Category Archives: Do-it-yourself

DIY

The book of Self-Sufficiency

Self-SufficiencyIn my last Amazon parcel I got the book with the largest name I know: “The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency: The Classic Guide for Realists and Dreamers“. It’s really amusing! It shows you all kind of farm related techniques, from sowing plants to building gates, from butchering a cow to installing wind mills. Moreover the illustrations are beautiful and useful at the same time. But the most interesting part for me, apart from the plant related stuff, is the lessons of philosophy that it contains. Let me quote some pseudo-random sentences:

(about sowing tomatoes)

The most luxurious tomatoes I ever saw growing were on the overspill of a sewage works, which leads one to think that it would be better to eat the seed before we plant it.

(about grapes)

I grew ninety outdoor vines there and got plenty of grapes. The pheasants ate all grapes but I ate all pheasants, so that was all right.

(his dry toilet)

The flush toilet is one of the greatest sins of modern man. (…) It is a remarkably expensive way to pollute fresh drinking water, while at the same time wasting the very nutrients that are essential to maintain fertility in the soil. One pull of the lever and the waste becomes somebody else’s problem.

(about clothes)

(During the 1992 Rio Earth Summit) we saw the citizens’ groups from all over the planet wearing ethnic clothing, or cheap T-shirts and shorts, whilst the government delegations and the like wore smart suits and ties. Of course they could only do this in their own artificial world of air-conditioned hotels, cars, and conference centres. Out in the tropical heat of Brazil, the suit and tie are about as sensible as wearing an Aran sweater in a sauna. The suit and tie have, of course, become the uniform of the merchants of greed.

Some of our modern behaviours are totally against nature. But the worst part is that people don’t realize it, or think that doing ecological stuff is totally uncomfortable. If you have never travelled to a poor country, or to a out-of-civilization place, you will never understand how difficult and costly are some things that you consume or directly spoil in your urban life. Anyway, if speaking about modern life is just too boring for you, at least do this: plant a tree, and look at it everyday… this will change your mind.

New DIY Greenhouse

New DIY Greenhouse
Here you have my new super-greenhouse!
130x120x50cm

Material needed:
– 130x90cm 5mm glass
– 2.5m wood stick (x2)
– 2x1m polystyrene-glass surface
– 100ml of water resistant paint

Lessons learned:
– Julio, stop thinking about building things!
– Pine tree wood is not convenient for outdoor, despite is the cheapest wood. They say teakwood is perfect (or other wood from wet jungle trees). Anyway, I made it with the first one, and painted it with a special water resistant paint.
– Cutting real glass is not as easy as you see in youtube videos. First I tried to cut glass to make the wall, but the result was quite ugly. So then I bought plastic glass (2x1m for 40€, cheaper than real glass).
– In order to cut polystyrene-glass you need to adjust your electric saw at top speed. At low speed the fiber starts to oscillate and breaks easily. At high speed the cut is sealed after the saw moves on, due to the heat!, but later you can hit the join and split the parts.

By the way, compare it with my last year prehistoric balcony greenhouse.

Keep your freezer without air!

Freezer Why am I keeping this amount of bottles in my freezer?

Freezer (and fridge) are designed to keep the inside content cool. But it’s funny to realize that most of the content is air. Each time you open the freezer you force to move the inside air with the outside… and the inside temperature rises. How can we avoid it? Keeping a lot of things, in order to minimize the air’s volume. This way the freezer doesn’t “complain” (activates the compressor of the freezing gas) every time the door is opened (even for taking pictures). I’ve chosen water bottles because it’s quite easy item to get at home, but if you can get some concrete blocks or solid bricks, you’ll get an even better result.

With some energy-saving bulbs, this idea and some more ideas, my electricity bill is only 13€ per month.

Idea developed from: 100 ways to reduce your impact (some good and some slack) and “Proper Education” video clip (a remix of Eric Prydz of the classic “We don’t need no education” by Pink Floyd).

My hammock

It’s summer already, and that means it’s hot, really hot. I read somewhere that when the air temperature is above 27ºC, your head can’t evacuate enough heat, and you have various related problems (can’t sleep, headaches, etc).

My siesta hammockFor me, this is my second 2008 summer. I spent the first one in Costa Rica, in March. It was hot, but I enjoyed napping on a hammock near the beach… that was nice. The curious thing is that some days ago I saw a hammock in a shop window near home, just for 12 euros!

But the problem was: how can I hold it? actually, “where and how”? If I install some kind of hooks in the walls, I’m sure I will destroy some part of the walls when I jump into the hammock. So I decided to invent a way to hold it steadily, without destroying the house’s walls. And today I found it: I bought a rope, and I tied one side to the balcony’s railing and the other side to a wood crossed in the outside of my door. Then I grabbed the hammock to the tense rope with 2 carabiners. And it works!

Happy summer siestas!

DIY greenhouse

DIY greenhouse How can I build a greenhouse, a small one that fits in the balcony, to let my tomatoes become red?

This question have been bouncing inside my mind during some weeks. With the cold weather my tomato’s plant can’t grow red tomatoes. I was expecting its death, but for some reason the plant continues blossoming. So I decided to give it an opportunity. And the way to let it do its best is giving it a house. But how can I build a greenhouse?

The plastic is a bathroom curtain (1 euro at Ikea). I took the opportunity to change the old curtain and gave it a second use. On the other hand, this morning I found a clothes horse (to dry the laundry) on the street. Somebody had decided to throw it, because one leg was broken. And I gave it a second use. I joined the pieces, and… voilà, a greenhouse. It’s so warm inside 🙂

I hope I’ll have red tomatoes and peppers soon!

Back lights for my bike

A few moths ago Barcelona’s city council signed a new law for (against) the bicycles. In the last years a lot of people has started to use the bike here, despite the lack of bike paths. Therefore the city council decided to write laws to maintain the order. But Barcelona is not like most of the cities of Europe, regarding the respect for the bikes… I mean: pedestrians walk on the bike paths (I’ve had 2 accidents against them already), cars (and specially courier’s vans) use the bike path as a parking place, and if you try to cycle on a car or bus lane (as the new law recommends) you get a lot of horns sounding.

Home made back lights for my bikeAnyway, following the new law, you must have lights on your bike. So here I am to make some DIY. I bought some LEDs (two 3.5v ones), a resistor (330 Ohm), a battery holder and a 9v battery. Using an Ikea catalogue as worktable, and a soldering iron, I built an easy circuit. As you can see in the picture, the final result is quite nice and neat 🙂

I’ll test it tonight (if it’s not too cold).

Helping people from the past

Some time ago I was wondering how we would help the past civilizations if we had a time machine, and could travel to the past to help them. It’s just fantasy, but I daydreamed some ideas…

Imagine revealing gunpowder to the Greeks. Or showing a way to create and store electricity to the Roman Empire. Actually they didn’t have copper cables, so it wouldn’t be interesting at all. The good part of electricity is that it can be transported easily, with cables. But there are other methods to produce energy, like the water wheel. You can build a big water wheel near a river, and using some belts and axles to transport the energy to a factory, where you can convert this rotating movement into different kinds of processes. In the 19th century they used this method in real shotgun factories, for example. In fact, there were water wheels working alongside steam engines in the industrial revolution. Of course, a steam engine is a more interesting thing than a water wheel, but in a poor-tech civilization they can’t build an effective one.

Actually you don’t need a time machine to visit a poor-tech civilization, you can just have a look at the 3rd world. They don’t have modern technology, and they need to improve their lives.

I was happy to read that the people at MIT, are trying to invent cheap solutions to 3rd world problems. As it’s written in the article:

“Nearly 90 percent of research and development dollars are spent on creating technologies that serve the wealthiest 10 percent of the world’s population… The point of the design revolution is to switch that.”

Inspiring!!

DIY level 2: cement

You know when you’ve passed to a new level on do-it-yourself… it’s when you feel able to manage cement.
You also know when you start becoming mad… it’s when you feel able to manage cement.

Bathroom floor step 1Last weekend I committed the biggest DIY project I have ever done. For some weird reason we had parquet floor in the bathroom. The house doesn’t have parquet anywhere but the bathroom, where you have just the moisture necessary to destroy the wood. I have been living 2’5 years here, and last week, suddenly, I decided that the wood was in a really bad state, so I ripped it up. Underneath I found the old floor.

I started looking for options to improving the floor aspect. One was installing a new PVC floor, a sort of plastic material, supposedly easy to install. The problem was that everybody suggest its use over a flat surface. And unluckily the topography of the old floor was a collection of hills and holes. So the option was using some kind of auto-levelling paste. The next day I went to a hardware store, bought the PVC floor, but there was a problem with the famous paste… they only had 25Kg bags. So I chose not to choose this, and instead I picked a 2Kg cement bag. It was written some instructions in the bag, so I thought it was going to be easy. Moreover, I bought a new tap.

Bathroom floor step 2After installing the new tap, I started to make the cement. And soon I realized I needed also sand! Where can I get some sand, a Saturday evening? I took some bags, and went to Montjuïc (the nearest hill). Luckily I stumbled with some street works not far from home, so I took the opportunity to steal some sand. I came back home, and made a cement layer. I was really tired, however I went to have dinner in an Indian restaurant (the best in Barcelona, according my flatmate’s guitarist’s former band) with Jordi. The next day I added another layer.

Bathroom floor step 3Finally, I installed the new floor. It was a bit annoying to cut the WC shape, and to discover that there wasn’t right angles anywhere. I used a special glue, really sticky! And at the middle of the installation, I ran out of glue. Hence, I had to wait until next day, Monday, to buy more. Eventually I bought it, and finish it. There was a minor problem… there were some places with too much glue, creating waves while you step on. So I’m cleaning the glue excess…

Conclusion: The result is quite nice, but if I have in the future some similar idea, please kill me!!

Bigger wall anchors are not always better

A new bookshelfSince the beginning of the year, the population of books at home has increased enormously. I’ve decided to read more technical books, therefore I need more space for them. A new bookshelf, for example.

This morning I tried to put up a bookshelf in the living-room, but firstly I discovered that the wall was too thin (less than 3 inches). So I had to be careful, and for some reason I decided to use thick and short wall anchors. Some seconds after the installation, the bookshelf fell down!

Those wall anchors didn’t hold with enough strength, because the fact of being thick gives them the uncertain possibility of movement. Then I stopped and started to think in the opposite way… maybe some thin, really thin wall anchors could be better, because a better length/width ratio helps to avoid movement. I reinstalled it with smaller but smarter anchors, and the result was much better! Just curious.