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I bought a hand truck (dolly) a couple years ago from some departing Americans. They warned that one of the tires loses air over time, an issue I tried to deal with a couple times at local tire places. Eventually, though, to no avail. With no inner tube, you can’t get air back in with something as slow as a bicycle pump.

So I brought an inner tube back from the US, since I happened to be going and was an easy add-on to an existing free-shipping order.

It took a bit of work to get the tire lose, and then putting the tube in was no big deal. But getting the tire back on? Impossible!

Then I found this wonderful video. My solution! But I needed some C-clamps, which understandably are called “G” clamps here.

G-clamps in Uruguay

So I immediately set to work with them, and …

… *sigh* later I’ll be taking the hand truck to the local tire place, to see if they have a way to get the tire over the rim.

The “G” clamps will prove themselves useful in other ways, no doubt.





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This is so not a big deal. But it is. Last time we saw this fork, I had been using it on the barbecue grill outside.

Meat fork for grilling

And then it was gone. I looked around the grill, around the yard in case the dog had decided it was a chew toy, and of course we both looked through every kitchen drawer several times. And naturally the dishwasher, which we mainly use as a drying rack, where it should have been.

But wasn’t.

But was.

Turns out it had fallen through the rack, which we’re used to having happen. What we weren’t prepared for was that it might end up parallel to the dishwasher door, snugged up in the front against the ledge. How? Who knows.

Amazing how much we missed it. We use it all the time. Also amazing how many loads of dishes went through the dishwasher before my wife spotted it.

Lesson from the I Ching: perseverance furthers.


Taco wisdom

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When we installed an “inverter” split (DC, variable, no motor noise) in our bedroom, we moved the noisy split (AC/heater/dehumidifier) unit to our dining room. Finally, today, I mounted its remote control to the wall, removing two pieces of clutter from the counter top.

Took me ten years to figure this out.

But that’s not the story. In north North America, hanging something on a wall is pretty simple, dealing with drywall and (usually) wood studs. In south North America, and South America, our home for ten years, you deal with a different situation: plaster and brick walls. In Uruguay the requisite plastic expanding anchors are called Tacos Fisher, and I’ve often found myself sticking wood slivers or broken toothpicks alongside them because the hole ends up too big.

Until I figured it out.

To install a wall anchor, do not drill a hole.

This will be obvious to a machinist, or someone who has worked a lot with metal, but I am neither. You don’t drill a hole: you drill a hole twice, the first time with a smaller drill bit. You then use the proper-size drill as a reamer.


I can’t believe it took me over nine years to figure that out :0




An early Christmas present

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Years ago, a fellow expat told me about a long clamp he bought at Tienda Inglesa, very handy for making clean plywood cuts with a circular saw. I went to Tienda Inglesa, and — reminiscent of trying to find a ”special” item that you didn’t buy the first time you saw it at Costco — there were none. And there have been none. Until yesterday!

120 cm clamp
The clamp on top of one of my first attempts at cabinetry, including very disappointing not-straight cuts.

So it’s an early Christmas present. Time to try again to make a cabinet!

In other news, a bloom:

succulent blooming

I think we’ve had these plants at least three years. This is a first.

Sanders: my experience

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No, not Bernie.

I’m making another 1-meter hanging shelf for under the kitchen cabinets. I bought a piece of 1″ x 10″ pine, a bit longer than needed (so I can trim the ends square with my table saw, since the good ol’ boys at the aserradero don’t quite grasp the concept of “right angles”). Then, of course, there’s lots of sanding to get rid of various planer marks. Fortunately, I have a hand-held belt sander that makes quick work of such chores. At least until almost finished, when it suddenly stops working.

Well, with not much left to do, I wasn’t bothered at having to use my much-less-competent palm sander. Well, to clarify, much less competent when they both work. Instead, I found it to be equally competent: instead of sanding, it just made noises. Might as well have been dead as the other.

A few days later (today), I decided to tear into them and see what I could.

Disassembled hand sanders

The palm (orbital) sander, to the left of the screwdriver, was hopeless. Something’s jamming the central shaft, and I have not a clue what (nor why it didn’t the last time I used it, a while ago). A path forward wasn’t immediately evident.

On the belt sander, however, I found it is activated by a double-pole switch — basically two switches acting together, one for each incoming live wire (and they’re both live in Uruguay, so I tend not to do “simple repairs” to light fixtures or outlets without first turning off the entire house circuit). Easy diagnostics revealed one switch wasn’t working, so I installed a jumper wire (turquoise “U” at lower right) so that the connection is always on, and — ta da! — it worked, and I replaced twelve screws that hold the two halves together.

Turned it on, finished my sanding job, turned it off — uh, no. Now the switch is jammed “on.” But guess what? I don’t really care! Unplug it to turn it off. It works!

I won’t be tempted to tear it apart again because, being a cheap no-brand tool, the screws that hold it together anchor into the plastic molding of the other half. They were all nice and tight when I undid them, but only a third of them really firmly reconnected. The others just turned and turned.

So it may end up being held together with wire and duct tape. But it works — !

I’m feeling more Uruguayan all the time.

Green Machine

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You might recall that the answer to “What do you get when you tell the leñero (firewood seller) that you don’t want pieces longer than 40 cm?” was “an excuse to buy a chainsaw.” This does not suggest that I went chainsaw shopping. However, seeing a small gas-powered chainsaw for sale at Géant for USD 119 — and with a one-year guarantee*  — and having exactly USD 120 in my wallet … well, seemed that fate she was a-speakin’ to me. Starts right up, cuts well, even came with a replacement chain.

* typical no-name Chinese power tools typically sell here with a two-month guarantee.

The säge saga

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I helped one of my son’s friends build a bookshelf unit over the weekend. At the end, he had a piece of thin plywood for the back, that proved a little tricky to cut on the table saw. No problem, I said, I’ll use the circular saw.

Except it proved to be suddenly dead.

Well, I said, I can cut it with the blade on the angle grinder. But even with a very light load, it bogged, then started smoking. So the hell with tricky. We managed to cut it on the table saw, and finished the project.

Yesterday I dismantled the circular saw and tested the switch, then remembered that when I bought it from a German guy several years ago he had given me something else, replacement brushes for the motor. After a bit of searching, I came up with one, and dismantled the saw further. Voilà! Relatively painless to replace the brush, reassemble the saw, and it’s back in action!

Walter the German handkreissäge is happy again.

Not so the angle grinder (amoladora). It addition to being more challenging to dismantle, in the end I couldn’t get to the switch, which I suspect partially melted.

And I thought Hyundai made quality stuff.

It is the only thing I’ve bought here for which I cannot find a receipt, but I’m pretty sure it’s been over a year, if it even had a guarantee that long (the cheap Chinese power tools come with a two-month guarantee: inspires confidence!).

So, this becomes another addition to the next Montevideo trip: find their service center and see if it can be repaired. It may not be worth it, but anything with electronics, a motor, or an engine costs 60-100% more here than up north.

Getting it done without heavy-duty, specialized tools

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I watched, fascinated, in the local ferretería (hardware store) as Fabian manufactured an extension cord for a woman. Previously he had manufactured a 17-meter ethernet cable for me, unplugging the store’s computer to test it, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to see an extension cord made to order, as opposed to bought off the shelf, given the number of possible outlet and plug combinations in Uruguay.

What did surprise me was the tool Fabian used: a pair of scissors, to split the end of the lamp cord and then strip it for the connections. For many years, I’ve relied on linesman’s pliers and dedicated wire stripper (green, above). Early on in Uruguay, I watched an electrician and subsequently bought what he had (cheap yellow and black pliers), realizing they’re much more practical for household use: lighter and pocketable.

But I’ve never quite mastered the art of stripping wires using the pliers’ built-in cutter, which is how it’s done here (in Mexico as well). Perhaps I will have better luck with the scissors.

While others complain about high prices and lack of consumer choices here, I remain fascinated with how people get things done without the exact tool I thought they would need.