USB Washing Machine

About 6 weeks ago, I saw a Big Clive YouTube video about a Chinese USB powered “undies shredder” as he called it https://youtu.be/ugVRY-Cv7Ng

It caught my eye because, only a day or two before seeing this, I’d been wondering how to make a device to agitate water in a bucket to semi automate the washing of cleaning cloths and rags. I considered a twisted metal stick in a drill, buy hadn’t pursued this idea.

But now, here was the very thing!

Big Clive showed the device working in his video, and commented on how poor it is, but he was washing larger items of clothing. I just wanted to wash a few cloths.

So I ordered one.

And the other day, it arrived from China

A quality item

It sticks to the inside side of a bucket with its suction cups, and when plugged into a USB power supply or battery pack, it runs through a sequence of actions :

  • It vibrates (claimed to be ultrasonic, but it isn’t)
  • It rotates anticlockwise for a while
  • it pauses
  • it rotates clockwise for a while
  • the sequence repeats

Although it’s not ultrasonic, the vibrating does agitate the water a fair bit. A slightly more expensive version of this unit also blows air into the water to make bubbles! But the back and forth rotation does work well, and sloshes light cloths and rags about very well.

If the above video doesn’t show, and you’re reading this in email, click the link in the email to view this page in a web browser

I washed all the cloths and rags I could find, and it got them surprisingly clean. I’m very pleased with it.

I can run it from a solar charged usb battery, so it’s running costs are nil compared to running the washing machine, and it uses a lot less water this way.

I now need to do more cleaning so I have more dirty rags to wash.

Yesterday’s Radio, Today

My order of the capacitor that I overlooked when repairing my dad’s old Eagle radio arrived, so I took it apart again.

Blue capacitor about to be replaced, black one next to it replaced with wrong value last time

First, I checked the capacitors I’d already replaced. My suspicions were confirmed, I had fitted the wrong value for one of them. I’d put in a 33 μF where I should have fitted a 3.3 μF. I changed this, then also replaced the 1000 μF one that had arrived today. Now they were all the correct spec.

Top : old, bottom : new . Miniturisation!
They look wobblier than they really are

I fiddled with the mounting screws and got the pushbuttons to work without rubbing on the case, and now that the power switch has fixed itself, I put the original mains cable back on.

I’d still like to get rid of those two bodged aerial wires, if I can find some correct aerial plugs one day

All good – and when I tested it, it sounds good too!

So the faults I introduced with my previous repairs : inability to tune top of dial, switches jamming, sound being a bit strange, are all repaired.

I’m currently sitting on the sofa listening to BBC Wales on it as I type this. Although it’s from the 1970s, and not a super old 1940s valve radio, it’s got a pleasing slightly old fashioned sound to it.

And it looks good!

Thoughts on my partial success

This morning, resigned to accepting failure, I started ordering new new capacitors for my Dad’s old Eagle radio.

That is, I looked up exact replacements for the values I’d removed, rather than the close approximations I’d used so far.

Although I’d kept to the same capacitance, I’d had to wander around on voltage. Usually upwards, sometimes a bit too much for what felt right, but in one instance id replaced a capacitor with a lower voltage than the original.

Or so I thought. When I went back through the list, checking off against what id removed, and comparing against what values I had available to me, I shouldn’t have needed to use a lower voltage capacitor.

So why did I?

It’s likely I’ve made a mistake. Maybe I put the wrong capacitance value in, which in turn wasn’t in the right voltage, or maybe my list is wrong.

I was making a new order for new replacement capacitors when I realised this, so I’ve put that order on hold. Ive one outstanding capacitor order, when that arrives later in the week I will replace that and check all the other values.

Hopefully, I’ll have made a mistake with one of the replacements and that can easily be swapped.

Then maybe I can fix the faults of the tuning cutting out above 105MHz and the sound being a bit strange.

And it’ll save me the £13 + VAT + delivery for the new replacement capacitors

Partial Success

Slight clutterage

One of the things I kept from my Dad’s house was an old tabletop radio that had sat in the living room since the late 1970s. It hardly got used, but I rather liked the style of it. It’s an Eagle RAD 20B, in a woodgrain effect case with a big tuning dial on the front.

I’d tested it, and found it made a loud humming sound, so recently I took it apart to see if I could fix it, and to clean it.

Being in the living room since the 1970s, it had been exposed to decades of cigarette smoke. I’d cleaned it at some point in the last 10 years, so the outside wasn’t so bad, but when I opened the case up….

Radio with soot and tar

I put the inside of the radio on a towel and sprayed it with contact cleaner. The towel went a horrible brown colour, and later made the room smell revolting.

This dirt was from wiping the tuning dial. Maybe I could make a nicotine patch out if it?

In old electronic equipment, faults are often caused by capacitors drying out. I replaced the smoothing capacitor on the transformer output with a new one from my spares box, and the buzzing hum went away. Great!

Short video : It works!

I made a list of all 13 capacitors in the radio, and ordered replacements for all of them. Meanwhile, to further improve the smell of the radio, I shut it in a box with some incense burning

I put a lid in the box after lighting the incense

When they’d arrived, I replaced the capacitors one at a time, testing that the radio still worked after each swap. All seemed good, though I realised I was one short and another was the wrong voltage.

The old capacitors. They’re not leaking, that’s glue to hold them to the board – common in the 1970s it seems.

Meanwhile, the power switch stopped working, and it looked tricky to remove it, so I replaced the cable with one from a table lamp that has a switch in it.

Inelegant, but it works

The radio has two connectors for aerials : an FM dipole and an AM/SW aerial/earth combo. I tried to find a source for these connectors, which were common on German radios of the 60s and 70s, but failed.

I refuse to pay 2/6 postage

So I soldered two pairs of wires to these connectors, and pulled them through the slots in the back of the radio case.

This is reversible if I want to put the radio back as it was, should I find a source for the plugs it needs.

When reassembling the case, the power switch started working again, but the button to choose external input from a tape recorder or record player kept catching on the case. Something’s misaligned, but I couldn’t see what was wrong.

wobbly buttons

When I got the radio setup, I found it goes silent when the tuning is at the top end of the FM band. This wasn’t the case earlier on, as shown in the video above, where it’s tuned around 105-106. I can’t tune it there now, it goes silent. A fault I’ve created somehow.

I set up a long wire AM/SW aerial up the garden and tied around a tree. The radio gets lots of short wave stations at night, which was one of the things I wanted it for.

Overall, the sound is.. a bit strange. FM, which could (and I think did) sound nice now sounds off, but I can’t easily describe it.

So… a very partial success. When the extra capacitor arrives, I shall have another look at my repairs, and I may replace some of the repairs, either with some different new capacitors that are maybe closer matched to those I took out, or maybe even put a few of the old ones back in. I’ll also put the original mains cable back in if the power switch stays working, and I’ll see what’s jamming the phono input switch.

Still, it’s all good fun, and I think it does look nice in the room now, even if it doesn’t quite work properly. But it will. Just a bit more tinkering to do.

Tidy cosy radio corner

Oh no, not more cats

When I moved in, I had a problem with cats messing in my garden, and especially in the alleyway behind the house.

Last year, this problem didn’t happen much, and although I saw a number of cats around, they mostly left the garden alone.

this year, having dug and raked the soil to plant seeds, the cats have found it to be the best toilet ever. They’re digging up seedlings and it smells horrible.

The solar powered ultrasonic cat scarer doesn’t seem to scare them (and keeps failing anyway), and sprinkling cat & dog deterrent granules around doesn’t do much either.

Cat barrier

So I’ve tried a physical barrier. I had these pieces of trellis in the shed, and I’ve cut lengths of brambles, which I’ve placed in smaller gaps. That should be prickly and awkward for the cats to walk in, but not prevent the seedlings and potatoes from coming through. For good measure I sprinkled anti-cat granules all around as well.

Let’s see if it works

Can I eat weeds?

My vegetable patch isn’t doing so well. I cleared an area of rubbish and weeds a few months back, and sowed lots of seeds, but mostly weeds came up.

Two main problems : it’s been very dry and I didn’t water it enough. Also most of the seeds were years out of date.

There’s a few carrots in there
Potatoes coming up though

I hoed the weeds off yesterday, and the hot sun shrivelled them all up. There’s some potatoes coming up in the corner, these were regular shop spuds that had started sprouting.

more potatoes

The seed potatoes in grobags are also doing well, and I earthed them up a bit more. At least I’ll have plenty of potatoes. Maybe I can make my own crisps.

No carrots

This planter was full of weeds, especially lots of baby nettles. The soil had been swept up from near the shed, it had washed down from the hillside. I hoed them all out, and 0ut fresh new carrot seeds in.

salad

The cut and come again salad isn’t doing too bad considering my lack of watering, so I’ve spruced that up a bit, and put more seeds in an adjacent planter.

More seeds

I’ve also planted further spring onion, carrot and radish, all modern in-state seeds. But I also added a row of out of date seeds, down heavily, to see what comes up.

watee

To solve the watering problem, I’ve put a submersible pump in the water butt that’s close by. It was a cheap end-of-line offer from Aldi last year. It plugs into my outdoor socket, so it’s easy to quickly water the garden with little fuss.

spray

It’s very effective, and you have to be careful not to get carried away as it quickly drains the water butt! Rain is forecast tomorrow and next week, so hopefully that’ll get the seeds off to a good start. 2nd time lucky?

Mysterious

Around a year ago, I found this photo frame in a charity shop.

framed

I thought it looked quite mysterious. It has doors that open, revealing the picture within. But I’d not thought of anything appropriate to put in it.

The other day, having watched Good Omens, I felt the appropriate picture to put inside the strange frame was

woo

a 17th century woodcut of some dancing demons.

Puzzle solving for fun and shelves

When I was clearing out my dad’s house, I found gold-edged slats of wood with notches cut into them. Some pieces had 2 notches, some had 3.

I instantly recognised them. They were a set of small ornament display shelves. My mum used to have them on the wall in the front room, with Japanese (?) style China ornaments in them. At some point the shelves never got put back up after decorating.

I kept these shelves, and subsequently forgot which box they were in.

Looking through some old photos of my dad’s, I saw the shelves on the wall and realised they would look good in my newly painted living room. But couldn’t find the shelves!

Then recently I found the shelves… and realised I didn’t know how they went together. They were a bit like a wooden puzzle that has to be spotted together to make a shape. But I wasn’t sure what the shape should be.

So I spent an hour or so looking again through old photos, trying to find one that had the shelves on the wall.

And, in the background of a double exposed blurry black and white photo (yes, really) I saw the shelves, in enough detail to realise that they formed two interlocking squares.

Jeanette put the shelves together, and I’ve now got them hanging on the wall in the alcove above my hifi

smart.. and interesting

Time for a coffee

I mostly like tea. Delicious tea. Two cups before breakfast and it continues from there. I usually have 3 or 4 different teas on the go at any one time, so I can pick and choose and never get bored. (Currently in the tins of tea are : Co Op 99, Co Op English Breakfast, Thompson’s and Twinings Darjeeling.)

My shiny coffee machine

But I also like coffee. I have a filter machine that I use, not every day, but a few times a week. With the filter machine, I find it tastes nicer if the brew has been allowed to sit for 15 minutes or so. Straight out of the filter it’s quite harsh, after 15 minutes it’s much more mellow.

During lockdown, it’s been nice to go for my daily exercise walk, and come back and make a nice cup of tea or coffee. But with the coffee, Ive got to let it drip then brew, and that’s a good 20 minutes to wait. What if the coffee was ready for me when I got back home?

I could plug the coffee machine into a timer, but my walk would have to be of a fixed duration. There’d be no diversions to admire the view or inspect an interesting drain or culvert, or the coffee would be spoil’d

Pondering this dilemma whilst looking at the old pipework leading from an old bog garden in the woods, I realised I already had what I needed. A smart WiFi socket.

I’d bought it over a year ago, using a triple nectar points offer, but hardly used it. I plugged the porch light into it, thinking it’d be good to remotely switch a light on and off, but hardly ever used it. So I unplugged it and it sat in a drawer.

smart

But it’s ideal for the coffee machine! I fill the machine with coffee and water, then off for my walk.

When I decide I’m 20-30 minutes away from home,I get my phone out, say “OK Google, switch coffee on” and the coffee machine starts up.

When I get home there’s a pot of freshly brewed, mellow coffee, just ready to drink.

I need to find a way to transfer this to tea making. Boiling a kettle remotely isn’t enough. Maybe if I got a Teasmade and modified it so Google could control it…

A bit of bodging before lunch

I have a utility room, which I think makes me really posh, even though it’s realistically an oversized cupboard with a sink, a washing machine, the airing cupboard and the central heating boiler in it.

And it’s this boiler that’s useful for drying things. I often put damp cloths or parts that I’ve washed on top of it. This isn’t ideal, there’s not much room. So for a while I’ve wanted to make a drying shelf to go above it.

I got an IKEA GREJIG shoerack back in January, a wire frame stackable thing, for £3. It looked ideal for drying things on. But how to attach it to the wall?

Bodging at work

I cut a piece of timber to fit between the pipework above the boiler, and tacked the shoe rack to it with black cable staples – probably 6mm ones but I couldn’t tell as they had fallen out if the box they came in.

hammock

The wood is resting on top of the pipe, either side of which the shoe rack is cable tied to the pipe. There are then two pieces of plastic rope tied to it, attached to plasterboard mounts screwed into the ceiling. It’s not going to hold a lot of weight, but it doesn’t have to, and it’s surprisingly steady.

Serving Suggestion

Now I’ve lots of space to out cloths and washed parts to dry. It doesn’t look super pretty, but it doesn’t matter in the utility room, and it serves a practical purpose, so that’s me happy.

https://www.ikeahackers.net/ IKEA Hackers is a great website for inspiration on how to make alternative furniture out of standard IKEA parts. Though I think in this case I really need IKEA Bodger’s. Today : tying a shoe rack to the ceiling.