Monday, June 30, 2008

Working on the basement walls . . .

So, I don't have a lot of coin on hand, so I bought a house that was foreclosed. One of the reasons the house could not sell was because the basement constantly flooded for the last 60 some years, finally causing one of the retaining walls to collapse, as you can see in these pictures. (Click to make it larger)

Here, you can see that the strength of the wall was entirely compromised, the cinder blocks were crumbling and useless. They never had re bar or concrete in them, so when the blocks had pressure put on them, they just went, and the dirt that was holding the foundation up just kept up the pressure . . .

The old wall definitely had to come down. First we dug the loose dirt out from behind it, and covered the packed dirt with cement to hold it in place while we were working.

The cinder block wall you see on the upper half of the above picture is the actual foundation for the house.

The next step is to remove the old cinder blocks . . .

You can see what the wall of dirt looks like, now that the cinder blocks (more like cinder mush) have been removed. We had to cut a hole to accommodate the water main for the house. You can see that the dirt is really packed in there to stay standing like that! I guess having a house's weight resting on it for 67 years got it nice and compressed . . .

And now, putting up the wall . . .

Wow! That was quick! The new wall is up! Looks a bit better, I'd say. You can see the rebar sticking up from the blocks, it goes all the way through to the floor and is surrounded in cement.

Here you can kinda see the back of David's head, but you should be looking above the wall, where we filled in above the dirt with gravel so it would not pack in like dirt. There, we also have a lattice of re bar tied in to the bars sticking out of the cinder blocks. This will help make everything stronger when we cap it with cement.

And here's the cap! It took a lot of people helping, so a few carved their initials into the wet cement (most of that is off camera though). Remember, for larger versions, click the pictures!

Had some fun with the exhaust . . .

We were playing around with some extra pipe and got a bit carried away . . .

Awesome exhaust, man!

You wish your car looked half this cool.

Nickel Titanium: "Shape Memory" wire. AKA, Nitinol.

Nickel Titanium Alloy (55% Ni 45% Ti) is a member of a group of metal alloys known as "Shape Memory" alloys. These are alloys that "remember" the shape that they once were.

Manufacturers also make glasses out of such metals, to allow them to bend like normal when you sit on them by accident because your kid put them on the chair instead of the table! Wait, that's not the special part, it's when you get up out of the chair, the glasses pop right back into the shape they're supposed to be instead of remaining a mangled mess.

Could you imagine valve springs made out of this stuff? (I know, pricey)

Anyway, on to the videos!

Video 1:

Video 2:


Want to buy some? It doesn't cost that much: Small Parts, Inc.

How to Drive for the Best Fuel Economy: Debunking the Myths, Part 1

In today's article about saving that precious clear liquid that almost all of us world-wide are addicted to, you're going to learn a fun trick: Don't drive slow, accelerate slow (but not too slow, I'll explain)

Driving super slow doesn't save gas, in fact, it wastes it. If your car is not in the highest gear possible, you're most likely not getting the best fuel economy possible. I'm sure you've seen those people in economy cars, driving around at some insanely slow speed, thinking about all the fuel they're saving, but in reality their engines are working harder then they need to, spinning faster and sucking down more gas then the fellow who speeds past them.

It all has to do with the gearing of your car's transmission. When you're in first gear, your engine is spinning rather fast, and the faster it spins, the more air it sucks in. The more air your engine sucks in, the more fuel it needs to balance out the mixture (at least on gasoline engines). So, you shift into second (or your car does it for you, if you're one of those unfortunates with an automatic transmission), and now the engine is doing less work to keep the car going the same speed, or the same work to go a higher speed. Each time you go fast enough to shift up a gear (and do so), the engine spins slower, using less gas and wearing out slower.

So, the first reason going too slow wastes gas: If our car is not in its top gear, your engine is doing more work for less distance.

Now, once your car is in its top gear, going faster and faster will lose you fuel economy once you exit the point that your engine is efficient. This point is different for different cars. For example, my 91 RX-7 got it's best fuel economy at an average of 72MPH on a long highway trip. After that point, if I go any faster, the MPG drops. On regular cars, that spot is a bit lower, around the low 60mph range, depending. On vans and SUVs, the fuel economy "happy zone" is a bit lower, (probably around 50 to 60, depending on your car) because wind resistance is such a factor at higher speeds.

So how can you apply this?

First off, the faster you're in the next gear, the better. The longer you're in a low gear, the more gas is being wasted on going less distance. Though, if you shift too soon, the engine will lug (in older cars your engine might even knock and ping!) and you'll end up having to put your foot down more and more just to get up the tiniest of hills with your fuel economy dropping the whole way.

So, since shifting too soon doesn't work, how about flooring it to get up to speed so you can shift faster? That won't work either, as jackrabbit starts are a huge waste of gas. Ideally, you want the engine to be doing as little total work over the entire course of getting up to speed as possible. A good rule of thumb if you don't know how fast to accelerate, is try to keep the engine relatively quiet. If that doesn't sound scientific enough for you, you can buy a decent vacuum gauge for $36 from Summit Racing (dot com!), so that you can tell how hard your engine is working. If you go that route, try and keep that needle above ~9.

Mentioning "Top Gear" so much makes me think of the TV show, so by all means, have a read about what they have to say about fuel economy at Clarkson's top fuel saving tips, the fellows who brought you this video:

If that isn't interesting to you, you can always read about the fellow pulling 59mpg in a plain old Honda Accord.

I hope this article has been helpful to you, feel free to share what tricks have worked for you in the comments.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Welcome to Tofuball's Working

Greetings, hapless Internet wanderer! I'm Jason, This is a work blog where I will chronicle the many projects that I take on, from rebuilding rotary engines to building a house in my back yard. Some projects on the roster right now to look forward to:

1) Putting a Porsche transmission into a VW Vanagon with a Chevy engine

Nothing like a five speed with overdrive to help MPG. Also engine tuning tips to get the most miles out of your gallon of gas, without losing power, even in a semi-massive van.

2) Rebuilding/porting rotary engines

Unlike most, we're going to build this engine for reliability and for economy, while still having enough power to make the trip to work fun. Maybe it will even look pretty.

3) How to drive for the best fuel economy

You've read those articles before, the ones that tell you not to slam on the gas at every opportunity, or to shut your engine off at stop lights, or to stop speeding. But you already knew all that stuff, and the last one most likely isn't true for your car! This article will provide helpful, useful tips for actually improving your MPG substantially without wearing out your starter.

5) Home insulation tips, save a fortune without having to spend one

Is your electric bill starting to look like your mortgage payment? Well, relax, with only a few bucks and an afternoon with a friend, I'll show you how to drastically lower your energy bills.