Wednesday, 7 December 2016

How Can the Pressure be Increased in a Shower?

If the shower is fed from a hot water tank, a cold water tank provides the pressure head to force out the hot water from the tank. This is usually in the loft to maximize the head so if it is located there, you are not going to be able to rise it any higher.
Cold water power showers are fed from the incoming mains cold water supply and the water is heated by a high powered electric element.
Shower heads incorporate a restrictor/aerator to reduce flow and water wastage. The Federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 made it a requirement that these were added to shower heads to reduce flow to about 2 gallons per minute, so removing this would increase the flow rate. Also it is possible to buy a shower head designed for a lower flow rate. This increases pressure but the flow rate will be less.
You can buy a booster pump which effectively works like a power washer and increases the pressure while keeping the flow rate constant.

How Can Hand or Garden Tools be De-Rusted?

Remove excess rust with steel (wire) wool soaked in lemon juice or vinegar which are mild acids. Rinse the tools and allow them to dry. You could soak the tools for a period to remove excess rust.
Another alternative which definitely works is phosphoric acid. This is often a constituent of rust removing chemicals and can also be bought in gallon containers from companies which supply cleaning chemicals. It is a powerful acid and can also be used for removing limescale from surfaces. Usually it is diluted with water before use. The objects being cleaned are submerged in the solution and should only be left in the acid for the bare minimum of time to dissolve the rust, otherwise the acid will start to dissolve the underlying metal! I have cleaned an old vice pillar drill vice belonging to my grandfather which developed a thick layer of rust after being exposed to dampness in a shed for over thirty years and the acid completely removed the rust.
Once you remove the rust, rub some oil into them and wipe off any excess. This will help to prevent future corrosion.
Sand can also be used as an abrasive for removing rust from tools.
If you wipe tools with light oil after use, it helps to prevent condensation and subsequent corrosion. Guns and tools were traditionally given (and probably still are) a coating of oil after manufacture and before packing to protect them from dampness and rust.

What Does the Voltage Rating of a Fuse Mean?

Image Courtesy, mtself CC BY SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The current rating of a fuse specifies the current which the fuse will carry without blowing. Once the current exceeds this value, the fuse will eventually blow. The characteristic of a fuse is such that if the current in a circuit is moderately higher than the fuse rating due to an overload, the fuse will take some time to blow, possibly seconds, minutes or tens of minutes, depending on the magnitude of the overload. If the current is a lot higher e.g. in the case of a short circuit, the fuse will blow in a few tens of milliseconds. While a low voltage or high voltage fuse will blow when the current exceeds the current rating, the current flow in a mains powered circuit can be extremely high (possibly thousands of amps) in a short circuit scenario because the current is coming from a large transformer outside the home. The breaking capacity of a fuse is specified in joules or kiloamps and a mains fuse could have a rating of 10000 amps or more. This is the maximum current the fuse can carry without rupturing. Usually fuses for mains equipment or distribution circuits have a ceramic body to withstand the heat and shock when the fuse blows. The fuse is also filled with quartz sand to absorb the heat and shock and quench the arc when the fuse blows. A glass fuse could simply rupture and possibly cause a fire if it carried such a heavy current. Glass/low voltage fuses may be used on the secondary side of the transformer in the power supply of equipment because the current output of the transformer in a short circuit situation is limited.

Good DIY Gifts For Men?

I better be diplomatic about this and suggest that DIY gifts for men needn't be any different than those which would be suitable for all the ladies amongst us (and even "non-ladies"!) Speaking as a serious male DIYer, I would like a cordless drill with two lithium batteries. The advantage of this battery technology is that the batteries don't lose their charge as quickly, and the drill is always ready for use.
A mitre(miter) saw is useful for making square cuts on timber, dado rail etc. An 8inch version is fine.
Jigsaws are useful for making curved and straight cuts in sheet timber. Go for one with variable speed on the trigger.
Angle grinders are useful for cutting metal and masonry.
A socket wrench set or ratchet wrenches(spanners) are always handy for tightening and undoing nuts and bolts.
Personally I would prefer to buy my own hand tools. While power tools are somewhat similar, the shape and size of hand tools are such that it is better to try them in your hand before buying. I mean how would a woman feel if their partner bought them shoes?

How to Reduce or Prevent Condensation in Your Home

Condensation occurs when air hits a cold surface. Air has a limit to the amount of water it can hold in suspension and the amount of water in the air is known as the relative humidity (measured as a percentage). Once air becomes saturated, the relativity humidity has reached 100%. Now as the temperature becomes lower, air can hold less and less water. Condensation occurs when water laden air hits a cold surface, reducing the temperature of the air. This could be glass in windows, cold tiles or metal surfaces. These surfaces are either colder than other surfaces in a room or are of high thermal conductivity so that heat is sucked out of the air. In any case, the air temperature drops to the extent that it can't hold moisture any more and it is deposited on the surface.
To avoid condensation you have several options. Firstly you can vent moisture laden air (e.g from cooking in the kitchen) so that it doesn't end up in rooms. You can do this by using extractor fans or simply opening windows. Portable gas heaters produce lots of water vapour and should be avoided. Another option is to raise the temperature in the room. This makes surfaces warmer so that moisture doesn't condense out. Double or triple glazing also helps because the external surface of inner panes of glass is not in contact with air outside the house. Removing sources of moisture also helps. This includes house plants and damp clothing. Clothes in the washer should be kept there with the door closed until they are transferred to a drier, or hung outside. Drying clothes in rooms or on radiators transfers water to the air where it inevitably condenses out if windows are closed and the room temperature drops. Yet another way of reducing condensation is to use a dehumidifier. This appliance works by circulating air over chilled coils. This causes moisture to drop out of the air (just like it does on your windows) and collect in a reservoir tank.

How Can a Freezer be Defrosted Quickly?

You can wipe over the ice with a cloth or towel soaked in hot water. This will soften the ice enough so that it can be scraped off. A plastic lifter like the type which is used with non stick frying is useful for getting in under the ice and prying it off. Don't use metal scrapers if the inner surface of your freezer has a foil coating as it can lead to damage. A basin of boiling water placed at the bottom of a chest freezer also helps to accelerate the melting of ice (After having pulled the plug and removing all food)

Why Do Computers Make Noises?

Several things in a computer make noises. First of all, the head in a disk drive makes some noise as it moves in and out over the aluminium platters in the drive during disk access. The head is actuated by devices called stepper motors which can rapidly move the head towards the center or edge of the disk. The motor which drives the platter/platters in a hard disk may also make some noise.
There may be one or more fans in a computer for cooling the electronics. The microprocessor (CPU) is likely to have a fan and there will also be a general purpose fan for drawing air through the machine to cool it. Usually there is a temperature sensor, and the fan cuts in and out as the temperature rises above and falls below threshold levels (just like the way an electric cooling fan for the radiator may turn on when a vehicle with the engine running is stationary for any length of time). Alternatively the speed of the fan may be varied, depending on the amount of processing of data which is taking place. It occasionally happens also on desktop computers when a fan gets old, the bearings can wear and the fan becomes noisy.
The power supply may also make some noise. When a current passes through electronic components, sometimes, electric or magnetic fields can cause movement (e,g, if you hold an older style, non switched mode, power adapter up to your ear, you can hear it humming). A sudden demand for power from the supply could cause clicking sounds.
Other clicking sounds can be caused by thermal expansion/contraction as the computer warms/cools (like the way gutters or roofs can creak when the sun comes out).
The old style dial up modem sounds were due to the "tones" which were sent down the line. Digital bits can't be sent directly down a phone line. Instead, various tones or sound frequencies were used to represent "ones" and "zeros".
As regards cooling fans, there is no harm installing a utility on your computer which displays the core temperature of the CPU or (CPUs if the machine is dual core or quad core). I have a utility called core temp installed which displays the temperature on the taskbar. It will power down the machine or display a warning if the temperature exceeds a set value. If you have a laptop, leaving it on a sofa can cause it to overheat, because the air intake may be under the machine and can get blocked. Another tip is to setup a laptop running on battery power so that it goes to sleep after a few minutes of inactivity.

Static Shocks and How To Avoid Them

In the home, static charge build up is normally caused by friction between surfaces. Prime culprits are synthetic clothing such as lycra, acrylic, nylon, and PVC in the soles or uppers of shoes. When these materials rub against carpets, synthetic textiles in furniture and the polystyrene casings of computers or other equipment, it generates static. Wool or silk which are natural fibers, can also cause static buildup when they rub against other surfaces.
Static builds up on surfaces. Increasing humidity produces a microscopic layer of moisture which coats smooth surfaces, and gets absorbed by the surface of porous objects, increasing conductivity and allowing charge to drain to ground (earth). Normally it is desirable to decrease humidity in homes to prevent dampness, but you can increasing humidity by using a humidifier, placing bowls of water in rooms, opening windows when weather is damp outside to allow moist air in, having plenty of plants or even placing damp clothes on radiators.
Wear natural fiber clothing such as cotton, linen and leather shoes. You can also get shoes with soles which are impregnated with carbon to increase conductivity. These are worn by workers in factories where static sensitive components are being handled. You are right that static can damage electronics. I blew a $12 chip once which I touched after walking across a wool carpet. Always touch a grounded object before handling the pins of electronic connectors (e.g. the outer metal body of a plugged in or fixed appliance)

What is a Neon Glow or "Phase" Tester?

A neon glow tester, sometimes called a "phase" tester is a device used to detect mains voltages. The neon capsule in the device is usually sensitive to voltages from 90 volts upwards. Contact must be made with a live terminal for the neon bulb to glow. When doing electrical maintenance work, a neon tester can be used to double check power is turned off after switching off a breaker. Neon testers are commonly available in the form of a flat screwdriver whose blade is sized to suit the screws in electrical fittings.
Newer type hand held electrical testers such as the Fluke VoltAlert use an electronic detection circuit which activates an LED when the tip of the tester is in close proximity to a live terminal or power cable, actual contact is not necessary. These testers are useful for detecting presence of voltage e.g in a power flex or on the output of a breaker. However if the tip is too far away, the LED may not light up, giving the false impression that a circuit is not live. So they should never be used to test for absence of voltage. A neon tester should be used for absolute certainty when testing (and the tester should be pre-checked by touching it against a live terminal , e.g. the outlet of a socket to ensure it is working properly).

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

How Can a Pinhole Leak be Temporarily Fixed Until a More Permanent Repair Can be Done?

Ordinary 2-part epoxy resin also works well for sealing leaks. I have used it successfully for repairing a long crack in the polystyrene spray nozzle of a hose. Make sure you get the quick setting stuff which hardens in about 10 minutes. Try and dry the joint thoroughly, and if possible, rub it with sandpaper to improve adhesion. Let the epoxy stiffen slightly before applying to prevent it spreading out. Heat from a hair drier accelerates the curing process. As far as I know special pipe sealants are epoxy based.
Another alternative (although this is theoretical and I haven't tried it!) is to use a hose clip. Keep one opened out and if you have a leak, wrap it around the pipe, push the end of the clip back into itself and semi-tighten it with a screwdriver. Push a small piece of rubber (bicycle patch, piece of old tire, rubber boot or whatever) under the clip over the hole and tighten. The advantage of this is that the water wouldn't have to be turned off and the area around the hole wouldn't need to be dry but it would probably only work on a hole in the actual pipe itself where the clip would exert sufficient pressure on the patch. You can also buy emergency clamp type fittings which seal over a hole, effecting a temporary repair until the section of pipe can be replaced.
Yet another repair method for cracked brass fittings is to solder them. I had to do this when a fitting on a heating system in my workshop developed a hairline crack during a lengthy period of snow during the winter. (Haven't looked at it for years so hopefully it's still water tight!).
It's wise to know the location of all your stop cocks/gate valves, and write the function of the valve on the wall behind it with a marker, or tie a label around it. In an emergency, you don't want to have to figure out which valve shuts off which pipe. Also valves tend to stick and seize up after years of disuse, so "exercise" them at least once a year by screwing off and back on again. It's actually a good a wise idea to add a redundant valve in case your main water shut-off valve fails. Another option is to fit a quadrant ball valve in addition to the main valve which can be quickly turned off by turning it through 90 degrees (These are the ones commonly encountered on gas and air compressor lines or on oil tanks). Quadrant valves don't normally seize up.

Can an Oil Stain be Washed Out of a Cotton Shirt?

Any of the well known hand cleansers used by auto mechanics or similar are excellent for cleaning oil stains from clothes or even worse carpets. The stuff I use on my hands after I do work on my lawn mower is excellent and seems to remove even the worst grime. Some of these cleansers contain hydrocarbon solvents which may remove colour from clothing, so try using some on the tail of the shirt first to see what the affect will be. Wash the shirt in your washer after removing the majority of the stain. Cotton is a somewhat porous fabric compared to to synthetic fibres which are more smooth. So the oil content of the stain will be removed, however you may not be able to remove all the stain, especially if black, waste oil is involved.  However it may become less obvious after further washes.

How Can I Mould Stepping Stones For the Garden Using Cake Tins?

If the pans are slightly tapered from top to bottom, there shouldn't be any problem releasing the cement, just as it is easy to release a cake from a mould or a sandcastle from a bucket. Cement doesn't normally stick readily to smooth metal. You could spray the inside with silicone lubricating spray and this should help also or even rub around the inside of the mould with some butter, Vaseline or similar. You only need to rub the surface in the same way that pans and dishes are coated when cooking or baking.
When the cement is set hard after a few days, lightly tap all around the base and sides, turn upside down and then if possible, hit the edge of the pan off the edge of a surface such as a bench, wheel barrow or kerb. This usually works when releasing plants from pots so it should work with cement also.
Leave the cement for about a week before walking on it so that it attains its full strength.
If you want to make the stones really strong, you can reinforce them by laying any scrap metal items you want to dispose of inside the cement. Half fill the mould with cement and then place the pieces of metal flat on the cement. Fill up to the top of the mould with cement.
If the stones are going to be walked on, they need to be at least 2 to 3 inches thick.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

For Less Than $4 This Mini Adjustable Zooming LED Flashlight is a "Must Have" for Camping, Hiking and DIY

So I received one of these flashlights from Dealextreme  in the mail today and I wasn't disappointed! This 120 lumen flashlight is really bright and runs on a single1.5 volt alkaline AA cell or alternatively you can use a 3.6 volt Lithium 14500 type.

SIPIK SK68 120lm Convex Lens LED Zooming Flashlight w/ Q3-WC

You are probably familiar with the two AA cell Maglite which is a nice compact torch, and an indispensable item in any DIYers toolbox. Maglites can be zoomed so that they throw a narrow parallel beam, useful for instance when running services under floorboards or pinpointing stuff in the distance. This flashlight is a little over half the length of  a double AA Maglite, but has the added advantage of a zoomable beam, which can be adjusted from flood to spot by sliding the lens at the front backwards and forwards.

How Bright is It?

Well it's REALLY bright for something so small which runs on a single AA cell! According to the spec on Dealextreme's website, the flashlight pumps outs 120 lumens of light from the Cree Q3-WC LED. This is insanely bright and perfectly adequate for lighting up an area. When adjusted to provide a narrow beam, it can easily light up a target 30 metres away.

What's the Runtime?

At a voltage of 0.7 to 4.2 volts, runtime is 1.5 hours

What's the Construction Quality Like?

The body is made from aluminium so the flashlight should withstand being dropped from at least waist height. It's sealed with O-rings as is standard on these types of torches to make it water resistant, I couldn't see how they sealed the the LED head, presumably there is an O-ring between the two sections. The contact spring in the base cap is gold plated which may help to reduce bad connections, a problem which plagues torches with pressure contacts. The contact pad inside the torch however isn't plated with gold. A metal belt clip is a useful feature with a recess on the flashlight to prevent it slipping off the belt.

How Much Does it Cost?

$3.43 £2.62 or €3.09 excellent value for a bright, well constructed flashlight

Where Do I Buy It?

From Dealextreme at this URL

Friday, 22 July 2016

Rosebay Willowherb - Tall Flowers at the Back Please

You've probably seen these growing along the roadside in the country. Rosebay Willowherb also known as Great Willow Herb and Fireweed is a perennial weed (or if you prefer, wild flower) which can grow up to 8 feet tall.  It gets the name Fireweed because it is one of the first plants to colonise burnt areas of forest and was a common sight in bomb craters after WWII (the plant was also called bombweed).
These plants propagate naturally by seed, but also spread by sending out underground stems (which according to Wikipedia are called "stolons" . Runners are overground stems which root, as in the case of creeping buttercup, briars and strawberries).
Image courtesy Eileen Henderson CC SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

I've had a patch of these for a few years growing in against a hedge. The seeds probably arrived with the wind. New plants have appeared around the originals, so I dug them up last year and separated them from their parents. They should look good at the back of the herbaceous border, towering above what's left of the delphiniums.....

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Saturday, 27 February 2016

Why Won't my Lawn Mower Start?

Lawn Mower Won't Start?

As the days lengthen, and temperatures rise, the grass cutting season isn't far away. So you drag your mower out of storage over winter, fill the tank and pull the cord..., and pull it again....and again....and of course nothing happens - Well that's typical!
If you leave fuel in the tank over winter, the carburetor can get gummed up with varnish deposits, jets get clogged and small delicate parts can seize. Ideally you should run the engine dry before overwintering and/or use a fuel stabilisation product such as Stabil.
Engines need fuel and a spark to run, plus good compression (the engine needs to hold pressure when mixture is compressed)

Checking the Spark Plug

First check the lead is pushed onto the plug properly and this wasn't the cause of non-starting. Move the mower to the shade so that it's easier to see a spark, remove the spark plug and re-attach the lead. Leave the threaded part of the plug in contact with the engine block and  pull the starter cord. The chances are that you won't be able to see the plug from your vantage point behind the mower, so an assistant may be able to aid you by pressing the plug against the block (using a plastic bottle or whatever to avoid shock if the plug lead is damp). The spark should be bright and blue.
When replacing a plug, make sure there's nothing on the threads such as dirt or grit, and make sure it isn't cross threaded by screwing in by hand before tightening with a plug wrench. If the plug is cross threaded, it will be difficult to turn by hand.

Fuel  Starvation

This means the engine isn't getting fuel. On engines with the tank above the carburetor, fuel first flows to a device called a float bowl. This is like a toilet cistern and prevents fuel just running into the carburetor. The bowl fills and once its full, a float (which functions just like the ballcock in a toilet cistern) cuts off flow. Sometimes the intake to the bowl can get clogged or the filter in the fuel line can be blocked, either of which can cause fuel starvation. When you remove the bowl, petrol should flow freely and stop flowing when you push up the float (use a jar or tin to catch fuel).
Another cause of fuel starvation is a clogged main jet. You can get carburetor cleaning aerosols which have a straw just like on a can of WD40. You insert the straw into the jet and press the button on the aerosol, the spray flushes the jet. If you have an air compressor, you could try using the a blow gun attachment to blast air through the jet. Avoid poking nails, wires or other objects through it, which could damage the jet which is made from brass.


Check the plug is screwed in tightly. Don't over tighten as you can damage the threads.

Read my full version of this blog post on It has lots more info on lawn mower troubleshooting with loads of pictures and goes into much more detail:

Now's a Good Time to Treat Your Lawn for Moss

If your climate is characterised by long, cold, wet winters, the chances are that your lawn is now choked with moss, especially if drainage is bad and you never feed the grass. Moss can grow in cold conditions when grass is dormant and will tend to out compete it. Heavy moss growth can also clog your mower at the start of the season, and if you have an electric or low powered petrol mower, it can be tough going as the wheels sink into the soft moss and the blade struggles to cut through it.

Moss can be treated with iron sulphate. Dissolve 21 grams ( about 3 heaped teaspoons) in a litre of warm water and spray your lawn in strips, marked out with string and pegs. Treated areas turn black fairly quickly so it's easy to see what you've covered.

Full Article at