Category Archives: Engineering

Shipping Container Homes

You don’t need more space, you need less stuff.

Back when I owned a trailer park, shipping containers often made instant buildings which could serve a myriad of purposes for me, from simple storage units, through a workshop, to a pretty nice office.

(not my office, a home made from shipping containers)

What I have never yet attempted is to use a shipping container to make a tiny home, or more likely, use several shipping containers linked together to make a decent-sized home.  The place to start is to learn something about shipping containers, and then buy the right units.

Shipping containers are usually strong steel boxes with doors at one end, but they actually come in lots of versions.  The standard width is 8′ (eight feet), the standard height is 8’6″ (eight foot six inches), and the two standard lengths are 20′ (twenty foot), and 40′ (forty foot).  There are a whole raft of non-standard lengths starting at 5′, but a 10′ container is the more common of the non-standard lengths.  The internal floor areas work out at 150 sq ft for a 20′ container and 305 sq ft for a 40′ container.

Given that most people regard 1000 sq ft as a decent size for a home, (plus a garage), then we are talking of at least a couple of containers to make anything that approximates a ‘normal-sized’ house.  Container architecture is a discipline all of its own.

You obviously need a plot, the appropriate permissions from whatever building authority is responsible for all the regulatory stuff, and you may / or may not need to lay a concrete slab on which to stand the container(s) you’re going to turn into a home.  (Whether or not you need to lay a concrete pad depends on the ground, and how long you expect the container home to stand there.)

It’s no good just buying a plot, plonking a used shipping container there and expecting to live in it.  Shipping containers are steel boxes, and that means they are damn hot inside in summer, and bloody freezing inside in winter.   To make a home you will have to line out the inside, and perhaps even clad the outside.  Even if you just buy one 40′ container and are going to be happy living in 305 sq ft, you will still need to do a hell of a lot of work to make your steel box habitable.

One of the first things you need to learn is how to cut steel plate.  Your box needs more than a big door at one end, you need windows, (at least), and maybe another door, and perhaps holes so you can link one container to another to make a bigger home.  Luckily, shipping containers are mostly made of steel that’s only between 1.5mm and 2mm thick, so it’s easy to cut.  Realistically there are 3 ways to cut steel on site, (using an ordinary hacksaw will take you aeons and you’ll hurt your wrist and hands).

  1. Oxy-acetylene cutting torch.  These things are dangerous, and unless you’ve done this kind of cutting before, you would be best getting instruction before attempting to use an oxygen / acetylene torch.  However, a cutting torch is fast and it’s easy to cut complex shapes.  If you want circular cut-outs for round windows / portholes in your tiny container home, then oxy-acetylene could be for you.
  2. Electric jigsaw.  The sides of steel shipping containers are pretty easy to cut, so an ordinary electric jigsaw will chop out your doors and windows.  And, you can cut curves in steel with an electric jigsaw.  This is possibly the best choice for the averagely skilled person.
  3. Stihl cut-off saw.  STIHL is a trademark, but what we are talking about here is a big power saw of some description.  Cutting lots of big holes in your containers, on site, you may well want something like a petrol powered Stihl saw, (and make certain you have the right disk for steel).

The benefits of using steel shipping containers to make a tiny home, (or something bigger), is that it’s pretty fast and inexpensive to get a weatherproof structure on site, they’re strong and durable, and you can put them down just about anywhere.  A shipping container is probably the start of the ultimate off-the-grid home.

I can and have lived off-the-grid in a log cabin I built myself, (from a kit), but I would strongly caution anyone thinking of doing this concerning water.  You will need a constant supply of potable water, either from the mains or from your own well / borehole.  The average American uses between 80 to 100 gallons of water every day of the year.  It’s possible to finesse around all the other services; sewage, electricity, gas, heating, telephone and internet, but shipping water in a small bowser on a regular basis is an absolute non-starter.

Once you have a weatherproof structure with the doors and windows installed, and you’ve made a start on connecting your services, then you can start on the really fun stuff, which is fitting out the interior to suit your tastes.  The only limit to your imagination is the dimensions of whatever containers you have bought.

Making a home out of steel shipping containers is within the scope of anyone who is fairly competent at all kinds of advanced DIY, and who can also manage a project.

And all this gives me a problem; is my next project a school bus camper, or a container-based tiny home?

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click on the book for more

 

 

 

 

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School Bus Camper

I’d like to sit back and take in the grandeur of nature.

There’s this long-term plan for me to buy an old school bus and convert the thing into a camper / RV.  It’s a pretty vague plan right now because I have a lot of other things on my mind.  However, I’m thinking of doing the conversion in Southern California, which obviously means buying the used bus somewhere in SoCal.

I’ve looked into how much it would cost to buy a used bus in the 12 to 18 seat range from somewhere around LA, and you can trust me on this, they are practically giving the things away.  (I’ve seen one I like the look of for $2,500 plus taxes.)

There are a couple of caveats there, the look I want means an old bus, and that means lots and lots of miles, (100,000 or more), but as they are built to last with huge diesel engines, (7 litres or so), that shouldn’t matter so much.

The second caveat is that an old bus is going to need specialist rebuilding and servicing for the chassis and engine, before I start on the fun part of the conversion.  There are plenty of companies who are set up to rebuild and service the chassis / brakes / engine / gearbox / exhaust on this kind of vehicle, but I know that’s going to be hideously expensive ~ (maybe).

Still, I don’t think I need a vast budget for this kind of project.  I can work that out in detail over the next few months.

(There is also the option of buying something that actually started life as a camper van.)

The really fun part is thinking about the places I’d like to take my bus, (like Big Bear Lake) ~ and who I’d like to take along with me.  (Marmy and I need a girl riding shotgun.)

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

10% discount on everything if you quote code C7SYDV6B

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Advanced DIY

Really successful engineering is all about understanding how something will break or fail.

For some strange reason I am blessed with the ability to fix almost anything, install almost anything, make almost anything, and build almost anything.

I built myself a Caterham / Lotus 7 sports-racing car, which I then drove all over Europe on long road trips.  The trip I enjoyed most in this little car was driving down the entire Loire Valley in France.  (Or maybe it was the Stelvio Pass.)

Minor pieces of carpentry are child’s play for me ~ which is why I could rip out the old kitchen in my garret and replace it with something that I liked and suited my needs.

(With help from my friend Marmaduke of course.)

I’ve also erected log cabins and built vacation homes from plywood.  (This is a stock picture, not one of mine)

Sometimes, half way through a project, I’ve wondered why I started, and if the thing would ever be finished.  The picture above shows this kind of ‘why am I doing this’ project. Although, this wreck of an Austin-Healey Sprite turned into a really beautiful little car, finished in British Racing Green as a frog-eye.  (the almost completed little car, I like that I did the white stripes)

For my next project I’m thinking about finding an old school bus, rebuilding it as an RV, (Recreational Vehicle), and then spending an entire year in the thing, touring as much of the USA as I can, on the longest road trip ever.

Something you need, if you want to tackle advanced DIY projects, is a really, really comprehensive tool kit.  And, take my advice, always buy the very best tools you can afford.  (You may need a hard hat.)

This post is sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

some power tools are a must have

click on the power tools picture

Is This The End of the Internal Combustion Engine?

Environmentalists are killing the planet, destroying the economy, and stealing your children’s future.

A bunch of rabid environmentalists have forced the British Government to announce that all petrol and diesel cars will be banned from the year 2040.  Nobody ever accused rabid environmentalists of being intelligent, or having any common sense.  Banning diesel and petrol cars, (or will it be all cars that have exhaust emissions?), has staggering implications that the officials, politicians, and environmentalists haven’t properly thought through.

In Sweden, Volvo has announced that from 2019 all of its new models will be either completely battery powered or hybrid vehicles.  There’s a couple of interesting points here.  Firstly this move will put a whopping premium on the price of all new Volvo’s.  And secondly, hybrid cars still have to have a petrol or diesel engine that will produce nasty polluting exhaust fumes.

Diesel exhausts are killing us all, allegedly.

Across Europe several major cities, (Paris, Madrid, Athens), say that diesel cars will be banned from entering their environs from 2025.  The Hell-Hole that is Mexico City has followed suit ~ ha!  The mayor of London, Mad Sadiq Khan, wants to ban Petrol and Diesel cars from London by 2050.

These headline grabbing moves will achieve absolutely nothing except to cost consumers and taxpayers trillions of Pounds / Euros / Dollars.  Banning diesel and petrol cars in the UK will impose vast costs on drivers for little environmental benefit.

There is no conceivable way that the British electricity generating and distribution systems will ever be able to provide enough power for all those battery powered cars, (and vans and busses, and trucks?).  Just where will all the extra power come from?  The back of an envelope estimate is that all these electric vehicles will add an extra 30 gigawatts to UK peak demand, and that means we would need 50% more generating capacity.  That’s equivalent to another half-dozen huge nuclear power plants like Hinkley Point, or another 20,000 wind turbines, (which only work some of the time).  I have no idea how many acres of solar collectors it would take to generate that amount of power, but they don’t work at night, which is when most people will be charging their electric vehicles.

The British Government says it will install a fast charging point every 20 miles on major roads ~ imagine how many holes in the road and road works delays that will mean.

The British Government are also considering slashing the maximum speed on our motorways to 60 mph, and what is that supposed to achieve except more fines from speeding tickets?

This all seems a bit rich considering that the whole man-made global warming agenda has been exposed as nothing more than a massive fraud.  The best estimate is that if all the trillions of dollars Obama proposed to spend on his Clean Power Plan to tackle non-existent man-made global warming was actually spent, then global temperatures would perhaps be reduced by 0.057 degrees Fahrenheit ~ one five-hundredth of a degree.

Climate change is a normal, natural, and perpetual process which occurs, and has always occurred, with sublime indifference to man’s puny input.  ~  James Delingpole.

There are a few inconvenient truths that politicians and environmentalists would rather the public didn’t wake up to;

  • Man-made global warming / catastrophic anthropogenic climate change doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful form ~it’s nothing but a fraud, a massive scam designed to give politicians back control over an increasingly independent populace.
  • There is no such thing as completely clean power.  Green Energy produces nastier and longer term environmental pollution than does burning fossil fuels.  Nuclear Energy is a case in point, look at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.  Wind turbines have a massively negative impact on the environment, are bad for wildlife, and a blot on the landscape.  All batteries are inherently polluting, expensive, and dangerous.
  • Switching to electric-powered private transport will require at least a 50% increase in electricity generating capacity in any country that tries it.
  • A vast investment in an infrastructure of new charging points to support all these new electric vehicles will be needed.
  • Electric vehicles cost a hell of a lot more than an exactly equivalent bike / car / van / truck / bus powered by an internal combustion engine.
  • Electric vehicles are less capable, and have a shorter life-span, (about 5 years), before major maintenance is required, (new batteries), than do ‘conventional’ cars, trucks, and busses.
  • There aren’t enough qualified mechanics to maintain the huge increase in the number of electric vehicles the politicians propose.
  • Disposing of all of the ‘dead’ batteries will require a huge investment in a recycling technology that, as yet, doesn’t actually exist.
  • The value of used vehicles powered by petrol and diesel engines will plummet, destroying the economies of the developed world.  There is a vast investment in lending to finance vehicle purchases.
  • Internal combustion engines don’t have to run on either petrol or diesel fuel.  Is a ban on ethanol / methanol / vegetable oil / propane / butane fuelled vehicles also proposed?
  • Are politicians also proposing to ban aircraft / railway engines / ships / electricity generators powered by fossil fuels ~ otherwise what’s the point?
  • If Politicians think the backlash against Hillary Clinton was an isolated aberration, they’ve got a big surprise in store after all this banning cars crap.

In my life I’ve seen some insane ideas put forward by politicians at the behest of special interest groups, but a total ban on the internal combustion engine running on fossil fuels has got to be maddest thing I’ve ever heard.  But then, politicians, special interest groups, and bureaucrats have never been known for putting much thought into anything.

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it.  ~  Henry Ford

At least I have the personal benefit of being able to totally and completely ignore all this banning petrol and diesel fuelled cars crap.  Not only that, because I live in a democracy I can cast my vote in ways designed to discomfort the current crop of lightweight, insane, political pygmies.  (And that’s an insult to pygmies and the mentally ill.)

Meanwhile, the Lotus 7 is 60 years old this year.  Now that’s a great car.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

read about the Seven

Scenes on Sunday # 21

I like the desert.  I also like Palm Springs, mountains, and cable cars ~ although this one near Palm Springs is called an Aerial Tramway.  If you want to look like a manly man don’t be scared of cable cars.

All these shots were taken with a LUMIX Panasonic DMC-X53 pocket camera, which is far better to cart up a mountain that my old 35mm SLR with all its attendant lenses.  My days of carrying around a heavy SLR are done and gone.

~

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 Camperpictures by jack collier

and the girl riding shotgun

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

Clinton on Coal

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Burning coal is the most efficient and cost-effective way to produce large amounts of electricity.  Unless you happen to live in an underpopulated country that is also blessed with many large lakes, mountains, and rivers, or Iceland.

However, apart from in the industrial powerhouse countries like China, Germany, and India, the idea of burning coal is an anathema to politicians, left-leaning media, and the metropolitan elite.  They all believe profess to believe that burning coal causes global warming, and unless every country in the world stops burning coal we are all going to die / drown / choke / starve.

We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.  ~  Hillary Clinton

In that one sentence Hillary Clinton conclusively demonstrated that she is unfit to hold the office of President of the United States.  Either she in scientifically uneducated, or a liar, or both.  She shows that she cares far more for the few fashionable metropolitan elite than for the vast majority of real Americans.  She demonstrates that she has no grasp of day-to-day economics, hard science, or industrial strategy.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t like coal or coal miners.  Next to coal, the most cost effective way for Britain and America to generate large amounts of electricity is to burn natural gas obtained by fracking.

By the time we get through all of my conditions I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.  ~  Hillary Clinton

The really sad thing is that the other candidate for president is probably even worse than the harsh voiced harridan, albeit in different ways.

photosynthesis processWhere do the proponents of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change think the carbon in that coal came from in the first place?  Outer space?  (Well actually, it did, but that’s another matter.)  It came from the carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.  Plants turn carbon dioxide into more plants, then over millennia that turns into coal.

It’s an inconvenient truth that predictions of doom by the man-made global warming alarmists, like Hillary Clinton, just have not come true.

If anyone bothered to learn some real hard science they would know that the only way mankind can possibly change the Earth’s climate is through all-out and total nuclear war.  There is no empirical or hard scientific evidence that burning coal, oil, or gas can ever change the Earth’s climate.  There is plenty of empirical and hard scientific evidence that burning fossil fuels in cities causes stinking smog ~ just look at London before the Clean Air Act, and Los Angeles, and any number of cities in China today.

Climate change is a normal, natural, and perpetual process which occurs, and has always occured, with sublime indifference to man’s puny input.  ~  James Delingpole

Smog is not climate change.  And, the ultimate cause of smog today is cars, buses and trucks.  If some of the bone-idle, lazy, and indolent people would get out of their cars once in a while and actually walk places for a change, then there wouldn’t be anything like as much smog either.

Do yourself a favour and stop looking stupid by banging on about non-existent anthropogenic climate change.  Learn some hard science, or just take a walk instead.

(By the way, the stuff coming from those ‘chimneys’ in the pictures is steam, not smoke.)

~

draxthese opinions are mine and mine alone

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

Tesla and Baked Alaska

Tesla_Model_S_Black_0008

Electric automobiles have been around since the 19th century, Englishman Thomas Parker built the first production electric car in 1884.  The land speed record was held by en electric car until 1900.   Not much has changed since The Electric Construction Corporation’s car to today’s Tesla.  (Nikola Tesla was a Serbian physicist.)

ALL electric cars have 5 main systems;

  1. electric carThe Vehicle.  Since the early days this has standardised around 4 wheels, a chassis, and something to keep the rain off.  The modern Tesla is maybe better looking and a hell of a lot more sophisticated than a 19th century dog-cart.
  2. The Electric Motors.  These convert electrical energy into mechanical energy, (and nowadays they also convert mechanical energy back into electrical energy via braking regeneration).  Again these are far, far better and more sophisticated than they were in Victorian England, but the basic principle hasn’t changed at all.  Electric motors as used in cars have one huge advantage over the internal combustion engine ~ massive torque at low rpm, so no separate gearbox is needed.
  3. The Control System.  Modern methods of controlling the amount of electricity that gets to and from the electric motor / dynamo are light years ahead of how it used to be done, which was basically a variable resistor.  The Tesla has computerised Intelligent Motor controllers.
  4. teslafireThe Batteries.  This is the Achilles Heel of electric cars.  Batteries are bulky, heavy, expensive, can burst into flame, and have a limited life.  Early electric cars had a lot of damn heavy lead-acid batteries, of exactly the same type as a normal car has at the heart of it’s electrical systems.  The Tesla uses a hell of a lot of lithium-ion batteries, of exactly the same type that powers your mobile phone and laptop / tablet…
  5. The Power Source.  Electricity doesn’t appear for free out of thin air, it has to be generated from a primary energy source.  For pure electric cars, like the Tesla Model S, this means plugging them into mains electricity to charge the onboard batteries.  Hybrid cars also have an onboard internal combustion electricity generator. (Which makes one wonder why all the batteries and other complicated stuff?  Why not just connect the petrol engine directly to the wheels?  Oh, we’ve done that, it’s called a normal car.)

The Weak Point of any electric car is battery life.  This comes in 2 flavours;

  • Range.  How far can one drive on one battery charge?  The Tesla Model S is supposed to do either 230 miles, or 320 miles, on one charge.  (Depending on how big a battery you’ve bought.)  That’s assuming a constant 55mph, (and that you’re not killing the A/C).  Also, charging a battery at a normal plug in socket will take 30 hours.  In normal, everyday, long-distance motoring, that’s as much use a cell phone in a lifeboat, in the middle of the Atlantic ~ no damn use at all.
  • Total Battery Life.  How long will the vastly expensive lithium-ion battery pack last before it’s only so much junk?  All batteries have a finite life, so how long will the battery in a Tesla last?  If you drive it every day, then my guess is performance will start to fall off, (a lot), after 4 or 5 years.  Total usable life?  I have no real idea.  Hey, I know the theory of making baked Alaska, but any real attempt by me would be just embarrassing.  (If you want to be an expert start with Arrhenius’ Law.)

poppies-lupineTesla make great looking, technologically advanced cars, with one huge flaw ~ all batteries eventually die, even sophisticated rechargable batteries die eventually.  One day the battery pack in your Tesla will reach the end of its usable life.  But the Tesla is a fashionable throw-away product, made for fashionable throwaway people.  (It’s also very unethical and environmentally damaging.  Recycling lithium-ion batteries is damn difficult.  You get toxic waste, not wildflowers.)

I would drive an electric car, if I had to.  I would not choose any electric car for a cool road trip.  The Tesla is very sexy looking, but it’s got no soul.  For the price of a Tesla, I could buy a really cool car instead.

jensen-interceptor

~

tesla-roadster-model-sjackcollier7@talktalk.net

liebster-12

 

Santa Monica Pier

Piers are great, so very seaside, so very 1950’s, so very English Music Hall, there even are songs about piers….  Santa Monica Pier is fabulous.

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Right at the western end of Interstate 10, Santa Monica Pier is easy to get to.  Santa Monica pier is also the Western end of the old Route 66, and that’s got to be my next US Road Trip, all two and a half thousand miles of it from Santa Monica to Chicago, (or maybe the in the other direction).

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When I got there, I had that feeling of déjà vu which so many place in the USA  give me.  Not surprising; Santa Monica Pier has featured in countless films and TV shows; from Elmer Gantry and The Opposite Of Sex, to the iconic  TV show The Rockford Files.  Film buffs can have a great day out there; take your reference book with you.

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At the end of the pier, the ferris wheel is solar-powered; when does Santa Monica ever get cloudy days?

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There is also a great restaurant at the south side of the landward end;  Lunch at The Lobster is not so expensive, around $100 for the both of you; The Girl Riding Shotgun loved the mussels.  The views from the pier are worth seeing.

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Great day ~ next time out I think I’ll take my teddy bear along…

P1030783pictures copyright jack collier

jackcollier7@ talktalk.net

San Jacinto Peak

If you like mountains and cable cars

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Etherial views in crisp clear air

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Look west from Palm Canyon Drive

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If you like mountains and cable cars

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Etherial views in crisp clear air

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~

P1030004pictures by jack collier

 & the girl riding shotgun

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

Free Water Pumping

P1020368The Hydraulic Ram may not always be what some people think it is.  A hydraulic ram is a free / low-cost method of pumping water from where it is to where you want it.  The hydraulic ram is a pump that uses flowing water / water under pressure / a head of water as its energy source.  This thing is sometimes also called a hydraulic ram pump.

hydraulicramA hydraulic ram can be made to work with the moving water in a stream / tidal flows / wave pressure, just as well as with any other moving water, or as in the diagram a head of water.  The hydraulic ram uses water pressure to pump water.

The major uses for a hydraulic ram pump are to irrigate gardens or to pump fresh / potable water to your green home.  One could buy a hydraulic ram off the shelf, or you build your own using some basic components and a lot of engineering ingenuity.  Personally, I wouldn’t use plastic components except for the delivery and output pipes.

The hydraulic ram pump has a number of benefits;

  • simplicity
  • reliability
  • sustainability
  • low-cost
  • no electrical works
  • no need for a petrol / gas / diesel engine
  • low noise

2source ram pumpOne can build a ram pump which uses a different water source for power than the water being pumped.  So we can use the sea to power a pump which is delivering fresh water from a spring.  However, in this case a better alternative may be a turbine or waterwheel powered pump.

If you have ambitions to live a greener lifestyle, or if you want to live off grid, then a hydraulic ram is another tool you can keep in your box for when it’s needed.

~

VerticalRamMechanicalPumpjackcollier7@talktalk.net

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