Category Archives: Projects

Vehicle Inspection Pit

This was one of those jobs that you thought it was a good idea at the time, once construction started and things didn’t go as planned, I wished I’d never started it and the only way out was to spend your way out!

April 2011 was day one, the plan was to sink a vehicle inspection pit into the drive so that when it’s not in use, it would be completely covered and therefore unnoticeable, the pit had to be narrow enough to take the small car we had (Fiat Punto) but robust enough so that when our 3.5t motorhome was over it the walls didn’t collapse with me in it, also it had to be the correct height that I could work under the car or van comfortably and the right length that I can get to at least half of the underside of the van without it sticking out across the pavement (sidewalk for US visitors).

First stage was to confirm that planning permission didn’t apply, which it didn’t and secondly that there were no buried services that could stop the project, I did lift manlids to check the direction of pipes and wrote to the gas, electricity, telephone and water utility companies and all came back ok, the only thing I had to move out of the way was the armored conduit which goes to the outside lights which was easy as I’d fitted it.

One the dimensions were decided on, I started researching the reinforcing steel bars and type of concrete required, from this I drew a  rebar plan which gave me the quantities of steel and concrete needed.

rebar

I did explore using a ‘tanked’ construction and simply digging a hole and sinking it in, what bothered me was the high water table we have here and if you google ‘hydrostatic pressure’ their are examples where swimming pools have simply been pushed out of the ground, not a good look!

I opted to use 18mm plywood to make a ‘shuttered’ form even though the wood would be wasted, on balance it was still cheaper than hiring in bespoke steel panels from a local supplier.

The following series of pictures show the construction from the marking out of the hole to the finished pit, I mentioned at the start about things not turning out as expected, I made a flawed assumption that after the hole was dug, I could get away without propping the sides (I know it was stupid!), anyway fortunately I wasn’t in the hole at the time, but the sides caved in, now the problem this presented was that the cost to fix this.

The cost escalated as I would need a JCB rather than a mini digger to scoop out the spill due to the now extended boom reach required, also I would need two more 12m2 skips at £110.00 each, not to mention the additional backfill to make good the sides where the clay had slid from, all in all a blinking nightmare, so, do I fill the lot in and cut may losses, ore spend out of it, well the rest is history and a year later the credit card was finally paid off :-).

Drive

marked
Outline marked out

pre dig

dig1

start of trenching

services ducting

dig midway

dig in progress

dig completed

completed
Completed Holes
All done – spot on digging job, brown pipe is for the air vent and the Black tube is for the submersible pump to pump the pit out as their was no intention to make it waterproof.
collapse
Everything was going so well until the sides collapsed

Pit sides caved in the day after it was dug as I didn’t support them, the ground is heavy clay which slipped leaving a overhang, this overhang was soil and hay as the land on which the house was built used to be a farmers field.

So, change of plan, I decided to build the steel work outside of the hole and surround it in shuttering ply, and have the digger lift it into the hole……

Cage
Start of cage construction
cage 2
Lin looking happy to help
jcb
JCB with longer reach than a minidigger to clear the collapsed hole
base
Side shuttering ongoing

side

walls
Wall shuttering in place
welding
Rebar welded to angle iron edge protectors

backfill

internal shuttering

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Shack/Office Refurbishment

Well what a job!!

My home office is also my shack and like most things, the infrastructure grew rather than was managed, so I knew the electrical power was not ideal and the network patch panel was full. The thing that brought it to a head was the need for a new floor covering, and so it began.

First job was to put in a new final circuit ring main to the office dado trunking and add a couple of additional power points for the UPS and mobile air conditioning unit.

As the cables are ran in the loft, I decided to install a decent fold down loft hatch and sliding ladder for ease of access, the loft lighting was also improved by installing 4 x 4′ fluorescent operated by a pull switch fed from its own dedicated circuit, this lighting made a huge difference.

To move everything out of the office to get access to the floor meant it needed to go somewhere, and the obvious choice was the loft, so off to Homebase for loft flooring and loft legs and of course it was boarded during the hottest days of July.

Once everything was out, I could start tearing down to rebuild:

The existing home network hub needed to come out:

MB Pro fitted

No going back now!

New cable drops for additional tap points near the TV and existing TalkTalk router are shown, I did move/rationalise other tap points around the house and in the garage. In the lounge I drilled through to the external wall and installed conduit in preparation for when Virgin Media install fibre to the home.

The network cables were in and tested using a cheap and cheerful wire mapper and did find a faulty tap point, so well worth £2.59.

Once the power was sorted out, it was time to start on the cabinet, this is a 12U wall mounted jobbie and cost £48.49 from eBay, the power distribution unit is fed via an 800VA MGE Pulsar Evolution UPS as is the red sockets.

Cables identified and marked up, rather than numbering the tap points, I opted to use a convention which accommodated change easily:

  • OFnn =Office, tap point nn
  • BD2/nn  = Bedroom 2, tap point nn
  • BD3/nn = Bedroom 3, tap point nn
  • LOnn = Loft,  tap point nn
  • Lnn = Lounge,  tap point nn
  • Gnn = Garage,  tap point nn
  • Hnn = Hall,  tap point nn

I, well me and my XYL took the opportunity to start to spruce the place up with a coat of paint as well. This shows the wall ready for the roller.

Wall cabinet finished, I added a small temperature controller which switches on the cabinet fan and the ceiling mounted fan within the cupboard where the cabinet is fitted.

Working top down:

  • 2U blank plate
  • Telephone line IN, OUT via ADSL filtered ports
  • Temperature controller
  • 24 port patch panel wired in Cat5e, two ports spare
  • Brush strip to hide surplus cable or manage surplus cable if your a purist
  • Netgear JGS524E Managed Gigabit switch
  • 1U blank plate (91/2″) (behind this is a 6 way PDU fed via UPS)
  • 1U 91/2″ Shelf with PoE to TP EAP245 Access Point
  • 1U 91/2″ Shelf with Metobridge Pro and EdgeRouter X
  • 19″ 350mm deep shelf

Bottom shelf from left to right:

  • Tach display for weather station aspirated sensor fan speed
  • Low noise linear 5v PSU for Blitzortung lighting detector
  • 12v PSU to Network Attached Storage (NAS) and CCTV interface
  • Netgear Duo 500Gb dual hard drive NAS
  • CCTV controller interface

 

Cabinet closed and locked after making sure it didn’t hit the ceiling light.

 

Room with everything put back in and tidied up.

To make life easier for working on the radio equipment cables and connections, I didn’t push the desk right back to the wall and also no radio related equipment is on the floor (PSU), apart from the foot operated PTT.

Radio wise I didn’t do much, I added a separate 12v PSU for auxiliary equipment, such as the led signage, VSWR panel lights and SG autotuner to name a few, I also added a common RF earth board for the shack equipment to connect to.

Radio all put back together and cables tidied up, not sure how long the office will stay this neat 🙂

Update

The cheap and cheerful cable tester unfortunately didn’t last the test of time and started giving some strange mapping indications, returning to eBay, I found a SC8108 Network Cable Tester for £17.98, this is superb value, and hopefully it will last longer than the last cable tester.

 

The SC8108 is very easy to use and has a number of useful, menu driven features, but for my small home network, wire mapping is the primary focus.

£17.98 SC8108 Network Cable Tester showing the mapping test results for a remote tap point from the patch panel.

 

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Cat5e Network Port Quick Finder

I was perusing the internet and came across a niffty idea to quickly identify which Cat5 outlet was connected to which port on a patch panel, so, as I had the parts, I thought I’d have a go.

The principle is very easy, in the patch panel,  RG45 plugs are inserted into each port, within the RG45 plug is an LED connected to pins 3 &6.

At the remote faceplate, a RG45 is plugged in which has power to pins 3 & 6 via a battery battery, the LED in the patch panel will now light, quickly identifing what is connected to what.

led plate
Test faceplate with pins 3 & 6 bridged across each outlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parts were from ebay:

  • LEDS – 100 for £2.32
  • RG45 connectors – 100 for £2.95
  • Battery Holder – £0.99

To make the LED plug, I first marked the Cathode of the LED so I got the polarity correct when inserted into the plug.

The next step was to flatten the LED capsule so that it fits within the cable entry of the connector.

The LED is now pushed into the connector and crimped, hot glue is then used to seal the LED in place.

The battery pack is powered by 2 x AA batteries, with a current limiting resistor terminated in the plug.

LEDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made 24 of the LED plugs as that was the number of ports on my patch panel.

kit
Finished LED connectors and battery pack
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PLC Simulator

After playing with a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to operate my radio mast, I decided to build a simulator in order to better understand the capabilities of the EASY PR-18DC-DA-R.

I wanted the simulator to have 16 inputs, either momentary or switched and the ability to import signals including an embedded 4 – 20mA current.

I had a sloped project enclosure already, so I made a dimensioned drilling template.

Drilling Template

Once the template was stuck down, the pilot holes were drilled, template removed and holes opened to the right sizes.

Drilled Case

The template was created in Visio and I used layers, one of the layers was for switch position drilling and alignment cross-hairs, turning that layer off (missed one in I8!), allowed me to print on  self-adhesive sticky Matte White Vinyl.

Blank template

Using a sharp knife, I cut though the Vinyl and started fitting the switches, buttons, Output indication LEDs and 4 – 20mA injector.

Terminals to go in

Terminal posts next.

Switches going in

Front panel populated.

Lidded

Wiring started.

Pre-wire

After a couple of changes, the internal wiring is completed and loomed in.

Wired

The simulator uses 24v DC, I used a small 1.5A output switched mode PSU for this, fed via a chassis fuse holder with the supply from an IEC male socket, the output from the PSU is fused separately.

PSU 24v

PLC simulator all powered up, the program in the PLC was legacy from my mast control project, this will be overwritten by downloading revised programs from xLogicsoft software.

Finished PLC

To complement the PLC simulator I bought a4-20mA Current Signal Generator 0-10V Voltage Generator Transducer Simulator for £19.00.

simulator

Injector resolution precision:

  • Current 0-20mA 0.001 0.1mA
  • Voltage 0-10V 0.001 0.1V
injector
Boxed injector

testrig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed test setup.

 

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Pulsar Evolution 800 UPS Repair

I have had an MGE Pulsar Evolution 800 Uninteruptable power Supply for about 8 years through which my computer and other sensitive kit is fed and I serviced it with new batteries in January 17.

This UPS delivers 800VA or 520 Watts (Calculator for Watts/VA HERE.) and is at 67% loading when in use, giving a back up time of 9m 35s, which is more than adequate for my needs.

In early February the UPS stopped working completely, no output or indication of power in, the one I have cost £10 second hand off eBay so I couldn’t complain when it stopped working.

MGE UPS

Before looking for another replacement, I opened it up the check for the obvious, such as internal fuses blown or PCB track damage, looking  near the power regulator stage I noticed a bulging capacitor which is a sure sign that it has failed.

PCB

Mother Board

PCB caps
Bulging Capacitors

Everything else passed a visual inspection, so I bought a pack of 5x 10uF 450v 105c capacitors from eBay for £1.59.

After changing the capacitors, I measured the old capacitors and they had both failed as the meter should be displaying 9.5uF to 10.5uF.

Cap meter
Faulty capacitors

UPS front panel

Once reassembled, I powering up the UPS after inserting the batteries, the UPS kicked in to self-test mode and was working 🙂

Everything is back in place working and I have software monitoring its performance and everything is looking good so far.

A copy of the Pulsar Evolution 800 manual is HERE.

Solution Pac software for the UPS can be downloaded from HERE.

Software dashboard

Software options

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Hot Water to Outside Tap

When we first moved into the house I installed an external bibcock tap which I fed by ‘teeing’ into the cold water feed line in the garage which is  used for the combination boilers filling loop.

In the previous house I had hot and cold available outside to wash the car, so the project was to do the same here. The two problems were the lack of available hot water pipes in the garage and no more wall space to add another external bibcock dedicated to hot water.

First things first, locate a source for the hot water, fortunately on the other side of the garage wall is a small utility room with a sink and plumbing for a dishwasher and washing machine.

Isolating the cold water fill to at the tank, I drained the hot water down into the utility sink and emptied the dead leg of the washer fill line using the tap at the bottom of the pipe, once this was done, I put the plug in the sink and removed the sinks waste pipe for ease of access to where I would be cutting and soldering.

Drilling a 15mm hole through into the garage from the house was easy as the internal double skin walls are built using low density thermalite block.

Pipe installPutting some tape over the open end of pipe, I pushed it through the hole into the garage where I soldered an end fed elbow with stub to a compression fitting isolation valve. From the isolation valve a stub with a tee and drain cock were soldered.  A stub pipe from the tee had a plastic stop end fitted, the pipe was then pushed back into securing clips fixed to the garage wall.

soldered bridgeUsing the pipe slicer tool shown in the first picture, I cut out a small section out of the hot pipe and put on a 15mm copper tee, using a half crossover to bridge the cold pipe, I then used a short piece of pipe to connect an elbow to the pipe to the garage.

Once the dry fit went ok, I dissembled it all to clean and flux the pipe and fittings before soldering, all the fitting were end fed here.

Once all the joints were soldered and making sure all the valves are closed, I cracked open the hot water tank fill valve and went to check for leaks after venting air from the system and running water through the garage drain valve to flush out any debris.

Pipe pull

The garage has been converted into a workshop and I didn’t want to damage any exposed pipe  when I throw stuff for storage, so the best option was to use plastic pipe and fish it behind the false wall as their was just enough room.

Drilling 110mm holes, allowed me plenty of room to push trunking lids taped together for the 4.5m run, string was attached to the end of the lid and pushed in place.

At the other end it was a pain to fish for the string using a torch, mirror and bent hook, however, once grabbed, I tied on stronger blue rope  to the string and pulled this back to secure on the pipe as shown, (the last thing I wanted to repeat fishing!).

At the utility isolation valve end, I clipped the John Guest Layflat Speedfit pipe to the wall and used a cold form bend to hold its radius and take strain off the ‘plastic to copper’ coupling.

The design to allow me to use one external bibcock tap was to use a three port valve, this suggestion came from DIYNOT plumbing forum.

SchematicParts

The pressure reducing valve, 3 port valve, double checkvalves and themostatically controlled valve were from eBay, all other parts from Screwfix.

How it works

The cold water has a local isolation valve for ease of maintenance, a double check valve stops contaminants getting back into the upstream water system, a ‘tee’ allows the pressure reducing valve to be bypassed, and if the 3 port valve is in the right position, allows full mains pressure at the outside tap for use with the hose.

The pressure reducing valve is set for 3.5bar which is the same water pressure as my unvented hot water tank, therefore the water pressure for both feeds to the thermostatically controlled valve (TCV) is the same.

The hot water also has a local isolation valve and double check valve before it feeds the TCV, the temperature of the blended water leaving the TCV is 42C.

Garage pipeAs the cold water was available, I connected this first to the valve and allowed pressure testing, the biggest problem I had was sealing the 1/2″ BSP threads on the 3 port valve.

I tried using fibre washers, PTFE tape and jointing paste but a couple of joints would still weep very slowly over time.  I searched the problem in the DIYNOT forum and the advice from experienced plumbers was to use Locktite 55 , following the instructional video on the locktite site, I applied the sealing material onto the prepared threads and it worked, no more leaks.

At the end near the bibcock tap, I used another ‘plastic to copper’ coupling and piped up and over to the hot water isolation valve.

A hot water drain cock was installed where the pipe emerged from behind the false wall so I can drain down if needed.

Hot pipeThis shows the hot water pipe coupling about to be soldered, hence the heat resisting mat, on the right of the picture is the cold water valve which is open and testing for leaks.

In the garage is another isolation valve directly behind the bibcock, this stops unauthorised use of the external tap.

The final job was to flush the system thoroughly and check that the water coming out of the bibcock tap is at the correct temperature, once proven, all exposed pipes were insulated and where the risk of damage was high, boxed in.

The most expensive part of the job was the plastic pipe as this comes in a minimum of a 25m roll and I only needed 4.5m. The option of pulling in straight lengths with a connecting coupling behind the false wall was discounted as I didn’t want any inaccessible joints, so I had no choice but to pay for more than I needed.

Apart from hassle of sealing the weeping threads, the job went well and I’m happy with the result.

Lagged pipe

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Bat Detector

For a few years now we have had bat which regularly flies round the garden, Googling about bats I came across a bat detector circuit from  Tony Messina.

Tony’s site (//pw1.netcom.com/~t-rex/BatDetector.html)  is packed with interesting information and a link to the UK where you can buy the printed Circuit Board if you didn’t want to use veroboard.

The PCB is from Lee Rogers (mail: lrogers222@hotmail.com) in the UK for £5 including p&p, the majority of the parts are available from Rapid Electronics , things out of stock at Rapid can easily be found on eBay.

UK parts list Rapid

The testing and adjustment was done by pointing at running water or rattling keys and tweaking the volume to a comfortable level as you go.

The total cost of the project was £28 and took about an hour to construct.

SAM_5686 (Medium)

Just got to test it on the real thing now 🙂

Update  12 August 18

Well it took a while for Norma the bat to pay us a visit, but she did and the detector worked just fine, very impressed with it 🙂

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