You just never know when things could go wrong. One day you're happily working
on your homesteading, the next you're killed in a gas explosion.
No that hasn't happened, but I did have a near miss, see below.
While having coffee with a neighbour the other day it became clear to me that
his get up and go has got up and gone. He just seems to have no interest in
getting things done, saying that the place he lives in, despite being an unorganised
mess, will do. He needs a workbench but why bother because it will just get
covered in crap like all the other flat surfaces. Etcetera etcetera.
I commented that there must come a time in everyone's life where you realise
that all you've done is all you're ever gonna do.
Despite being 66 years old I'm not even close to being at that point in life,
he's just one year older but I suspect he is.
I think he is turning into an "old" man, no matter how many years
I get under my belt I hope I never do.
Till next time then, and remember,
Don't Dream it, Be it!
Wed 9 Jul 2020
My website has been around for over 22 years, since early 1998 in fact.
It's been through several makeovers in that time and I'm doing one now as it
happens. During the course of this makeover work I was reminded that back in
2004 the site was archived by the Australian National Gallery as a "Publication
of national significance".
The Gallery takes snapshots of "significant" Australian publications
and preserves them on servers that are compatible with the hardware and software
contemporary with the publication, so said publication can be viewed for all
eternity by the public.
They must have set a low bar to include robgray.com but hey, I'll take what
I can get.
I had a look around the 16-year-old version of my site, bit of a trip down
memory lane that's for sure. But I don't think that version would work very
well on a smart phone, times have changed, and 16 calendar years is about 300
Here's the landing page on the 16th of September 2004.
As fun as this is it highlights an important fact of our current digital life.
How are you going to view all those family photos and videos in 50 years time
when nobody has even heard of Youtube or Twitter?
It's one reason I no longer embed my videos into my online diary, they don't
print if you decide to make a hard copy for posterity.
Further along this train of thought are my photos. When I'm sitting in a nursing
home with nothing but my memories and an incontinence diaper for company how
am I going to view these photos? Did they ever get converted to a format that
is usable in 2050?
Do you know what format WILL be usable in 30 years time?
Hardcopy that's what. Has been for 100s of years already and will be for 100s
And with the ease of making a book these days I suggest that we should all
do so for our significant images, diaries, etc. Not 99% of the dross we post
on social media, but at least the important images.
All your pithy Farcebook posts and memes will be lost in the years to come,
heck it's hard enough to find something from a week ago. Whereas I have 20 years
of diaries online that I can easily search and read whenever I like. Still reliant
on today's technology though, they need to be printed.
Mon 14 Jul 2020
I'm now officialy retired and all of a sudden I don't seem to have much energy
to do stuff. For example today I didn't even leave the house. Well to be fair
the weather is terrible, but that doesn't usually worry me, I'm just being slack.
What I have done though is spend several hours working on the design of the
camper van, and I think it's coming along nicely.
Fri 17 Jul 2020
Today I spent half the day on the computer, and yesterday I spent nearly all
my time on it.
Doing what? You might ask.
Well we're both feeling the wanderlust a little of late so we might just be
going to (finally) build a camper on the Landcruiser. This has been the idea
right from the day we bought it all those years ago but a combination of travel
burnout and just being happy faffing around here on the block meant that it
never got a start.
But most things are done here now and if I don't think of something I'll actually
run out of projects and that will never do.
So for the last couple of days (and nights) I've been designing the camper,
and the design has morphed from a simple false floor under the existing fibreglass
canopy to a hard-sided pop top.
Here's a drawing of the current design.
Will it ever get built? Who knows?
Some time ago, maybe even 3-4 years, I bought some expanded metal sheet with
a view to making a shutter, the idea being to provide some shade over the house's
one and only window but also to make the window more secure.
So for the past few days I've been working on the shutter. It's not that big
a job but I've had a day or two off as well.
Tue 21 Jul 2020
Remember that stand I made for the mag drill ages ago. All it needed was a
couple of nuts welded on to clamp down the vice and a coat of paint to finish
it off. That happened today.
Wed 22 Jul 2020
I've finally made the new door for the hole that leads into the laundry/outside
shower area. I've used the other half of the expanded-metal sheet I used for
the window shutter.
All in all I have about 6 square inches of waste from the sheet. You can't
do much better than that.
Thu 23 Jul 2020
There's an area outside the workshop doors that I call the "forecourt".
Like the rest of the workshop it used to be quite a steep slope but over time
I've used rocks and dirt from other projects to firstly make the workshop floor
level and then the forecourt.
The level part has slowly been growing but it was never formalised, IE it just
kind of morphed into the old slope. So I've started adding a retaining wall
(well a single-height plank) to delimit the forecourt from the natural ground.
As I'll be getting more dirt from this work I can use that to extend the level
area even further. But first I fill as much as possible with rocks I scavenge
from the immediate surrounds.
Mon 27 Jul 2020
Three planks almost in and Mr T (the site foreman) comes to inspect the work.
Despite all the digging he does around here he's been absolutely of no use
on this project.
Thu 30 Jul 2020
Four planks in.
That's the extent of the planks and I still need to do more fill as the area
is not completely level yet, but that's all I can do for now until I get more
rocks and dirt. At present the downhill side is about 500mm above the natural
level and its "wall" consists of just large rocks stacked at an reasonable
angle of repose. I would like to formalise that as well by erecting a proper
retaining wall to kind of square everything off and satisfy my need for order.
I tell myself not to bother, form should follow function, and there's no advantage
to building the wall.
But I just know I'll do it one day.
Fri 31 Jul 2020
Once again we are out of firewood, this JIT (Just In Time) system really sucks
and it's one of the major problems we have as a society I think. But no matter,
I have to get some today or we'll be cold tonight.
Fortunately I dropped a large dead tree the other day so for now all I have
to do is buck some of it into rounds for splitting.
The tree forked into co-dominant trunks a few meters up and it landed on one
of the trunks. So I dice up the upper most of the trunks until just before the
fork. I need to stop the tree from rolling before I cut much more and the easiest
way to do that is to jam a branch into the fork and if I cut much more off I
won't have a fork to use.
With that in place I can make a cut on the bottom trunk.
At this point, if I didn't have that stick jammed there the rest of the tree
would have taken off down the hill.
It wouldn't have gone far to be fair but it's real steep here and I still have
to carry this lot back up the hill so the less distance I carry the better.
NOTE: Later when I cut off the round at the near end of the log it did roll
down into the gully, it went for miles.
Mon 3 Aug 2020
I want to build a "wash bay" on the outside of the workshop, somewhere
to wash hands, paint brushes, etc. but also maybe to have an eye wash facility.
To do this I need to get water across the workshop floor so I cut a trench and
run a 1" poly line.
Then I do a temporary termination that I will connect later when I make a frame
for the sink.
For ages now I've been using these stainless steel clips for poly pipe. They
are a bit hard to snap on (I use farrier's hoof trimmer/nippers) but they are
much neater than hose clamps and I have never had one leak yet.
Tue 4 Aug 2020
A year or so back I bought a secondhand horizontal band saw for cutting steel.
It worked OK but the band was stuffed and even though I did buy a new band ages
ago I never got around to fitting it and so far I haven't used the saw.
The reason I did use it today is that I have a project that requires cutting
a 40x40mm solid axle and while I can do that with a grinder this is really what
a band saw lives for.
The axle is very heavy so I have to bodge up a support for it.
If this all works out I'll make the arrangement more permanent.
Then I start the cut. In theory these saws can run unattended and stop when
the cut is finished but for now I'll just hang around I think, until I'm comfortable
that it all works.
Wow what a great cut. Smooth as a baby's bottom and hardly even warm. I think
this will become my goto cutting tool from now on.
Anyway the reason I want to cut the axle is to square off the end so I can
weld a plate onto it to make a poor man's Whacker Packer, IE something to compact
Normally I use the knob end of a crow bar and this works well in a confined
hole, such as packing the dirt around a post. But I find that in a more open
situation the knob is too small and it just creates craters and explodes half
the dirt outwards. With a larger plate I reasoned that it will do a better compaction
job and that does indeed seem to be the case.
Tue 11 Aug 2020
You come home after a day shopping in town, stop to deal with the gate and
when you open the car door the switch for the interior light connects and creates
a small spark. This is normal and it never matters at all, but on this day it
does because ten minutes ago something bumped the valve on the full gas bottle
in the back of the vehicle and LPG has been leaking for all that time.
So today that little spark does matter. There's a massive explosion and that's
the end of your homesteading venture.
No this hasn't happened to me, but it nearly did. The first part of the above
did occur, fortunately the "back of the vehicle" is separate from
the cab with my style of vehicle (a ute or pickup) and secondly I never have
the interior light switch on.
What did happen though is that when I alight the vehicle to open the gate I
smell gas immediately and then see it spewing out of the canopy.
The escaping gas has frozen the top of the adjacent oxy bottle and also the
blanket I used to cushion the LPG bottle.
And yes I did have the bung in, it probably reduced the flow but certainly
didn't stop it. Are they supposed to seal the opening entirely? I don't know
but I would have thought so or there's not much point in having them is there?
Thu 13 Aug 2020
A simple fabrication job this afternoon, making a prototype bench clamp, AKA
a hold down.
These are inserted into dog holes in a bench and, assuming you have enough
dog holes, allow the clamping of a work piece anywhere on the bench.
So why not just clamp the piece around the edge of the bench with a normal
Because when fabricating you often need to apply clamps in all sorts of places
and many of said places will be in the middle of the bench, well out of reach
of any clamp on the edge.
You can buy these of course, they cost at least $20 for something you still
have to modify yourself, but more likely $30 or even $100 for a name brand that's
designed for this application and ready to use.
Or you can make them for almost nothing from scrap you have lying around and
I could really do with four but eight or ten would be better, you do the math.
I chose the second option.
Not that it's free if you count the tools required, for example
1. Mag drill and annular cutters to make the 16mm holes in the thick steel
2. Oxy/LPG set to bend the 16mm round bar.
3. Lathe to turn the 16mm round bar down just a tad because it doesn't fit into
the 16mm hole.
4. Welder to glue it all together.
5. Assorted grinders, files etc etc.
But of course I don't have all that gear just to make these clamps.
It all seems to work so the next job is to drill the 30+ dog holes in the bench
(this one was just a test) and make more clamps.
This is why you need such a tool. It's quite common to have a need to clamp
part of the job at a position that's well out of reach of a clamp at table's
edge so you wind up bodging up something like this.
||03 Oct 2020
||04 Oct 2020
||04 Oct 2020
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