The intention of this article is to provide a valid approach to some special considerations we may have for long-term use of our gear that arose when I was advising someone about using power tools.
We are going to be in deep need of tools and knowledge for some maintenance and repairmen work in our equipment. Therefore, special care must be addressed before setting up a workshop for the long term. Meaning with this a post-apocalypse stage, as long as you believe it could be, just remember how we prepared and the collapse was so large that we had to leave the country. Miscalculations are on you.
Assess what equipment you have already to figure out what you need.
This said, we should already have a general idea about the direction we want/need our homestead or compound must be directed in the future, regardless if we are there or not.
We should already have an inventory of all of our equipment and the more used spare parts, repairmen and maintenance manuals, and a workshop as small or as big as you need it, able to accomplish most of such tasks, with a proper set of tools that would last a lifetime.
If you decided to build a biodiesel small scale facility, complete with an alcohol distillery, you should be ready to maintain it without too much hassle. Or if you have a wood gas genset (something that I like a LOT by the way) running with a small, simple, reliable and efficient engine with a huge flywheel to minimize the wasted kinetic energy, everything should be in place to service that setup. Windmills? A recumbent bicycle? A cart with sprockets and bike chain that can be ridden by 4 people pedaling? Whatever you have, you´re going to need your workshop, and make it as capable and sustainable in the long run as you can, and perhaps something to leave behind for your beloved ones to use.
Here’s what you need to know about circuits and breakers.
First, any workshop needs overload protection. A short circuit in a tool, and it could draw a lot of current, overheating things that we need to keep cool, like wiring. Modern breakers, that protection device inside your electric box in everyone´s houses, are made of a plastic called baquelite. Parameters like power consumption, cable length, installation method, and ambient conditions must be addressed before, or at least a general estimation so you can know what level of protection you need. (40 amps? 70 amps?)
However, unless you invest some good money on these protectors (in Venezuela they became a commodity, expensive as gold) to have them available in the future, I would say to go with low tech. Remember those old ceramic switches with a large handle that have to be pulled up or down to close the circuit? Widely used in science fiction movies for dramatic effects? “Pull.The.Switch!”
Well, it happens to be that these switches have the very same function, and unlike disposable circuit breakers made of plastic, that after some time stop working (trust me, I know about this) the switch is provided with two (or more) fuses, that can be calculated and hand-made if the need arises, to be protective, cheap, and readily available. A fuse is (for those who are reading and don´t know what it is) in its most simple version just a small, calibrated length of wire with a specific diameter that will melt or vaporize if current over a certain amount is suddenly going through it. And this will protect our entire wiring to melt and avoid a possible fire hazard.
Why do I like those switches? Because back at home we have some of them that have been working flawlessly the last…70 years, give or take. Once lightning hit the transformer on our block, and our neighbor´s home got his entire electric intake box burned up. Even the mountings of the circuit breakers had to be replaced. At home, just a small piece of wire had to be replaced. I know because I was there when my dad did it.
Of course, these can´t be in any place where damp or weather can affect it. But it is simple, reliable and so cheap that you want to laugh. Check your local regulations and install under your own risk, always by a professional if you decide for this before a collapse. (smile)
My intention is not to unleash a debate about the modern circuit breakers; these can be mandatory in many places, and have LOTS of security features: spring-loaded levers, isolation everywhere so you don´t get a shock when resetting the power…stuff like that. It´s quite comprehensible to use them, and perhaps even illegal to bypass them (and it should be!)
But you have an alternative you should be aware of, just in case. Low tech, cheap, and affordable.
A good idea I consider to be analyzed in your particular case is if you are going to bury your electricity conductors. If you do it, do it properly. Use a good quality conduit, and go to the needed depth. This will avoid lots of problems in the future when perhaps finding wire is an almost impossible task.
Air-powered tools and air hoses are useful when the grid is down.
And as I have arrived at this point, perhaps some of you wonderful readers can provide some useful insight. Given the spectacular performance of air powered tools, and the low energy they consume, for a workshop and certain tasks, these would be a very good choice in the long run, given the case that power grid is entirely down and your batteries are not large enough to power the tools the time you need to. If you think this can´t happen in your area, then you´re reading the wrong website.
OK, one of my concerns that I would like you to comment about is the shelf life of brand new, unused, top-quality…air hoses. Electricity for the long term is the best obvious choice; chances are that a top quality extension cord should last a lifetime if properly taken care of. With a cable roll, say 100 meters or so, and some cheap parts we can make our own of the needed length. There are lots of options of hardened, heavy-duty wire these days, and if we are serious about it, investing on this should not be a problem. We don´t know if someday our workshop can save our sorry backsides. In that case, we need to have good quality, proven, heavy-duty and durable gear. Taking care of it like precious items (30 years of post-economic collapse will make them valuable, trust me).
Hardened, braided air hoses, overrated for the pressures we use, are the way to go. Air tools are not that expensive, and they are low maintenance too. Saws, grinders, drills, that sort of stuff. With the electric tools being more complicated (a failed armature is going to render the tool useless unless you have a spare one) to maintain, there is a risk that sooner or later these will arrive at the end of its lifespan if we use it constantly. A good low rev air compressor, on the other hand, if properly cared for with a good tank, is amazingly durable. I have seen some of these working in tire repairmen shops since I was a kid, and the last time I was there (3 years maybe) they were still using the same compressor. Service parts like O-rings, valves, seals, and stuff are cheap and plentiful; getting good quality equipment can be a good idea if your labor is such that you need compressed air. Hey, is useful even if all you do with air is inflating tires, or perhaps some blowing apart for drying or cleaning the dust!
Being as self-sufficient as possible is ideal.
I would love to embed this idea in some of the readers: we should be as self-sufficient as we could, and arrive at the extreme of being able to synthesize biopolymers to process and manufacture a braided hose. With this capability, sustainability would be greatly enhanced, and our workshop lifespan would be extended a lot. This is the kind of stuff I think about when someone says sustainability. Melting aluminum with solar energy (this is possible in Venezuela, indeed, and there are already designs that prove it) and everything your ingenuity could develop. It´s a shame that I am in such a harsh stage in my life. Under different conditions perhaps I could have already made a couple of patents that would result very useful for the prepper of the future. But that costs money, as usual, a commodity that is not abundant these days.
I see a very synergic mix in this kind of air pressure powered equipment when mixed with electric. For small works compressed air should be more than enough, and won´t abuse your battery rack. Need more power? Start your biodiesel genset for a while (it should charge your rack too) and use the juice for your tool. Consumption of a modern power tool is so low, that other equipment could be connected to the genset. Unless it is a massive tool, perhaps laundry can be done while you are grinding apart you just welded that needs a good finishing; or cutting steel with the circular saw. If your laundry machine is not something that looks and talks like something out of the Millenium Falcon, it will deal fairly enough with the current peaks that the power tool will generate, and that is good.
What do you think?
Please let me know in your comments, as usual, what you think, and more importantly, what you NEED to be elaborated and I will work on it. Things in Venezuela are reaching…post war levels, and I continuously try to preserve my sanity by organizing some stuff that is under my control, in order to minimize the impact of our return.
Thanks for your donations, buddies. Much appreciated, and I pray every day for health and prosperity for all of those wonderful people that have assisted us.
God Bless you, and see you in the Club 😉
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. paypal.me/JoseM151