Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Greens and Machines -- Top 10 Projects of 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, we'd like to take this time to look back on some of the great projects and activities we managed to do this year. We'd like to thank all of our followers for sticking with us and hope you continue to follow along with all of our homebrewing, scrap welding, and other adventures.

Without any further delay, here are the selections for the Greens and Machines Top 10 list of 2014!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Foundry: New Oil Burner

My old burner was a tangled mess of pipe fittings and badly fitting machined parts.  The excess complication led to unreliability, for example, the oil inlet was held on with a 3/8" non pipe thread which meant it did not seal and was suspect to coming undone.  Also the airtightedness was maintained by a rubber washer secured by that same 3/8" thread.  The tightness of the 3/8"-1/4" pipe bushing (golden part in below diagram) at any moment could compromise both the air and oil pressure allowing leaking and also cause the whole oil input pipe to rotate loosely being annoying.  Clearly this design was an absolute disaster, good thing the burner got lost/ stolen/ borrowed.
old oil burner design
10 parts total
Having learned more about precision and gained confidence in my home welding abilities, I designed a new burner to be entirely machined and welded.  The whole process was planned out so there would only be two pieces to this burner.  The main piece (the black one) is composed of 3 separate pieces of metal, but after being welded together, it counts as one.

new oil burner design, all welded and machined
2 parts total

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Don't Get Cut - Use an Acorn Nut (Fender Repair 3)

My home made bicycle fenders have been holding up pretty well for the last two years warranting only minor repairs.  There was one major flaw in the design that I was aware of from the start, yet never did anything about it until now.  The metal struts holding the end of the front fender to the fork have threaded ends that protrude outwards from either side of the fender.  This proved to be a danger since they are in the perfect location to accidentally cut my legs while dismounting or walking along side the bike which happened at least 3 times.
exposed sharp threaded fender mounts
The solution, which I admit should've been done much earlier, was to switch out the regular nuts with acorn nuts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

1 Gallon Brown Ale Bottling Day

Bottles of beer on the wall
Horray Beer!
Last night was time to bottle my 1 gallon of brown ale. 4 days after I brewed it, the beer had already reached a final gravity of 1.010, giving it 4.46% ABV.

I threw in half an ounce of cane sugar to prime it, hoping that it won't create any bottle bombs. From my first tastes, I can already tell that this will be a malt monster. There is hardly any hop taste at all, which is what I wanted.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

1 Gallon Brown Ale -- Brew Day

My beverage supply was running low, so I decided it was time to try making beer with my new setup. As before with the Pumpkin Cider, I wrote my recipe to make only 1 gallon worth of beer. For me to do 5 gallons worth of beer, I would have to do an extract brew. With my 12 qt kettle, I could fit my leftover bag inside the pot to use the brew in a bag method (BIAB) and go all grain.
Brown Ale grains
Grains for great beer
I chose to go with a brown ale because there are not a lot of different specialty grains needed to make it taste good. Also the majority of the flavor will come from the grains, not the hops, allowing me to save time there. (I really enjoy good brown ales, too)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bottling Day -- Pumpkin Cider #2

(Continued from last week)
Clean Bottles
Ready to be filled!
It was time to bottle my latest batch of pumpkin cider.

Gravity did its job and settled out any remaining pumpkin and other schmutz floating in the beverage. All that was left for me to do is add in a little apple juice and bottle my beverage.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Deep Fried Cheese Curds from California

Garlic Curds for sale
Happy cows do come from California
At the farmer's market today, one of the sellers had fresh cheese curds for sale. Having sampled these before, I knew these were high quality. I decided pick up a package and put my cooking skills to the test by crafting a Wisconsin culinary delicacy, fried cheese curds.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Check in -- Pumpkin Spice Cider

I took a look at my new batch of Pumpkin Cider today after 1.5 weeks of fermentation.
Brew Closet
My brew "closet" at large
A quick gravity reading showed it was down to 1.000, giving it an ABV of 10%. I didn't realize it would get that high! A quick taste test definitely proved it was up there.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bicycle Stereo

So as I mentioned in the headphone jack post, I wanted to build a stereo system for my bike that could compete with traffic noise.  Since this is southern California, that means a lot of traffic to compete with.  Here's what we have to work with:

double speaker - <$1 rummage sale
oval speakers - $3 thrift store
"160W" amp - $5 garage sale
motorcycle battery - $7 swap meet
switch - $3
random wood scraps, reused screws, cables and connectors - $0
materials for bike stereo

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wake's the first of the month -- November 1 Garden Update

Garden Overview Nov 1
The garden survives another downpour.

October has come and gone. It was time to put away the costumes, chow down on some leftover candy, check up on how the plants were doing. It was a rainy Halloween in Northern California, which probably dissuaded potential trick-or-treaters this year. But what's bad for holiday activities can benefit the plants well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hard Cider Batch #5 -- Part 2

It's been nearly two weeks since I started my newest batch of cider at my new home and I decided it was time to check up on it.
Brew Area 2.0
I took a gravity reading of the cider and it came out at 1.004, giving it an ABV of 7.4%. It's slightly less than my original prediction of 8%. My guess is that there are some other soluble compounds in this juice that prevented it from going below 1.000. Either that or the yeast gave up due to the sorbates in the juice.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Cider -- Batch #2

As promised, I planned to make some new pumpkin cider this season. It would be just like last year's batch, except 1/5th the size. I had everything I needed at the beginning of the month....except for my yeast.
Pumpkin Spice Cider
Let's get into this fall holiday season
It finally arrived after being lost in the mail for a few weeks. Due to the way it's packaged, it should have survived the transit being out of the fridge for those weeks, but I have no idea what kind of storage the postal service uses.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Broom Repair

One night, a broom without a handle appeared on the side of the road.  I immediately acquiesced it with the intent to build a new handle out of some metal tubing or something.  As luck would have it, I delayed the project long enough for another broom to spontaneously generate in a trash can as I was passing by.  This phenomena is known as "Scrap Alchemy", where the junk you need to build something appears at the right place and time. (see also: bicycle seatpost part 2)

The second broom had a rather good handle, but terrible plastic bristles, likely the reason it was thrown out.  To further the mystery, it was made in Mexico, which according to research, is the main producer of the broom corn for decent brooms (the assumed material of the first broom). 

Anyhow, the goal was to take the good handle from the bad broom and attach it to the good, handle-less broom to get the best of both worlds.
Two bad brooms make one good broom

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I really hate cabbage moths -- Garden update October 23, 2014

Bok Choy October 16
When I first noticed trouble a week ago.
It's happened again. My least favorite pest has found my new garden. The cabbage moth. They've attacked previously at my old place and my parent's hydroponic garden. Unfortunately for me I did not notice them sleeping on the stems of my bok choy until it was far too late. I've done what I can, but there is irreparable damage done. The bok choy is hanging in there and continues to grow.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Tools of the Trade -- Yeast Strains

If you're making any type of homebrew, a key ingredient to a successful brew is the yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae) you're using. I've experimented around with quite a few in my beer, wine, and hard cider making. Without going too sciencey, I'd like to share my experiences with these strains.
Yeast Packet
A typical packet of dry yeast
Jump to:
Lalvin EC-1118
Safale US-05
Safale S-04
Cote des Blancs
Bread Yeast

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homebrewing in new places -- Hard Cider Batch #5

Are you ready for another exciting homebrewing adventure?
Jug of cider
Yay Homebrewing!
I planned to get a batch of some new brew going in my new living place soon, but the yeast I had ordered to make my intended batch got sent to the wrong address by accident.

While browsing the grocery store today, I found a sweet deal on some apple juice for $2.75. I couldn't resist the price, so I bought two gallons worth to make some hard cider. It was especially nice because I could ferment the juice right inside the jug it came in.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Headphone Jack Modification

In preparation for one of my most anticipated projects of all time, the bicycle stereo system, I needed an adequate source for the music to come from. My default choice was the "my first Sony" cassette player, as I've already been using it as a stand alone bicycle stereo (it's actually mono).  This device features a built in 4W speaker and has been working well so far, especially on trails, but if I'm going to compete with traffic, I'm going to need more power, which is where the bicycle stereo will come in.  More on that later.  The first problem was that this cassette player mysteriously didn't come with a headphone jack, I'm going to need one in order to connect to the amplifier later.  I suppose the manufacturers wanted kids to annoy the crap out of their parents by restricting them to using the speaker.

Anyhow, this isn't the first time I tried to add a headphone jack to this thing.  My previous attempt was a failure as I tried cutting the opening with a soldering iron X-acto knife attachment which was really messy and smelled bad.  The aftermath of this is visible in the picture below.  Also in the picture is the new tool that will do the job right, my new Dremel Craftsman hobby tool with grinding disc attachment.
My first sony with botched headphone jack aftermath and Craftsman hobby tool Dremel knock off.

Fresno Chili Pepper

Fresno Pepper Plant

Fresno peppers are very similar to Jalapenos, but are slightly hotter. These pepper seeds are pretty easy to germinate compared to other varieties of pepper I have tried to grow. Even in small containers, these plants can grow a lot of peppers (I got 7+ so far from growing in a 1 gallon pot). They love sunshine and heat, so keep them illuminated.

The peppers can be picked when they are green or red. They'll ripen up even after they are picked when green.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

It's Beginning to feel like Fall -- Garden Update

Temperatures dropping. Leaves beginning to fall. It's the end of another hot summer. With the end of 12+ hours of sun comes a few minor changes in the garden.
Bouquet of peppers
So many peppers
First off, the cucumber plants have outlived their short lives and have been removed. I got about 6 or so good cucumbers from the two plants. Next year I'll try hand pollinating to ensure larger yields.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Summertime Favorites: Fried Eggplant

Fried eggplant intro photo
Enjoyable even without Parmesan
With summer here, there are plenty of delicious vegetables available, whether it be from a farmer's market or your own garden. Whenever I get my hands on some good zucchini or eggplant, one of my favorite ways to prepare them is pan frying. It might not be the healthiest way to enjoy them, but it certainly is one of the most delicious ways to eat your vegetables.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A New Home -- Garden Relocation

Cucumber harvest
The first cucumber!
It's been a long 3 years at my old apartment, and a good 2 having the garden there. But with my lease expiring and old roommates also moving out, it was time for me to leave. I couldn't afford to bring my whole entire garden with me to the new place, but I was able to bring a few of the bigger/more important plants with me.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bottling Day: World Cup Victory Cider

It's cider bottling day. After 3 weeks of fermenting/aging, World Cup Victory Cider was ready to bottle. It finished with a final gravity of 1.000, resulting in an ABV of 9.30%. I chose to bottle the cider up mostly in 22 oz bottles, along some larger bottles and a few 12 oz.
Bottling Bucket
Ready to fill!
One cider was bottled in a sparkling wine bottle. Due to the way sparkling wine is made, the lips of the bottles are designed to take beer caps. That being said, they must use different cap sizes in some wineries since I was only able to cap 1 of my 4 bottles. Regardless, that one will only be saved for a special occasion, as it is a lot of cider to drink at once.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

5-C Collet Cloture - Part 2 - The Draw Bar

See part 1

The purpose of the collet draw bar (or in normal cases, draw tube) is to thread onto the collet tightening it onto the lathe spindle and thus securing the stock to be machined.  On a normal sized lathe, the draw tube/ bar thing would be a hollow cylinder with a 1.238" - 20 ID thread on on end, and some sort of locking mechanism.  Examples of locking mechanisms include lever or pneumatically actuated ones, simple hand wheels (see picture) or more fancy gear driven hand wheels that are closer to the collet circumventing the need for a long tube.

This picture shows an example of what a normal 5C lathe spindle configuration might look like:
normal lathe spindle 5-C draw tube configuration

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hard Cider #4: World Cup Victory Cider

To commemorate Germany's victory over Argentina in the World Cup Finals, I decided it was time to make some more cider.
(Ok I lied about the World Cup being inspiration. Chat at work was the real inspiration.)
Apple Juice
It's Cider Time!
I decided to pull out the old Safale US-05 I had in my fridge. Despite it being a year old, I think it'll still do the trick. The starter I made from it appeared active before I pitched it, so I'm hoping for the best.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Franzbrötchen; the German Croissant

Franzbrotchen out of the oven
You know the Germans always make good stuff.
Here's something fresh out of the oven. German laminated dough, Franzbrötchen. I got inspired to bake this bread thanks to this great recipe.

Although this recipe starts from making the dough from scratch, I had some frozen bread dough in my freezer, so I thawed one of those loaves to use for this baking experiment of mine. Even without using fresh dough, these came out great. This is a recipe I'd use again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Planting the cuttings: Basil Cloning -- Part 2

Two weeks ago I took some cuttings from my only basil plant I had. Now the cuttings have sprouted roots and are ready to plant. I filled up the reservoir and added some new nutrients to one of my hydroponic growing containers.
Basil leaves from cuttings

So far I only have 4 of the cuttings planted, but I'll be expanding more as the new plants grow and give new cuttings. I plan to fill the entire system up with basil by the end of summer.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Reviving Hydroponic Garden: Basil Cloning -- Part 1

The hydroponic garden has been out of commission for a few weeks as all the lettuce in it was either harvested or died due to the hot weather. Since I learned I will be staying in the apartment over the summer, I can plant some new stuff in my system. I'm opting to plant basil because

1) I have a plant already, despite it being small
2) It's super easy to propagate from cuttings, similar to tomatoes
3) You can never have enough basil
Basil mother plant
My only basil plant so far
With that said, here's how I'm doing it.

Harvesting beans -- Garden Update June 1

The garden has been doing alright. Excessive heat has caused the rest of my lettuce to die off upstairs and downstairs. So at the moment a lot of things are vacant or dead. That being said, since I will be at my place a few more months, I can replant some things.
Beans on the vine
Yay beans!
At the moment, my bean plants in the middle bin upstairs are in harvest mode. I've picked 10 beans so far, with several more on the way. I'll plant some more beans in some of the vacant bins I have because they like the heat and grow fast.

Recycled Notebook

As the end of the school year as you know it approaches (for those still in school), you likely accumulated a lot of papers from the semester.  Instead of trashing or burning them all, why not make the most out of what's there.
Here are two piles of papers I cleaned out.  The difference here is one of the piles is of paper not printed on both sides.
some papers left over from the semester
Look at all this potentially wasted writing space, let's build a notebook out of it.
papers printed only on one side

Monday, May 26, 2014

5-C Collet Cloture - Part 1

Since my lathe's pathetically small spindle bore won't allow me to hold longer workpieces over 3/4" diameter, I decided to build a 5-C collet attachment.  It is a spindle attachment that goes on in place of the 3 jaw chuck to allow the use of 5-C collets to hold material, and since 5-C collet sizes go up to 1.125", this increases the work holding capability.  The fixture includes two assemblies, the spindle attachment itself (see poorly drawn blueprint), and the draw bar (see part 2).

I decided to make the collet cloture (there's something about the word cloture that just begs to be used outside of the U.S. Senate) out of two pieces welded together, a 2" and 4" diameter piece.  There wasn't much to the functional aspect of the design, just the 10º taper, room for the collet and draw bar, and an anti-rotation pin. The real challenge was figuring the best chronological order to machine it while maintaining the most accuracy.
5-C collet attachment dimensions
Actual 5-C collet threading is 1.238"-20 rather than 1.25"-20 as the drawing suggests

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bottling Day: "Burning Bear" Amber Ale

Tonight we ended up bottling "Burning Bear" Amber Ale after 9 days of dry hopping. It was only supposed to be dry hopped for 7 days, but the flavors the hops left are still pretty good. All I can say is I haven't had as much time in the last week to be doing stuff, but I'll be trying to get back on the normal routine next week.
Burning Bear Amber Ale color
Good color

Sunday, May 11, 2014

4 reasons why you shouldn't grow carrots in your garden

Carrot and Quarter
For a carrot this big, I'd need a few people to help me finish it
Don't let my words or the article title discourage you from growing carrots. The beauty of gardening is the ability to grow any plant you like. That being said, if your garden setup is anything like mine, you have very little space to plant things. I've found that carrots do not do grow too well and tend to be difficult to manage in small gardens. Here are some reasons why planting carrots in your garden is not a wise decision.

Friday, May 9, 2014

"Burning Bear" Amber Ale to Secondary

Finally got around to transferring the amber ale to secondary. The beer was done fermenting likely a week ago, but letting it sit for this long allowed for more settling. The final gravity reading was 1.008, giving an ABV of 4.9%.
Burning Bear Amber Ale
Not infected!
The beer currently tastes somewhat like caramel, but is lacking definition. After dry hopping is done, I think the flavor profile will be a lot better. 1 oz of Willamette hops were thrown into the fermenter today for dry hopping. Next week is bottling day.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Lettuce Time! -- Garden Update May 8

Lettuce harvested for consumption
Yum, breakfast!
It's been hectic and crazy. The weather has been really weird the past two weeks. Last week had temperatures exceeding 90 and this week it's dropped down to 70 (we even had a freaky sun shower the other night). I specifically bought a new sheet to shade my lettuce with since it wasn't ready for the heat yet. The cloth worked and I was able to harvest at least 4 heads of lettuce total from the garden since then. All of the salad bowl variety (as pictured to the left).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Naturally Scented Coffee Soap

I had the opportunity to visit the coffee lab on my campus and roast some coffee beans to take home. Roasting the beans is pretty cool and might turn into a future project later. But anyway, aside from making some delicious light roast, I figured it might be a good idea to turn some of the beans into fresh smelling soap. I've heard rumors that caffeine can be absorbed through the skin, so this might be a way to get a daily dose in the morning. Interestingly enough, I did not need to use isopropyl alcohol to remove the bubbles when making this.
Coffee Beans
The beans
Also because neither me or anyone in my apartment complex owns a coffee grinder, I had to use a Slap Chop to grind the beans by hand. It worked surprisingly well.

See more scented soaps
Slap Chop Coffee
Slap Chop your troubles away!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

White Lisbon Onion

I really like growing these onions. They are very small, can fit in nearly any location in the garden. Several plants can fit into containers as small as 1 gallon. These are easy to cultivate and good candidates for succession planting. If you need something to fit in between your rows of carrots or lettuce, consider these.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Brew Day #8: "Burning Bear" Amber Ale + Recipe

Bear on fire
No bears were immolated in the creation of this brew
Today marks the first brew we've done since the Vanilla Porter. The house agreed upon making an amber ale using the California ale yeast we had in the fridge. In the two month gap since our last brew day, our apartment complex had microwave/hood units installed above each stove, effectively replacing all the old vent hoods. At first I was worried that the new microwave would block our kettle from being placed on the stove, but luckily there was at least 2-3 inches of clearance. Aside from that trouble, nothing else stood in the way of making some great beer.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tap Handle (Brewing)

When my brother told me to make him a tap handle I was wondering what he needed a tap handle for if he had not any taps?  Unbeknownst to me, the term tap handle also refers to the lever shaped thing you pull to dispense alcohol at a bar.  Since I had some leftover baseball bat from the hammer handle project, I decided to have some fun and try freehand wood turning.

First, I drilled and tapped a 3/8"-16 hole in the end of the wood piece.  I believe this is the standard thread for tap handles.
Tapping a 3/8"-16 hole directly into wood
I used a piece of 3/8"-16 threaded rod to hold it in the lathe.
3/8" threaded rod inserted into wood blank
All set up before turning.
Half of baseball bat set up in lathe

Thursday, April 24, 2014

More Cabbage, More Food -- Garden Update April 24

Salad bowl lettuce opening photo
Surviving the heat, and soaking up sun.
It's getting hot this April! Thanks to some cloudy weather, my plants aren't wilting as much today. It's supposed to rain tomorrow (90% chance), which is good for the state and the plants. However, the forecast says it'll reach 90 next week for 3 days or so. I think it'll be a good idea to bring out some sheets to act as shade cloth for some of these plants.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Time To Learn Excel

The Premise:
All "normal" milling machines have table feed hand wheels that move the table .200" per revolution.  This makes calculating the distance to be moved easy because it is a nice round number.  For example if you wanted to move the table 1.878" it would be 9 revolutions plus .078" on the dial.

This is not the case with my Knuth DBF 400 as the hand wheel moves the table .166" per revolution.  Where they got this number from I have no idea, though it probably has something to do with the feeds and gearing for cutting threads.  Interestingly enough, the cross feed hand wheel moves the table .100" in the Y axis which is much easier to work with.
Knuth DBF 400 hand wheel dial
Let's say we want to move the table 1.878", we would have to divide 1.878" by .166" then rotate the hand wheel by the answer and any remainder on the dial.  Thus I take out the calculator and input 1.878/.166 which gives 11.313253012048192771084337349398 which tells me there will be 11 full revolutions, then plug in 1.878-11(.166) to get the remainder.

Instead of doing all these calculations every time I want to move the table any distance over .166", I figured it would be handy to make a chart that shows the amount of distance moved in relation to number of revolutions of the hand wheel.  Therefore, the calculation would me much faster.

Option 1:
Draw a chart by inputting the numbers into the calculator one at a time........ very slow.  Upon attempting this, it occurred to me why they invented computers; to do the math for you.
Drawing a chart the hard way

Friday, April 18, 2014

Germination and Radiant Sunlight -- Garden Update 4/18

It's starting to feel like summer again. Nearly everyday in the past week has been in the high 70s/low 80s. However, the trend looks to be reversing in the next week; we might be getting some rain again. Regardless, most of the plants in the garden are still alive, despite some wilting here and there during the day. A little extra water perks them right back up. I'm not done planting new seeds yet as I have yet to finish harvesting all of the winter plants (read as the cabbages upstairs).
April 18 Grapevine overview
The grapevine has been given a new home

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Naturally Scented Strawberry Soap

Strawberry Soap closeup
Fruit leather in soap form
My strawberry plant this year has been slacking in terms of production. Luckily I got a basket of strawberries from the farmers market for only $2.50. It took some restraint not to eat all the berries before making soap since they were so tasty. The soap likewise emits a pleasant strawberry aroma.

See more scented soaps

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Naturally Scented Grapefruit Soap

Grapefruit soap
Can't get enough grapefruit in your life
When I think of grapefruit, the first thing that comes to mind is the popular fad diet from a few decades back. Although I'm not a big fan of eating straight grapefruit, it smells nice enough to be made into a soap. The scent on this soap is strong enough to notice and not overwhelming.

See more scented soaps

Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach

Spinach 4 weeks old

This is one of the oldest varieties of spinach and probably the most popular heirloom variety. I liked growing this one better than Olympia because the leaves actually got large before the plant bolted. Although some plants still bolted, this is a more reliable variety. Leaves are very crinkly and still retain good flavor for a short time after bolting.