Since my wife and I are getting ready to move, we are renting some storage units to store out household stuff. One of the problems is that storage units are expensive; US$125 per month for a 10 foot by 10 foot area that happens to be 10 feet tall. So, I’d like to fit as much stuff into each unit as possible.

I am able to stack boxes about 4 feet high before the stack becomes unstable, which means shelves are needed in order to stack boxes to the ceiling…but heavy duty shelves are *EXPENSIVE*.

I looked into building shelves and found that lumber and plywood are far more expensive than I expected. To keep the costs down, I needed to minimize the amount of “waste” (pieces too short to be useful) lumber.

For awhile, it seemed “everything was against me”. It looked like I would have to choose between having a lot of left over pieces of expensive lumber that were too short to be useful or using the lumber most efficiently but having a lot of space in the storage unit that would not be usable.

One of the things engineers do is to figure out how to make things “the best with the least”. Best and least are defined by the project’s requirements and in this case, best meant very strong and least meant least expensive. Since I considered my labor, within reason, “free”, labor costs were not an issue.

…time to ‘play’ engineer and figure out how to keep he expenses low.

So, the driveway looks like a construction site, but I’ve managed to build 6 sets of shelves for about $100 in materials and about 5 hours time. I tested the shelves by putting almost 550 pounds (250kg) of bags of dirt left over from my gravel sifting project (An Odd Kind of Excitement) and there was no indication of the shelves being overloaded.

Pressure Canner Gauge Check. Part 2. More Ideas.

This is an idea for checking pressure canner gauges at home. It seems to work for me and I give it the “if it breaks into pieces, you get to keep all of the pieces” guarantee. In other words, use this for ideas, use your best judgement and don’t blame me if it doesn’t work for you.

Normally I’d just take the canner to the local USDA Extension Service office to get the gauge checked, but the office is closed because of Covid…so no gauge checks.

The last time I did have the gauge officially checked, checks were done at 5, 10 and 15 psi and if those readings were correct, the intermediate values were presumed to be correct. The person doing the tests also told me that the gauge should be replaced if the readings were incorrect by by more than 1/2 psi.

If you can get the gauge checked officially do that. Or, better yet, convert the canner to a “jiggle weight” pressure regulating system The jiggle weight replaces the gauge and needs no yearly check.

Yet another advantage of the jiggle weight is that the temperature control is much less critical and instead of having to continually watch the gauge, you can listen to the hissing of the weight while doing other things nearby.

Anyway, in a prior post, Pressure Canner Gauge Check. Part 1. I talked about making a manometer and about different methods of reducing the height of the manometer so I wouldn’t need such a tall structure to make the 15psi measurement.

Well, a friend loaned me a 40 foot tall “push up mast” that (before satellite television) was used to hold up the large television antennas and this gave me an idea to just make a “well manometer”. This is one that just uses one piece tubing going straight up, instead of a U shape. This saves a lot of tubing as I only need 35 feet, instead of three times the 35 feet amount–35 foot on each side of the U, plus another 35 feet to get the top of the U back to the bottom.

If you have a tall enough tree, you could use the tree instead of a pole, but you will need to ensure the tube goes “straight up”. In any event, it’s the height that’s important, not how things are supported.

I dug around in my bucket of brass plumbing fittings and came up with enough stuff to “give it a try”. Basically it’s a T-fitting with one end connected to the water supply, another end connected to the vent pipe on the canner and the third side connected to the tubing that extends up the pole.

In the picture, the water hose is obvious. the tube going up the pole is on the right hand side of the T and the hose going to the canner vent pipe goes from the left side of the T. I used that small valve on the water hose side of the T to control the water flow from the water hose and it made things a lot easier for me.

I have a Presto canner and a 1/4 inch ID tube fits perfectly over the vent pipe, so I matched the tube fitting on the T to that size.

I currently didn’t have any way to secure a 40 foot pole so I tried this as a proof of concept by using a 15 foot tree trimming pole. I used electrical tape to secure the top of the tubing and the tape measure near at the top of the pole and also at intermediate points on the pole. It doesn’t look it in the picture, but the pole is vertical…I used a level to check. Later I’ll mention why it’s “moderately important” to have the pole (and tube and measuring tape) as close as possible to vertical.

So, once everything was hooked up, what I did was to start the water flow, very slowly, so that the pressure in the canner began to slowly rise. At the same time, water also was flowing into the elevated tube. When the pressure gauge began to register and water began to flow out of the top of the elevated tube, I slowed the flow of the water so only a slight trickle was flowing out of the top of the tube. The slower the water flow, the better and just a few drips per minute from the top of the tube is great. If you can turn off the water flow and the pressure settles to a constant value, that’s even better as the water flow won’t cause an error…and it is a good test of the canner gasket.

When the water was merely a trickle from the top of the tube, I measured the distance between the top of the canner and the top of the water tube…13 feet.

Note that this is a surveyor’s tape and instead of the feet being divided into inches, the divisions are tenths and hundredths of a foot.

Note how I said “top of the canner”. This is important.

It turns out that 1psi will push water up 2.31 feet. More formally this 2.31 figure is for distilled water at 39F degrees, but tap water at temperatures comfortable to humans wearing light clothes is so close to 2.31 feet per psi that it doesn’t change anything enough to matter.

So, to get the pressure. In this case, a 13 foot tall column of water, at 2.31 psi per foot, I divide 13 by 2.31, which is 5.6psi. It’s hard to tell because of the the camera was not directly in front of the gauge, but the gauge needle was slightly closer to the 6 mark than the 5 mark on the outer scale, which is right where it should be. So, the gauge is accurate at 5psi.

When I figure out how to get a taller system, I can check the gauge at 10 and 15 psi.

Now, I need to figure out how to get the tube 35 feet in the air. What I plan on doing is calculating the heights i need for 5, 10 and 15 psi and using a string and pulley to raise the tape measure and tube to the correct heights and then letting the water trickle out the top of the tube. I thought about putting the tube at full height and measuring how high the water is pushed up the tube, but it is hard to see clear water in a clear tube from that far away. So, instead I plan on the “trickle out the top” method. As long as I keep the water flow to the absolute bare minimum, it will be fine.

The heights are 11.55 feet (11 feet, 6 5/8 inches) for 5psi, 23.1 feet (23 feet, 1 1/4 inches) for 10 psi and 34.65 feet (34 feet, 7 3/4 inches) for 15 psi.

The amount of tubing on the ground doesn’t matter as the manometer only “cares” about water above the height of the canner. So, it’s OK to have a lot of tubing laying on the ground.

The diameter of the tubing doesn’t matter. A larger diameter tube has more water, which weighs more, but the water is spread out over more square inches. The math works out that no matter how large the tube diameter is, it is always the case where each psi of pressure will push the water up 2.31 feet. It also works out that the tube varying in size along it’s length will have no effect…the 2.31 foot value is the same. This 2.31 value for water is for earth, but I doubt that will be a limitation. 🙂

Since errors in pressure for a canner can have dire consequences, some thought as to the various errors is worth while. Also, keep in mind the gauge is considered “OK” if the gauge error is less than 0.5psi.

The 2.31 foot per psi value is for distilled water at 39F degrees. Changing temperature from just above freezing to around 100F degrees would cause a 0.1 psi error. In this case, the error at 100F would be “gauge reads lower than the calculated manometer pressure”, so if the manometer calculation says 15psi, a perfect gauge would show 14.9 psi.

Tap water is not distilled water and and this can mess with the accuracy of the measurements, but it turns out that if the water tastes OK, the worst the error would be is a few thousandths of a psi (0.001 psi), so tap versus distilled water errors are not worth worrying about.

Another potential error is gravity being different from “standard”, but you don’t have any control over that. On Earth, the lowest value for gravity is atop a mountain in Peru and the highest value for gravity is on the oceans around Antarctica. But even at those extremes the error for a 15psi reading is around 0.06psi, so again, this isn’t an issue..

Another source of error is if the “uphill” tube is not vertical, so use a level to ensure the support pole is vertical. You can see what happens if you were tip the pole sideways…you can see that the pole length not the same as the height of the tip of the pole. At it’s most extreme, the pole laying on the ground, the pole tip height is zero, but the pole is still its full length. If the tip of the pole is “off of straight up” by a few inches, the pressure error will be less than 0.1psi, so pretty close to straight up and down is OK.

Yet another error is making a mistake in the height measurement. Even a foot error will only cause a 0.5 psi error and I’m quite certain the measurement can be made within an inch or so with no issue. A one foot error is “worth” about 1/2 psi error and a inch is 1/12 of that, so one inch works out to be about 0.04psi of error. This error can creep in if the tape measure and tube are not kept together, but again, even a slight imperfection does not cause a huge error.

The final source of error is letting the water flow too quickly. This is the biggest source of error and is the one that is most easily controlled, so go slow and if possible, stop the flow of water and let things “settle” before deciding if the gauge is correct at the desired pressure. I had a tiny bit of leakage around the safety plug on the caner, so I could not completely stop the flow of water, but I was able to slow the water flow to where only a drop or two of water per minute was coming down the pole.

If you’re careful, you should be able to check a canner gauge to ensure safe canning. But again, I’m not “there”, so I can’t tell if you’re making mistakes…so be careful.

The Day Went Sideways

Today I found a small puddle of water on the floor by the toilet. Sigh.

After investigating, I discovered the toilet bowl had cracked where the bolts attach the tank and the bowl together. More sighs, especially since I wasn’t feeling all that well today due to allergies.

Fortunately replacing a toilet isn’t that big of a project, but it *is* a plumbing project and plumbing projects seem to grow in scope…requiring multiple trips to the hardware store to get everything needed to finish the project.

This time, it was only mildly annoying. I bought the toilet and after looking on the shipping box, I found it contained just about all the needed parts for the project. The only thing I had to buy was the water supply line and I was smart enough to figure out what I needed before I left home to buy the toilet.

I left the store thinking I wouldn’t have to make any extra trips to pick up more stuff.


I installed the toilet bowl and then I installed the tank onto the bowl. No problems so far.

Things went wrong when I went to connect the water supply hose and discovered the threaded fitting on the bottom of the toilet water tank…….was not threaded. It was smooth. Hmm.

Back to the hardware store for trip 2. I showed the employee the smooth fitting and he was also mystified. He gave me a new part and a $5 (it’s only a mile to the store) refund for my trouble.

Back home, I got everything together and there were no leaks inside. I was amazed.

Outside was another matter. When I do plumbing work where I might “spring a leak”, I shut off the water supply to the house….just in case. Shutting the water valve to the entire house probably isn’t needed, but then again, this is a plumbing project and stuff happens. 🙂

When I opened the main water valve, I saw it was dripping. Fortunately this was a high quality valve that had replaceable internal parts (valve stem packing) and I just happened to have some packing material that I kept when I cleaned out my mom’s house.

Turn off the water supply at the city water meter, take apart the water valve at the house, replace the packing, secure the packing nut and open the water valves.

No drips. I was even more amazed….a plumbing project that only required two trips to the hardware store.

I have most likely used up all my good luck for quite a long time.

Cement Running Shoes

About three weeks ago I was carrying an 80 pound (35kg) bag of cement and did not notice the curb when I took a step.

My severely jolted ankle and knee immediately started throbbing and I had to stand still for awhile before I could continue my limp to the car. I waited a few days for the pain to subside and tried to run, but I only made it to the end of the street before my knee “told me” it was a bad idea.

I tried a couple more times spaced a week apart and each time my knee “complained”.

Yesterday I tried it and at the end of the street, my knee was feeling just fine, so I continued on for another 3 miles (5k) before turning around to return home.

It felt SO GOOD to run.

I’m now 60 years old and I know that at some point the years will ‘steal’ running from me. I will be sad when this happens and I will do everything I can to put it off for as many decades as possible. If I’m lucky, and careful, maybe I can be like Fauja Singh…completing marathons at age 100.

Growing Up

Our 23 year old daughter called today and told us that she is almost certain that she will soon be moving to a small town in northern Michigan. I checked and it’s about 2,000 miles/3,200km distant.

As I posted in Today is the Day. we are no longer “center stage”. Now we are more in the audience than before and, again, this is how it should be.

Having our daughter take her place in the world is what we’ve been working toward for her entire life. I’m excited, hopeful and even a bit nervous. I’m sure every parent can relate to these feelings.

Slip Coupling

Here is the PVC slip coupling fully collapsed and fully extended.

I cut about 7-1/2 inches out of the pipe and glued the two ends onto the pipe. Once the glue “dried”, I pushed the two ends are together and tightened the threaded part on the left side to make a leakproof connection. Had this not existed, I would have had to dig out about 10 feet/3 meters of pipe in order to bend the pipe enough to get the regular fittings in place. With this, the hole was only about 3 feet/1meter wide and that was mostly because I needed additional room to dig under the driveway.

Right now I’m just waiting for the glue joint to fully cure before I turn on the water valve and check for leaks.


There are no leaks, and the holes are all filled in. Now I just need to wait for the grass to grow back into the disturbed soil.

I grew up in the desert and never had a lawn because water was so expensive. My wife is from “back east” and there was always a grass lawn in her yard. I got the last word regarding xeriscape (low water use desert plants) versus a lawn…..”Yes, dear”. 🙂

Lawn Sprinklers and Canning

Today was one of those days that I couldn’t decide if it was good or annoying.

I noticed a leak in the piping for the lawn sprinkler system. Today’s leak was at the sprinkler head at the edge of the driveway. This spot is very vulnerable to being run over by car tires, and I think that is what caused this leak.

I dug down and found the sprinkler pipes *UNDER* the cement driveway. It looks like the lawn sprinkler installers placed the water pipes, realized that the cement driveway was going to cover the sprinkler piping and instead of moving the pipes, they just installed extensions to reach the sprinkler heads.

So, I had to dig a large hole in the lawn so I could dig a foot (30cm) under the cement to fix the break in the pipe.

It took me about 2 hours to fix this leak, including going to the hardware store to get the needed PVC pipe fittings.

While testing the repair, I noticed another leak at the other end of the driveway.

After digging another big hole in the lawn so I could (again) dig under the driveway, I found the leak. A pipe joint had not been glued and after 20 years, the joint separated enough to leak. Since the pipe is buried, I can’t move the pipe around to pull the joint apart to properly glue it.

Fortunately there is a part called a PVC slip coupling. It is two sections of PVC pipe that slide in and out of each other, and uses O-ring seals make the sliding section watertight. To use this, one pushes the coupling to its minimum length and cuts out a section of the pipe to be repaired that is slightly longer than the pushed together coupling. The coupling is then glued onto the ends of the pipe and since the coupling can “grow” as well as twist, the repair is easy to make. I hope whoever invented it made a lot of money on the invention!

Tomorrow I’ll go to get the slip coupling.

That was the annoying stuff today.

Now for the good stuff.

While I was getting the PVC pipe parts at the local hardware store, I noticed canning jars, snap lids and pressure canners sitting on the shelves. I did not need another pressure canner (I have two of them), but I did get a dozen regular mouth quart canning jars with the lids and two dozen wide mouth lids.

After personally seeing the lack of canning supplies here in the USA desert southwest, and reading about similar issues in northern Idaho and central Canada, I smiled. Maybe, just maybe, the canning supply shortages are starting to ease. In case anyone is wondering, I was in an Ace Hardware store.

When I stopped by the post office today, I had two packages waiting for me. One was the box of Tattler brand reusable canning lids and sealing rings I had ordered last week and the other package contained the parts needed to add a “jiggler weight” pressure regulator to my Presto canner.

The “jiggler weight” does not need to be checked each year, so it’s a welcome addition to the canner. Normally this canner has only the gauge that, each year, should be checked for accuracy. This gauge check is normally an easy process–take it to the local USDA (US Department of Agriculture) Extension Service office and have it done while I waited. This year their offices are closed and no gauge checks are being performed.

Tomorrow, when the lawn stuff is finished, I will can some water so I can try the Tattler lids/rings.

I’m Wondering. Or, a weak attempt at humor.

While we were walking with our dogs, the yellow lab dog found an empty beer bottle and carried it home.

I do know that dogs like the taste of beer and that set me to wondering about dogs and beer.

If dogs were to name a beer, would they name it Pissness Stout?

If her tail wags enough about a beer, would that make it a draught beer?

Would it be sold only in growlers?

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

Just in Case

Just in case the previous post was a bit “beyond”, it’s about Pi day.

\sqrt{-1}\quad is i. If you’re an engineer, it would be j to avoid confusing electrical engineers with imaginary numbers and current.

2^3\quad is 8.

The next thing, \sum, is the summation symbol.

and finally \pi is the number called “pi”.

So, i eight sum pi…or I ate some pie… 🙂

The Apple pie was pretty good.