Wednesday, 22 September 2021


Recently life has become full of battery issues.  Boat and vehicle owners will know batteries are a consumable with a finite life.  Many new vehicles come with a five year warranty, but usually in the fine print it will state the starter battery warranty is 12 months.  The battery in our Isuzu has now been in use for 4½ years, which is probably well beyond its anticipated life.  Over the last six months the vehicle has occasionally been either hard to start or the engine dies shortly after starting. 

I didn’t want to be in the middle of outback nowhere and wake one morning to find a dead battery.  Therefore six months ago I bought a new battery during a discount sale.  However I didn’t fit it because I wasn’t planning a remote trip in the immediate future and I wanted to maximise its life.

Yesterday the Isuzu wouldn’t start.  The battery was so flat it would only illuminate the dash lights and wouldn’t turn over the engine.  I placed the battery on the 240V charger for three hours which got the engine going.  However the vehicle was in “limp mode” which means less power.

This morning the old battery was removed.


It had a CCA Rating of 450 when new.

The replacement battery is larger and will be a bit of a squeeze to fit in the battery area.


It’s rated at 810CCA


Nearly twice the cranking power of the original.  Hopefully the new battery will last longer and not fail far from civilization.

It was a squeeze to install it.


I remember the first car I owned, a 1967 Vauxhall Viva.  There was enough spare room in the engine bay to hold a party.  Today’s engine bays are crammed.  Or have my arms and hands got larger?

The new battery started the Isuzu without issue.  However the vehicle was still in ‘limp mode’ with the engine check light illuminated.  I used the Ultragauge to clear the fault code which returned the engine to normal operating mode.  That saved the cost of having the garage clear the code for me. 

Whilst I was fitting the battery Postman Pat delivered a package.  To my surprise it was the 12V battery charger I’d asked Jan to order.  I plan on taking the drone on my outback trips and need a way to recharge the drone batteries and controller.


Whilst the drone came with a 240V charger it’s highly unlikely I’ll find a 240V socket in the middle of the desert.  This charger will enable me to recharge the drone from the car.

Meanwhile Jan has been busy in the kitchen.  Yesterday she bought a tin of black beans and today she baked a black bean cake.  I had a slice for lunch.  Lovely and moist, and it tastes like chocolate cake.  The cake doesn’t contain flour as Jan is trying to cut down my carbohydrates after I was diagnosed with diabetes back in May.  It’s now 135 days, 14 hours and 37 minutes since I last had beer, chocolate or ice cream.  Not that I’m counting! Smile 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Old skills and the nuclear option

My nephew asked if I could install a 240V electrical system to his outback camper trailer.  It had a 12V system when he purchased the trailer and he now also wants 240V with the intention of connecting to ‘shore-power’ when he visits a caravan park.  The 240V will mostly be used to recharge the batteries and run his wife’s hair dryer Smile

It’s a ‘pop top’ trailer


He had already fitted the external power socket which I’ve had to remove to gain access to the reverse for the cable terminals.  Whilst the socket was removed I decided to mask up the holes and give then a coat of galvanised paint.


I’ve started making the wiring looms, but won’t do the actual fitment until there is a guaranteed fine day.

Meanwhile I’ve been in the shed working on the bedhead.  It has now had four coats of stain and two of varnish.


All that is left is a light sanding and a final coat of varnish.

The major news here is the Federal Govt decision to cancel the conventional submarine contract with the French and take the nuclear powered option.  After spending $2B on the French contract the country now faces the financial and political cost of cancelling.  It’s also an irony that the proposed French submarine is nuclear powered.  However Australia required to to be redesigned as a diesel-electric.  Why not just opt for the existing French nuclear version and save some money?  Unfortunately the French model will require nuclear refuelling, which would mean Australia would require a nuclear industry.   By opting for a US/UK design the submarine will be fuelled for the life of the vessel thus avoiding the need for Australia to have a nuclear industry.

Naturally the French are very annoyed at the sudden cancellation of the contract and have recall their ambassadors in American and Australia.  The French ambassador to the UK wasn’t recalled and I wonder if the French thought that this would be more of an insult to the UK than the recall (ie, you’re a minor bit player in the affair Boris Smile)

I’m slightly worried that the population thinks life is back to normal here in the west.  There are restrictions on entering and leaving the State, apart from that life looks normal.

Even the weekend Bunnings ‘Sausage Sizzle’ has returned.


Today it was the local ‘Lions Club’ raising money.

Jan has received her second AZ injection.  There was a long queue at our nearest government vaccine hub.


Fortunately for us 95% of them were queuing for Pfizer and Jan was able to go to the empty AZ lane.  The vaccine rollout is progressing very slowly.  With no COVID in the State and no deadline to get vaccinated, many people don’t seem interested.  We’re going to have to learn to live with COVID and my own view is the state government should declare a date by when all people who want the vaccine get it; as that will be the day all COVID avoidance restrictions are removed. 

Ade, without some form of incentive (positive or negative) the commercial world isn’t going to be interested in spending money on training.  Particularly in the current commercial environment where senior executives get rewarded for short term high profits.

Jenny, I was bonded for three years on the completion of my training.

Catherine I suspect the nursing shortage isn’t going to be resolved until the voters get so annoyed that political parties decide to do something.  Unfortunately they let the crisis occur and then look for a quick fix by trying to recruit qualified staff rather than a longer term solution of training and retaining.

And just in case some of our readers think I might have lost my sense of humour.


Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Not Very Clever!

When fitting out the boat I had carefully noted how Richard would fit a length of timber trim to the edge of the plywood panels.  He would machine the trim through the Thicknesser slightly thicker than the plywood and then plane it down using a small ‘Butt Plane’ after it was secured to the plywood.  When it came to the timber edging on the plywood bedhead I thought I’d be a little more clever and ensure the trim and the plywood were the same thickness.  That turned out to not be very clever.  The thickness of the plywood wasn’t uniform and I quickly realised I’d needed to rip the trim off the edge of the plywood before the glue set.

Now I had to repeat Richard’s method.  But I only have a very large hand plane, which isn’t suitable.  After searching online I realised a good English Butt plane would cost around $420 and I wasn’t prepared to pay that much.  In the end I managed to purchase a small Butt Plane for $88.  It was made in India.


Of course the blade wouldn’t cut butter and the plane was covered in some type of sticky preservative ,which mean the first job was a clean and sharpen.  I’ve been steadily planning the solid trim on the edge removing the surplus timber a few thou’s on each stroke. But I’m getting there.

The other not so clever move has been the State Govt.  My sister is a senior nurse and we were discussing the current hospital crisis.  There’s no COVID in the State but we still have a hospital crisis.  Ambulance Ramping is getting worse every year with most of the hospitals declaring a ‘code red’ at some time.  This means they are unable to take patients who must be diverted to another hospital.  Frequently that means the patient has to wait in the ambulance outside the hospital for hours whilst the staff endeavour to find a bed.  She informed me during her last shift her hospital had the only free ICU bed in all the city hospitals.  I hate to think what would happen if we had a COVID outbreak

This isn’t a new problem and the current government (Labor) criticised the previous government (Liberal) for the situation.  Labor has now been in power four years and the ambulance ramping problem has more than doubled. 

Recently the government announced several billions had been allocated in the next budget to build additional hospitals.  I suggested to my sister that should resolved the crisis in several years.  Apparently I’m wrong!  She told me the problem isn’t infrastructure; it’s a lack of staff.  There aren’t enough nurses! 

That seemed unusual as I’m aware my niece completed her nursing degree 12 months ago and couldn’t find employment.  This indicated to na├»ve me that there wasn’t a shortage of nurses.  It was explained to me.  Hospitals don’t want newly graduated nurses…… They want experienced nurses!  Essentially the hospitals don’t want the cost of on the job training for graduates.  They would rather attract a foreign ‘qualified’ nurse than train them.  My sister also explained a number of years ago governments move the cost of training nurses from the health to the education budget. 

We have the ludicrous situation where the universities are churning out new nurses that the health system doesn’t want. 

Thirty years ago government departments annually took on large numbers of apprentices.  However many of these industries were subsequently sold to the private sector who don’t want the training cost.  They would rather ‘poach’ qualified personnel from their competitors or lament the shortage in public and lobby the government to allow qualified foreign workers to be fast tracked into Australia.  Meanwhile we have a youth unemployment problem.

I have a solution to this problem.  Any organisation, company or government department who declares they have a skill workforce problem and wants to bring in a qualified foreign worker will pay a training levy to a government training fund.  The money in the fund will be used to train an Australian for that skillset.  The levy will be in place for the same duration that it takes to fully train the worker.  The worker will then enter the general workforce.

Organisations that declare a skill shortage and who decide to train personnel at their own expense will have the trainee bonded to the organisation after their training is completed for a period of 50% of their training time, After the bonded period the employee can seek alternative employment.  This approach means the organisation receives a return on their training investment and avoids a competitor ‘poaching’ a qualified worker thereby avoiding the  cost of training.        

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Murder..and We walk the Plank!

There were awful piercing screams from out the front, I was sure someone was being murdered.   I was right!  Jan was ripping poor defenceless veggies out of the garden and decapitating them. 


No doubt I will feel guilty when eating them for dinner.

Meanwhile were were almost back into boater mode having to deploy the plank to reach the shore.


The driveway and path are being replaced in two stages.


The first stage places us in lockdown.  Being trapped inside has some advantages when I suggested we have a homemade “spoons” big breakfast for lunch.


During this period of enforced confinement I’ve been cutting the plywood for my new work bench.  I appeared to have a surplus sheet of plywood and decided to make it into garage shelving.


Shelving resting on its tummy.

Everything was going well until I realised I didn’t have sufficient plywood for the top shelf.  However I then realised  I had a 2400x400mm offcut from the work bench.  Everything was going well until I attempted to fit the top shelf only to discover the first plywood sheet was 2440mm long whilst the work bench sheets were 2400mm.  The damned shelf was 40mm short.  Eventually I came up with a solution involving a piece of scrap timber.


I can live with the anomaly as it’s only garage shelving.

We sat down to lunch whilst watching the midday news.  The federal PM (Scomo from Marketing) appears to be digging himself a deeper political grave.  One of the State Health Ministers has informed the press that the Federal government is not distributing the COVID vaccines based on population ratio.  The NSW State government is getting a greater share of the vaccine compared to Queensland, Victoria and West Australia.  It’s true that NSW has a significant COVID problem which it’s endeavouring to control via vaccination rather than lockdown suppression.  Giving them a greater share of the national vaccine stock might be justified. However it’s also true that the Federal and NSW State governments are Liberal, whilst the other three States have a Labor government.   Politics?  Some will claim it is.

The NZ PM was also on the news explaining that NZ was in the final stages of contract negotiations for the supply of vaccine.  Here was me thinking Australia had well and truly missed the bus!

Sunday, 5 September 2021

Free food and my new tool

Imagine a large, vast restaurant. Service here works in an interesting way.

The waiters dash around the restaurant to bring diners as much free food as they can eat. They don’t take orders but effectively direct you to what you will eat by putting that food in front of you.

The restaurant owner has designed it this way, to keep you eating as much as possible.  The owner monitors what you eat and sells this information to his suppliers.

How do the waiters know what you like? They have a record of what you ate last time. They listen in on your table conversation. You mention you feel like French fries? They will bring you buckets of fries over and over.

At first you think: “Isn’t this wonderful, these waiters know just what I like and it’s all free.”

But the waiters don’t care about what you like. They just want you to keep eating. Even if the food is unhealthy and increases your risk of disease or death. No matter. They’ll keep bringing it as long as you keep eating.

If these waiters were ethical, if they cared about your well-being, they might bring you healthy alternatives. They might put a salad before you. If the restaurant owner was ethical, the service would not be designed to encourage overeating. It would seek to interest you in something else.

But then you might stop eating. You might leave the restaurant. That would hurt profits.

Welcome to the world of social media!

My new tool has arrived.  I saw it on Banggoods with a 60% discount.  At $14 I thought “Why Not!”

It’s a corner chisel.  If you have ever routered a slot in timber you will know the ends of the slot are round from the bit.  I had this recently with the rebates for the door hinges and went to the expense of purchasing hinges with round corners.  This little tool accurately cuts out the rounded corners.  Yes, I know this can be achieved with a conventional chisel but my eyesight is so bad I struggle to do this.  The tool is much easier.   Or it will be when I sharpen the very blunt edges.


Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Another Experiment


Enough of the humour. Today was the day for cutting the headboard sheet to size.  My experience of cutting plywood isn’t good.  Usually this results in a jagged cut edge caused by ‘tear-out’ from the circular saw blade.  I know why the ‘tear-out’ occurs!  The blade is spinning anti-clockwise and as a result the initial cut is to the underside of the plywood.  the blade cuts in an upward motion resulting in the blade teeth exiting through the top of the sheet.  This can splinter the wood fibres which creates the jagged edge.  There are various methods to avoid this including turning the sheet over or running tape over where the cut will appear.  The joiner at the boatyard would run a razor knife blade down the line of the cut to severe the wood fibres before running the sheet through the big table saw.  I’m trying something different today.

At the local specialist woodworking store I bought a Festool jig.


The jig clips onto my Makita Tracksaw guide rails.


This creates a right angle join which secures the rail guide at 90° to the edge of the sheet.  The rail is then clamped to the sheet from underneath.


First time I’ve attempted this so I used my old yellow square to check the angle.


This next part is my experimental cutting method.  Usually you would push the saw forward along the guide rail which means the blade is cutting upwards from the bottom of the sheet.  Today I’m doing it in reverse by pulling the saw backwards.  This way the blade is going down through the top of the sheet.


I’ve only set the blade depth at 2mm so it will just cut the wood fibres on the surface of the plywood sheet.  Such a shallow cut also means the saw shouldn’t bounce around. Then I lowered the badge to cut the rest of the way through the sheet and pushed the saw forwards in the normal direction.  As you can see in this next photo I have a perfect edge on the side I want to keep with ‘tear-out’ on the waste side


However there was a problem with the edge. As you will see in the next photo the rearward cut has an offset to the forwards cut.


To solve this I made all the cuts by drawing the saw backwards multiple times lowering the blade depth 7mm each time.  This solved the problem.


The above photo shows the ‘tear-out’ on the underside of the offcut.  Notice also the difference in colour between the original sheet and my Jarrah stained surface.

My plywood bedhead is now the planned size.  I’m not happy with the status of the stained surface.  It has had three coats but I’m obviously going to need to apply more stain.


Jan has suggested the drawing might be more prominent if I fill the grooves with white paint rather than black.  More research required!







Sunday, 29 August 2021

That Time of the Year

Once again it is the time of year when we head to the local strawberry farm and do our annual berry picking.


Some immediately get eaten.  But the majority are either frozen or made into jam.  I have noticed the price two years ago was $10 and last year it was $12.  This year it was $15, a 50% mark-up in three years.  I wish our life savings were achieving a similar result! Smile

Work on the bedhead has continued.  I used the small router with a 60deg ‘V’ bit to cut a 4mm deep groove everywhere there was a pencil line. The grooves weren’t very clear and I fortunately decided to experiment on a piece of scrap plywood before filling them using a felt marker pen.  I suspected the ink would ‘bleed’ into the wood fibres on the edge of the grooves and I was right!

As an alternative, a 2B lead pencil has been used to mark the grooves.


The pencil has made the lines stand out better, but they haven’t achieved the finish I want.


The plywood was always going to be given a Jarrah timber stain and I’m going to do that next.  Then with the grooves sealed I’ll use a black felt tip pen to make them more pronounced.  I’m not sure how many coats of stain I’ll need to apply before starting on the varnish.

Now that the sketch is larger it appears the shell may be a Reeves!

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Ken’s Expertise

Ken visited today laying the sandstone blocks that now form the kerbing for the path in front of the lounge room window. I did the labouring and generally got in the way.


Thank you Ken!

Prior to Ken’s arrival the postman delivered the exterior 240V power socket I’d ordered online.  It’s required for the new gas instant hot water heater.  Jan and I ran the cable down inside the wall cavity during the weekend and today I fitted the double socket.


I just need to convince Jan she needs to get back up on the roof and remove a tile in order for her to lower the other end of the cable down inside the cavity to the wall socket in the study where I will make the connection.

Before he left Ken helped carry several sheets of 2400x1200x19mm plywood into the ‘man cave’.  One was then propped vertically against the end wall.  The plan is for it to be our long overdue bedhead.

I had a cunning plan (sorry Baldrick).  Just prior to leaving the UK our youngest son gave me his computer projector for safe keeping.  My plan was to use it to project the narrowboat scene onto the plywood.  You may recall the sketch.


After some adjusting I managed to project the sketch onto the plywood in the correct position.


Yes, the sketch is upside down.  There was a scratch on the upper part of the plywood sheet and by reversing the sketch I plan to position the scratch where it will be hidden by the mattress.


The bedhead will be 1800x1200mm with 300-400mm of the height hidden by the mattress and pillows.  The next step was to carefully copy the lines of the sketch with a pencil.


With the projector turned off the pencil lines are hard to see.  I’ll need to trace over them with a black fine felt tip pen.  I’ll also need to buy an appropriately sized bit for the router.


Sunday, 22 August 2021

The Garden

A lazy start to the day until we noticed local social media was reporting a COVID outbreak and the suburb would shortly be going into lockdown. By 11.30AM the local liquor store had sold all its stock and the two supermarkets were out of toilet paper. Our neighbours have two small children. We could hear the screaming, crying and tantrums. I've never heard adults carry on like that! After lunch I erected a sign on the front lawn "Toilet Paper $10 a Roll" :-)

Now to something more serious. Jan appears to be delighted with the progress of her gardens. A wet and cool start to spring as seen rapid growth. She is rather pleased her daffodils are starting to flower and the bluebells won't be far behind.





The Hibiscus along the back fence line have also flowered.


Next year they should be larger.

Jan is particularly pleased with her front cottage garden


Yesterday we bought two more fruit trees which have been planted in the front lawn.


Dwarf Avocado


A second Mulberry

I’m pleased Jan enjoys gardening otherwise I would have planted the entire area in concrete Smile