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Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Barn Boards

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007 by David Lee | Comments Off on Barn Boards


I just happened across your web page on the internet and found it very interesting and informative.I do small wood crafts and just starting making bird houses from old barn wood.I was wondering if you have to wash or disinfect the barn boards in any way before you use them for the projects or do you just use a steel brush on them and then go ahead and put your project together.?


Well, this brings back memories. I had a period of about ten years doing things with barn boards. It started when a lady offered me a whole barn if I would totally remove it and clean up the site. It was a treasure trove. Besides the huge pile of beautiful boards, beams and weathered shingles there was a truckload of goodies including a perfectly good parlor woodstove, old tools, even an antique crank telephone. I wonder if there are deals like that anymore?

Barn boards are dirty from being around so long and most of them didn’t shower regularly so it is wise to clean and disinfect them before using. Wear good leather work gloves. Barn boards have slivers galore.

My first treatment was to shake the dust and loose stuff off them and pull out nails while making sure to not damage the beauty of the piece. Then I piled them in a stack with sticking between the layers to let air circulate around each board.

Every few weeks I would rebuild the pile so the boards would dry and weather evenly. While doing this I learned to put my favorite boards face up on top of the pile to let the sun and rain give them a “finish” weathering. Sunlight kills some of the mystery microbes in and on old wood but not all. If I am not too concerned about the color of the barn board I want to disinfect, I spray them with a solution of 1/3 laundry bleach and 2/3 water. I do this at least three times and let them dry in the sun between treatments.

Cleaning your boards with a steel brush gets the loose stuff off. A stiff bristled cleaning brush works without damaging the wood grain too much. For bird houses, brushing and disinfecting should be enough. If you rehab your bird houses occasionally, it would be wise to disinfect them before handling. Birds carry little things you don’t want to inhale or get on your skin.

A way to clean smaller barn board projects is with compressed air. It gets dirt out of all the cracks really well and doesn’t hurt the color, grain or texture of the wood. It is a good way to remove dust from your finished products after they have been around awhile too. Be sure to wear protective eye glasses and gloves.

This may be more than you wanted to know for your bird houses but someday you may get offered a whole barn and you will be ready.

Flying Again

Saturday, September 1st, 2007 by David Lee | Comments Off on Flying Again


Back to flying with the Luggage Glider.

A glider 8′ in diameter and about 50 feet long would hold about 800 pieces of luggage. It would be shaped like a bullet with small wings, a rudder and tail just like a regular plane. That would be for a big plane on a long flight, say LA to Tokyo. Other gliders would be sized to the plane and luggage needs of each flight.

The glider would be controlled by the copilot, flight engineer or a computer through the tow cable which could be reeled in and out to position the glider for best flight stability behind the plane. The glider could be controlled by wire, radio or both.

The flight surfaces of the glider would give added control over the plane, something like a tail on a kite only with more options and precision.

When landing, the glider’s flight surfaces would add drag to the plane to slow it down and use less runway. The glider might even have emergency measures built in such as extra drag panels or a parachute that would deploy during a hairy landing. The plane that went off the runway in Brazil recently might have been saved if it had had a glider such as this in tow.

Some recent passenger plane crashes have been caused by tail and rudder malfunctions. With extra flight surface controls on a glider in tow, such situations could be overcome by a trained pilot and people’s lives would be saved.

Keeping the luggage out of the plane makes room for “safe” cargo, more fuel or more passengers.

These changes in functions could be put into future plane designs. I can think of some pretty wild new designs, but that’s another story.

If this idea works, some changes would happen at the airport. The baggage carousels would be removed to make room for the gliders to be brought right into the building to be unloaded and loaded up for the next flight. It would save running around if the ticket counter was right in front of the glider used for the flight.

Imagine your bags controlled by you, not slung around, damaged, pilfered or lost by baggage personnel. Too good to be possible?

Unions and makers of all that airport security hardware won’t like this plan, but small plane manufacturers who would get the contracts to build gliders will. Pilots may not like “towing a trailer” behind their sleek jet planes but the airlines will like the added advertising space available on the gliders. And all of us would appreciate more convenience and less frustration at the airport.

Money saved by machinery and staff no longer needed could be used for other forms of security on passenger planes.

The Forever Floor

Thursday, August 30th, 2007 by David Lee | Comments Off on The Forever Floor

Forever Floor

Hello. I love your magazine but I have a question about the floor. I’m disabled. I have several diseases in my back and it’s impossible for me to sweep. I can push a broom, like the swiffer sweeper types. My son has to do the sweeping for me now, and my husband and I would like to find a way that I can do it myself. We are in the process of remodeling and I ran across this article by David Lee in issue #92. My husband got a scrap piece of the roofing and we painted it to see if the swiffer sweeper would go across it or not. Well, it works fine, but my question is how does he recommend mopping with this floor? I mean, I usually use the solution that comes in the swiffer. Will this hurt the paint? Will it clean my floor? Or do I have to use a regular mop with just water? Won’t the cleaners hurt the paint? I’m so sorry to bother you all, I know you must be terribly busy, but we’re trying to decide on this floor or regular linoleum. This floor would cost us $120.00 without the price of the paint, over $330. for the cheapest linoleum. We have a big kitchen and I do alot of canning and cooking in there, and have to clean the floor a lot. Any help would be so appreciated. God Bless you and your staff. And I do really enjoy your magazine. We live on our own little 2 1/2 acres of God’s beautiful land in southern Ohio. I raise most of our food in our garden and love to make homemade bread and can our goodies. Everyone loves my Christmas presents, they usually get canned goods or my famous homemade strawberry jam. Sorry I’m rambling. Any advice would be so appreciated. Thanks. Gail

* * *


The Forever Floor has been a popular floor covering solution since the article came out.

I used the method for years on balconies and small decks. It wears very well when exposed to rain and snow.

We clean our indoor Forever Floors with bucket, mop and and whatever cleaning solution was on sale at the store. None have ever hurt the floor. We have not used the Swiffer solution but I doubt it would be a problem. I suggest you do a thorough test of the Swiffer, with its solution, on your sample of Forever Floor (smart thinking by the way) and see if anything bad happens. That should answer your cleaning question.

If you want extra protection on your kitchen floor you may consider using a high quality exterior latex deck paint for coats three and four of paint on your floor. This might increase resistance to wear and washing somewhat but most latex paint is washable.

When you and your menfolk install the Forever Floor be sure to follow the directions in the article very carefully, especially the part about using just enough, but not too much Plastic Roofing Cement. Too much makes the floor “mushy”, too little means the roofing won’t stick properly.

Since writing the article I have learned a couple more things about this flooring method that may help you. When the granules start to show and it is time to add new paint, you must thoroughly clean away any grease or oil and the floor must be very dry or some of the new paint will come off when exposed to water.

In the pictures of my version of the Forever Floor you may have noticed that I use a rather colorful mosaic pattern. This is for good reasons. It disguises little stains and wear marks. It allows me to only have to repaint the areas of the floor that get the most wear, postponing the need to redo the whole floor. If some damage occurs, like the time we gouged the floor when our refrigerator was moved, it is easier to disguise the repair with a mosaic theme.

One other thing. Oil paints would seem to be better for this floor method. I did a small section in my shop to see how it would work. It took three days for each coat to dry, all the while collecting dust on the sticky surface. One of our cats put paw prints in it. It did not level out very well around the granules. It made the floor slippery when wet. It got dull in the high traffic areas. It took 20 days (!!) to install but I finally tore it out because of its poor performance.

So Gail, I recommend that you install the flooring, give it two coats of mismatched paint, two coats of deck paint, then create a pattern of some kind in various colors, using less expensive latex paints, for the mosaics and get on to making all those goodies.

David Lee

Flying Safer

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 by David Lee | 1 Comment »

Dragon Weathervane

Today I am raising Alternative Building Ideas to new heights and taking a little break from the Home Made Ph.D.

About 15 years ago I had an idea about airline safety – specifically, concerning bombs smuggled in luggage taking planes down . Since then you can’t avoid reading, or hearing first hand, stories of passenger inconveniences, hours of waiting around in terminals and…well, you know the mess that has been generated, and continues, at airports by the threat of terrorist acts.

Instead of all that, imagine this. You arrive at the terminal with your luggage. You go to a counter and check in. Then you walk to a special container full of storage compartments and place your luggage in one, shoes too if the terror alert is high. Possibly your carry-on bag would go in there too. Then you proceed directly to the plane and take your seat.

At your destination you exit the plane, walk directly to this special container, retrieve your luggage and you’re on your way. No waiting on either end of your journey, no baggage searches, x-rays, body pat downs or stress, other than the natural fear of flying many of us have.

The special container is a sleek little glider towed behind the passenger plane. With the baggage in the glider the worry about a suitcase, or anything big enough to be a bomb, is gone. If the glider blows up you lose some luggage but the airlines do that all the time anyway. In fact, since no one handles your bags except you the chances of losing luggage is pretty near zero.

When I thought of this I wrote to several airlines and the President of the United States, at the time, George Herbert Walker Bush. All I got were polite but condescending letters of thanks for my interest from low level staff people. One airline did send a $25 gift certificate. You can understand what a waste of time that felt like.

Since then I have brought up this subject with most anyone I’ve met who has anything to do with the airline business and not one person has had a logical reason why it would not work. Some even had good reasons I had not considered.

Next time I’ll talk about the benefits of the Luggage Glider. For now, if you have constructive thoughts on this send them along. I have to believe there other people out there who can think outside the flight envelope.

Investment Vehicle

Saturday, August 25th, 2007 by David Lee | Comments Off on Investment Vehicle


It was fun getting to know my truck when I first bought it. As I said, I knew it had the basic requirements I wanted. I had the general maintenance book for 1961 to 1971 Dodge trucks which let me know its internal secrets. Next I bought the specific engine repair manual and the chassis manual for the 1971 D200 model. These told me everything I needed to know about the engine, transmission, brakes, body and every little piece of chrome. I specialized in knowing all about this one truck.

I did not expect everything, or anything, on the truck to work perfectly. As problems arose I consulted my manuals and figured out what to do. This saved me serious amounts of money over the years. Gradually all systems were brought to good working order, which gave me more confidence about returning home with no breakdowns when I took a trip. Even when something went wrong I became increasingly skilled in taking care of it on the spot.

My truck was my hobby. Each year I brought it into the garage to do some upgrading. I cleaned up the body, hammered out and filled dents and gave it a paint job using Rustoleum gloss black paint applied with a brush. I think there are about nine coats on there now from those bodywork sessions. Someday I will have it professionally painted. The Rustoleum preserves it until then.

I considered the cost of such things as rebuilding the brakes one year, a new exhaust system another year, rebuilding the transmission, new suspension bushings, dual batteries, an electronic ignition, a sound system, and two-way radio as my version of car payments. Instead of my vehicle becoming worth less after each ‘payment’ it was becoming more valuable in practical ways.

When the government, in its wisdom, outlawed lead in gasoline, condemning older engines to early deaths, I took the cylinder heads to an engine rebuilder and had special valves installed so I could use unleaded gas. My research had also led me to one of those rare 245 horsepower engines I mentioned earlier. I bought it for $75 from a junkyard, had it rebuilt, and bolted it to the heads. Now I have a customized engine. It is not a racing engine, though I could have gone that route. My engine is meant to have extra torque at low RPMs. With a load of rocks in the back I can drive slowly up a steep hill out of a quarry without straining the engine.

Over the years I have collected strategic spare parts for my truck. Water pumps tend to wear out on these engines so I have two extra ones in storage. I have extra carburetors, starters, fuel pumps, a distributor, and lots of odds and ends. Since the parts are also antiques they increase in value too.

As an Alternative Builder I could not resist giving my truck some custom touches. I built in a console, storage compartments, a dashboard and other projects out of wood. I moved the gas tank from behind the seat into the bed of the truck for safety reasons and enclosed it in a wooden case.

The lesson for you to take away from all this car talk is that you consider a new perspective regarding your choice of vehicle. Lose the Lexus and the monthly payments, set a budget for a vehicle and spend half of it buying one you can love that fits your lifestyle as a builder. Spend the other half of your budget getting the vehicle in good running condition for your work, and learn about its innards from the manuals that you buy. That should set you up with economical, practical transportation for Year Two of becoming a builder. Later, when you have more money, you can increase the worth of your chosen oldy and enjoy it as a hobby and an increasingly valuable asset.

So, this vehicle investment course during Year One will save you money, get you practical transportation and give you knowledge that you can use for life.



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