Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tightening the Tension on my Wood-Mizer Sawmill

Yesterday was a pretty cold morning. Actually, this morning was rather cold too. The inside temperature when my bladder finally forced me from the covers was -8.9 degrees. I think Donna has said she's awoke to -9, so she still has me beat in the hardiness department.

Outdoors it is pushing thirty below, but then it seems to come up to a rather mild ten below once the sun is up.

At ten below, I can start to run my engines again with (relative) ease. As my readers know, frozen water and cold engines have been my main sticking points this year. That, and my own lack of basic competence at various things. But I'm learning, and the weather is what it is.

I checked on the solar panels first thing; they had a bit of the rising sun on them, but I could clearly see a huge shadow across them from the (now abandoned) water line/electrical line/log support. I would have thought they would have been breaking even, but they stubbornly were stuck on a nearly two amp drain. I brought over my chainsaw, the only engine that seems to be able to start at twenty and thirty below, but as I switched off the choke, my makeshift starter cord broke again - ha ha.

I returned with just the bucksaw, and using it at a rather invigorating pace and angle, cut out the offending log and freed up the solar panels to receive much more sun.

The ammeter still was stuck on discharge - I supposed that the trees were still shading the panels too much. Shade is a real enemy of solar; any shade, any amount. I can't stress enough that panels need to be entirely exposed to the sun!

I planned on returning to the yurts to weave a new starter cord from sterner stuff, but met up with Donna and Kenny as they were on their way to Mummu's to do a load of laundry. It seemed a good time to tag along and perhaps set up a bit more of Mummu's internet. I am hoping that soon she will have the opportunity to finally switch from dialup to broadband. I put the equipment in place, but left the actual settings and experience on her computer the same.

I came back to the yurts alone while the others finished a second load of laundry. After a potato chip lunch, I headed over to the sawmill to see if I couldn't figure out how to tighten up the blade.

My sawmill progress has been much diminished lately. The blade kept sticking in the log at the slightest provocation. Finally, after consulting with Howie's Saw, I was told to check the blade tension. I consulted my manual the night before, and so, with a 13mm wrench in hand I tightened up the turnbuckle adjustment under the engine of my LT-10. It's really simple to do, not nearly as complicated as I feared it would be.

After a few ginger pulls on the starter (having had such bad experiences with my chainsaw and generator of late), I got the engine up and roaring.

What a difference! It cut through my logs like butter (albeit cold butter...). It was once again a pleasure to be milling.

I managed to put out four good beams yesterday, and a large stack of boards as well.

Between each beam, I would carry my new treasure over to my stack by the yurts, and then check on the solar box. Imagine my excitement when I saw the panels in full sun! And the charge indicator showing again - no charge! Wait... That's not right... Silently berating my abilities to put together a reliable system, I opened up the box to see if anything obvious was going on inside. I figured my charge controller was blown up. But no, it was glowing solid red - no charging. I returned to the dojo tent, and I must say it took me far less time than I feared to find my spare fuses. Curses, the first four I pulled out were all six amp - rated really only for one panel, not three. Then I was blessed to find a single 25 amp fuse in the pile. I have to remind myself to purchase more of those!

Back at the panels, I froze one finger after another trying to unscrew the back junction boxes and expose the fuses. Of course, there are two boxes, and the first box showed no signs of problems. All fuses were still fine, as confirmed with my multimeter set on ohms.

The second box showed my problem up right away - the main feed wire from the fuse "panel" had come loose from the connector - I suppose all the movement of the panels back and forth due to wind, or us adjusting them, had eventually worked it free.

With a bit of finagling, I was able to re-connect it, and was gratified to see the ammeter climb to 15 amps of current flowing back into the batteries. The voltage came up to 13.3 right away. After only an hour or so, it hit the magic level of 15.6 volts which causes my inverter to trip. For the entire afternoon we had no power in the yurts as the batteries charged at this voltage. I don't begrudge my system this fault just yet. During the day we don't really have huge power needs, and the fridge/freezer can weather the time off without much difficulty. Once the cabin is built though, I'll have to ensure that the remote on/off switch for the inverter is in a more accessible location. I don't wish to have to go outside at dusk following every sunny winter's day to switch it back on.

So it was with a happy heart that I was able to come inside for supper last night, knowing I had batteries rapidly filling up, and a beam pile that was growing again.

 

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