boulders beneath the shoulder
Monday, October 30 2006
Though I'd never done it before, I've done a lot of plumbing soldering since moving to the Catskill Region. I must enjoy it, because I keep coming up with projects that require it, and when I can't think of anything practical to do I end up building menorahs and swing lamps. Today I ran copper pipe from yesterday's bypass rig to the Titan Tankless Heater, which I've suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the boiler room on a single downward-stabbing two by four. I should point out at this point that all the potable water systems in the house run through inch-diameter copper pipe, an unnecessary extravagance that greatly increases the time necessary to run the hot water before any of it arrives. The tankless heater uses sensible half-inch copper line, and it's a little freaky how, when the bypass is engaged, the water goes from inch down to half inch, around through the tankless heater, and then back to inch again.
In the course of my work today I had to correct for two unexpected pinhole leaks in soldered joints. Both took hours to manifest; I've learned to always run water in plumbing for at least a day before, say, sealing it up in a wall. Tiny leaks can go unnoticed when they're temporarily plugged by solder flux.
Next I entered the wiring stage of my project, with the circuit breaker box wide open and its lethal terminals begging for an accidentally grasp at stability. Early into this stage of the project I realized that my fat six-gauge/three conductor copper wire needed bigger Romex clamps, those hollow screw-tightened metal objects that allow plastic-jacketed wire to pass into a metal box without scraping against a sharp edge of sheet metal. So I drove off to Herzog's in Uptown. As I was leaving the driveway, though, I noticed that the post holding up our mail box had snapped off at the ground. So while I was in town I also got a kit for supporting a mailbox. It involved a 30 inch long steel stake which you're supposed to hammer into the ground. I thought I'd risk this technique even though I know the soil in our neighborhood is shallow-to-nonexistent. I just couldn't be bothered to dig a hole or, worse yet, pour concrete.
It took about a half dozen tries before I found a spot where I could pound that stake all the way down to its hilt. Evidently the foundation of the roadbed (into whose shoulder I was driving the stake) consists of large boulders with voids between them. I'd hit one at an angle and it would force the tip of my stake sideways such that it would no longer form a solid level footing for the post that was supposed to be inserted into it. As I worked, Sally sat quietly on the neighbor's lawn a dozen feet away. Cars passed by, but I didn't know any of the people driving them.
Later Crazy Dave walked past with Merlin on a leash and I nonchalantly said "Hey," because that seemed like most propitious salutation for a guy whose voice you have only heard used for enraged tirades. "Hey," he shyly replied. "Hi Merlin!" I added. I didn't even think to ask Crazy Dave about the "bear trap" incident. Evidently he has decided not to walk Merlin in the forest until the end of hunting season.
I had trouble doing the initial test of the tankless water heater because I wasn't getting good enough connections using the undersized wire nuts I had available. They just weren't up to the task of splicing six gauge stranded wire to eight gauge stranded wire. Eventually, though, I managed to get a connection suitable for testing. I rigged a temporary test environment where the tankless heater was heating water straight from the well. Then I ran down to the nearest bathrooms to wash my hands with this electrically-heated water. The water it produced wasn't scaldingly hot, at least not during the few seconds I used it, but it steamed convincingly and was definitely hot enough for stop-gap purposes. If I were to run the water slowly enough, and if I were to be in a particularly decadent frame of mind, I could even make a bath with this water.
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