Weeds: Maker’s block

Everyone has heard of writer’s block, and much more competent authorities have written on it – so that will not be mentioned beyond this paragraph. Instead, I want to write about maker’s block, and take an example from my own life – the non-installation of a dust extraction system for a workshop. Writer’s block is a writer’s inability to write; Maker’s block is a maker’s inability to make. Here, we will look at why this happens, and how to get the maker making again.

Several months have passed since I purchased a dust extractor. Still there is no sign of any ducting to transport that dust from their production centres to a storage centre. Why not? Unfortunately, there are not many good answers to choose from. Perhaps the best reply is to say,  I’m awaiting a miracle.

The challenge is that a dust extractor is a system, not just a single product. The system is made up of many components, that have to work together. These components are all sold individually, not prepackaged in a kit.

There is no single criteria that can be used to judge components. Instead, there are three that compete with each other. Each appears to make a system better, but each also introduces weaknesses. The three criteria are finding and using: 1) a uniform type of material, in this case a plastic; 2) a uniform tube/pipe diameter, 100 mm is the diameter of tubing that comes with the dust extractor; and 3) a wide selection of components.

Of the local shops where I can purchase DIY equipment, only one, Jula, offers blast gates or more specialty components related to dust extraction. One expects these products to have the type of plastic imprinted on them, so that at end of life they can be recycled. Before then, the same information might be useful for knowing what to do with the component. None of these specialty components from Jula have any such markings, and none of the product descriptions include anything about the type of plastic. However, each component does have “Made in Taiwan” on it. From experience, I am fairly certain that each of these components is made from ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic, a type most notably known for its use in Lego bricks.

Why is having only one type of plastic so important? The challenge is that it is very difficult to “weld” a plastic from one resin family to a plastic from a different resin family. This means that connections between components made from different types of plastic have to be made mechanically.

I can obtain: hose made of PU (polyurethane) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride); pipe made of PP (polypropylene) and HDPE (high density polyethylene). ABS pipe is more difficult to find.

Pipe/hose diameter.

The dust extractor comes equipped with an inside diameter of 100 mm (that’s about four inches) hose. This is the same diameter that is used for other household ventilation purposes. While hoses have a varying diameter, because of reinforcement wires, ducting and pipe are more stable. Using Vernier calipers, one finds that their diameter varies from about 100 to 103 mm. This is probably because 101.6 mm is the exact equivalent of four inches.

At Jula they offer 6 meters of PU hose with 100 mm inside diameter for NOK 800. This is only part of the cost. Every joint requires the use of a hose clamp at each end, that costs NOK 70 for 2. PU hose is described as being very flexible. Which makes it suitable for “last meter” attachment between a blast-gate and a machine, or – more often than not – an adaptor, which costs NOK 70. A blast-gate costs NOK 100, and a Y-joint separating the machine feed from the common line costs NOK 200. The last meter of machine attachment costs about NOK 570 for each machine.

Hose is not really suitable for transport between the other side of a blast gate, and the dust extractor. One of the challenges has been to find a suitable 100 mm pipe system. At Biltema this size pipe can be purchased for NOK 90 for one meter; At Jula it costs NOK 100, for 860 mm. Unfortunately, there are no sleeves at the end of either pipe, so these must be purchased for every joint. These cost NOK 40 at Biltema.

Component Diversity

The main logical flaw at this point is the expectation is that the selected components are actually suitable for the job. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The miracle that I am awaiting is that these components will suddenly become available, if only I search the internet one more time!

Enter wastewater pipes.

Wastewater pipes are available in 1, 2 and 3 meter lengths (the last one costing NOK 170). Each comes with a sleeve at one end. Sliding sleeves are also available so that cut off pieces can be attached easily. These cost NOK 60 each, as do elbows available in 15, 30, 45 and 90 degree varieties. There are also Y-joints, that cost half the price of the ABS joints, or NOK 100. This variety eases the installation process and reduces waste. There are no problems fitting these components to each other, they are designed to fit together without glue or clamps.

110 mm to 100 mm transition

The key to being able to move on, was the realization that it would be possible to joint 100 mm components with 110 mm components, despite their belonging to different plastic resin families. Weatherstripping can be placed on the exterior of the 100 mm components. These can then be joined together, and filled with silicon. Duct tape can then be wrapped around the entire joint.

Conclusion

The conclusion of this article cannot be written at this moment. At my next opportunity, I have to make a shopping list of 110 mm components, drive into Steinkjer, purchase them and then drive home.  Then the difficult part comes, actually doing the work of installing them. The end of maker’s block is within sight.