Friday, July 6, 2012

Electroscope - Static Electricity

In one of my Science classes at high school, the teacher had shown a lab model of Electroscope. [Click on this link to know what it exactly is]  It was a gold leaf electroscope. He rubbed an ebonite rod on a piece of woolen cloth and held it on the electroscope.  Lo, it made the two leaves inside the sealed jar repel! That was the simple lab demonstration of the static electric charges.

[Web-grab image from 'Museum of Technology']

I was impressed by this mysterious phenomenon called static electricity from the plastic/synthetic comb at home where we did 'magic' to the wonderment of our grandmother!  We made little paper pieces move and stick to the comb!  It was thrilling to fool her. 

Small plastic covers were also used for this 'magic', for fun. See this link where [click] you can relive your younger days!  It is pleasing to know from that link that I had made similar ones in 1973 itself, particularly the electroscope! 

TV screens, among myriad items produce it. If you just google 'static electricity', you will be amazed at the long list of available information on this curious thing.

You can experience a shock about 8-10 Volts and that is about the amount of current that zaps across.  It was funny when my colleague demonstrated and startled me with two plastic chairs.  I saw the spark zap across from the 'charged' person to another as the fingertip closed in on the other person.  It can be quite a prank!

Some synthetic dresses, especially a fabric called Terylene which was a fashion in the late 60s and early 70s also produced static electricity. I used to wonder why shirts of this fabric gave a weird feeling to the hands as we brushed them against while walking.  Even while removing it, esp. in the dry winter months, it used to get attracted to our skin and make our hair on the hands stand on end! The plastic wire bags that my aunt had woven also gave this same experience. 

So when the lessons on Static Electricity were made in the class, we used to listen very curiously! 

Why not I make one, just for the heck of it?!  It serves no purpose at all, yet, it was another little project I thought. "Scientific temper!"  Around that time, my grandfather had been afflicted with 'neuritis' after he exposed himself to cold winds traveling in a bus to Bangalore and had lost sensation in his fingers.  So, 'Neurobion' was prescribed to him. The capsules came in little bottles with a rubber stopper.  An empty one suited my project. Since I could not think of gold leaf at all, I used aluminum foil from a tin can.  A brass pin from a broken electric plug came in handy to fix it to the stopper and hang the foils with a thin wire.  I used my comb to see if it repelled the foils.  It worked! The foils reacted slightly. That was enough satisfaction, even though it is the most useless thing! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rustic Garden Board

There was a small wooden staircase on the open balcony having 5 planks for steps.  Two were missing and the rest were rickety.  It was a risky affair to step on them. We had to jump down or climb back, with the support of the old and shaky wooden handrails.  You cannot blame the carpenter because it bore the brunt of all weather since 1911 without a break.

Redoing with new planks was a costly affair.  So, I removed the planks and built the steps myself out of bricks and stone slabs [see picture below]. This was some years ago when we moved in to live in the house built by my great grandfather in the year mentioned above.  It had been rented out from 1950 to 1997 to the same tenant.  Tenants cannot be expected to take care of these things!

Seen in this picture is what I built after removing the planks.

These teak wood planks were now useless for any other wood work.  I had kept them aside along with other junk, instead of using them as firewood, but that is not the mentality of 'junk accumulators'!

In the meanwhile, I had come across a nice gardening website, Dave's Garden, where gardeners had shared their pictures.  It was about creative use of old wood.  They were used as name boards and nicely displayed, as if it was old.  Rustic.  After seeing such pictures, I thought there was a new project for me to do at home with these.  

What to engrave on them?  It is two feet across. To imitate 'Dave's Garden' I thought of 'Dinu's Garden'.  The letters were 'one too many' for that width and needed to be shortened.  So I remembered another word from my younger days when I used to read a lot of wonderful comic stories of The Phantom.  In one of them, there was 'Isle of Eden'.  Here, The Phantom had kept his pets - tigers, lions and many species of animals all living in harmony.  The word 'Eden' seemed to fit in to the width of the plank. I wanted it to sound like Dave's Garden [DG], due to my obsession with it, but in the end, it turned out to be 'Dinu's Eden'. The engraved portion was painted with 'poster colour' for visual effect.

This is in the garden which has shifted now.

This was placed in the new yard on the other side of the plot.

Googling to link Phantom's Eden, I am glad I found this place where you can read the entire comic - Isle of Eden.  [click on the link]. In fact, there is a great fan following of Lee Falk's Phantom, even now!  

My carpentry skills and some patience came in handy.  Patience, because the surface of the plank is so brittle that it had to be engraved very carefully, lest the wood chipped away. Cutting the letters was a precision job.

Close up showing wood surface

Fortunately, it came off well, much to my delight.  "Dinu's Eden" is where many critters and creatures live in harmony, like in Phantom's Eden, if not tigers, lions or elephants.

Some photos.

This board will take another place as more changes have taken place to this side of the yard and is now having a smaller garden area. This is a picture from the recent archive. 

Some changes can be seen to that part of the yard here.  

It has been exposed to the vagaries of climate all of its hundred years. It should last for some more years since it is now not facing the sky.  It will be put up once the reshaped garden gets ready. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Foam Roller for Paint Jobs

A part of our old tiled roof had been plastered with lime mortar some decades ago to prevent rain leakage through the tiles but the surface had developed cracks.  Rainwater was seeping into our room through those cracks. Filling the cracks with cement securely did not help. The surface was rough.  So, I decided to try painting on the surface to reduce absorption of water through any tiny crevice there may be.

Like all tiled roofs, this was also sloped.  I had to precariously sit on top of the 'cap tiles' to paint.  My hand's reach was only a few feet. The paint tin had to be held in one hand.  A rope was secured from the protruding rafters below at both the ends so that I could rest my feet on it for grip and paint the full area. That was the actual project.

In shops, I had seen a foam roller. I thought of using such a roller instead of a brush because of the rough surface. It would also mean that the sponge passing on it with some pressure filled the tiny dents.  The roller foam was a new thing here at that time, about ten years back.  It was slightly over-priced, or so I felt.  It set me thinking.  I decided it was a tool 'makeable' by me, using odd materials.

Web-grab image to show how neat the 'ready made' products can be.

I dove into my favourite place... where else, the junk pile!  All this project needed was 4 items and I knew I had them all.  Somehow, we junk-lovers can memorize the items! I found the right thickness and density of foam, a left over piece of something I had done before, a stiff iron handle from an old broken plastic bucket and just the right talcum powder box [cylindrical, empty]. I had the adhesive [rubber based] to stick foam. Materials on hand, this project work began. It took me less than half an hour!

First, the foam was stuck on the side of the powder box and its sides carefully joined with adhesive and also stitched for additional support. I made two holes at the ends of the two sides of the box to hold the handle for the 'roller'.  The handle was properly bent to suit the purpose and inserted into the holes. After the adhesive was dry, presto, the roller was ready for use!  Here is mine.. looks crude, yet, it works!  After all, it WAS junk!

I did a trial run with water on a wall to get a feel of my new tool.  It was fine!  Then I painted that roof surface nicely as it did not demand any precise finish due to its location. But the purpose of painting that part served well for some years.  I gave another two coats after some months.

This painting work is visible from the sky!  See this screenshot Google Earth image - white area inside the red rectangle indicated - click on picture to enlarge.

We no longer live under that very roof, but on the other half of the plot, under the long tiled roof you see there.

The crude faom-joint on the roller that produced lines was not a matter to worry in this particular project. For other works, all it needed was some light brushing to even out the visible lines.  This roller will help me to apply paint to the surface easily and quickly!  I like this roller! It saves a lot of time.  I used it last week to paint the inner walls of the new underground sump and finished the work in a jiffy!

Some pictures now.

Full view of house 2009.  The white roof can be seen.

Another closer view.

Another view. The other side of the slope also has this plaster.