Ryobi 40V Mower Cutout Fix

I’ve had my battery-powered 40V Ryobi mower (model #40108) for a year now and have been pretty happy with it.  However the last time I used it the damn thing would randomly shut off while mowing.  At the time there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the problem such as heavy grass or a weak battery which was reading 2/4 bars.  I threw the battery into the string trimmer and it worked great.

So I took the lovely slime-green plastic cover off to see if there was anything obviously wrong.  My hopes were low because I figured the mower would consist of a motor and control board.

Simple mower internals

Sure enough nothing looked wrong such as a leaking capacitor on the control board.  But while putting it back together I noticed a kill switch I had never noticed before!  It’s located by the handle hinge, ensuring that the mower will only run while the handle is in the folded-out position.

This little switch was flopping around in its hole because one of the spring clips on the backside was broken probably while I was removing that slime-green plastic cover.  When the handle is folded out the switch is depressed, closing the circuit allowing the mower to run.

If you take a close look at the interaction between the switch and handle, it is  not a precision operation.  Due to the position of where the switch happens to be, the handle bumps into it, hopefully depressing it.  Here’s the root cause of my problem: The mower’s frame had loosened up over time, allowing the frame to rack from side-to-side during turns.  This racking let that little switch spring back up, opening the circuit and stopping the mower.

And thankfully the solution was to tighten these two T25 frame bolts, located right above the rear wheels.

Keep these bolts tight

And as a footnote, I bypassed that dumb switch just to avoid this kind of nonsense in the future.  The connection was wrapped up with electrical tape after these photos were taken.


I hope this short article helps someone out!

Moving a Power Tool into the Basement

EagleHasLandedSo I recently got a 12″ jointer/planer for my basement shop.  It weighs 500 pounds, 600 shipped.  Getting it down there was tricky but I managed it after some planning and deliberate, slow work.

I used three simple machines to help out: wheels, levers, and incline planes.

Lever: A harbor freight 1-ton shop crane to lift the tool

Wheels: Furniture dollies to move it around

Incline Plane: Sturdy, stable ramps over my basement stairs

I left the tool crated during the entire move because jointers are top-heavy and have small bases as compared to their overall dimensions.  I figured that a large rectangle would be easier to maneuver than a jointer, and also damage would be reduced if I messed up and it tipped over.

Shop Crane

The shop crane was the key to this whole thing because it let me lift the crate.  The legs of the crane do not allow the center of the crate to be moved below the hook so I extended its reach.  I sandwiched two 2×6’s around the arm, using 3/8″ threaded rod through existing holes in the arm.  I used three rods, the first in the hook bolting point, and the second and third in the fixed part of the arm.  To maximize leverage I used the holes on each end of the fixed arm segment.

A test lift
A test lift

Even with its arm 4′ or so beyond its original length it had no problem lifting the 600 pound crate.  As you can see I did have to add counter weights in the form of 60 pound sand tubes.  At the crane’s maximum stock reach its rated at 500 pounds (1/4 ton).  I realized that I’m far exceeding this by having the load so far out, but in my opinion the crane is very over-engineered.  This is a smart choice on their part because it’s involved in a inherently dangerous operation.

For lifting the crate I used two 1200 pound working load ratchet straps.


To move the crate from the garage to the basement door I built a large dolly with 4″ caster wheels.  It worked nicely over the pitted, rough cement on the way there but I probably would have gotten away with regular furniture dollies for this.

Two of the small Harbor Freight dollies did a fine job rolling down the ramp and for moving the crate around the basement.  I simply cinched them onto the belly of the crate with two of those ratchet straps acting like big belts.

HF Dollies
HF Dollies


Using two 2×10’s side-by-side I made ramps over the stairs.  They are supported from the bottom in three places: top, bottom, and in the middle.  The middle support isn’t visible in this photos but I just wedged two vertical boards under there.  I screwed all three supports in place from the top.  If the ramp shifted I didn’t want the supports to roll out from under it.

The cross-piece is attached to the ramp and is wedged against the door frame.  Its job is to prevent the ramp from sliding.

ramp2 ramp1

Moving it Down

I positioned the crate by the door and then used the crane to lift up over the threshold.

Lift over the threshold
Lift over the threshold

Next I used another Harbor Freight product, their 1200 pound winch puller to lower the crate down the ramp.  I anchored it onto the crane, and as you can see I buttressed the crane legs against the house using sand bags as pads.  I made sure to put the anchor rope low on the crane in order to avoid tipping forces.

Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor
Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor

From here it was just a slow process of lowering it down the ramp one ratchet notch at a time.  The winch has a really short cable length, 3.6′, so twice I had to take the tension off the winch (again with a ratchet strap), wind the winch back in, and add rope between the crate and winch.

WheelClearance LiftAsAnchorPoint GoingDown2

Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor
Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor


The eagle has landed!


Once I got the crane centered on the ramp it went straight down.  However if I do this again I will add short railings to the sides of the ramp just to prevent the dolly wheels from ever slipping off.

So in the end this little project went really well, I was able to safely move a heavy tool down a narrow, awkward space.  I don’t think it would have been doable with just human power because of the small space.

HDPE Triple Wall Pipe for Ducting

I moved my coffee roasting station but kept my blower in the same place (less noise!) so that meant I needed to extend the fume hood’s vent line.  I went the cheap route and got a 10′ long piece of HDPE Triplewall pipe which cost about $7.60 at my local Home depot.  Its inner diameter is around 4″, and I use ducting that also has a 4″ inner diameter so an adapter was needed.  One trick is to cut off a short length of pipe, say 3″‘, and cut out enough of its circumference so that it fits inside its parental pipe.  This gives you a male end for your female duct hose.

Through the power of high school math and a pair of digital calipers I determined the required circumference removal to be 31mm.  I use metric for computed figures because applying them back to the work is easy.  My cuts/measurements weren’t perfect as you can see but I simply taped over the gap with a bit of aluminum HVAC tape.  The adapter was primed/glued in with standard PVC bonding products (i.e. purple primer and cement).

DWV Adapter Markings
DWV Adapter Markings


DWV Adapter in Place
DWV Adapter in Place

My 4″ ducting hose fit perfectly over the DIY adapter.


Shop-Made Metal Brake

A while back I made a ceiling-mounted pot hanger.  The rail was a length of 1/8″ x 1.5″ stainless bar bent into a rectangle.  Well I had bend it in my bench vise and none of the corners were very good, and it formed more of a parallelogram than a rectangle.

I recently re-made the hanger, making it bigger this time.  I still liked the look of the bar so I just got a longer piece this time, but I also did some homework on how to get better-looking and more accurate bends.  I didn’t feel like spending the money on a real brake so I made a simple one in the shop.

It’s build around angle iron and 3/8″ rod for both the fulcrum and “pusher bar” (I don’t know the real name).  I had to use a Grade 8 bolt for the pusher bar because the other stock I had developed a bow in it after the first 4 bends.  I did another 4 with the bolt and it held up fine.  The body is a length of 2×4 with angle iron screwed on on the top corners.  I left about 1.5″ hanging over the edge for the fulcrum holes.  The fulcrum (axle?) acts as both the surface for the inner radius of the bend as well as the hinge for the handle.  The pusher bar’s location was eyeballed.

Not pictured here are clamps… The 2×4 is clamped to the sawhorse and the work is also clamped to the brake body using a c-clamp.

So obviously this is in no way a professional-grade instrument but it works for making repeatable bends in small pieces.

Fixing a Squeaking Toyota Tacoma Clutch

My truck has had a squeaky clutch for longer than I’d care to admit.    Here is a video I took of the noise:

I bet that sounds familiar to a lot of you manual transmission Toyota owners!  The culprit was the point of contact between the clutch fork and the bell housing’s pivot stud.



Here’s what I did to lubricate:

  1. Remove slave cylinder.  Just take out the two 10mm bolts and let the cylinder tangle, it will be fine as long as you’re not bending its fluid lines.
  2. Remove the boot from the fork arm
  3. Move the arm away from the stud and lubricate that point.

I used white lithium spray via its tube but I imagine many different products would work fine here.  Just got back from a drive and it was so nice having a quiet (and seemingly silkier) shifting experience!

Gnome Spicy Ginger Beer Review

A few weeks ago I made a 2.5 gallon batch of Gnome’s ginger beer.  I first dissolved 2 pounds of sugar in a quart of water, added 2oz of extract, and then brought it up to 130F.  Then I dumped the mix into a keg and added the remaining 2 gallons of water.  I carbed it fizzier than normal, 15psi.

The resulting soda is pretty good but not as good as ginger beer sodas I’ve had before such as Sprecher’s.  It has a nice ginger zip but there’s not much depth to the flavor other than sweetness.  Also the soda has the same murkiness as the original mix in the bag, each glass looks like tan dishwater.

Tacoma Cab Behind-the-Seat Storage Caddies

In my 2010 Toyota Tacoma’s (two door, regular cab) there isn’t much storage space.  There is a narrow space behind the seat so I build some containers to be able to store stuff that wouldn’t fit in the glove box.

Space Behind Seat

I made two caddies, one to go to the right of the seat belt and one to go where the jack handle straps down.

Passenger Side Caddy
Driver’s Side Caddy

I used some cheap 1/4″ OSB because that’s what scrap wood I had on hand but I wouldn’t make them out anything much thicker because it’s overkill and it would eat into your storage space.   Nicely enough Toyota welded some nuts behind the horizontal tube so I was able to securely fasten the caddies to the back wall.  The nuts are M6 with a 1.00 thread pitch, and I used 20mm machine bolts.

Back Wall Mounting Point

Design considerations:

  • The caddies can only be about 5″ deep or else the seat will hit them when adjusted all the way back.
  • Don’t make them too wide or else they will interfere with the seat tilt lever
  • I didn’t bother to make bottoms as the things I’m storing are large and won’t slip though.  However I did wind up having to put some smaller bungees into a small box.  If I eventually need bottoms I’ll staple on some webbing or fabric.
  • Both sides have an “ear” that sticks out to the threaded nut; this was because I was unable to go any farther to the left with the caddy.
To get an accurate measurement of the distance between the threaded holes I traced them gravestone-style onto a piece of paper and then transferred those holes onto my wood.
Here are some Google Sketchup drawings for each side:
Driver’s Side
Passenger Side

Gotta have room for that atlas!