Category: Building Maintenance

Electronics Projects (by )

So, my electronics workbench is a mess.

This is abundantly clear in the picture from my blog post on redesigning my workspace; the awkward layout is certainly part of the problem, but a deeper problem is that I don't do many electronics projects. So this big workbench is rarely used for its intended purpose, and thus accumulates junk, and thus isn't very inviting to start projects at, which adds to the fact that I'm a bit edgy about STARTING electronics projects, and a vicious cycle has set in...

The only electronic projects I did lately were the 12 volt DC power distribution system for the van and a 9:1 impedance transformer, but those were mainly mechanical builds; the electronics were trivial.

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Insulating the Workshop Roof (by )

I work from home, in my workshop at the end of the garden. I have my rocket mass heater to warm it in the winter, but while the radiant heat from the primary heat exchanger is comfortable, as soon as the fire burns down it's freezing again, because the room's air temperature doesn't really rise.

Also, in summer, I roast in here; the sun beats straight down on the dark felt roof above, and my ceiling is just four layers of felt and a couple of centimetres of plywood, so on sunny days the wood above me reaches 40-50 degrees Celcius and roasts me with infra-red radiation.


Because over this past summer, I've finished insulating the roof. I did this by getting inch-thick foil-backed foam boards and fixing them between the joists, with twenty centimetres of woolly insulation above that. Here's a few photos to illustrate what I mean, taken when I tested the method at the end of last year:

First section of workshop roof insulation

Partially insulated roof

Insulation around the chimney

There's a gap of about five centimetres above the woolly stuff, to allow air to flow. A big danger of sealing a roof up with insulation is that warm, humid air from the room beneath will manage to sneak up, past the insulation, reach the cold area above, and promptly condense, making it nasty and dump up there - leading to the roof rotting. So I left an air gap, and made sure that every area of the roof was ventilated. Since the roof is punctuated by wooden beams, this meant putting an air vent at the top and bottom of each "bay". In the summer, the air rising out of the vents at the upper end of the roof was pretty hot, too, so convection of air along the underside of the hot roof also helps to get rid of heat in the summer.

Thankfully, this meant that I wasn't roasted during the summer; and now I've mainly finished running aluminium tape over all the edges, so my warm air doesn't seep up and dissappear, it's also keeping the heat much better in winter. I've been running the rocket mass heater in the mornings and the room temperature has risen and stayed up for most of the day, thanks to the residual heat from the secondary heat exchanger now being enough to replace heat lost to the outside.

Also, it seems the aluminium tape makes a good electrical contact with the aluminium backing on the foam board, so my entire ceiling is a big radio-frequency reflector, which might prove useful in keeping all the noise-leaking computers in my workshop separate from any antennas I put on the roof...

Redesigning my workspace (by )

So, I work from home - and a lot of my hobbies involve sitting at the same desk, as they're computer-based or electronics-based. My workspace is an outbuilding at the end of my garden, with power and Ethernet connecting it to the house. Half of it is a workshop, and the other half is my computer / electronics lab. The workshop end is pretty good since I made my custom welding bench, but the lab end was just made from furniture I had lying around that fitted in, so has been a compromise for some time. I am forming a plan to fix it!

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Compressed air distribution in the workshop (by )

Up until now, I've just plugged flexible hoses into my compressor to run tools.

I've got a bunch of things that need clean air (spray guns, tyre inflator, the plasma cutter, and a blow gun), and a bunch of things that need lubricated air (nailer, drill, impact screwdriver, sander, angle grinder, chisel, and impact wrench), so I've standardised on using PCL connectors for clean air and the ones that come with cheap air tools from Aldi and Lidl (what is that interface called?) for lubricated air:

Aldi/Lidl airline fittings

To convert from one to t'other, I have my handy compressed air tool caddy. On the front is a regulator, filter, and oil injector, with a PCL plug on the inlet, and on the outlet a springy hose with a shutoff valve and a socket for oiled air:

Air caddy front

At the rear is a storage box with my bottle of airline oil, the key for my air drill, the spanners for my air grinder, and a box with a pipette and funnel for putting oil into tools:

Air caddy back

Now, this setup is OK, but it's a bit fiddly to go the compressor and plug things in; and I've been making something that needs compressed air as part of the building infrastructure (there will be a blog post focussing on it later so I won't go into detail now, but it's a pneumatic vacuum ejector):

Vacuum ejector

So, it was time to run proper pneumatic plumbing around the place! I had a bunch of copper plumbing pipe left behind by plumbers as we've had a lot of building work lately, so I had some 28mm, 22mm, and normal 15mm tube lying around. I decided to use all the 28mm tube for the long run across the ceiling, all the 22mm tube I had to extend that to make the distance I needed, then 15mm tube for the rest, because larger tube means easier air flow - and because all that volume inside the pipes gives me an extra litre or so of air storage...

To combine them, I had to buy reducers of the appropriate diameters; I went for solder-ring fittings because I'm well equipped with blowtorches. Plastic pipe clips hold it securely to the ceiling beams:

15mm 22mm and 28mm pipe

And the 15mm plumbing terminates in things like this:

PCL Compressed air outlet

To convert between the world of plumbing (15mm copper) and the world of compressed air lines (1/4" BSP threads), I searched on eBay and found adapters with 15mm compression fittings on one side and 1/4" BSP on the other end:

The PCL fittings, ball valves, and other hardware came from Airlines Pneumatics.

Now, at various points, I needed to interface to flexible hoses - to connect to the compressor or the plasma cutter, for instance. To do that, I needed to get adapters between barbed hose fittings and 1/4" BSP threads or PCL fittings, as appropriate (all from Airlines Pneumatics). Fitting these correctly needs to be done with care, or they'll leak, so I've made a video explaining the process:

(you can also watch it on YouTube)

Although the fittings are depressingly expensive, it's been very rewarding setting this up - I love working on infrastructure, and now it's a lot easier to use my compressed air equipment 🙂

The Gardens a Mess but BBQ like Kings Anyway! (by )

To sort out our drainage (clue - there wasn't any) our garden has had to be ripped up - I am quiet sad about this but electrics and plumbing where the priorities for the building works and everything else is just added glam. But this does mean that the garden is a mess - half the deckings gone - the painted part mostly (boo!) and because I'm going to use it to make planters it happens to still be lurking in the garden along with the smashed garden ornaments and plant pots. I like to eat outside and would normally have started this at the end of March - the weather has been dismal too be fair but I was starting to get twitchy and take us out for picnics and stuff instead. This weekend having already picnicked and having spotted the dutch oven that my bro and fam had bought for us a couple of years ago and that had still not been used, I was was like... RIGHT! It Is Time. And so it was.

The girls helped me clean and move what is left of the garden furniture after snowaggedon destroyed most of it and builders demolished a significant proportion of the remainder.

first BBQ 2018

Camping chairs are in play and once I dig out the shed there will be the long table and benches which we normally use for parties - it will be our garden furniture from now until it falls apart (something I don't think is far off). Same with all the half gazebos we have ended up with - they will be steadily worn out as the replacement for our canopy that the snow broke.

Tricoloured peppers

Food wise I went simple and we had jacket potatoes and chopped veg - the kids ate the veg raw and I lit up the second BBQ popped the griddle on and cooked up the left over bacon from my parents visit - Al being veggie means I don't want meat cooked on the dutch oven set at all due to how you clean it i.e. you kind of don't.

tatties wrapped and ready for the flames

Of course the Dutch Oven needed curing or seasoning, I wasn't sure if it was already seasoned so did one lot of oil burn on it just incase. This is where you rub some sort of fat on it - veg oil, lard - what ever and then heat it up so it smokes off. This creates a protective layer that prevents the cast iron from rusting and also makes it a non-stick surface.

dutch oven in bucket BBQ

And yes these are the old bucket BBQs we bought when we first moved in and yes we have had to weld new bottoms on them and paint them with heat proof black metal BBQ paint and yes they are now really falling to bits... it's on the to do list to sort! But we really just need somewhere to light a fire and put the lakwan, cast iron pans, girdles and dutch ovens in - they work so much better than trying to cook veg burgers on a grill over the hot coals!

I also put frozen raspberries in cream soda which worked really really well.

Cream Soda and frozen raspberries

The potatoes cooked fine and we got to just enjoy the sunshine in the garden - Mary of course was grumpy because she'd wanted pancakes because the chickens have started laying again but we are still putting everything away in the kitchen and I haven't yet found were I stashed the flour!

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