sometimes, even I can’t fix everything
somewhere in there is a busted part
Well, I failed at repairing my heating / hot water system. The part I ordered and fitted yesterday rectified one fault, but obviously it wasn’t the main problem. There’s now a lot of pretty lights working on the gas boiler’s control panel, but the important indicator light, the one that says the gas is lit, remains obstinately dark.
I could investigate further and try another fix, but I won’t do that for three very important reasons;
- I don’t have the special tools one needs to work on gas appliances. Crucially these special tools include a gas leak detector. Although gas is actually odorless, a stenching agent is added so one can smell a very bad gas leak. But a leak small enough to be undetectable by human olfactory senses can still be extremely dangerous.
- I do not have easy access to the parts I might need to undertake a repair.
- Legally, all gas work should only ever be carried out by an appropriately qualified engineer. In the UK that means you have to on the Gas Safe Register, and renew your qualification every year. I haven’t been a qualified gas engineer for 15 years or so.
Today I’ll find a properly qualified engineer who is working during this current draconian lockdown, and make an appointment to have someone come and look at my lack of heating and hot water problem.
Actually, wanting to have fixed this gas boiler problem myself is not a money issue, it’s more that I don’t like strangers in the garret, and neither does Marmaduke.
Failing to repair something is a huge blow to my self-esteem. But needs must when the Devil drives.
good old Marmaduke
he’s all ready to help
nobody listened until it was so very quiet in the ruins
miracles sometimes happen
sometimes the wrong train will take you to the right station
and sometimes you just have to walk
you’re only human, it’s all right to make mistakes
If you do most things for yourself, eschewing messy decorators, useless contractors, and rip-off garages, then every now and again you are bound to commit one of the classic howlers. Mistakes you could kick yourself for. Really stupid mess-ups that leave you thinking; ‘how the hell do I get out of this one…..?’
I might admit to being guilty of some or all of these;
- Painting yourself into a corner. You can either walk on it or wait until it dries.
- Touching a spark-plug lead while the engine is running. If you’re healthy you’ll just get a terrific jolt, if you have a heart pacemaker you might get dead.
- Opening the radiator cap on a hot engine. Getting scalded hurts.
- Over-tightening a nut so the bolt / stud snaps. That is likely to be expensive to repair, unless you know how.
- Sawing off the branch you’re sitting on. The fall hurts.
- Sawing off the branch your ladder is leaning against. The fall hurts.
- Taking off the bathroom door handle and closing the door while you’re inside, with no way to open the door to get out.
- Putting up a picture / shelf by hammering a nail / drilling into the wall, and going right through a water pipe. Flooding is expensive to repair, so is the big hole you’re going to have in the wall.
- Ditto an electrical cable or gas pipe.
- Not learning how to use a spirit level and putting up a shelf.
Today I was guilty of #7. Just as well I took lessons from a master locksmith.
Some say that we learn by our mistakes. And that necessity is the mother of invention. All I know is that I can now build, decorate, install, make, repair….. just about anything ~ and I have the scars to prove it.
I didn’t build that,
but I could
wherever I hang my hat is my home
outdoor living is an option in sunnier climes
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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
click on the book for more
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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.
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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.)
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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.
read about the Seven