Creating something new, day 40
Electric power & Burning the midnight oil
A water tap is easy to make, especially as the water pressure will be very low with the water surface only 2-3m above the outlet, and threads is something I already can make. The somewhat flexible seal will be wood, and I just need to remember to check and replace when needed. So I make drawings and sketches of the taps and how they should work. There will be two models; a single tap for either hot or cold water, and a mixer tap for hot and cold. I would rather not have two completely separate taps, and no matter what the British think, I don't like the idea, and I would have preferred a modern single handle mixer, but I can live with using two wheels on the same fixture to do the job, and the hot water probably won't be particularly hot anyway. I suspect it will be lukewarm or body temperature, and then no mixer is really needed to lower the water temperature to avoid scalding hot water. However, both models are made so it is possible to attach a pipe instead of a nozzle for a shower nozzle or just as a pipe valve.
I need to get 20 mixer taps made, to have 5 extra, because there are three for each of two bathrooms, two for the laundry room, two for the toilet sinks, two for the kitchen and one for the sauna. Then I have plans for a sink in the combined meeting room-dining room and my workshop. I also need at least eight single taps so I might as well just get 10 made, as well as mounting brackets since most of the taps will be fastened to walls. I probably should have thought of having these brackets made and mortared in place when they made the walls, but there are premade holes for this purpose where the planned taps and shower nozzles will be, so anything I havn't planned for they just have to drill in a bit in the stone wall, before they mortar the mounting brackets in place. It won't be as durable, but probably good enough. If its a log wall the mounting bracket will just be nailed in place. I need to order a whole lot of woodscrews too, but they're far less critical than machine screws with matching nuts.
I don't think the water taps will be completely watertight, but low water pressure helps and if it drips a little I can live with it, as I won't hear it anyway when I try to go to sleep. If it becomes a problem in can replace them in the future. For now it's more that they have to exist, but I try to make them a little prettier because that's what people will see the first time they use indoor plumbing, and these will be cast, so Digraldi can add a little simpler decoration. I will fill the recess on the taps wheel with standard red and blue color for hot and cold, and I need to remember to try having the pipes connect so they all have hot water on the same side. I would have preferred some symbol, but they have no standardize symbols for hot and cold. The tap will rotate, and I can't say which direction will be down in the off position, so the symbols must also be symmetrical. A sun and snowflake are a little too close in appearance for it to be worth doing, so I go with KISS principle; red and blue. So far, Alfheimr generally have few symbols, and only simple signs to show bars, craftsman and the like. Proper signage and directions in Borgarsandr are a good idea that I should bring up with the King.
We take another trip in to Borgarsandr to buy a little more food, pick up my parts from the craftsman Digraldi and order the taps, brackets, screws etc. As usual we have many places to visit.
We separate and Iselin and Kari go to the seamstress guild to try to find something that can work as a wick for an oil lamp. My description may not be the best, but it should be cheap and have good capillary action. Good capillary action was a little harder to explain, but I they of course knew how water is absorbed by fabric and wicked up, so they're just going to buy different uncolored fabrics, so we can try which one absorbs and wicks oil the best.
For me, the shopping starts with a short visit to the Copper Guild to order copper wire and buy a few copper sheets for my own craft, and they're very happy to make it for me.
I'm happy when Digraldi informs me that he has managed to buy himself a large supply of tin and zinc, and waits for a shipment of lead. Copper is ironically the easiest an cheapest to obtain here, as the kingdom has a large domestic production and export of it, and as copper is the main part of brass and bronze, it makes economic sense to import the rest. Beside ordering stuff, I buy more brass as I have plenty of prototypes to make, and making a working oil lamp is just one of many projects. I really want to have my own local brass craftsman and foundry at the island. When I move there it will be a pain in the ass to travel back here every time. Since travel will take atleast a day each way during the winter months, and its bothersome, all my metal projects will have a longer production delay. I need to start making a lot of work by myself.
When Iselin and Kari return with the carriage, we go to the glassmaker. He has been able to make some finished glass bottles, and is proud to show that he even managed to make an embossed print of my mark on the outside, which is very useful. It proves he can blow glass bottles, and make quite good surface finishes. Sure, they're bit wonky, but for most cases that doesn't matter, and its not hard to convince him try to make a better lip with indentations for the iron part of a classical resealable bottle top. It probably won't be something for the general public because of the price, but it can be for luxury goods, or if its reusable and really practical. I also need it for basic flasks and things for a future chemistry lab. The glass will certainly not like to be heated, and I have to test its temperature resistance in the future, and see if I can make tempered glass bottles. I know the name borosilicate glass and the brand name Pyrex, but I have no clue where to get boron to try making it. How does it even look? What kind of glass is this? But the glass vessels need to at least be able to boil water, or else their usefulness in chemistry will be severely limit. He have a lot of failed creations he hasn't melted down yet, and he will absolutely get future jobs from me, because he can make simpler glass vessels, and I see that he made a couple of glass tubes as well. Glass tubes are not only useful in labs but also as measuring glasses or level tubes for tanks.
He shows more examples of his work so I understand what he can make in glass, but he can't really point reheat it, to really work with the glass. It's actually impressive how good most of the glass is, but once the glass has started to solidify, he can't do anything more with it, and has to let it anneal itself. He only has fire to heat it in without completely melting it, and fire is sooty and not a point source. Its a really important limitation for future designers and work. I should try to create gas to burn so it can be high enough temperature for glass work and a cleaner flame, and controlled gas burners are also very useful in future Chemistry labs. I have my Jetboil propane kitchen with me, but its gas will eventually run out. However, it may be worth it for some jobs, and I sure won't use the jetboil just to boil water. Propane can be used for filling a refrigeration system too, or just in a gas pressure thermometer.
Among his failed creations and other things, the glassmaker has something that can work as a glass top for an oillamp. I have no doubt he can make something better, but I need to know what to make first. I buy the three glass cylinders he has to try them out, as I can try it out with different handmade brass tubes and when it seems right, he can recreate it in glass. Its pretty much a fancy bottle without a base.
We visit the potter again. All the crucibles I ordered havn't been finished yet, but the insulators are, and I have realized how many I will need for just one antenna, and since I need to build at least two antennas, I order 80 more. Its still relatively cheap. The crucibles should be ready in a couple of days.
At least here in Borgarsandr its easy to buy a few cases of those better 'rovolja' aka rapeseed oil candles, and its easy to buy two small barrels of the same rapeseed oil. I'm happy I ended up here when I did, instead of late winter or early spring. Its easy to buy food and other stuff this time of the year. After they showed me what tallow candles really are, I don't want them. It is such a comparatively small cost that better cleaner light is worth it. It smells slightly better too, although it might just be me thats annoyed by that. The normal household have animals, and quite a lot of houses even here in the capital outside the absolute center, have a yard with a couple of pigs, chicken and geese. They all smell, or atleast their poop do. Add human feces. The common person isn't really clean and smell nice, and washing once per week when most work quite hard just remove the worst. Basically everything smells, and its just a matter of how badly and of what. The normal firepit inside a longhouse probably helps to mask a lot, so a tallow candle probably doesn't change much. But for us in my mansion? Yeah. A whole other atmosphere.
We will still save animal fat since it has many uses, but rendered fat seems to be mainly used for candles and soap, with a lesser volume use as the basic lubricant for axles and such, and for woodworking and metalworking, although it seems to be a mixture with beeswax. Tallow was used in steam engines since it resisted the steam, and in muskets. They really try to recycle and use everything, and its common sense, but I'm a little surprised at how everything seems to have some other use I havn't thought of, especially urine.
Candle maker is of course a profession some have, but it usually means travelling between farms and make tallow candles from rendered fat, and larger villages or towns have someone stationary where people can sell their unprocessed fat, and buy tallow candles and soap. Usually outside of the town, since it can stink. Considering the average smell in a household, thats telling. The poorest might use a simple rush plant dipped in tallow or grease to make a simple candle called a rushlight.
Kari guides us to a larger trading company down by the harbor, that is known for trading goods 'from all over the world', and in addition to important goods, its especially known for luxury items and unusual things from far away. Its Radgeirrsons trading company. I think we've been here before, but I think it was a female merchant that time? The merchant of the trading company explain that they do a lot of business across the sea in all directions, but especially to the south and west, which is good to know. The trading companys front building towards the harbor is not that big, but it has a couple of well-filled and long warehouses behind, and a hell of a mix of goods. I almost get a vibe to the merchant they sell lightning to in the movie 'Stardust'; 'I can get you one of those'. I'm grateful for that, since I can buy a couple of vessels of 'oil of Vitriol', and he can get me more in the future. I almost want to let him explain everything he has on the shelves and in the warehouses, and I probably would buy a lot, but I have to calm down a bit. I have far too many projects in progress as it is.
Iselin finds two books for me and others to practice reading, and we need to improve, but I'll to postpone reading them until the feast journey when I have to waste time. It will be two books with Viking Sagas, so probably boring and stupid, but hey - its practice.
The wind turbine works really well, and even though its power and efficiency are low, it is more than enough output power. I'm even a little worried about its charging diode which I think is a 5A model, so I clamp extra cooling fins on it, but I need to combine with more diodes in the future. For now, I put in another limiting resistor in series. I can't replace the diode, so protecting it is far more important than maximum power. I have plans to try to make copper oxide diodes in the future, but not right now. It will be a hassle as I need to purify copper too.
The battery cells have been volt controlled, and seem to work more or less well, but testing will continue for a long time to come, and I will gradually improve them. The battery cells are useless for something like the starter motor in a car, but here they probably work fine with probably a 5-10A maximum power draw in the close future, and I can combine with many more cells for both increased capacity and higher current handling. But the lead-acid battery cells work, and I now have more sulfuric acid, and that allows me to build more battery cells and tweak the ones I have.
With the batteries, electric power has come to Alfheimr, and with the exception of the diode, its all completely built of things that are here, and it is so very satisfying. I'm no longer dependent on my solar panel, and should something happen to it, it's not the whole world, which is a nice thought when it's raining and blowing outside and the solar panel is stored indoors. Since I can make lead-acid batteries, I'm not really dependent on the battery banks either. Power generation and storage provides so much more opportunities for the future, as simpler electromechanics now works and can be used. I can install electric power on my mansion right from the start, and electric motors, telegraphs, bells and more will be able to be made in the near future. I can do it right now if I want to.
It feels so good to see the battery charge and see the wind turbine spin outside while the raindrops hit the window. My company are a bit confused about everything, but I havn't bothered to explain it yet, except to say that I'm experimenting with saving the power of the wind to provide 'food' for my technical Midgard things. Iselin understands better, but Kari, Ciara and Alith understand enough.
I quickly sketch out the idea for my first oil lamp, and I would like to start building it and spend a couple of days to try to improve it as much as possible, but I need to prioritise testing firecrackers and fireworks, because in a few days the first feast will take place at Jarl Naeswulf, and its a days travel just to reach it, probably a day and a half. I should figure out some other sejd stuff as well, but I have a hard time coming up with something when I have so many other thoughts and projects flying around in my head, and I find it hard to maintain focus. But the pyro stuff need to dry, so I finish it first.
Its finally time to start building the oil lamp. A round cylinder as the oil tank that has a simple marked scale to be able to read consumption, and a small lid to keep away dust, etc. Single pipe carry the oil from bottom edge to the burner part. This prototype burner will use a flat piece of cloth instad of a round sock, so its not harder than a folded piece of brass, where the oil supply tube is attached to the outside on one side, so the oil can be wicked up.
The burner part gets a support a bit below the top to hold the glass consisting of piece of metal resting on the feeding tube and is soldered at the other sides bottom, it should be cool enough that the solder won't melt or get soft enough. Before solderin I cut and fold out a part so there's to parallel smal plates to hold the wick adjuster mechanism. I cut holes in the support plate to provide airflow to the flame, and I can put the glass cylinder on top. One is just a cylinder, maybe 5cm in diameter and 10cm high, the next is about the same diameter but twice as high. The last is a few centimeters larger in diameter but not high, only 7cm, and one is a bottomless bottle. I make a taller brass chimney about 40cm high, which is narrower than the glass, so a plate widens the base so it can be placed on the glass, and I have deliberately made it too long so I can shorten it. I add a couple of support legs on the oil container so the weird lamp shape can stand somewhat level. For this prototype I drill holes for a simple wick adjustment and mount it below the support. Its not elegant, but turning the wheel raise or lowers the wick, and it works, and as a final thing I add a simple screw to work as flow control on the feeder tube.
Soldering works well. Using fire to heat copper pieces is a pain in the ass, but it works. But oh how I miss my soldering irons, the hot air station and my little blowtorch.
The oil lamp prototype is ugly as hell, but good enough for a test, although I probably want eye protection and a bucket of water or two standing close by, and I will of course light it outside on some larger sandfilled plate.
I have come up with a couple of possible improvements as I build, and I make sure to write them down. The first is a round sock wick with airflow up in the middle, but thats a much more labour intensive design, and more design critical. Another improvement is something that restricts and directs the airflow from below towards the flame and not just up past along the glass. A similar thing should be added if there is a round tube wick to direct the airflow from that side too. I've begun to understand why kerosene lamps have that glass bubble and long tube shape, with a small lip at the bottom. Its a combination of a chimney, keeping the glass away from the flame and directing air towards the flame. I've seen plenty of them, since my mother liked them, with or without electrification, so I know its look and design. I just havn't really thought about why they're designed that way. I always thought they were big, ugly and I prefered electric light. But I'll admit they were practical while living in the countryside and during power outages.
I add a small top lid on top of the chimney, so the smoke won't rise straight right up and soot the roof or similar, but instead angles it out to the sides and try to collect the soot inside. Easier to clean, and soot has its uses, like for inks. There is a good reason for the term 'carbon black'. Another improvement might be a decorative glass outside that can diffuse and make the light smoother, and increase protection for the inner glass, but it will increase the cost, and the inner glass won't be perfect anyway. Since the light output will be comparatively low I plan to make a model with double burners with the oil container in the middle, so it have a nice balance and can be hung from the ceiling, and a light reflector on top direct all the light downwards and to the sides. A wide conical shaped reflector should work well.
The others wonder what I'm building, so I tell them that I want something better than the candles for the comming winter, as it will be 7 months before we have the same amount of daylight again. Something safer than a candle filled chandelier, smaller and more controlled, and gives of more light. I want to be able to continue doing things and crafts, and I really don't like fire and candles in my vicinity. I never had. I'm somewhat paranoid for a fire at the mansion. Beside the personal risk, I will have far to much important stuff, knowledge and invested money in it.
When my oil lamp stands there on the garden table in the evening, its ugly, especially compared to the small lanterns Digraldi made. Everyone agrees that its just a funny looking collection of brass and glass. We test a normal candle first, and then light the small candle lanterns. They work well and give quite good light. They're useful and have a protected flame, and everyone likes the one with a lens and reflector to get more light in one direction. There is complete agreement that the carriage should have lanterns.
But when I light the oil lamp and adjust it, they fall silent. It gives much more light, and soon I have a captive audience when I experiment with several different glasses and combination to reach the best flame. They all just stand and sitt there while looking at the lamp and me. It's really hot working near the lamp. Significantly more heat than light, but I expected that. Another design might be a good and safer light and heat source in a tent.
I think it's time to try to design a real test model or two, and get Digraldi and the glassmaker to make the parts. I would like one without a sidemounted oil tank, like with the oil on top, or with some kind of pressure vessel below so it becomes more stable. But I don't want explosive pressure, and something safe. But a too complicated design is bad, and I'm limited in production technology and sealing options.
In the end, appearance is far less important than performance, reliability, ease of use and economy. I can imagine four models of the same oil lamp concept. A simple table model to move around where you need it. A higher table model with a reflector that directs light angled down from the side as a work lamp. A wall mounted model for corridor and smaller room lighting with maybe a reflector plate on the tank. And finally a fourth model with double burners to be hung from the ceiling to light up a larger room, with or without reflectors, or optional stand for a table. The oil lamp seem to work well enough for general lightning this comming winter, that I feel less stress to try and make some kind of electric light.
I celebrate with Iselin before we crawl into bed. She really likes the oil lamp and is really looking forward to experiencing how well and luxurious I will make my mansion. I have explained to her most of what I've planned with water, heating and other things, but she has no references at all, and my 'woosh-bang' description of fireworks wasn't picturesque enough. I think her expectations are correspondingly high, so I try to dampen her hype.
She convince me to watch some music videos. Of course all the ones she has already seen, but I shows a couple of new ones too. 'Lok stands when the others fall' works, even if she doesn't really understand all the humor, she finds it very interesting for all the stuff in the background as a shopping center, go-karts etc. She likes that she understand and recognize their hearing protection. Its nice to see a big smile on her wide eyed face, as her head bobs in time with the beat. Iselin has understood pausing and jumping back in videos, so I let her do it and it gets so paused and replayed. I should have expected her to notice what the girls a wearing too. I have a couple of Lok songs with me from their old debute album, 'Naked sandblasted and pissed off', so I play them for her, but its not really her type of music.
I had completely forgot that Iron Maiden's 'Aces High' has clips of World War II combat and weapons, tanks and other things, but thankfully it's black and white with animations, and that makes it less real for her. She also doesn't understand what machine gun holes, AA guns or similar stuff are. She thinks a lot of it is fireworks or bonfires, and aside from the airplanes, she's far more interested in the stage lights and the show. She isn't impressed that everyone in the band lacks a beard, even if their long hair is okay. As expected, she likes the tempo of the song, and I explain a modified version of the lyric that works if I say its about warriors riding or using horsedrawn chariots. Ride, live to fight, fight to live, do or die, really mesh well with her culture. Iselin also really wants an electric guitar.
'Hallowed be your name, Live Rock in Rio' shocks her with the sea of people. Everyone there just for listening to music for a few hours. She guesses there are more people than in the whole of the north, but I think that realistically it probably around 30-50 times more here. The song cements her burning desire for an electric guitar, and she so wants to standing in such an audience and experience it with everyone else.
Rihanna's 'Umbrella' is a bit of a change after the last two songs, but Iselin is really fascinated by her interesting shoes, both ballet and high heels, her clothes, gloves and Rihanna's hair are so different. We see it again, and when I translate the text she likes it, and the tempo appeals to her. She is convinced that Ciara would have loved the text, which is probably true. And I thought the Lok video was paused a lot... She studies the shoes and clothes, but also close-ups of Rihanna's face when she looks seductively into the camera. Of course she would notice the make up. She thinks Rihanna is one of the sexiest women she's seen, and it's a look that doesn't exist here in the north. Personally, I think Iselin just needs to look closely in the mirror to see a sexier woman.
Has she ever looked in a good mirror?