Holiday Weekend Shop Notes

It’s a good time – with my 75th birthday now here – to review some of the projects, ideas, learnings, and what’s ahead in the spring.  This is what both living in the woods, doing some backwoods hydroponics and solar power, plus writing and trying to be retired is all about.

So, grab a cup of coffee and let’s do a walk-around, OK?

Power Center Done – For Now

Last week, we did the open wiring on the power center to replace an ailing and failing 20-amp dual tandem breaker.

This week – after one misfire for a cover screw that projected just far enough into the panel to do some “independent welding” – the front panel is back and the ganged 30-amp inverter-charger breakers that grid-tie us are working right.  Allowing us to increase our grid selling to 3000-watts per leg.

The other part of the power center was done, as well. This was an additional 2,200 watts of used panels (again from which come in on two runs (split wiring) and hit two Trace (now Xantrex) C40 charge controllers.

The power switches under the two larger boxes (the controllers) allow me to completely disconnect both the positive and the negative for this system.  Which allows it all to be taken offline for maintenance.  A couple of 100-amp breakers in the tall box on the right kill incoming power.

The next step in this project will be taking down the original 2008 solar panels (which are only putting out 19-21 Amps in full sunlight at 28V, which means from originally 170 watts per panel, we’re now down to ~600 watts for all 10 panels on this aisle. This means we are around a 70 percent decline in output from 2008 when they were placed in service.

The “new” batch (of recycled panels which will do 240 watts each) will easily be able to deliver 60 amps at 28V or about 1,800 watts – so we’ll current limit at first (the controllers are only good for 60 amps on each aisle of panels) and then dial back limiting over time.

As you can see, the original panels have yellowed out a fair bit:

…compared to the newer used panels in the back aisle.

The new panels are bigger, however, so there will be another couple of T-Posts and more welded up rebar for the top and bottom layers of the “h” racks. Or, if any panels are damaged in shipping, we will drop back t0 eight panels and not worry about current limiting anything.

That little power factor monitor I wrote up came in.  Didn’t come with a power cord, but it worked dandy.  Maybe it’s because we are a grid selling cogen site, or all that clean living I’ve done (ahem…) one leg of our AC is 93 percent power factor while the other is 97.  Those little power factor correctors came in, so we will give them a try and see if the difference is noticeable, but we don’t have our hopes up.

Save Your Boxes!

When you get boxes from Amazon or Wally-World deliveries, save the boxes and slap labels on them when you are done so when you put the boxes with the additional parts not used in this, or that, project up so you will be able to find them for future jobs.

As you can see, I did get spare breakers, so we have flexibility to fix anything that goes south on short notice. Makes it much more time-efficient when you have a large number of projects.

The Wire Rack Sermon

Because I spend a lot of my time writing and thinking, I’ve had to come to terms with this difficult fact of Life.

  • I’m a tool slut. Implication for the shop? I love to have a place for every tool and every tool in its place.
  • I always have multiple projects in my work cue.  Therefore, I need places to accumulate parts for various projects and experiments.  This is where the Amazon boxes come in.
  • And we need tons of “Consumables.” Check it out: Woodworking means screws, glues, metal (like hinges) and casters and…This is on top of two table saws, a radial saw in restoration, band saw, multiple circular saws, but those don’t count – they are tools and not in this category of consumables.
  • Same thing in metalworking. Can’t count the lathe, plasma rig, welders, metal lathe, but welding rod, spatter shield, spare ground wire, wire wheels and wire brushes…yeah, gotta have them.

Point is?  If you have Amazon boxes, a label printer (a thermal Brother has been working for 10-years now) then when your material comes in (and all on different days and often weeks) you will want a wire cart to put all your boxes on so you can find everything without having gobs of shelving.

God help me, I will have to live several more years just to finish what manufacturing shop floor bosses call “the WIP” (work in progress).

I don’t go so far as to include “travelers” with each box (listing contents) but that’s not as crazy as it sounds.  At least, at first.

More Wire Racks

Five more wire baskets showed up yesterday.  I’ve got them on the ends of the supplies rack next to the table saws.  Where the wire baskets hold things like push sticks, extra inch-sticks, rules, and markers. But being open they don’t catch as much sawdust.

As a result, this is where the “zero clearance tape” for the saws is quickly found. It’s home to the arbor nut wrenches, things like that.

The idea? Simply having all the associated tooling right at the tool location reduces “TSLS” (time spent looking for shit) and allows for more TOT (time on task).

Ham Radio Corner

Monday being a holiday, the old high speed Morse code bug will bite.  So, if you copy AC7X on 20-meters working the POTA (Parks on the Air) portable stations on CW, do say howdy.  Sunday mornings we usually hang out on 3608 LSB sometime between 5 AM and 7 AM.  Good bunch of folks on their.

Elaine’s ham ticket (KG4YHV) got renewed this week. This is a clever anti-aging move on my part.  Means she will legally remain on the air through 02/14/2034 at which point she’ll be sailing past 90.  My ticket doesn’t expire until 10/06/2027 so that assures me of living to 79, hi hi.  But then 89. so yeah.

The wire has come in for the drone antenna, but now the Spring Rush is going, so that drone-lifted antenna will have to wait a while.  Did get a note back from the FAA that some people are using video cams to meet the required “VO” (visual observer) rules for drone use. Had I mentioned that?

Which reminds me, I’m trying to find a couple of hours to go through and redo my commercial drone ticket.  Like the other aircraft I’m qual ‘ed on, there are recurrency checks to be met.  Unless purely under 250 grams and other limits.

On the Bench

The match to the HT-146 transmitter was DOA (not surprising), but it’s open and waiting to costar in another adventure of The Electronic Detective.  Looks like this…

There’s only one 9 MHZ filter in the stack of three pads center-right.  But a good tube check is the first order of business and then a check to see if this old tube-type radio still has high voltage.

Already, though, The Electronic Detective has the schematic (diagram) of the radio and has his first “suspect list” worked out.  Let me show you:

Our suspects are jailed in the following boxes:

  • Blue box area:
    • CR3  This was one of the first ham radios to use a solid state rectifier CR-3.  So it’s old and a faster switching type is likely a better (and quieter) choice.
    • Next to that is a (God-knows, does Hank? Jeff?) 69T which looks like an old-timey transient suppressor – and if any of the capacitors to the right have failed, then it’s likely done its job of failing to keep from smoking the transformer.
    • And then the “usuals” are the filter caps in that blue box with a lot of resistors to fail.
  • Green Box: Very old capacitors from the AC line to ground scare me – so a grounded plug will have to be ordered for safety.  And I also don’t like high resistance from AC lines to grounds of radios.  Just me.  I’ve seen all kinds of issues with these part as things age.
  • Red Box: This is where we don’t want to go: Hallicrafters and a lot of other manufacturers put the power switch as part of a ganged (rotating) wafer switch assembly.  They are not hard to understand, but they can be a bear to operate on when they go bad.  Sometimes a discrete power switch mounted on the rear panel is a reasonable work-around.

These are my “quirky” radios.  They were Hallicrafters’ foray into the 1970’s lots of chrome consumer look for ham gear.  I like my older gear (Cold War military-looking) and brand new (digital) radios.

But these can be fun, and the SX-146 gets better reviews than you’d expect.  Check it out here.

Cold again last night, but we’re supposed to have 75 and 80 by late this week, so time to be thinking about outdoor projects.  Caulk, paint, tractor, pick up deadfall. Then waste hours and hours on the riding mower.

Nevertheless, Balance is Maintained in the Universe.  Without hot-as-hell weather and lawnmowers, would there be an actual purpose to beer? I mean besides being a bladder functional test fluid?

Write when you get rich, /ac7x

10 thoughts on “Holiday Weekend Shop Notes”

  1. god I love it..I seen a palet of panels for under five hundred dollars on santansolar.. and since I joined a notification list.. free shipping..

  2. Beer – Yes, Food. Also lowers my inhibitions, so you know..

    Did I mention drinking too much beer insures that following day will be getting better and better for me as hangover wears off. Why I feel bad for non drinkers, they gonna feel the same all day as did when they wake up..

    Overcast and 78.. prolly be in my better half’s studio where did I those buttons” ? It’s Smoothie” time : -D

  3. 69T – 10 ohms. Looks like a ‘fusible resistor’ used as a surge limiter at power-on and acts as a fuse to open if something downstream (caps) shorts. Fusible resistors were common in that era of tube equipment.

  4. I am truly impressed with your shop organization as well as your time management. A master Tool Slut who also gets the job done.
    Personally I have found that during TSLS is when I find S that I was looking for previously that then takes time to make sure that S gets put where it can be found easily then continue on looking for the original S. This can be almost as much fun as TOT. Unless multiple previously misplaced S’s are found.
    Happy Birthday

    Stay safe. 73

    • Gotta tell you Jim, as a life-long adhd person – in and out of advanced math and sciences because of it – that two of the most useful skills any adhd male can have are #1 enforcement of dogged focus. Set an object and let no man rend assunder – until it is done. The other is break everything into groups of management sizes.
      When I can’t deal with picking up my messy shop, I have to start “Well, let’s put the comsumabales away first. Then the project pieces go in boxes. Then there’s the tools. There’s the grippy tools (like pliers) and the twisty tools like wrenches and the screwdrivers after that. Power tools are easier, but even here, they are not grouped by function, but by the battery type. So the DeWalt battery tools then the Skil, then the Black and Decker, then the Craftsman and then the Chinese-other….
      Juist takes work and a realization that some brainpower can allow us all to be lazier – as in more efficient – in the end…

      • Excellent points. I have to have a plan for every activity or project. Drives Diana nuts sometimes. My kids are all don’t think just do then clean up. Works for them. I have to have all the parts, tools, consumables etc in place ready to go fist then do. Sometimes life gets in the way. But we all persevere.
        You need to add Communicator to your most important skills. You got that one nailed too.

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