I absolutely agree with what you are saying. This is why the on-grid folks
are using Tesla's design and not Edison's DC idea. For a house I also think
it's probably not worth the trouble to run massive wires everywhere in order
to use DC effeciently. Of course the higher the voltage the smaller the
wire required, which brings you right back to 115VAC. Probably better to
have a few extra batteries and a couple of extra solar panels (or whatever)
to cover the loss of effeciency. When I first started reading about wind
generators about 20 or so years ago they were talking about 120 volt
generators charging batteries in series equaling 120 VDC. According to the
author most appliances wouldn't care if it was AC or DC. This idea is
definately simpler than having to buy and connect an expensive sine wave
inverter but I suspect that today's electronics might be a bit more
particular about their input current than a 20 year old dishwasher or vacuum
cleaner. If someone wanted to try it I suppose the best thing to do would
be to buy a new whatever and make sure you can return it. If it explodes
you go get your money back. And of course there's always the problem of
short circuits burning the house down.
However, for a stand-alone workshop that is to be powered seperately I would
consider using DC as opposed to running a gasoline/diesel generator on one
or two tools that I use regularly. For those that I only use occasionally
for me it's no big deal to start up a little generator (most of my saws etc
run fine from a Honda eu2000). As someone else pointed out running a
compressor during peak sunlight or wind times (or when a generator happens
to be running) and filling the tank can, at least in my case, supply enough
air to do quite a bit of work later without having to use any additional
power. Leaks, in this case, cannot be allowed to exist!
Lol. As long as you don't plug a battery charger into it to charge the
batteries it's running off of ;-)
I keep toying with the idea (12 volt motors) but I still use a gasoline
generator for the sizeable, short use loads. When it comes right down to it
I'm probably only using about 2 to 3 gallons of gasoline per month to run my
tools to produce around $15,000 worth of revenue. From a business
standpoint this is an insignificant expenditure. I simply manage the use of
my power tools and do work in batches. I don't work after the sun goes down
(usually, unless it's a RUSH order).
Thanks for your posting.
Your discussion is one of the major reasons for me starting this
thread. As I soon discovered when I started research into the design of
an AHP workshop...that the continuing progression of technology
(especially that of inverter design) changes the approach that one
should take in implementing a AHP system today.
While the lure to go "no power" is strong, I am no Luddite. Power
tools, both portable and stationary, have their place in a AHP
workshop. The opportunity to leverage consumer offerings allows one to
use conventional tools with minimal hassles. I also have a large
collection of older metal and wood working tools that would be awkward
to convert to something other than AC. In the past, I have always had a
policy of trying to do as little a modification as possible to a tool
since it is never a simple as it first seems. Machine tools were
designed with certain speed and torque requirements in mind and when
one departs from these, the tool's performance suffers.
Thanks for your input and please always feel welcome to contribute to
any of my discussions.
Yes and no. :-) We have a simple sawdust bucket toilet that sits
beside a commercial composting toilet, now retired. I'm going to tear
out the latter and build a nicer bucket toilet when the time is
Long story, but the commercial toilet is, IMHO, a waste of money.
(Fortunately, wasn't my decision; came with the house.) A bucket
toilet is superior to it in every way.
Most so-called composting toilets, including this one, are actually
evaporating toilets and don't compost per se.
There are two of those here, also retired.
We have shallow groundwater, and an outhouse is an potentially nasty
polluter. Actually septic systems can be just as bad - so many people
manage to pollute their wells with those too. Above-ground aerobic
composting is the way to go IMHO.
I don't see how ANY of them could actually compost anything when you are
always adding new material. My composting takes place in the compost heap.
That actually works.
Yea. I built a composting toilet and replaced it with a bigger version (30
gallon) of the bucket toilet. I overcame the weight problem by putting a
drain at the bottom that goes into a hole (covered, of course) and I used
weeds chopped with a lawnmower or peat moss when there are no weeds instead
of sawdust. My well is about 300 feet away and down 126 feet. I've given
some thought to having it go into a solar still and then only clean water
would reach the ground. Haven't figured out yet how to clean the solar
still though. Might be ugly and stinky.
As I understand it, composting toilets always have a second compartment
where the final composting takes place before the stuff is removed.
You might instead use a solar evaporator so that only vapor escapes.
The fellows doing those earthships (tire houses) did a bit of work on
these things. I found a page of theirs...
Apparently they prefer to use a solar heated septic tank that drains
into a large outdoor lined planter. Plants do seem to do a good job
at both removing pollutants and evaporating water.
Yes, and so did mine. The problem I had was I built one that should have
had enough capacity for 5 people but I had to empty it somewhat every 2 or 3
days with 4 people using it. The stuff would sit in the drawer for only 2
days then have to be emptied into a compost heap. With my extra-large
bucket toilet I need to empty it every 7-10 days. Less work for me and a
lot less complicated. No moving parts.
I think in order for a composting toilet to work for a family of 4 it would
have to have a capacity of at least 200 gallons, probably more. It would be
huge and, if a drum type, would probably require an engine to turn it.
Thanks for the idea. I'll look into it.
Probably wouldn't work for me because so little liquid leaves the toilet.
This methods seems to work well for flushing toilets though.
I don't see a problem with that. I add fresh material to the top of
our working pile once a week until the bin is full and we let 'er
rest. The most active thermophilic zone *is* right near the top where
the new material is added. Our working bin is toasting along at 120
degrees F right at the moment.
We learned a lot from Joe Jenkin's "Humanure Handbook" e.g. that we
don't need to do a lot of work turning the pile, and that doing so can
actually kill the thermophilic action. That's exactly what we've found
in practice. Haven't flipped a pile since.
I'm fortunate enough to have two small smallmills run by neighbors
within a few miles. We tried leaves and stuff but kept bringing in too
many bugs with 'em.
One reason I like the bucket thing is 'cos the pee just goes into the
pile where it contributes nitrogen and helps to keep it at the right
One of our problems with the commercial unit was that no matter what
we did we would eventually end up with flies, e.g. fungus gnats,
living in there. The buckets don't sit around long enough for anything
to breed in 'em.
I thought when we build the new house I might like to try a vault, but
the fly thing really worries me. Plus, we're trying to keep to a
single-story design with no stairs which kinda precludes that anyway.
Best site we have is on a hill though, so there's still the
possibility for ground-level access to a lower-level vault. Dunno.
I'll keep the commercial toilet around just to install it
(temporarily) for getting approvals... something prior residents here
haven't had to concern themselves with.
Well yes, it seems like it SHOULD work. But you said you retired your
commercial toilets. There must be a reason why.
Quite possibly one of the most useful books ever written. Most of what I
know about composting, pathogens, coli bacteria etc. came from that book. I
just make a hile in the top of my pile, add the new stuff, and cover it with
stuff from the sides of the pile.
While searching for a fan motor I came across some substantial DC motors on
eBay a while back. I think they may have been blower motors for furnaces or
air conditioners. What I had in mind was using a belt drive. I would think
it might be more difficult to find one that has the right shaft for a saw,
especially one with reverse threads. Come to think of it a DC powered saw
might make it possible (or at least safer) to use fluorescent lights in a
shop since it would not be running at 60 Hz.
Grainger has DC motors too.
How many of these tools are going to operate at the same time? What do
those amps add up to? With some extra margin, that is the demand you need
to satisfy. It isn't the sum of all the tools, unless they will all be
running at the same time.
Have you ever been in an Amish woodshop? The last time I was in one it had
very many modern woodworking machines all driven by a jackshaft. There was
a Deutz diesel engine powering the jackshaft. The amish farmers in PA where
I grew up used the same diesel engine driving a jackshaft arrangement to
pump water, compress air, run the refridgeration units for their bulk tanks
and pump water. As a side note to this, they used an interesting pump down
the well that used compressed air as power to pump the water up to a holding
I worked in a shop with no electric and no "alternative power" tools... We
had a forge with bellows, anvil, hardies, tongs, etc., out back for metal
shaping and welding and a large selection of files, screw plates, hacksaws,
etc. For woodworking there were axes, adzes, spoke shaves, draw knives,
frame saws, panel saws, rasps, spring pole lathe, etc. Light came through
the windows... It's doable... At the time there was a 10 year waiting list
for our output.
FYI...I have had several emails expressing interest in this discussion.
Some of them are from viewers in Florida who commented that this topic
is revelant to their situation after last year's storms. It would seem
that many were without power for many weeks/months and were living
subsistence energy wise for a long period of time while they were
trying to rebuild their lives and property.
As one person said.." you never realize how much you rely on your power
drill until you don't have the juice to run it".
Any chance of hooking up to the grid for the special cases like the
welder? It's not total independance, but you can really limit the
amount of purchased electricity you use, and still get most of the
benefits from generating your own power.
Don't use the amps. I can't see any scenario where powering these tools
(bigger than trivial) from an existing setup where "every amp is
precious" can be viable. For lighting it's a different matter - simply
upping the battery capacity might be enough.
And what's the shortage here ? Amps or coulombs ? Is the limit on power
(ability to deliver it) or energy (stored capacity) ?
For convenience, go for a generator. You can use standard tools, the
cost of doing this is low, the convenience is high. For an occasional
use setup, or particularly for construction work, then this is almost
always the best way.
For improved efficiency, then go to lineshafts and a separate internal
combustion prime mover. This is likely to mean pre-WW2 vintage tools
though, and slow-speed metalworking rather than our modern high-speed
cutting. One of my neighbours has a 1900 house with its original
(commercial light engineering) workshop - power comes from a 12hp gas
engine (town gas, not gasoline) and it powers several lathes, mill and
drill by lineshaft. All still operational too! This seems more viable
for wood than for metal though.
With centralised lineshaft power, you're also geared up to use a water
turbine. I can't see this working for wind power, but water is certainly
viable. I've seen old UK cereal watermills which have had modern lathes
or potter's wheels attached to them, and smithing has regularly done
this to drive power hammers. The well-known Taunton press "Workshops"
book has photos and drawings in it of "Ben's Mill" in Vermont, a
water-powered mill with a 1900s iron water turbine, now supplemented by
A timber yard I use is on an old farm. It has a number of electric
machines, but the main rip saw is powered by a tractor and flat belt.
There's now a dedicated stripped-down tractor, on a permanent brick
A more modern approach than lineshafting is hydraulics. There are a
number of US religious groups (Amish, AFAIR) where there are
prohibitions on electric machinery. However a centralised diesel
hydraulic power pack and individual hydraulic motors are acceptable. Not
One of the simplest options is to not use powered tools at all. Why do
you need a workshop? What are you trying to make ? If you're a green
woodworker than you can use a shave horse and drawknife for much shaping
work, a pole, treadle or great-wheel lathe for turning (powered either
by the operator, or an assistant). Many such workers may also use these
in conjunction with a Wood-mizer or similar large bandsaw, with its own
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
Given the current economic/social/political environment your
concerns are well founded, however I think the primary or basic
problem will not be limited or unavailable [electrical] power,
but rather the more pervasive and dangerous problem of a lack of
spare parts, raw materials and most critical HSS and carbide
tools and blanks.
Whether by design or stupidity, the American
manufacturing/industrial infrastructure is rapidly being
destroyed, primarily by management "outsourcing" and plant
With the trade deficit [current account trade balance]
approaching 2 billion dollars *PER DAY* it does not require a
degree in rocket science or a tarot deck to see that the time is
near when imports by the U.S. economy will be on a C.O.D. or even
a "pre-pay" basis [in gold, not dollars].
Given the U.S. has a very limited (and rapidly diminishing)
domestic production capacity for machine tools [lathes, mills,
gear shapers, etc.], C.N.C. controllers, and perhaps most
critical M2 HSS and carbide inserts, this means the entire house
of cards will collapse as the existing machinery wears out,
replacements are unobtainable, and repair cannot be attempted.
Re-industrialization will be very expensive, time consuming and
dangerous, as even the most basic industries such as iron
foundries will have to be reestablished. Indeed, a generation or
more will be required, as the evolution, techniques and lessons
of the period 1890-1930 will have to be retraced, with no
assurance that the time required will be available before America
must again meet a serious international challenge to its
existence / hegemony.
Hi Matt, Where've you been? Crankin' out too many parts to get into any of
the ongoing arguments? <g>
Hey, remember that little 3-48 x .054" set screw? We finally got it running
pretty good on the Tsugami. We're making it out of 416HT stainless and are
using a Habegger adjustable thread rolling die. Almost full thread profile
right to the ends. So far, so good. (crossed fingers).
I better get out of here before I get flamed for not being on-topic enough.
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