Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dual Manifolds

No, Grant, this isn't about the Ford I saw Tuesday.  Today, after doing the caulk-ups for the last of the 11 collector tubes, I started the frame-building process. 

In order to be able to measure the total end-to-end dimension of the assembled collector tubes, including the manifolds on either end, I began the process by creating the two manifold pieces themselves.

First, a test hole was made in a piece of scrap in order to see how the ends of the cans would seat in the 2 1/8" hole.  Why this diameter? It seemed the best fit of the hole saws I had on hand.
Top end looks good!

Bottom end fits too!

Next, making allowances for the 3/4" insulation board the cans will lay on, I laid out a line showing where the top edge of the top of the can would end up.  Then, dropping down 1 1/16" from this line, I drew another line representing the centerline of the 2 1/8" holes that would create the manifold.

I don't know if this picture helps you, but it will help me remember how I did this if I build another of these as I hope to do.

It might not show up well for you but this shows, on the top of the left-hand board, that allowance was made for 3/4" of insulation, this time along what will be the side of the tube tray.  This will all be clearer when you see the tubes actually installed in the tray.  
 The holes along the centerline are spaced at 67mm on center as recommended by one of the many sites I consulted on the net.  I used a 5/32" brad-point bit to make these starter holes.  This bit allows accurate placement of the hole's center without the bit veering off the mark as it bites into the wood.  The larger center bit of the hole saw will then follow this hole as it starts, staying on center as well.
 The diameter of the starter hole is not critical - anything 1/8" to 3/16" or so will do the job.  Since I was only drilling these 1/4" or so deep into the 3/4" plywood of the manifold blank, I used a cordless drill for this part of the process, being reasonably careful to keep the drill at 90 degrees.

Above shows the two manifold blanks temporarily held together with double-sided carpet tape and ready for the drill press and  2 1/8" hole saw to do their part.

Taping the parts together allows drilling both pieces using only one layout.

Next, shallow passes were made at each hole to show the outline so that a smaller sawdust relief hole could be made at the perimeter to help keep the holesaw from overheating.
 This relief hole can be seen in the last photo in this sequence below.
 All of the big holes were then drilled (or is it "sawed" since a hole saw is used?) halfway through the double-stacked assembly. The center bit drills completely through both pieces in the process.  Even with the relief hole, you need to go fairly slowly so as not to overheat the saw.  Next itme I believe I'll make the perimeter relief hole larger.
 Today's work ended with the manifolds about half done.  Tomorrow I hope to flip the assembly over and finish the large hole in the bottom half of the temporary sandwich.
I couldn't resist completing at least one of the large holes before heading in for supper.  

I'm thinking once these manifolds are done, the frame will come together fairly quickly and you can finally begin to see where we're headed.
However, I reserve the right to obsess and over-engineer as the mood strikes.
As always, thanks for looking.


Unexpected Benefit of Solar Project

Just wanted to share this note that was waiting for me this morning when I went out to the shop to finish constructing the soda-can tubes.  Being my youngest GRANDson, Joey may have to wait the longest to experience the joy of being admired - even for a little while - by one of your GRANDchildren.

Now, back out to the shop to take advantage of the lull in the bad weather to get to work on the frame for the solar heater collector.
Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Appreciative Audience

There's nothing like having an appreciative, involved audience.  Three of my five grandchildren were really impressed with the "turntable" and the process it facilitates.  However, the youngest - here operating the switch - can hardly wait to help me turn the golf cart into some form of locomotion for them to ride around the farm. 


Paw Paw, my Dad, would be happy to know we're getting so much use out of something he probably picked up at a yard sale, either because it was a bargain or just because it struck his fancy.

If we don't get blown away tonight by the storms, I hope to finish the construction of the tubes tomorrow and move on to construction of the frame, so keep checking back for updates.  If I don't hurry up, I'll need to start figuring out how to cool the shop with pop cans instead of heating it.

Thank you for looking. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rube Goldberg Lives!

Just a couple of things to share today.  The first is just a couple of pictures to show an inexpensive way to create holders to keep the "glued" tubes aligned while the caulk cures.  It is important to keep them as straight and still as possible during this time, and the more of these holders you have, obviously the more tubes you can assemble at once.

This holder is made of a heavy cardboard tube (I think it used to hold upholstry material) which I cut in half on the bandsaw.

A "foot" was then glued on using hot-melt glue (indispensable stuff). This foot keeps the whole thing from rolling over

This shot shows the tube curing in the holder with a small amount of weight on top to keep the joints seated.


The first three completed tubes resting in a custom storage box - again just to keep them from any unnecessary damage until time to install them in the frame.

Now for the teased "Rube Goldberg" part of the show.  At some point in the last couple days I began to wonder what I might have around in the way of a turntable that would rotate the cans for me so that I could use both hands to hold the caulk gun (remember the grip thing?) as the caulk is applied.

Erector set motor?  Clockworks mechanism? Then in a blinding flash it came to me - the electric golf cart I brought home from my dad's collection of treasures.  I had brought it in to the shop recently with the intention of seeing if it worked, and if it might somehow be converted into something for the grands to "ride".

 It not only was still operational, but it has a variable speed control that is very useful in this application - one which I'm sure the manufacturer never envisioned!

It is shown here on its side, clamped in the vise, and yet another shop-made can holder temporarily hot-glue tacked to one wheel.

You can see the round tapered wheel glued to the 2x6 platform.  Atop this is glued a vertical support that has a small taper at the top that holds the can steady
 This shows how the can sits during the caulking operation.

A little better view.


The video shows how the whole thing works.  It allows me to hold the caulk gun much steadier and produce a much better bead of caulk. 

I have found that making up sets of 2 or 3 caulked cans, letting the sets cure overnight, and then assembling the sets into the required column length is much more manageable for me than trying to do the whole column at once.  You may find another process works better for you.

Thanks for looking!

Monday, February 20, 2012

I HATE Caulk !!

There.  I said it and I'm glad!

Even after owning and maintaining a number of homes, and even after successfully operating my own handyman/remodeling service for a number of years after "retiring", I have NEVER met a caulk or a caulking job that I liked.

I somehow overlooked this minor character flaw in myself as I undertook this project.  Add to this the fact that I now have all  (three on a good day) of you looking over my shoulder and following my progress. There is no manly way out of this but to persevere and complete the task of "gluing" the cans together to form the collector tubes.

Given the number of joints involved, perhaps by the end of this process a technique will develop.  I did observe that by the time I had done three of the tubes (36 cans) today that my technique and comfort level had improved.

I began by applying a small bead of white silicone caulk around the outside of the bottom dimple of a can.

A second can is then pressed gently top-down into the bead of caulk.

Then, with a wet left index finger, I smoothed the bead of caulk at the joint while I rotated the assembly gingerly with my right hand.

Be careful to insure that you have complete coverage to prevent any air leaks later.

 At the top of the curing stack you can see the small weight I placed there to keep a little pressure on it.

I used a couple of different fixtures to keep the cans aligned during the curing process.  The one shown here is simply two scrap pieces of 3/4" plywood glued and stapled together to form a trough.

In case you're wondering, this is the caulk I used.  Some have used the firestop type, but I'm not sure it's necessary.

I'll post more photos of this process if there happen to be any breakthrough techniques to share, but I expect the next post will document the frame-building process.

Thanks for looking.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Drying Out

Apparently my sign - "I'm retired; stop asking me to do things." - is not very effective, as I haven't had nearly enough opportunity to work on this project this week.  I fear it will be summer before I can finish.  If so, at least it will be ready for NEXT winter.

After soaking for several days now in the Simple Green solution, the cans seemed quite clean as I carefully removed them and placed them in a couple old wire milk cases I happened to have stashed away just waiting for such an occassion.  I say "carefully" because they are quite fragile as you will see if you "try this at home".

In case you do try this, I'll mention a couple more suggestions.  First, if you drill them out like I did, leaving a sort of "lip" on the bottom end (see picture just above), remove them from your cleaning solution bottom-first so that any aluminum shavings wash out as the solution drains out the top. 

Secondly, as the picture above shows, stack them bottom-up for good drainage.  Otherwise, water will collect inside the bottom lip and will prolong the drying process.

Once I had them packed into the milk cases, I thoroughly rinsed them so that there would be no residue to inhibit paint adhesion later.

I included the above picture to show you - hopefully - the aluminum shavings remaining in the bottom of the cleaning solution.

The next planned step is to "glue" the cans together into 12-can tubes.  Doing this next serves two purposes. First, as mentioned earlier, they can be "curing". Secondly, I can measure one of the stacks to double-check my design dimensions for the frame that will house the collector tubes.

Thanks for looking.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wash Day

It occurred to me after my last post that the next step actually needed to be the assembly of the cans into collector tubes so that they could be curing while I built the frame for the heater box.

In preparation for assembling the tubes, the cans needed to be cleaned up in order to remove the sometimes syrupy residue in some of them, as well as the aluminum "sawdust" clinging to most of them.

To accomplish this washing, I used a clean Rubbermaid heavy-duty trash can on wheels that I happened to have and filled it with water and a pretty good dose of Simple Green concentrated cleaning liquid.  After gently (remember they are VERY thin) placing the cans in the liquid, I made sure they were covered with the cleaning solution and "agitated" the whole thing by making use of the fact that the can has the dolly assembly on the bottom.

Cleaning the cans also helps remove any substances that might keep the paint from adhering in a later step. 

Attending two funerals this week (niether of them was mine) has slowed progress on the project, but I hope tomorrow to proceed to assemble the cans into tubes once they are dry. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Get A Grip

Whereas I am losing my grip - in more ways than one according to many - I needed to come up with a method to hold the cans steady while drilling out the ends using two different hole saws in my drill press.  Of course there are many ways one could do this.  Many of the younger folks on the net simply held the cans in a gloved hand or in a rubber drink cozy - but they still have a grip!

The fixtiure I came up with utilizes materials from my vast "junk" collection.  I KNEW this suff would come in handy some day!

The first step was to create two L-shaped parts that just fit around the can.

An old door hinge was added to allow insertion and removal of cans.

Then ears were glued and stapled on to allow one half of the holder to be fastened to a base that could then be clamped to the drill press table.

To provide holding traction to the clamping action of the fixture, I used spray adhesive to ahere waffle-type drawer liner material to the inside faces that would contact the can sides.  I then added a quick-latching handle - again using what was on hand.

The last picture above shows how the setup actually works.  Below are the first few cans with the tops having been drilled out using a 2" hole saw.  If you do this, use GENTLE pressure on the drill.  The cans are VERY thin, but as long as you use a soft touch and don't get in a hurry, the process goes quickly and worked well for me.

I did the tops of all 145 cans first.

Then I changed to a 1 1/2" hole saw in the drill press and used the same process to drill out the bottom of all 145 cans.  I should only need 132 for this build, but I thought I'd allow room for error since I have worked with me for a long time now, and I know how I am.

Next, I will build the frame.  I hope to get to that tomorrow and will keep you posted.  Thanks for looking in.  I welcome any comments or questions you may have.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Initial Considerations

This blogging effort (my first) is in response to inquiries by several of the folks who have been kind enough to donate empty soda (Pop for you Yankees) cans for this project. 

While no effort will be made to create an exhaustive "How-To" blog, I will try to document as much of the project as I can and share some of the "lessons learned" as we go along. I have gleaned a lot of useful information from the internet - just browse for "pop-can solar".

At the risk of stating the obvious, here are some starting suggestions:

1. Since accumulation may take a bit, begin can collection; solicit family and friends' help.

2. Identify "window" material to be used.
  • considered using salvaged windows I had in barn
  • checked Craigs list "Materials" and "Free" categories for storm windows/doors, shower doors, glass
  • I ultimately found a free 34" x 76" single tempered pane, and two 46" x 76" double-pane tempered pieces offered by a remodeler simply for the taking
3. Determine insulation material to be used; 3/4" thick, aluminum-foil faced insulating board, from Lowes in my case, and called PERMA "R".

4. I then measuured the length of two cans (9 1/2") and the diameter (2 5/8") to determine how many I would need to fit the space allowed by the glass.

5. Next, I decided I'd use 6" ducting in and out of the heater box.  This is needed so the size of the input and output manifold boxes could be determined.  This will become clearer as the picures are posted. 

6. Having determined these dimensions, I then designed the frame (pictures to follow) in Google SketchUp - a great free 3-D CAD program.

The next post will document the process of building a fixture to hold the cans during the drilling process as well as the process itself.