Water seepage in basement: Five fixes

Water seepage in basement: Five fixes

It’s not uncommon for water seepage to happen at random places in basements, sometimes even in the middle of the floor. And the first thought that comes into most people’s heads is a sump pump, which is an expensive proposition. Here are five fixes for water seepage in basement or basement water seepage to try first.

It’s possible that the problem does call for a sump pump. But before going to that expense, there are a number of things you can do that cost little or nothing. You should do those things anyway because the sump pump will work better when you do.

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How to fix diecast toys

How to fix diecast toys

I’ve told you about the best way to fix plastic toys, but it dawned on me the other day I’ve never mentioned how to fix diecast toys. Diecast toys don’t break as often as plastic, but it can happen. The good news is that you can fix them too.

In my example I will be fixing a Lionel 671 train from 1946, but the same technique works with anything made of diecast metal of any age.

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Repairing Lionel transformer cases made of Bakelite

Bakelite was the world’s first synthetic plastic, invented in 1907 and was commonly used for everyday objects in the mid 20th century. Lionel used it for transformer cases well into the 1960s. As a general rule, if a vintage Lionel transformer case isn’t metal, it’s probably Bakelite. For example, the highly desirable Lionel ZW and KW transformers used Bakelite casing. If you’d like to try to repair Bakelite transformer cases, read on.

Today, Bakelite is a specialty material. Although it’s generally a strong material, there are other plastics that tend to be more durable in everyday use, and they are cheaper. Another problem with Bakelite is that it is difficult to repair, although it’s not impossible.

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Loose brick repair with epoxy

Loose brick repair with epoxy

My home inspector told me about an easy, inexpensive and nearly permanent repair: Loose brick repair with epoxy. It works really well if you need to fix a loose brick in something like a fireplace or a retaining wall. Epoxy is a effective loose brick adhesive.

Epoxy works because it’s stronger than cement. And while it’s not economical to use epoxy for mortar instead of cement, in small quantities it’s cheap enough, and much quicker.

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Fix a chipped bathtub for $5

For years, I’ve wanted to repair chips in a bathtub. My bathtub. I finally found a way to do it cheaply and effectively. Here’s you can fix a chipped bathtub for $5 like I did.

At the hardware store, I spied Super Glue’s porcelain repair kit for $5. Anything like it I’ve seen was a two-part epoxy, which is tricky. Since this stuff required no mixing, and promised to clean up with nail polish remover, I thought I’d give it a try on my bathtub, which had four chips in it, the largest nearly the size of a dime.

It worked pretty well, after some experimentation.

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Why the government (and others) still deal in floppy disks

The revelation that the Federal Government still relies on floppy disks for some of its business is making it the butt of some jokes this week. And although that will serve as confirmation for some people that the government is completely backward, there are actually multiple good explanations for it.

From a security standpoint, using floppy disks isn’t a bad idea at all. Read more

How to fix modern plastic toys

How to fix modern plastic toys

Yesterday my son handed me a piece of broken toy train track. Last night I fixed it. At first I figured it would be easy–wood’s just a matter of gluing and clamping. But this one had a funky plastic connector. I got a lesson in how to fix modern plastic toys, and the best glue for plastic.

The plastics used in today’s toys are less brittle and arguably stronger than the polystyrene they used when I was a kid. The downside is that when they do break, it’s a lot harder to glue them. Normal super glues won’t work well, and the plastic cements for gluing model kits together–my old secret weapon–won’t work at all.
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A cheap and lazy way to make insulated track sections

An old trick for automating a Lionel or Marx train layout is to power accessories off an insulated rail section. Run one wire to the center rail, then run the other wire to a rail that’s been insulated from the other rail and the two adjoining track sections. A passing train completes the circuit, causing the accessory to activate.

You can buy insulated O27 and O31 straight tubular sections. If you want a curved insulated section, or if you just want to save some money, you’re better off making your own.

The usual way is to take a piece of track, pry up the pair of tabs holding the rail on one side of each tie, and then insert some kind of nonconducting material–a piece of electrical tape or a piece of cardstock are popular options–and then mash the tabs back down onto the tie. Then you insert a Lionel o27 insulating pin or o31 insulating pin into each end of the rail you just insulated. I’ve also made my own O27 insulating pins out of bamboo skewers from the grocery store. (I don’t know about anyone else’s schedule, but most hobby shops aren’t open at 9 PM, which is usually when I get time to work on my layout.)

But there’s another way that you might like better. Pry up all of the tabs on the metal ties and set them aside. Cut similar-sized ties from a piece of wood. Popsicle sticks are close enough for O27 track ties, or you might want to buy a strip or two of basswood of appropriate size from a hobby shop. Nothing stops you from cutting extra ties, if you like your track to have more than the usual three. Stain or paint the ties the color you want, and then glue the ties right to the rails. Cyanoacrylate (superglue) or epoxy is best. Insert insulating pins (store bought or homemade) and you have an insulated track section.

What to do with the extra metal ties you just removed? If they’re in reasonably good shape, you can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit. If you don’t like that idea, save them and once you get a decent quantity, sell them on Ebay so someone else can put them on other pieces of track to improve their appearance a bit.

Learning about scratchbuilding the hard way

I haven’t had a lot of free time the past couple of weeks, and as you’ve probably gathered, I haven’t been spending a lot of it in front of a computer. I’ve been in the basement, learning how to make stuff for the train.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things, mostly from experience rather than from books. I still have a long way to go.Not all paints and finishes are compatible with one another. When I tried to spray one brand of glossy finish atop a different brand of black paint, the paint crinkled. Spraying paint thinner on it would have done less damage.

Aside from the hard lesson on paints, clones of the old 6-inch 4-wheel Marx train cars are very simple to build. That must have something to do with why they cost 59 cents when they were new.

The look of lithographed tin can be reasonably approximated by printing a design on, of all things, plain paper, then spraying it with the same glossy finish that ruined the paint job on the first car I built. Attach said paper with spray adhesive, and only the very observant will notice your car isn’t tin litho.

Styrene plastic is very easy to work with. You can build simple things from it very quickly, so long as you use an MEK-based solvent, rather than the cement that comes in tubes. Solvents give a stronger bond, and after holding the joined piece together for two minutes, you can continue to work with it.

Aluminum is essentially free, and can be cut with scissors, but joining it is a pain. Joining two pieces with solder is very difficult. Epoxy is easier, but it’s harder to work with than the plastic solvents.

Tin and brass are extremely easy to solder. I now know why so many hand-built metal models are made of brass. It’s strong, reasonably easy to form, and not terribly expensive.

Sheet metal is dirt cheap at onlinemetals.com, but the $3 worth of brass that it takes to make a train car will cost $10 to ship, even if you have them deliver it by stagecoach UPS ground.

It’s very easy to end up paying $12 for a rustbucket Marx train car on eBay, and it’s more satisfying, if you have the requisite ability, to watch cars you made yourself go around your track than to watch cars you sniped with four minutes left. (I’ve only done that once. The rest I bid the way nice people do.) So most of the time you’re better off with your $13 worth of brass, whether you bought it online or at the local hobby shop.

You can fabricate your own Lionel- and Marx-compatible axles using 3/32-inch brass rod from a craft or hobby shop, cut to 1 3/4 inches in length for Lionel, or 1 7/8 inches for Marx. Put a dab of solder or epoxy half an inch inside to keep the wheels from going in too far.

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