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Make Your Own Large Copper Terminals For a Few Cents Each

March 17, 2012

If you’ve priced heavy copper terminals, you know they aren’t cheap. Most run a dollar or two and it adds up. One way to make a great woking terminal is to scrounge some scraps of copper. (Plumbers usually have short scraps they can’t use.) I bought a 15 foot long roll of 5/16″ soft tubing at the scrap yard for $3.00  and using a tubing cutter, cut the tubing a little longer than an inch. I used a vice to crimp one end and then put the flat in the vice and drilled it. We cranked out a dozen terminals in a matter of minutes. If you solder the wire in, they are absolutely as good or better than new ones because some are copper plated and these are solid. Next time you see a scrap of copper tube, throw it in the parts bin. Instead of having too many expensive terminals, or not enough, make your own and save some money.


Spring is Almost Here – A Recycled Bucket, Dirt Cheap, Easy to Build Raised Planter

February 25, 2012

The days are longer and warmer. Here’s a planter that we built that used recycled buckets from a local bakery and some lumber I had lying around. Total cost, about $10.00

It’s a great 1/2 day project that is simple and dirt cheap (pun intended) Here’s a photo of the supply list. Measure the buckets and make the appropriate adjustments. Email me at with questions.

Throw a nice heavy coat of sealant or stain on it and you are ready to go.

Free Batteries for Life… Really

October 25, 2011

Don’t Throw Those AA and AAA Batteries Away, Use Them Over and Over!

We use them everyday and by the dozens, in flashlights, tools, toys, remotes, MP3’s, appliances, the list goes on and on. I’m referring to AA and AAA batteries. They used to be so affordable you wouldn’t have any problem using and tossing them. Well, those days are over. Brand name batteries can run as much as a buck or more a piece and when they’re low they’re worthless. The amazing thing the battery companies don’t want you to know is that much like a car battery or rechargeable NiCad, regular disposable batteries can easily and safely be recharged, and not just once but several times. For applications like remotes, LED flashlights and MP3 players, the difference between a new and a charged battery is imperceptible and the gradual decline in output is only noticeable after several charge cycles.

Now imagine never having to buy a battery again. Think of the tens of thousands that are put into recycle bins at hardware, grocery, office supply and other stores every single day. The absolute vast majority, perhaps 9 out of 10 are still good, but have fallen below the optimum voltage. Amazingly, when some people aren’t sure, they simply replace the batteries and over the years I’ve found numerous batteries that didn’t even need a charge.
While you probably could go to the recycle bin and grab a handful, if you tell the manager what you’re up to, chances are you’ll get their blessing to root through the pile and get as many as you want. If they take a charge, you’re set and can start to use them immediately. The tiny percentage that might not recharge can simply be returned to the recycle bin. They also make a great gift. Nothing says “I Love You” more than a bunch of free batteries.

We really plow through batteries here at the recycle ranch, and we received 60+ commercial AA batteries (from hand held radios) that were on their way to the recycle bin. That was over three years ago and we’ve still got a dozen good ones left that I use in led lights and our other gear.

This is a win-win. All that’s required is a one time expense for a battery charger (which runs from $20.00 to $80.00) and you will pay for it in a few uses, from there on, your batteries are free. We’re testing a couple of lower price chargers at the ranch to make sure the batteries stay within a safe heat range, and should have results shortly. Our first unit has a micro chip with a temp sensor built in. It tells you immediately if the batteries are full, low or can’t be saved. So far, I’ve charged over a hundred batteries and haven’t had a problem. The new microprocessor controlled charger uses a small amount of power to charge them over a long period of time, so they don’t even get warm. NOTE: If youuse an older nicad charger or any charger that isn’t designed for alkaline batteries, you will get into trouble. For info, go to for an update.

(Update) Talk about irony, a strong stormfront just came through and took out the power for miles around. I grabbed all of my led storm lights and put some freshly charged recycled batteries in them. Life’s great.

A Free Hi Quality Inverter for the Asking

October 24, 2011

If you’ve ever experienced a power outage, you know just how much we take electricity for granted. Almost everything we do is somehow connected with electricity. Cooking, heating, cooling, lighting, entertainment and communications all require electricity.

If the power does go out, even enough electricity to light a bulb and power a laptop is preferred to sitting in the dark.

Enter the inverter. What an inverter does is take 12 Volts DC, the same voltage as your car battery, and converts it to 120 Volts AC which is what a standard wall outlet provides.

There are a lot of affordable inverters available, starting with small 100 Watt units that plug directly into your cigarette lighter plug. These will provide enough power to run some small appliances and charge most devices and would certainly be better than nothing. However, the less expensive units tend to put out a “modified sine wave” which will not run certain electronic devices, and will cause a humming in others. The inverters that produce a pure sine wave, which is a very clean output that will run virtually everything a wall outlet will, are quite expensive.

(A 100 Watt vehicle modified sine wave inverter)

Imagine being able to get a free “pure sine wave” inverter for the asking. I currently have several of them ranging from 350 to 1000 watts and I haven’t paid for a single one.


Backup or “Uninterrupted Power Supplies” are extremely common in the computer industry. They are simply pure sine wave inverters that automatically switch from wall power to inverter power when the power goes out. The smaller 350 watt units run on an internal 12VDC sealed battery that will give a computer about 10 minutes of run time for you to shut everything down safely.

( A common 350 Watt backup power supply running off a car battery)

The problem is, the batteries are readily available, but they are expensive $25.00 – $40.00 depending on where you buy them. I pay $10.00 for a top quality battery that is removed from equipment and has more life in it than a new poorly built one. ( A lot of people don’t want to spend the money and end up dumping the backup power supply when the battery goes dead.

I asked an IT friend if he would save them and I had several in a week. The problem is, what’s an inverter with a dead battery good for. I take the battery out and replace it with a short cord and set of alligator clips. Make sure you keep the polarity correct, red to positive, black to negative. That allows me to use it on my car battery or any number of good charged batteries I keep around the shop. Last week we lost power for several hours and I was still able to work with my backup power supply running some 100 Watt Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s). They use 23 Watts each but put out 100 Watts of light.

Make sure you use a heavy wire, twice as heavy as what the inside wire running from the unit to the battery should be fine.

A large truck battery with a 350 Watt inverter will comfortably run two 100 Watt CFL’s, my laptop and a small boom box for music for hours. When the power comes back on, simply recharge the battery until next time. If it’s going to be a day or two, use it sparingly and charge the battery from a vehicle or use the car battery to power it, starting the car on regular intervals to charge it. Just make sure you don’t let it drop to low.

I also scored at the battery store where they had some inverters with dead batteries they didn’t want. The local computer store gets them all the time and often upgrades the client to a new unit.

The only down side is some of them beep. I disconnected the beeper on mine, but you can put it somewhere else and run an extension cord.

These things are everywhere, particularly yard sales and thrift shops. Even if you paid a few bucks for one, it’s still one of the best deals around.

Let me know if you like this type of story, I have a bunch more.

Go to for more DIY stories

October 23, 2011

How to Handle a Crisis

October 18, 2011

“How to Handle a Crisis” is a compact family and personal reference that provides easy to follow emergency protocols for virtually all types of incidents including auto accidents, missing children, household chemical spills, terrorism, natural disasters and more. It also features post disaster checklists, info on sheltering in place, acquiring emergency food and water and how families can cope with a traumatic event and protocols for traveling including hotel, travel and aircraft safety and counter terrorism tips.  An extensive first aid chapter covers all common injuries as well as procedures not found in most manuals including childbirth, new CPR and more. The affordable 146 page reference easily fits in a glove box or kitchen drawer and is available at

Dirt Cheap Recycled Rowmaker

August 12, 2011

Just one of the great things about living in the country is having a garden. Nothing beats eating a tomato right off the vine. However, prepping the garden is another story. After dumping over a ton of well seasoned goat, rabbit, llama and donkey poop into it and tilling it thoroughly four times, the task of making rows would normally be a horribly tedious one, and the wavy results from a hard days work used to look like I’d been drinking on the job. It only took one season years ago before I decided that the Recycle Ranch needed a dirt cheap, easy to build, easier to use row maker. After a full thirty minutes of  work, I came up with a device that not only works great, but lasts as well as this is it’s tenth year and it has another hundred left.

Using discarded and scrap steel, the rowmaker is simple to build out of steel, but a scrap wood one could be built if you didn’t have a welder and made it beefy enough.

The beauty of this device is its simplicity. Constructed from an old piece of tubing, some angle iron, a discarder water pipe and two junk steel plates, it has worked flawlessly for ten years without a broken weld.

Attached to the ATV with an old ½ bolt, I must emphatically advise how dangerous and stupid it is to stand on the rowmaker, and never, ever do this at home, but it works great for us. In first gear at just a crawl, the unit makes perfectly straight rows and will do a huge garden in about an hour.

Getting ready to make the last row to the right, the rest of the garden is ready to plant. Total cost, around 3 cents for electricity to run the welder.

If you have materials that are even close, they will work. A wooden rowmaker with 2”x 8” blades would work as well.

Now when it comes time to prep the garden and make the rows, I don’t break into a sweat, I simply whip out the old trusty three center and get to work.