Chinese potato chip
Saturday, January 12 2008
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
Today I took delivery of a bunch of tools I'd bought from HarborFreight.com, an importer of no-name Chinese products. Among these was an auto-darkening welding helmet, a small air compressor, and a skeletal cart designed for hauling firewood. I immediately assembled the firewood cart and went out to gather firewood, loading up large pieces from a downed oak only about 200 feet south south east of the house, on the very precipice of the escarpment. The cart seemed to be working wonderfully as I rolled my load homeword. But either I'd overloaded it or a stick got jammed in the spokes because one of the wheels (a spoked bicycle-type wheel) began potato-chipping badly, and all attempts to set it straight were for naught. Then, when I foolishly attempted to continue, one of the spokes jammed through its inner tube and I heard air hissing out. That was the end of that wheel. It's part of the price one pays for cheap Chinese imports (along with huge trade deficits, a weakened dollar, a fraction of the air comprised of carbon dioxide, a demoralized domestic labor force, and poorly-written packaging text). Instead of going through the expense and tsuris of sending it back, I immediately ordered a pair of cheap Chinese replacement wheels. These would be slightly smaller in diameter but entirely spoke-free and capable of supporting payloads of something like a thousand pounds. I can use the one good wheel for something else, maybe something like a pulley.
Later I took advantage of the unusual mildness of the weather (sunny, with temperatures in the 40s) to work on preparing my handmade 60 square foot hydronic solar panel to receive genuine glass glazing. The first order of business was that leak I'd thought I'd fixed back in the autumn. Today I hit that trouble spot with more MAP gas fury and globbed as much solder and flux as I could over it, but (perhaps tellingly) I was never able to heat the junction fitting hot enough to rotate it with alligator pliers. Still I thought I'd give it pressure test, so I brought up the handy new air compressor that came with my other toys today and, using a special 3/8-inch-air-hose-quick-release-to-garden-hose-female-adapter I'd just made, I pressurized the panel. It seemed to be holding air at 80 pounds per square inch without any detectable leaks, but I knew better than to draw any conclusions before letting it sit overnight so I could come back and look at it in the morning (before the sun gets hot enough to explosively destroy it).
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