Category Archives: DIY – Do It Yourself

Research On Home Made Pepper Spray – Tread Carefully. Something Reliable and Effective Is Not As Easy As You May Think.

Up front, please let me stress that this post if for informational purposes only. The author will not be liable if you decide to attempt to make or use pepper spray. You assume all liability going forward.

Please abide by all laws and regulations in your area – it is illegal to possess pepper spray in some places let alone use it.

Last but not least, please follow safe practices if you choose to attempt making pepper spray.

Pepper spray irritates the eyes, lungs and skin. The intent is to cause extreme temporary discomfort and allow the defender a chance to get away or the police officer to more easily restrain a subject. The reason I researched and wrote this post is that a number of people are worried about personal and family safety and how to ward off attackers given the craziness with people panicking over COVID-19.

For one reason or another, not everyone can buy a firearm and. thanks to government regulation, many law abiding citizens can’t even purchase pepper spray. Now, machining a firearm and its costs are beyond many but making pepper spray is something people might want to consider but there are a whole lot of potential issues I want you to think through before you make some home brew and pour it in a spray bottle.

What is pepper spray anyways?

As you can guess from the name, the main ingredient is technically known as oleresin capsicum (OC) is derived from peppers. OC is an oily organic resin obtained from finely ground chili powder where the capsaicin of the pepper is removed using an alcohol – typically ispropyl or ethanol. The capsaicin is most concentrated in the parts of the pepper that hold the seeds and the rest of the pepper to a lesser extent.

The following video does a great job explaining how pepper spray affects the human body and how it is made:

How do you make a pepper spray?

Do not rub your eyes and be careful breathing any airborne powders or liquids. I’d recommend wearing nitrile gloves, eye protection and a dust mask – even a basic nuisance dust one.

Please abide by all laws and regulations in your area and follow safe practices if you choose to attempt making pepper spray.

Let me tell you up front that I am not incredibly impressed by anything I have read or watched. Do you research and be very, very careful.

The “heat” of pepper varieties is measured by the Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The SHU value of a given pepper is measuring the concentration of capsaicinoids, which is premoninantly capsaicin – the part of the pepper we need. So, the higher the Scoville rating, the hotter the pepper is and the stronger the pepper spray will be.

The above is a Scoville Scale with popular peppers rated. You can see that Cayenne is in the middle with some god awful hot ones at the top.

Note – Focus on the peppers not some of the weird home brews folks are making where they are adding in other ingredients because they seem to be irritants based on their own past experience – for example, people adding salt, black pepper and even curry.

Going back to peppers, bear in mind that commercial pepper sprays range from 2-5.3 million SHU. Just because you think Cayenne pepper (30-50,000 SHU) or a Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 SHU) is hot does not mean it is adequate. You need to be thinking about the hottest peppers you can find and using them. Let me give you specifics of the 10 hottest peppers

Safety comment – you do need to realize pepper sprays made by the hot peppers over 80,000 SHU are dangerous and may cause permanent damage to eyes, etc. You better not spray this hot stuff on anyone without real good cause and be extra careful working with them!

With the god awful hot peppers, I have no idea how you can safely test your concoction. Honestly, at some point of capsaicin concentration, you are going to cause chemical burns. If you are trying to make liquid hell, you have some very dangerous stuff going on. Please don’t test it on other people, pets, animals, etc.

First extraction video

This gentleman does a good job showing you how to extract the the capsaicin that we need. Note, he uses acetone but I’d recommend an alcohol as it is less volatile and doesn’t dissolve anywhere near as many varieties of plastics as acetone does. There’s solid guidance other than that.

Video Two – The author makes and tests his pepper spray

This fellow both made his own pepper spray and then tests it while reporting the results. Notice how he points out the delay — keep that in mind.

Some mistakes I noticed during my research

When you look around on Youtube and reading blog posts, there are a lot of fundamental mistakes that people make that I want you to be aware of:

  • Your goal is to make a concentrate – start with the hottest pepper you can find
  • You need to extract the capsaicin so grind up the pepper – don’t just add flakes.
  • Focus on the pepper!! Folks adding in other stuff may sound cool but I am not convinced curry powder, salt, black pepper, etc. will help. One fellow even added in a pain killer (lidocain) for reasons I can’t begin to fathom.
  • Use a ton of powder/ground pepper. You want to make a concentrate and not something really diluted. Now is not the time to go cheap.
  • Use alcohol and not acetone unless you know your plastic can handle it – many household/cheap plastics can’t.
  • Allow the alcohol time to dissolve the capsaicins from the peppers. Use a sealed container and give it at least 12 hours to a day while shaking or stirring periodically. A sealed container makes the most sense to me unless you want the solvent to evaporate off and make a concentrate, which is a legitimate consideration.
  • You definitely need to strain the resulting mixture. Any type of sprayer will be at risk of clogging if there are solids in the liquid. The folks with a stew of materials floating around in their dispensers are at risk of a clog just when they need the spray the most. I was really surprised at the number of authors who had dispensers with solid remnants floating around.
  • Nobody seems to know how long this stuff will last – 3 months might be a starting assumption. It’s not indefinite.

Delivery mechanism considerations

I’ve seen everything from squeeze bottles, to squirt guns to home made single shot stream sprayers. Consider the following:

  • whatever you select needs to be leak proof or you will have an awful mess.
  • You don’t want it accidentally going off in your purse or pocket … or you will have an awful mess.
  • If you do a charged can of some type – ensure the propellant doesn’t slowly leak out and/or have a means to recharge it. Even commercial units will slowly lose their propellant charge.
  • Remember to strain the liquid you’re going to use or floating solids will likely clog up your device — and probably when you need the spray the most. Seriously, it blew my mind how few did this.
  • You need to test to see how far the liquid can travel. In general you want a stream and not a fog both to concentrate delivery plus you do not want the person near you! Also, bear in mind that a mist will float around and land on others – potentially even yourself.

More resources

How to treat pepper spray / how to decontaminate

Okay folks, the following is so you know what to do if you get this stuff on you. The short answer is saline, non-mint antacid in distilled water in a 50/50 mix placed in a squeeze bottle to neutralize the chemical or some form of water and mild soap.

This is not magic or the movies – Beware

Reality is not like the movies – especially with home grown pepper sprays. Expect attackers to respond differently to pepper spray.. Some will immediately lose visibility and the will to fight, some may have a delay before the react and some will keep fighting no matter what due to drugs or whatever. Do not expect an attacker to magically drop to the ground.

The best way to win a fight is avoid the situation – don’t walk alone, avoid dark allies, stay alert, and so forth. View this stuff as a last resort or part of a layered defense that you have thought about.

Conclusion

Someone casually making pepper spray without a lot of thought put into it will likely have very mixed unsafe unreliable results. I didn’t find one video or blog post that I felt addressed my concerns for reliability so I collected the above for you to consider. If you can buy commercial pepper spray, I would highly recommend you do so.

The information presented here is for people who need protection and home-made pepper spray might be their last option. Do your research, plan and build with safety in mind. Last comment, don’t rely solely on pepper spray – consider other things like loud personal alarms, clubs, saps, fake money clips, take a self-defense class, etc.

Again, please, please be safe if you make anything discussed here. Also, be aware of any laws and regulations that are applicable. In some locales, pepper spray is treated virtually the same as a firearm and civilian use is strictly prohibited.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com.


The following are commercial pepper sprays if you can legally purchase them


You Can Make Black Powder!

Let me open with telling you that I am providing the following information for educational purposes only. I find chemistry fascinating as you can tell by my various posts on parkerizing, acid etching (with apple cider vinegar and with ferric chloride), epoxies and more. So, I’ve seen various posts over the years about making your own black powder and usually filed them away for future reference. What changed was that Youtube actually recommended a video on making black powder and then that led to another and another. I took the three videos I liked the most and decided to share them.

Please, if you try anything, do so safely. Research first, pick safe location and be careful. You accept all liability – I am providing these resources for reference purposes only!!

Starting Basic: The King of Random

The back story is that this guy loved experimenting and posted his projects on YouTube. The genuine tragedy is that he recently passed away in a paragliding accident. This is a very interesting video and sets the stage for do-it-yourself black powder.

The three ingredients from left to right: Sulfur from plant fungicide.home made charcoal and potassium nitrate from stump remover.

In this post, the presenter shows you how to make a basic unrefined black powder with charcoal and then powdered potassium nitrate from stump remover and powdered sulfur from plant fungicide. Note, these are all available at your local hardware store – you need powders and not liquids by the way. It’s a basic process and creates a “green” or unrefined black powder.

A More Refined Approach From the Science Pirate

This fellow is a chemist and really good at explaining what is going on and how to do it. He shows how he goes about processing the 75% Potassium Nitrate, 15% charcoal and 10% sulfur into black powder.

Here he’s screening the charcoal. Instead of expedient materials, he is using lab grade chemicals and supplies as you can see.

The Best Video: GhoolerHunter Covers An Old Military Method

He’s getting ready to strain his solution.

This fellow really goes into detail behind a process for producing a more refined black powder. He does point out to beware of static electricity if you are using metal trays like he is.

Some Charcoals Are Better Than Others

Interesting enough, having the right charcoal is really important. Some woods are way better than others and I think you’ll find that you will either need to make your own charcoal or will need to do some hunting to find very specific charcoal for good results.

For example, woods to use include certain species of Alder, Balsa, Buckthorn (both alder and carolina), Cottonwood (narrow leaf), Dogwood (cornus florida), Maple, Paulownia, Plum (prunus domestica), and Willow (Black, white, weeping and pacific but not Rocky mountain). To learn more, please see:

Other Black Powder Resources

Here are some other resources if you want to read more:

Again, this is all provided for reference purposes only. If you decide to try anything, please research first and put safety before everything else. Also, be sure to comply with all laws and regulations that apply to you.

Sorry to sound like a lawyer but these days, it needs to be said. I hope the info helps you out.


Please note that all images were extracted from the video and are the property of their respective owner.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com.


How To Fix A Broken Vacuum Line Fitting on the Air Box or Air Filter Housing Of A 2008 Toyota Highlander And Other Models – It’s Easy and Cheap!

I’m going to leverage my inner Forrest Gump – used cars are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. In this case, it was our 2008 Toyota Highlander. I decided to check the air filter just in case and noticed both that the vacuum lines had cracked and that someone had done a “creative” fix on a 4mm vacuum port that had snapped off.

So this vaccum line was just resting in the hole. There’s some white glue – maybe silicone and som odd metal insert.

If there’s one thing I have learned with modern computerized cars – don’t mess with their sensors or vacuum lines. You can get odd random codes thrown, lose performance, fuel efficiency, etc. So, I knew this needed to be fixed. The big problem – the vacuum fitting was cast into the airbox!! By the way, the air box is the car part that holds the air filter in this case – the air filter housing is another way of thinking of the part.

Let me start by telling you the expensive and time consuming way – buy a replacement air box. Yeah, this is going to cost you a bundle. A OEM Toyota air box will run you $275-400, used is about $100-185 and aftermarket tends to be under $60-90 and maybe iffy quality. Then there is the labor to do the actual swap – it’s going to either take your time or you are going to pay a mechanic to do it and the cost is going to go up fast. There is an easier and faster way.

My Recommended Approach

The magic fraction for today is 5/32″. Why? Because 5/32″ is almost exactly 4mm. If we get a small brass, aluminum or stainless barbed 5/32″ hose fitting with a threaded rear, we can easily fix this. I live in a rural area and this isn’t something I can easily walk into a hardware store and find so I did some searching for NPT to 5/32″ hose barb and found both 1/16″ NPT and metric fittings plus some were brass, aluminum and mystery metal. I discounted anything plastic/nylon because I wanted a stronger fitting.

Another reason I went with 1/16″ NPT is that it can fill a pretty big hole all by itself up to about 0.31″ given the taper plus I could then use a 1/16″ to 1/8″ bushing adapter if I needed to go larger.

After much digging around using Google and Amazon, I opted for an Aeromotive #15630 hose fitting made from 6061-T6 aluminum that I did order off Amazon. There was a no-name generic brass one but no spec so I didn’t go with it. By the way, searching for fittings like this really shows the limitations of general search engines to find parts. I spent a ton of time filtering through tons and tons of search results that turned up the wrong products. What a headache.

Aeromotive #15630 that has 1/16″ NPT thread on ne end and a 5/32″ hose barb on the other.

Installation

The first thing to point out is that the molded vacuum fitting is above the air cleaner so you can safely work on the box without removing it from the vehicle! Any debris from drilling or sanding will land on the filter and you can vacuum it out later. If you have a used car, peak inside and make sure the air cleaner is there and intact.

If you have just the old busted remains of the hose fitting to contend with then Dremel or sand the area flat. You want the installed barb to be able to sit flat against the wall of the box.

Next, pick a drill bit that is just the same size as the tapered bottom of the thread. NPT thread is tapered so the bottom has a smaller diameter than the top. If the air box was steel, we would use a letter “C” drill bit to make a 0.242″ hole. Notice how this is slightly smaller than 1/4″ but I am betting most people do not have lettered drill bit sets so you pick a close size and run with it. We do want the hole slightly smaller in order to thread it. Because this is plastic, we are going to push forward with the metal adapter fitting while turning and let the thread on the adapter cut the thread into the plastic. We aren’t going to bother tapping it first. That’s right – don’t buy a tap to do this uness you are a tool junky and perfectionist, which is fine if you are – I get accused of that a lot.

I’d recommend you start with a bit smaller than 1/4″ where the bit is slightly smaller than the bottom of the adapter, drill the hole and see if you can press it in. If not, go to a bigger bit. If you mess up and have a slightly too big hole, all is not lost – read the “Well crap” section below 🙂

Let’s say that everything goes great and you can screw the fitting into the plastic – Once threaded in, it’s done. Just screw it in and quit. Don’t put too much torque or you can strip it. That works just fine unless the previous guy bubba’d it, which takes us to the next part of the story.

Well crap….

In my case, I had a box of chocolates moment. The previous owner or a mechanic had drilled the hole out and installed some small metal bushing that was hidden due to the white silicone on it. I have no idea what it was from. Once I discovered and removed it, the hole in the air box turned out to be just a tad bigger than the entire 1/16″ tapered thread. Argh… not what I wanted to deal with.

Dear bubba, thank you for hiding this under the white silicone. You just made my fix a bit more complex but not impossible.

Okay, I wanted to get this job and had three options, go to the hardware store and try and find a 1/16 to 1/8″ bushing, install a 1/16″ NP threaded nut on the back to hold it in position, which I also did not have, or glue the hell out of it and call it even.

Because I am always working on cars and pressure systems due to Ronin’s Grips, did have a tube of black Permatex Optimum BlackGasket Maker that I could use. Being black, it wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious. By the way, I opted not to use epoxy due to the flexible plastic walls and expected vibrations that might break down the bond with time.

This is what I had on hand at the time and worked great. I could have used any quality black silicone RTV glue/gasket maker and gotten the same results. I tend to either have Permatex or LocTite brand products that I use the most.

First, I scuffed the surface around the hole with 100 grit sand paper so the glue could get a better grab on the surface. The second thing I did was to spray brake cleaner on the area to remove any trace oils that might prevent a good bond.

I was wearing nitrile gloves and also sprayed brake cleaner on the fitting to make sure it was clean. Gloves both keep your hands clean and also prevent you from getting oils from your skin on the parts — assuming the gloves are clean of course. Having a clean surface makes a HUGE difference in terms of how well any glue is going to stick.

Next, I applied a bead around the top of the NPT thread of the fitting and pushed it into the hole. Since I was wearing nitrile gloves, I just took a finger and smoothed the glue out a bit and let it cure for about an hour or so. You want it cured enough to hold the adapter in place – you don’t need it fully cured yet. With warmer weather it will cure faster and in cold weather it my take a long time and need a hot light or something to warm it up above 70F to get things done. Depending on what I am working on, I try to get somewhere between 60-110F. The warmer it is, the faster it will cure but don’t burn it or melt the plastic either!

This is the first pass. It’s not pretty but it will dry strong enough to hold the fitting in place while the second thicker coat is applied.

I then put a second layer of black gasket maker on and fanned it out to get a good grip and to securely hold the fitting. I then let this all cure overnight. I’ve learned long ago not to rush faster than what the adhesive’s manufacturer recommends or you are liable to ruin an otherwise good job.

Here is the second heavier coat this was meant to reinforce the part.

So, once it was fully cured I then needed to change the cracked vacuum lines which are what I noticed in the first place.

4mm Vacuum Lines

What got me started on all this in the first place was noticing that two 4mm vacuum lines were very cracked where they slid onto their respective hose barbs. This happens as rubber ages and gets brittle so finding them wasn’t surprising.

This is one of the ends that was badly split.

Fixing this is easy. You just need either real 4mm vacuum hose or 5/32 vacuum hose. You can either go with one formulated from rubber or more expensive silicone. The advantage to the latter is that it ought to last longer.

Because we own a number of aging Toyotas, I bought an assortment bag of metric sized silicone vacuum hose of Amazon some time ago. It comes with 4mm x 82″, and the 52″ lengths of 6mm, 8mm, and 12mm. It was expensive but now I have an assortment for when I need to repair small lines such as this case.

You can see the two pieces I replaced because the new silicone hose is shiny black and a thicker diameter.

Conclusion

Going this route saved us a ton hundreds of dollars and has held up just fine. I did this repair last fall and have not had a single problem. Yeah, the glue does make it a big of a bubba fix but it is revsersible and the fitting isn’t going to fall out. The black gasket maker has held the little barb in just fine and the hose is very supple and shows no wear at all. I hope this helps you out as well.


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Acid Etching With Ferric Chloride and Apple Cider Vinegar – Wicked Results on High Carbon Steel

I recently did two posts about building a new heated tank out of PVC pipe and a digitally controlled heating element that is both effective and affordable. This also marked my first batch of blades where I moved from my traditional hot apple cider etching to using a mix of 70% ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar heated to 90-94F.

The Chemicals

Let me give you a quick overview of the two chemicals I used to make my blade etching solution:

The primary ingredient is liquid ferric chloride from MG Chemicals. It’s available in quarts and gallons and is about 38-42% ferric chloride by volume. The MG Chemicals product is well regarded and that played a big factor in my selecting it. I purchased mine from Amazon and it arrived quickly and well packed.

The second chemical is regular apple cider vinegar from the grocery store. They tend to be normalized around 5% acetic acid by volume. The brand I used was at 5% and there were other brands at 4% that I passed over – go for 5% because you need the acetic acid. I literally bought this at my local grocery store – nothing special.

The solution I made was 70% of the ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar. I wore lab goggles, nitrile gloves, old clothes and am in a well ventilated area when I slowly add the ferric chloride to the relatively weaker apple cider vinegar.

The ratio was based on looking at the end results from other blade smiths and talking about what they learned. In my case, I can tell you that this combination makes for a very nice dark etch.

The Process

  1. Heat the etching solution up to 90-94F before I put in the first blade. MG Chemicals recommends the operating range from 94F to 131F and not to exeed 131F. [Click here for their technical data sheet and MSDS]
  2. The blades need to be at least 70F prior to dunking in the solution. The warmer the solution and blade, the better chemical reaction you are going to have.
  3. Clean the blade with brake cleaner throughly
  4. Abrasive blast the blade – I am using Black Beauty these days. It is a coarse coal slag based product. Note, not all guys blast their blades – some just clean them very carefully.
  5. From this point on, wear nitrile gloves when handling the blades to avoid any oils and contaminants from your skin
  6. I again use brake cleaner to do a final cleaning and make sure it fully evaporates. Some guys rub down with acetone – do what works for you but it must not leave a residue
  7. Fully submerged the blade in the heated etching solution for 10 minutes
  8. Remove the blade and wipe off the remaining solution with a paper towel [as a reminder, you must be wearing gloves to not contaminate the blade]
  9. Used clean/bare 0000 steel wool to buff the surface of the blade and remove any loose particles. Note, this 0000 steel wool is bare wool – no cleaners or anything. You find these in woodworking / hardware sections of stores – not in the kitchen area.
  10. Submerge the blade for another 5 minutes and again wiped and rubbed the blade down with steel wool. I think I repeated this process three times per blade but experiment and see what works for you.
  11. Soak the blade in warm water with baking soda to neutralize the acid
  12. Spray the blade down with WD-40 to displace the water
  13. Apply finish – I like to use a 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and turpentine to apply severa thin coats. This gives my blades the worn post-apocalypse look. Many guys just coat the acid etched surface with oil to inhibit rust.
Here’s a small 5″ khukuri where all steel surfaces have been blasted.
Here’s the finished khukuri just before I mailed it to its new owner.
Here’s a look at the solution in the tank.
Here is one of the etched damascus blades. The beads on the blade are oil.
Here’s an even closer look at the finished blade.

Summary

I’m definitely very happy with the results and will be using this solution going forward.


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How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 1

I like to acid etch blades that I build using apple cider and/or ferric chloride. I also manganese park firearms and tools. Assuming the part is prepped properly, there are two common needs in all of the above – the part must be submerged and the solution heated. So you have two options, buy a stainless tank and heat source or build one using PVC pipe. These next couple of posts are going to dive into how you can build an affordable and very effective heated tank to finish you parts plus have some fun doing it.

PVC or CPVC?

We can use rigid PVC pipe as the container to hold the etching solution. It’s cheap, easy to find and easy to work with. I need to explain a few things first about what we can and can’t do with it.

In plumbing, rigid PVC pipe has an operating temperature of 140F degrees. The reason for this is that PVC is a thermoplastic and begins to soften with heat and will burst due to the pressurized water. We don’t have much pressure to worry about other than atmospheric pressure but you don’t want to push plain PVC towards 200F – it really isn’t designed for it.

If you want to do parkerizing at 190F, then you need to use CPVC pipe. CPVC rigid pipe has extra chlorination that allows it to withstand 200F while delivering water under normal household pressures. Fun trivia, CPVC was invented by Genova Products in Michigan.

If you are trying to figure out what you are looking at, if the pipe is white, it is probably PVC. If it is cream colored, it is probably CPVC. It ought to be labeled/printed on the side of the pipe also but be on guard for people putting stuff in the wrong bins at a store or clerks not knowing what is what.

In this post, I am working with regular PVC purchased from my local Ace Hardware because the tank is for acid etching knives and will the liquid will be 90-110F on average. If I ever build one for parkerizing, it would be in CPVC. The reason it’s an “if” is that I already have a big stainless steel parkerizing tank but it’s a headache to drag out and set up whenI need it.

The Parts List

Basically, we are going to build a tube with a cemented permanent cap on the bottom and a threaded cap at the top. You can go with any size you want. For most blades I work with, 3″ is plenty and I wanted it to be portable.

Let me give you a piece of advice – it’s aways better to be a little bigger than you think you need than to find that out later. When in doubt, make it wider and taller — within reason of course. Note, I knew a 3″ diameter and about 16″ tall would meet most of my needs but not all and I was fine with that. I’ll pull out my four foot stainless tank when I need to do something huge like a cleaver.

In terms of parts, you need the following:

  • A length of pipe of the diameter that is needed
  • A coupling for that size
  • A threaded adapter for that size – you cement it onto the end of the pipe and it gives you a national pipe thread on the other end
  • A threaded plug that fits into the adapter
  • An end cap of one type or another. If you use 3″ or 4″ pipe, you can use a toilet flange adapter to actually both plug the end and allow you to connect it to the wood if you aren’t making it very tall. I would be worried about torque on a tank with an overall length of 24″ or more. In those cases I would cement on a normal end cap and build up a crade around the pipe to support it.
  • You may want a drain for a big tank – I didn’t need one for this little unit because I can easily lift it even when it is full of the acid etching solution.
  • PVC cleaner and cement (note, PVC and CPVC use different cement)
  • Wood to form a base to keep the pipe from tipping over so it needs to be both wide and heavy enough. Really it’s up to you as to how you secure it to be vertical. I like a mobile base but you could tie it to something, etc.
  • A heating source and controller – we’ll get into more detail in the next post.

Weight Considerations and a Drain

Bear in mind that this tank can get pretty heavy if you plan on using really big piple (6″ or bigger). Water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon. You will find that other liquids can weigh more. Apple cider vinegar may be around 8.6 pounds and ferric chloride might weigh 10-12 pounds per gallon depending on the concentration.

I bring the weight up because if you are thinking of building a big tank, the weight is going to add up and you may want to install a drain near the base. There are two big reasons you need to think about this – you may want to move the unit around plus you will need to change the solution as it ages and breaks down from use.

This is my 3″ tank I just built. The toilet flange us availab;e for 3″ and 4″ pipe and is handy for smaller tanks. I’d build a cradle/surrounding frame to support a bigger tank.

The pictured tank is about 16″ tall with 3″ pipe and has about a gallon of 70% ferric chloride and 30% apple cider vinegar in it. I can move it around very easily and portability was one of my design goals.

Assembling The Pipe

PVC is really easy to work with. You cut the pipe to the length you want or have the store do it for you. I use a big miter saw for stuff like this to get nice square ends and use an airline to blow all the loose plastic out (wear safety glasses).

To “glue” the pipe together, you first prime the surfaces and then apply the cement. Note, PVC and CPVC use the same primer but different cement. In this case,I use Oatey’s purple primer and clear cement. Read the directions on their box just to make sure. Bear in mind the solvent is really thin and is going to run everywhere – especially in cold weather.

I’m a creature of habit. I’ve had very good luck with Oatey products so I stick with them. There are other brands out there such as Ace’s own private labled stuff, but I stick with Oatey to avoid surprises. When following their directions and using their products, I’ve not had a joint fail/leak yet,

The Base

To make the tank stable, you need a big enough base both in terms of area and weight. I had some old 1×12 stock that I chopped into squares and stacked if four deep for weight. You can do whatever you want and your goal is stability, however you get it.

I centered the flange on the first board and screwed it in. I’m not sure I would trust the flange to handle the potential torque of a long pipe. For me, once I get around 24″ overall, I am going to build a cradle and not subject that flange to a ton of stress.
I then applied epoxy and clamped the layers together. I was kind of experimenting as I went. Just one piece of wood wasn’t heavy enough so I then added the additional layers after. I could have glued the base and then used longer screws to secure the flange had I known more up front. I wound up with four layers of wood in the end.

I have another tank that is full of a boiled linseed oil an turpentine mix that I use for hydrating wood handles in khukuris and cleavers that I restore. It has a rounded end bap on the bottom and the base is more like a heavy cradle made up fo 2×4 lumber that gives it weight and then goes up the sides to provide support.

This is a 4″ pipe with a wood scaffold base. It’s very stable. This is a tankI use for moisturizing and treating long wood hanndles.

Summary

That’s it for now. In the next post we are going to talk about heating the tank. This is where I did the most experimenting and can share some ideas with you.


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How to Make An Affordable and Effective Heated Tank For Acid Etching – Part 2

In the last post, I covered the basic construction of the tank. In this post I want to talk about heating the tank. Thanks to mass production of digital temperature switches, you can build a digitally controlled heated tank for a very reasonable price.

Why Does Heat Matter?

In case you are wondering, heating the solution does matter. Years ago, in 1889, a chemist by the name of Svante Arrhenius proposed an equation that would later bear his name. Basically, a chemical reaction increases as the level of activation energy increases. The reason temperature enters in as that you are raising the energy in the liquid, more energetic particles are bouncing around and increasing the volume of reactions which means that more successful reactions will occur as well. We can use a rule of thumb that for each 10C increase in temperature, the reaction rate will double and for each 10C drop, it will be cut in half. To sum it up, cold=bad for chemical reactions. As a side note, this is also why marginal batteries fail when cold weather hits.

So what this means to acid etching is that in my cold unheated shop in the Winter, reactions are going to be real, real slow. Thus, I must have a way to heat the chemical and the submerged part to improve the reaction.

The Heating Element For The Tank

The first thing I wanted to do was to keep the cost down and the second was that I didn’t want something that would get so hot that it would melt the PVC. I had a 30 foot length of roof heating tape from when we cleaned out my dad’s garage that I had been thinking about for a while. It always makes me feel good when I use something that was my dad’s.

These roof heating cables use AC voltage to warm up and melt ice are readily availble and are designed not to get so hot that they melt the shingles but also are designed to be spread out and not right next to each other so I was going to need to test the design. I planned to wrap the tape from the bottom of the tank until I ran out cable with each coil right against the previous. I was counting on convection of move warmer fluid up and cooler fluid down but I wasn’t really sure how it would sort out.

Another nice things about these heating cables, or heating tapes, is that they do not use a lot of electricity. The 30 foot model my dad had was spec’d to draw only 150 watts at 12 volts. That makes for a nice portable unit that you can run off just about any extension cord.

So, step one, I applied the tape to the empty tank and secured it just with 3M 3340 aluminum HVAC tape. This is the tape made for higher temperatures with an aluminum foil backing – it’s not dcut tape. I then watched the temperature with my Fluke 62 Max IR thermometer. You need an accurate thermometer and the Fluke has served me very well – it’s proved itself to be accurate, reliable and durable – it’s been bounched around a lot in my shop.

So, the temperature slowly climbed but made it all the way up to 170F before I shut it down. The PVC still felt pretty good but it was way hotter than what I wanted. Just plugging the tape in and calling it done was not the answer. Sure it would heat the liquid up fast but I couldn’t safey leave it unattended. I needed something to control the temperature but use the heat tape.

Please note that there are pipe heaters that are a different creature. Some of them need to be submerged in water or wrapped around a steel pipe. Do not use those types of heaters. There are a ton of different names buy you are looking for the cable or tape that is put on roofs to melt ice dams, etc.

Solution – Use A Digital Temperature Controller

I thought I knew the switch I was going to buy until I did some further research. Some controllers are very easy to set up and others seem a bit more confusing. I opted for the WILLHI WH1436A Temperature Controller 110V Digital Thermostat Switch. All you do set set the temperature for ON and the temperature for OFF. That’s it. If you want them, there are some more advanced settings that you can explore if you want but this seemed like just what I needed.

I undid the top few coils of the heat tape and rewound them with the temperature probe wrapped in them. I then used aluminum HVAC tape to secure the top. I set ON to 90F and Off at 95F and plugged the roofing tape into the controller.

I inserted the temperature probe a few coils down and secured the top with 3M Aluminum HVACtape. Note the small cable clamp screwed into the wood base securing the bottom of the heater tape and preventing it from unwinding.

I started watching with the Fluke meter and since the temperature based on the probe was 40.2F, the controller turned on power to the switch and the tape heated. It did cut power around 95F but the tape continued to warm up even so by about 10F so the peak temperature was between 103-105F according to the Fluke. This was actually within my acceptable range. I was just ballparking 90F but even 105F was fine by me.

The digital controller works well. I’m going to leave it loose some I can move it around depending on what I am working on and were.

There was one minor hitch I noticed during experiments – the controlled heat took over an hour to warm up the fluid. If I unplugged the tape from the controller and plugged the tape straight into AC power, the fluid heated way faster and the pipe never felt soft – probably because the tape was heating part of it and the acid was cooling it. This was the fastest way but risky because if you forget, it’s going to get quite hot. I let the fluid get up to 160F during one run and decided that I would only do this if I was in a big rush and going to be there working the whole time. If I wanted to play it safe, letting the controller keep things safe was a better bet. I could have also sped things up by setting the OFF temperature higher, say at 110F and that’s something I will experiment more with.

The temperature controlled tank worked out great on these high carbon steel damascus blades.

Operating Temperature Range

Do not heat ferric chloride past 131F. Remember that the heating element will still heat the chemical another 10 degrees or so past the upper limit you set as OFF.

The operating temperature range from MG Chemical is 95-131F. Based on my results, I don’t see a need to push the upper limit.

Click here both for their technical sheet and MSDS sheet,

Conclusion

I had about $30 in the PVC and fresh glue, nothing for the base, the controller was $29.99 and the roof heat tape was free but if you bought it, the price would be around $30. This definitely falls in the affordable category plus I turned out some really cool etched damasus blades using the controlled tank. If you want to know a bit more about the chemicals and my process, click here.

When I was done, I let the tank cool down, screwed on the lid, cleaned things up, coiled the cords up and stored the tank for the next use.

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Why The Mophorn Pneumatic Lift Is a Huge Help When Working On Cars and Trucks But Has One Small Issue You Need To Address

Nothing like getting old and realizing that most of your joints hate you. I bring this up because I have two manual pump floor jacks that I have used countless times over the years and the oldest is probably 25 years old – literally. Well, let me put it this way – I had no problem pumping the handle to lift cars and trucks 25 years ago but starting about two years ago, the action really started to cause elbow and shoulder injuries I had to flare up. It got so bad that I had to make a choice either to stop working on vehicles or to find a different approach.

I work on cars and trucks in our driveway so a permanently installed lift was not an option. It had to be something portable. My first thought was to get a low profile air-over-hydraulic jack that is mounted in its own wheeled carrier. They have an incredible lifting capacity (around 22 tons) but they are heavy (around 80 pounds), slow (air over hydraulic is many things but fast is not one of them) and expensive (they start around $200 and just go up from there). What really stopped me was the weight and the cost. I can’t lift or drag as much weight as I used to and the entry-level units were a tad more than I wanted to spend.

So, I kept digging and ran across pneumatic/air jacks. Think of the air suspensions you see under a big rig. Basically one or more air bladders fill with air and lift the top of the jack. They max out in terms of lift height around 18 inches and 3 tons of lift but it depends on the model. Definitely spend some time researching before you buy. I found that I needed to think about:

  • How low I needed the unit to collapse down to fit under our cars to get in position prior to lifting
  • How much weight did I need to lift
  • How high I needed the unit to lift
  • How much did it weigh?
  • What was it going to cost?

I then started reading listings on Amazon plus paying careful attention to review scores. I also talked to a mechanic friend of mine about the safety of the unit and what his thoughts were. He told me to consider two things: 1) always immediately put jack stands in place and 2) don’t lave the unit out in the sun and weather thus harming the rubber. Those suggestions made a lot of sense to me.

On January 8, 2019, I wound up buying a Mophorn Pneumatic Jack, 3 Ton, Triple Air Bag, with a 16″ lift height for about $150 with free shipping. The unit arrived with just little bit of assembly needed. I recall I had to install the handle and the pressure line but that was it.

I get about 15″ of lift at 90 PSI.
Left lever is the exhaust and due to the lever design, you can adjust how slow you want to drain air out. Even if you hit it and have an “oh shit” moment, you typically have a few seconds before the vehicle starts to go down. The middle unit with the pull ring is the safety blow off valve. The far right lever is the air inlet and there is a Milton M-series male plug under the Milton quick connect female fitting. If you want a reliable air system, use Milton fittings – they last.

As you can guess from the sticker above, the lift is made in China and the instruction sheet is pretty terse but it’s really not that hard to figure out. I do want to cover a few specifications with you and convert them from metric to US customary measures – these are from the owner’s manual included in the kit unless otherwise noted:

DescriptionMetricUS
Capacity3,000 kg6,613 lbs
Air Pressure5-10 Kg/cm^271 to 142 PSI
Air pressure from label on handle – presumably the recommended pressure8 kg/cm^2113 PSI
Minimum Height145mm5.71 in
Maximum Height400mm15.75 in
Lifting Time5 seconds5 seconds
Working Temperature-69C to +50C-92F to 122F

What have I lifted with it?

When I say “lift”, I am talking about the front end or the back end – not the whole vehicle.

  • 1994 Toyota Corolla DX
  • 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser
  • 2000 Toyota Camry
  • 2006 Toyota Solara
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander
  • 2016 Ford F150 Transit
  • Others more or less along the lines of a Camry or Highlander

There are a few things I have noticed

First, let me point out that I like this unit and would recommend it but there are a few things I want to point out:

  • The highest my lift will go is 15″ and that may be a function of my only running 90 PSI to the jack
  • I don’t think it actually can lift 3 tons. It bogs down on the front of our old 96 Landcruiser and also our full size F150 Transit. Again, I think it’s my lower air pressure. This summer I might plumb a dedicated 120 PSI line and see what that does. It will depend on time and money.
  • There are stabilizing cones made from steel inside the jack. Maybe 1 in 20 lifts they need a whack to start coming down. I may polish and lube these if I get a chance.
  • The rubber is pretty thick on the bladders. With that said, I do store it indoors away from the sun and the weather. I’m writing this a year later and the bladders show zero signs of wear.

The One Little Thing You Must Do: Blue Loctite Your Screws!!

I have used my jack many times since I bought it. Starting around September I was hearing faint air leak and thought the jack had bent. When I had time I found out that the bottom screws had loosened up and air was simply escaping from between the gasket and the bottom plate. I was surprised and disappointed to note that none of the screws had any thread locker applied to any of them. Many were in varying states of coming lose.

The unit is well made. The air bladders secure to that steel plate you see on them and then that assembly bolt to the dolly.
It’s the screws that attach the bladder to the while disc-shaped plate in the previous photo that came loose. Here are the metal stabilizing cones. I wish I had polished and lubed them when I had it apart and will go back and do that at some point. I did apply air tool oil to the cones after cleaning them of a gritty dust that probably dated back to when they were manufactured.
Before re-assembly I put a thin bead of Permatex Blue RTV gasket seal on the rubber gasket and then applied Blue medium-strength Loctite to each srew and brought them down lightly. I then went criss-cross lightly bringing down each screw to firm and then applied a final torque of 11 NM (about 8 ft-lbs or 97 in-lbs.

I then did the same thing to the top plate as well just to play it safe. No more leaks.

The reassembled bladder assembly then screws back down to the baseplate of the dolly. Note, this photo is actually from when I was taking it apart. The screws were so scuffed up that I just replaced them. Did I mention I use this a lot?

The following is the exact jack on Amazon that I bought and this review is about:

Bottom Line

I would buy this again and recommend it as well – just due the Loctite thing I mentioned. Note there are other Chinese suppliers on Amazon also but they do not get as good of reviews as the Mophorn units so my recommendation is only for that brand.


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How To Wash Your Baseball Caps Easily Without Hurting Them

Folks, as my wife will tell you, I like my baseball-style caps and seem to have accumulated a ton of them over the years. With that said, there seem to be just a handful of them that I wear all the time. The problem was that they got pretty dirty with use so what should one do?

I tried putting one in the clothes washer once and ruined my favorite hat at the time. So, since I didn’t have a way to wash my hats, I wound up having piles of “wearable in public” hats, work hats that look bad but feel good and “oh man this is filthy but I don’t want to throw it away in case I ever figure out how to clean it” hats. In the back of my head, I knew I wanted to find a way to wash them but never seemed to find the time.

How To Clean A Ball Cap

One quick comment – what I am about to tell you works on modern caps with plastic liners in the brim (the part that sticks out). Prior to 1983-ish, the liners were often cardboard and getting them wet would ruin them. If you flick the brim of an old hat and it sounds hollow, it’s probably cardboard and you should not do what I am about to outline. All of my hats are modern and have plastic liners.

One day while reading, I ran across the solution and it was so easy I was skeptical that it could work. Not only did it work, but it worked amazingly well. The near miracle fix is to hand wash your hats so they don’t get beat up. You soak your hats in a soapy solution using HE clothes washing soap. In our case, we use Tide for our clothes and that’s what I used. Note, don’t use a detergent with bleach or your hats will fade.

I took a bucket, poured in about a 1/4-1/3 cup of Tide HE and then just over a gallon of warm water. I took my dirtiest “what do I have to lose” hats and let them soak for a few hours, came in and pushed them around in the water to break things up and then let them sit another few hours – these hats were incredibly dirty folks. I was working outside and forgot about the first test batch and they probably soaked for 6-8 hours at least with no ill effects.

There are two hats in there with this load. The first time out I probably had six really dirty hats in there.

With everything wet, I really was just hoping they were done and rinsed them 2-3 times. I then hung them to drip dry in our shower. I’ve since found that even a small fan pointed at the hats speeds up drying dramatically.

Dripping dry – a small fan pointed in their direction dried these two in just a few hours.

The results were remarkable. Oil and sweat marks largely disappeared. Detergents are pretty remarkable – these days, they include enzymes to help break things down and they probably played a role on cleaning the hats so well. Tide Original, which we have, includes three enzymes – amaylase (starch based stains), mannanase (vegetable based stains) and protease (for protein based stains). Seriously, some of the hats were horribly dirty and now they are clean!!

I’ve now got all my hats back in service and they look great. This means my favorite work and shooting hats are back in business! I’m going to guess I’ve done about four batches of hats – maybe a bit over a dozen or so and 3-4 of them have been washed twice. In other words, I’ve done this a number of times and it really seems to work well.

Now that I know how easy it is, I can routinely clean my hats. I’m really happy with the results and hope this helps you out.

By the way, here are some links to what others did so you have some other perspectives to consider:


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The Absolute Best Shoe and Boot Glue That I have Found!

Folks, I’ve found what I think is the best glue for shoe and boot repair. Yeah, I really mean it. It’s called “Shoe-Fix Glue” and is marketed by a small firm called NJoy Distributors and only sold direct or via Amazon. Let me give you a bit of background first.

I’ve tried to fix tons of shoes and boots over the years with varying success using Goop and Shoe Goo amongst others. The two challenges were trying to clamp the shoe or boot while trying without making the profile change once dried and also not using so much glue that it altered the feeling of the shoe. Nothing happened fast either – you had to wait overnight while the stuff set up.

So, I did some digging on Amazon a few weeks back and found this stuff. What really caught my eye were the amazingly high number of positive reviews:

At the time of my writing this blog, there are 845 reviews with a score of 4.5 out of 5. 86% of reviewers give it either 4 or 5 stars. That’s pretty good and I figured I could afford to give it a shot.

I had both the sneakers I wear around home that had the bottom tread coming off and my daughter’s favorite boots had the sole separating from the upper that I could experiment with.

NJoy does have a nice tips page with some videos that I checked out [click here for that] and it largely comes down to making sure the surfaces are clean, dry and then holding them together for 30-45 seconds while the rubberized / flexible cyanoacrylate adhesive cures.

What they are using is the interesting part – they came up with a flexible cyanoacrylate adhesive – a flexible “super glue”. This surprised me more than anything else. Normally I find that the “super glue” class of adhesives as rigid and intolerant of shocks and flexing. This stuff smells as you’d expect when applying it with a medium viscosity meaning it appears to be a little thicker than water and this helps it attempt to balance the need to soak in and establish a bond with the need to not run everywhere.

On their website, they report that their Grandfather Ed started the shoe business after WWII and ran it for 20 years. He then had two sons Dean and John. John is the one who came up with the formula and started bottling the current formula in March 2015 [click here if you want to read more]. By the way, you’ll notice they sell stuff for boots and shoes and this is just marketing so that people searching for boot glue or shoe glue will find the item – it’s the same formula and they are very upfront in telling people this.

If you are wondering about how my tennis shoes and daughter’s boot turned out – the results were amazing. The stuff really is easy to apply and has held up now for two weeks with heavy use. My daughter is a college student and walks a ton every day in those boots in the Michigan winter.

This is her boot with the sole reattached – it was literally more than half the way off the upper. I ran a bead of Shoe-Fix glue around the perimeter of the rubber sole and held the two together with my hands. I let go after about a minute and the repair seemed solid. They’ve held up for her even with a ton of walking as a college student.
On my “work around the house” shoes, the dark tread was separating from the middle foam wedge in a number of places. I’d apply some glue in each spot and hold them for 45-60 seconds – done. All the discolored stuff is remnants of Shoe Goo that I did need to clear away in a few places. Shoe-Fix is clear.

I was so impressed by Shoe-Fix Glue that I figured I really needed to write a post and share the info. It really does what it claims and I am intrigued enough to want to try it on other projects that aren’t footwear related where I need a fast flexible bond. In the mean time, I will always have 1-2 tubes of this stuff available for impromptu shoe and boot repair.

2/17/2020 Update: I wrote the original post on 2/7/20 and probably started using this glue maybe 2-3 weeks prior. I’m very pleased to report that all the shoes and boots fixed thus far are still standing up to everyday use. None of the bonds have let go thus far.


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Preparing a Pressure Washer For The Winter

Whether you call it them pressure washers or power washers, these are darned handy machines to have around. For portability, we use models with a gasoline engine and are on our second one. The first lasted for a few years until one wither the water in the pump turned to ice and finally cracked the housing. As they say “and that was that”. I thought about just buying a pump but for a little bit more we bought a whole new unit. My friends also cautioned me to always winterize the unit to make it last through Michigan winters. That was 6-8 years ago and I have learned a few tips to share.

By the way, the photo above really is of our pressure washer. I don’t have space to store it indoors so I really do need to Winterize it. Regardless of the brand you buy, there are three things I would tell you to do.

Drain the gas and/or use a mix with Stabil

Assuming you have a gasoline pressure washer, you might want to drain the gas from the tank and run the unit until it stalls. There are two reasons for this – gas can spoil if left untreated and also, when it evaporates out of the carb it will leave a gummy residue that may need to be cleaned out. In my case, my washer only sits idle a few months so I don’t always drain it. I’ve not had a problem so far. I always drain my chain saws because they may sit an unpredictable amount of time.

The second recommentation that you can do along with the first is to always add Stabil, a gasoline conditioner, that keeps it from breaking down for at least 12 months. I always add it to all of my gas cans when I fill them.

Blow out the system and disconnect the gun/wand and hose

What did in my first pressure washer was not draining the water out of the pump. I made a small air fitting by taking an old piece of hose and a 1/4″ air fitting that I can screw into the pressure washer and blow all of the water out of the pump, lines and wand. It works great.

I just use junk hose to make the adapter. You just need a male hose fitting on one end and a way to connect your compressor on the other.

If you really want, you can buy pre-made winterizer fittings for $12-20. The above fittings were all made with old stuff I had laying around.

Listings from eBay

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Drain The Soap Tank

Don’t forget to drain the soap tank also. You don’t want it to freeze and crack anything. I did forget this one year and had to rebuild the fitting that cracked with epoxy.

Don’t forget to drain the soap from the plastic soap tank.

Add a Winterizing fluid

I then use an aerosol based pump winterizer. It can blow the water out by itself technically but I’m paranoid. I use my compressor to blow out everything and then I disconnect the air lines and wand/gun. I then connect the Briggs & Stratton 6151 Pressure Washer Pump Saver Anti-Freeze and Lubricant to further protect against freezing and to lubricate the pump and prevent the O-rings and seals from drying out. This works great for me and one can will last me 2-3 years at least.

This is what I use and have never had a problem.
All you do is connect the hose assembly to the hose inlet and push the trigger. The foam will come out pretty quick – it doesn’t take a lot. Note, stand to the side or you will wear the foam. I kid you not that it took me two years of wearing foam until I remembered to stand to the side when filling the unit with foam. Also, remove the hose and wand/gun before doing this or you will use a lot of material to purge them also. You can blow them out or even hang and drain them vs. using this stuff unnecessarily.

Now a ton of reputable companies sell some form of pump protector / winterizer. I suspect one or two companies actually make it and then applies different labels – Generac, Briggs & Straton, Stabil, etc. Just go with a name brand and I bet you will be fine.

Listings from eBay

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Summary

I hope this helps you out. My current pump is still going strong even though it is out in the winter weather every year. The paint is fading but it is mechanically solid.


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