26 March 2015

I feel like Ralph Kramden's sidekick Ed Norton

I just love doing home maintenance -- NOT!  I get a really special "attitude" toward home ownership when the maintenance involves plumbing problems on the, ummm, odiferous side of the system.  Thus was my situation this week.

We have had a somewhat slow drain in the kitchen sink, forever, and just figured it was some of that there Pura Vida plumbing.  The other day, it got snail-slow and even backed up.  Couldn't figure out the problem.  Tried the nasty acid drain opener chemical.  Nope.  Opened the outside grease trap and cleaned that out (quite full after 4 years.)  Nope.  (Ack!! What a disgusting job.)

Day two.

O.K. -- this is getting to be a headache.  Got a plumber's snake.  Went in from the sink-side and figured that I had hit a 90-bend at about 6-feet in.  (Yes, they put 90's in drain and sewer piping here.  "Those pesky wye's are just too hard to figure out.")

Went outside to the grease-trap side.  Went in with the snake ... waaay in ... hit a kind of soft spot but after spinning the "roto rooter" head of the snake a bit figured it was the same 90.  Still not very good flow.

Using several small batches, I got a whole can of drain opener and boiling water into the pipe.  Over time and with a little addition of hot water, lots of little chunks kept coming down the line and falling into the trap.  Still not much flow.

Filled the sink half way with hot water and let it rip down the pipe.  Better.  More chunks.  Still crappy (pun!) flow.

Three more sink dumps ... and then there was a burping noise, the flow stopped dead and then s-l-o-w-l-y a long brown "something" oozed out of the pipe, dropped into the grease trap sump and disappeared.  Instantly we had full flow.  I put on my long rubber glove and went fishing.  Got it.

The long brown thing was ...

-- wait for it --

... a large wadded up piece of portland cement paper sack (with the cement company logo still intact.)


How?   How did the drain system EVER work with that blockage in there?

My guess that it has been there since the early stages of the house construction, when they put in the drain stubs before pouring the floor.  Normally, those stubs are stuffed with a rag or something to keep animals and concrete splatters out of the piping.  Somebody missed removing one when they did the final hookups.

So the mystery of a slow drain and blockage is solved, only to generate another mystery as to how in the world that drain ever worked.  Wow.

I hope they didn't miss removing another paper pipe plug somewhere else in the "castle."

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07 March 2015

My handcrafted sisal rope bowl

A few months ago I jumped in to participate in a "Pay it Forward" initiative on Facebook. I posted the information about the initiative on my Facebook status, and the first five people who commented were promised a surprise from me during the year.  The whole purpose of the surprise is just to make someone happy and they, in turn, must "Pay it Forward" to five other people, and so on, and so on, forming a web connection of kindness! My dilemma, what could I give as a surprise.

I tossed around a few ideas in my head, did some searching on Pinterest, and finally decided to try my hand at making sisal rope bowls for everyone. Most of the handcraft sites on the web recommended using hot glue guns, but I decided to use nothing but plain old Elmers glue, you know, the stuff we all used in school for all those projects. I bought 50 meters of ¼" sisal rope at the local hardware store and loaded up with lots of glue. After a few trials and errors, I finally mastered a technique that worked very well for me. Here are the materials you need for one bowl:

  • 10 meters, or 11 yard of ¼" sisal rope
  • 8-10 ounces of non-toxic white glue (Elmers or equivalent)
  • box of straight pins
  • scissors
  • needle nose pliers
  • medium sized bowl to use for a mold
  • 2 pieces of ribbon to help release the sisal from the bowl
  • 1" wide paint brush

The first thing you need to do is trim up the starting end of the rope, so that you can start to roll a disk for the bottom of the bowl. The easiest way is to fold the end of the rope back on itself and use straight pins to hold the rope in place. Keep rolling the rope into a flat disk until it is about 2" in diameter. Use the straight pins as needed to prevent any gaps. Then spread a layer of glue on just one side of the disk. Allow it to dry for about 45 minutes.

While the bottom disk it drying, tape a ribbon to the bottom of the bowl you are using as your mold. The ribbon needs to be long enough to reach all the way to the top of both sides of the bowl with about 3" excess on each side. Now, tape the second ribbon on the bottom of the bowl so that it forms a cross with the other ribbon and again make sure it is long enough to reach to top of both sides of the bowl with 3" to spare.

When the disk is dry, use the pliers to remove the straight pins. Turn the bowl upside down and lay the dry side of the disk centered on the bottom of the bowl. Now start to wrap and coil the rope using the bowl as your guide. I found it worked best when I only did 3 wraps (just an inch) at a time, using the straight pins to prevent any gaps. Once I had completed the 3 wraps, I would coat them on the outside with glue, using my fingers to make sure it was well spread. You need to be careful not to get glue on the bowl, or the rope will stick. Let the section dry and the glue will turn clear when it's dry so you'll know when you can continue.

Pull out all of the straight pins with the pliers, and start coiling and pinning the next section. Apply the glue. Let it dry, and remove the pins. Continue this process until you reach the top of the bowl. When you get to the top of the bowl, leave a tail end of rope about 6" long.

Remove any remaining straight pins from the rope. Remove your sisal bowl from the bowl you used as your mold using the ribbons to pull it free. Flip the sisal bowl right side up and generously coat the inside of the bowl with glue. Use the paint brush to evenly spread the glue and let the bowl thoroughly dry.

Now decide how you want to finish off the end piece. I decided to make a loop so that the bowl can actually be hung on a hook. I folded the end piece back on itself, trimmed the frayed end and tucked it under the last wrap. I used lots of glue and pins to lock it place. When the bowl was completely dry, I looked for any sharp strings poking out and trimmed them off with the scissors.

The last part of my "Pay It Forward" initiative was to put something in the bowl, so I made some Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies this morning. One of my Canadian friends received her bowl in January without the cookies, but I'll make it up to her when she returns to Costa Rica. This afternoon John and I went calling to drop off the remaining 4 baskets and put smiles on faces.

If you are looking for a fun family project for a rainy day, or a snow day, this just might be it.

Important Note: The sisal rope bowls are NOT waterproof!

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