12V DC Electrical Systems – Keep Them Clean, Bright & Tight

I’ve been having trouble with an old Ford F-150 trick I’ve got.  I don’t use it regularly and frequently when I try to use it the battery is “dead”.  However this last time I looked into it the problem wasn’t really the battery.  When I took off the cables and hooked the battery charger directly to the battery it was something like 85% charged.  This led me to take a closer look at the positive cable (I’d already replaced the negative).

20161014_170349-1024x576If you look closely you will see a crack in the terminal clamp.  This is made of lead and it is soft enough so that when the nut is tightened it forms a tight contact with the battery post.  However since this one was beat up and cracked it would not form a tight connection.  For low voltage connections it is important to keep them “Clean, Bright & Tight” or you will have continuous problems.  This one kept corroding because it wasn’t maintaining a tight metal to metal connection.  This increased the resistance to the point that the current flow wasn’t enough for the truck starter to turn.

20161014_170354.jpgTo fix this it is a simple mater of cutting off the old one and attaching a replacement terminal clamp, available form any auto-parts store.  Notice that this one has two heavy gauge wires cast into the connector.

20161014_171843.jpgHowever it takes a bit of effort to cut cable this thick with regular wire cutters.  There is a set of cutters with curved jaws and a longer handle that makes cutting this size wire feasible.  If you don’t have a pair of these try taking smaller bites out of the cable and maybe you can work your way through the cable.

The image at the top shows the finished project.  It only took about 10 minutes and the job was done.  If I’m correct in my troubleshooting then this should stop my problem.  You should consider checking your battery terminals every fall before cold weather sets in (assuming you live where it gets cold).  It takes more current to start a car in the cold and if the connection is loose or corroded then you might find yourself stranded in the cold.


The Super-Power of the Triangle

While you may not have believed your high school math teacher when you were told “you will use this later in life”, the triangle is your friend.  However you don’t need to know all of the trigonometry your math teacher tried to pound into your head to harness the power of the triangle.

The two things that triangles do for you.  They allow you make sure a corner is square and derive a length of something it is hard to directly measure.  And while there is some math you can to to figure this out there are some simple ways to do it as well.

Square Corners
For any kind of layout that has four sides with the opposite sides being of equal length you can simply measure the distance of each set of opposite corners and when they are the same then you will know each corner is square.  This only works on 4 sided layouts that are supposed to be a square or rectangle.

345-triangleIf you need to create a right angle between two lines you can use the 3-4-5 rule.  This involves measuring out 3 on one leg of the 90 degree angle and 4 on the other.  By making sure the last side of the triangle it 5 that will ensure the opposite corner is 90 degrees.  What makes this great is it doesn’t matter what the units are as long as the ratio is 3-4-5.  It can be inches, meters or longer (i.e. 30′-40′-50′).  Picking measurements that make up a larger percentage of the size of of what you are trying to layout will give you them most accuracy.

45-triangleOne of the rules of a triangle with angles of 90-45-45 degrees is that the two sides that are connected at 90 degrees are always the same length.  Further if you can establish a smaller triangle inside of a larger one to establish the proper angles it extended to the larger triangle.  You can use this to estimate the height of something.


Chicken Update – Keep Your Electric Fence HOT!!!

I think something got into my chicken yard and caused a bunch of problems.  There were not any eggs left, just shells and one of the hens looked pretty tore up, I’m not sure she will live.  We have been getting a lot rain lately and it has been hard to keep the electric fence up and running.  The GFCI breaker that the fence charger is on keeps tripping when it rains.  The electric fence is what protects my birds from ground based predictors as I have more of a shelter than a fully enclosed coop.  I’m going to have to be more diligent about making sure fence is on and hot.

My fence charger does have the option for a 12v input so maybe I should start running it off of a deep cycle battery.  But then I have to worry about periodically charging it.

Beekeeping – Harvesting Honey and Setting Up for Winter

I still had a medium hive body with 10 frames that I brought inside last spring after my hives died out.  I went through it and I found it was about 3/4 full of honey.  My goal is to provide plenty of honey to the two nucs of local bees I got in the spring.  I use foundation-less frames so any of the frames that had cross-combing, broken or not centered in the frame, leaving only the best comb.  I only ended up cutting out part of most of the frames.

Cross-Combed Frame
Cross-Combed Frame
Cross-Combed Frame
Cross-Combed Frame

20160924_184136.jpgI got a steam table pan as it is a good size to cut the comb into.  I’m finding that if I cut each side of the comb in half length-wise, in effect cutting each cell in half and allowing the honey to drain out.

20160924_205825.jpgI use the crush and strain method of harvesting honey.  So this mashed up comb and honey goes into the top of my bottling bucket.  There is a mesh strainer that sits in the top that allows the honey to go through and keeps the wax and other stuff in the top and I scoop that out.  I still need to work out the best way to process the wax.  I suspect there is still some honey and I don’t know if I should just heat up all of it and let it separate and then strain any honey.  There is some old brood comb in there and I don’t want that crud in my honey or wax.  If it was all fresh comb I wouldn’t worry about heating it up until the wax melts and then letting it separate naturally.  Something to figure out in the winter.

20160924_164233.jpgI also added a small entrance with a metal disk that I can change from open to workers only to vented.  I also made a new cover out of 2″ x 10″ lumber.

Below is a quick video I shot after I added the hive body to the stack.

Tire Plug Kit – Something Everyone With Tires Should Own

My son came in after mowing the lawn saying “Dad we have a problem”.  He proceeded to explain how he was having problems steering and when he pulled it into the garage he noticed that one of the back tires was flat.

We found a nail in the tire and rather than take it someplace I pulled out the plug kit.  I took advantage of this to teach my son how to plug a tire, and he did it all.  If it fails he will have to walk home, from the front yard 🙂  If you look at the picture above you will see the little bit of the orange plug sticking out.

Frequently you can plug a tire without even taking it off the car, mower or whatever else.  This can be a real advantage if you are out away from your home base.  Consider being on the side of the road or pulled into a gas station.  If you catch it before too much air escapes, and you are quick you can have the tire plugged before it even goes flat.  Jacking a car up on the side of a busy road can be dangerous, you either have the jack in the soft shoulder or it is on the road side and you have to worry about a car hitting you.  Instead you can just pop a plug in.  However I must admit to not carrying a plug kit in my car so I decided to get this compact kit from Amazon.

You will likely need to add air to the tire so it is goo to also have a portable air compressor.  My Chevy mini-van with the load leveling system comes with a built-in air compressor to adjust the suspension and it has a port on it you can use for adding air to your tires.  It has save me on more than one occasion.

I’ve used up everything in my existing plug kit that I keep in the garage so I also ordered a 50 pack of plugs, this should last me almost forever.  Note this type of repair is only for tubeless tires, which will be almost any car, but things like lawn mowers, tractors and wheelbarrows might have tubes.  Bicycles almost always have tubes.


Jerusalem Artichokes Doing Well

I planted a bed of Jerusalem Artichokes this year.  They are something like 8′-9′ tall.  To be truthful I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them but they are growing well.  I’m considering the tops as fodder for my chickens, but looking on the internet they don’t tend to like it.

I Got A Carpenters Axe

Hults Bruk, a maker of hand forged axes since 1697 moved into the North American market in 2015.  Recently they launched a program to promote their axes via social media.  I applied and while was not selected I was a finalist and as such received a free axe to review.  I selected the Tibro Carpenter Axe.  I have a chainsaw and will be mostly working on my 10 acre property, so I felt a felling axe would be less useful.

20160910_175750.jpgI’ve always wanted to learn more “rustic” woodworking and a good carpenters axe is one of the basic tools needed.  The edge comes very sharp and an almost a mirror finish.  The over length is about 20″ with a 1-3/4 lb head.  This is definitely not something you want to be out swinging at a tree with as it is too short.  However since it is design for more close up work the length isn’t a problem.  The finish on the handle does feel a little slick out of the box, I’ll see if rubbing it with to take the sheen off of it.

Now I just need some projects to use it on.  Below is an interesting video of the forging process.