plumbing problem for a relative and after I got the crawl space opened up my son declared “We have a PSO”. I had never heard of that so I had to ask “What is a PSO?” My son is taking robotics classes at the local Community College and one of them was fluid power. That is the class where he learned about “Pressure Squirting Out”, or PSO which is used to describe a leak under pressure.
If you look just to the left of the elbow you will see the hole. And since the hole is a result of corrosion I didn’t think I could get the joint you see apart. The pipe then goes into a concrete footing, so going back to the next coupling was not an option. Plus the pipe ran right next to a block foundation so even if I had pipe thread cutting equipment there wasn’t room to use it.
What you need
If you ever run into a situation like mine where you have to cut the galvanized pipe in place I have found a way to repair it that doesn’t require cutting threads. The item you need is a “Galvanized Pipe Compression Coupling” and I found it at Menards. Interestingly the staff at Menards didn’t know it existed, I had to find it on their website and show it to the person that worked in the plumbing department. Make sure you know what size pipe you have so you can get the right coupler. Supply is probably 3/4″. Also get a 6″ nipple and cut the threads off of one end. The compression coupling has an inner rubber ring that gets compressed against the outside of the pipe to form a watertight seal.
Preparing the Pipe
Cut the pipe off square and make sure there are not any burs and use sandpaper to clean the outside of the pipe. I used a right angle grinder with a cut-off disc. This produces a much cleaner cut than a hack-saw. Plus I’m much better and keeping the cut straight with a disc than a saw blade and it is quick.
Change to Something Else
So you want to get away from galvanized as quick as possible so I threaded a 3/4″ pipe thread to PEX on the nipple that came out of the compression coupling and my problem is solved.