Tire Plug Kit – Something Everyone Should Have

In the past week I have used my tire plug kit twice, once on my riding mower and once on my car.  What would have put off mowing the lawn when I had the time or taking more than an hour to get the car fixed turned out to only take 5 minutes.

Why a plug kit

What makes putting in a plug so great is you generally do not have to take the wheel off.  You just pull out anything in the hole (nail, screw…) and put in the plug.  This not only saves you time but generally is easier.  If you look in the middle of the tire you can see a driver bit stuck in the tire.  I took a pair of needle nose pliers, pulled it out and first used the reamer and then stuck in a plug.  Less than 5 minutes including pumping the tire back up.

Consider one in each car

Since a kit is less than $10 you should consider having one in each car.  If you are on the road and catch the leak soon and are quick about plugging it you might be able to make it to a place that has a compressor.  But it would be good to have some kind of small compressor in your vehicle.  I don’t have one because for years I’ve had GM vans that had an air port on the load leveling system that could be used to pump up tires.

Only for tubeless tires

Keep in mind tire plug kits are only for tubeless tires.  If you have a leak in a tire with an inner tube to fix it you pull the tube out and put a patch on the tube.  Anyone who fixed a bike tire knows this routine.  Many tractors and wheelbarrows also have inner tubes.  If you have these kinds of tires you should probably have a patch kit as well.

The Electric Log Splitter Project

For some time now I have been considering converting a log splitter to run on an electric motor rather than a gas engine.  The splitter I have been using (red one in the background) has had starting problems since the 2nd year after my dad got it.  True a gas-powered splitter can be taken to the wood, but I think I can make a semi-permanent location work for an electric-powered log splitter.  This will require a 220V circuit to run a big enough electric motor, so that is a bit limiting, but I have the skills to put in a 220V outlet where needed.

Donor Log Splitter

I managed to get a log splitter without a gas engine from a friend that does warranty repair work for the Tractor Supply stores in my area.  He had some extra parts he was looking to get rid of.  In my case these are all new parts and I have everything I need except the power source.  It is a bit of a Frankenstein in that the hydraulic cylinder is on the bigger side of what is put in a log splitter and I think the pump is on the smaller side.  I do have to option of mounting a gas engine on it if I want to in the future, but since the family already has a gas powered log splitter, this isn’t likely to happen.

Electric Motor requirements

The next question is to figure out what size electric motor would be right for this application.  It is often said on the internet that you can get away with 1/2 the horsepower when replacing a gas engine with an electric motor.  The reason for this is as a gas motor slows down in RPM’s it generates less power.  There is a power curve related to engine RPM and you need enough power to keep the engine speed up in the range that generates the most power.  Therefore you need to “up-size” the engine to make sure that a spike in load doesn’t drop the engine RPM down too far.  Once the RPM’s start to fall, the power drops of as well, which causes further slowing of the engine and less power output.  Once this starts to happen if you do not reduce the load your engine will stall.  With a log splitter this just means just bringing the hydraulic valve back to center and giving the engine a chance to speed back up.

An electric motor is fundamentally different in that it (generally) has 100% of its torque available at 0 RPM.  This means you won’t stall it like you will with a gas engine, as the RPM’s go down you get more power available.  Of course if you have an electric motor that is simply not big enough you can stall it, but you do not have the same power drop off as RPM’s go down as you do with a gas engine.

Fortunately my son is currently going to the local Community College and some of his classes are in fluid power.  Therefore rather than guessing we will be pulling the specs from the pump and the cylinder and calculating what size electric motor we really need, and then scour the internet to source it.

You can follow this project at http://saveourskills.com/tag/electric-log-splitter/ or by signing up for e-mail updated in the upper right.

7 Ways to Improve the Shelf Life of Your Foods

hether you have leftover produce from your garden or if you’re looking to grow a food stockpile for emergencies, one of your top priorities has to be keeping that food edible for as long as possible. Throwing food away only means one thing: that you’re also throwing money away. So, without further ado, let’s see a few ways to do this.

#1. Seal Your Food like a Pro

What do I mean by “like a pro”? There are advanced ways to seal certain foods such as rice, pasta and beans, the most popular one being putting them in Mylar bags and adding a few oxygen absorbers. The O2 absorbers contain a fine iron powder which, when it comes into contact with air, creates a nitrogen environment which removes all oxygen and prevents any microorganisms from developing.

#2. Get a (Second) Freezer

Foods will last longer in the freezer than in the fridge: up to 3 months versus up to 9 days for bananas, 6 to 8 months versus 4 to 5 days for pasta and so on. You can find plenty of shelf life estimations online which suggest that getting (another) freezer is the best way to maximize the shelf life of most foods that can’t be preserved using the method above, with Mylar bags and O2 absorbers.

Of course, during a blackout you’ll not only be left without electricity for days on end, but also with a countdown to consume all the items inside your fridge or freezer (before the ones form your pantry, root cellar or before fresh food).

The only ways to maximize shelf life then are to keep both of them chock-full, and to open the door as few times as possible. One thing you could do as you empty your freezer is to put bottles of water inside to keep it full. You’ll also get to enjoy ice cold water.

#3. Dehydrate

Whether you can get a food dehydrator or just use the sun to do it, you can use this method to increase shelf life. Probably the biggest benefit is that it’s a lot easier than canning and, as far as I know, there’s no risk of botulism.

Some of the foods you can dehydrate include: apples, apricots, tomatoes, blueberries and even beef jerkey, though this last one is a little more complicated.

#4. Get a Can Rotator System

Or make one! There are some tutorials on youtube that show such systems. Your best bet would be to make one from wood, although I’ve seen one made of thick cardboard that looked pretty nice. Of course, if you don’t want to complicate things, you can just buy one from Amazon, they start at under 30 bucks.

Why do you need one? It helps you organize your #10 cans so you always eat the oldest one. It uses the FILO methodology (which stands for First In, First Out) and, although it’s not really a way to increase the shelf life of your cans, I just had to include it in this list because it’ll help you avoid throwing food away.

#5. Keep Your Pantry’s Temperature Steady

Most people know that, the lower the temperature, the longer their food will last. However, not many people know that temperature variations affect shelf life as well. The way I see it, if you live in Alaska and keep your food in the attic because it’s cold all year round, you’ll still see decreased shelf life due to variations in temperature.

Quick tip: avoid storing eggs and milk in the refrigerator door, if you want to maximize their shelf life. Because the door gets open several times a day, temperature variations will affect both of them.

#6. Fix the Humidity Problem in Your Basement

If you have mold in your basement, you’ve got a problem. And the only way to fix it is to make sure you ventilate it, either by opening one of those small windows (if you have them), or by installing a ventilation system (and having a back-up energy source in case the power goes out for a longer period of time).

#7. Keep Your Dry Ingredients in Glass Mason Jars

So long as they also have good lids, they’ll keep moisture and pests away. Sugar, cocoa powder, and various spices and herbs will last longer.

Final Word

If you’re interested in food preservation techniques and in prolonging the life of your foods, you’ll find dozens upon dozens of food preservation techniques on the Internet. Take them all with a grain of salt, try to find actual research backing them up, as well as checking that the same advice is given on multiple websites. In addition, make sure you use the right techniques on the right foods, keep in mind most of them can be stored in multiple conditions (fridge, freezer, pantry) with various numbers pertaining to shelf life.

Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie

There is an urban legend that a customer asked for the recipe for these cookies and was told she could have it for “Two-Fifty”.  When she was charged $250 she got her revenge by sharing it with everyone.  While this story is not true and there are several other versions with different store names, the cookies are still very good.

Print Recipe
Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cream Butter and both Sugars
  2. Add Eggs and Vanilla
  3. Mix Flour, Oatmeal, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda
  4. Add Chocolate and Nuts
  5. Scoop out onto parchment lined baking sheet
  6. Bake at 375° for 10 Minutes
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Battery Disconnect Switch

I have a 1994 F-150 truck that has some electrical problems.  Notably, there are the remnants of an alarm system in it.  This alarm system also has a kill switch function that at times disables the truck.

Since I use this truck infrequently I’ve battled this alarm and the battery draining for years.  I have tried a couple of times to have this alarm system removed, but have been unsuccessful in finding all the parts.  Therefore I’ve resorted to addressing the symptom rather than spending any more time, effort and money to remove the alarm system.  To do this I installed a battery disconnect switch.  A couple of quick turns of the green knob either connects or disconnects the battery from the electrical system of the vehicle.  Now when I want to use the truck I tighten of the knob and it starts right up.

Anyone who has vehicles or tractors that are used infrequently may find such a disconnect switch to be of value.  Of course you lose any saved settings in something like a digital radio, but to not have your battery drained is worth it.  Many newer vehicles have phantom loads that consume power, in small amounts, but never the less are there.  I have heard that the Toyota Prius has something like a parking or storage mode where the engine will start periodically to recharge the batteries.  I suspect this has a much bigger phantom load than other cars.  Older vehicles should have no phantom load.

Lead Acid batteries do have a self-discharge rate of about 5% per month so you cannot just disconnect a battery and expect it to stay good forever.  That is why there are such things as trickle chargers, to keep batteries topped up and keep the batteries from being damaged by discharge.  Take care of your batteries and they will take care of you.

 

Ultimate Knife Sharpening Guide – New e-book

Patrick Roehrman over at MT Knives has just released an e-book on Sharpening Knives.  Right now it is free if you buy his Beyond Razor Sharp video.  I got the video when he did his Kickstarter campaign to fund it.  While I have not taken full advantage of everything the video has to offer, it has helped me.  It is the kind of thing you need to watch several times and practice what was demonstrated and is definitely worth the price of the video.

 

 

Swapping A Mower Engine – Part 2

As I worked through the various alignment issues I think I finally got it ready to go.  The problem was the shaft on the new engine is not only longer but it isn’t milled down to 1″ all the way to the mower housing.  The pulleys need to line up or the belts will lose power and could be damaged.

According to a friend that is a small gas engine repairman the shafts are cut off all the time if they are too long.  The only problem is if your application gets something screwed into the end.  If you cut it off you might not have enough threads left or the hole could be too shallow.  In my case I’m using pulleys with a key-way and a set screw, so cutting the shaft was no problem.

However I did have a problem with the air supply to the cut-off tool I was using.  My air compressor just couldn’t supply volume to run the tool, so I had to pause cutting and wait for the tank to fill back up with air.  A better solution (other than a much bigger air compressor) is a cut off disk for my 4-1/2″ angle grinder.  These cut of disks are very thin, which is a good thing as that means the cut is narrower so less material is removed which means less heat is generated.  With any kind of metal-cutting heat is always a concern, if you were to just use a grinding disk it would cut a much wider slot and generate a lot more heat.  It will also take more power from the tool so if you are at the limits of what it can do you might find your tool stalling out and maybe burning up the motor.  If the piece you are working gets too how it can ruin the heat treatment.

Next step testing it out.