Saturday, August 3, 2013

Slow Feeders

My wife bought a slow feeder made of plastic for almost $300 this year. It worked OK, but it was a little small. She has more horses coming, and wanted more, so I set out today to build one.

I looked online at a few people's videos, looking how they'd designed them and came up with something that was simple and I thought it would work. I planned for 3, but then decided to get only parts for 2 at the store. Here's what I got:

  • 2 4'x8' sheets sanded BC plywood
  • 12 8' 2x4s
  • 2 8' 1"x1"s
  • 1 8' TREX board
I should have gotten some 1 1/2" screws, but forgot, thinking I had a huge box of 2 1/2" ones. When I got home I realized those wouldn't work. fortunately I had some 1 1/2" nails, which I substituted.

I had the plywood cut into 2'x4' slices and put one of those down. I cut a 2x4 to length, and nailed it along one end. I cut the rest into 2 23 7/8" pieces, which went along the sides.

Flipped over, it looks like this:

That's a side panel. From there, I cut more 23 7/8" pieces to join the ends on. I lined them up here, and then using my long screws, fastened them to the sides.

When I had both side pieces set, I cut the end panel into a 23 7/8" square (allowing for blade waste) and then fit things. This gave me a side, and I cut a 2x4 to fit across the top.

Another view

With my 2x4s screwed onto the ends, I nailed the end pieces in, and as a result, I had a box with no top or bottom.

I cut my 1x1 and put that at the bottom as bracing, and then sliced the TREX pieces, which fit in. I didn't screw them in, as I wanted my wife to check spacing, and then I'll know how many more pieces I need.

I repeated the process again, faster this time, and for about $110, I have 2 mostly done. Tia needs to get the top grid for the hay, and I need more TREX, but I'm guessing I can put one of these together for about $110-$120, depending on what the top costs.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Carving with a pocketknife

Recently I was at a remote cabin in Wyoming with the Boy Scouts. We were snow caving, building Quinzee huts over the weekend for boys to sleep in. In the cabin I noticed there were signs depicting various troops that had stayed in the cabin over the years, most with the Troop number burned or written into the wood. A few had carved items, but I hadn’t seen our troop, despite the fact this was the troops 5th trip up there.

I set about one afternoon to leave our mark, but didn’t want just a Sharpie signature. After finding a flat piece of firewood, I took out my pocketknife and decided to give carving a try.


I started with outlining a letter with the blade. Then I worked the knife in, severing fibers and digging 1/4” or so in. From there, I’d flatten the blade and shave out sections of the wood. The first letter ended up going in both directions (left/right and up/down), which had me digging in and splintering against the grain. Later I switched to just shave along the grain.


I also learned to lightly outline things with a bare scrape, and then digging in slowly, pushing the blade in along the line I wanted and then slowly levering it down to make a mark. Slowly I’d reposition and make another mark, until I had an outline.

Once I had a place for the blade to stop, I could shave. I only went down around 1/4”, indenting the troop number.


It was slow work, and I’d see kids come watch for a minute and then move on. I kept working all afternoon and eventually got the “Troop 636” into the wood. I gave it to a kid, who used a piece of burned wood to blacken the letters. A few signed it the first night.

Later I noticed another kid erasing out the blackened sections that were outside the letters. Another kid used a sharpie to further blacken the letters and everyone signed it.


I needed a panorama photo to get the whole thing, which was about 2 ft long. The wood isn’t that bent, it’s my poor photo skills.

Someone put it on a ledge above the window. Very cool. If we go back next year, I may bring a carving chisel and do another one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Solar Water Heater - The Cover Part 1

This is the second part of my solar water heater project for horse tanks. The other parts are:
To build the heater cover, I used the rough plans and adapted them. I put the base down, and then measured from there, taking into account the height of the tank. I had it just about an inch above the tank, which I realize now is too low. I should have allowed 2” and kept it low to the ground. We have a few ponies and they’re short, but lesson learned for v2.
Photo Dec 15, 2 04 49 PM
The first measurements helped me get the sizes.
Photo Dec 17, 7 32 01 PM
I started by cutting sides, slanting the front about 10 degrees and attaching a board along the top and bottom. These are bracing and give the cover the structural integrity. I used a 2x4 on top and a 2x6 on the bottom.
Photo Dec 17, 7 31 55 PM
I also added an interior board, which will brace against the back. I allowed for the sides to stick out far enough to cover the back OSB, but that’s a mistake. I should have either set them flush, or allowed to cover the 2x6 with the upper and lower boards. It works, but looks funny.
Photo Dec 17, 7 36 47 PM
I screwed this much together on the first day, with the rest of my wood buried in snow in the back of the truck. However I had a little more time, so I added some insulation. It was cut to fit with a utility knife. This isn’t the final size, but it gave me an idea of how it would look.
Photo Dec 17, 7 45 34 PM
I started with the foil out, but I want to minimize heat reflection, so I turned things around as shown above.
Photo Dec 17, 7 41 41 PM
A little paint to see how it took convinced me that I’d need real paint, as well as some other thermal mass.
Photo Dec 17, 7 48 51 PM
I could probably have finished most of this in a day, but with other circumstances, this is where I stopped as we left for vacation.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Solar Water Heater - Getting Started

This is not the kind you might think of from the title. I wasn’t trying to heat water for our house, but rather just keep water from freezing for horses out in the pasture. We don’t have power out there, and keeping water liquid is an issue.

My wife found a plan at Build It Solar, and I agreed to try it.


The first thing was a trip to the Home Depot. I loaded up with the following

  • 3 sheets OSB
  • 2 sheets foam insulation, 1.5”
  • 2 8 ft 2x6
  • 4 8ft 2x4
  • various screws

I wasn’t sure how things would go together, but I got started.

The Base

The first thing was to get the base. I had a water tank, around which this thing was going, so I started there, measuring the tank top. With those measurements, I cut out two pieces of OSB, which would be my base.

Photo Dec 15, 2 56 10 PM

I used a utility knife to cut the insulation to fit and what you see is the base on which the tank will sit. This should insulate the tank from ground head losses, with a cover around it.

I’ll talk about the cover next.