Fitting a silencer

Thought I’d try out one of the exhaust silencers on the ShopVac to see what difference it could possibly make.

The design is pretty basic – a tube with an opening and exit the diameter of the exhaust of the vac, and a wider diameter between with a foam tube inside.

When fitted to the outlet of the ShopVac, there was a noticeable difference, although not particularly significant.  The noise is more the motor than the exhaust it seems.  Nor does the silencer work particularly well in its as-supplied state.


And yes, given how simple the design is, you could easily make one at home.

What I am thinking is to block the outlet, and cut slots around the circumference instead, and see if that makes more difference. I’ll research that another time.

Out of interest, I measured the sound levels in the workshop.

Outside (at the time): 40dB
Inside workshop: 38dB
1m from Sherwood dust extractor: 77dB
1m from ShopVac (no silencer): 86.5dB
1m from ShopVac (silencer): 84dB



It has been a long time coming (since October 2013) but I have finally finished the recataloguing of Shed.TV

Thought it would take a few weeks. 21 months was close……..

It was originally driven by the unexplained dropping of my channel from Blip.TV, so I started the process of transferring all the videos directly to the server.  About 16 GB of them (there are more now – another 60 since then – 7 more hours of footage).

After taking that step, I decided the indexing system needed a full revamp.  It was becoming very cumbersome and once we passed the 200 video mark, that is a lot of thumbnails that need to load.

I decided the thumbnails were not adding sufficient value to maintain them, so they were sacrificed.  The numbering system has been maintained, with two primary forms of videos.  The main episodes, which tend to be longer, are fully edited and have more effort put into them, such as multiple cameras, lighting sources etc, and shorter more basic versions, shot on one camera and uploaded directly, with little to no editing.

The first version are called episodes, and their numbering has an “ss” suffix (for Stu’s Shed). The second are the YouTube Chronicles, and have a “yt” suffix.  There is a new numbering system that has been introduced, which simply starts at 1, and continues incrementing, currently sitting at 212 videos in total. (32 hours total footage).  Around 30 GB worth.

So check it out at the tab at the top.  Hope the streamlined indexing meets with approval.

As to, they are shutting down forever next month.




Beam Pump

The beam pump is one of those really simple mechanisms that have been around for donkey’s years.  They are in heavy use in the American South.sxo0redqpl_oil_and_gas 5a9b9-wideopenoil

The beam pump (like the beam engine) takes the rotary motion from the prime mover, and transfers it into a linear motion.

mediumThinking about it, a piston in a combustion engine is just a beam engine in reverse.

In the goldfields, a beam pump is one way that was used to pump water out of the mines (one of the disadvantages for mining below the water table).  A steam engine makes a good prime mover, and a counterweighted beam pump can have a significant stroke to draw water up from the deep.

At Sovereign Hill there is a working beam pump which you could almost miss, given how big it is!

SH-47 SH-64

Should have gotten some video of the beam pump itself in operation – slowly shunting back and forth.  I did have a closer look at the prime mover.  The comparatively small size of the engine just goes to show how powerful steam engines can be.

SH-50 SH-51 SH-52

Spinning and other metal work

There are some awesome 19th century metal working workshops at Sovereign Hill.  Next week, I will be visiting one that is 150 years into the future from these workshops, but more on that at the time.

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One of the things I did want to see while I was there, was the metal spinning.  While it is a really old process, it is still very much in use today, forming things like metal bowls.  Of course technology has made things easier, but you would have to be impressed with the quality of the result from the old techniques.


The process here involves holding a flat disc of metal against a mold.

SH-8The metal worker has a long rod that is supported against the upper arm, and against a pivot point close to the disc.


By then gently pushing selectively over the surface while the mold and disc are spun rapidly, the metal is slowly bent in until it is flush against the mold, copying its shape.

I found it really interesting that as the metal was being spun, it actually curved outwards as the metal spinning stretched the metal.  It was then rolled over towards the mold with the rod.  This process was repeated as the metal continued to be stretched and molded to shape.

SH-6I wanted to get more background about the process, especially the traditional aspects of it, but the gentleman demonstrating made very clear he wasn’t interested in sharing.  A shame, seeing as he has been doing it for about 50 years apparently, and would have a wealth of knowledge.  He’d also have shoulders of rock doing this for so long.


Think some areas of the workshop haven’t been cleaned in those 50 years either!


The workshop produces many of the items for sale at Sovereign Hill – bells, plates, gold panning pans etc.  Bought one of those as well – cost all of $12 too.

Spun items (produced by hand, or by modern methods) have a distinctive fine ribbed surface.  Next time you come across a metal bowl, have a look and see if you can work out if it was produced by spinning, or some other process.



There’s gold in them thar hills

Click here to view 3D model of Sovereign Hill

Click here to download Google Earth

After the alluvial gold became more scarce, gold prospectors dug into the earth to continue to find the riches that were available around the Ballarat area.

Gold-2 Gold-1

The mines were either relatively shallow, dug by individual prospectors, or ran deep, supported by more elaborate mining setups by larger companies, that then employed miners who then drew a wage to dig, rather than earning nothing, or everything.  These miners earned around $65000 in today’s dollars, but the work was dangerous, and their life expectancy short.

If not for the cave-ins, drowning and all the other heavy risks, the air itself was laden with dust, and every breath took a toll.

Just out of interest, the mine above was dug into ancient creek beds, and yielded a 69kg monster.  At today’s price, you would get just about enough change from $3.5 million to buy a cup of coffee (but it might have to be instant).

Gold-10 Gold-12Larger mines may have been built stronger, but the miners constantly listened to every murmur, every creak, and when the timber started to talk, it was time to run and even then, it was often too late.


Gold-9Cartload after cartload of quartz was removed back to the surface for processing.

If you were exceptionally lucky, the gold was there to find.

Gold-11The quartz taken to the surface was then processed to find what gold was trapped inside.


This could be broken up by hand (sledgehammer), but to process the amount being mined, more elaborate methods were introduced.

One such example is shown above, using a method not dissimilar to milling wheat into flour, this crushes the quartz with a heavy, iron-reinforced stone wheel, pulled by horse.

Other subtle methods were used later in the piece, such as a ball grinder that uses a bowl with a free-running large stone ball to grind the fine samples even further to release the gold therein.

With the increasing introduction of industrial methods to increase yield and process the maximum amount possible, we have the crusher!

Gold-7 Gold-8

Rock is fed in from the right, and hammers pound it to dust, before it flows over an oscillating cloth bed designed to catch the gold, while the quartz dust flows over the top to discard (or finer sorters).

But I don’t think you get the full effect in a photo or two.  So this might help understand just how much force is really involved!

Once the gold is extracted, it is melted down to have its impurities removed, and cast into ingots.

Gold-6 Gold-5 Gold-4

This fiery brick is $150000 of pure gold.

Line Shaft Live

Probably the thing that I enjoy seeing more than anything else at Sovereign Hill, are all the line shaft driven machinery.  I’d love to have a workshop straight out of the 1890s.  I’d feel right at home.

This is one of the many working workshops at Sovereign Hill, powered by steam, and line shafts.

Shot by my daughter on an iPhone (without any encouragement from me – something starting to rub off?!! :) )


Shed decoration



It was a bit of a hard slog to get this project across the line in time in the end, but the project was completed (at least to this standard), photos taken, and a 3400 word article submitted for the next edition of The Shed magazine.

I didn’t try rushing a finish – it will pop even more when I do, but I think it looks pretty good as it is!  This one is destined for the shed.  I’ll add some guns to it (the Sopwith Camel had Vickers machine guns), and hang it in a banking turn, probably dog fighting a pteranodon or similar.

Pleased how it came out – a solid nod towards the original aircraft (with a wooden toy emphasis), down to the 9 cylinder Clerget 9B rotary engine.

Update – just to clarify, as there has been a bit of confusion out there it turns out….this is very much my own design, it has not been made from someone else’s plans.  It was primarily made on a bandsaw – the CNC helped with the motor obviously, but this is something you can definitely make with standard woodworking machines.

The full article, and my plans will be available in the next edition of “The Shed”


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