Beer Machine Brew Day

A Brew day with my R.I.M.S

Step 1. Get some Grains

I like to support small business so I head over to the Auckland Brewers Co-op . Over the last two years I have been constructing really basic beers to try work out kinks in my process and find improvements to my machine but today I decided to go with something a little more regular, my favorite style; Amber Ale. My grain bill for today was rather haphazardly googled on my way to the brew shop and converted on the fly with the (very patient) gentleman working the grain room at the time.

I adapted Max’s last call  to fit a NZ grain and hop bill.

Particularly important with R.I.M.S is avoiding a  ‘Stuck’ mash, when this happens in R.I.M.S. it ruins the whole system. “Stuck” means that there has been too much pressure or you have put too much volume into your mash so it forces the mash down and drastically reduces wort / liquor flow.  So I bought 600 grams of Oak Hulls. I have never seen these before but there was a bag for sale so I thought I’d try it. Now I never want to brew without them! I mixed them into my grain bill and I was very impressed.

Ingredients in hand, it’s time to get the machine out.

Beer brewing machine in storage

Step 2. Sanitize

Once the machine is out I want to make sure it’s all still cleaned and sanitized. Technically you don’t need to sanitize your mash setup but I like to for good measure.

Step 3. Get Liquor up to strike temp

I lift the inner pot out of the bigger pot and start heating up a bunch of water using the 3 ring burner. I’m normally aiming for 76- 80 degrees Celsius for my strike temperature or so as I want to try bounce between 60 and 70 degrees for my mash.

Using a STC1000 with a thermowell and the manual thermometer I was happy to see they aligned in their temperature. Thanks to Sadu on the homebrewtalk forums for his suggestion that putting the probes into the wort would affect the probe, I installed a thermowell and replaced my probe with a replacement from RS components which was a fucking pain in the arse to get . Honestly, these guys send me the biggest fucking cardboard pamphlets advertisements every other month, but can’t send me 10 grams of temperature probe for less than $50 USD. Come on, guys 🙁

Once the Liquor is up to temperature I lower the mash tun into the boil pot and top up with additional water if required. Then manage the temperature and wort flow with the STC1000 and playing around with the valves respectively.

Step 4. Mash

I have a stainless steel mesh lid on top of the grain bed to help distribute the hot liquor and avoid wells. This and the oat hulls really helped avoiding a stuck mash, I am very pleased with this result.

Step 5. Vorlauf and Sparge

I use the winch (because a 40L pot of Grains and Wort is remarkably heavy!) to raise the grain slowly out of the boil pot and let the pump run for a bit longer to keep everything fluid then I turn that off and use the Quick Disconnects to remove the pump and hoses and set those aside for cleaning. A quick note on Quick Disconnects: I love them. I was on the fence for a while because of the cost but I found some for under $10 each and I am so happy with them. They really make any brew system 10x easier to manage.

Near the end of Sparging, the grains are raised out of the pot and the pump is removed

Then I boil my kettle and slowly sparge with that as many times as I feel necessary. I would really like to get a second hand Zip style 10L water boiler mounted above the current system but I haven’t found one at the right price yet, so household kettle does it for now.

With the grains sufficiently rinsed it’s reasonably easy to remove from the winch hook and dispose of appropriately. Time to boil.

Step 6. Boil

The easiest part. Just wack the burner back on.

Boiling the Wort

I have removed the STC1000 probe, the element cable and the pump to avoid any heat damage to any of those components. I was a little concerned about the thermometer but it didn’t have any issue. In this particular recipe I added 5G of hops at 5, 15, 25, 35 minutes and 35g at 45 and 55 minutes. This is just my particular taste, I am no longer keen on ridiculous amounts of hops and bitterness. I am using Taiheke Hops which is basically New Zealand Cascade hops. Initial taste tests (1 week in fermenter ) seem positive. Always improving though 🙂


Time to Finish the boil.

Step 7. Cooling

5-10 minutes before the end of the boil I dunk my cleaned copper immersion chiller into the boiler. This way if there is any residue on the coil it will boil off and remain nice and sanitary. I use garden hose at full speed for about 10-15 minutes then drop the pressure down and start using the coil itself to agitate the wort to help cool it faster. I usually aim to get it down to about 30 -40 degrees before putting it in the fermenter, I seem to get quite drastic diminishing returns using immersion chillers and it takes a long time to get to fermentation temperature like this.

Important note, always test your wort chiller before using! A kink or blocked hose will literally spray boiling water all over you and your house, I have done this, it is bad.

Step 8. Into the Fermenter

OK maybe this is the easiest part. I just rotate the boiler around and open the tap and admire the glorious wort.

I then chuck the fermenter straight into the fridge to get down to a reasonable fermenting temperature.

Step 9. Clean up

I have been cleaning things as I go so this last part is a cinch, I just hose off all the remaining parts trying to remove any visible leftovers and then scrub down with a kitchen sponge. Then put it away for next time.

All done



Special Thanks

Thanks to jekeaneacidrainSadua and Nokie from the HomebrewTalk Forums for ideas to help get this machine working better. 

I am always looking for improvements so please feel free to drop a comment if you have any ideas 🙂

Low Temperature Low Cost Circular Film Light

With any project I do it is important to have nice photo’s that are in focus and well lit. I occasionally dabble in stop motion and other film as well as just the projects you see on this site. Lighting is something I have always had difficulty with and never spent any time trying to resolve. Occasionally I use a work light but I find them annoying to set up and they get very hot and difficult to work with.

Total Cost $28
New CFL Bulbs (8): $16
New Bulb Holders (6): $12
Glue: Already had a bottle.
Mylar: Already had a roll.
Wood (1 30cm x 30cm square and 1  2M x 2cm x 6cm plank: All recycled from old furniture.
Electrical Cabling (1 Mains power lead, 1M of extra blue/brown for individual bulbs): All recycled from old appliances.
Hobbyist Wire (about 2M): Already had a roll.
Polyfill Wood Filler (200ml): Already had a bag, also this is not completely necessary.
Screws (30? ish): Already had.
Painting Tape (3M): Already had

Tools Needed: Ruler, 90 degree edge ruler, Saw (Jig or Hand is fine), Drill, Various Screwdrivers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I show you how to do some mains electrical wiring. Please exercise extreme caution and seek advice if you are unsure about anything! If you test this before its finished being wired you MUST make sure any live wires are appropriately secured, tape the ends or leave them screwed into a socket.

I watched the indy mogul video here (It is worth watching if your interested in this topic)

But It seems I wasn’t paying enough attention and when I got around to building mine, I built my own rendition of his first version which wasn’t that great. Regardless I will show you everything so you can make your own decisions and see what I learned.

I started out with a blank board of MDF and ruled out some lines for a grid of where I wanted the bulbs to go.

Click any of the pictures to enlarge

Then I drilled holes for the cable and wired them up in parallel. In this photo it is the first socket so the mains comes in via a white cable. It is wired properly only mains side cable is hard to see.

The second socket. You can see the two wires per socket. Because I am using a reasonably heavy grade of wire (suitable for mains power) It is quite thick and can be difficult to get into the socket. If it was particularly difficult (notably with older battens with narrower holes) I would spray the ends out of the cable little then cut a few of the copper strands off, this means that the wire is thinner making it easier to twist around another piece of wire.

It sort of looks like series wiring due to the wires going in and out of each bulb but if you imagine where the electricity flows, since there is two wires in an out of each side of each socket its like an entire ‘hot’ line all over the back of the board.

IMPORTANT REMINDER AGAIN: If you don’t feel confident doing this please seek appropriate advice. Make sure any live wires are safe.

After finishing the wiring I put the bulbs in and tested it.

Note how dark everything else is in comparison to the previous photo. It is the same time but the camera adjusts to suit the additional light. I played around with it a bit and took a couple test shots. I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t as effective as it could be. I re-watched the YouTube film above and realised what they did; and that I could do it better.

A lot of the light was going sideways but in this configuration only the top of the bulb was in use. With these particular bulbs they are quite short so the height is only slightly longer than the diameter but still: the side outputs more light than the top. If I upgrade the bulbs to larger/longer ones this would be more noticeable. I started to sketch up some designs to convert my board into a sideways design and eventually I decided if I was going to do it I might as well cut the whole thing up and make a completely new shape. Here we go:

I cut up all of the socket holder squares as small as possible. In hindsight I wish I had been more accurate. I did purchase a jigsaw for this but it would of been a good idea to do some more practice cuts first. You will see what I mean here:

I placed them into the expected layout. You might notice they don’t fit particularly well (see the last paragraph). This cleans up a little better later. I then glued them to some cardboard and wrapped it in some painting tape. I mixed up some poly-filler and filled in the gaps to try and smooth out the layout to make it a little cleaner looking and also to increase the strength since its just cardboard holding it together at the moment.

The next day the I removed the tape and sanded it down a little. It came out feeling really strong and ready for the next steps.

I wired up the sockets again

and tested it out

So far so good! Although I did not realise how large it would be. One upside to this is that the further away the lights are from each other the softer the shadows. Imagine the opposite of the sun which is very far away and very small (relatively) it casts very sharp/well-defined shadows which you generally don’t want.

Next I built a mount for the light. quite basic as you can see. A little glue, screws and scrap wood.

While waiting for the glue to dry I measured and then cut up some old thick poster card for a rear reflective board.

Using some double sided tape and glue I attached some mylar (like reflective tin foil only better)

I then took some hobby wire and twisted two strands together for extra rigidity. Taped them to either side and I could adjust the angles and they would stick really well.

A single strand of this gauge wire would not be strong enough, I have heard of using electrical wire although I did not think it would stay in the right shape. The paint tape seems to be strong enough though.

I cut holes in the card for the bracket and the power.

The bracket attaches quite simply and then slots  into the rear reflector. Below is the light with bracket before being slotted in.

Then inserted and tested. The sides hold their position quite well, the card is thick enough and the slot is tight enough that it doesn’t need to be glued or screwed into place.

Time to make some test shots!

With the light bulb in the roof only (150W)

With an indirect work light only (100W)

And the new lamp by itself

Obviously the new lamp beats anything else I have in the workshop.

I built a floor stand which is pretty basic. It stands 2M ish tall and holds the setup pretty well. This way I can adjust the angle and height.

Test shot using camera on auto settings with just the ceiling light

and with the light

Motorcycle chain oiling system

I have often been frustrated with the task of oiling the chain on my motorbike, I want a Scottoiler but I don’t want to pay for it. So I built something that would do the same sort of thing only temporarily. When you want to oil the chain, you fix it on, go for a small ride or spin the wheel a bit, then take it off again.


  • Easy to put on and take off
  • will spread lubricant evenly on the chain
  • cost effective

The basic idea I came up with was to place a rag on the chain with oil flowing onto it at a slow rate, the oil would spread over the rag and onto the chain. This is how I built it.


I had intended to attach it either by using the rear stand thread but I didn’t have any bolts that size, but I found a piece of wood would very happily wedge into the swing-arm very tightly. I took an off cut, drilled a hole through it at 9mm then applied a piece of 10mm threaded rod to it (installed the thread into the wood very happily, the threaded rod was tightly stuck in there.

offcut with threaded rod insertedAn ‘arm’ was needed to reach down to the chain, so another off cut was attached with a couple washers and bolts. This also meant I could adjust the angle to suit when on the bike.

adjustable angle arm bolted to holder

Then I built the oiling base itself, I made two because the first one wasn’t large enough to be drilled again for the second rod. Basically its a small off cut with a 5m hole drilled in it for the hose.

block 1 drilled

Inserting the oil flow tube.

base with tube inserted

The “oiling system” is a folded up rag. I kept the rag and the block the width of the chain to keep the oil where it should be.

first oiling system ready to have the rag attached

I used electrical tape to keep it on. Electrical tape works here because of its ability to stretch. whilst it doesn’t stick to the wood etc. It’s basically working like a rubber-band in this instance.

first oiling block tested on the chain

Its looking good here, but because I cant really attach it to anything I remade it slightly larger, The threaded rod is the second arm between the first and the base, I used threaded rod again so I could adjust the distance.

block two with tube and rod inserted

This is the full mount set. The small block on the right is the wedge for the swing arm, then there is the arm that goes down to the chain. Then the rod that goes inwards to the right distance to place the oiling block where it should be. Bolts for Africa to keep everything in place.

Full mount set - dryInstalled on the bike:

installed on bike from side

chain and base oiler in placeI was a little surprised at how sturdy it is. you would expect with wood, tape, bolts, threaded rod, and something that’s just wedged into the swing-arm to be quite fragile, but its pretty solid.

At the other end of the tube is an adapter I had made earlier for a standard soft drink bottle. I drilled a hole that was 1m too small and  used a small off cut of another tube to make the base. some hot glue to seal and then inserted the smaller tube. I didn’t have any hose clamps handy so used some 20 gauge wire to make my own clamp sort of thing. works well 🙂

sprite zero connector

So now I have my oil input ready. for testing its just sitting in the pillion foot peg.

oil input readyIdeally I will have a small, thin, seal-able tube that has a screw thread on both ends that I can use to put the right amount of oil in, and maybe it has a gauge so I can see how fast its draining etc. but for now; the top of a sprite bottle will do.

ready to roll... and oil

So I put some oil in the “reservoir” and let it flow through. the tube thickness and oil viscosity control the rate at which oil gets onto the chain. and it was flowing through the tube at about 1cm per second, which was perfect. The oil goes through the rag and onto the chain as expected. I am a bit slow here, I was too busy taking pictures and musing to start rotating the wheel which is why that small drop is on the bottom. the idea is you pour the oil in and go for a ride around the street to drain it. Today I just tilted the bike on the stand and manually rolled the wheel, this worked just as well.oil through the chain

Full system off the bike (excluding reservoir)

full system off the bike

Overall, this was a resounding success. It does everything I wanted for very little cost (I had everything already) Its not too fragile, its not too bulky, and it actually works!


Possible improvements

  • I would like a better ‘wedge’ system perhaps some sort of clamp that fits on the underside of the swingarm
  • I should remake it with a better material than wood
  • I need to build a better tube style reservoir

Grass Cutter Mk II

Important Update: This doesn’t work! 🙁
I thought this was going to be an awesome re-purposing of my old hand mixer but turns out these things aren’t meant to be used for more than a few seconds at a time.
The second or third time I was using it, I went for about 10 minutes and it overheated and caught fire. I wouldn’t recommend going down this path. Read on if you want to see anyway

(<- Part 1 )

I present to you, the Grass Cutter Mk II

So a list of upgrades/changes

A new handle, taped up to keep it safter and secure. inside this is a lightswitch embedded in the wood for off/on and the control board.

A new adjustable angle handle, I can loosen the bolt and change the angle so if its not really comfortable where it is, I can change it.

The engine is now parrallel to the ground, much more ‘mower-like’ less ‘weed strimmer-like’.  Also I removed the rubber as it wasnt providing any vibration releif and was just making it smelly. The strimmer line (orange twine) is also attached in a more reliable way: I threaded it through a drilled hole in the shaft head, then tied a double knot on each side so it cant pass through either direction.

And a new height setting/adjustment pole. there will be a wheel on here soon, I tried a couch floor knob but it doesnt slide very well. The point of this is to make it easier to push around rather than having to manually hold it at a certain height. although doesnt mean you cant flip it upside down and go manual if you want to do edges etc.

String trimmer from a hand blender (Failed)

Important Update: This doesn’t work! 🙁

I thought this was going to be an awesome re-purposing of my old hand mixer but turns out these things arent meant to be used for more than a few seconds at a time.

The second or third time I was using it, I went for about 10 minutes and it overheated and caught fire. I wouldn’t recommend going down this path.

Read on if you want to see the original

I planted a lawn out the back of the property where the gardener couldnt get to without a key so I needed something to cut the grass. My lawn mower is a bit pre-occupied and my weed-wacker was wacked. So in the usual recycling manner I made my self a string trimmer (weed wacker) out of an old hand blender

Wow look at that, badly thrown together lense flare, a fluro background. This thing HAS to be awesome.

To be honest, the only reason I am calling it MK I  it because its rather hastily assembled and has some design uglies, I’ll probably never rebuild it because it works* (edit: not really see top of this page) and that’s all I care about.

So I started with an old hand mixer/blender motor I had lying about, and thought about strapping it to a peice of wood, without anything else more suitable I made a sort of wooden vice with two threaded steel rods and 4 bolts. This worked really well!

I basically just nailed the control board onto the length of wood for now, holds fine, but I had to wire up a switch. In the interim I have some twine nailed to the board, going over the switch with another small peice of rubber, then round a nail and back to the top of the board for a lever.

I also attached some twine to the end of the engine so I could cut some grass. simple; effective.

bill of components

* engine: from a hand blender like: * a bunch of wood I recycled out of an old couch.

* about a 1/4 of some threaded steel I bought a while back
* a 6cm bolt for the lever
* 5 bolts
* cut mains cable I had left from another project.
* some weed wacker twine for the controller and the cutting part.


(goto part 2 -> )

Macro Photography with a budget point-and-click camera

I wanted to purchase a new camera with some good macro options to get better project shots. I also wanted to experiment with a bit of amateur macro photography for a bit of fun. But my budget, as always, was about $0.

Project considerations

  • Low cost
  • Can’t modify existing camera
  • Can be removed or attached easily
  • Works…
  • The first thing I needed was a new lens. I picked up a Macro Zoom Ring +10 Diopter from trademe for $15NZD which was pretty similar to this :

    My budget point-and-click camera obviously couldn’t mount it so I needed to make some things….

    First I needed to make a small extension tube for the lens, and some way of mounting it to the camera. Conveniently, the first thing I laid my hands on, the cap of a bottle of degreaser, just so happened to hold the lens quite snugly. I secured it with black electrical tape, and also wrapped the cap with it several times to block out the light. Then, I cut a hole in the top of the cap, around the size of the existing camera extension tubes so that it could fit snugly on there.

    NB: Cutting through the plastic is much easier with the tape applied. It meants it doesn’t crack when cutting it.

    To mount it to the camera, I built a small perspex base that attached to the bottom of the camera and extended forward so that I could attach the lens and its extension tube to it. When I attached the camera and placed the macro lens onto the mount, it seemed to hold itself in there quite well. (although I may add another bolt to secure it firmly…)

    Now all I need to do is turn the camera on, the lens moves into the hole and I can take macro shots!

    Now for some example shots…