Friday, March 25, 2011

The Solo Traveler Plus Coffee Cup Lid

Not all coffee cup lids are created equal.  In an earlier post I reviewed the three most popular types of "to-go" coffee cup lids.  For some time now I have noticed another coffee cup lid that seems to be very popular.  It is a variation of the "gapping hole, slosh all over yourself" type of lid.  However this lid has a rotating hole closure.  There seems to be a growing trend towards spill proofing lids, following the Starbucks "hole plug".  I guess it makes sense, it is a to-GO cup, and it is easy to spill when you are going.  But this seems like a bit excessive.  I don't really need this feature, don't need to waste that extra bit of natural resource, manufacturing energy, transportation...

    This spill lock does not make it any better of a lid, as drinking from it as a cup is still its primary function.  Thus the Dart slip lid is still the best coffee cup lid.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Climbing Skins for Twin Tip Skis

Twin tip skis are all the rage these days. What started off as a trick ski capable of skiing backwards is now as common in the park as they are all over the mountain. Two properties of twin tip skis also make them popular as back country ski: cost and flexibility. Most people find that a soft ski is better suited for the variable conditions encountered in the back country. Twin tipped park skis are often time priced less for park rats that tend to destroy and constantly replace skis. This fact also jives well with the cheap or broke back country skier. I have also found that the ability to ski backwards to be very helpful when side slipping steep chutes, where it is often necessary to "falling leaf" backwards in deeper or soft snow.

Though going down is not a problem, the up hill part presents a problem for twin tipped skis. Duck walking and uphill kick turns are made more difficult by a turned up tail. However the most common problem with twin tip skis is how to attach climbing skins. Traditionally climbing skins are attached to the ski via a tip loop and a tail hook. An elastic rubber tip loop is paired with a metal tail hook, or a static tip loop is paired with an elastic tail clip. The tail hook sits in a notch on a squared off tail. Cutting a notch in the tail of a TT ski is not desirable, as the tail has metal edges wrapped around. Cutting into the metal edge could expose an corner of the edge and cause it to "unravel". Without a notch to sit in, the tail hook can easily slip off to the side.

Many opt to not use a tip and tail connection. Tip loop and skin glue is all that they use. This works well if you have fresh and sticky glue, or you do not encounter icing and freezing of the glue. Trips that do not require repetitive skin on and offs, can fair well with a tip and glue only approach. I personally like both the tips and tails of my climbing skins to the fixed to the tip and tails of my skis. A good solution is to run two tip attachment devices. Here I use a standard static tip loop for the front. It is sewn into the skin for a permanent non adjustable connection. For the rear tip I used a rubber elastic tip loop. It is attached by simply folding over the skin onto itself. This give some adjustibility in length to the system. The rubber tip loop has a few special bends in it to accommodate larger tips. The skins need to be trimmed down at the fold over spot to fit the relatively small attachment loop.

Prior to coming up with this twin tip skin set up, I was sold a STS Black Diamond tail kit . These, I was told by the gear sales person, would hold on twin tip skis. Since the that since the tension was near the fixing clip, the tension would hold the clip on the curved rear tip. Not so. STS tails DO NOT work on twin tip skis. Sure they might work in the parking lot but once you started skinning and kick the heel of your ski, you would pop off the tail clip. Often times I would look back only to find that the tail clip had unhooked. It was typically not too much of a problem since my glue would continue to hold the skins on. However this was not a good long term or a long tour solution. Instead, I took some heavy wire and bent up a set of loops. These had the extra bends like the rubber elastic loops I used for the other set. The STS tail provided the tension, and I fashioned my own loop/clip. This worked pretty good. But bending the heavy wire was difficult, and it took many iterations to achieve the right tip loop shape.

A couple of seasons later G3 released a twin tip connector This connector was fashioned after the front tip connector it released the year prior. This new connector had pivoting wings, which could conform to the curvature of the rounded ski tip. The rear connector attached to the elastic tail strap of either the STS kit or the similar G3 version . In order to have a skin setup as light as possible I opted not to use the fold over technique to affix my tip loop. Instead I used a sewn in place loop. This will limit the adjustable of the skins. In fact I had to remount the tail strap twice in order to achieve the correct amount of tension. If the distance between the clip and the skins is too short than not enough tension is provided. This is made worse by the fact that when frozen the straps lose even more of its tension. For my current set up I needed a wider tip loop and had to rip the stitching from the sewn connector, swap loops, then sew the the connector back together.

So how do these three twin tip skin connectors work? Good. But I have kicked the loops off of all of them. Both the front and the rear. It all depends on the size of your ski tips and the size of the tip loop. Use the largest possible tip loops that will fit your skis. This is the key point in keeping the loops in place. With your skins fitted it is now time to do some skiing; Uphill skiing

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Garage Floor Drains - Clearing clogged ones

Garages are the best! In the snow country, garages are a must. Not only does it keep your car free of frost and snow, it is a place for your car to thaw out. Snow free also means a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning. A well thought out garage has a floor slab pour with a drain in it. Without a drain, garages tend to flood as your car shed the snow and ice it accumula ted from the roads. I have found that our subi can collect about 15 gallon of water, and my truck can accumulate over 20 gallons of liquid. This is alot of water which needs to be disposed of.

Most garages floor drains are directed to a gravel pit under the house. The ground under the house is warmer than the outside air and typically stays above freezing. Sometimes pits are located to the yard. These can be problematic as they tend to freeze. Garage drains sometimes are directed to the sewage system or septic tanks. This is also a bad idea, as it contributes a large volume of gravely water to the septic or the city sewage system.

Over the years a garage drain will being to clog. The snow which accumulates under your car is not simply snow. It is also chocked full of road grime. In areas that spread sand on the roads the problem is even worse. The first winter at this house after I had finally cleaned out the garage enough to park the cars in it, I discovered that I had a clogged garage drain. A flooded garage is no fun. I would attempt to clear or knock off as much snow as I could before I parked the car inside. Then spend the evening bailing water into a bucket to be hauled out and dumped. A drill pump made the job a little easier, but I was out to seek a solution.

I was not sure what I was up against. Did the drain freeze? Was the drain pit filled with debris. I fished a small plumbers snake into the drain, only to have it stop a foot or so down the pipe. I was up against something solid. Most likely a blockage of gravel. Clearing a clogged drain of gravel and sand is not going to be easy. In fact an Internet search yielded no solutions. I had to come up with something.
My Dad was an oil man. As a child I spent many hours pouring over the details of off shore drilling rigs. One thing that made a lasting impression was the use of "drilling mud'. The drilled hole was deliberately filled with a fluid. This fluid served many purposes, but the one which I was most interested was the use of mud to remove material which had been liberated when a hole was bored. This was how I was going to clear my clogged drain. To get this idea to work, I needed a way to introduce my fluid, and a way to remove the fluid with the drain clogging media suspended within it. My simplified setup would involve a wet and dry shop vac and a garden hose. However getting this worked out would require a trip to the hardware store and what would seem like an eternity in the plumbing isle.
The garage drain has an opening of about 1.5 inches. The Shop Vac had a 2 inch hose, and the garden hose was about 3/4 of an inch. The first thing I needed was to reduce the size of both hoses. I speced the input water line at 1/2 inch and outtake vacuum line to 3/4", after all you needed to remove more volume than was introduced. Combined these two hose would barely fit into the drain. The garden hose was easy: a thread on cap to a 1/2" barbed fitting. The vacuum neck down was a bit tougher. The heart of the system was a 2 inch rubber compression fitting with a 2 inch threaded female collar. It was a blessing that the shop vac had a common size hose end. Next was to find a variety of reducer to finally end up with a 3/4" hose. 2" threaded double male coupler, 2"threaded female to 2" glue in female coupler, 2" male glue in to 3/4" female threaded reducer (this was the piece which really reduced the number of reducers needed), 3/4" threaded to 3/4" barbed fitting, 3/4" I.D. hose. These sizes are what I remember off the top of my head. Be sure to measure and test fit for yourself.
Once at home, I assembled my contraption. No glue was necessary in any of the glue in joints. Next I taped the two line together with the water line protruding a couple of inches ahead of the vac line. I then attempted to stuff the two lines into the clogged drain. I was only able to get the device in about 6" before it would not feed any further. A 90 degree bend in the drain line prevented the tight fitting pair of hoses from advancing any further. I thus untaped the two hoses, pushed the water line in as fas as it would go then the vac line to the bend. Once I had everything in place I turned on the shop vac and then the water. Then adjusted the water flow till a steady state was reached with that of the vacuumes. With the clear vac hose I could see it sucking up clear water, another second or two passed and then output solution was brown. IT WAS WORKING! A five gallon shop vac can only suck about 2.5 gallons before it if full. I was cautious not to suck water into the pump. But even then I found out that there is a flap that blocks the flow before water is allowed in. Idot proof. After several dumpings of the shop vac, the output water in the vac line finally ran clear.
I now have a perfectly working garage floor drain. I kept my vacuum fitting in case I ever need to clear the drain again. On snowy days I now drive straight into the garage without clearing any snow off the car, knowing that the run off will now take care of itself.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Filling Old Binding Holes on Skis

It would be great if every ski I owned was new. Buy skis, get them mounted, ski the piss out of them, then get rid of them. But the truth for us budget minded skiers is that one pair of skis often serves many roles in its life time. These many roles usually involve mounting and remounting various bindings. Because of this, a "new to me" ski usually has a set of holes from a previous set of bindings. Sometimes there are so many holes already in the skis that they look more like a peg board. Three sets of separate binding holes are about max. Beyond that you run into hole over lapping issues.

The first thing to do is to make sure that the new holes for the new bindings do not overlap on an existing hole. It is recommended that the distance of a holes width, reside between the old and the new hole. In practice half a holes width is fine. I have even had holes over lap before and been fine. Just make sure to use plenty of epoxy when setting the screws. In a situation where two holes are overlapping, I have read that a hardwood plug can be inserted into the old hole to provide some structural support. I have never used a hardwood plug, but think that they would be better than nothing.

Before mounting new bindings, the old holes need to be filled and smoothed out. How to do this has always presented many different solutions. Two things need to be accomplished. The old holes need to be filled so that water does not seep into the ski. Water into the ski could fill and water log the wood or foam core. The freezing of this water could then swell, bulge, and ultimately rip apart your ski. The next thing to deal with is the circular ridge of material that has built up around the old binding hole. The holes drilled for the bindings are slightly smaller than the the screw that goes in it. As the screw is inserted into the binding hole it taps it threads into the hole and top sheet. The first few twist of the screw will force a ridge of material up above the top sheet. This is ok for the old binding as the correlating hole in the binding itself is slightly counter sunk to allow space for the ridge of material. But for the new binding, this extra material will not allow it to sit flush on the ski. Many people use a sharp chisel or a razor knife to remove this ridge, but there is a better way.

Most ski shops stock an assortment of ski hole plugs. These are plastic plugs that are hammered into the old holes. These plugs are
slightly larger than the hole which they are fitted in. This interference fit not only seals the hole but locks the plug in place. Plugs can be had in various colors so the holes can be camouflaged. I am not a big fan of these plugs. Sure they are cheap and easy, but I never seem to have any on hand. I also believe that they are not very secure. Sure the fit is tight initially, but a lot of flexing and movement goes on in a ski. Old binding holes are typically underneath the new binding so inspection of these plugs can not be performed.

Now that I have told you how other people solve these two common issues, let me tell you how I do it. After all isn't that the reason you follow this blog?

For filling old holes, I use to use epoxy. You already know that I am a fan of the two part wonder and use it anytime I can. But getting the sticky resin to completely fill the hole is difficult. Making sure that top of the hole is sealed is the best you can hope for. I now use hot glue for my old ski hole filling. The hot glue flows into the deepest corners of the hole, and seals up nicely. I apply a healthy dose of the glue and leave a little dome of glue on top of the hole to insure that it is completely filled. Once the glue has dried, I use a cheese grater type rasp to remove not only the extra hot glue, but the ridge of material around the lip of the old hole. This type of rasp, often called a multi rasp, has a cutting surface that is relatively smooth to the touch. The cutting teeth are flat, and require the material to enter voids before they are sheared off. Running this type of rasp over the top of your skis does not damage the top sheets, as only things that sit above the surface will be cut off. Be careful though. If you really hog down on the rasp, it can still mark up the ski; especially if you hit the edge of the top sheet. Do not use a standard type rasp with sharp protruding cutting teeth, as it will rip up the top sheet of your skis. Using a chisel or a razor knife often results in cutting off more material than desired as these type of cutters tend to dive.
Once I have smoothed out the holes, I will go back with the hot glue gun and touch up some of the holes that might need it. Bubbles sometimes form, and the top of the hole, once leveled to the top of the ski, will not be completely filled. You can use to hot tip of the glue gun to melt some of the old glue before pumping more hot glue on top. This is insure that the two separate application of glues are bonded to each other. Wait till it is dry and rasp again.
Now you have a clean ski which is ready for mounting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Drill Pump - flood solution

During the wet winter months it is common for flooding to occur. A ruptured pipe, melted snow, leaking water tank. I have spent alot of time bailing water out of flooded areas. That was till I fond this little device. It is a water pump that is powered by a common electric hand drill. These drill pumps can be found at your local hardware store for about $10. Often times they are packed with a bunch of hose attachments and ball valves and sell for close to $50. No Thanks. Just look for the drill pump by it self.

How does it work. Simply attach the quarter inch arbor to the chuck of your hand drill. Attach garden hoses to the two ends and hit the trigger. The pump is self priming, however I found that the self priming is very limited. It is helpful to keep the intake side hose short and close to the water. Make sure that there are no leaks in the hose as the pump will draw air and not water. The discharge side is less sensitive to hose length and condition. The pump is capable of pumping water at the rate of about a gallon a minute. Of course this all depends on the speed of the drill.

I found that the pump required a bit of torque and quickly ran down the batteries of my cordless drill. Even with a large corded drill, be weary of continuously running the drill and burning it out. Be extremely careful when using a corded drill, as the extension cord connection can easily fall into the water which you are pumping. This often times is the same water which you are standing in. Getting zapped with household 120 can kill!

A drill pump is not a long term solution for any large volume of water which needs to be transferred often. However before I was able to clear my garage drain, this was how I cleared out my flooded garage. I now keep this little gem handy, and is another tool in my proverbial box of tricks.