Sunday, May 29, 2011

Farewell to Victory

I got an email this morning from a forum that I have been very active with, Victory Gasworks. Here is the gist of it:
We have removed both the comment wall and the button for member to member messaging functions. The challenge with an open community is anyone can join, including spammers. This is just one of many changes coming down the road for the site. It's too bad because 99.5% of the comments and communications were positive. This community is going to be undergoing a natural selection process. We have grown into the worlds largest social network for gasification in a few short years and that requires resources...  soon we will be asking you to put your drinking glass down and carry your own share of the water. Some sort of pay system will be integrated to cover costs and eliminate spammers. Thank you for your participation.
I am a little sad to see this happen, and while I understand that Ben P. needs to cover his costs, I think this is going to drive away a lot of the community., for example. The benefits I can attribute to Victory Gasworks include picture hosting, discussion areas, and a PM system. All of this is available elsewhere (for free), and so I cannot justify the expense. The community is also well represented in other places, indeed some very smart folks are not even here.
I will retain my membership as long as I can for free. After that, I may be found hard at work (ha!) on the Woodgas Wiki.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Angle of Repose

I am still plugging away at the wood gasifier. I went through a major rethink, after discovering that one of my design sources was not trustworthy. I have since done away with the U shaped intake pipes; their purpose was solely for preheating the air, and I found out that preheating is not desirable. Too bad I already drilled the holes.

I should explain the post title: the "angle of repose" of any given material is the slope of the sides when the stuff is randomly piled up. Imagine a bucket full of the stuff in question, turn it upside down, and lift the bucket straight up. The material will collapse into a sloped pile, at it's natural angle of repose.

I have also gone back and forth on using ash to backfill the inverted cone. Does anyone have an R-value for wood ash? I can't find one. I have a number for insulating castable refractory, which is much heavier. But I think I will go with the ash, since it is free and I can always "upgrade" to refractory later. 

I need to decide where to bring the new air nozzles in. They will come straight through the wall, near the top of the cone formed by the ash. In order to find the level, I decided to fill the cone, just a trial run. I taped over the holes with duck tape.

I didn't want to use real ash, which is messy to handle. So to simulate the "angle of repose" I started with coarse sawdust. 

And here's what it did:

About 4" down from the lip. I then remembered I had a box of molding sand, for metal casting. I figured this would act more like the powdery ash. 

Here's the result:

The sand has a much flatter angle, only coming up to 5.5" from the edge. It's hard to see the angle in the pictures, but trust me, it is not flat - it's as sloped as I could get it, until it spilled into the hole. The diameter of the hole is too big, at 6". This affects the height of the sand. I will eventually be using a reducer to bring the diameter down to 5", which can be replaced as it wears out - and resized if 5" is too large. I will make it from a lawnmower flywheel with the center cut out:

But for now, I am using a plastic jug with a hole in the bottom. Close to 5" across:

 Here's what it did to the sand height:

Back up to 4". With the sawdust it would have been even higher.

I am thinking the ash will be somewhere between three and four inches down, depending on the consistency of the ash. I will try it for real eventually, but right now I don't have any spare ash to play with - I need to save it all for insulating the hearth. ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Things are picking up around the farm - grass is growing very fast, and the weather has been hot for a few days. The garden has been scaled back this year, but we still have some of the essentials. Strawberries are here to stay, which is good because they are a treat. We are discovering lots of ways to fix strawberries. Here are some of our favorites:

Strawberries with whipped cream
Serve chilled, hulled strawberries topped with real whipped cream (from the store...).

Strawberries with sour cream
A variation on the whipped cream idea. Add sugar to the sour cream, and some cinnamon if you like.

Strawberry Banana Smoothies
A cool summer treat. No added sugar, just frozen bananas, frozen strawberries and milk.

Strawberry Shortbread
You will have to ask Maggie for the shortbread recipe, it is delicious. Strawberries halved and sweetened, with whipped cream on top.

Strawberries on Pound cake
Again, Maggie has her own version of the pound cake using fresh ground whole wheat. More halved strawberries, and whipped cream. Best cake you ever ate. Of course, I'll eat about any cake I am served...


Chocolate dipped Strawberries!
A special treat, extra work on Maggie's part, but we appreciate it..... finally a photo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

HoneyTone belt amp

I got a new toy in the mail today. Meet the HoneyTone belt amp. 

This thing is only about six inches tall. It is designed to go on your belt, and allow you to practice your electric guitar, or play in a quieter setting. It also has a headphone jack for silent practicing.

Even came with a vintage 9-volt battery (not sure if that's a selling point). You can also plug it in, a good thing since it seems to drain the battery quickly.

Here it is clipped to my pocket. I will be using this when I take Bill Kirchen's electric guitar class at Augusta this year. A room full of regular size amps would be a little overpowering, so he recommends using these little amps. Clipped to your belt, you can walk around without dragging a guitar cable.

This also works as a portable speaker for an mp3 player. You only get one channel, so audiophiles may need a stereo/mono adapter. But I played Flatt and Scruggs all afternoon with no trouble.

The sound is fine, a little tinny from such a small speaker cone, but very acceptable for practicing. Not bad at all for $20.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

300,000 miles

We just rolled 300,000 miles on the Honda Odyssey. Every single mile was ours.

We bought the van new to replace our aging Chrysler van. Not too impressed with the amount of breakdowns it had, we were looking for a reliable vehicle (meaning Honda) and when they came out with the Odyssey in 1995, Mom knew right away that it was the right car. Dad said to wait a few years, let them get the bugs worked out. By 1998, we were at the dealership. Having done all the research and negotiations online (very unusual at the time), Dad managed to avoid haggling with the dealer - we walked in and paid the check. At the same time Dad got a Honda Civic 5-speed.

We moved to Colorado, and the van came with. We moved to Tennessee, and the van came with. We moved to Kentucky - still driving the van. At this point the Civic is long gone, replaced by a Chevy Suburban which can barely seat all of us. I have a Geo Metro now, which nobody wants to drive except me. So we still use the van to go everywhere. Most of the time the back seats are all out, and we haul musical instruments to gigs (upright bass, guitar, banjo, sound system). Or Dad goes to the post office with bookstore orders. Or the ladies go to Lexington...

The van has been extremely reliable all these years. There's no rust to my knowledge. It has had regular maintenance,  first by the dealer and now by yours truly. We have had oil leaks at times. The crankshaft pulley has been replaced. A run-in with a deer very nearly totaled the van (we drove home, though). The exhaust manifold developed a crack, got replaced (and now I think it leaks a little). Then there's all the normal stuff; tires, batteries, oil changes, fuel.

So let's run the numbers, just for fun.

Initial cost:   $24,954.70
Insurance:      $6,491.56
Fuel*             $23,667.58
Parts/Labor    $7,169.49
Oil/filter (me)     $120.61

Grand total:  $62,403.94

That means:

Cost per mile (not including gas): $0.13/mile
Cost per mile including gas:         $0.27/mile
Total cost per day:                       $13.08/day

Avg miles per day:    61.44

Some interesting conclusions here. A rental van costs $84/day, up to 150 miles thereafter adding $0.15/mile (not including gas). So we are way ahead on cost per day, but the cost per mile is only now starting to drop to the same level.

 I keep the same numbers on the Metro, which is up to $2100.60 now. My cost per day is $4.97 (owned it for a year now), my cost per mile is $0.52 without gas, $0.59 with gas. Mostly because I have only got 3,400 miles on it so far.  Cost per mile w/o gas should match the Odyssey about the 20,000 mile mark (assuming $500 more in maintenance at that point).

*Fuel cost is approximated, based on the national average over the life of the car.