DIY Laundry Plunger

Bethany has talked for a while about doing laundry by hand.  I think she might be crazy, but I’m happy to let her try it.  She found a plunger that she liked, but $30 seemed a little steep for a funnel on a stick.  I’ve seen a few DIY designs using toilet plungers or single funnels, but I thought I could do better.

We picked up a 4′ wooden extension handle and two stainless steel hose clamps at the hardware store for $7.95, and a pack of 3 funnels at Advance Auto Parts for $3.14.

I drilled holes in the biggest funnel to Continue reading DIY Laundry Plunger


How to Build a Sawdust Stove

Last year I came across the idea of a sawdust wood stove.  The stoves are versatile and can be sized according to your needs.  The wider the stove, the longer it will burn.  A stove in a 55 gallon drum usually burns for about 12 hours.  The taller the stove, the more heat it will put out.  If you don’t need a hot fire, you can load the stove half full for a smaller fire.

It was different, simple, and seemed practical so I just had to build one.  While I was scrounging the stuff for the full size stove, I tested the concept on a small scale.

These are the main parts that go into the sawdust stove.   Continue reading How to Build a Sawdust Stove

Pedal Power

I’ve been reading a little bit today about pedal power being used as an electrical and mechanical power source.  It’s actually a little sad that this area of technology hasn’t advanced significantly in a hundred years.  All the major leaps we’ve made and we left pedal power behind.

There are a handful of people dedicated to innovating and finding practical uses for pedal power in a modern world.  They’ve come up with some pretty cool stuff, remarkably similar to old human powered machines our great-great-grandparents might have used.

Click the picture to go to and read more about this design, called R2B2, by German designer Christoph Thetard.

Maybe I’ll write a post sometime about some of the human power tools in use and under development.

One Man’s Trash…

Yesterday was the annual Route 11 Yard Crawl, so named because we could have crawled through peoples’ yards faster than we drove down Route 11.  Hundreds of yard sales were set up along the 50 mile stretch, selling everything from antique froes to Michael Jackson cassettes.

We set out with a full tank of gas and a pocket full of twenties after dropping the kids off with Bethany’s mom.  The Yard Crawl is serious business and no place for children!  Along the way we picked up a nice washing machine, a hand cranked food slicer, a handful of files, and some “kitchen stuff.”  All for under $50.

The washing machine has replaced the old free washing machine that didn’t get things clean any more.  The old machine will become the new chicken plucker, once my rubber plucker fingers arrive.  I’ll be detailing the construction of that project in a later post.

I tested the food slicer this morning by slicing a roast to make jerky.  It worked well, although I can certainly see why the electric models are more popular.  It’s a job for three hands.  We’ll see how my jerky turns out after being marinated in the contents of three bottles pulled at random from the fridge and a dozen or so spices picked blindly from the cabinet.

I always wished I had a better set of files but wasn’t willing to pay the typical prices for them.  Yesterday I bought 8 Nicholson files for $3 from some people who had no idea what they were worth.  Now I have a fairly complete set to work with and no excuse for dull tools.

We looked at a meat grinder for $65, but didn’t buy it, thinking we could find it cheaper online.  Boy were we wrong!  We’re kicking ourselves now for missing that chance.  That led to pricing grinders and packaging supplies and we realized that we could break even by grinding beef ourselves for just one year instead of paying to have it ground.  We’ll most likely end up paying the extra money to buy one now that we’ve started thinking about it.

We don’t have anything against electricity and power tools, but we try to keep in mind that there’s no promise of always having a consistent power supply.  I started thinking today about modifying an old exercise bike to power some things like a meat grinder, food slicer, grain mill, and bench grinder, then remembered the old bike that has been sitting in front of the Old Mill next door, where everything is for sale – for a price.  I walked down to look, and what do you know, the bike was gone.  It won’t be as simple as I had hoped, but I’ll scrounge one up somewhere.

Wagon/Yard Cart/Wheelchair

I more or less finished Bethany’s cart today.  More or less because while the cutting and welding are finished, it doesn’t have a deck yet.  That will have to wait until I come up with a piece of plywood or deck boards.

The frame had a peg welded to it to keep the front wheel from turning all the way around.  That had to go to improve the maneuverability of the cart.

The frame was designed in two sections so it could be disassembled to fit in the trunk of a car.

I’m more concerned with strength than disassembly so I cut off the T handle and welded the sections of the frame together.  Don’t look too closely at the welds; I’m not much of a welder.

The handlebars (technically called a “tiller”) had a spring-loaded pin that allowed the angle to be adjusted, and also allowed them to fold down flat for portability.  I cut the pin down and trimmed the bottom of the handle so it has a wider range of unencumbered motion.

The handle was too short and the handlebars didn’t allow a centered grip with one hand.  I cut the front bumper off and straightened the steel to use to extend the handle, then welded a pin in place to hold a foam crutch handle.  I don’t know how well it will hold up, but it’s nice and comfy.

The whole contraption is far from pretty, especially since I caught the tires on fire at one point, but it works well.

Our new goat who has yet to be named watched me the whole time from 5 feet away, not the least bit concerned by all the noise.

On the subject of the wind turbine, I got a very prompt email back from the manufacturer of the scooter.  According to the information he sent about the motor, the turbine could make about 2 kW at peak output.

Hemp Revolution

I’ve always known there were more uses for hemp than just the drug, but I had no idea it was such a practical plant.  Definitely puts it in a different light now that I’ve learned a little more about it.

Hemp Revolution – Watch the Documentary Film for Free | Watch Free Documentaries Online | SnagFilms

I’m curious to hear what your reaction to this is, whether or not this is new information to you, and whether or not you think this is a propaganda tool of a bunch of hippie potheads.


Bethany has decided that instead of a garden cart, she wants a Segway.

She seems to think the transaxle assembly from the wheelchair would work well as a Segway base.  I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand the complexity of gyroscopes and motor controllers.  Neither do I, for that matter.  I think we’ll stick with the wind turbine and garden cart.

I haven’t been able to determine the amps the motor is intended to draw so I don’t know what kind of output I can expect from the turbine, or what size and type of blades to make.  I sent emails to both the scooter manufacturer and the motor manufacturer.  Hopefully they’ll reach somebody who will take the time to look up a 12-year-old scooter for me.