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April / May 2013
Electrify your car PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Rathbone   

Electrify your car

I had been wanting to own and drive an electric vehicle for many years and when the Chinese started producing lithium ion phosphate batteries, I felt the time was right. I had two main criteria:
I wanted to prove that an electric vehicle (EV) could be used as practical, everyday, work transport;
My wife and I wanted to use it as our main vehicle to avoid wasting fossil fuels.
I then spent my spare time over a year in preparation, by
Researching to find the best EV parts from throughout the world;
Finding the right people to work with;
Buying the vehicle we wanted to drive for the next 10-12 years;
Importing the parts.
The following year, I allocated two months to see if I could raise development funding for this project. My automotive engineer brother Rob in Tauranga tackled the first stage and auto electrician Cliff McKenna, who tutors at WelTec, took over. Harry Slowey, a mechanic and film camera assistant provided his expertise in fabrication work.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Electrify your car: The Mechanics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rob Rathbone   

Electrify your car: The Mechanics

From memory Mike and I first seriously talked about this conversion a year before we started. Once we put the vehicle over the pit and removed the exhaust, fuel tank etc we could get a good look to measure and plan where to fit the battery cells, controller, charger and so on. Mike’s research was well under way, with cardboard mock-ups of parts and 100 foam rubber blocks the size of the battery cells to see how everything would fit. Stripping out the petrol engine, gearbox, fuel tank, exhaust system, cooling system, air con, front drive shafts and so on was all fairly straightforward.
We had originally planned to bolt the electric motor to the manual gearbox with an adapter plate. But once we had the motor out, it was clearly going to be fairly complex due to the dimensions of the electric motor.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Electrify your car: The Electrics PDF Print E-mail
Written by Clifton McKenna   

Electrify your car: The Electrics

The battery packs were connected in series to the controller which would then convert the DC battery voltage into AC three-phase voltage to be delivered to the motor. My mission was to connect this altogether.
To prevent voltage drop, I decided to use 50 millimetre square welding cable for the long cable runs in the under-floor battery pack and between the under-floor and under-bonnet battery packs. Smaller cable was used for some shorter runs.
So Mike could disconnect the battery packs easily for maintenance, I put in an Anderson-style connector between the two battery packs. From a local electrical wholesaler I got a large plastic box as a safe, waterproof electrically rated power distribution box for under the bonnet. It was a safe option as a place to mount the contactor and run the battery pack cables to.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Make a stylish timber stepladder PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bob Browning   

Make a stylish timber stepladder

The top shelf in my walk-in wardrobe is 2.3 metres above the floor and I need a small stepladder to access it. I used a small, double-sided aluminium stepladder for some time but decided to make one that was compatible with the furniture, from timber.
The design was done by modifying the design of the aluminium stepladder for timber construction. My starting point was the tread depth which was 75 mm on the aluminium ladder. I wanted to make this deeper to make it easier to climb. I also wanted to increase the width of the sides which is, of course, related to the tread depth.
Greek architects determined several millennia ago that the most attractive proportions of a room were 8:5 or 1.6:1. I try to maintain this ratio when designing anything rectangular that I want to look well-proportioned and the top board complies with this.
I used macrocarpa for this ladder as I usually do for projects of this type, largely because it is reasonably available locally but also for its qualities as a timber.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Fantastic plastic cat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Roger Lacey   

Fantastic plastic cat

Stephen Snedden has been described as the inventor’s inventor and on meeting him it’s not hard to see why. He has an infectious enthusiasm, a can-do attitude and a willingness to share his knowledge. Stephen’s latest project is a 3.9 metre-long, rotary-moulded plastic catamaran with a 1.9 metre beam that he has designed and built the moulds for.
The Seahull, weighing 200 kg as a bare hull, is intended as a workboat whether a dive platform, ferry or simply a means of transporting material and tools. The basic design is a catamaran with asymmetric hulls. The tunnel between the hulls provides lift and cushioning from air forced between the hulls.
A middle skeg provides some protection from debris for the outboard leg and helps to keep the propeller in clean, turbulence-free water. The hull is made of 8 mm-thick tough roto-moulded polyethylene. It is light, strong, nearly indestructible, easily and cheaply repaired, UV resistant and impervious to chemical and water damage.
The double-skin hull can be filled with foam or hatches can be added to allow the hull space to be used for storage. Moulded blocks in the front corners allow for seating that can used as additional storage with the addition of hatches

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Building a gantry crane PDF Print E-mail
Written by Geoff Merryweather   

Building a gantry crane

When I was asked to clean out my late father-in-law's workshop, I knew that it would not be an easy task. My father-in-law was not one to suffer from an iron deficiency and his workshop was proof of the amazing amount of equipment you can fit into an otherwise-ordinary, prefabricated metal garage. The solution was a “portable” gantry crane that could be taken up north in parts, assembled on site, be low enough to fit through the roller door but could be raised inside to an adequate height to lift the machinery onto the trailer.
The crane consists of two, vertical steel end-posts on heavy duty castors with a three-metre long UB (Universal Beam or I-beam) between. The UB is actually connected at each end to steel stanchions that slide inside the bigger Steel Hollow Section (SHS) end-posts, enabling this beam to be raised and lowered by jacks bolted to the beam at the top and to the outside of the end posts at the bottom.
The I-beam takes a mobile trolley and chain block. I preferred a parallel flange beam as it makes bolting the crane together easier and more secure, otherwise you need tapered washers for the mounting bolts.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Digispark added to electronic universe PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Beckett   

Rewarding practical prowess

One of the joys of being associated with The Shed magazine is receiving an email asking if I’d like to review this or that. On this occasion it was for a new ‘mini Arduino’ called Digispark. This microprocessor board was developed by American Erik Kettenburg using Kickstarter funding. I had seen pictures of the Digispark but not until you actually hold one in your hand do you truly see how small they are compared, say, to a AA battery. The hardware uses some very clever tricks to provide six inputs/outputs from an eight-legged device (the other two are for power). It features an onboard LED, 500mA regulator and can be programmed just like an Arduino.
It also has the ability to emulate a USB device that can interact with your computer without adding any extra hardware and costs just $US 8.95. Erik has said on one of the forums the fail rate is less than 0.02% on 30,000 units.
Part of the appeal of Arduino is the ease of programming. You write the sketch, plug in the Arduino and then upload the program. Digispark is the same, with a small change and a revised IDE (Integrated Development Environment which provides tools such as a source code editor or debugger for a computer programmer to develop software).

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Earthships have landed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Robin Overall   

Earthships have landed

In the course of a trip to New Mexico to see the Pueblo Indian adobe buildings in Taos (some dating back 400 years or more) we came across a most weird and wonderful sculptural house on the edge of the desert. It was the headquarters for the Earthship Foundation.
I had come across articles on earthships while teaching earth-building techniques in New Zealand so this was a fantastic opportunity to explore them in detail. “Earthships” address the problems that earth’s resources are being squandered and reduced by the western world through the shocking waste of materials in our consumer society.
America alone throws away many millions of car tyres a year and only a small number of them are recycled into other products. In certain parts of the world, tyres left in piles pose health problems as they collect water and provide the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
New Zealand has a problem with waste tyres although on a smaller scale.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed

Jousting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jude Woodside   


There are New Zealanders who take making armour seriously and there are those who take using armour in combat as an equally important pastime.
This armoured brigade of modern warriors in medieval armour was in evidence at the International Jousting Treatment held in Upper Hutt in February, when competitors from Australia, Canada, Belgium and Sweden joined Kiwis in sword fights, jousting, staged battles and general armour-wearing combat.
The overall winner of the Grail of Chivalry for Experienced Jousters was Dale Gienow (Canada) with a total score of 89 (scores out of 100 are  given up to 60 percent for Jousting, 20 percent for the Mounted Melee and 20 percent for Mounted Skill-At-Arms).
Gienow, a martial arts mounted instructor and owner of a medieval education company, is founding president of the International Jousting Association and ranked Canada’s premier jouster.

Read more in the latest issue of The Shed