22 November, 2021

Central Machinery (Harbor Freight) 2 HP dust collector upgrades.

 I talked about it in my last blog post, but I wanted to dedicate a post to this subject as I figure it will be easier to find that way.

My now old, circa 2009 Central Machinery 2HP dust collector that I bought from Harbor Freight on sale and with a 20% off coupon, has always worked okay, but I want more than okay. I wanted it to work well, if not great, and there are some simple modifications that go a long way to making this a much better unit.

The modifications to the dust collector are....

  • Replace the 20 micron bag filter with a .5 micron cartridge filter. This actually filters the dangerous dust, AND provides superior airflow. I went with a Wynn Environmental 35a spun bond poly long ago, but there are newer less expensive options nowadays. 
  • Replace the tiny stock impeller with an impeller that is basically the biggest impeller I can fit in the housing. There are 2 that I know of, one from Rikon that has been next to impossible to get, and when available costs almost as much as the dust collector, and one from Wen, the 3403-22 Turbofan. I went with the Wen. All of the online tests of this modification alone show increased CFM of at least 35%, and static pressure (vacuum) increases of at least 10%. There is an increased startup amp draw, but it is not huge. 
  • Upsize the inlet flange from 5" to 6". For now I will use a 6x4x4 splitter, but long term idea is to rip out the dual 4" system, and run a single 6" main, and reduce to 4" or 2.5" as close to the tool as possible. 
  • Set up a cyclonic separator of some sort. I am looking to save space, so instead of staying with my 55 gallon Thien separator, I am going to go with a Thein baffle in the separator ring of the dust collector.

To do these modifications I will need / have the following materials.

  • .5 micron Wynn 35a spun bond poly (washable) cartridge filter. This model is no longer available, and Wynn has gotten expensive recently. In lieu of the Wynn filter, the Donaldson P181038 filter is reported to be a direct equivalent to the Wynn 35a with a much lower price tag. https://amzn.to/3DMrJfs  You may want to use Wynn's floating gear latches to secure the filter, or possibly come up with your own rig. https://wynnenv.com/products-page/woodworking-filter-pricing/fgl-l-4/
  • As far as I know, the current Central Machinery 2 HP dust collector is more or less the same as the old one, but with a different base, and paint color. https://www.harborfreight.com/2-hp-industrial-5-micron-dust-collector-97869.html?_br_psugg_q=dust+collector
  • The Wen impeller in November 2021 ran me $35.00 delivered. https://wenproducts.com/products/340...530916dc&_ss=r
  • I am using a Hydrofarm AC6F 6" flange that will need to be drilled to match the Harbor Freight mounting holes. This will upgrade the inlet flange to 6" allowing connection of course to a 6" ducting system. https://amzn.to/3nFicRJ

Unlike most Harbor Freight dust collector upgrades, I am not going to use a separate cyclone or seprator, but instead use a Thien cyclone separator in the separtor ring of the cust collector. There is a good but now old write up on Phil Thiens forum regarding this specific modification. The standoffs the original poster used are a bit on the big side, but the idea is right there. http://www.jpthien.com/smf/index.php?topic=145.0

The process? Starting with the impeller and flange upgrade.

  • Unplug the dust collector, or at the very least, removing the safety key from the switch. We do NOT want the impeller to start moving while our hands are in there!
  • Remove the inlet hose from the flange.
  • Remove the attachment screws for the flange. I placed mine in a magnetic bowl while working to keep them from wandering off. The gasket may stick to the flange, or the impeller housing. Keep it on either for now. IF it stays on the impeller housing, just leave it there.
  • Using a 5mm allen wrench, loosen and remove the retaining screw turning clockwise. This is a counter threaded screw so righty loosey here! Keep the trust washer with the screw in the orientation it came off.
  • Using a 3 jaw puller, CAREFULLY attach the puller to the flange lip of the stock impeller. And run the puller pressure screw in, making adjustments to your puller to be sure you get a succesful pull all the way until the impeller comes off. 
  • Rotate the motor shaft such that the keyway, and retaining key are pointed directly up.
  • Coat the inside of the bore and keyway of the new impeller with a light oil. I used air tool oil as it was right where I was working.
  • Align the new impeller bore / keyway to the key / shaft, and wiggle it a bit until it just barely starts to go in. You are going to need to drive it home though.
  • Using a rubber mallet, and a piece of scrap wood as a striking surface, drive the new impeller onto the shaft, striking the wood, and using the wood to push the impeller hub, until the impeller is fully seated.
  • Rotate the impeller several times insuring no operational interference..
  • Match original flange to new flange back to back. Using silver sharpie or similar, transfer screw hole locations.
  • Using center punch, and supported on an anvil of some sort like a machinists vice, dimple each screw hole location in the new flange, This will keep your drill bit from walking off.
  • Size up, and select the proper drill bit for drilling metal. Using proper PPE drill the holes. 
  • Transfer the gasket if it is on the old flange, if not move to installing new flange on the impeller housing.
  • Replace safety key and / or plug dust collector back in. Turn it on and verify function.
  • Attach new ducting, or adapter to make it work with existing ducting. 
So the impeller is now upgraded, and the flange upsized. 

Moving on to the cartridge filter. 
  • Remove the original bag filter, and support bar. These can go away now.
  • IF your filter does not have gasket material on the bottom, obtain some foam weatherstrip material and attach it. You NEED a gasket there!
  • Install filter per MFG instructions, or at the very least, using bungee cords, strap that sucker down. I linked the Wynn clips. My old 35A uses tiny turnbuckles on the inside to hold it in place.
So now the cartridge filter is installed.

For the Thien baffle, see the link above. Vaughn said it better than I can, not to mention his DC is Plum crazy purple with a giant Hoover sticker on it... 

Other mods that would be worth it?

Side flip conversion that rotates the impeller housing, and eliminates the hose between the impeller housing at the separator ring. 

With a side flip, making a shorter Thien trash can separator.

However, with my intended function, of eventually fitting into a much smaller workspace, and the need to keep the DC small, I felt this setup was as optimal as I was potentially going to get.

20 November, 2021

Overdue shop cleanup, and updates.

My shop is well overdue for some serious cleanup. My wife had decided the shop is a dumping ground for everything, and honestly I let it grow from there. This is after all my space, I could have simply jettisoned the unwelcome intrusions to my space, but I didn't.

So I have spent time over the last week sorting, cleaning, and fixing. 

I am again finding tools I thought I had lost. I once again have a full set of Snap On deep well 3/8" drive metric sockets, and a full set of Snap On metric combination wrenches. In both sets the 15mm were missing, in both sets somehow they were behind the lathe. Not sure I want to know.

I sorted my small parts bins, and found I have WAY too many and WAY too varied fasteners. But at least they are sorted now.

My overhead hose reel, which I will have go to back in this blog itself to see how long ago I installed it, but probably at least 8, but maybe as much as 10 years ago. Well the hose started leaking. So I grabbed a new Goodyear hose and replaced the old one...

I finally got fed up with the leaks in my existing air hose jumpers such as from the compressor to the manifold just prior to the regulator, dryer, filter, oil separator assembly. And it was being caused by the weight of way too much extra hose being left on the quick connect joints.

So to alleviate this, I picked up a pneumatic ferrule crimp tool, and a box of ferrules, and went after making my hoses cut to length for this application. Sadly this turned out to be problematic as the first box of Ferrules I bought, advertised for 3/8" air hose do not actually fit 3/8" air hose, at least not 3/8" rubber air hose that has a measured O.D. of .62, so instead I returned the box of .5something ferrules and ordered the right size, which should be at my door tomorrow. Hope I don't need compressed air before then.

As you know from my Workshop page I own a Harbor Freight 2HP dust collector that is fitted with a .5 micron Wynn Environmental washable filter, which in over 10 years has never needed to be washed due to my Thien cyclone. 

Well the suction / CFM of this thing has always lacked a bit. I always knew the factory impeller was garbage and massively undersized, but the only alternative I knew of, the Rikon impeller was expensive, and constantly unavailable. 

I found recently that the Wen impeller for their bag dust collector is a great match for the HF DC, and is reasonably priced. So I grabbed one, and I must say, I am impressed with the apparent build quality, not to mention the fit, and overall size of this thing. The change in airflow / suction is quite noticeable. Sorry I have no way of measuing it, but there are folks that have done this swap and measured it. I must say though, if you already have a Harbor Freight 2HP dust collector, GET THIS IMPELLER AND DO THE SWAP! It will behave like a totally different machine! 

I am finding a LOT of contradictory information out there, I know the OE impeller equipped HF DC just won't support 6" duct, but some folks say impeller swapped will, and some say it won't. I am leaning toward will, so my thought process is this...

In the upcoming months pull the 2 4" runs, convert to a single overhead 6" with a single 4" branch to provide under cabinet for table saw, and router. The rest will have branch Y fittings and drop to 4
 as close to the tool as possible.

Another mod that is coming is I am removing the 55 gallon drum Thien separator from the system, and instead using a Thien sparator in the separator ring in the dust collector, these reportedly work just as well, and should be much more space efficient, although I will have to empty a bag instead of a drum, no big deal...

So back to the cleanup I guess.. Thanks for reading.

09 June, 2021

Reply to 9 Hacks to Avoid Camp Kitchen Setup Disasters.

 My wife sent me an article posted on Outsideonline.com with a date of June 6 2021. 9 Hacks to Avoid Camp Kitchen Setup Disasters. https://www.outsideonline.com/2423927/camp-cooking-fails-hacks 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article with a chuckle.  Most of it is good advice from a very specific perspective. 

The writer, Joe Jackson interviews Lars Alvarez-Ross co owner of Bio Bio Expeditions with 35 years guide and camp cook experience. And while I admit I have not been a professional camper / guide for nearly that time, I have been camping for over 40 years, including living in a VW Bus for about a year which was effectively long term camping, working as a river guide in Oregon in my late teens, and working in the restaurant industry with an in depth knowledge of proper kitchen procedure and sanitation.

While Joe's article is well written, and Lars’ suggestions are good and can be beneficial, I find additional information will be very helpful. Instead of addressing each item in the list, I wanted to go over Camp Kitchen setup, and procedures to ensure everyone is well fed, and has an enjoyable trip!

The first few problems Lars talks about in the article revolve around proper packaging of food, and preparation and usage of a cooler. And while there is a lot of science behind what seems such a simple thing like a cooler, let’s look at what we are trying to accomplish. 

Heat, being energy, wants to move from a space with a lot of that energy (hot) into and fill a space with less of that energy (cold). And by using the cooler we are trying to interrupt that process. We do this by having the coolers built with insulating material that slows the process down, pre-cooling the materials and contents as much as we can, and keeping it as well out of heats way as possible while in use. We also place items in the cooler that act as places for heat to go instead of our food. I.E. ice.  As heat goes into the ice, this causes water (ice) to transition from solid to liquid states.

It is the liquid state of our heat sink as it were, that we start to see a problem. The liquid, water, tents to intrude on our contents we are trying to protect. Meat, cheese, butter, lettuce etc… and mix the contents therein together, along with water, contaminating the whole lot.

Lars solution of multiple coolers is only partially effective. We need a complete solution. And short of electrical refrigeration, we need to address the issue using ice. 

For starters, we are going to keep our infrequently accessed items, such as food for meals in one cooler, and frequently accessed items such as drinks, and snacks in a separate cooler. All items need to be stored in properly sized, watertight plastic containers. Zipper bags are contrary to their advertising campaigns and marketing materials, NOT truly waterproof / leakproof. Years of sad experience show me that the claims are false. I use Rubbermaid food storage containers and am happy with the results. 

Now the food is packed, we need the heat sink / ice. Cubed, bagged ice will melt faster than larger solid pieces of ice, and in a bag will leak water all over the inside of your cooler. FAR less than ideal. Now Lars recommends ⅓ cooler capacity to be taken up by ice. I am telling you in my experience, with pre-freezing foods like ground beef, chicken etc.. that can be frozen and then packaged, you should account for at least ¼ of your cooler capacity for ice. If you can get more in, fine. Now my recommendation is to collect SQUARE quart size water bottles, fill them most of the way, squeeze out any remaining air so that the sides are sucked in and then freeze them. So say you have a 55 quart cooler, you want 14 of these quarts for these ice blocks.Load your cooler mixing food containers, with ice blocks close in and fill any remaining open space in the cooler with regular 16 oz frozen water bottles. The idea again is the get as much heat sink in there, and as little space for hot air to exist in the cooler.

Your drink cooler will not last cold as long as your food cooler, and that is okay. This is where you will use bagged ice. 

Both coolers should be brought into an air conditioned space several days prior to the trip to cool off completely. 24 hours prior, fill them entirely with ice. And at load up / in time, discard the ice from both coolers, load the pre-cooled food and drinks into the appropriate cooler, as well as the ice blocks in the food cooler. Grab a fresh bag of ice on the way out for the beverage cooler.

Another issue talked about in the article was forgetting important cooking items, of note were cooking oil and butter. Lars' recommendation was to have a dedicated camping bottle of cooking oil. Unless you camp weekly, this seems to me to be a sure fire way to eventually end up with Rancid cooking oil. Instead of that, just make a checklist of everything you are going to need for the trip, including a full grocery checklist. If you check off items as they are packed and loaded up, you aren’t forgetting them are you?

Other problems mentioned included cutting board hygiene, and improper washing / sanitation of dishes and cookware. Common sense would tell you don’t chop veggies on a cutting board that you just cut chicken on without washing. Change your prep order to chop the veggies first, wipe clean with a bleach wipe and then a quick rinse, THEN cut up / prep the meat. And do we REALLY need to talk about the need to make sure you are washing your dishes and making sure food bits get off of the forks and spoons after eating? I mean seriously, if you think you can lick your fork clean you are probably too young to be handling a camp kitchen safely. Use biodegradable soaps to avoid fouling the environment, especially if you have no means of gray water collection, collect and burn or any food waste you can. Any you can’t pack it out.

Another problem mentioned in the article is something I guess folks run into and don’t prep for. I don’t know if I have ever experienced a stove blow out but I can see how it can happen. I tend to set up my camp kitchen to not allow this…. Mostly because I end up in windy conditions being more concerned about contaminants being blown into my food, than the stove going out.

Are you using an EZ Up for a kitchen cover? Get shade wall accessories to protect from sun, rain, and more importantly wind. I set up using 2 Sun Walls with pockets. A third wall is me pitching my main tent close to the kitchen tent as a wind blocker, and the privy tent on the remaining wall covering 7 of the 10 feet, allowing a nice 3 foot easy walkway into the dining hall as it were. Using a screen room? Attach silver tarps to the sides to act as sun walls that will block the wind. Wind in the kitchen strong enough to douse a stove, is also strong enough to blow all sorts of dirt, and contaminants into your food.  Are you using a tarp rig? Set up your pitch differently to act not just as a sun shade / rain block, but to block with wind as well. 

Even when I was VERY young, and VERY poorly equipped, we would set up with a spare sheet from home tied to sticks jammed into the ground to make a wind block at a picnic table to keep the wind off of my old single burner bottle top stove… 

With proper kitchen setup, even the cheapest camp stoves can easily and reliably work on all but the windiest days.

I am not sure how this is considered a problem. But Lars mentions cooking and cleaning in the dark. I have yet to see anyone camping without some sort of light source. Liquid fuel, propane, or LED lantern, Mag light set to lantern mode, or whatever gear you’ve got that makes light. Use it. One thing I should mention is I have seen many campers try to wash dishes with cold water. Don’t do that. You will not sanitize your dishes. Use a basin, and a big pot on the stove to heat up water, and wash your dishes in hot water like you would at home. Rinse in cold is fine, but wash in hot.

Lars mentioned people burning themselves. I have not experienced that in camp cooking, but just like at home, I use hot pads, long tongs for cooking on the campfire, etc… Basically bring and use proper PPE for what you are doing…

And lastly, Lars talks about people not helping out in the kitchen. Now unless you are hiring an outfitter / guide to do the cooking, and cleaning for you, not helping out in the camp kitchen is a complete jerk move. Make the arrangements before heading out. You want to eat? You help make the food and clean up afterwards. Most of my friends and family are Christian, and to them I quote 2 Thessalonians 3. “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”. I’m open to encouragement I can give to those that are not Christian in this regard!   Cut up the veggies, tend the fire, wash the dishes, something. 

Now something Lars does NOT talk about, but I want to bring up here. As much prep work that you can do PRIOR to the trip, means you have that much less prep work and cleanup to do in camp. I’ve recently done several videos covering at home prep of staple supplies / foods we use in our camp cooking. Due to family history, and us being Texans we tend heavily toward Tex Mex style cooking. It is far easier to prepare, and pack a big batch of Pico De Gallo at home than it is to do that in camp with the veggies right there. And I am NOT going to do an all day slow cook of pintos for refried beans when I can do an instant pot refried beans at home and just reheat in camp!

Lastly, and something Lars didn’t mention, food protection from pests. I am travelling and live in Texas where the only bears are in zoos, so my primary concern is protecting from bugs, squirrels, raccoons, and the occasional coyote. For food storage, I highly recommend the 5 gallon buckets with the Gamma seal lids approach. I have 2 of them, and honestly that is overkill. One of them is perfect for a trip up to around a week in duration. For food waiting to be eaten and presented on the table, use some food nets like what Coleman and Coghlans, and I am sure others sell. Nobody wants roasted corn on the cob campground flies have been all over… Now back to the issue of bears. I am not now claiming to be an expert in protecting yourself, or your foodstuffs from bears. I am aware that there are products on the market intended to be if not bear proof, at least strongly bear resistant. My Lifetime 55 quart high performance cooler is just such a device. Many campgrounds in bear country such as the Mazama Campground on the way to Crater Lake in Oregon are outfitted with Bear boxes that campers are required to store their food in. HOWEVER, if you are in bear territory and no bear box is available, you need a container that is incredibly hard for a bear to get into. For backpackers the bear canister is a usable idea, but for family campers they just aren’t large enough. The gamma seal lids on 5 gallon buckets are certainly a good option as far as the bear not understanding how to unscrew the lid, however a couple of big bear bounces off of the bucket sides may be enough force to pop the lid smooth off of the bucket. In such cases, it might be beneficial, although not super space efficient, to bring along a dedicated extra bear resistant cooler to store things like bread and other refrigeration not required foods. I wouldn’t think you’d have to worry about canned goods, but anything in a plastic bag, box etc…. Like bread, cereals, oatmeal etc… could be at risk, and putting you at risk.

04 April, 2021

DIY Home automation and security. I'm angry. Mostly at myself.

I have built up an automated home with some DIY security that helps keep the honest people honest. Pretty much nothing short of altering a violent dishonest persons state of being will keep them honest, but at least I will have a leg up in that regard. 

My first attempt at the DIY setup was by using an Iris by Lowes system, full protection on all access points, full camera coverage and integration with my personal assistant of choice.

And then as of February 2018 Lowes shut down the Iris cloud services effectively making my Iris by Lowes devices bricks... BUT Lowes had the decency to refund my investment in their system that they were turning off.

Since it worked with at least some of my existing hardware, and was supported and had seucity monitored by 2 of the most recognized and in theory reputable names in Home Security and Automation, I opted to invest in an ADT Smartthings Security hub and sensors, setting my home security on the paid ADT services and again, moving on to a different camera setup due to compatibility issues with my old cams.

Now here we are, April 2021, just a shave over 3 years after diving into ADT Smartthings, I get an email telling me that Samsung and ADT are turning off the cloud services for ADT Smarthings devices. 

Well that's a fine how do you do.

I was never truly impressed with ADT Smartthings to be honest with you. I mean initially it worked well, but within 6 months, I would get frequent errors on sensors where they would report a "loss of supervision" error, I would call Samsung Smartthings support, they would refer me to ADT and we would go in circles neither side wanting to take responsibility for, or support the product. 

This experience has convinced me of something vitally important. And that is local processing / services for my hub and devices is an absolute MUST. Cloud services can, and I am now seeing for the second time, will be cancelled at the whim of the vendor. The vendors can NOT be trusted. 

And while Samsung is offering refunds to customers, they are only giving refunds to customers whose equipment is still under warranty. 

I made my purchase decision based heavily on a long established experience with Samsung products. I have specifically sought out and purchased Samsung optical drives and memory when building PCs in the past, bought Samsung TVs, and every Smart phone I have owned after my HTC Inspire has been a Samsung. And now I feel abandoned, and betrayed by a company that I had an established relationship with. I have 3 smart phones that are up for replacement soon. I will likely not even consider Samsung as a replacement.

Now however, home automation and security wise that is, I am in a bit of a pickle.

I have got to come up with a solution, and have it working before ADT and Samsung kill my functioning system, and I am torn because nothing fully meets my requirements.

#1. Vendor independent. Whatever system I end up with MUST be able to keep doing what I need it to even if a vendor decides to turn their cloud services off. 
#2. Independent of internet. Aside from making external calls that is, there should be absolutely no requirement for the system to remain connected to the internet for it to function, so if a contractor down the road rams a backhoe through the cables / fibers that provid my internet service, I still stay working. It's happened.
#3. Open source. This is where I run into issues. There are open source automation suites out there, but getting them to run on what hardware to provide the needed radios to work with home automation protocols instead of WiFi isn't super straight forward. 

It would seem my options are either straight forward, or not so straight forward. 
#1. It hits all the marks except being open source, and that is Hubitat Elevation hub. They seem to have a good strong community, good support allegedly, and there are a large number of vendors for monitoring services that will make my insurance carrier happy.
#2. Any variety of home automation Linux distributions loaded onto a Rapsberry Pi and outfitted with Zwave and Zigbee dongles as there really is no room in a Pi for the radios for those functions.

So at this point, I am fairly undecided how to proceed. I know Hubitat is basically a drop in kind of thing that just works. Whereas with a Pi based approach, I will need to decide on a distribution, grab a Pi, housing, dongles etc... and cobble it together, and heaven only knows if I can get monitoring.

I have more research to do on this, but I must do it quickly.

This will get to be a lot more pressing should we end up back in office, as for now working remotely really doesn't make it super important. But I am just ticked off that they are doing this and forcing their customers off of their platform...

03 April, 2021

Powering a CPAP for camping, off grid living, or emergencies.

 If you are like me, on CPAP therapy, and have had experiences where you couldn't do therapy either because you were off grid by choice say on a camping trip, or you were without power because your electrical grid operator decided to pull the plug on you due to, whatever reason, you know the terrible burden this leaves on you. For me, one night of no CPAP means a night worse than if I had just not slept, and an almost guaranteed migraine level headache. 

Medical grade CPAP battery packs typically run as much as the CPAP itself or more,  They are little more than a battery pack, a charging circuit, and a 12V output for most CPAPs. And even with efficient travel CPAPs these battery packs rarely last a user for 2 nights sleep, so for extended outages you absolutely MUST have a way to recharge off of 110V AC power. So i your budget is tight, and your CPAP can run off of 12v DC keep reading. I have a solution that will save you a mess of money, and provide you with much longer run time between needing to be recharged. 

I have multiple reasons to run it, but I do have a small, and I mean tiny small generator, a Harbor Freight Tailgator, which is a little 900w peak 2 stroke generator that will easily handle my battery charger for this rig, or a small 5K BTU window AC etc... So I have a way to recharge, but honestly nobody wants to try to sleep while a generator that sounds like a chainsaw is running. I needed a better, more efficient solution to the problem. 

In my last blog post, I described the materials that would be used for a build like what I was doing. Today I present my finished product. 

The project didn't come off perfectly, and I will explain below, but overall I am VERY happy with the results.

So if you see my first photo with the box closed, you will notice that on the group on the left, the 12V outlet is positioned a bit too far left, apparantly I didn't have things measured out was well as I could have liked. Oops.

The charging circuit, I.E. bench top battery charger seen in the second pic leaves a bit to be desired, but it is sized so that I have no issues running it off of my Harbor Freight Tailgator generator, and topping the charge off quickly at 25 amps @ 14v output. (peak I believe). 

I want an onboard charger but they are EXPENSIVE, and typically max out at around 10 amps. I may upgrade my workshop battery charger at home and figure out a way to mount this thing to the box, and add ring terminals to it... Yeah that's probably not going to happen.

Anyway Upon testing, I find the Deyooxi 3 in 1 works, but the voltometers are innaccurate, and they don't even match each other, but rather they both read high and are .1v apart from each other. At best they are a good guess. Good enough, but not perfect.

I found the face plates the 3 in 1 sets came with don't fit accross the raised sections of this battery box. No shock there, So I left them out. This really doesn't need them, and with the oops hole, well...

Now during my hurried testing after the Great Texas Ice Storm and power outage of February 2021, I found that this battery, and a 12V power outlet can and will EASILY power my Z2 Travel CPAP for 4 nights in a row without recharging. Upon setting up to recharge I measured the standing charge in my battery with my multimeter and it measured 12.4V DC, which was still at a very high level. Mind you the Z2 is freakishly efficient. I would have had no issues or concerns running my Airsense 10 with the humidifier turned off during that time on the battery either.

If you want a great off grid power box for items like a CPAP, or USB charging, or even running a 12v compressor fridge, look at my last post as well. I go into the nitty gritty of what I did. It's all bound up nicely, and built in honestly as professional a manner as possible for a hand crafted item. And on the plus side, the skills needed to build this thing are minimal at most.

02 April, 2021

Off Grid power pack for CPAP users. Future expansion.

 I assume for those that have watched my videos, or know me personally know that I am on CPAP therapy. I am also an avid outdoors enthusiast. And have found the 12v portable power packs typically pre designed and sold for use with CPAPs being $350.00 + and having extremely low run times of one night or less effective use before the battery is drained. 

As you no doubt have heard, or even experienced personally, Texas suffered from an extended power outage in Mid February 2021. 

In my experience, I was prepared, or so I thought. I had an Everstart 1100 amp peak jump starter / power pack. I had used it for a max of 2 nights while camping off grid. However during the power outage, and family members thinking this was going to be short enough they were charging phones on it. I didn't even get one hour of CPAP time on it.

I needed a solution. NOW, and I needed one with capacity. Plus I needed to be able to extend my run time off grid for more than 2 days.

While they were open prior to them being forced to close, I was able to run into my local O'Reilly auto parts and grab a group 27 Deep Cycle battery, on what charge they had it with, some crimp on alligator clips, and a 12V power outlet socket. I quickly grafted together a simple rig that had the alligator clips holding on to the positive and negative posts powering the port. This was a quick and dirty way to provide power to my CPAP for the duration of power outage. I did test with my multimeter, starting voltage was at 12.9v, ending voltage after 4 nights of usage of my Z2 CPAP (no humidifier) was at 12.4v. No more than 8 hours night use. The battery was the trick, but was not a permanent solution.

And I need a solution for camping, not just emergency prep, it needs to be portable.

To begin with, I know I needed weather protected ports. I wanted 2 12V ports that were switched. I found panels that provided that, AND a voltometer. HOWEVER, the switches wouldn't quite handle both 12v ports I wanted, so what was the solution? After reviewing, I am going with 2 of the 3 in 1 panels. They provide on / off switch, 12v outlet, 2 USB charge ports, with voltometers. There seem to be a LOT of brand names with the same thing. I opted for the Deyooxi branded one, seems like the same thing in all with the same features.

I am fusing these using inline marine grade ATO fuse holders I already had in my toolbox grafted inline and tied together as a harness. I needed fuses, if I needed new holders I would have ordered the ATO / ATC 12 gauge marine sealed holders and fuse kit from Amazon. ATM fuses are available and smaller, but the fuse holders have insufficient wire for this project. you want 12 or 14 ga, not 16 or 18 ga.

I needed crimp connectors, for butt splices and ring terminals, I wanted heat shrink models. I opted for the 300pc box from Amazon. It works, but quaility is spotty. But all of the options seemed iffy. I will link it here, but use at your own discretion. Metal thickness left me wondering how cheap they could get.

Now I have the stuff to put together, but I need a housing for it all. 

I need a battery box, with enough space for a group 27 battery, AND the connectors in question. The only model I have found is the NOCO Group 27 battery box model HM327BKS.

Lastly, and since I can't find a fair deal on this online I am going to tell you about it. You will need a roll of electrical tape. Walmart has 3/4" x 60' rolls of electrical tape for $0.57 roll. 

So the build and costs are like this.

Battery $99.00 + tax / core charge.

Battery box. $12.99

2 @ Deyooxi 3 in 1 output / switch kits. $16.99 each, $33.98 for both.

Fuse holders / fuses. $12.99

Heat shrink terminals / crimps. $16.22

Electrical Tape. $0.57

That gives me a total for this project of $175.75

Any added length to your wires is going to be out of your inventory and /or buy wire. Again 14 ga wire or better to handle the amperage.

The process I used was.

Disassemble one of the Deyooki sets, use panel for sizing. Attach using masking tape to allow for positioning and holding while marking goes on. Select appropriate sized forstner drill bit, and mark hole centers on 3 device holes. Move to second side, repeat.

Next using sacrificial board line up starter holes and complete drilling device holes using forstner bit.

Assemble devices to panel, panel and devices to box on one side using second 3 in 1 and a guide.Secure using provided backing nuts. Reattach wiring using second 3 in 1 as guide for where wires go. Temporarily attach wires to battery and test function. Disconnect, repeat process for second 3 in 1.

Remove inline glass fuse holder for 3 in 1 power lead, graft in ATO fuse holder loaded with 15 amp fuse using 5/16" ring connector and butt slice, careful to keep length apropriate. Shrink heat shrink tubing on connectors.

Replace ground side ring connectors with 5/16" ring connectors. 

Tape wrap grounds together, and positives together to split off to battery terminals, bringing them together quickly but not too tight. Wrap all wires as a bundled loom until they split out to each side, wrap wires as loom per side. This step protects the wires and keeps them from being just loose and messy in the box.

Make terminal connections for grounds, and positives to the appropriate posts. Not previously mentioned, but assumed you had 5/16" -18 nuts to secure on the threaded posts. Slip positive side ring terminals over positive post, and run nut down / secure, repeat process on negative side. 

Test function on both sides.

Expanding the art.

At some point down the road I am going to want to add a DC / DC charger, and terminal mount AC to DC charger (auto style battery charger with ring terminal attachment). To make this happen I do not want the charging side and the load side to be on the same post. I opted for lead top post to threaded stud marine terminal ends for $1.99 each. 

I am not aware of online sources for this, but I HIGHLY recommend getting the NOCO terminal anti corrosion spray which I got from Walmart Auto Department for something like $3.00, it included a pair of the anti corrosion terminal pads, and a small can or anti corrosion terminal spray. This should be in your auto maintenance took box / supplies to begin with... 

For the time being I am going to use my Black and Decker 25 amp (at 12v) output auto battery charger (max 4 amp at 110v AC) being powered by my Harbor Freight Tailgator 900w peak generator. This is NOT my ideal long term.


I am wanting to eventually build in a 4 battery bank for a long term overlanding rig.. But for the mean time.

I have not opted yet for a specific make or model, but I am looking into a DC to DC charger / charge controller. There are models on the market I am researching that will allow me to charge from both my vehicle alternator, AND solar power. I am not well versed enough in this to speak wisely at this point though...

My pending choice for generator is a 2000 watt peak Aipower SUA2000IV however that is beyond my budget at this time.

With my long term desire for a proper 4 bank battery setup, I am wanting again, long term, to use the NOCO 4 bank onboard charger.

At the point of the 4 bank system, I will want to add a 2KW pure sine wave inverter to produce clean 110v power. I have not selected a specific make or model. The idea is to power laptops, and some misc 110v devices while I try to provide most power via 12V.

As you hopefully can see, I am trying to design my system so that it works for now, and most pieces can be repurposed in the future when a large upgrade in my off grid activity abilities will be made.

11 March, 2021

Campfire cooking. Dutch Oven French Ranch Peppered pot roast.

 Okay time to add another entry to the blog, and a recipe to enjoy. I will be adding this one to video soonest possible as well...

This one uses our camp dutch oven, coals, and time. Use the dutch oven heat guide apps (LOTS available) or bring a printed guide to help you determine how to maintain heat. This works best if you are camping lake / riverfront, and will be fishing it all day close to camp so you can keep an eye on, and tend the fire and coals... NEVER leave a campfire unattended, so don't even think about doing this unless you can commit to being there the whole long slow cook time... This is a recipe that is honestly a crock pot recipe converted time and temp for a camp dutch oven. 


2.5 - 3lb beef roast.

1 packet dry ranch mix. Hidden valley, store brand really doesn't matter.

1 packet Knorr French Onion Soup Mix

1 stick pasture / grass fed butter.

Pepperoncini peppers drained. About 6 to 8.

Facility issue. You either need a cleaned up / ash removed fire pit, which you could be kind enough to do for the campground, or a dutch oven table. I don't have one of those. If the grate swings out of the way, you can use one of those campground standing grills as a dutch oven table pretty easily. Not all, or even the majority do this though.  And do NOT violate any burn bans. I WILL not be responsible for any legal problems you get into for violating the rules...


You will need a camp dutch oven, the kind with a raised lip on the lid to keep coals from falling off, a hoop to catch the lid lifter on the lid, and of course at least 3 or 4 legs undernath to give you clearance for the coals. You want this pre seasoned, however this recipe will certainly help with seasoning it.

I am upfront about my Amazon affiliate links, but if they are not the best deals I won't post them. And in this case they aren't even close. Presently my local Walmart and I believe chain wide at least in the CONUS, have the Ozark Trail 5 quart cast iron camp dutch oven for under $18.00. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Ozark-Trail-5-Quart-Cast-Iron-Dutch-Oven-with-Handle/55208717 The least expensive one I can find on Amazon starts at over $40.00

Both Walmart and Amazon seem in the same range for thsese so here goes. Dutch Oven Lid Lifter. to help you lift the lid to rotate, and just, well open the thing up https://amzn.to/3qJ39EB

Cast Iron dutch oven trivet. This goes inside the oven and lifts the meat off the bottom to give, well a more oven experience to the contents. You want the kind that goes INSIDE the dutch oven, not the kind the dutch oven sets on. https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lodge-8-inch-Cast-Iron-Meat-Rack-Trivet-Pre-Seasoned-L8DOT3/15836674 

Oven mitts, or something like an Ove Glove. You will want to pick up the dutch oven to rotate it by the bail handle.

Means of igniting charcoal. Do NOT use Match Light. I prefer to use a proper charcoal chimney but you CAN use lighter fluid. 

BBQ tools including long stainless steel tongs to handle the coals.


Long burning hardwood charcoal. Kingsford or Royal Oak. Walmart's house brand I think it is called Master Grill seems to be rebagged Royal Oak.

Ignition source for the charcoal. In my case old newspapers. 

A BBQ lighter.


Pre heat number of coals given by your dutch oven temp guide in your chacoal chimney, +  4 or so coals until the top coals are grayed over. 

Place the trivet in and the lid on the dutch oven.

Place the proper number according to your calcuator for the lid of the dutch oven.

Let this heat up for 10-15 minutes, allowing the cast iron to get fully hot, and the inside air of the DO to get fully hot.

Remove the lid of the DO and set aside on a clean heat safe surface.

Place the roast on the trivet.

Sprinkle the ranch powder on the roast.

Sprinkle the French Onion Soup mix on the roast.

Unwrap and place the stick of butter on the roast.

Place the peppers on the roast next to the butter.

Carefully place the lid back on the dutch oven.

Cook for 2.5 to 3 hours maintaining the 325 deg F. Every 15 to 30 minutes pick up Dutch oven and rotate 90 degrees clockwise, Rotate lid another 90 degrees clockwise. Replace coals every 30 minutes or so. Place partially spent coals in campfire. 

At 2.5 to 3hr mark, remove from heat. Let rest for 10 min before serving.

Serve with your choice, but we like foil packet roasted veggies, grilled asparagus or similar greens, a couple of small roasted potatoes, and some crusty french bread.

19 February, 2021

Blue Rhino Propane Exchange handing out massively OLD tanks!

 So according to Blue Rhino and the US Department of Transportation, propane cylinders have a good for life of 12 years, and then can be followed up with recertification that MUST be affixed to the tank in the form on a sticker. 

During the massive ice storms and resulting power outage that clobbered Texas this week (Feb 15 on 2021) I used up my prior propane, and happened to be at my local HEB store when the Blue Rhino truck was there offloading, so I just went ahead and bought a new tank since nobody is certain we are out of the woods yet weather / power wise, and should I need to, I want to be able to run my Portable Buddy Heater to keep from freezing my kneecaps off.

So I get the filled to only 15lbs of propane tank (why don't these exchange programs fill a 20lb tank with 20lbs of propane?) and I got to looking at it. Mostly because it looks like it was repainted by some kid in 6th grade shop class.

Well looking at the safety collar of the tank, I see a manufacture date 02-03. Yes, that's right. February 2003. 

It's February 2021 folks!

Okay so maybe, just maybe they recertified it.

Yeah that would be a nice idea. 

No sticker, anywhere on the tank. Just the plastic sleeve Blue Rhino puts on them.

Call Blue Rhino customer support maybe I am misreading the Safety collar even though I did propane tank refilling professionally, admitedly decades ago, but I know the process.

I know they are trying to fill a MASSIVE backlog in fuel orders due to the storms. But why on earth did Blue Rhino keep this tank in circulation? 

Something is massively wrong here. I am not sure but it looks like Blue Rhino is selling massively expired, and non certified tanks to retail customers who don't know SQUAT about DOT regulations, from retail establishments, so in order to get them home these same customers MUST transport them, after Blue Rhino transports the filled tanks to the store. 

The fresh off the truck Blue Rhino Propane Exchange tank.

Date stamp 02-03. Nothing else resembling a date stamp is on

the Safety Collar.

Not a recertification sticker to be found anywhere!

I haven't written a blog post in quite a while, but I am kind of driven to do this now mostly out of frustration. You see after making this discovery, I tried calling Blue Rhino customer service number, and found that the prompts I was faced with required me to be a commercial account customer, not a retail consumer. It would seem that unless I have the big truck pumping propane into my giant tanks at the shop, or farm or whatnot, they just don't seem to want to talk to us.

I will be sending them an email asking about this as I have concerns. I do NOT want to be legally liable for transpoting expired / no longer certified cylinders in violation of federal regulations. 

I am posting this mostly as tail coverage for myself to document that I am doing my due dilligence to get this corrected. My primary purpose for having bulk tank propane is for running camp appliances, thus transport is sort of a requirement for me...

12 August, 2020

At home DIY during a pandemic. Things in the kitchen.

I know I was raised maybe a bit differently than many men of my gneration, Yes I do a lot of DIY stuff, that also includes things such as cooking and baking. Now most DIY bloggers / vloggers aren't also kitchen bloggers / vloggers so I would certainly understand if you seem a bit confused by my posting this.

Recent posts I have seen elsewhere where so called kitchen experts report on what they think are useless kitchen gadgets and what works well, and with the advent of the COVID epidemic, and what that has done to of all things, production of otherwise shelf stable goods like pasta, has motivated me to do some blogging on the subject as, well I disagree with the so called experts...Here is my list, and my justification for why I disagree...

#1. Kitchenaid stand mixer. The expert claims they don't like them because they rarely use it, takes up counter space, and generally speaking just collects dust. Fair enough, but NOT what is happening in my kitchen. Our Kitchenaid stand mixer is the 5qt Artisan series in Empire Red, it's beautiful and VERY useful. My only complaint is that the power of the motor at 375 watts sometimes, not often, but sometimes leaves a bit to be desired. It has a drive hub for a myriad of accessories that extends its usefulness, and with us cooking most meals at home now, the mixer gets used at least once a week, which is a little bit less than our blender, but still more than enough to justify its existence... Since they are related, I am going to talk about the accessories next..

#2. Spiralizer. My wife had me buy a Vegetti, the handheld one, we loved the result but hated using it, it is a handheld gizmo you spin over the vegetable to make long stringy spirals of veggie "pasta. Using it is a royal pain in the hands. So she saw the "Vegetti Pro" on the shelf at our local grocery store, this one is honestly a little better, it took a little bit to set it up initially, and then it was a hand crank gizmo that spun the veggie, but it was made of mostly plastic, and just, well I am afraid to use it for fear of cranking it and breaking the plastic. So that is a big nope from me. Now if you have seen my youtube channel you know I have a pretty serious weight problem, and I am working on that. Reducing simple carbs is a MUST for me, and I am working with our dieticiain on that. I can buy pre spiralized veggies at the grocery, for 4+ times the cost of regular, and they tend to go funny quickly, no thanks. I found a knockoff brand for the Kitchenaid spiralizer, the deluxe 7 blade set with a peeler, and it while not cheap, wasn't too expensive when factored into how expensive pre spiralized veggies would be over a year... It has blades for multiple size spirals, plus thick slices, and coreing, so overall not a bad tool. The item is the X Home Spiralizer and costs considerably less than the actual Kitchenaid unit. Not that I have anything against the official one mind you, my budget just barfed at that idea. The tool is easy to use, not too bad for setup / take down once you do it a few times, and is pretty easy to clean with a nylon brush. Now mind you, I do these, and I do paleo recipes for actual pasta, which requires...

#3. Electric Pasta maker. Now the kitchen "experts" were talking about a dedicated countertop machine, and I am too cheap, and in love with multi function machines to even consider that, but they also recommended a manual crank pasta roller and cutter. I am too lazy to do that. Instead I opted for a rather unique Kitchenaid accessory. The Antree 3 in 1 pasta roller / cutter. Most of the Kitchenaid pasta rollers and cotters require you swap them out between functions. This one just requires you install it once to use it, and use the right slot. I am experimenting wiht various recipes for paleo freindly, low or no carb pastas and I think I have come accross a really workable recipe. You will be seeing VERY soon here a quick slap together pasta trying tree project to support this... And the driving force behind me wanting / needing to make my own pasta is availability. The only pallateable low carb pasta on the market that I have ever come accross is Dreamfields, which since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic has been missing off of our local store shelves, and my Amazon subscribe and save has failed to deliver twice. And I want my grilled chicken fetuccini marinara!

#4. Meat Grinder / sausage stuffer. The claims are they don't get used often enough, and I must admit, okay this does NOT get a lot of use, but once hunting season is over, I can pay extra to have the processor grind up the less desireable bits, or I can ram it through a grinder with some fatty pork cuts to keep it from being too dry, and some spices and make pan sausasage, bratwurst, or a lovely jalapeno cheese venison sausage. We also use it when chuck goes on stupid cheap sale to make and freeze ground chuck. Same happens with turkey as we can often get free turkeys around thanksgiving, debone and grind up the turkey for ground turkey, chicken etc... There are 2 size grinding plates so I can make a grind for regular ground meat, or chunkier for a chili grind...  And the one we chose was made by Antree, again compares favorably to a Kitchenaid, works perfectly with the mixer, and decently priced. Yes it is more work in the kitchen, but labor from my hands in the kitchen is a LOT less money paid to the butcher for ground meat if I shop right, which brings me to the next item on the list. 

#5. Vacuum food sealing system like a Foodsaver, or Seal a Meal. The complainers say they aren't useful, the would rather just use zipperbags. Well sorry, but if used correctly, the vacuum sealed system prevents freezer burn, and when we use it with our harvest, or cheap buys, allows us to save a LOT of money on the meats we want in our diet. Our unit is a FoodSaver, and while it is not the model I am going to link to, it is the older version, and when I say older, it was a wedding present kind of older, but has most of the top end features. You really don't need this fancy of a machine. Just a simple one will do the trick but if you want to go fancy with a vacuum sealing system, then check this out!

#6. Garlic press. Now I am not going to bother with the link here, You can find a garlic press at just about every single grocery store kitchen gadget aisle, and yes you CAN smash garlic cloves with the side of a knife, but if you have any experience with using that method you know they bits are never really small enough, and you never really extract the full flavor from the garlic that way. My Dad made his Chili pressing garlic in with an old garlic press, and that is the way I am going to do it. Sorry not going to change for someone who says I am doing it wrong. 

#7. Food processor. Okay I sort fo agree, and sort of disagree, you see we have the older Original Ninja Kitchen System with Auto IQ that came with the bullet blender bottles as well as a food processor attachment, and we use the tar out of that food processor attachment. Mind you, we gifted our original Cuisinart food processor to a family member who never had one. They make FAST work of slicing and scredding veggies and cheeses. They are a bit of a nuisance to clean, but again, not something that is an undue buren. We find it easy to prep, dump contents, hand over to the other person in the kitchen to quickly wash it out and hand it back while we are doing other prep with different tools. We tend to do holiday dinners at our home and cook the whole nine yards. I have tried it using a top quality chefs knife and no food processor, ended up with blisters. No thanks. IF you can find the Ninja that has the food processor attachment, I HIGHLY recommend it instead of a dedicated food processor. We love our Ninja blender, and the accessories make it one of the most used small appliances in the house...

#8. Lemon juicer / squeezer. Sorry but if you don't use yours not my fault. We've got one of those squeeze the handles together citrus juicers that we use on oranges, lemons, limes, you name it. I don't care if you are going to brag you squeeze your orange juice by hand, I want to extract the juice, not bragging rights! This should be another grocery store find.

Now some areas where I totally agree with their so called experts.

Professional quality chefs knives. My wife got on a Pampered Chef kick as a freind of hers was a distributor for a while, and while many of their items just don't hold up over time, the knives have been wonderful. 

Cast iron cookware. Unfortunately my home is all electric and we have a sealed induction cooktop which scratches easily by cast iron, but I do have cast iron that we use camping and it makes cooking on a Coleman gasoline stove easier than cooking at home!

21 June, 2020

DIY, in the kitchen. A guys approach to the best instant pot refried beans.

I know, I know, I have been away from the blog for quite some time. Sorry about that. I've had far too much life going on, and what not work, or family time I have had wrapped up, has been invested in my Youtube channels, so the blog got neglected. Heck even my channels got kind of neglected. 

Anyway, my Fathers Day treat as it were, is for one of my favorite meals, however my wife is terrified of the pressure cooker, so I figured since I was doing that, I would share with you the recipe and some thoughts. Enjoy!

Having been raised with a serious DIY ethos, it should come as no shock to anyone that my DIY includes cooking as well. And I am actually known to be a very good cook by my friends. I often get asked for certain dishes once folks try them. Yes I have had some duds, but I also have had some real winners. And some of them, not all of my secrets, I will share with you here.

One of my biggest issues over the years has been just the amount of time and effort some dishes take to prepare, so I tend to be a fan of time and labor saving devices in the kitchen. Enter the Instant Pot.  I bought ours a few years ago honestly, with the main intention of being able to jam a whole frozen chicken in it with some broth, sprinkle some easoning on the outside and cook the thing for dinner should we forget to prepare or even thaw anything for dinner…

I have been struggling with various Instant Pot recipes, many of the recipes I find online are either horrid, or I am just too dumb to get it right, so I often end up with wasted food (money) or just a disappointing meal. It would seem that many folks just aren’t all that forthcoming with good recipes, or they are just bad cooks that share lousy recipes.

The BEST Instant Pot Refried Beans (I have found yet).

My beautiful wife and I are Texans, her a native, and myself blessed by God to be here in my adult life, and as such we tend toward Tex-Mex cooking. One of the items that used to be a shortcut for us was always a let down, canned refried beans. Even the best of them are just, meh…

Now with most of the Tex-Mex dishes we love, substandard refried beans won’t do, and we have tried so many different recipes, with so many miserable failures, that when we found one that was “close enough” and modified it to our tastes, the results ended up being delicious and more importantly, repeatable!  We use these as a side dish for Tamales, and while we know not authentic, in tacos and fajitas, and on weekends, with Migas con Barbacoa… I’ll post up a recipe about Migas later.


Before I give you my recipe, I need it to be clear, I am assuming you know how to safely operate an instant pot, a hand / immersion blender, and know what the consistency of refried beans should be. It is very difficult to describe in writing, so I am trusting you just know this.

Now do you want to get on with the recipe?

Prep Time. 5 min.

Cook time. 45 min.

Post cook processing time. 15 min.

Total. 1hr 5 min.

Yields approximately 4.5 cups.

Serving size .25 cup

Calories per serving. 21.3


Tools and equipment needed.

  • Hot pads or oven mitts.
  • Instant Pot, you can use other brands, but I don’t know the controls on them, make your own adjustments. I have written this with the Instant Pot IP Duo 60 6qt model in mind, make your adjustments accordingly.( NOTE: If I did not already own the IP Duo 60, and was in the market for an instant pot, I would give the 8 quart DuoCrisp some serious consideration as it adds air fryer, and with the right accessories, dehydrator functionality https://amzn.to/3ehvMDD)
  • Immersion Blender. Otherwise known as a hand blender, or stick blender. You can use a handheld potato masher as well,  the idea is to smash the beans smooth and mix with the remaining liquids.(https://amzn.to/3hKaiS9)
  • Measuring cups and spoons.(https://amzn.to/3hNBK1d)
  • House power, generator, solar power with inverter, whatever it takes to reliably power your instant pot. (For those of you new to my Blog, I deal with Camping a lot. This recipe can be done in the camper, IF you have power).
  • 5qt stainless steel mixing bowl and a stainless steel colander that fits inside of that.
  • Clean fork.
  • Sealable glass bowls to serve and store. The 2 cups of beans when done will slightly more than double in volume when done. Consider storing in a 4 cup container and using the rest when they first come out!

  • 2 cups dried pinto beans sorted and rinsed. (sorted means to insure there are no bad beans, and no foreign matter in their midst that sometimes happens).
  • 1 tsp natural sea salt.
  • 3 Tbsp Fiesta Brand Extra Fancy Pinto Bean Seasoning. (https://amzn.to/3enncmW)
  • 3 Tbsp strained bacon drippings.
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 – 4 bay leaves


  • Take the inner liner from the instant pot and fill up with fresh, cool water to the 7 cup line. Return liner into Instant Pot.
  • Using the colander if not already rinsed, rinse the sorted beans, shake dry and pour into instant pot.
  • Add pinto bean seasoning, bacon drippings, salt, and bay leaves.
  • Put lid on instant pot, and set vent control to the pressure / non venting setting.
  • Plug in instant pot, and set it on the Bean / Chili setting. Adjust the cook time to 45 minutes.
  • Let the instant pot go through its cycle, and come down on pressure on its own. I believe the manual calls that naturally depressurize.
  • Once depressurized, typically at the 55 minute mark, remove the lid, and with a clean fork pick out the bay leaves.
  • Take the mixing bowl, place colander inside.
  • Using the hot pads / oven mitts, CAREFULLY remove the liner with the beans / liquid mixture and pour into the colander. Replace the instant pot liner.
  • In one motion, lift, let the liquid drain just so that it isn’t pouring out, dripping is okay, move the colander to the instant pot and pour the beans back in. This should have retained just enough liquid, but set the mixing bowl with the liquid just in case you need some to thin the bean mix out a touch.
  • Using the immersion blender, blend beans until smooth and creamy texture. If the final mix is too thick, slowly add no more than ¼ cup of liquid if not less at a time and mix until you come up with the right consistency.
  • Serve with your favorite Tex-Mex dish as an ingredient, or as a side dish itself with maybe cheese and onions…

15 May, 2019

Helping secure home with Alexa

I am well into the remodeling and part of that is redoing the switches for the house mostly because the 35 year old original switches are literally falling apart and causing some serious concern for safety.

Given that and the price difference between some of the lower price point smart switches in high quality dumb switches we are doing a smart home project. And a key component of this smart home project is voice integration.  Now I looked at the various voice platforms the leading contenders are Alexa from Amazon assistant from Google Bixby from Samsung and Siri from Apple.

I am not trying to start a flame war here so please forgive me ahead of time if anything I say here you disagree with these are my personal opinions and a for me and I would like to triple underlined me because I know it works well for other people but for me I am just not a big Apple fan so Siri isn't a choice for me. My Galaxy note 9 features Bixby and it tends to translate my voice commands to something roughly halfway between American English and Korean. Not gonna work.

So the 2 remaining competitors Alexa and assistant are really all that was left for me to choose from.

After reviewing the features the costs and the benefits of each including compatibility with 3rd party products the answer was quite clear. Amazon Alexa was my clear choice.

With solid voice integration and an ever expanding group of skills and they demonstrated solid commitment to 3rd party integrations which Google is killing off from their platform by removing the works with nest program we went and grabbed several echo devices on deep sale. For starters we wanted to get rid of our Satellite TV and go entirely streaming to save money and be able to better control what we are watching. We opted for fire TV sticks and purchase them as a bundle on sale around Christmas time with echo dot's. And a more recent acquisition was a full on echo that was picked up on Mother's Day sale.

Now there is a new feature that was fully opened up to us echo users as of May 14th 2019 which is called Alexa guard.  This feature allows the echo devices to listen for sound patterns such as breaking glass or smoke alarms and then send an alert to your phone or mobile device. If you have very specific professional monitoring services most notably ADT pulse or Ring monitored alarm services then these alerts can be reviewed by your monitoring service and calls to emergency services can be placed then.

This is a feature I've been anxiously awaiting since it was initially announced in fall of 2018.  When the initial early Beta was released it only supported 2nd generation Echo and 3rd generation Echo Dot devices. With the full release as of May 14th 2019 all generations of Echo devices are now compatible.

So as we continue to go through our build process we have to add a couple more echo dots to have a listening device in every area where there is glass. This will give us a full coverage and allow us better protection while we are out of the house.

I know there are privacy concerns with these smart speakers but I am not all that worried about them at this point and to me the benefits outweigh the risks

10 June, 2018

Refinishing medicine cabinets, and fixing poor quality installs....

My house was built in 1984, and sadly the guy that did the install of my medicine cabinets, well he most likely has gone on to other endeavours, or is in a box.... So no chance I can get him to fix his screw ups....

It would appear that when the medicine cabinets were installed there were 2 problems....

#1. There were no pilot holes drilled. THe screws sere simply run into the studs.

#2. The original installer, or someone else along the life of my house, stripped the screw head on the lower left screw on the cabinet on the right.... I had no choice but to use a plug cutter to remove the material the screw was still attached to, and remove the cabinet, cut the screw flush tot he stud because even with vice grips, it wasn't going anywhere, ever.... 

So I could have gone to Home Depot, bought a new cabinet that would actually match these old ones, yes they still make, and sell the same lousy cabinets. But in true Dave's Workshop fashion, I just HAD to fix what I had.... Even if it included having to buy a new tool which, you know breaks my heart... Or not.

So anyway, here's the video on how I fixed it, and how I refinished the cabinets with white chalk paint, going for that rustic look... 

03 June, 2018

DIY 20u + Server Rack build. The videos...

Part 1, Design finalized, and shopping for the supplies.

Part 2. Parts cut, and making space to work. What a mess!

Part 3, Sanding and Painting.

Part 4, assembly and loading it up!

And the completed rack ready to slide into place!

02 April, 2018

20u + DIY rack build in progress...

I am calling this a 20u + rack now as I needed more space than the 20u would provide....

I have 4 of the same mainboards, and pretty much everything except cases, which are all very close in specs and dimensions, except one is a different make / model than the others. These were barebones systems from Newegg a few years ago. I am finally getting things put toget6her right.These will end up being the hypervisor nodes The specs are...

AMD FX 3.2GHZ Quad Core
Corsair DDR3 32GB
MSI 970A-G43 mainboards.
2 @ Intel dual port gigabit PCIe ethernet adapters.
single gigabit TrendNet PCIe Ethernet adapter
MSI Radeon 6450 2GB graphics cards.
512GB 6GB/s SATA 7200rpm Western Digital HDDs

All 4 of these measure up to be just at 4u high when flipped sideways and put on the rack rails.

That consumes 16u.

Then there are the 2 TrendNet TEG-S16DG 16 port 1u gigabit switches. That brings me to 18u.
I will need 1u of space to apss cables from the front of the switch to the back. That means the switches plus the pass through space gets me up to 19u.

The head node, which will also be my storage filer consists of a slender desktop and an 8 bay eSATA RAID enclosure. The head node and storage enclosure will be racked together, but they take up a combined 5u of space

The rails being 20u, are 35" tall, the 1x4 lumber consumes 7" for the top and bottom spreaders, meaning that they use 42" vertical space.

Now go back 1.75" for the 1u already allotted, and that gives me 7.5" with the 48" uprights. Close, but not close enough. I need 10.5" or about 6u where I have just over 4u space to work with...

So the storage box can't go here. For now.

If you don't recall, the plan was to put a top on the rack, and place the UPSes there, well the RAID box is going to have to go there for now as well....

I have the lumber cut, I have the hole locations for hte screws marked and ready to go.

I am charging my cordless drill to do the drilling work. I am going to pre drill all my screw holes, mark off the locations where the pieces meet so I can mask them off, then I am going to pre paint all the pieces, and once cured, assmelbe this thing, with a considerable amount of glue to insure it doesn't ever give up on me....

My long term plan for this rack, is to lay my hands on 4 2u ATX cases that are compatible with a standard ATX 12v / PS2 style power supply. I have high end power supplies that I am not going to get into here, that I do not want to retire. Recall this is an office yes, but it is also a music room / studio. So even though it is going into the closet next to the room, I want to insure sinlence is the sound of the day!

25 March, 2018

20u DIY server rack. Final plan in place.

So I have been tasked with a project. What was going to be a dedicated home office / study space for me, is now going to be a shared space home office, / guest bedroom. Meaning the big 48” wire bakers rack LAN rack has got to go! And the structured wiring rack on the wall? Nope. It needs to get hidden.

I have been directed to move all the network gear, AND my virtualization cluster gear, into the closet. But just how am I going to do that?

Simple. Improvise a server rack, and rack mount my mid tower servers. Measurements are good, so I know this is doable.

Credit for the inspiration:

First things first, I found a blog at https://thehomeserverblog where the author had done an open server rack out of wood, and it looked pretty decent, except he used full dimension 2x4s, which is going to be a bit bulky for my use, I need to be more space efficient in my build…

There are 3 critical dimensions. The mounting space side to side of the rack rails, the height top to bottom for the rack rails, and the distance front to back for the rack rails.

To reduce the overall weight, and space down of the rack build, keeping the costs down, as well as simplifying the build by reducing the number of steps needed to prep the lumber, I am opting for 1x4 lumber instead of my initial plan of using 2x4 and planing it down the thickness.

So critical dimensions here are…

Side to side 19-⅝” to keep the centers of the bolt holes at 19” spacing.

Rail opening 35.25” (20u, 1u = 1.75”). Add ¼” to this height for wiggle room.

Front to back. There are 3 standard depths, 19”, 23” and 30”. We are going to opt for the 30” depth to insure we aren’t too cramped for cables, or airflow behind the rack.

Once built, the rack will be populated, from bottom to top as follows.

1-4, 4U desktop converted to rack server.

5-8 4U desktop converted to rack server.

9-12 4U desktop converted to rack server

13-14 2U desktop converted to rack server.

15-17 4U desktop RAID shelf converted to rack RAID shelf.

18 & 20 2 @ TrendNet TEG-S16DG 16 port gigabit ethernet switches rack mounted. Cables to pass through to back of rack between switches. Due to mounting considerations, I do NOT want these switches rear facing as I want to be able to see the link / activity lights when in use.

There is a 7u 10” deep wall mount rack that will be mounted to a mount board immediately above the server rack. That will house from the bottom up.

1 1U rack shelf, housing 2 @ Obi100 VoIP adapters, and resting pigtails from above device.

2 1U rack mounted PDU, front switch, rear ports. Pigtails to allow for wall wart transformers, these will rest on the shelf below.

3 1U TrendNet TK-803R PS2/USB KVM 8 port. This will require a pass through setup from one side of the wall to the other to allow for the connection to the video, keyboard, and mouse.

4 1U TrendNet TEG-S24G 24 port gigabit ethernet switch.

5 1U open space to pass cables behind, and either down to rack, or up to ceiling penetration to pass through the rest of the house.

6 1U TrendNet 16 port gigabit patch panel.

7 1U 10” deep cantilever shelf housing cable modem, WiFi router, and Antenna rotator control box.

On mount board above will be housed.

1x8 amplified coaxial splitter.

4x6 telephone hub 110.

Materials List:

Lumber needed.

5 @ 1x4 whitewood common 8ft long lumber

Fasteners needed.

48 1.25” wood / deck screws.

28 #8 .5” round head wood screws.

Rack Rails.

2 @ Reliable Hardware Company RH-20-SRR-A 20U Full Hole 20 Space Rack Rail Pair.

Rack conversion rail / partial shelves.

NavePoint Adjustable Rack Mount Server Shelf Rails 1U Full Depth 4-pack (These should come with the rack screws).

Finish needed.

Rust-Oleum painter's touch gloss black spray paint & primer in one.

Tools needed.

Measuring tape and marking pencil (Fine lead please!).

Saw that can cross cut in a straight line. Either a miter box and saw, electric miter saw, radial arm saw, circular saw with rafter square and clamp, or table saw and miter fence.

Electric drill.

If cordless, fully charged battery, if corded, well… power...

Drill gauge.

Drill bit set to drill pilot holes.

Counter sinks to relieve for the screw heads and reduce chances of split out.

Phillips screw driver bit for drill.

Power sander hand sandpaper

Drop cloth.

Cut list for 1x4 final dimension lumber.

4 @ 19-⅝” for spreaders.

4 @ 21-⅛” for top UPS support

4 @ 29” front / rear runners top and bottom.

4 @ 43.25” uprights.


Measure, mark and make cuts for each component.

Lay out and mark upper and lower box joints.

Pre drill pilot holes for upper and lower box joints.

Relieve screw holes with counter sink.

Assemble upper and lower box joints making sure the boxes are square.

Set up boxes to uprights on one side, insure everything is square, mark, and pre drill pilot holes, and countersinks.

Assemble uprights onto boxes on first side, flip over repeat process.

Disassemble entire assembly.

Sand all assembly pieces relieving any sharp edges

Paint all pieces allow paint to fully cure add second coat if necessary


Measure, and assemble rack rails onto rack body.