Solar Power, Lathes, Bats and Snakes

I don’t recommend equipment here unless it is something I bought and use myself and I find genuinely good. That’s the case with this, the Rocksolar battery and folding solar panel. I finally had a chance to give the Rocksolar battery pack and solar panel a good workout the other day and the whole package worked quite well. MrsGF was gone for the day and I was bored so I set up the FT-818 up on the front porch with the mag loop antenna, running off the Rocksolar battery, and tried making contacts on CW for a few hours, with it’s high intensity LED lights turned on just to give it an added load, and plugging a cell phone and my bike’s GPS/odometer into it’s USB charging ports to recharge them at the same time. I should add that just to make things more interesting I’d had the battery pack’s lights turned on for over eight hours the day before. The battery pack hardly even noticed the load. When I got sick of not making contacts (ah, the “joy” of QRP!) I gave up on that, dug out the laptop and switched to FT8 and finally made a few contacts. That got boring after a while (well, it was about 95 degrees out there) so I quit to retreat into the air conditioned house.

The Rocksolar battery pack with the Rocksolar folding solar panel.

I threw the folding solar panel out on the ground and hooked it up to the pack to recharge it and that worked well too. About as easy as it gets. No need to buy charging controllers or extra cables, everything needed is included. Just plug it into the charging port on the battery pack and lay it out in the sun. After charging up a cell phone, running the lights, powering the FT-818, etc. the panel brought the battery up to full charge in about 3 hours according to the meter on the battery.

So overall I’m really rather pleased with the battery and the matching solar panel. It takes, the documentation says, about 9 hours to do a full recharge using the included AC charger, and about the same using the solar panel if you have full sun. Of course recharging with the solar panel depends on conditions. The documentation claims it will run the dual high intensity LED lights for 189 hours. Heat is always an issue with battery packs like this, so this one includes a cooling fan that kicks in automatically if it starts to get too warm. And it has a 200 watt AC inverter to power AC equipment. But it doesn’t provide a clean AC sine wave so it isn’t suitable for some AC equipment. It has 4 USB charging ports and 4 DC ports in addition to the 3 prong AC outlet.

So if you’re looking for a solar charged battery system to run your gear, take a look at the Rocksolar stuff. You can find it on Amazon. It isn’t exactly super cheap, though. This particular battery is going for $178 at the moment, and the folding solar panel is going for $165.

Lathe Going to Junk Yard

I’ve had it with that Harbor Freight lathe. The bearings are starting to go after just a few hours of use, it’s made of cheap stamped sheet metal that flexes and shudders and it’s just – just nasty.

This thing is basically an industrial accident waiting to happen. So it’s going, and is going to be replaced by a Delta mid sized lathe that’s made out of actual real steel and iron, with a motor that won’t stall all the time. Good lathes aren’t cheap. The new Delta is going to set me back about $800. But this Harbor Freight monstrosity has reached the point where it just isn’t safe to use any more.

We Got Bats

Now I like bats. They eat bugs and all that fun stuff. But I only like bats as long as they aren’t actually in my house. Which they have been. We’ve had two of the little buggers in the house in the last three weeks, and, well, enough is enough. We’re getting a bat removal specialist in this week to figure out where they are, how to keep them out, put in bat excluders, etc.

Uh, I have a confession to make. I said I like bats. That’s a lie. I only say that because I’m supposed to say I like bats. I don’t. Bats really, really creep me out. I’m sorry, they just do. When I see a bat in the house I want to run and scream and hide.

Snakes, on the other hand, don’t bother me at all. I think snakes are kind of neat. Which is good because…

We Also Have Snakes

This little guy has a rather indignant look on his face because he was trying to get into the wax beans and MrsGF wasn’t going to put up with that. She grabbed him and put him in the flower bed and he sat there and pouted for about ten minutes before slithering off.

We have three of these guys hanging around. They’re garter snakes and they’re amazingly beautiful creatures. They’re harmless. Well, unless you’re a frog or a mouse or bug or something else they like to eat.

I suppose I should wrap this up with a picture of a flower because holy cow we got flowers this year!

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

5 thoughts on “Solar Power, Lathes, Bats and Snakes”

    1. I’ve seen the Wen lathes and they’re decent for the price. I wanted something more heavy duty, though because I’m interested in turning rather large sized objects like bowls and vases. This Delta has a hefty sized motor, is reversible, can handle up to 14 inches in diameter (probably closer to 12″ in the real world) and while it can only handle spindles about 20 inches long I can get a bed extension that will push that to 40″. It should have enough capacity to be able to deal with anything I might want to do.

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  1. Good deal on the solar setup. And it was a good price too!

    I have a love-hate relationship with Harbor Freight. Their hand tools are not too bad. After all, a $20 hammer is not much different than a $3 hammer. HF is also great for things like tarps, consumables such as nylon ties and electrical tape, and air compressor accessories. I would not recommend ANY of their solar stuff. Their saw blades and drill bits suck.

    I bought an air compressor from them a few years back and it was a total pile of shit. Never did work right and would not start and run at all if the the temp was below 40 degrees or so. It ended up going to the junkyard (literally) and was replaced by a DeWalt compressor that chugs like a mule no matter what. I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t go to HF for big ticket items.

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    1. That’s been my experience with their power tools as well. The stuff is made as cheaply as it possibly can and just barely works. The lathe is a good example. After just a few hours the bearings were already starting to go, the motor was getting very hot and was stalling out even under a light load. And it would bend and flex. I’ve heard that their lathes are better quality now with machined cast iron beds so at least they don’t flex, but they’ve also gone up in price to the point where you can get a really good one for a couple of hundred bucks more than the HF units.

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