Archive for August, 2009

Bike Hydraulic Cider Press – Structural Design

August 23, 2009

hydraulic press

  • Crosstimbers – sandwich construction: 6×8 white pine with 5/4×6 red oak caps
  • Verticals – 6×8 white pine
  • Bed logs – 6×6 white pine
  • Tie rods – 1″-8, grade B7 threaded steel rod
  • Cylinder mount – 8×2.527″ A36 steel channel

Comments welcome.

Bike PTO design – work in progress

August 22, 2009

The hardware design phase of Cider Year Five is only 48 hours or so from complete (or at least, that’s when parts start arriving) and the major remaining design task is to figure out the coupling of a bicycle to the dual-stage hydraulic pump that has been ordered.


The bike PTO that we use for the apple grinder is dirt simple – we remove the chain from the front chainring and ziptie it out of the way, then install a new, longer chain that runs forward and up to a jackshaft with a standard freewheel attached to it.  The front wheel is removed and the front fork attached to a wooden stanchion on the grinder frame, fixing the bike more or less in place but allowing the rear wheel to swing right and left.  This swinging is used to tension the chain, as there is no derailleur in play, and by this means it’s possible to adjust through 2 or 3 gearings before the chain starts scraping too badly on the front fork.

This setup is nice in that it is very quick to engage and disengage the bike, and because the operator gets a nice view of the apple-grinding action.  But it’s already in use for grinding apples, and if we need to build another bike PTO anyway, it might as well be a more universally adaptable design, and one that takes better advantage of the existing bike drive system.  I toyed with ideas that used an actual bike rear wheel, perhaps inflated with cement instead of air to provide a substantial flywheel.  But if we are destined for a higher speed shaft anyway, that’s where the flywheel belongs, and it’s hard to see fitting the freewheel, PTO sprocket(s), AND a standard wheel in between the rear dropouts of an unmodified bike in any case.

Anyway, here are my design requirements:

  • Can use most bikes as a power source
  • Utilizes existing front and rear derailleurs; allows shifting through the usual range of gearing
  • Has a freewheel to decouple pedaling from load
  • Enables driving a variety of rotary  loads including hydraulic pump via standard bike chain
  • Compact, stable platform, can be set up on any flat surface
  • Sets up and breaks down easily
  • Incorporates flywheel?

Cider equipment development: kicking into high gear

August 20, 2009

Recent progress:

  • I ordered a 4″x30″ hydraulic cylinder and a 2-stage hydraulic pump from Burden Surplus Center for the pedal-hydraulic press.
  • Today I McMastered a bunch of parts for the upgraded apple grinder
  • I got a surplus SCBA tank that my dad had lying around to use as an accumulator to add some “spring” to the pedal-hydraulic press, so it can keep squishing even if the operator momentarily stops pedaling.
  • Keith and I have started to think about a general-purpose rear-wheel “PTO” to be used on the bike hydraulic pump and other pedal applications
  • When I was in Maine I scoped out some scrap timber to be used in making the crossbeams for the new press.  Two white pine 6x8s are available, which is probably marginal by itself, but I have a notion to laminate some 5/4 oak to the tops and bottoms to form super-strong (and attractive) “sandwich beams”.

Counterpressure bottle filler plans – a start

August 17, 2009

A fellow in Australia wrote looking for plans for the counterpressure filler.  So I’ve started with the one “special” part in the core filler itself, and made a link in the sidebar with an engineering print.  It’s the machined plastic part that allows CO2 and cider to enter the bottom of the bottle through a long thin tube, and allows CO2 to escape slowly from the headspace of the bottle while the cider is flowing in. This one requires the use of a metal lathe; I have a notion to do another version that could be done with care in a basement using nothing more than a drill press, a good drill index, and a pipe tap.

Bloody hot work

August 16, 2009

Late last week the NWS had Georgetown as clear and 71 on Saturday, clear and 80 on Sunday.  So I figured it would be a perfect weekend to work in the orchard.  But the reality was that it was mid to upper 80s and humid both days, still I got a good (if extremely sweaty) two days work in.  Yesterday I took the Farmi and skidded about 20 saw logs out of the area south of the orchard to the hillside by the pumpkin patch where they will be turned into boards.  Dragging conditions were pretty much ideal, with solid ground and thick grass in the field which made for slick skidding.  I also hitched up the firewood trailer  and pulled a half-cord or so of four foot wood out of the maple area west of the orchard and stacked it in the new fitting area by the cabin.  This wood has been drying there for a couple years and the maple is fine but the oak will start to decay if we don’t process it.   It’s funny about different kinds of wood – maple dries in the round without delay; oak stays green pretty much until you split it, and birch is ridiculous – it will pretty much rot under cover unless you split it up and let it dry, presumably because of the thick oily waterproof bark.

Today I started in the garden, harvesting garlic for my mom, who planted some special variety from my sister in Idaho.  I’m not sure what kind it is, but it grew really well; I pulled them out by the stems and  filled a 50 pound grain sack, then spread them out to dry in a hot attic.  Then I pulled out another shy cord or so of four foot wood from south of the orchard, and yarded out some large longer firewood with the winch.  Since we have more wood than we can put to immediate use, my dad has been selling the excess in 10′ lengths to local folks who want to save a few bucks and fit their own.

Though I mowed around the trees and the fence line just 3 weeks or so ago, you couldn’t tell at all by appearance, the growth of the grass has been so lush.  So I resolved to implement a more long-lasting solution.  I first took the walk-behind mower and mowed aisles on either side of the rows of trees.  I then got the gray wagon and pitched in a load of hardwood chips from this spring’s chipping, and made donuts around the 8 youngest trees at the west side of the orchard.  With luck this will keep the grass at bay for a year or more.  The biggest surprise was the extent of decay in the pile of hardwood chips that had been made from trees with green leaves still on; at least the layers of the pile with leaves were dark and well on their way to decaying.  I’ll definitely keep this in mind for later on; it’s nice to have chips around that are less piney and further on their way to composting, so that they will become compost to feed the young trees.

All in all it was a hot, strenuous couple of days, but I got a lot done and feel like I’m making real progress toward the orchard goals.  The tide was rising and it was still hot when I was through picking up, so I went down to the cove for a very refreshing dip, then over to the high bush blueberry patch where I ate my fill of warm, sun-ripened berries.  Then a sandwich and some iced tea, and on the road for the trip back to Boston.

Fall is just around the corner

August 8, 2009
New England food: fresh baked pumpkin bread and '08 hard cider

New England food: fresh baked pumpkin bread and '08 hard cider

A beautiful sunny, cool day: though it’s early August, cider season is just a couple months away.  Alexis was in the hospital, so I took the dogs for a walk around Fresh Pond, did some planning in preparation for this year’s ambitious cider hardware build, and baked some pumpkin bread (recipe below).  Also learned how to make fresh vegetarian spring rolls, which I love in restaurants and have been meaning to figure out how to make.  It took a couple tries to get the technique for softening the thin rice wrappers: in a big nonstick frying pan half full of warm water, using both hands, slide the dry disk under water so the top and bottom are wetted simultaneously, then support it with fingers spread apart as it softens; when it seems just a bit too hard, extract it carefully letting the water sheet off; transfer to one of those bamboo sushi mats to load and roll.

Alexis’ favorite pumpkin bread (double batch):

Combine in mixer:

  • 2c sugar
  • 3/4c canola
  • 4 eggs
  • 1t vanilla
  • 2 cans pumpkin (just shy of 4 cups; if preparing from fresh, pressure cook, let excess liquid drain off, then puree with hand blender)

Mix and add:

  • 3.5c flour (at least half whole wheat)
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1t salt
  • 1t cloves
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 2t nutmeg

Mix well, schlop into suitable tins, bake at 350 till toothpick comes out clean.  The above quantity makes 6 medium-sized muffins, 6 muffin tops, and one medium-sized loaf.  Don’t try for a super deep loaf pan until you’ve got the recipe tuned up, since like other moist quick breads it can get heavy in a too-big loaf.

Enough with “consumers” already

August 6, 2009

I can’t be the only one who is driven nuts by the constant media use of the term “consumers” in place of “people”, “Americans”, or  “citizens”.  As an engineer I tend to pay more attention to matter and energy flows, technologies of transformation, and evolutionary biological tendencies than to the language that frames discussions.  But it is not hard for me to imagine that a people constantly hearing themselves described with language better suited to feeder hogs might eventually suffer creeping slothfulness and lack of imagination.

Sure I consume things; chiefly a couple pounds a day of bread and beans and cheese; a couple dozen MJ of electricity, a few gallons of water, and a couple liters of gasoline, and the last thing I want to do is to downplay the significance of that consumption in terms of ecological impact, but it is hardly how I want to define my relationship to society, not what I want as my epitaph – “Here lies Ben: he was a good consumer”.  I don’t want my primary role in society to be one of dutifully buying whatever schwag my fellow man puts up on offer, the better to prop up the economy and fend off recession.

And so I shout (electronically speaking): CONSUMPTION BE DAMNED! – I am not a cow, not a hog, not an overfed mis-shapen broiler hen, KFC-bound.  I yearn to be a producer, a transformer, a creator, and I want to see my fellow citizens likewise engaged.  I seek to produce the basic substance of life – when it is complete in full production the orchard should produce around 20,000 pounds of apples per year, enough to feed 3-4 people.  If carefully managed the surrounding woodlands will sustainably produce several thousand board feet per year of high quality saw timber, suitable for building and repairing houses, boats, furniture, and barrels (for the cider).  The world is in desperate need of clean, renewable energy, generated in quantity proportional to the need, and for many years it has been the goal of my professional efforts to develop technologies capable of producing this energy, as economically as possible and at a meaningful scale.  On an individual level, the same compulsion leads to projects like the pedal-electric bike, which saves 130 MJ of gasoline a day and uses a mere 2-3MJ of electricity while delivering much-needed exercise.

This visceral desire to produce likewise explains why I find myself compelled to spend a hundred dollars worth of time making fifteen dollars worth of bread, and why I have an irrational urge to grow the grain for that bread myself. And it transcends the practical.  Nowadays the internets are happy to deliver for free a nonstop stream of high quality professionally-made music, any flavor I choose and without the din of commercials.  I will never produce music of that quality, but nonetheless there I go almost every night, sawing away on the fiddle, trying to create some of my own.  And I want you to do it too; I want to sit with my friends in the shade of an apple tree and play music, eat the bread we baked, and drink the cider we brewed.  I want these things even if they don’t increase the GDP or reduce unemployment, even if it means I’m a lousy consumer.