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Tool Review – eBay Ratchet Cable Cutters

Ratchet Cable Cutters
Ratchet Cable Cutters

For the latest big project, replacing the battery bank on the boat with 5 brand new 200Ah Yuasa heavy duty flooded lead acids, I’m going to need to make many short links from heavy battery cable to connect all 5 batteries into a parallel bank.
Cutting cable as big in diameter as a good sized thumb is difficult at best. In the past I’ve used a hacksaw, but it doesn’t do a very clean job, especially as the cut nears the end – strands get ripped from the cable by the relatively coarse blade & this reduces the current carrying capacity.
Over to eBay again netted a pair of ratchet-type heavy duty cable cutters for £30. These are rated to cut cable up to 240mm² or 600MCM.

Cutting Jaws
Cutting Jaws

The cutting head on these snips is massive – cutting through cable up to 35mm in diameter takes some force. The ratchet mechanism is used to get a large mechanical advantage to force the cutters through the copper, without having to resort to more expensive & complex mechanisms such as hydraulics. (Hydraulic cable cutters do exist, but cost a small fortune & are totally over-rated for the job).

Overall the tool seems to be well made, the handles are Vinyl dipped to make them more comfortable, which certainly helps when applying a large amount of force. Running a file over the cutters themselves reveals they’re actually hardened – unusual for cheapo Chinese tools.

 

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Boating: Drydock Time – New Running Gear & Rudder Modifications

New Shaft & Prop
New Shaft & Prop

We’re now on the final leg of the jobs to be done on the boat! Above is the new prop & shaft, supplied to us by Crowther Marine over in Royton. To fit our current stern tube & gland, the shaft is the same diamter at 1-3/8″. Unfortunately no 4-blade props were available, so I had to go for a 17×11 left-hand, but with a much larger blade area than the old one.

Propellers
Propellers

Here’s the old prop on the right, with the new one on the left, amazing how different 1 inch of diameter actually looks. The opposite hand of the new prop makes no difference in our case, as I can simply switch the hoses to the hydraulic motor on the shaft to make everything reverse direction.

Stripper
Stripper

Above is the solution to my problem of no weed hatch – a Stripper Rope Cutter from Ambassador Marine. This device has some seriously viciously sharp cutting teeth to help clear any fouling from the prop in operation. Only time will tell if it’s effective at allowing me to stay out of the canal manually removing the crap!

Cutless Bearing
Cutless Bearing

We finally got the bearing mount finished, by S Brown Engineering in Stockport. This is made from Stainless steel to stop the bearing corroding in place & becoming a real arse to replace. Set screws are fitted to make sure the bearing doesn’t move in service.
Attached to the side of the bearing housing is the fixed blade mounting for the Stripper Rope Cutter.

Bearing Test Fit
Bearing Test Fit

Above is everything fitted to the shaft for a test before the gear went into it’s home in the stern tube. The Stripper mounts behind the prop, clamped to the shaft. The 3 moving blades move against the fixed blade like a mechanised pair of scissors.

Bearing Strut Welding
Bearing Strut Welding

10mm steel plate has been used to make the strut for the bearing tube, welded together. In the case of the joint between the stainless tube & the carbon steel strut, special welding rods were needed, at the price of £2 a rod! Using mild steel rods to weld stainless could result in cracking of the welds. Not a good thing on a prop shaft support bearing.

Sand Blasted Hull
Sand Blasted Hull

Most of the old tube has been cut away to make room for the new bearings, and the bottom of the hull has been sand-blasted ready for welding.

Running Gear Mounted
Running Gear Mounted

The bearing mount is welded to the hull, the Stripper & the prop are fitted to the end of the shaft. There’s 1.5″ of clearance from the blade tips to the hull plating. The rudder has about an inch of clearance to the end of the shaft.

Rudder Fence
Rudder Fence

To help keep the prop wash down, directing more of the force into moving the vessel rather than creating a nice rooster tail, a pair of plates has been welded onto the rudder. These also provide a handy step should someone fall in ;).

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DIY Eberspacher Glowplug Screens: Recap

A while ago I posted about the glowplug screens in Eberspacher heaters, and making some DIY ones, as the OEM parts are hideously expensive for a piece of stainless mesh (£13).

Old Screen
Old Screen

Above is the old factory screen that I extracted after only 5 gallons of diesel was run through it, it’s heavily clogged up with carbon & tar. The result of this clogging is a rather slow & smoky start of the heater & surging of the burner while at full power.
It wasn’t as badly stuck in the chamber as some I’ve removed, but extracting it still caused the steel ring to deform, this was after using a scalpel blade to scrape the carbon off the rim.

At the time I did some tests with some spare copper mesh I had to hand, but the problem with copper is that it’s very soft & malleable, so didn’t really hold it’s shape well enough. The factory screens are spot welded to keep them in shape, but as I don’t have a spot welder, I am relying on the mesh having a bit of springiness to keep it in place against the walls of the glowplug chamber.

eBay provided a piece of 120 mesh stainless steel mesh, 300mmx300mm for £8. It’s a bit finer than the stock stuff, but appears to work perfectly fine as long as there’s no gunk in the fuel to clog it up.

I cut a strip off the large piece, as wide as the OEM screen, about 32mm. This 300mm long strip is then cut into 4 pieces, each 75mm long. (it’s easily cut with scissors, but mind the stray wires on the edges! They’re very sharp & penetrate skin easily!).

Mesh Screen
Mesh Screen

These pieces are just the right size to form a complete loop in the glowplug chamber, and the stainless is springy enough so that it doesn’t deform & become loose.
The OEM screen is multiple turns of a more coarse mesh, but the finer mesh size of the screens I’m using means only one turn is required. Multiple turns would probably be too restrictive to fuel flow.
With one of these pieces of mesh in place, the heater starts instantly, without even a wisp of smoke from the exhaust. Burner surging is also eliminated. Even if the service life of my DIY replacement isn’t as long as an OEM screen, the low price for such a large number of replacements certainly offsets that disadvantage!

A piece of mesh from eBay would provide enough material for quite a lot of replacements, and probably more than the service life of the burner itself!