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June 23, 2007

Persistence pays off!

Filed under: Cars,Diesel — chuck goolsbee @ 11:18 pm

Those of you that know me are aware that two of my linked personality quirks are patience and persistence. I am nothing, if not persistent. Occasionally it pays off. Tonight I FINALLY finished a task I’ve been working on for the past month. Mind you, this is merely “step one” in a larger project.

I’m building a BioDiesel processor, specifically an “Appleseed” processor. Step one of building an Appleseed is finding an electric hot water heater as the reactor vessel. I found one about a month ago on craigslist, and brought it home. Step one of having the hot water heater is cleaning it out. Step one of cleaning out the water heater is removing all the elements and plumbing. The bottom element is absolutely fused to the tank. It. Won’t. Budge. I spend several hours trying to twist it off. All I manage to do is break the electrical connections off.

I buy a special wrench… it breaks. I buy a special socket with a breaker bar. It breaks. Thankfully the hardware store has a good return policy! I drill holes in the element, drive screws into it and twist them with a wrench – they break. I buy a cold chisel and smash my hand with a the hammer. It still won’t budge. Every weekend I go out to the barn and give it another try. Finally this weekend I decide I’m going to beat this thing, or give up. I get out the Dremel and the cut-off wheels and start carving a channel straight across the element to make a giant flat-head screwdriver head of it. It takes a while but I finally carve a nice, straight channel. I try the cold chisel as a screwdriver… no luck. I pull out a three foot steel bar that slides right into the channel and start levering it counter-clockwise… it BENDS!

This thing is just wedged in there so tight. I actually start looking at craigslist again for another water heater. I even go to the point of emailing a couple of folks offering one. I’m still not really ready to surrender though.

I get the Demel again and start slicing off the edges of the element head with the idea of exposing the threads so I can soak them with Liquid Wrench. It takes me a LONG time with the Dremel… and I literally go through over 25 cut-off wheels, but eventually I get the whole top of the threads exposed, give it a good soak, and go into the house. Later I come out and set the chisel in and give it a turn with the wrench… well… to be honest I press against it with the full weight of my whole body… and it turns! Just slighty, but it does turn. Success! I keep twisting it, and sure enough, it comes undone. I’m a happy guy.

The element threads are still in great shape, but the tank is filled with mineral deposits. I spend some time washing those out, install the plumbing back onto the tank and refill it to test for leaks. Step Two and Step Three. I’m on my way.


  1. forgive my ignorance Chuck but how will this change your production of fuel now? does this mean you can go to higher than 50% blend in the vehicles?


    Comment by gondwana — June 24, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  2. Yes. I can use 100% home-brewed stuff if I chose to. What the reactor does is chemically process the fuel, removing the glycerins. I’m not a chemist, so maybe Dan could explain how it works. I rattled off a few words to him in a telephone conversation once and he explained to me what I meant. 😉

    I’ve always said that my pain threshold for going 100% home brew was about $3.50-$4.00 per gallon. Diesel has hung in at just under $3.00 for the past 6 months (my last tank cost me $2.89 per US gallon) but gasoline has spiked to well over $3.50 now. The last time I put gasoline in the Jaguar it was $3.64. I figure I might as well start working towards energy independence now.

    Comment by cg — June 24, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  3. Good on you, Chuck. Homebrewed biodiesel is great, and the Appleseed reactor has a huge following.

    Algae is an incredible biodiesel feedstock. I’ve been wondering lately if it would be feasible to grow it in a tank at home.

    Comment by jharbert — June 24, 2007 @ 5:47 pm

  4. so a diesel motor in the jag next!!! ha ha


    Comment by gondwana — June 24, 2007 @ 11:03 pm

  5. No Jemore… this isn’t Cuba!


    Comment by cg — June 25, 2007 @ 7:19 am

  6. But your big boss has been talking about what ‘he will do’ with Cuba after Castro so maybe their car ideas will catch on! 🙂


    Comment by gondwana — June 25, 2007 @ 9:26 am

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