Monday, January 25, 2016

Clumsiness Redeemed

I have sung the praises of Brion Toss' splicing wand before, so I won't repeat that here.  Of course I have one.  But sadly, I am a clumsy oaf.

Sheath, inner brass rod, and snare at the tip of the rod.
For those of you that don't have one of these (why not?), the tool is comprised of a plastic handle, a brass inner rod embedded firmly in the handle, a "snare" made of very thin line that is inserted into the tip of the rod, and a stainless sheath that fits over the rod and snare.  To use, you would slide the sheath out far enough to hide the snare and then you'd tighten the thumbscrew.  Then you'd thread the needle part into the rope and back out at the designated spot.  Loosen the thumbscrew and retract the sheath, exposing the snare.  Trap the end of the portion that needs to be pulled back thru the rope in the snare, extend the sheath far enough so that the rope end is held tightly in the snare, and then withdraw the needle from the rope.  If you've spliced double braid, you can visualize what I am saying.

Now here's my mistake: I picked the tool up by the "needle" part instead of the handle.  This would have been OK except that I hadn't tightened the thumbscrew.  As a consequence, the stainless sheath - the part I was holding - slid right off of the brass rod, leaving me holding just the sheath.  The rest of the tool fell to the cabin sole, hard.  When I picked it up, I found that the tip of the brass rod had broken off, ruining the tool.

I was dismayed.  Splicing wands are not cheap, and no replacement parts are available.

But then I realized that this was an opportunity for another zero-cost experiment!  Attempting to repair the tool would cost nothing.  Ah, but if it succeeded!

Now having a good workshop is a critical part of this - I don't think you could do this with hand tools, at least the third step anyway.  Here's what I did:
  • I ground off the ruined end of the brass rod, back to straight unbent metal.  With the broken off end, this meant that I had lost about 1/2" of length of the rod.  This is not critical - if necessary, I could just make a longer snare.
  • Center punched the end of the rod.  I really wanted to get this in the very center of the rod - it's only 1/8" in diameter and I could tolerate only a little eccentricity.
  • Mounted the rod in my drill press vice vertically, extending it from beneath the table up into the vice.
  • Drill a 1/16" pilot hole 1/2" deep in the end of the rod.  Pause and withdraw the bit frequently to clear chips.
  • Over drill with a 5/64" bit.
  • Now using a Dremmel tool with a small grinding bit, cut away enough of the sidewall to expose the drilled channel and to make a relief cavity for the knot at the end of the snare.  Of course I didn't get the hole exactly in the center (tho it was awfully close...), so I chose the thinner side to cut away,  leaving more meat on the other side.  In fact, I had a lot more meat than the original tip had. 

Sorry it's blurry - my phone camera won't focus this close

Finished, snare installed
The experiment succeeded! For the cost of about 20 minutes delicate work (I'm not counting the cost of the shop or the tools, because: He who dies with the most tools wins...), I got a new splicing wand, saving myself $65 plus tax and shipping.  And because I've got more meat up there in the tip, the tool is sturdier than a factory one.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Jane's Crab Chowder

So it's January and you still have some crabs in the freezer. They're too old to enjoy steamed...  what do you do?  You could make crab cakes... again.  Or...

You could make Jane's Crab Chowder!

Jane's Crab Chowder

  • Two slightly freezer burned Dungeness crabs, still frozen.
  • Two cups water
  • Three tbsp olive oil
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • One cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red Bell pepper
  • One cup dry white cooking wine
  • Two tbsp tomato paste
  • Two cups whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Put the frozen crabs (cooked before freezing, or not) in a large pan and add the water.   Bring to a boil covered and then simmer 15-20 minutes.  Cool the crab.  Pour the stock thru a sieve and save.  Crack the crab and pick the meat.  If you would like a stronger crab flavor in the stock, you can put the shells back in the stock and simmer for another 15 minutes before straining.

In another medium pot, heat the oil over low heat.  Add the onion, celery and Bell pepper and cook, covered, stirring often until very soft and translucent - but not browned; maybe 15 minutes.  Really, you're steaming these veggies.

Add the wine and tomato paste to the vegetables and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the wine has been reduced by half, about 10 minutes.  Add the whipping cream, the crab meat, and the retained crab boil stock and simmer uncovered over low heat 15 minutes or so to smooth out the flavors and thicken it up a bit.

If you like, the chowder can be served with a dollop of sour cream in the middle of each bowl.


Monday, January 11, 2016

Stopping The Decay From Within - 5 Years In

Five years ago more or less, I wrote a post about installing an anode in our water heater.  In that post I talked about why our aluminum water heater tank would need an anode, and why the anode was magnesium instead of zinc.

Well, I recently began to get a nagging feeling, more subconscious than anything, that maybe, maybe I should take a look at that anode.  After all, as expensive as these specialty water heaters are and with an aluminum tank, I really did not want it to go without protection.

December, 2010

Above is the anode as it looked just before it was installed.  And below is its current state...  pretty good in fact.

January, 2016
It is only about half consumed, which means that the tank probably could have gone longer on that anode.  But I am a little concerned about the way the anode was consumed.   I would have expected it to have been eaten away pretty much uniformly along its length.  Instead, the outboard half was nearly gone and the inboard half was only lightly touched.  Strange.  Perhaps it has to do with the water flow paths inside the heater.

But in any case, the water heater should now be good for another five years at least.  I'll pull this anode in 2021.

Do you change the zinc in your household water heater?  You should...

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