Better Solar Battery Bank

| July 6, 2019
solar battery wiring tight
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I built a solar powered backup battery a couple years ago, but decided to make a better solar battery bank. I originally thought I needed more room for more 12v lead acid batteries when I built the last version. I never added 12v lead acid batteries, because LiPo batteries started looking appealing, and did not want to waste time or money on increasing amps, with more lead acid batteries. They are also quite heavy.

The lead acid batteries I have, still have plenty of life, so I decided to re-use them. The new version is more compact, and better insulated against weather.

solar battery internal fitmentsolar battery wiring 2solar battery wiringside view of wiringsolar battery wiring tightold vs new side by sideold vs new top viewtop view of switches

I re-used 4 12v 7AH and 1 12v 8AH battery. I secured them into an internal holder, made of plywood. The internal holder protects the batteries, prevents movement, makes the carrier more rigid, and gives me a place to mount my screw block terminal for a cleaner wiring job.

The battery box is tactical ammo box, from Harbor Freight. On its own, its somewhat flimsy and unimpressive, but the dimension were perfect for 5 12v lead acid batteries. Its also waterproof, and has a nice little ‘top compartment’ for protecting toggle switches from the elements. The wiring is nice and clean, and fairly straight forward. All wires go to their respective polarity on a terminal block.

Three switches run three different plugs. Two of those switches run waterproof cigarette lighter sockets, which is how I am attaching the solar cell during the day time. A third switch runs a dual 5V 2.1A usb port, although this one, with a voltage indicator built in, would be the better option if I didn’t already have a mini digital voltmeter.

When we are car camping, or experiencing a power outage, we are able to comfortably power a automotive immersion beverage heater, a small USB fan, 6' led lights, and an inverter when needed.

This reduces the need to start the car and burn fuel, and lets us keep phones, GPS, watches, bluetooth speakers, and headlamps fully charged.

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Leather Shot Shell Carrier

| March 5, 2017
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

I wanted an easy way to carry around and quickly access shot shells whilst shooting and hunting, so I made my own leather shot shell carrier.

Making a leather shot shell carrier involved making a ‘mold’ to form pieces of leather into ‘parts’ that will hold nice bends and shapes. It’s not absolutely necessary, but the finished product is a much more consistent, and refined product.

What I did was straight forward enough, and can be observed in the photos below. The basics were to start with a box of shot shells, and use it as the inner dimensions for the carrier.

I kept my design basic. It’s only 4 pieces cut from a large piece of veg tan leather. The side pieces were cut a little oversized, to accommodate for any irregular stretching or shrinking in the mold. Its easy to trim a piece, and nearly impossible to stretch a piece.

The Pieces:
1 front-bottom-back piece, made from one long piece of leather.
2 sides, molded with 3 lips to sew to the front-bottom-back piece.
1 face piece that will allow the carrier to hang on a belt.

The front-bottom-back piece forms a ‘J’ shape. I cut the piece to the appropriate length, calculated by adding the height of the box 2x, the depth of the box 1x, and adding enough ‘extra’ for rivets and a belt. I mark where the bends will be as a guide. The leather pieces are lightly misted and until only slightly dampened with mineral free water. They are placed in the mold under pressure from clamps, and a cheap room heater is used to heat and dry the leather in the form. Once dried, the pieces will retain their bends and edges. Over saturating or soaking the leather will cause the leather to contract and shrink, A LOT. and should be avoided.

The sides are formed using the exact same method. The mold I made allows me to make 2 mirrored sides at a time.

After forming the front-bottom-back and sides, they are connected with contact cement, and clamped until dry. Once dry, I mark and drill the holes that will get stitched with a 1/64 drill bit and a dremel. I then stitch the parts securely together. An awl could be used instead of drilling, but the drilled holes make it much easier to stitch.

Lastly, the tall back piece gets a second layer riveted to its unfinished face. This will allow a belt to pass through it securely. I used copper rivets that needed to be peened. I didn’t actually have the rivet setting tool needed to set the rivets, so I made one by drilling out an indentation in 1/2″ steel barstock. Once the rivet is trimmed, I set the rivet. When it starts to mushroom over, I peen it smooth with a hammer.

This isn’t a bad looking shot shell carrier, but it could be dressed up, conditioned, and finished a little nicer. It could be stained, waxed, etc. I personally prefer durability and reliability over looks. Its built to get used, and this carrier will see a lot of use, scuffs, and scrapes, during upcoming bird seasons, so I won’t be doing much else to this one to make it any prettier.

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Dove Decoys Part 1

| October 19, 2016
Photo Credit: Keith Knoxsville
A Hen and a Drake Green Teal on the truck bed. Not a limit on anything, but a fun morning out.

Collared and mourning doves frequently land in the yard and forage for food and grit. I will occasionally harvest a collared dove or two with my Crosman 1322 air gun, and cook em up with dinner.

I decided I wanted them to frequent the property more often, and broadcasting wild bird seed as well as setting up a few decoys would be the way to do it.

I’m approaching this in multiple steps. Step one, create decoys. Step two, add movement to decoys. I had some 2×4 scraps sitting around, so I decided to glue up some blanks that I could carve into decoys.

I drafted a dove pattern, but expanded the size from a mourning dove to a collared dove size. My plan is to carve the body from the glued blanks, after adding a head and separate tail piece. I may ultimately wish I just sculpted these from foam, and finished them with mastic like duck decoys, or even bondo and some fiberglass, but with the scraps of short 2×4 pieces I had on hand, it made sense to give wooden dove decoys a try.





So to re-hash, this is going to be a two step process. Step one is to create decoys, and decide if wood or foam and composite are the way to go. I could also create a mold from a wooden decoy if I am pleased with the outcome, then use expanding foam to create a lot more dove decoys.

Step two will be to add movement and realism to the decoy by use of a simple oscillating circuit, and a vibrating motor or solenoid to drive artificial wings. I know there are a million companies selling stuff like that already. However, given my skill set and knowledge of electronics and programming, I’d rather spend 2 dollars on parts, and not 15 or more dollars on a prefab item that won’t fit my decoys, or do exactly what I want them to do. Besides, I enjoy the process.

Feel free to share your thoughts, or contribute any suggestions via the comments.

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