Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Piney Cove and Bead Hull Jig

Last night on our walk my Dad and I were talking and I decided to cove and bead my hull and deck planks because the wood is kind of warped and twisted and somewhat quite uneven.  VERY OFF-CENTERED like a quirky Dogfish Head brew!  Cove and beaded planks will sit much more even we thought and it turned out that they did.

I had figured it would be easy because doing the thin rail strips were so easy, but to make it easy we had to drill and tap threaded holes into the table of the shaper so we could affix the fingerboards.  That took about 4 hours and my Dad was a real hero by saving the day with his ideas and putting in all that extra time to help me!  I wanted to get the hull glued up today so that I needed not do any hard work on Memorial Day.  So after we got the table set up, we first beaded one edge and then did the cove as the cove is much more delicate when going through the planer and fingerboards and may have gotten damaged.

Below is the table of the shaper which is actually just like a router, but permanently affixed to an iron table.  Fingerboards usually run along a channel (seen at the top of the picture) but in this channel the planks were too wide so we devised a plan to clamp the fingerboards onto the table.  This proved cumbersome and time consuming so will drilled 8 holes (for two fingerboards with two holes each for two different locations) and threaded them to accept 1/4 20 allen head screws.
Below is the setup.  "The Jig" .  To run even wider planks the red fingerboards can be secured to the the set of holes further back at the bottom of the pic.  The blue fingerboard holds the wood plank down on the spinning blade, which you can't see, but it is behind the blue fingerboard in the center.  This worked out great!  Once the jig was built, the cove and bead work only took an hour and we were off to dinner!
After dinner and a walk through Palmyra Nature Cove I came back and glued up the hull.  I decided to go with the crappier looking planks for the hull instead of the deck.  It just seemed right to do it this way.  They aren't crappier anyway, just different.  The deck will be awesome though.

The first thing I did was lay out plastic on the strongback to keep the glue off of it.  
*NOTE TO SELF* Do not use super thin plastic, use visqueen.  Super thin plastic gets sucked up into the glued seams and an unfortunate struggle ensues when there is not much time.
I then set up a jig for holding the planks as I filled the cove side with Titebond III waterproof wood glue.  Painstakingly I glued each plank and pulled them together until I was able to finish and then get to the clamping stage.

After each plank was glued and pulled together by hand I first placed perfectly flat pieces of wood sometimes referred to as 'battens' (Like Batten Down the Hatches kind of battens) and tightened them down with various clamps.  You can see the battens as they have red duct tape on them to keep glue from sticking to them as well and the clamps on either end of the battens.  The battens keep the planks from springing up in the next step where they get clamped with long bar clamps.  The bar clamps span the entire width of the hull and pull all the planks together real tight and if the battens weren't across the top of the planks, they would all just pop up.  It's a pretty good system and with the cove and bead there were no longitudinal waves going the length of the board which can sometimes happen with just a "butt joint".  I am concerned how it will look as butt joints actually look really really sharp, but this is a reclaimed wood board anyway with lots of flaws that will hopefully give it character anyway, so I had nothing to lose trying the cove and bead joints.
OK so the glue looks a little messy.  I had to do the process twice.  I got it all clamped up the first time and took notice that I had one little plank in the wrong spot!  It was a mad dash to get it apart and back together again as the glue had started to set.  That's the kind occurrence that happens when you are tired, but I "Got 'er Done"!

Happy Memorial Day everyone!  Now I'm off to enjoy the rest of my Uncle's Left Nut!

Canoe Gunwales Completed!

Saturday My dad and I finished the gunwales and today we took the clamps off!  She's a looker!

Currently I am enjoying a wicked cold homebrew called My Uncle's Left Nut.  It's a nut brown and it took all of 6 months to finally taste good!  It has finally mellowed and is less sweet now.  It was a very long day as I had an agenda to complete and I worked a good 12 hour day today.  My dad was a trooper and put in some very long hours as well.  I didn't want to do any woodworking tomorrow as I just want to transfer my Chestnut Stout to it's secondary fermenter and get the chocolate nibs in there for flavah!

Below is the port side gunwale glued,clamped and screwed.  The process took about 90 minutes.

 Below is a pic of the starboard side gunwale glued, clamped and screwed.  Nifty, eh?
And here is how she looked this morning.  She's been named Kindred Spirit.  I named her that because I was inspired by a fellow canoe builder who is Korean and he built his out of bamboo because it is a sustainable wood.  His name is Thomas Huang and here is his site:
If you don't get to my next post, have a great Memorial Day!!!!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Work Begins on "The Piney" all reclaimed wood surfboard

Howdy blogosphere!

Today was a busy day.  I cut 4 lawns and used my new Echo 230 grass trimmer/brush cutter.  If you are looking for a weed whacker, don't get anything smaller than that baby!  It handles it all.  It's owned by Shindawa now which is OK with me because they are the leader in cleaner emissions with their products.

My dad progressed more on the canoe gunwales by drilling the rest of the holes.  I will get to sanding them and getting them ready to be put on the canoe tomorrow.

I played around with a couple different ideas for this 10' surfboard and struggled with what I should do for the Mystic Woodenboat Show.  I decided to use all reclaimed lumber for the board.  I'm pretty sure that it is all pine.  The red stuff might be redwood.  It's possible, but I'm banking on mostly pine.  It's heavier.  Noticeably heavier than cedar.  It's also gummier.  Both will be hurdles in making this board.  It can be done, it will be done.  I'm going to trim those planks thin!  I'm also going to douse them with Ethanol like mad!  Get 'em good and drunk and "weeze the juice" out of those jammers so that the epoxy will stick.  -Pauly Shore reference.

I have some really nice lumber that I just put aside for this gig, but I think this board will be worth it.  My friend Mike Geno, the world renowned cheese and bacon artist, is going to help me with some graphics and I think that will really tie the board together - Big Lebowski reference.

Check out the deck and hull planks:

You can't really see the color with this camera, it's only 1 megapixel, but there are some nice colors in there.  These are the planks for the deck.  For me, the deck isn't the focus of design on a surfboard.  I'm going against tradition with that theory.  My logic is that the deck gets scummed up with dirty gritty surf wax, so why make it the nicest surface.  So I chose the least attractive boards for the deck.  Traditionally the deck is where you make your mark artistically.  But I don't want this board to hang on the wall.  I want toes to hang over the nose!

I'm down with making the hull "snap", maybe I should use the word "pop" like I should.  Snap + surfboard = a trip to the surf shop to buy another board traditionally.  The planks that I'm worried about most with this board are those two center ones with the pinstripe going down the middle.  They look really resinous.  That can pose a problem for epoxy adhesion.  I haven't studied epoxy adhesion to pine yet.  I might spend a few hours doing that before I glue these puppies together.
What do you guys think?  I'm totally looking for feedback so please contact me with any ideas!

Have a great night!  I'm off to Manyunk Brewery for the Philly Beer Geek Semi-Finals in support of the Grey Lodge's entry Dave Sanislo.  


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Canoe Decks and Gunwales (Progression)

Ah Ha!  Twenty one page views in one day!  That IS progress!  

Instead of boring you this time with a lot of yapping, I'm just going to post the pics and yap at ya one at a time.  We've been whittling away at this project while doing many other things.  It's a busy spring!  It's awesome!  I'm now involved with some local organizations bettering Philly as a whole and what's really neat is that my involvement with brewing has brought most of it about!  I can't believe how Philly folks in the beer community really genuinely care about their fellow Philadelphians.  I have to thank Scoats at the Grey Lodge ( ) once again for opening up those doors for me and all the folks in my homebrew club ( ) who keep things interesting and are supportive of their fellow beings.  That all has been keeping me busy and loving it!

Wholly moley!  What am I doing?  I need tunes.  I'm gonna skip the beer for now, large dinner.

{Peter Gabriel}
{I totally miss the YROCK show}

OK, pics:

Pretty much the entire hull has to be prepped by sanding all the hills and valleys down so that when we varnish it will look like glass.  The spots that run the length of the gunwale are especially important to be smooth so that when they are glued on they will look wicked tight and sharp with no gaps.  Once again, the dust mask is crucial.  My pop is sanding with the canoe rotated on the stands the Robin our intern made for us.  THANKS Robin! 
The gunwales get tapered fore and aft on two sides of the gunwales so they get narrower towards the ends from both the side and the top profiles.  This entails taking measurements on both the starboard and port side gunwales and copying them to both.  For example:  The gunwale in the center of the photograph has the terminus marked with a line across the gunwale (Oak by the way) and then you can measure a certain distance from the terminus and make another line across.  From there you measure how thick you want the gunwale at the terminus, make a line and carry that line to the outside edge of the other line you drew across the gunwale thus making a slight, yet attractive angle of taper.  You could just leave the gunwale square all the way to the terminus and it will be fine.  In fact, it may be even more durable when banging up against a bulkhead or rock, but tapered like this is quite attractive.
Me chowing on my plastic salad as my dad draws out his tapers.  We set, actually, he set half of the strongback up to use as a work surface for drawing, planing and sanding.  That strongback is a good 80 lbs.  I wish he'd not do that alone.
These pics are a bit out of order.  We actually glued the decks in place before we started on the gunwales.  My bad.  We fit them in place by tweeking the edges by sanding over and over until the seam between the edges of the deck and the inside of the canoe were tight and sharp.  That took a lot of time.  I spent 4 hours on the stern deck plate alone.  Once they were a nice fit they were glued in place with an epoxy/wood flour paste to fill any gaps and maintain a sharp edge.  We clamped them with bar clamps and wedges with sand paper under them so they didn't slide off the end of the canoe.  It worked really well on the bow below, but the stern has a greater angle and they kept sliding off so we were forced to screw the deck in while it was still wet.  There were gaps that we were worried about, but they aren't noticeable at all and looks sweet now!

Those buggers slipped right off.  Every time we turned our heads the clamps loosened up.  Sliding.

My dad figured out where the countersunk pilot holes for the first 16" of the gunwales should go by mounting the gunwale and marking where the screws that we put in the stern deck went so that we don't screw into screws that are already there.  A countersink is a hole where the top portion of the hole drilled has a "V" in it that matches the "V" on the underside of the head of the screw so that when fastened the screw will be "flush" or level with the surface of the gunwale.  Using the drill press ensures a perfectly 90 degree angle pilot hole.  It's called a pilot hole because with the hole already drilled, the screw can find it's way into the hole instead of going off course which can sometime happen if the screw follows a grain in the wood.  It also keeps the wood from splitting.
Here, my dad and I have the gunwale mounted and figured out where to drill the rest of the pilot holes.  Tomorrow I will transfer the marks on the starboard gunwale to the port side gunwale as they are identical.  I might drill the holes if I have a helper with me.  It is a good idea to have someone around to hold the piece as well as another set of eyes on where I am drilling.

Below is one of last weeks neighborhood events in Pennypack Park.  A band called Steal Your Face (Grateful Dead cover band) played during one of the nicest nights of the year so far!  I had a great time with my brother Keith and friends Nestor, Kathy and of course "Number 9".  These concerts happen every Wednesday night and are completely free.  There are a few on Saturday's as well.  June 2 a band called LeCompt is playing.  Come on out to these events if you get a chance and show your support of the local community.  The website is:
Tomorrow's show is Think Pink Floyd.
Thanks for reading everyone!  Have a great week and a truly memorable Memorial Day Weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chestnut Chocolate Stout and Delaware River City Corporation Spring Fling

Yesterday was my first experience with brewing with chestnuts.  I wanted to post about it sooner but I had a few things to do first.  One was that I picked up some grains for my next brew using red quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat at whole foods.  I can't wait to research these grains more and see what exciting combinations will work with beer.

Tonight I went to Delaware River City Corp's second annual spring fling held at the Delware River Yacht Club.  The club itself is a nice little club for sailboats mostly, started in 1926.  It has a nice sized crane that swings out the boats from the club and down a good 20 feet or so over the bulkhead and down to the river.  The guys that run the club are super friendly and it's a place that I think I could enjoy a membership.  The event itself revolved this year around the opening of Lardner's Point Park and the future steps of the bike trail that will pass through Lardner's Point and other parks as you bike or walk along the river.  The crowd was all the people involved in the project from the politicians like Bob Borski and  Bobby Henon to Tony Servalli the contractor and everyone in between.  I'm making steps to become more involved with my community to help it back on its feet by volunteering for local events and such and was invited to come along to the dinner.  It was very informal and the food was AWESOME!  First off were the mussels in thai curry sauce that Scoats and Dave from the Grey Lodge brought.  OMG  I had to hit them up first while they were hot.  As usual, they were excellent.  Thanks Scoats!  Then there was fare from Sweet Lucy's BBQ.  Pulled Chicken, ribs, pulled pork, and a cajun salmon melted many a palate this evening.  Personally, I just went for the salmon.  IT WAS GREAT!  I had one rib as well and that was pretty damn tender and tasty too!  But the salmon was new to me in this style and I am going to have to seek out more as I learned it is new on their menu.  I didn't think cajun spices would work on salmon, but they do!  Many people spoke about the project and after that we all traded stories for an hour or so.  My dad and I closed the place down as we are party animals!  I made a lot of new friends all very interested in my beer ideas, so that's cool!  Thanks everyone!

And now on to beer!  I did have a chance to taste Yards Pale Ale while there so I got the night started off good!

I need tunes, hold on...

{Spirit of Surf, the Sandals}

I need a beer, hold on...

{My last pint of Mocha MaryAnn}

So like I'm trying to fill this gluten free beer niche.  Part of that involves cultivating yeast strains that will go well with different ingredients, etc...  That is all new to me, even the flavors that the different yeasts impart are fairly new to me so there is a bit of research involved, but at this point, I just want to get a good sterile system down for storing them and starting my cultivations.  So from my first batch of Chestnut beer, I saved a quart of the wort to use for nutrients in the future.

I was pointed in the direction of Chestnut beer from a new friend that I met at one of my meetings who is a journalist.  She told me to look up a place in Washington state called Chestnut Trails owned by a farmer named Lee who was putting forth his chestnut beer ideas to the world because, well, he has a chestnut farm and knows folks who have celiacs disease, so he has, over the last ten years or so, perfected a decent beer recipe and many grades of roasted nuts to use.

This batch I chose the dark roast.  As I learn more about homebrewing, I learn that that it takes a good 3 months for the beers to condition to proper flavor.  From what I have studied, this holds true for gluten free beers as well.  Or even more so.  Four months is sounding more like what they need.  I chose the dark roast to be ready for the early fall season as a celebration of the coming winter.  Welcome to fall...BANG! -> in your face deep winter stout.  That is what I'm talking about!  I will mix it up, I promise.  A nice amber as my next batch might just be the thing.

There are some considerations from what I have read about chestnuts when it comes to beer.  Number one, it has a low fat content, which is good for beer AND as a food source.  Oils will kill the head of your beer.  The main consideration is that chestnuts do not have the amylase enzymes on their husks to convert the starches to fermentable sugars.  This process takes about an hour with barley.  For the chestnuts the recommended mash time is 24 hours.  I am assuming that it is this long because of the size of the ground nut so that the water and enzymes have enough time to soak in and penetrate into the nut itself.  Questions arise in my head about the grain size and whether or not that can be modified as the 24 hour mash time can be a bit troublesome for people.  For me, not so much.  I chose to add amylase and pectinase for the mash.  Pectins will cloud the beer and keep it from looking like beer, even though it's not beer but we want it to resemble beer.  That part is for presentation.  It's not necessary.
I've also read that these beers can be overpowered by the hops, do I dialed them back a bit.  The oils in nuts can reduce head retention, so I decided to use my mash tun instead of a steeping bag in the kettle.  When using the mash tun, the oils floating on the surface can get trapped in the surface of the grist in the tun and be reduced somewhat not making it to the kettle.  Some folks were getting a very dry high alcohol content with no sweetness at all to the beer or body.  So I added chocolate nibs and goodly amounts of maltodextrin and lactose which are unfermentable sugars that have mild sweetness and I added a good amount of sugar, much more than most people were adding because I've read that the amounts of fermentable sugars from the chestnuts have been coming out low for many people.  Whether that is the chemistry of the nut, the extraction process that the brewer used or a combination of both is kind of a grey area for me now until I get deep into some science of the nut itself.  The lactose will make it more complex and I believe the maltodextrins will aid in head retention as well.  So these two ingredients seem to be the backbone of Chestnut beer in my early opinion of brewing this batch. It's only my first batch so my opinion can be shite at this point.  I also used Gypsum to help balance the pH.  I'm not sure what the best pH is for chestnut brew and amylase/pectinase, but our city water has a good amount of Calcium (gypsum) anyway, but I put it in just in case.  It didn't raise the pH any (constant 5.4) but it may have kept it from lowering.  Many people encounter a very muddy beer when finished so I also added much more whirfloc and irish moss to the boil as well as pectinase to the primary fermenter.  Something called cold crashing will help with this also.  Personally, after 4 months in the bottle it will probably all settle out anyway, but at least with the extras that I put in, I can drink a few before then.  We will see.  Hopefully they wont taint the flavor any.  Again, time heals all wounds.

So this is what I did:

Heat 6.5 gallon of declorinated (sat over night) tap water to 180F.  Transferred to mash tun with the Chestnuts already placed in there.  It was 175F so I waited until it dropped and proceeded to:

Got my yeast starter going with 16oz water 2 tbsp demerara sugar and 1/4 tsp yeast nutrient

The mash temp after an hour was 170,  I let it drop a little more then added:  
2.5 tsp amylase
2.o tsp pectinase
2.o tsp gypsum 
pH 5.4
3 hours later it was 155F   
10 hours later it was 130F
21 hours later it was 105F

It tasted slightly sweet, chocolatey, and mildly roasty.  YUM!  I did not take a hydrometer reading, but it was only mildly sweet.  I may have added the amylase to the mash when it was too hot.  It's OK, I added so much sugar afterward that it will be nice.

At this point my yeast starter was really slowing down so 'EFF IT' I added another packet to the starter.

{Linton Kewesi Johnson, Dread Beat and Blood}

So here is the recipe:

Boil Wort
60 min       0.5 oz Fuggles
45 min       0.5 oz Kent Goldings
30 min       0.5 oz Fuggles
10 min       0.5 oz Kent Goldings
                  Dissolved solution of:
                           1 gallon of water
                           3.0 oz molasses
                           3.0 lb Demerara Sugar
                           2.0 lb Turbinado Sugar
                           5.o oz Malto Dextrin
                           10 oz  Lactose
                  3 Whirfloc Tablets
                  2 tsp Irish Moss
                  1/2 cup Chestnut coffee

Chilled to 78F
Strained through a grain bag pitched with a total of 2 oz Nottingham yeast (one in the starter, one hydrated in the started 1 hour before pitching)
2 tsp pectinase straight from the bottle.
Ferment started 6 hours later
24 hours later, no krausen but a decent ferment at 70F  ( I put frozen water bottles around the base of the fermenter because the yeast works best at 65F)

Secondary Ferment add 4 oz chocolate nibs

So that is the most intricate recipe that I have attempted thus far.  I almost lost track of some things at times, but made it through.  The next step is to remember the 4 oz chocolate nibs for the secondary fermenter.

Some pics:
The nuts in the mash tun
 Waiting for the temp to come down
 My yeast starter.  I actually added CL to the mix as I thought the sugars too concentrated.
Not completely gluten free beer now!
 22 hours later, ready for the boil
 Slight one gallon 150F sparge. 
This may have washed oils into kettle.
 Chillin' at Wissinoming Brewing.
 My gluten free friends!

Return to Babes in Beerland (Gluten Free Dreams)

Hey Bloggo's!  I'm back!  I do apologize for the extended interim, but I have been busy around the shop etc...  you know the drill.

Today I'm going to spend a little time talking about the beers that I have endeavored to brew.  The first Gluten free one I brewed while at Barry's in my previous post.  I just racked it into the secondary and added some stuff to it.
I"m calling it Bleeding Gums Murphy's Belgian

Here is the recipe:

Boil 6.5 Gallon (Tap) water 

60 min:        1 oz. Malto Dextrin
                    1 oz. Hallertau hops

30 min:        add the predissolved mix in 1 qt. H2O
                    6 oz. Lactose
                   16 oz orange blossom honey
                   2/3 cup Molasses

15 min:       1 whirflock tablet
                   1 lb.  Demerara sugar
                   5 tsp coriander
                   0.75 oz dried bitter orange peel

10 min:      5 oz fresh ginger root

End:          1 oz Hallertau hops     

Pitched with Nottingham yeast from Lallemand

Primary ferment 10 days

Secondary ferment:  Add 1 oz of liquid hydrated yeast from a pack
                                 8 oz clover honey
                                 1 oz Cascade

I got a re-Krauzen formed.  Interesting  I'm going to let this ferment out since it has the lactose in it to help sweeten it.  I might cut the secondary short at 3 weeks, not sure.  If I cut it short I hope to have some more residual sweetness and may not even need to prime the bottles.

I'm running out of time so I will finish up today's first addition to the blog with a pic or two.  Wish me luck.  I hope this beer is not the usual bland Gluten Free variety!

 The color is very orange!  Nice!  I did not take a taste, I'm scared!  There was lots of trub and although I was tempted to save some for the yeast culture I wasn't set up yet for culturing.  Below you see my yeast starter that I have for the next batch.  I took some of that starter and added to the secondary, just a tad to get the ferment rolling a bit again.  Just an experiment!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Big Beer at Barry's 1st Annual National Homebrew Day Extravaganza!

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

{River Horse Hop Hazard and Bob Marley Exodus}

Saturday, May 5th was the also the 1st Annual National Homebrew Day celebration at Barry's Homebrew in N. Libs, Philly.

Thursday night I developed a recipe using Sorghum trying to give some of the known lighter recipes some body while pairing other ingredients that would work well in a citrus realm.  I came up with ginger, molasses, demerara sugar, coriander, orange blossum honey, and orange peel.  I also added lactose for a little "mouthfeel" and was hoping that some of the wild yeast in the honey as well as in the outside environment in which I was brewing would help ferment a little of the lactose (not really knowing what would happen with the taste of the lactose if it did, but in the spirit of this beers' motto "Eff it").

On Friday I was down checking the scene, scoping some Gluten Free supplies because I was itching from waiting for chestnuts to be mailed to me for a recipe that I want to try and both Nick and Jimmy were like, "Hey, come on over tomorrow, should be a fun time, meet some people!"  At the time I was thinking "get the canoe ready for the show, work, work, work", but later on my walk in Pennypack with my Dad my mind changed.  It seemed pretty important to go to this event.  So I tweaked the recipe that I had a bit to fit more of a Belgian palate and changed my pacific northwest hops to Hallertau to see what would become of this experiment.

I should have prepped my ingredients Friday Night but I said "Eff it" to my buddy Joe and had a few pints of Mocha MaryAnn instead.  It just took a little bit more scrambling around in the morning to get things together.  I basically had to dissolve the lactose in boiling water for a little while and weigh out my ingredients as I loaded R2 with the keggle and supplies.  I ground the coriander in a great little coffee bean grinder and off I went.  

First stop:  WaWa for a couple bottles of water for hydrating my yeast and various other stuffs.  Most bottled water is sterile so you can use it straight from the bottle for brewing.  I really like Fiji water for some reason, so I got some for my yeasties.  R2 was out of diesel, so I stopped to get some (thanks for the fuel money Andy!) and then arrived at Barry's parking lot about 9:45.  I'm glad I didn't hurry, there was no need to hurry at all.  This was such a mellow event and everyone was so cool that hurrying would have been like a condom dispenser in the Vatican.

 {Natural Mystic-BMW}

By 11:00 I had my boil going.  This was the first time I used my old burner outside and was wondering if she would perform.  She did fine.  She might not have been real efficient, but all was good.  The shape of the base of the keggle contains heat better than a brew pot.

By this time all the different brewers were milling around to see who was brewing what because this was the scene:  Nick and Jimmy had two used Oak Barrels to ferment in.  One barrel was for a Scottish Wee Heavy and the other for a Lambic.  In six months all the beers would be split back up to the perspective brewers.  All the brewers were doing 5 gallon or bigger batches to add to the barrels so they were finding out who was doing what so that they could compare notes.  I would have helped out with the Lambic as one guy who was supposed to brew 3 batches never showed and they had space anyway left for more brewers, but I had committed my resources to this gluten free experiment that Joe and I had contrived a very rude sounding name and ingredient list for.  I'm not sure if I should share that recipe.  HA HA HA.  Tell you what, if you are interested in the real name of the beer and the ingredients, send me a shout and I will send you a pic of my log book.  Anyway, folks were milling about.  I guess there were about 20 homebrewers there as well as a good amount of interested folks off the street.  I can see this event growing into one of Philly's biggest events over the coming years and I was glad to be asked to come!  Everyone was interested in what I was doing and I laid down some gluten free statistics and told them why I thought it was important for me, as a celiac and as a brewer, to do the beer world justice by experimenting with my first batch of gluten free beer and how cool it was for Nick and Jimmy to ask me to come on down.  I even handed out a few more cards for the Lucky 13 Homebrew Club as I feel it is always great to meet brewers and learn, learn, learn.

By Noon, my beer was ready to chill.  I had to carry my keggle over to the hose area and all the brewers chipped in to help me carry it over and set up my chiller.  Bystanders got good pictures and I hope to see them around the internet somewhere because I really didn't get many good pictures.  Just these following ones that my buddy Joe got of me pitching the yeast.  The yeast I used was Nottingham from Lallemand who produces all gluten free yeast (cultured on gluten free media).  This was an experiment as I know nothing about this strain of yeast yet.  We will see...


Shameless Plug for Straub Beer here.  Jason the new rep for Straub was brewing the Wee Heavy across from me and was such a cool guy giving everyone cases of free beer!  I only had one as I had to drive home (but I kept the bottle!).  Anyway, Straub is one of the only breweries that still offers returnable bottles and being the kind of guy that I am I totally respect that for many different reasons.  One reason is being that it is a "Little bit of that old style", but mostly it is the best form of recycling that there is and I am a firm believer in that!  Straub helped me out when I first started brewing as I just paid the deposit on the case and kept the bottles for myself and it was an inexpensive way for me to get excellent 16 ounce size bottles for my homebrew!  I just need to find where to get them from now...

So, below I am transferring my chilled wort to my fermenter.  I forgot the elbow for the spout and had to deal with the mess of splatter everywhere.  I just call this pic, aerating the wort.
 Clogged valve!  What? 
 Trusty number 2 pencil.  Never leave home without it!
Well before the boil started I sanitized the outside of a Fiji bottle and dumped half out and added the dry yeast to it.  In the future I am going to culture my own yeast and start them in nutrient days before brewing as this appeals to me as a science guy.  So the yeasties hydrated in the bottle for about two hours and actually started growing on their own, so I have that going for me.  I pitched the buggers and recycled the bottle.
Messily aerating the wort.  At this stage I am almost hoping for wild yeast and such which may prove to be an interesting developement.  I'm going to let this ferment a long time and if I get a sour flavor to it, I think it would still work.  I haven't heard of a gluten free sour yet, soo.......  at this point I took my initial gravity and it was 1.o5o so this might be quite nice!!!
Yeah buddy!  The whole time I am eying up the BBQ truck behind me and waiting for some of that pulled pork!  Actually, I had no cash and had to eat gluten free LARA bars, but I did partake on a bite of free bbq chicken that Barry's supplied.  Great stuff Nick!

I got my gear all cleaned up and chilled with the Fall Guy and Jason over at the Straub set up.  I chilled with the two fellas that I saw that were doing the Lambic for a bit.  I was totally curious about that mash, man that was a bit different!  I forget their names, of course, but they brought a truly tasty double IPA that they had brewed.  Nick and Jimmy also had like 8 beers on tap in the shop that were free, I had a smidgeon of the Berliner Weisse.  OMG that was a nice beer!  Very champagne-like in  quality is what I remember most of that one.

So the gig had a riding bull, blues band, great food, and all the free beer that you could drink.  Nick, Jimmy, I thank you!  I can totally see this becoming very popular!  I'm totally down with coming to next years event!  Of course, it wouldn't be much without all the coolest brewers in the country in one location.  Philly brewers ROCK!


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mister Fixit Day (Tropical Fish Filtration Diatribe)

Basically today was organization, ordering, and cleanup with fixit duties thrown in there.  I have found that life throws curveballs at you all the time.  You have a plan, and then your fishtank filter hose gets a leak and you have to scramble to keep your fishies from dying.  

I'm a longtime tropical fish enthusiast.  I guess it is my brother Keith's influence but we have been keeping fish since we were five years old.  I've gone through several phases in fish keeping but mostly tied to the realm of Cichlids.  I've gone through several phases most likely due to the fact that my filtration has always just been adequate.  If you ever think of getting a fishtank and having it be successful, do your little friends a favor and build your own filter.  NONE of the filters on the market in the stores are adequate enough for any tank!  One must build their own wet/dry filter system, unless they are growing live plants.  A wet/dry filter system basically slowly trickles water and air over a media that has huge surface area due to fingerlike projections or a porous surface.  Beneficial bacteria that remove nitrogen (wastes from poop or excess food) from the water eventually make way to the media from the air that we breath and grow on the surface of the filter media.  The greater the surface of the media the more excellent the filtration of the water will be.  The only reason that this type of filter is bad for live plants is that the trickling effect of the water flowing over the media oxygenates the water and removes carbon dioxide via a degassing effect that eliminates the necessary CO2 that the plants need to survive.  I have found a few plants that still do well in this environment, the best so far is Java Fern.  But if you want a planted aquarium (which is a lot of heartache and hard work) you must have a canister filter which is an enclosed filtration system that doesn't allow oxygen to come in contact with the filter media.  This type of filter is at least 5 times less efficient as the Wet/Dry system.

The aquarium suppliers get you on the prices of buying filters.  If you want to build one, they also get you on the price of the individual parts.  I had a leaking overflow hose yesterday.  It biodegraded over time and had a crack in it.  I went to the stores to find a replacement and they wanted 50 dollars for 4 feet of hose.  I went online to look.  Same price.  Outrageousness!  I went to the hardware store and had to be creative with PVC and got what I needed for 5 dollars!  My fix was ten times less expensive!  

My gear to build the filter cost about 200 bucks in total.  The biggest wet/dry filter that the suppliers sell are in the 600 dollar range and mine is about two or three times more effective than that model.  So I made out pretty well.  If you are going to do a fish tank, be ready to spend a lot of money, but if you do your research, you can save at least half that money.  It will take elbow grease.

Below are some pictures of what I had to do:

This first pic shows the white hose on the back of my fishtank coming down from the overflow box.  That hose is fifteen years old and fell apart and was leaking onto my floor.  If I didn't catch that my filter could have pumped about 5 gallons of water onto my floor before the pumps ran dry.
I couldn't find hose to fit over the PVC fitting on the overflow box, which would have been the easiest route, so I chose to make a PVC pipe that makes its way to the top of the filter.  This is also part of my wastewater treatment experience.  When I worked for JAE all of the various filter systems were fed by PVC so this is old hat.  I had no PVC cutter, which is like a big pair of scissors that cuts through PVC like a hot knife in butter so I used a hack saw to cut the pieces to the sizes that I needed.
After cutting them, you can see the burrs on the plastic, the blue tool there is a deburring tool.  You just glide that curved blade around the edge of the pipe and it cuts off the burrs making the fittings go on much easier.  Note to self: always lay down paper over your surface because the purple stuff leaves permanent stains.
Lay out your supplies.  Purple stuff- PVC primer that cleans the plastic and softens it for a better chemical bond to the glue.  Red jar- the glue, in this case old and hardened but luckily still usable.
GLOVES!!!  Safety Safety Safety!  The purple stuff has Methylene chloride in it and is theeeee most heinous of carcinogens!  THICK Nitrile Gloves are needed.  Note to self: you haven't laid down paper yet!!!
Prep the surfaces with the purple stuff!  It uses a swab just like the one in the red can has and dries very fast.  Note to self: purple stuff stains the simulated wood grain of your kegerator.  Put down paper after it's too late.
Here is my filter.  It is a 20 gallon fish tank with a rubbermaid tray with lots of little holes in it on top that diffuses the water after it flows through a filter bag.  The diffused water then trickles over a huge bed of bioballs (spikey plastic balls that look like those medieval mace weapons) contained in another rubbermaid container with holes in it.  That water flows through the bioballs cleaning the poo from the water to the bottom of the tank where part of that water is recirculated back to the bioballs and the other part back to the tank further enhancing the filtration and slowing down the current in the tank which my discuss fish don't like so it works out well.  This is done by the sump pumps on the left of the filter.
Here is my tank.  Reflections of the apartment included!  My blue buddy discuss fish there on the bottom left.
Today also entailed much shop work.  Mostly landscaping and in order to do that I had to fix me old trusty wheelbarrow with some of that free lumber that I got!  I used a really sappy piece of pine for the handle.  It should take the weather pretty well.
Awe dung!  I could have been listening to Kids Corner on WXPN!  It's science night!  Later gang!

Canoe Seats

It's a good day to blog.
Most of my weekend at the shop was spent making noise with planer and saw, but my Dad was whittling away at the canoe.
He first planed down the gunwales fair with one of the larger handplanes but I  think I heard him say at one point that the Lie Nielson (my little hand plane) worked the best.  That tool is a gem!  He truly makes a good handplane Lie Nielson does!
Next up was hanging the seats.  The following are pics of that process:
 Pictured above and below is the jig that my Dad made to hold the seat in place while it was cut to fit the inside of the canoe.  First the seat is laid out on top of the gunwales and lines are drawn on it to where you want to cut, then it is basically tweaking it to fit snug and to be level on each side.  That darker stripe in the wood certainly helped in the process.  The jig he built is to basically prop the seat up level at a certain height.  This height can be tailored to fit the individuals who will be paddling.  The bigger the person, the more room they will need for their feet.  The seats themselves will be suspended from posts attached to the gunwales and NOT through the hull of the canoe as shown later.
 Below is the center thwart or "YOLK".  It serves two functions.  As the center thwart it gives the canoe strength and rigidity.  As the Yolk it serves as a place to carry the canoe on your shoulders.  Later as the canoe gets into the finishing stages the yolk will be centered better for balance when a person is carrying it and then it will be permanently mounted.  In both the cases of the seats and the yolk, they were bought.  We didn't make them.  We could have and my dad has in the past, but at the time, they were very inexpensive so it seemed worth it.
 Working his way forward my dad is now starting the process for the bow seat.  As you can see it is lined up on top of the gunwales at the position that the specs call for putting the seat and drawing his lines.  He will then cut a little big of the lines and try and tweak it into place so it looks nice and snug.
 The pics are a little out of order, but that is OK.  Here is a look at the stern seat.  Notice how it is suspended by custom shaped posts with a brass screw going through the gunwale, the post and the seat?  It's not fully installed yet as a bunch of varnishing needs to be done before the final installation.  There are a lot of little angles to get right when making those posts and you use that bevel gauge that I posted before to copy and paste the angles of the gunwale to the posts.

Below is the jig set up for the bow seat.  Looks pretty good, eh?

Have a great day!