Archive for June, 2011

Wire baskets make great drying and/or painting racks

28 Jun

Wire basketYou have probably seen lowly wire baskets hanging out at the laundromat (assuming that the laundromat is still where all the cool kids hang out). You may even have one lurking somewhere in your home. We did not buy our wire basket; it appeared in our basement several moves ago, and it has become an ever-present fact of life. We never use it for laundry, but still it remains.

Flip a wire basket upside-down and you will find a whole host of new uses. The square holes in “laundry-style” wire baskets are a perfect fit for the necks of most glass bottles, making an upside-down basket makes a great drying rack for home brewing.  You can get similar baskets at Ikea for $2.50, so these are good, economical solutions for anyone with a lot of bottles to wash or to paint. By comparison, brewing catalogs charge $40 and up for single-purpose drying racks.

If you need to paint your bottles (which you might do for decoration or to block unwanted light), the wire basket makes an excellent painting station. It’s easy to stand up a few dozen bottles at a time, with enough space between them that spray-painting is a breeze. The space between the bottles ensures quick drying times and minimizes wasted paint.

Wire basket and drying bottlesWire basket and painted bottles

The bottles will usually lean to one side rather than standing straight up, but they don’t fall over. That lean makes it hard to hit every surface of the bottle in one painting session, so I suggest turning each bottle 180 degrees after the first coat of paint has dried so you can cover any missed spots. Also, you may want to protect your basket with a sheet of newspaper to avoid painting the basket along with the bottles.


Save your corks and put them to use

07 Jun

Corks of various sizesI used to save corks for no particular reason. Wine corks and the occasional whiskey cork went straight into a big bowl. Now that the bowl is nearing its maximum capacity, I have finally found that a collection of different-sized corks can actually be useful.

I put my cider in the largest bottles I have in order to reduce the number of bottles to clean (and fill) at bottling time. When opening one of these bottles, I like to have a way to reseal it so I can keep the rest cold and carbonated in the fridge. Lo and behold, my collection of wine and whiskey corks fits allows me to reseal any bottle I want and keep the contents from going flat.

Even though I use the same metal caps on all of my cider bottles, some of my bottles demand stoppers of different sizes. Wine corks are typically a single standard size, so there’s no need to collect too many of them unless you have a bowl to fill. Instead, look for corks from high-end liquor (cheaper booze uses screw-caps; the use of a cork quietly implies that the bottle is handcrafted or antique or otherwise distinguished enough to justify the price). Different liquor brands use corks of different sizes, so having a variety ensures a snug fit for a wide range of bottles.

Is saving every cork that enters your home overkill? Of course, but it’s easy to save one of each size that you encounter so that you’re prepared for any bottle that strolls in the door. Corked bottles can make homemade gifts such as last winter’s homemade vanilla extract a touch classier.

Recorked bottlesBowl of corks


Protect your electronics from heat damage by installing a cooling fan in your entertainment center

01 Jun

Entertainment center exhaust fanReach your hand behind your receiver or TV. Do you notice that it’s warmer back there? You’re feeling the residual heat given off by hard-working electronic devices. Unfortunately, high temperatures contribute to the failure of all kinds of small electronic components, from printed circuit boards to resistor, capacitors, and batteries. It’s a conundrum: audio and video electronics produce heat, and yet heat is seriously hazardous to their health. Between the receiver, two video-game consoles, and the TiVo, my entertainment center can get quite hot, especially during the summer. Since the TiVo (and, to a lesser extent, the consoles) is on at all times, it never really cools down inside the cabinet.

Computer designers tackled this problem long ago: most PCs include a rear exhaust fan and one or more open grills near floor level to admit fresh air so the computer does not overheat. Now that we’re putting PC-style devices in our living rooms, we need to treat the entertainment center like a giant PC case.

To keep my equipment cool, I installed an exhaust fan in the back of my entertainment center. Adding an exhaust fan that pushes air out of the case creates an effective negative pressure in the case and draws in new air from every open point. Of course, you need an inlet hole for air to enter the case for this process to work. Hot air rises, so you want an exhaust hole near the top to remove heated air and an inlet hole near the bottom of your container to draw in cooler air.

You spent a lot of money on this stuff! Make sure your equipment keeps working for as long as possible by keeping its critical parts cooled. All you need to do is cut a minor hole in the back of your entertainment center, find a suitable fan, and decide how to power it. I promise to make it simple. Read the rest of this entry »