Daniel Schmidt

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since Jun 16, 2015
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tiny house solar woodworking
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Jacksonville, FL
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Recent posts by Daniel Schmidt

I've had some thoughts about hugels lately where it seems like there is a minimum critical mass. Below a certain threshold, the effort invested might never be regained. For instance, there is a ratio of diameter to volume that changes massively as diameter increases. With logs acting as a sponge, having logs be both large and numerous will vastly increase the ability of a hugel to absorb and then release water. The same number and length of 4" logs won't be half the volume of 8" logs, but rather only one quarter. If a place is particularly dry then below a certain amount of sponge action it won't be enough to keep up. If it is compounded by getting a lot of rain at once then the sponge may not be able to absorb enough to make it until then next rain.

Another thing is erosion. The surface area to volume problem also applies, even if it is a bit more difficult to calculate the volume of a rough hugel shaped mound compared to a log. Below a certain size, the yearly erosion may be significant enough to render it ineffective in a short time, whereas a hugel over your head is likely to still be a substantial earthwork for years to come even without maintenance. The effort of building and maintaining one that isn't able to retain enough water may be more effort than it is worth, and that gets compounded if the location is such that there is no room for it to erode down and spread out a bit without being obligated to address the issue. Obligation is poison and future person may resent past person for giving them that burden.

Obviously there are tons of factors to consider. In my area of sand, lots of rain, and no freeze cycle, things in the ground quickly get broken down by fungi, carried off by bugs, or washed deep below the top soil. Massive hugels can still work, but even they aren't going to be as long lived around here. Perhaps properties with much more clay and protection from erosion can make good long term use of them. Rain isn't an issue, but the rain we get is created by evaporation. Mitigating evaporation and erosion would be more important than the sponge factor for me because it rains so frequently. Of course in the long term the sponge factor would likely break down very quickly, so oversizing for that would be important if I don't want to have to rebuild it in a few years. The only redeeming factor for me is that sand is very easy to dig.

One other thing I think about regularly is in one of the early podcasts where Paul talked about mulching, and how if you can only afford so much mulch, then it is better to have deep mulch over a smaller area than too thin mulch over a larger area. Having a few very happy plants is likely to be an easier time than a bunch of sad plants. There's a certain critical mass there too. It might be different depending on the region and the plants involved. Sad plants will always struggle, content plants will be ok in fair weather and sad in poor weather, and really happy plants will be bountiful through good times and bad.

To come at this from another angle to give some other context that might resonate with some is a thing I have heard on Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcast. There are the select few times in history where a smaller group manages to defend against or fight off a vastly larger opponent. Those stories get told and retold in books and movies thousands of years later, but those are very much the exception and not the rule. By most historical accounts, the larger army almost always wins. Sometimes there is an obsession with quality and picking through the finer details of things, and it can certainly be for good reason, but as Dan Carlin says, "Quantity has a quality all its own."
1 week ago
The next few parts to the trike build are rather time consuming. I need to clean up all of the wheels. Since I'm not mounting the battery under the rear basket, I can focus on just making a bracket for the motor, brake caliper, and build in a trailer hitch. Building the battery is a tedious task. I've had a bunch of other tasks that I needed to complete in order to be able to do some of these parts of the project.

Having to reinvent the wheel several times over is much more time consuming than rebuilding an entire car. With a car, if you have the skills and the tools, you generally don't have to worry too much about the fitment of pieces, or if one change is going to cause a chain reaction of throwing everything out of position. You simply get the parts, install according to the manual, and that's it. This is where a lot of people customizing cars can get in trouble, where trying to get the 'best' components for several parts ends up making the car louder, or narrower power band, or the suspension too hard or unwieldy, and can end up with a worse car and an empty wallet.

That's part of the reason why I'm not going all in with every change I can think of on one build. It's easy to add weeks worth of work figuring things out, undoing work you did previously because of changes to plans, and it can get expensive fast. As the old saying goes, discretion is the better part of valor.

A big time sink has been getting all of my tools together and in shape to do what I need. I'm going to need to weld to make parts for the motor bracket and battery box. I probably haven't used my welder in over a decade. I got a new spool of better quality wire than whatever I got from Harbor Freight. I opened it up and got all of the dust out and the power cable that I had upgraded wasn't seated in the bushing properly, so I got that fixed.

The batteries in the welding helmet went bad and I happened to have a pair of new batteries to replace the old ones. You can solder them in place, but since I had the spot welder, I decided to try that out on a real project for the first time and it works really well. You have to clean all of the surfaces, otherwise oils from your fingers or from manufacturing will cause issues, but I was prepared for that. I might need more rubbing alcohol by the time I'm done cleaning all of my cells.

And boy do I have a lot of cells! I am going to go ahead and get my spare fat bike battery put together, the battery for this trike build, and the battery for the next trike build. Fortunately I had gotten all of the cells pretty close to where they needed to be voltage wise a few months back, and they all held their charge well. But I still had to triple check everything. Plus with the better multimeter, I can get the charge much more accurate. The first battery has 60 cells, the second 80 cells, and the third one has 112 cells, so that was a ton of babysitting and making certain that everything was ready to go. The used packs had some plastic housing pieces that needed to be trimmed, along with bits of metal strip that connected them to the old BMS's that had to be removed, so that too ate up several hours.

Assembling the packs with the new spot welder should go a lot faster than previous builds. I still haven't tried out the nickle strip with cell level fusing. It should work well, but it needs to be cleaned off without wrecking the little pads, as they get caught on things easily and bend out of place. I might build a small tool battery to test it out and get the spot welding power setting dialed in. All of the welding, spot welding, painting, and more is going to take at least another week.
1 week ago
The elementary school I went to was a fairly new building at the time, and while I didn't fully comprehend it back then it was a pretty amazingly advanced place. The windows had tint that was extremely dark to look in but not nearly as dark looking out. Above those windows was a series of smaller windows without tint. There may have been special coatings like you find today to allow visible light through while blocking damaging UV and heating infrared.

The really cool part relevant to this thread was the light shelves. It acts as a shade to the lower window and reflects light through the upper window, bouncing it upward towards the ceiling to add light fairly deep into a room. I can remember many times when the teacher would shut off the lights and do various things to get everyone to calm down a bit after running around outside, and the room felt more than 3/4 as well lit just from the sun.

I believe the light shelves were aluminum, which is highly reflective and probably had a coating to reduce oxidation, and the ceilings were high and particularly white to scatter the light once inside. There was a Mythbusters episode about Indiana Jones myths where they tried getting sunlight deep inside their set where the mirrors worked to get the light in, but it wasn't until Jaime stepped in front of that light beam with his bright white shirt that it scattered the light for better illuminating the space.

I always thought it was an interesting way to do solar lighting inside a house. In a lot of cases, you could probably upgrade a house without having to modify the structural members of the framing. If someone was already looking to upgrade their windows to something more insulating, better UV protection, and a higher impact rating like modern windows have, then it wouldn't be that much more work to plan for a light shelf. If the header is at the top of the wall, you could make the opening larger both up and down without needing a framer, engineer, and more permits and inspections. Or you could do like the school did and add a small window above a regular window. With the right combination of shade, light, and efficient design, you could potentially save a fair bit of energy on lighting and cooling.

With light shelves there are more benefits for warmer climates. Interior rooms without a direct line of sight wouldn't get any light, where the light tube idea would work really well. I guess like most things it depends on a lot of factors like house orientation, roof size, and other factors of the design and location of the house. I could potentially see some sort of manifold that instead of optimizing for the flow of fluid, you optimize for light. Perhaps it is much larger at one end, with a bit sticking down to direct a portion of the light downwards, and then a smaller section to the next angled reflector for the next room and so on. You could even do two coming from opposite ends of a house for morning and evening light.

I couldn't find any pictures that really expressed my understanding of light shelves, but I found a short video that shows the basics of how they work. They seem to make it out like the shade part can't also be reflective, but The Wikipedia Page on Light Shelves says exterior ones are more effective.

1 week ago
I have been doing a bit more digging around to figure out exactly how I want to move forward with solar and charging various size battery packs. I keep finding various tidbits of information that are changing my mind on how I can go about my solar aspirations.

I dug through my YouTube subscriptions and found an old video using a Turnigy charger that is almost exactly the same as my current chargers. The layout, screen, and beeping sounds are identical. I will have to fuss around a bit more with the ones I have, as I remember having an issue where the discharge option for a single cell wasn't working. I also see this Turnigy model has a tiny fan built in that kicks on while discharging, so it may be that my cheaper model doesn't have the parts for this option installed. In any event, the video goes over much more than I could reasonably write in one post, so here it is:

1 week ago
There was a great video posted this weekend of a lumber mill and he mentioned that there is a USDA guide for building and running wood kilns. I searched around a bit over the weekend and saw that as well as a few other PDF's released by different universities that also goes in to details of various types of kilns, including ones that are solar or powered by scraps from the lumber mill.  

There were a few noteworthy things for those who don't want to watch the whole video. They let the wood air dry for months first to let some of the moisture out before kiln drying to avoid case hardening. Once kiln dried, the cells of the wood on the outside collapse and will slow down moisture both from leaving or entering the wood. That means once properly dried it won't be as affected by seasonal change as air dried wood.

The solar kilns have an added benefit that because they don't run constantly, the down time between heating allows the moisture from deeper in the wood to equalize and reduces grain stress and less cracking or warping. I'd imagine the same would be true of the manually operated wood fired kilns. Depending on your goals, it might not be as desirable to have a large mass heated and keeping the temperature constant. I guess it depends on whether you want to dry wood more quickly to move it through and be able to load the kiln up again, or if you prefer the slower method which yields more consistent results. I haven't read through all of the materials available yet, but this video should help point you in the right direction:

3 weeks ago
I think the best part about a high lift jack is that it is lightweight and portable. If you have off road vehicles or farm equipment, you can keep it on hand and not have to run back and forth to find something more substantial to get unstuck. That portability also helps with fencing, pulling bushes, and other stuff you would be doing out in a field. It can also be used on buildings, but I have a preferred method I use with lumber as it can be made a bit more safe. Sadly every video I have seen on YouTube about this seems to do things in a way I would consider less safe and/or more difficult. I've been seeing it a lot lately, so I might have to make one and take pictures.

In any event, the high lift is a really useful tool, but gets more dangerous the higher you go. If you can build up from stable ground with something substantial enough to support the weight then you can minimize the height you have to lift to and increase safety. It's also nice to have large strong blocks to toss under things as you lift them, so if they do fall they don't have far to go which can help save you and whatever you are working on. I've even scraped the ground for gravel to pile up under wheels or tossed spare tires under vehicles as a way to minimize danger. I saved a bunch of LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) cut-offs from when I framed houses and they stay flat and are much stronger than a similar sized hunk of 2" x 12". I have made jack and jackstand bases with them, so you could also make one for a high lift jack if you need something to spread the load on soft ground. LVL is pound-for-pound stronger than steel and the cut-offs usually get thrown away, so you can generally get them from construction sites for free if you ask.
3 weeks ago
Back in the late 1990's to early 2000's there was an ad from Toyota, often on the back of some of the off road magazines that read, "Scars are tattoos with better stories." No tattoos, but plenty of scars. I have matching scars on the ends of my eyebrows. One from going down with heat stroke, the other from falling and breaking my face, rib, and leg. Apparently my friend found me on the ground and got me up, and I was walking around. I have no memory of anything from 5 hours before to 3 hours after hitting my head. The scars are from pushing the hinge of my glasses into my eyebrow on either side. My best stories aren't related to my scars.
3 weeks ago
It didn't do it when I purposely tried giving two apples earlier today (in the name of science!), so I was thinking maybe it had something to do with a combination of the saved login, plus the computer being up for several hours and over a dozen tabs going. I believe I can only give out one a day? I'm not completely certain. I just remember hitting it once and it not seeming to register, which had happened with the like button in the past on rare occasion, but I had never seen it jump from none to two like that before. I really don't know much of anything about the web/programming side of things. Plus I've heard of lots of YouTubers recently having login tokens hacked and people fighting against that, so I wasn't sure if recent changes under the hood in Firefox or on websites might be related to the recent slowdowns.

I use Firefox on Linux and have it set to save my tabs, so if I start to notice slowdowns I will finish what I'm doing and shut down Firefox, and if it looks like I still have high RAM usage I will reboot my computer. I've been noticing more slowdowns from the internet in general, so I've been rebooting more frequently to avoid problems.

I'm digging back through stuff and it says I gave out 2 apples on March 7th on this thread:

DIY Steel melting foundry

I have a bit of brain damage, so I was confused when it happened, more confused when I saw this thread, and infinitely confused now! If I'm only supposed to be able to give one apple a day then that thread might be something to look in to.

I managed to get the trike assembled enough to pedal down the driveway, and I forgot how outrageously unwieldy these things are. I haven't forgotten that they are dangerous, but it's been so long since I rode one that I didn't have a firm memory of precisely how much it wants to go belly up. To be fair, I did manage to stuff in a new seat post with a built in suspension which adds to the height. So it was probably set a bit on the high side for my height. Every millimeter you raise the center of gravity feels like it amplifies the danger level by an order of magnitude.

Everything else seemed pretty good. All of the bearings have been cleaned up or replaced. I didn't have the shifter installed which left it in low gear. That plus the much smaller axle gave a lot of mechanical advantage, sacrificing speed substantially. With what I am aiming for, this should work out well. I still have the old sprockets from both trikes which are different sizes and much larger. I'll probably clean the rust off and keep them with the trike in case there is any desire in the future to adjust the gearing.

Beyond lowering the rider height, there is only so much I can do to fix the unstable steering issue. The rake of the front fork is like a bike, but this really doesn't work for a trike. After you turn a certain amount, the weight of the trike and everything on it tries to turn the wheel to a full 90*. If you measure the height at the front trike with the wheel straight, it is taller and goes down as you turn the handlebar. On a bike, you lean in to a turn so you never have to turn the handlebar by a significant amount while going down the road at speed. Since you can't lean in to a turn on a trike, it forces you to turn tighter, which makes the wheel want to go to full 90* and leaves you fighting it. Even if you try to turn it more aggressively and overpower the forces against you, at a certain point the wheel stops rolling and you effectively stop turning as the wheel skids across the surface. This understeer is very much dependent on the speed you are going, and why I chose to lower the gearing of both the pedals and the motor by such a significant amount compared to my bikes.

At least I knew in advance that I was going to have to deal with this, but that test ride has kind of thrown a small wrench in the works. I originally wanted to swap out the front fork for one that is 20" instead of the oddball 24" it came with. This would have lowered the front end slightly, and mitigated part of the steering issue by reducing the angle of the front fork. I could have also gone with a suspension fork and disc brake up front which would have both been huge improvements. Unfortunately I couldn't find any front wheels to fit my needs that were affordable. Most 20" stuff is either for kids bikes, or BMX where they often don't use front brakes. Buying all of the parts to assemble my own wheel with a heavy duty rim and disc brakes plus a fork with a caliper mount was a bridge too far for the budget of this build.

Thankfully I came up with the plan to use the rear coaster brake plus the disc brake on the hub motor, and can still use the original style brake up front. The lower speed may help with the high speed steering issue, but that still leaves the center of gravity issue. I had planned on putting the battery directly on the mounts for the rear basket right above the rear axle. I could have even tried to slide the battery as close to the seat as possible, but that still puts the battery a few inches above the axle center line, and I feel that simply isn't low enough. At best it won't make the handling much worse than it is, but that isn't good enough for me.

That means I will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with something better. A front battery box is way too high, so that's not an option. If the battery were smaller like a typical 10AH - 15AH frame mount battery then it could be mounted to the step-through frame as low as possible. I'm making a larger battery for a number of reasons, including range, voltage drop, and the fact I am using used cells. Doubling the capacity ends up more than doubling the range because of a number of factors like heat and voltage drop. Or maybe I should say after using the larger battery, that trying a battery half the size cut down my range by more than half. So I'm sticking with my 10S8P battery pack size that has worked exceptionally well for me in the past.

That leaves only one option left for placement - below the axle and under the frame of the bike. Given that I can only go so far forward before getting to close to the pedals, and the seat is so far back as to be close to the rear tires, it shouldn't have any issues with bottoming out. The pedals and rear tire will hit most things before hitting the battery box. I'm still going to make it robust enough to protect the battery, and might come up with some sort of suspension. This will both protect the battery from jolts while riding, and also allow the battery a bit of room to move upward if someone were to try the implausible and ram it in to something while risking their legs and the rear tires in the process.

I wish there were easier ways to quantify how unstable 'delta' style trikes are and how various changes affect the stability. I'm always coming across people saying they wish they had one because they think they are more stable. If a kid can ride a trike then it 'should' be easier for an adult, right? If only it were that simple. I've seen a number of other ways to mitigate steering and stability issues, and I hope to explore them further even if I can't justify it for this build. Hopefully some of this information can help others looking at this style of trike. If someone is looking to buy one I recommend finding one you can sit on and ride, even if only for a short distance so you have an idea of what you are getting in to.
1 month ago
I think this might have happened to me the other day. I assumed that I had been on the page long enough that it was just behind and lagged when I first clicked it, and then updated afterwards. The first click did nothing. I waited at least several seconds, clicked again, waited a few more seconds, and then two popped up. Since I had the page open for a bit I wasn't really certain what had happened. I just tried again and didn't see any issue, but I just rebooted my computer and don't have many tabs open at the moment.

I've have also had a lag issue a number of times where the thumbs up wouldn't appear to go through, but I don't recall ever seeing it go up by more than one once it went through. Again, I merely thought it was something on my end not updating quickly.