Adding a Gauge to an Underground Water Tank

Some of my friends and relatives are on wells that have sulfur in them.  Using this water in your house eats away at copper and electronics, so it is common to get water hauled in and store it in a tank underground.  However how to tell how much water is left in the tank requires some kind of gauge or dropping down some kind of measuring stick, or you risk running out of water.

Retrofitting a tank that did not have a gauge when the tank was buried can be a challenge.  These tanks generally have a fill pipe with a cap and a vent pipe that has an elbow pointing down.  I got something labeled a rain tank gauge from Amazon and with some additional plumbing pieces added it the vent gauge.  This is a very simple mechanical gauge that has a string with a float that hangs below it.  As the float goes up and down the string winds the hand on the gauge.  The empty and full marks are just pointer hands that you set when you figure out the levels for your particular tank.

In this particular application, the gauge is next to the sidewalk to the door the is used every day so it is easy to monitor.

Poison Ivy – Strategies to Avoid Suffering from the Rash

For anyone that has broken out in the itchy rash that is the result of coming in contact with Poison Ivy you know it is something to be avoided.  Personally, I generally do not suffer from incidental contact, but my wife is really affected from any small contact.  After one occasion where it kept coming back even when she had not come in contact with the plant caused me to do some research.  Below are my findings as I understand things, your mileage may very.

Poison Ivy – What Causes the Irritation?

For most people it is the oil on the leaves or vine that causes the problem.  When it gets on your skin you will break out with a rash that is very itchy.  It is important to note that it is this oil that can be spread to other parts of your body.  Only when that oil is still on your skin will scratching cause it to spread.  The blisters that form and the fluid in them will not cause a reaction someplace else.

How to Avoid A Reaction to Poison Ivy

If you come in contact with poison ivy it is important to get that oil off of your skin as soon as possible.  However this oil is very hard to get off, it tenaciously sticks to your skin and clothing.  You know you sometimes you get grease on your hands and it takes several washings to get it off, poison ivy oil is the same way.

A commercial product specifically designed to do this is Tecnu but a dishwashing liquid that is good at cutting grease and oil will work as well.  Another option that works differently is Hydrogen PerOxide which chemically oxidizes the poison ivy oil, changing it so that it no longer causes the irritation.

Keep in mind that the oil can also be on your clothing and gear and will remain able to cause a breakout for months, depending on how sensitive you are to it.  I know of a case where someone was getting a breakout even when they had not been outside.  It turns out there was a jacket they put on after getting the poison ivy oil on their skin.  The oil transferred from skin to jacket and then the next time the jacket was worn (more than a month later) resulted in another breakout from the oil on the jacket.

It has been reported that you do not want to wash your skin with hot water.  This tends to open up your pores and the oil gets deeper into your skin and even harder to get off.  Further, this can spread the oil making it worse.  I know of someone that got in poison ivy and took a very hot shower and spread it over a good portion of his body.  Wash your exposed skin well before getting in the shower.

Wash Your Clothes Well

You need to do a good job of washing your clothes.  I generally will run them through a couple of cycles in the washing machine and I am generous with the amount of soap.  Bleach will also help, which is why I dress in old clothes when I work in areas where there is poison ivy.  Further if you have walked through some low growing poison ivy you will have the oil on your shoes and laces.

Pet Fur

Your pets can pick up the oil and transfer it to you.  Keep that in mind if you keep getting breakouts and cannot figure out where it is coming from.

  • It is the oil that causes the reaction if it is spreading you are getting more oil from somewhere.
  • Get the oil off of your skin ASAP using a soap that is good at cutting through oils.  Tecnu if you have it or something like Dawn dishwashing liquid.  If it gets the oil and grease off after working on your car it will probably get the poison ivy oil off.
  • Don’t forget to clean clothes and any gear you had when you encountered the poision ivy.

Bullhead Fishing

Personally, I’m not into fishing, but I know many of you are.  If you are a fisherman there is a new site on Bullhead Fishing you might want to check out.

As a non-fisherman, I’ve always heard the stories about catfish not being good eating, and then I’ve heard others say they are great.  I guess it is like many fish, how they taste can be affected by the water they live in, which of course makes sense.

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 or by signing up for e-mail updated in the upper right.

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.