Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Plasma Cutter

I have wanted one of these for  a long time... And I finally realized that I wan't saving money, time or energy by putting it off any longer. I have a lot of fabricating to do, and so I bit the bullet and bought a plasma cutter.

I shopped around to find reviews on cheap plasmas, and tried to ignore all the anti-Chinese sentiments from people who shelled out for a Miller or a Lincoln. I found several folks that said this model cuts as good as the name-brands, if you don't need the bells and whistles. As it turns out, plasma cutting technology has come a long ways in  a few years, thanks to digital power inverting chips that can crank out the amps in a small form factor. Everything is solid state inside, except the cooling fan and the compressed air.

I found the one I wanted, one of the few that can run 110 and 220v. Got it on Ebay for $285 shipped.

Here's my new Lotos 5000D:

It requires 110v or 220v, and a source of compressed air. It actually didn't come with an electrical plug, just bare wires. So I had to run to town and get one. I also had to assemble the air fittings and try to get them not to leak. Fit and finish? Yeah. But it's the right price.

It's not even as big as my Harbor Freight welder:

Sure it took a little work to assemble. But it ran like a dream. I've never used a plasma cutter before, and within 10 minutes of use I cut this 9" circle out:

Not bad, eh?

The jagged parts are operator error. I did this entirely freehand:

I also tripped the breaker, since this thing pulls a solid 20 amps along with the compressor's 15 or so. My shop suffers from Unplanned Electricity Syndrome, causing extension cords to sprout from unlikely places and get strung together at scary lengths. I make it a rule to only run one thing at a time, and for the most part this works out. But the plasma cutter counts twice. Plus, even when it was running on stored air, dad said he could hear a funny buzzing in the wall upstairs(?!) High frequencies, etc... don't want to buy everyone new computers. So I will be moving operations to the barn, which is wired with a basic service panel, and plenty of room for more if needed.

Here's the project compressor I got, which should be able to keep pace better. Needs new valves and switch.

And just for grins, here's a shot of my supply of tanks and pipes for the gasifier. I still need more, because some of them are the wrong size.

So now that I can cut and weld equally well, the first project is the condensate tank, visible to the right above. It will go under the truck bed to collect water condensing in the cooling rack. Here's Wayne Keith draining the same tank under his truck:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Woodgas proceedings

It's been way too long since I posted. And there are several good things happening that I need to write about! Sorry for the long silence, but things are moving fast and I am trying to keep up.

I think the last you heard from the woodgas project, I had gone to visit Wayne Keith in Alabama and studied his truck. I wanted to glean what I could and apply some of it to my own truck. Wayne was gracious enough to put me up for the night and give me a thorough tour of his trucks and his farm. While I was down there he mentioned that Mother Earth News had been pestering him for a set of plans, to go with their upcoming article on his woodgas truck in the spring. I told him that he really could do well to publish his stuff, it would help out the DIYers and get more Wayne-style trucks on the road. Then I headed home and started thinking about my truck and all the changes I was going to have to make, to be more like Wayne's trucks.

About a month later, I got a call from Wayne. After we talked a bit, he came down to business. He was ready to publish his plans, and he wanted my help. In particular, he needed a website with premium content, and a format for his plans to be sold in. I was surprised and pleased to get the call. I immediately accepted, and went to work on the website, and outlined a general plan of attack for Wayne.

So long story short, I am still working on the website two months later, and I will post a link to it soon. Wayne is busy building a new truck and carefully documenting all the parts of it with photos and video. He is going to be publishing his plans in paper form sometime this summer, but preorders will be available soon.

Meanwhile the woodgassers are thinking about spring, and when we should plan a meetup. I started gently nudging the members to get off the dime and decide when we are going to do this. As is often the case, the nudger gets the job for himself. So I am now the treasurer and contact person for the event, and have been coordinating some of the efforts involved. It's not a huge gathering, but there are around 20 folks coming to Argos IN on May 18-20th, and it will be open to the public on Saturday. As treasurer I have been getting a lot of checks in the mail.

So all that is perspective for what the UPS man brought to my door this morning:

One of the woodgassers, Brian Smith is also VP of Manufacturing at Goop! So he sent all this along with his contribution. Wow! That's a lot of hand cleaner....

Quick plug - I have to say, I do use a lot of hand cleaner (usually Fast Orange), as does anyone working on cars or welding steel. You get pretty grimy. I can't say as I have tried enough of them to tell a real difference. This one works at least as good as the Fast Orange I've been using. They advertise that it's effective on clothes too, which Fast Orange is not. There's original and orange-citrus. I tried some of both, and it works great. I guess I won't be buying any hand cleaner for a while... But when I do, it'll be Goop, because I might as well support a fellow woodgasser, and the product seems to work well. I'll let you know in six months how the supply is holding out!

So in all the shuffle, what happened to my truck?

The short answer is I have been too busy to do anything with it. I haven't touched it since I got back from Wayne's in December. BUT! I am about to start back on it again. I am actually going to drive it down to Alabama, on gasoline. Wayne and I will work on both his new truck and my truck, getting them both finished in time for the woodgas meet. I'd like to drive home on woodgas. So I want to have as much ready as possible before that happens. So I will be working on little things to get ready and make the time down there as productive as possible. I will be posting regular updates once I get back to work on the truck.

So, that's enough for today. It's still not everything I've been doing - just the highlights.

Till next time!