Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Great Woodstove Adventure of Aught Eight

As many of you know we supplement our traditional gas furnace heating by burning wood in a woodstove. Our woodstove happens to be a Dutch West Catalytic Woodstove from Lehmans. The thing to notice here is that it is a catalytic stove. What this means is that is has a platinum (or palladium) coated ceramic honeycombed combustor that reduces emissions, much like the catalytic converter in a car.

Dutch West Woodstove

After splitting some wood of our own and getting a load from someone else, we used the stove for about a week. It didn't seem to be working as advertised in its manual, that the considerate previous residents left for us. There is a thermometer on the combustor and the manual says that it is supposed to operate in the 800-1200°F range and in our week of stoking the fire up I only saw it over 500°F a couple three times. That made me suspect that the combustor had worn out or was damaged. So, naturally, being the capable country boy I am, I thought I would take the top of the stove off and check it out.

Here is where our story becomes an adventure. According to the manual, loosening four simple bolts on the top should get the lid off and grant access to the combustor and other internal bits. Wielding my trusty socket wrench I proceed to easily remove three of the bolts and find it almost EASIER to break the fourth off halfway extracted. DRAT! Despite this, the bolt is far enough out to allow me to remove the lid.

Now, I wish I had taken a picture of the old combustor inside the stove because it was pretty much completely destroyed and crumbled down into the vent between the firebox and stove. This was clearly bad, it was crumbled to the extent that airflow was seriously restricted and probably caused my fires to go out any time I closed the damper, which was about what I was experiencing. After picking the bits of combustor out and tossing it into a bag it looked like this:

Old Crubmling Catalytic Combustor

You can see the metal ring that went around the combustor, a few largish (about 2") bits and a bunch of tiny shards of combustor and ash.

So, we have two problems at this point, the anticipated bad combustor and a bolt stuck in the lid. Thats not too bad. After a bit of searching around, we found a dealer for our stove type that had the right replacement combustor in stock. Cara took a nice drive down to Granville to pick it up.

View Larger Map

It was about a forty minute drive, and she reports that they have delicious frozen custard in town so we will definitely return. She returned full of frozen custard with combustor in hand. Installing the combustor was painless, though next time I get in there I will have to replace some of the ropelike gaskets I think. You can see the combustor set in place, with the clothlike gasket around where it is seated in the following picture:

Catalytic Combustor 1

And a larger view of the top of the stove to get a sense of how it fits in:

Woodstove Top Open

Now to simply put some effort into removing that broken bolt and we will toasty warm. Of course, those of you who have had the pleasure of removing a broken bolt or screw know, accomplishing this task tends not to be simple. I worked on it for an hour or so with penetrating oil, blow torch and vise grips and managed to break every last piece of exposed bolt.

The absence of anything left to yank on left me only the option drilling it out. Now, I had just acquired a fine 7amp corded drill and extractor bits using this task as an excuse, so it was time to put them to work. Remarkably, the extractor bit managed to bore a fairly centered hole in the bolt, so I proceeded to drill until I think I actually made it through the entire bolt. Then I stepped up to a larger bit size and widened the hole. Feeling fairly accomplished, I though to myself, let me try the extractor side of the bit and see if I can pull this out as advertised. Starting slowly I felt the bit actually starting to grab. I got a bit excited, as if I thought I were on the home stretch of this adventure, so I gave the drill a bit more gas and SNAP!, proceeded to thoroughly embed about a quarter inch worth of the hardened extractor into the center of the bolt. Clearly, I am doomed. There is no way to drill through this hardened steel, at least not with my tools. So here is a picture of the bolt, plus extractor bit stuck in the lid:
Bolt stuck

This problem has clearly just escalated itself to the level where professional attention is needed. Though that will have to wait until the next morning.

I begin the next day with several calls around to local machine shops where I tell my story to amused machinists who all conclude that they can't drill it out due to the extractor bit. My options seem to be buying a new lid, having it cut out from the side and rebuild that drill hole, or find someone with an EDM machine. The new lid would take 12 weeks to deliver, so that is clearly no good. I was uncertain about rebuilding part of the lid and the person I talked to didn't seem eager to do the task. So I decided to follow up a reference to someone who had an EDM machine.

Cara sets off once again to another nearby town, where sadly no frozen custard is to be had, to bring the lid to the gentleman with the EDM machine. And EDM machine is an Electrical Discharge Machining Machine. This tool melts and vaporizes the metal using electricity and can cut through hardened metal, like that of the extractor I had so expertly lodged into the bolt. An hour of effort on his part and for a fraction of the cost of a new lid he was able to remove the bolt. So Cara came home victorious with the following, fully functional empty bolt hole.

Bolt removed

Look by golly, you can see threads! Putting a little graphite powder in the bolt holes I bolt it down tight and fire it up. The lid smokes to high hell, of course, due to the liberal application of oil during various steps of the extraction process, but it works! And the stove works wonders, the catalytic combustor gets up to temperature and all is well.

This little stove will help us fend off what the locals call "snow" and "winter". Things which, being a desert rat, I am not accustomed to. I caught this "snow" with my camera here:
Begining to Snow

I remember that day fondly, thinking to myself all day, staring out that window, that someone ought to rescue that poor helpless trashcan that is filling with snow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


In contrast to the tranquility of rural Ohio, I bring you this amusing SNL short documentary on Giraffes:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Video of the Kokosing River

Sometimes I go down to the river for a break during the day. Or if I am lucky, I go down to the river to read or think. Most of the time I am too busy, but when I can, I visit once a day. This video gives you an idea of how peaceful it is.

Kokosing River Video from Austin Godber on Vimeo.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Riding to work

I have decided that I am going to start riding my bike to work. I know, now is a great time to start cycling, with gas prices so high. I have a distinct advantage over most people as I need not ride anywhere specific to get to work. Rather, I just have to ride to wherever I want and turn around and come back. Thats one of the benefits of working at home.

I think I will allocate 30 minutes. So I will ride the following route 15 minutes and come back:

View Larger Map

This is 3.7 miles. 3 of it on the old converted railroad. No traffic to worry about at all. Well, no car traffic, deer might be an issue.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Embedded Map of Photos

Lets see if this turns out. Ok, I mapped my photos on Flickr, but Flickr doesn't provide an embeddable map as far as I can tell. They will, however, provide a geoRSS feed, along with a KML file. This KML file can be imported into Google Maps and saved, then that map exported into a blog post. There may be a few problems here. The feed may be a fixed length and there doesn't appear to be feeds associated with individual sets or tags. Oh, there are feeds for specific tags, thats good. So we could constrain a map to a specified set of photos by using tags. That just leaves the possibility of a fixed feed length, which I can live with.

Here's an example embedded map:

View Larger Map

UPDATE After you import the feed into google maps, you can edit the text associated with each image. The default is full of junk.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Amish Furniture and more Pics

Cara and I stopped and picked up a small table that we are going to use as her desk, as well as ordered one to be made slightly longer to use as my desk. They came straight from the Amish guy who manufactured them. He was quite nice and we chatted about Arizona as we took the legs of for transportation in our Civic. Of course, the one funny thing about browsing his storage area is that there were no electric lights. It was well lit by the numerous windows though.

Also I have posted more pictures on Flickr, so go ahead and check them out:

Austin's Flickr Photos

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Quick Hello from Ohio

Well, we have made it to our new home and finally settled a little bit. We are sleeping on a new bed, resting on a new couch and eagerly awaiting the delivery of our shipping container.

While on the subject of shipping containers, it is probably worth mentioning that it is DEFINITELY possible to fill it too heavy. The day we got into town we got an excited call from the UPS Freight forklift driver who tried to pickup our container which was still in Tempe. It seems that he had nearly flipped over going down the curb with it. So he declared it too heavy. We ordered an additional container and some of our wonderful friends evened out the load for us.

The container is allegedly going to arrive on the 21st, so we still have some time left of living in limbo. For instance, have you ever tried to cook a grilled cheese sandwich, tossed the buttered bread into the pan only to discover two crucial facts too late? The first being that you haven't used the stove before so the frying pan is about 400 degrees warmer than you expected .... and the second fact being that despite having bought a frying pan you failed to buy a spatula!! (the rest are in the shipping container of course).


Needless to say, our drive here was fairly painless. The cats in the back merely slept all day which should be no surprise since that is what they do every day anyway. I think people probably worry too much and try to do too much when moving cats. Trying to take them out at a rest stop to use the bathroom is crazy. I think it simply terrifies them more. Our did fine with no mess and very little whining and are now just getting used to their surroundings. In fact, they are comfortable enough to hate each other again.

We drove along the 40 through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, then up through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Then along the last leg from Indianapolis to Gambier in a quick morning drive. We didn't stop to take pictures along the way but I will post a few, including the full shipping container I was so proud of.

Knox County Ohio

Knox County is truly beautiful. I expected it to be nice based on our February visit but I hadn't realized quite how green it was going to be. The woods around our house are absolutely crawling with life. We have chest high growth along the forest floor between our trees, countless birds, several squirrels and chipmunks, and a whole mountain of bugs and spiders. I think there may be more life on this 3/4 acre than there was in our Tempe zip code. In fact, as I write this, I can see two squirrels playing on a tree just by glancing out my office window.

The river is wonderful and we took a dip in it the second or third day we were here.
I bought a fly rod then remembered how "skill heavy" fly fishing is. I think my last fly rod came with a VHS tape explaining the knots, gear and casting technique ... I think You Tube and vendor websites will save me there. But I have along way before I land a fish I think. In fact, I can't recall how much fly line to put on but have found good descriptions of how much leader to use on some website. I am sure I will get it worked out though.

I have uploaded a few pictures we took over the last few days. Mainly of the walk from our home to Cara's office and some things around the house. The one notable addition is the picture of what we got at Saturday's Farmers Market. It has been novel to meet the people who grow my food. That is pretty great. In fact I bought a home made glazed doughnut from an Amish girl and some homemade mustard as well.

These will have to do for now. I have taken some more pictures specifically of our "front yard" and will post those soon. Oh, click on the above photos to see the full sized albums and make sure to look at the map of my photos. I have gone to the effort of placing them on the map so others can see where things are in relation to our home.

Click this link for Austin's Flickr Map. This has some older Ohio pictures on it as well as my Okinawa pictures. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Brilliant Plan, or How to chase off unwanted Tom Cats.

As many of you probably know, we are fond of cats and have, over the last few years, done Trap Neuter and Release on colony of feral cats. Great options for affordable Spay and Neuter of strays are available in the Phoenix Area thanks to the efforts of groups like AZCats, local clinics, and vets. As humane as the TNR option is a given area can only support so many cats.

This spring we have had the misfortune of experiencing a considerable influx of unfixed stray tom cats. This has caused a tremendous disruption with our sterilized colony as well as our indoor cats. The new strays have passed colds onto our indoor/outdoor cat Tess and enraged our indoor male Lex to the point where he has ruined 2/3rds of our furniture by marking his indoor territory.

I have gotten to the point where I realize that there is a limit to how many cats my 7600 sq ft lot can handle. Trapping is too much effort and I don't want to expand my colony any more or kill cats anyway. A pellet gun is too inhumane though the thought of shooting the strays that have been ringing my house with urine for the past 4 months is somehow morbidly satisfying. Therefore, I have devised the following cunning plan.

First, I shall obtain an assortment of long range water guns. Second, recalling something about cats disliking citrus, I shall also obtain one gallon of some sort of citrus oil. A mixture of water and citrus oil, water guns, and some amateur marksmanship should, a the the very least satisfy my desire to shoot the cats while amusing me. At best, associate my home with the unpleasant memory of hours of licking orange off of fur, something I consider on par with the evening urine spray on my front screen door.


PS - The Orange Oil I link to above claims that there are new uses being discovered every day, I hope to report back some success so they can lengthen their list of applications. It does seem that their orange oil is even an approved Flea and Tick Pet Shampoo. I guess I just hope I don't have tom's that have an orange craving.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Knox County Poorhouse

It is funny how you can live in one place for 30 odd years and only be moderately interested in whats going on. I had to take Arizona history in High School so I know a bit about the state's history, and honestly at this point I know very little more than a few vagues snippets.

This whole "moving to Ohio" thing is interesting twist on local awareness. I have researched Ohio, Mount Vernon, Gambier, and Knox County quite a bit. The web provides so much information that moving provides a person with a convenient hobby of researching the destination to death. I read daily but haven't looked at the East Valley Tribune or AZ Central more than half a dozen times since the new year.

Anyway, on to the point of this particular post. I was flying around the globe with the new Google Earth 4.3 today and came across an interesting historical fact about Knox County. There is an old Poorhouse just west of town. In the late 19th century, 1877, the Knox County Infirmary or Poorhouse was constructed. It served this purpose until 1953 when structural problems forced it to close due to structural problems.

View Larger Map

The building was soon pruchased and repaired by the Mount Vernon Bible College, and operated until 1987. There has been talk of it being HAUNTED!!!!! In fact there was a tragic event involving an elevator while it served as the Bible College. There are several website that have photos and some history, most of which I have reviewed here.
The photo I came across was on Panoramio by user TheBobBlog. I think it originally came from the Rejected Memories website above.
PoorhouseOnce I have relocated to Knox County I may try and get some photos of my own.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Moving to Ohio

Everyone probably knows already that Cara and I will be moving to Ohio this July. We have found a house and purchased it. It is close to Kenyon College [wikipedia] where Cara will be teaching. Most exciting of all, the house is right on the river! So I will be able to fish and canoe right off my front lawn.

I have uploaded some photos to my flickr account.

I also added some pictures from our trip to Knox County in February ...

The county we will live in is Knox County . The school is in the Village of Gambier [wikipedia]. Really, the village and school are the same thing. The nearest larger town is Mount Vernon, Ohio [wikipedia]. We have been keeping informed about the area with the local newspaper's great website, the Mount Vernon News.