Time To Learn Some Axe Skills

I have to admit to having an affinity for axes for as long as I can remember.  I’m not as hardcore as the folks over at the Axe Junkies Facebook Group, but I do have around 10 of them.  This year I’m determined to spend more quality time with them.  You will only develop axe skills by using it and I will be finding some tasks, projects or chores that I can do with an axe.

So You Want To be a lumberjack

I have always enjoyed splitting straight grained wood with an axe or maul and when I cut down smaller trees I’ve found a good sharp axe removes small limbs better than a chainsaw.  But for felling trees, I’m more of a chainsaw kind of guy.  I do have a couple of the large double bit axes.  An interesting side note is that each side of the head was often sharpened differently for different uses.  I will give felling a tree with an axe a go this spring, you never know I might like it and it will at the very least be good exercise.

Carpenters Axe

The view many people have of an axe user is a lumberjack with a huge double bit axe.  However what many people do not realize is that an axe is not just the tool of a woodsman or lumberjack, is used to be part of the standard toolkit of the carpenter.  Pictured above is the Hults Bruk Carpenter Axe that I acquired this year and I will be starting with it this year.  I need to clear out space in my basement first so I have a place to work.  The edge on this axe is amazing, almost a mirror finish and very sharp.  I’ll be looking for some project that can be made with just an axe to build my skills.

Interesting Videos

A good primer on different types of Axes by Dave Canterbury

Wrangler Star reviews a decent cheep axe

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 https://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.