Sunday, November 17 2019
Today's goal was to make real progress on the wiring of the split that will eventually be the main source of heat in the laboratory. But first I wanted to gather some just-in-time firewood in the nearby forest, as the recent extended cold snap had depleted our indoor firewood supply, and I wanted to delay using wood from the woodshed for as long as possible. On a cold day like today, one great reason for doing hard work like firewood gathering would be to raise my core body temperature, which would be particularly helpful when the time came to go out to the cold, mostly-unheated shop to do the laboratory's split wiring.
I took some wedges and a splitting maul, along with my big battery-powered chainsaw and firewood-hauling backpack to the edge of escarpment only about 150 feet southeast of the house. A chestnut oak had fallen here about a year and a half ago, much of which I'd already salvaged a year ago. But there were still a few big pieces needing to be split. While there, I found a dead white ash had fallen off the escarpment in such a way that it could be fairly easily salvaged. So I cut and split up a bunch of that. While there was still light available to work in, I managed to bring home about three backpacks' worth of wood from there, as well as another backpack from a long-neglected pile along the Stick Trail south of the stone wall.
The shop has a strange ceiling. For the southern third of it, the ceiling is flat and is in fact the north end of the laboratory floor. North of that, the shop ceiling is sloped, formed by a shed roof that, at its top, is about thirty inches higher than the laboratory floor. I'd decided to run the new power supply wire for the laboratory split into the same stud bay transected by the hoses connecting the split's two halves. This way I could use the hole drilled to accommodate those hoses to run the supply wire, avoiding additional penetrations of the wall (and weird cable routing on the outside of the house). To be sure that the hole I would be drilling from below into the laboratory's wall was falling in the correct stud bay, I took some basic measurements and figured out where the split hoses ran in relation to one of the shop's window. This gave me a precise enough location to cut an 8.5 by 11 inch hole in the shop ceiling beneath the laboratory's north wall. Then, to make absolutely sure the hole I would be drilling was in the correct stud bay, I resorted to dowsing.
By dowsing, I don't mean the kind where a balanced stick somehow swings to point in the direction of something being sought (much like the pointer on a Ouija board), In this case, I put a powerful rare earth magnet on the laboratory floor just outside the desired stud bay and then tried to feel its magnetic field from below while holding another rare earth magnet between my fingers and running it along the bottom of the floor deck (3/4 inch OSB). But doing this was as imprecise as actual dowsing, and I kept having false positives suggesting erroneously that I had found what I was looking for. The key to doing this successfully was to make my equipment more like the kind used in actual dowsing. I put a strong rare-earth magnet on the end of a thin wire and swept it against the underside of the laboratory floor until it was unmistakably attracted to something. I then let it stick to the part of the floor it was attracted to and confirmed that it was the magnet (and not some stray nail) by then going up to the laboratory and moving the big magnet and then, after going back to the shop, seeing that the little magnet on the wire had also moved.
Once I'd drilled a hole from below into the stud bay, I thought maybe I could snake a piece of fish tape up into the hole and hopefully reach the place where the split's hoses transected the bay. But the insulation in the bay worked against the flexibility of the tape, and I could only poke it a few inches in. So I went and fetched some screw-together fibreglass rods that are part of a chimney cleaning kit that I use far too infrequently. Using this, I was easily able to poke all the way to the top of the stud bay. But I couldn't "feel" the transecting refrigerant hoses as I "felt" around up there. Eventually I went and got the tiny camera on a wire that I've found helpful in similar situations. Unfortunately, it wasn't of much help. What I ended up having to do was going to fetch Gretchen so I could have her tap on on the top of the stud bay while I could figure out where it was hitting from up in the laboratory. Doing this, I determined that I the pole was indeed hitting very close to the hoses. But I was going to have to tear out a small triangle of drywall to be able to attach anything to it. Doing that, I got a string tied to the pole, which I pulled down to the shop. Then I tied the string to the electrical cable that will be powering the split, and pulled it up to the laboratory. All the work of wiring the split at that end should now be straightforward. The only tricky part remaining is getting the wire through the shop ceiling and down the wall to the shop's circuit breaker box. Fortunately, it can be completely de energized before I work on it.
As I worked, I listened mostly to Isaac Arthur's YouTube channel on a laptop I'd brought out to the shop (which was handy when I wanted to see the feed from my tiny USB camera). I'd wanted to use a big Axess bluetooth speaker I'd bought years ago to listen to the audio on, but the damn thing didn't work at all. Either it had never worked, or it had somehow gone bad in its long period of not being used.
By the time I was done with all the work described above, it was a little late for my customary Sunday Night bath, but I took a short one anyway.
The stone wall, which I haven't worked on lately, as it looked today from the south while I was gathering firewood. Click to enlarge.
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