Monday, February 13, 2006

I Couldn't Find A Life . . .

on ebay. I looked, but nobody had one for sale. Kind of funny when you think about it, everything else is for sale on ebay, but not a life. Sometimes I think I need one, this was one of those weekends.

Saturdays are always a complete bust. I work nights, so on Saturdays I have two choices, sit around all day feeling like a zombie, or go to bed when I get home from work then sleep all day so I'll be up all night then sleep all day Sunday and get absolutely nothing done. This past Saturday I tried something different, I stayed up most of the day, went to bed Saturday afternoon, then got up really early Sunday, and still didn't get much done.

OK, I got a few things done but when you have as much to do as I do it's easy to get overwhelmed. Most all of my fleet of vehicles need some sort of repairs. Nothing serious just minor little annoyances that I haven't been able to get to. In order to do the repairs I need to clean out the shop so I have room to work, a daunting task in itself.

To make matters worse I recently purchased the land where has been parked my veritable Taj Mahal on wheels known as a trailer house, I now have a much larger shop than I had before, but it needs cleaned out as well so that I can take some of the stuff from my current shop and move it to the new one. Most of the stuff in the "new" shop belongs to my former land lady which I've agreed to allow to remain living on the property in return for all of the favors she's done for me over the years. I did inform her that I will be taking over the other half of the shop, but I can't even begin to clean out the "new" shop until she decides what she wants to keep and what she wants to throw out and decides just where exactly she is going to put it since her garage is now my garage and I'm sort of a garage using type of fellow with no intentions of making payments on a garage that I can't use. She's a really nice lady and a very good friend, but she's got too much stuff, and it's in my way.

Confused yet? Good, so am I. That's basically where I am now, so much to do that I don't know where to start, and I haven't even begun to consider what I'm going to do with the yard. Perhaps a day of particularly good weather will spur me to just dig in with both hands, Sunday wasn't it with that biting wind howling up my sleeves all day, the thermometer said it was near 50, but that damn wind felt like it was coming right off a fresh snow bank. From what I'm seeing on the weather reports, this weekend's going to be a real nut freezer. No thanks, I'll stay in the house, the shop and yard can wait. I think I'm ready for spring, even though we haven't really had a winter as of yet. Maybe I'm just getting weak in my old age. Go ahead, call me a wuss, I can take it, at least I'll be a warm wuss.

Sunday, I awoke before the sun, full of vigor, overflowing with verve, full of piss and vinegar and ready to accomplish great things, then I walked out into the living room and saw this damn computer. Like a moth to a flame the great wealth of information that is the interweb drew me into its loving arms of learning . . . . for about 4 hours, verve depleted, vigor unenvigorated, get up and go done got up and went.

After my whirlwind study session on the blasted computer I spent most of the day driving around in the biodiesel guinea pig diagnosing problems and making mental notes to fix them, and visiting a few friends that I haven't seen in a while, one that's quite well, another in the hospital that isn't so good but better than he was the last time I saw him. I found that the brakes on the 'pig left something to be desired, the big river of brake fluid running down the front of the brake booster told me that the master cylinder had seen the extent of its useful life.

Now normally I'm one to say that brakes are for sissies, I spend far too much time trying to keep these old junk heaps going to concern myself with making them stop. But since my wife has already expressed an interest in driving this thing from time to time I figured that I'd better fix the brakes. I love her more than words can express but I haven't managed to make a farm gal out of her yet, I don't think she has much experience when it comes to trucks with no brakes, she doesn't chew tobacco either, darn city girls. Mental note to self: pick up new master cylinder for the Ford . . . . . . or get the wife a can of Copenhagen.

20 bucks later, new master cylinder in hand I returned home and managed to install it, bleed the brakes with the assistance of my beautiful, actually quite mechanically talented for a city girl, non tobacco chewing wife, and make the 'pig a whole lot safer before dark, so I guess the weekend wasn't a total waste. Now if I could just find time to get the blasted heater working, looks like I'm going to need it. Damn Montana weather, about the time I get the heater working it'll be time to think about the air conditioner. Higher quality of living my ass.

I did learn a lot more about biodiesel though, and found a few more of the much needed pieces of equipment on ebay for a very friendly price. Electronic PH meter: $24.00, digital scale accurate to 0.01 gram: $0.01 plus 15 bucks for shipping, how much fun it's going to be talking to the cops when one of my neighbors is convinced that I'm making meth in my shop: priceless. Ph meter, scale, I'm almost ready to try my first test batch! Of biodiesel that is, not meth, don't get any funny ideas, I have no interest in that crap. We'll soon see if I wind up with a jug of nice, clean homemade fuel, or a pile of semi useless goop. With my luck I'll accidentally make meth and it'll get done right about the time the cops show up. Will I be able to blog from prison?

Even if I wind up with the goop all is not lost, it may take a little time to get the formula right, but I'm quite determined to do this so a few minor setbacks can surely be taken in stride. I found out that I was wrong about the gel point for biodiesel as well, encouraging news for sure. The figure of 40 degrees F was a worse case scenario from what I've recently found out. I'm now finding that well made biodiesel will handle temperatures much closer to freezing without gelling. Even #2 petro diesel is said to gel at 20 degrees, although I've never actually seen a truck gel up until the temp gets much colder and stays that way for awhile. My apologies for distributing bad information, just keep in mind that I'm still learning about this stuff myself, and that a lot of it hasn't been really researched in any type of official capacity, so even a lot of the information available from the best sources is at least mildly questionable. When I actually start making this stuff, then I'll do research of my own and convey the actual, real world, results here of course. No matter what a person is doing, it's not unusual for the theory to not agree with what happens in actuality, it's difficult to simulate "real world" conditions in a lab.

I'll be using virgin (never been cooked in, not like "virgin" virgin, nobody does that with oil do they? Get your mind out of the gutter, pervert) oil for the first batch, just a quart or so to start with. If that works, then I'll move up to a small quantity of used oil, I currently have about 5 gallons of that to play with. If that works then look out Exxon/Mobil, I will then have the motivation that I need to clean out the shop methinks, I need room to build my refinery! I'm still coming up mostly bust when it comes to refinery parts.

The pumps that I need are available from Harbor Freight for about 30 bucks and I plan on buying them new to avoid having to adapt to five different pumps before I find some that work, but I still haven't found any tanks, or the two electric water heaters that I need in order to scam the heating elements and the controls for my heating system. A friend of mine is planning on replacing his water heater this spring as it's getting a bit rusty around the edges, so there's one. I still need one more as well as a couple of metal tanks of some sort for the refinery itself. I'm thinking about using 100lb propane bottles, I just gave two of those away a year or so ago, now I need them, just my luck.

I wish I had the capability to weld aluminum, I know where there's a pair of fuel tanks off of a semi truck that I could get for free, but for now I'll just have to stick to steel. All will come in time I'm sure, I'm going to try to hit a few oil distributors today and see if I can find a couple bladder tanks or some barrels for storage of waste oil and completed fuel. I have a restaurant owner in mind that I need to talk to since I'll be needing far more than 5 gallons of used oil once I get this thing off of the ground, I'm hoping that I can convince him that I'll save him a few bucks by hauling off his oil instead of him having to pay a rendering service to do it for him. I'm not sure how rendering services charge though. If they charge a flat rate monthly fee I won't be saving him anything unless I take all of his oil and I'm really not interested in roping myself to such an obligation. If the service is charged by how much oil they haul off however, any that I take is saving him money, which should make it an easy sell. I'm hoping that the oil is the easy part.

The expensive part is going to be the valves, I need a lot of valves, haven't figured out just how many yet but it's going to be a bunch. I plan on using 1/2 inch ball valves if possible for durability but I may have to resort to a cheaper alternative at least initially, I might go and price out some of that stuff today as well. As far as the test batch is concerned, the only things I need now are lye, and some isopropanol. Lye is easy, 99% pure isopropanol may be the trick. Research, research, research . . . . . . and to think some people have to pay others to teach them things.

I'm gonna go look for isopropanol, and tanks, and used up smelly old fryer grease. You all have a good day, hopefully I make biodiesel for you this weekend, or a bottle of goop perhaps? Stay tuned.


Table Mountains said...

guys around here will be soon looking for old fryer grease also.they have a spring bear hunt and some guys coat a few places and wait for the bears.i never agree with the spring hunt on bears but then again i don't hunt them.

The Dixie Drifter said...

Justin if you cannot find a life on e-bay try craigs list, maybe there is one waiting for you there. It has to be tough living in Montana, cold winters and all, the furnace going full blast to just keep warm, walk outside to look at the electrical meter and it is spinning like a friggen airplane propeller, man I cannot fathom something like that.....I hope you find that life you are looking for, as you well know they are not for sale.

Justin said...

Howdy Wayne, we've got a spring bear hunt here too, but baiting is illegal in Montana. You can call them with a non electronic call, but no attractants of any kind are allowed. I'm sure it goes on anyway, but there's a hefty fine if someone gets caught. I bought a tag for the fall hunt last year, but I never got a chance to go look for one.

Howdy Drifter, actually living in Montana is great. Plenty of wide open spaces with no people to pester me, plenty of firewood to keep that electric meter from spinning so fast, it's great. We Montanans are well known for being an industrious bunch, if we don't like our heat bills we tend to find a way around them. This winter, it hasn't been cold enough to get that worried about it anyway, this is about the second week of actual winter we've had so far. Besides, the cold isn't that bad, keeps me from having to haul a cooler on my snowmobile to keep my beer cold. ;)

The Dixie Drifter said...

I was ready you plans for your bio diesel, I thought I might make a comment when I got home from work tonight I was watching the news and they has a group of kids from West Philly on and they were at an auto show with a car they had built in auto shop over the past year some of them were drop outs gang bangers who decided to turn their life around, you should have seen this car they put together with a bio-diesel engine 0-60 4 seconds and 61 miles to the gallon...go figure where are the big three...that is my question

Justin said...

Howdy Drifter, I don't know about the big 3 specifically, but several car companies make and sell small, diesel cars in Europe that get upwards of 70-80 MPG. Peugot, Nissan, Toyota, Fiat, just to name a few. Most have small 3 cylinder diesel engines, and adequate power and all are capable of running on biodiesel. In many places in Europe, all diesel fuel is required to be a certain percentage bio, and homebrewing is far more popular than it is in the US. I'm not aware of any with the performance that you describe, but I'm sure that with a turbo and a few mods it would be possible since these cars are extremely light weight. If it's possible to make a 2 liter 4 cylinder gas engine put out 600+ hp, I'm sure it isn't much of a stretch to make a diesel car that would do 0-60 in 4 seconds. These days the fastest wheels on the road in the United States are diesel pickups anyway. If they were to take some of the same technology used in the Powerstroke or the Duramax and apply it to small engines in small cars, wow, consider the possibilities!

As far as where the big 3 are, cars like this would probably sell like hotcakes in the States, especially with fuel topping $3.00 a gallon like it's sure to do again this summer, but our nanny state government won't let them sell these cars here. They don't pass US safety standards since they're so small. We can thank our good friend Ralph Nader for that one, as well as his many followers. I say that when it comes to safety in cars, let the market decide. If people want safe cars, they'll buy safe cars. Keep testing them, keep publishing the results, then let people make their own choices. If unsafe cars don't sell, the manufacturers will have no reason to make them and they'll be off the market anyway. If unsafe cars did sell, that to me would be proof that most people could give a rat's ass about safety, or at least that it ranks second to other considerations like performance, looks, or economy.

Let me know if you have any more info on that car that the students built, I'd like to see that. I'm sure there's something on the web somewhere, I'll do some sniffing around but if you find a link let me know if you'd be so kind.

The Dixie Drifter said...

Just these kids has the car at an atuo show in the area and from the looks of it, it was a production type sports car which they had taken and done a ret-fit on. It was the hit of the show and again these kids were all ex drop outs or gang bangers who return to school. My question if these kids can do something like that why can't the big there at least make one that can get lets 45 miles to the gallon, I will keep looking to see if I can find an article on it, if I do I will let you rid of the friggen pop-ups