Tag Archives: DIY

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


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.


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 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.


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 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.

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 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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Videos: How to Diagnose Faulty 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Switch Causing Intermittent Alarm Problems Plus Replacing the Micro Switch

Okay, while researching what to do with my 2008 Toyota Highlander’s flaky alarm, I ran across some good videos you can watch on how to diagnose the switch and even how to replace the microswitch. As for me, I wrote up how I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug from the old sensor’s wire. My approach still allows the rest of the alarm system to work just fine and can be done in less than an hour with little to no cost. With that said, let’s take a look at these really well done videos that helped me think out my approach – especially the first one on diagnosing the switch.

Diagnosing the Switch

The following is the best video I found on diagnosing the problem and he even disassembles the latch to show you what is going on in detail – it’s very well done. This video helped me figure out my approach and kudos to Ozzstar for making it:

If You Want To Replace the Microswitch

This next video is really well done and is specific to the 2008 Highlander. He ordered the same Panasonic automotive grade micro switch that Toyota used: ABS1413409 from Digikey.

I hope this helps you out.



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Easy & Cheap Solution for 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Sensor Switch Causing Faulty Alarms: Make A Loopback Plug

We recently became the new owners of a 2008 Toyota Highlander. It was in great shape and I thought we got a pretty good deal on it. The previous owner disclosed to us that the hood alarm switch was flaky and the car alarm would go off randomly.

After we bought the Highlander and returned home I did some research that night. There is in integral microswitch in the hood latch assembly that detects if the hood is open or closed. The alarm system will not arm if it detects that the hood is open and it will sound an alarm if someone tries to open the hood. Uhm… ok. My first thought was “you can only open it from the inside lever that is protected by the door alarms so why have this one?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the switch is a known problem. It’s also one of the rare times where I will say Toyota did a bad design. Putting a basic microswitch in the front of a car where it will get wet all the time and corrode, not to mention the impacts and grease/oil from the latch itself, is not really that good of an idea — at least not to me.

After reading and watching videos, it seemed like there were three options:

  • Replace the whole hood latch assembly that includes the sensor. Third party, these latch assemblies were about $56 on Amazon and $50-60 on eBay. Original Toyota would be higher, of course. Pro: It is pretty easy to remove the assembly and install this one. Con: It’s a relatively expensive and will fail sooner or later unless someone fixed the switch design and sealed it better.
  • Replace just the microswitch. You can get the unit real cheap from Digikey and other suppliers plus there are Youtube videos that show you what to do. The previous owner did this and it worked for about two years he said. Pro: Real cheap (under $10 including shipping). Cons: Takes time and will not last without figuring out some better way to seal the original design.
  • Simply bypass the switch. As mentioned earlier – you can’t open the hood from the outside so what are the odds that someone will successfully break into the car and then open the hood without setting off the alarm? The risk is real low – low enough for me to go with this option. Pro: Easiest of all and is a permanent solution. Con: The hood alarm sensor will no longer work. This is the one I went with.

I’d like to point out that just unplugging the sensor is not an option. Doing that will make the computer think the hood is open and the car alarm will not arm at all. This means you must pick one of the three options listed above. I opted for the last one – I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug – a fancy term meaning I joined the input and output wires together thus making it look like the switch was always closed so the computer would think the hood was closed regardless of whether it was or not.

If you’d like to learn more about diagnosing the problem, seeing how to remove the latch and/or how to replace the microswitch, click here.

What I want to do next is walk you through what I did. If you are not comfortable with basic wiring, I’d recommend against your trying this just to be up front. Always ask yourself if you can reverse what you are about to do or can you recover if something goes wrong – if the answer is “no”, then don’t do it. For example, don’t cut wires off right next to a fitting – leave yourself some pigtails in case you need to reconnect them.

One last comment – these directions are just based on my 2008 Highlander. Different years and models may not be like this. Research your vehicle before doing anything like this.

Bypassing the Sensor

So, to bypass the sensor we just need to create a circuit that normally exists when the switch is closed. First, I needed to get a better look at the location of the wiring so the cover needed to come off.

The plastic cover between the grill and the frame needs to come off. It is held in place by Toyota push-type retaining clips and two 10mm screws. The screws are to the front on the left and right sides. Note that two of the clips on the right side are bigger than the others – this will help you with reassembly later.
I use a small flat screw driver to pop the middle part up. You then grab hold of that, lift up and the clip comes right out.
Just remove the clips and then the plastic cover simply lifts off. I found one more that anchors the grille in the middle of the grille vertically and I removed it. That gave me ample room to work and I did not need to remove the grille given what I planned to do.

I did not take as many photos as I should have so let me explain. With the plastic cover off and the middle anchor clip removed, I had plenty of access to the switch and wiring to see what to do. The wire assembly runs from the hood latch – and there is only one wire – do not pick the hood cable used to open the hood. The wire runs from a small switch in the latch assembly and then plugs into a connector shortly below it.

I inserted a small blade screw driver to release the plug from the socket. To be safe, make sure you confirm the wires that you plan to cut lead up to the sensor and are *not* the wires going to the harness / wiring loom.

Why care? Because if you cut the wires on the sensor side and connect them together, you can easily replace the hood latch assembly and go back to having a sensor if you want. However, if you cut the wiring loom, it’s gone. You can manually splice in but it simply is not an elegant approach.

Note I am saying wires and when you look at the plug it looks like just one black wire. What you are seeing is the insulation tube that is black. Inside are two thin green wires that run from the plug to the sensor switch.

I’ll not get awards for artwork but hopefully this will give you an idea. When I faced the front of my Highlander, the wiring from the sensor was on the right hand side. You need to confirm this just in case. It is the wire to the sensor switch wire that you want to cut and not the wiring from the harness. On my 2008 Highlander, the harness wiring was on the left.

Once I was certain which wire to cut, I reached in with some snips and cut the wire leaving a couple of inches to work with. DO NOT CUT THE WIRES FLUSH TO THE PLUG!! You need a short length of the wires to connect together to make the circuit loop back.

To make work easier, I took the short wire with the plug on it and worked at a bench where everything was handy, I stripped a bit off the end of each wire, twisted the bare wires together, soldered them, bent them over the small wire pigtail and then used heat shrink tubing and electrical tape to secure everything. Total overkill but I never wanted to bother with this again.

Here’s the finished result. The front of the car is to the left. Part of the hood latch spring is to the upper right and we are looking down at the newly made loopback plug. As far as the alarm system is concerned, the hood is closed. The red color is the heat shrink tube I had on hand. I folded the heat shrink tubing over at the end and then applied electrical tape to seal it.

I installed the newly created loopback plug back into the socket. I then tested the system by turning the alarm on with the key fob, putting the key fob out of signal range in the garage and waited for the system arm. Once the alarm indicator light went solid on the dash, I simply reached in through the open window and tried to open the door from the inside and the alarm went off. Yeah, I had to run back to that fob to shut it off 🙂

If the system thought the hood was open, it would never have armed by the way. That’s why you can’t just unplug the switch. I then reinstalled the plastic cover by installing the clips and then pushing the middle piece down to lock it in place. By the way, remember that the right two clips are bigger than the others. The two 10mm screws went back in with a dab of non-seize on each just in case they ever need to come out again.

That was it – the alarm is happily armed and protecting the Highlander as I write this and not one single false alarm since. I hope this helps you out.

9/3/2019 Update: This has worked great for me. Not one single problem since.


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Waging War On Mosquitoes – Got a My4Sons Sprayer To Apply Talstar Pro Insecticide!!

We’ve had a crazy amount of rain this year in Southwest Michigan. It seems we can’t go more than a day or two without rain. The photo at the top of our yard shows how everything is a lush green plus it shows the standing water that won’t go down because everything is so water logged due to all of the rain. We have friends and family complaining about the huge amount mosquitoes that are attacking them as a result – we don’t have that problem. I declared war on mosquitoes last year and upped my attack plan even further this year.

The ground is so wet and soft that my tractor got stuck and I had to pull it out. It’s sldo so wet that the mosquito population has just exploded and folks are saying that ticks are booming as well.

Last year, we started using Talstar Pro insecticide sprayed from an 18 volt two gallon Ryobi sprayer and I wrote a blog post about it because I was so happy with the results. It took me four batches (8 gallons in other words) of spray with 1 oz of Talstar per gallon to get control. It also took over an hour to apply. It definitely did the job but it took a long time and my arm ached from holding all the Ryobi sprayer unit as I walked around.

To be honest, the Ryobi far exceeded my expectations it was just too small, didn’t spray as far as I would like and holding it was killing my elbow, shoulder and back. I decided in April to buy a better sprayer and started researching on the Internet and reading reviews on Amazon. I happened across a vendor on Amazon called “My 4 Sons”, their features looked great and they got very good reviews so I decided to order one.

My 4 Sons Sprayers

First off, they really are a family owned business started by Lance and Lisa Ensign in 1998. Yes, they do have four sons. At any rate, they started with carpet cleaning and eventually branched into battery powered sprayers. I’m no expert but I think they fill a middle niche between little light use sprayers and the big dedicated units that you pull by a tractor or ATV.

In terms of features, what attracted me were:

  • a 4.5 + a bit gallon tank (the listing says 4 but it is at least 4.5)
  • 0-60 PSI with a claim of spraying up to 30 feet with the right nozzle
  • 15 foot extended hose
  • Wand and pistol – I thought I would use the pistol too but find myself sticking with the wand
  • Heavy caddy to pull it around in or backpack straps (I knew I would never use the backpack feature)
  • A ton of accessories
  • The battery can be easily accessed and replaced – it just slides into a compartment with a door
  • They say the battery will last up to 8 hours. I’ve run it for 2-3 hours and never had a problem

The following is an Amazon link for the exact model I bought:

Here’s another model they have without the caddy and extended hose:

It Arrived

In typical Amazon fashion, the unit showed up a few days later in a big box. What surprised me were parts everywhere and very limited instructions. The guide said to call Lance and listed his number. I left a message and he called me back a short while later and I got everything squared away. He and I then exchanged a few text messages also and they replaced a couple of accessory parts no hassle at all.

Here’s the tank, charger and caddy fresh out of the box. Some of the parts were in the tank to save space.
It just slides in and is retained by a velcro strap then there is a door that snaps in place to seal it.
Here’s the battery.
the battery has terminals on the top and simply slides into the compartment and makes contact at the end. A velcro strap allows you to snugly keep the battery in place.
Here’s the assembled unit with everything attached – the backpack straps and the extended hose. I removed the backpack straps shortly after.
Here’s how it looks now with just the tank assembly, extended hose, wand and caddy. Note how I had to tie the top bungee strap. I need to go over uneven ground and the tank can tumble off the caddy if the bungee can stretch too much. I’ll probably replace the bungee straps with just plain straps at some point. What you see above works for now – I just am not a huge fan of the looks.

Mosquito Control Results

When the mosquitoes first started this Spring, it was brutal. We were getting crazy amounts of rain and even at 1.5oz of Talstar per gallon of water and weekly applications, we couldn’t stay on top of them. I’m pretty sure the Talstar was getting washed off. Normally, Talstar is really good about leaving a residue that kills the mosquitoes but not when it is getting poured on almost every day. I tried to time my re-applications with at least one following dry day and the more the better. I like to apply at dusk when the mosquitoes are active by the way.

The sprayer and adjustable tipped wand worked wonders. With the My 4 Sons system I could really reach out with the spray -maybe 20-30 feet depending on how I adjusted the jet. Plus I could open up the spray and broadly apply it to the underbrush, leaves, grass by the house, bushes, eaves and so forth.

Instead of just 8 gallons, I’m applying about 12 and it takes me about 30-45 minutes to do so. This is because of the bigger tank and that I can spray a higher volume with the new system.

I’d say it took about three weeks to get on top of things and now I am spraying the normal 1 oz per gallon of water about every 4 weeks. We’ve just made it through one of these normal cycles and will spray again near the end of June – so we have another week to go as of my writing this and the mosquitoes are under control.

The Bottom Line

We can go outside safely now but we do hear of folks fighting tons of mosquitoes. I recommend Talstar Pro to anyone who will listen. If you have small urban property, you can start with a pump sprayer and move up from there.

Note, we have dogs and treat them for fleas and ticks. I hate ticks but they don’t bother me much unless I am in the woods. Talstar Pro is great if you need to get rid of ticks and a variety of other insects as well – read the label below.

I’d guess I’ve applied about four batches with the My 4 Sons unit now and am very happy with it. If you need a bigger sprayer for whatever it is that you are doing, I definitely recommend them.

Here are some links on Talstar P Pro if you want to learn more:

PS – The 18 volt Ryobi Sprayer is still going strong even after a ton of use last year and is now being used to hose down plants with fungicide. Since stuff isn’t drying out, we are seeing a lot of fungus development on our roses and vegetables. I’m experimenting between Immunox (which is not impressing me) and Daconil for fungus control. Point being for people with smaller areas, the little Ryobi is still a solid choice.

2/25/20 Update: The My4Sons sprayer worked fine all last year. One of the wheels fell of the cart and they promptly sent me a replacement. I poured out all of the remaining liquid and ensured the pump was empty going into the winter. I’ll definitely be using the unit again this year.


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Furnace Filter Change Log

As I get older, I remember less and less just to be candid. An old rule of thumb I was told once was to change your furnace filters when the time changes – the whole fall back, spring forward thing. The problem is two fold – #1, I eventually change them around that date and #2, the more modern filters with finer and finer filtration capabilities need to be changed more frequently – maybe every 60 days with a 1″ filter.

So, I created a small “change log” sheet that I taped on the side of the furnace to help me remember when I last changed them. It’s a simple thing – I just made a four column table where I could record the date I changed the filter. Done.

Here’s the PDF that you can print if you are interested.

Click on the above to open or right click to save in your browser.

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