Best solar power chargers for phones and tablets

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

While portable power banks were all the rage during the great 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, you need to be able to charge a power bank from the mains - and as the 'great purge' of 2021 showed when the power's out, you need to use the best solar power charger you can when you want to get some juice into your iPhone or Android tablet or bank.

But, you dear reader, are a sophisticated consumer. You are not rushing out blindly buying all the toilet paper in the fear that the coronavirus will somehow prevent the supermarkets from supplying such necessities of life.

No, you know the real thing you need to save you from Covid-19, is a means to charge your phone when the electricity goes out!

Well, unless the pandemic hits Revelations and Rapture level levels, then it's unlikely the power is going to go out and you're really shopping for the best portable solar charger because you know that you don't want to be caught out if you have to isolate somewhere away from Homebase.

Or you are simply a keen hiker or tramper and want to be able to charge your phone or GPS watch because you are on a 7-day cross country adventure.

There are many kinds of solar power chargers out there - they all serve different user needs. You can have solar heating of water for example, or you can use it to trickle charge a car battery, a simple portable blue tooth speaker or even for charging an electric fence up!

They are also very handy on boats, as there are not many places you can plug into the mains when you're 1000 miles from the shoreline!

In this context, we are focusing on solar charges that are ideal for when you are out and about - portable units that you can fold up and carry around snug in a backpack or the back of a utility.

The more complex chargers on the market will utilize a power bank - this means you can use the panels to charge the bank, rather than having your tablet or other USB charging device plugged in the hole time.

Or you can charge up your own power bank - which is perfect for if you set your device up overnight so it will begin charging as soon as the sun is up and at 'em in the sky - meaning maximum charging time for you.

How do you know what is the best solar charger? We'll if you are are demand versus supply kind of thinker, then the number one seller on Amazon is this unit:

The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is a fine charging option - it features two standard USB chargers so you can charge two devices at once - be they Apple tablets, Bluetooth speakers or Huawei Android phones. They can naturally be used to charge other battery power banks, lights, cameras - anything that will take a charge via a USB outlet.

anker best solar charger for cell phone

Given the surface area size of the unit's solar panels, the Anker charger will generate 2.1 amps in direct sunlight. This compares nearly as fast as regular mains powered chargers under ideal sunny conditions.

Here's a review from an Amazon buyer who has properly road tested the unit and given it the thumbs up:

"I've taken it on eight or ten camping trips and it hasn't let me down yet. The storage panel on the end with the USB ports is excellent, I can hide my cellphone inside the panel while it charges. It rolls up small and beautifully when not in use and is a real space saver compared to some solar panels.

Having two USB ports is one of the best features of this solar panel and make it so much more convenient. It charges two phones on a clear day, albeit more slowly than standard power sources. It will even charge my phone a bit on a cloudy day."

Check out the price and reviews from Amazon.

aimtom solar power USB charger
Power up your next outdoors adventure with the AIMTOM sleek and powerful portable solar charger and make sure that your laptop, cellphone or tablet stays powered up. You can take all the fuss out of charging your action cameras, cameras or portable power stations with our this super-efficient 60W power panel bag!

This unit features an MC4 cable, DC-to-Clamp, DC-to-DC cables - in sufficient variety so that most popular brands of laptops can be charged.

What's the best portable trickle solar power charger?


In our opinion, starting out with a solar-powered 12-volt battery trickle charger is ideal when you need to tick over the charge a car, boat or tractor battery.

Just like this one from Suner Power:
Trickle chargers will keep your battery ready to rock to that it is fully charged for when you need to use it. A good trickle charger will feature a built-in blocking diode that should prevent any power drain / discharge from your battery.

A 12 volt charger can provide up to 1.5W charging power, which is plenty of juice to prevent idle discharge of your expensive vehicle battery.

In case it's not clear, the trickle charger is not for charging up a laptop or phone from zero capacity, it's to keep a little utilized battery in with a full charge so that you can be sure that when you need it, it is ready to perform at full power. 
Check out some options on Amazon:

How to solar power charge your android phone or tablet

Saturday, March 14, 2020
The event of a pandemic like the COVID-19 Coronavirus from Wuhan has cost lives, caused panic and wreaked economic havoc in many countries across the globe.

Doomsday preppers are laughing all the way to their hidey-holes knowing they will be well stocked with food and water and probably a means to charge their phones and provide lighting.

But I fancy 99 percent of the rest of the population doesn't have a bolt hole to flee too. 

They may have prepared a basic survival kit, stocked up on toilet paper (did you spy the greed people at Walmart) and stashed some water bottles in the garage (maybe some whiskey too?) but they probably haven't thought about how they are going to charge their android phones if they are away from their homes or gosh forbid, there's a power outage due to the pandemic crisis. 

I simply trick I learned was to use a solar power charger that I used to keep the light bulbs charged in my shed. You see, there's no power in my shed as it's a fair distance from the house. So, I ordered 6 solar-powered lightbulbs from Amazon and they work really well - especially so when I am bottling beer in the late evening and I need to see.  
I did notice the charging port on the light bulb looked like an android port. So I got to thinking and I charged my portable speaker with it - and boom - the learning was made - I could use these solar-powered panels to charge all my devices. 

The key test was my Lenovo android tablet. Sure enough, it worked! On a very sunny day, the panel charged the unit:

solar charger with android tablet

I did wonder if it would be able to charge a tablet that had completely lost it's power and would not turn on. So I added placed the table in the shade and placed the solar panel in the direct sunlight and let things be.

I checked the device after about 45 minutes by turning it back on - boom, there had been enough charging done to allow the device to power on and be at a 2 percent charge. This is probably because this panel is low wattage, needing only to charge two AAA batteries in the light bulb. Camping / tramping style chargers will have 6 - 9 watt chargers as a minimum - over 20 is ideal for fast charging. 

The take away is that the charging rate on a very sunny day is quite slow. However, if this is the difference between texting a message to a loved one during a pandemic like a Coronavirus, SARS, Ebola or worse, you're going to be pretty pleased you had a cheap & simple solar panel on hand to charge your phone. 

You could almost be as smug as a doomsday prepper!

There are of course plenty of other more robust solar charging options out there to charge your phone with during an emergency, or even just when you are doing some standard outdoor activities like hiking or camping. 

The Anker PowerPort Solar Lite is a really great option - it comes with two USB chargers so you can charge two devices at once - be they Apple Ipads or Huawei Android phones, you'll have plenty of charging power. If course they can be used to charge other battery banks, lights - anything that will take a charge from a USB outlet. 

best solar power android charger

Given the surface size of the panels, the Anker charger will generate 2.1 amps in direct sunlight, making it nearly as fast as regular mains powered chargers under ideal conditions As pictured above you can have it on your back while hiking the wilderness like Bear Grylls or you can neatly fold it way into your pack.


"This thing is really saving my tail here in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. I bought it after Irma only to have it arrive the day I regained power. Little did I know big sister Maria was lurking."

"I took it on a week long solo hiking trip in the backcountry and am absolutely happy with the performance and product. It charged my phone and a small power bank enough at lunchtime to keep going through the day and top up my GPS watch."

"I've taken it on eight or ten camping trips and it hasn't let me down yet.
The storage panel on the end with the USB ports is excellent, I can hide my cellphone inside the panel while it charges. It rolls up small and beautifully when not in use and is a real space saver compared to some solar panels.

Having two USB ports is one of the best features of this solar panel and make it so much more convenient. It charges two phones on a clear day, albeit more slowly than standard power sources. It will even charge my phone a bit on a cloudy day."

What is the best bar and chain oil to use for a chainsaw?

Friday, March 13, 2020
what is good oil to use on my chainswa?

Just like a car or lawnmower needs its oil to be regularly changed, so does a chainsaw


What's the best to use? 

It's actually a double task for a chainsaw as both the engine oil and bar oils need to be replaced.

It's part of a good chainsaw maintenance regime.

We don't need to teach you to suck eggs on how important it is for the bar and chain to be well oiled, you just want to know what are the best oil brands out there to use.

Let's start with the best bar and chain oils


If you want to take our word for, here are three options which will serve your chainsaw well:


If you want to do things right and by the book in terms of good maintenance, you would do well to consider an oil product that has been specifically designed to be used with a chainsaw.

Choosing the best kind of oil can mean the difference in having a chain that does its job well and for a long period or a chain that is battered and bruised and refuses to cut properly.

There are a few variables to think about.

  • Will the weather conditions dictate what kind of oil is used?
  • How often will the chainsaw be used?
  • What is the temperature at which the saw will operate?
  • How environmentally conscious are you?
  • Price per gallon because let's face it, money talks. 
Do not use engine oil as it is not designed to 'stick' to a chain.

Do not use recycled motor engine oil as it is a used product which will have metal pieces in it which will likely damage the internal workings of the chainsaw's engine.

Many famous chainsaw brands (and lawnmower manufacturers too) have their own branded oil and bar products and generally speaking those products will do the job for most chainsaws, let alone the branded item.

If you want to go for a trusted brand name, then Husqvarna's Bar and Chain Oil is what you are looking for:
husqvarna bar and chain oil
Husqvarna Company is known for making the most reliable and durable products to take care of a multitude of outdoor needs.
  • Designed for use with all Husqvarna chainsaw models
  • Premium blend of base stocks and tackifier additives, which reduces high speed throw-off
  • Extends bar, chain and sprocket life by protecting against wear
  • Optimizes cutting performance by reducing heat and friction
  • Is good for all year round use, including winter
Some players who used the product left some sweet reviews on Amazon about this oil:

"Great oil for chainsaw chain, sticks to chain very well"

"Top grade Husqvarna bar oil. I bought a new Husky450 and wanted the best for it. Good price for a top-shelf product as well. Will buy again"

"Does an excellent lubrication job without throwing oil off like some inferior brands. Well worth the price to protect your chain and your saw."

"Really does the job. Stays on the saw bar and chain a lot better than just motor oil."

So if this sounds like Husqvarna's oil is for you, check out the price on Amazon.

It's not a state, it's Oregon oil


Another popular oil is produced by Oregon.

As far as we're concerned Oregon as a brand is up there with Stihl and Husqvarna as a word that means 'quality product'.

Oregon state that their bar and chain oil is specifically compounded to provide extra high tackiness and prevent "throw off" even under adverse weather conditions.

Which is just a polite way of saying they make good oil.

Oregon also claims that their oil's high film-strength prevents wear or scuffing of chain links and bars while protecting metal parts against corrosion and rust.

They also say that it resists build-up of deposits such as pitch, sap or gum.

Here's some reviews from machinists who've bought and used Oregon oil:

"Great for keeping your bar lubed, terrible for making salad dressing."

This makes perfect sense eh? What about a more serious review:

"Saw runs perfectly with this oil. No smoking or anything. Definitely has smooth cuts in the trees I was cutting. No complaints and I'll buy this again when I run out."

"It's Oregon bar oil. Does exactly what it's supposed to. No complaints.

If there was a complaint to be made by users of this product is that it can seem thinner than other oils and this can be off-putting if you are expecting a syrupy goo. 

Whatever, it's Oregon!

Poulan Bar and Oil


The Poulan brand name is used primarily for outdoor power equipment, such as chainsaws, lawn mowers, and leaf blowers, aimed at the mid-level consumer market. Which probably means you, dear reader!

And since you are a dear reader, I'm going to let in on an industry secret >> The Poulan brand is owned by Husqvarna!

Howabout that eh?

This means that you can trust the Poulan brand because Husqvarna trusted it enough to buy the whole damn company.

Here's Poulan's Bar and Chain oil offering:

poulan pro bar and oil chain
By now, you know the drill of what benefits bar and chain oil will give your chainsaw but Poulan want you to know that their product is "formulated for use by the logging industry, this oil helps prevent rust, resists high-temperatures, flows freely at low temperatures and has the ability to resist the extreme pressures bars and chains."

Which sounds like marketing really so what do actual users of the oil have to say in their reviews about its performance in their machines?

"I use this on my Stihl ms280 chainsaw and it works great. Better than Stihl bar and chain oil it seems. With the Stihl oil I would always notice the chain-smoking after a heavy cutting session. I have yet to see anything like that with this oil. This oil is also tackier and appears a little heavier than the Stihl oil."

"Just what my chainsaws needed a bit of a lube job. Easy poring and tight seal on the container. No mess. great quality."

"What can you say, it's oil, the viscosity is formulated correctly so it stays on the chain and bar and doesn't run off during operation. It does the function it was designed for."

So there you have it, Poulan's product does the job you need. Check out the price on Amazon.


Look mate, I've read all this guff, I just want some cheap oil!


Well here you go friend:

cheap bar and chain oil



Do I need a thick oil for my chainsaw?


We're talking about the viscosity of your chain oil here. Generally speaking, the thicker the oil, the better it will be at staying on the chain. A key point at play here is that weathers' temperature will have an effect on the oil.

The warmer the oil, the more fluid it will become.

Should I use a 'green' oil on my bar?


In this modern era of environmental practices, one could consider using a substitute biodegradable oil.

This is especially so if cutting near waterways or environments of special significance. We would suggest that if you use a vegetable based oil, you don't mix it with a petroleum-based oil as the mixing can cause gunk to build up.

Can you put motor oil on a chain?


You can do this and your chain will benefit somewhat from the lubrication but in the long term, it's not an ideal solution as it is not designed to be sticky.

Motor oil has not been designed to work on such a chainsaw so you could impede the efficiency of the chain in the long term.

Some keen cost savers even go as far as using used motor engine oil. Again, you will get the effect of lubrication but be warned used motor engine oil can contain fragments of metal which will damage your bar and chain over time, rendering their effectiveness low.

We suspect used motor engine oil will make your chain blunt - leading you to need to sharpen the chain more regularly.

If you do want to save money (and fair enough too!) then some woodsman like to steal their wife's pantyhose and strain the oil through them to help remove any metal parts!

If your lawn mower is thirsty, check out the best small engine oils.

Can you use Husqvarna bar oil in a Stihl chainsaw?


We saw this question asked on the net and at face value, you could think it's a silly question to ask as yes, you can use other brands with other brands - while some manufacturers may state to use only their brand with their products, this is just a sales tactic - if it's the right kind of oil for you chainsaw, you sure can use it - so it is fine to add Husqvarna oil to your Stihl saw, and vice versa.

Finally, you can use these general oils with electric chainsaws as well. 

How to choose a chainsaw bar replacement

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

What's the best chainsaw bar?


There's not much more frustrating than realizing your chainsaw bar needs replacing. It seems like it's the least likely part of a chainsaw that would break down?

Sure, you could expect the chain itself to break, or maybe the pull start mechanism fails, but stihl, the bar really?

There are some genuine reasons why you need to replace your bar - the sprocket breaks or you damage the bar by dropping it or by getting it caught in a tree  (bending it or damaging the groove lines where the chain passes through).

So that we are on the same page, we should really determine that we both know what we are looking for - that is to say, what is the bar?

Well, it’s not an exam you need to pass so you can call yourself a lawyer, no, the barn guides the chain - obviously, you need the chain to stay in one place for the cutting line, to the bar does exactly that - it allows the chain to …saw.

The ideal bar will guide the saw chain precisely with minimal friction losses. Together with the sprocket and the well-oiled chain, the properly chosen bar will translate the saw’s engine power into cutting performance with as little loss as possible.

A well-designed bar (and one that’s chosen according to how it should be used) will reduce the oil requirements of the chain, saving you money in the long run if you intend to be a regular chainsaw user.

One last feature of a chain bar is that it is symmetrical. In terms of science, these means the load forces can be spread somewhat evenly across the unit when in action but the reality of this is that you can use either side, meaning there’s one less thing to be concerned with when assembling the bar to the unit and tightening the chain.

But if you are just here to find out what the best replacement bar is, there's pretty much two real choices which you really won't regret.

Oregan is the hot name in bars and other chainsaw parts across the world. Many branded saws will come with Oregon bars, such is their renown. If your chainsaw came with an Oregan bar, you should simply replace 'like for like'. It will fit your Husqvarna, Craftsman or Poulan saw with no complaints.

best oregon bar replacement


Perhaps the most famous brand name in the world is Stihl - and facts are facts, they are the only chainsaw brand the still makes their own components in house - in factories they control. From an economic point of view, one could argue this is madness as Stihl could outsource to a reputable company in Japan or China, get their units mass-produced at a cheaper rate.

But no, Stihl as a brand wears this cost because they know they have a quality brand and to protect its integrity, they will make their gear themselves to keep it that way.

Which means you can trust Stihl products to do what you ask of them.

So if you're in the market for a Stihl guide bar, have a look at the options on Amazon.

Stihl bars will work on all kinds of saws - Homelite, Echo and John Deere. Pretty much anything because they set the standard.

Length matters


The first thing to consider when thinking of buying a replacement bar is the length of the bar.

First up, you probably should replace like with like, especially as your engine is usually designed with the bar and the intended use activity around the bar. The bigger your engine, the bigger the bar you can use.

If you place a bar on your engine that is too long, you may find the saw performs so poorly it cannot cut wood.

Electric chainsaws do not have the same kind of power as a gas-powered engine (though they will still cut through your chaps) so most electric saws will only ever have a bar that's 18 inches or less.

And the end of the day, the casual chainsaw user should really replace the bar with one of the same length and shape as the original bar. This way you won't have to worry about efficiency and your machine should perform as it did the day you first used it.

Solid or a laminated chainsaw bar?


Weight also becomes an important factor, the lighter the bar, the more you can lift. The flip side is a heavier blade can endure more stress.

Whether a bar is light or heavy depends on how it is designed and there are several methods to their manufacture

Whereas solid bars are made from one solid piece of steel, laminated bars are made by joining two steel rails with a steel core and a sprocket between them. What solid bars offer in sheer strength, laminated bars offer in higher flexibility.

What is a rollomatic chain bar?


rollomatic stihl bar guide replacementRollomatic is simply a trademark that Stihl has for their 'super guide bar'. A Rollomatic bar is described by still as a 'solid-machined bar made of high-grade steel with the groove milled out and a replaceable sprocket nose assembly riveted in place.'

We know that a sprocket is the secret part of the bar that helps the chain kick around the bar well.

Especially when you really get into the technology and practical design of it - the Rollomatic sprocket allows for the bar's nose to be made considerably narrower than standard bars. This is a great innovation for when the bar's nose will be commonly used for limbing and boring. The narrow nose will also help reduce kickback tendencies.

What is a duromatic chain bar?


Again, duromatic is a trademark for Stihl and is intended for use in extreme conditions such as construction or by rescue services. They do not have sprockets (and thus referred to as 'hard nose') and are made from strong steel - they are thus fairly rugged and perhaps not ideal for regular use chopping trees or limbing.

Duromatic bars will get hotter faster than bars with a sprocket tip and the chain will likely stretch more than it would with a sprocket.


What is the best Oregon bar replacement for a Stihl chainsaw? 

This could not be a more tailored question about the relationship between two brands, could it?

It's probably lost on the average woodcutter but Stihl is the only chainsaw manufacturer to make the saw chains and guide bars in-house as well as the engine units in their own production factories.

This means that all the saw's components work together perfectly which of course translates into good cutting performance.

But when that bar dies, instead of following the brand loyalty (and why should you if you want something else a bit cheaper) the world is your oyster when it comes to replacing the bar. The truth is that Oregon bars, for all their renown worldwide as a quality product and a genuine brand name in their own right, is simply just a little bit cheaper than the OEM replacement part.

So, Stihl users like to buy quality replacement parts for their quality product and that often leads to the Oregon brand.

How do I match my Husqvarna chainsaw to the right bar and chain?


If you are unsure of what you have on your machine, you can match your model name to the right bar length. pitch and gauge by using this handy guide.

How do I fix a seized chain bar sprocket?

worn chain bar sprocket
A worn but useable chainbar / sprocket
Jamming your bar's sprocket can be quite an annoying thing - especially if you are in the middle of a day's work chopping up wood. 

First up, the damage may not be physical, It could we be that there's some wood debris that's become caught and thus is the cause of the jammed sprocket.

In such a case, you should be able to clean the debris out with some pressure by way of something like a screwdriver.

If you have a clamp, you would ideally secure the bar and then you can apply some pressure on the sprocket to try and it get it to turn. You can use a clamp or pliers to pull out chips too. 

Another idea is to soak the tip f the bar in kerosene or mineral spirits to dissolve the old grease, bar oil, and loosen any muck. Regrease the sprocket once you get it moving again.

If you're onsite, you can try and drag the chain on wood to help force the sprocket to spin. 

If the guide rails have been pinched together, this could prevent the sprocket from performing as needed. You may be able to cautiously pry them back into their normal position using a screwdriver or similar tool. 

You can lengthen the life of your sprocket by including it in your maintenance regime. Properly sharpening and maintain the chain and ensuring it is fitted properly will mean it aligns with the spaces between the teeth of the sprocket that will reduce wear.  Correct use of the saw i.e. do not do repeated jerky throttle motions but rather using smooth throttle transitions will also help.

Some bars also have a hole in which you can add grease to the sprocket. Stihl bars do not have such holes.

Get some expert guidance here

If your sprocket is actually damaged, you'll need to consider a replacement bar. 

How to maintain a chainsaw

Tuesday, March 10, 2020
chainsaw maintenance

A good chainsaw is, in some ways, the keys to the castle.

By cutting down trees, removing fallen branches and preparing firewood to warm your family, you are the King of your Castle.

Any good king knows he's only as good as his loyal subjects, in this case being a chainsaw that turns on when you need it to!

Good maintenance of a chainsaw will result in a loyal tool that will serve your wood cutting needs for many years.

Your first port of call is from the manufacturer's operation manual that came with your chainsaw. If you do not have a copy, google for the PDF of it. Those who made your saw, know it best. So if they say do this, you do it.

But onwards, you can do what you like.

Basic tips on how to properly maintain a chainsaw


To start, there are three key points on the checklist:

  • Before you use the chainsaw, ensure that the bar and chain oil is full. A chain with no oil will quickly become unsuitable for proper cutting and it will also begin to degrade. 
  • The chain must be kept sharp. A sharp chain will obviously cut through wood better than a blunt chain but importantly a sharp chain also helps to reduce the risk of an accident occurring or the chain getting stuck in a log. 
  • Cleaning your chainsaw of wood debris after each use will help keep the engine in top shape and reduce the chance of blockage say from the oil release.

Adding bar and chain oil

For the chain to work properly, chainsaw bars should be kept well lubricated. A good oil will penetrate into chain links ensuring they function well.

To add oil, simply add it to the machine where it is clearly marked for the chain oil. Do not overfill as this is just a waste of oil.

A well-oiled chain will also work to help prevent rust from developing on the chain. It will also help resist the build-up of unwanted deposits such as pitch, sap or gum.

One should always use oil that has been properly designed for chains. They contain what is referred to as a "high-tack" additive that prevents it from flying off the chain as it travels around the tip. Other oils do not have this property so they will quickly disappear off the chain which is just a waste of oil and time.

That said, there is a big environmental movement to use specially curated vegetable oils as bar and chain oil. This is so that the 'traditional oils' are not left behind in the forest after tree culling (the chain oil is lost in the sawdust). A common complaint about users of vegetable oil is that chains can become gunked up pretty quickly due to the nature of the oil.

Keeping the chain sharp is a must for good cutting (dur!)


A sharp chain is pretty much a must when it comes to chainsaw maintenance. You can sharpen the chain yourself or get a professional to do it for you, it's a service many chainsaw agents are happy to provide.

Here are some sharpening tips:

  • Ensure that you use a file that is the proper size. The owner's manual will tell you what is the correct size to use. If you have lost your manual, google it, most popular brands will have them on their respective websites. 
  • When filing, do so at the correct angle. Chains are designed to operate in a specific manner, so deviating from the correct angle means they will not perform as intended. You can use a file gauge to hold the file in the correct position if need be, but a practiced hand can do the job quite well. 
  • Use the same number of filing strokes on each tooth. This will ensure a consistent sawing action. 
  • Avoid filing the depth gauge too much. If this occurs the saw will bite too deeply into the wood running the risk of a stall or dragging you off balance (which is a safety issue, especially depending on your stance elevation). Again, the use of a file gauge will help prevent this from occurring. 
  • A great trick is to place the blade inside a vice so it's held steady when filing. You can also use a stump vice:



Keeping the air filter regularly cleaned


You've no doubt changed or cleaned the filter in a vacuum cleaner or your lawn mower before, so why wouldn't you do the same for your chainsaw, especially as it's an item that relies on oxygen as part of the combustion process?

Other than the air filter, there's no much standing between the engine and dirt and sawdust and other debris. Get any of that in the internal workings of your saw then the carburetor will have some issues such as poor starting and generally poor running.

Many modern saws have a screen as opposed to a foam or paper filter. A handy way to clean them out is to use an air compressor to force out any debris and dirt. Else, you can do the classic trick of tapping the filter on the end of your workbench or similar and force the debris out.

If you do have a foam or paper filter, then consider regularly replacing it, especially if you use the saw often.


Simple guide-bar groove maintenance


The channel that guides the chain along the bar can become easily become clogged with sawdust and what not. You can remove the drive-case cover, chain, and bar, then clean the groove with a small screwdriver, thin piece of wood or a piece of wire.

You can force out dirt and debris with a blast from a can of CRC or WD40 or a can of compressed air.

Experts will file any nicks flat in a manner perpendicular to the bar's flanks.

Also, if your bar has a sprocket, check it regularly to keep it free of wood chips and debris.

Keeping oil ports clog free


There is not so much annoying when using a chainsaw and the oil port gets clogged. This means your chain isn't getting the oil it needs. You can usually tell when this has happened as the wood you're chopping might start to smoke due to the friction!

A handy tip is to clean the port(s) out with a small wire or pipe cleaner when you have the bar off the saw.


A properly tensioned chain saves you pain


When using a chainsaw, it is best practice to ensure the chain has the proper tension. A loose chain is not going to be cutting well and is more likely to come flying off which as we all know is just a pain in the ass when you're in the middle of chopping up some wood.

So don't let the chain sag.

An overtightened chain can also be an issue too.

A chain that is too tight can overheat, causing the oil to overheat and burn off.

If you can't advance the chain forward manually with your hand (wear a glove for safety), then loosen the tension slightly.

Here's a handy video tutorial on how to tighten your chain:




If you have used your chainsaw and it's heated the chain up quite nicely, you should be warned that if you tighten that chain too much, when it cools the chain will probably be too tight.

Also, remember to loosen those nuts before you turn the tension screw!


Spark plug maintenance for strong ignition and combustion


Start Me Up is not just a song by the Rolling Stones, it is a wish from every man or woman who's ever tried to start a chainsaw they haven't used in a few months.

While you're not going to start a chainsaw, first time, every time, a well-maintained spark plug will go some way to helping you easily start one.

To clean a spark plug, use a plug or socket wrench to remove the plug. A handy method is to take a wire-brush to it. Either way, clear off any gunk or rust so it makes good contact. If the external body of the plug itself is rusted, it may still work fine but know you really should replace it.

When replacing a spark plug, check the manual to make sure you are installing the correct kind.

Plugs should be tightened but not firmly, just say 'moderately'. Older models which use breaker points can be tricky so you may wish to get your model serviced.

Only use a chainsaw which has a working chain break


Chainsaw safety is paramount when using these devices.

If you want to see the horrors of what can happen when things go wrong, I dare you to Google "chainsaw facial accidents". It ain't pretty and at absolute worst, you can die from a kickback.

This is why modern-day chainsaws will come with a chain break. In some countries, it's even the law for both new and used chainsaws. By placing the requirement on used chainsaws, it effectively will remove unsafe chainsaws from the secondary market over time which improves overall safety outcomes across the population of chainsaw users.

So to avoid getting your nose carved in two (and worse) there a couple of things you can do. The first is to always use appropriate safety gear when actively using a chainsaw and the second is to maintain the chain brake properly by checking that it works.

Here's how to do it:

  • Place your chainsaw on a sturdy and stable surface
  • Release the chain brake and engage the throttle
  • Activate the chain brake by pushing your left wrist against the kickback protection without releasing the handle, the chain should immediately cease rotating.

If that occurs, you know the brake is working properly. If it does not, repeat the steps again. If you have a failure, get the unit serviced before your next session with the saw.

It's important to not be cavalier about the chain break.

Yes, they can reduce the likely hood of an injury but avoiding behaviors that can cause kickback in the first place is your best means of keeping safe when cutting wood.

Kickbacks are why I bought this face protector to use when chopping wood.


When mixing petrol and oil, follow the recommended ratio




When using a two-stroke chainsaw, you'll need to add engine oil to petrol.

It pays to follow the directions as instructed. Scientists and many years of experience show that if you guess, you'll have an underperforming engine, one which you will have stressed out.

This is to say, if the ratio of fuel to oil is 50:1, then that's what you should do.

You can get mixing bottles that have the ratios marked on the side. Fill the petrol first, then slowly add the oil until you have the correct mix. Give the bottle a good shake and then add to the chainsaw.

The fuel mixture will begin to degrade quickly, it's often recommended you do not use any leftover mix that's older than one month.

If your machine hasn't been used in three months or so, you may have difficulty getting in started due to fuel degradation. If this is the case, we suggest you ditch the fuel and start afresh.

Hey, after you've done the hard work, kick back with some interesting facts about Star Wars

Can I use hydrochloric acid to remove rust from metal?

Monday, March 9, 2020
washer with rust removed with HCL


Rust never sleeps but hydrochloric acid sure can put it to bed!


Sometimes it happens because your tools get wet or rust slowly creeps along and then bam!

Rust attack!!

It's suddenly covered all your drill bits, Allen keys, and screwdrivers.

I was tidying the shed one morning and I found two things.

A massive jar of rusting drill bits and screwdriver heads and also some hydrochloric acid  (also known as muriatic acid) which I had stored for 8 years since I moved into our house and never used.

It seemed like the time had arrived.

A sample of what the screws looked like before the HCL

I placed all the bits and items in a plastic container, put on my safety glasses and added some of the hydrochloric acid to it. I then added the same amount of water.

Immediately small bubbles began to rise from the bits, the reaction was obvious.

I then placed the stuff high on a shelf in the shed so the kids couldn't get at it. I went and had a look about 6 hours later and could some pretty shiny items in the container!

screws soaking in acid hcl


Well, I then promptly forgot all about my experiment until I got home from work the next day - so everything had 24 hours to soak in the solution!

I carefully drained the solution and placed the bits and pieces on some an old cloth. 

As I did this, I was wearing long sleeves and protective eyewear. A more seasoned pro may have worn plastic gloves (and not your good chainsawing gloves!). 

I then sprayed a thick coat of CRC on the items to form a protective barrier for the short term and to dilute the acid. I don't know if this was the best move, just something that I did as I'd read acids can strip away protective layers on tools. 

So how did they come out?

Black!

screws and drill bits after hydrochloric acid bath


Many of the drill bits came out coated black, some worse than others. They were originally coated silver!

The acid also ate through this bit extender tool so the lesson is maybe don't buy cheap parts and don't leave the metal in the acid too long!



The rusty screws came out silver, so all good there - so what is this black residue?

I've done some research and there appears to be two chemical reactions at play here. The first is the HCL reacting with the rust, and the second is the HCL with the iron of the bit itself:

Fe (s) + 2 HCl (aq) ---> FeCl2 (aq) + H2 (g)

So the bubbles we see are hydrogen and the black seems to be iron chloride.

So what I should have done is not used such a strong dilution (50:50) and not left it to react for 24 hours.

My also research tells me that while I may have cleaned off all the rust, I have also potentially opened up my items to suffering a complete secondary rust action. This is because there is probably not going to be an oxide covering the metal surface (an oxide layer can prevent rust from occurring).

I suspect some of the higher quality components were a bit more impervious to the acid.

So without doing any real research, I cleaned the bits with a towel and then sprayed them with CRC!

That's definitely a short-term solution.

It sounds like what I should have done is used a different acid instead of HCL, such as phosphoric acid (found in Cocoa Cola!).

Phosphoric acid is readily available from your hardware store (or try Amazon) and is apparently a proven rust remover.

Well, kinda it seems.

It will turn the rust (iron oxide) into iron phosphate which can be a black substance that forms on the items you are removing the rust from. This then needs to be scrubbed off, often with a wire brush.

If you are looking for a more commercial rust remover for your tools then there are many products that you can try which is Rust911 is a concentrated rust remover. When mixed with water (necessary) 16 oz makes 2-gallons which you can immerse your rusty item in.

Free All Deep Penetrating Oil by Gasoila Chemicals features a rust eating agent that not only penetrates rust but helps to loosen and dissolve it away meaning it's great for helping unscrew tough nuts and screws.

free all rust remover

As a spray on, this Free All will help to free stuck threaded pipe connections, rusted machine screws, rusted bolts, rusted or frozen nuts, automotive clamps, pillow blocks, universal joints, locks and the like. Check out the price on Amazon.



Evapo-Rust Gel combines the rust removing power of Evapo-Rust with the ability to cling to vertical, rusted surfaces. Simply brush on and allow an hour for the gel to work its magic, then rinse away the rust with water. 

This gel appears to be safer than other gelled rust removers. Evapo-Rust get does not harm copper, brass, or aluminum so has a variety of applications. 

The only complaint about this product is that the gel can be tricky to apply and for that reason, many users tend to prefer Naval Jelly.

If you need to test the alkalinity of a solution, use a digital meter.

What is the best pH meter for brewing beer?

Saturday, March 7, 2020

What is the best pH tester for brewing beer?


From brewing beer, kombucha, growing weed or checking the ph level of your aquarium you need to check the level with a tester.

It's incredible in this modern age how accurate testers are and what a difference they can make.

Getting your water at just the right level can me can mean a vast improvement in your beer's flavor, the yield of your plant or extending the life of your fish (but a water tester kit might be better for that if you are starting out).

So what is the best ph meter for testing beer?


There are many options out there. There are handheld units that give you easy portability or desktop units which can produce some incredibly accurate results.

If you are a home beer brewer, for example, you may only need a digital mid-range tester but if you are running a laboratory that is testing food for human consumption, you might just want to use one of the best instruments on the market.

Whatever you choose, it's our firm recommendation that you never buy a cheap pH tester. Anything in the below forty dollar range is likely to not go the distance that you need.

Users of cheap gear will find they might give a few readings initially before they become hard to calibrate or the cheap electrode parts dry out or cease functioning seemingly without cause.

If you are looking for an all-round, accurate and dependable ph tester then we recommend the Milwaukee range. So might Alice Cooper...

Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter for testing


We're featuring the MW102 Standard Portable pH / Temperature Meter as it is a standard yet affordable portable meter that produces accurate results.

The Milwaukee brand is recognized by the brewing industry as having a reputation for producing low-cost meters on which you can expect durability and reliable reading.

Milwaukee’s Standard manufacturer advertises that their digital meters are "manufactured to be easy to use, practical and accurate. Ideal for the classroom, laboratory or for general field use".

The MW102 is a microprocessor-based pH/Temperature meter with extended range (-2.00 to 16.00 pH). It features the standard Automatic Temperature Compensation ability, with automatic calibration in 2 points and ±0.02 pH accuracy.

The Milwaukee device is pretty much ideal for anyone working on a fair budget who desires quick yet reliable measurements.

The full unit comes with:
  • MW102 Unit
  • 9 volt battery -The battery life is estimated by at 300 hours and it features an auto-off after 8 minutes of inactivity meaning you wont have to worry about replacing the battery in the middle of testing. 
  • Temperature Probe (MA830r)
  • PH Probe (MA911B/1)
  • PH Probe cover (a small bottle that fits on the PH Probe when not in use that holds storage solution)
  • User Instruction Manual & Warranty Registration Card
  • 20 ml sachet of PH 4.01 Calibration Solution
  • 20 ml sachet of PH 7.01 Calibration Solution
  • 20 ml sachet of PH Storage Solution Packet
But don't just take our word on this product, the best way to know if the Milwaukee is right for you is to check out these testimonials from an actual user of the product:

This is a "fantastic tool to have in my brewing arsenal. I originally bought it for taking readings while kettle souring, but it's been invaluable as I dove deeper into water profile and mash pH adjustment.

It's a bit more expensive than some of the cheaper meters out there, but you get what you pay for.

Worth every penny in my book, and I regularly recommend it to those in the market for a high-quality meter."
That's a firm recommendation then.



If you want more of a quality handheld meter, the Apera may be for you :

Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester


If you are looking for a reasonably priced handheld ph Meter for testing water or wort then might want to reflect on the Apera Instruments PC60 Multi-parameter Tester.

Apera's PC60 meter tests for pH, EC, TDS, salinity & temperature in an accurate, quick and reliable manner for most regular water solutions.

Its versatility across the board means that it is suitable to use for a range of commercial and hobbyist adventures such as hydroponics, aquaculture, pools and spas, water treatment for beers, cooling towers and of course fish tanks.

Featuring a multi-parameter probe that is easily replaceable, it sports Apera's 'Brush-Resistant Platinum Black' sensor, which means you can rely on the results for accuracy - provided of course you have properly cleaned and then calibrated the unit!

This tool boasts the following features: 

The flat sensor which is easily replaceable
  • Easy 'Auto Calibration' with auto buffer recognition 
  • Auto Temperature Compensation which means you can test quicker 
  • Unique High/Low Value HEADS-UP function that instantly alerts you to any results that need your immediate attention 
  • Auto recognition of stable values (with optional AUTO HOLD function) 
  • Boasts a Liquid Crystal Display with 3 backlit colors (indicating 3 different modes) for easy reading of data results 
  • Unit displays both temperature and pH readings at the same time 
  • Comes with the necessary calibration buffer solutions, calibration bottles & storage solutions
The Apera is waterproof and dustproof and it naturally floats on water so you don’t have to worry you drop it into your fish tank or beer batch.

A super handy lanyard is included and everything that the kit comes with easily fits in the portable carrying case which protects your gear when traveling or simply storing (see the above image.

While these stats are handsome, a sales pitch with a testimonial feels empty...

Here are some reviews from real users who have real experiences with Apera's tester:

"The Apera PC60 instrument is super easy to use. It comes with everything needed to calibrate and feel confident in your readings. I even tested it against a 1000 TDS calibration solution I had and it read great! The display is easy to use and the backlight is very handy. I love that the "cap" is built in a way to put your liquid in, with a fill line, and closes securely around the pen.

It then is able to calculate the different levels in the liquid. I no longer have to bend over and hold my pen in the nutrient reservoirs. One of the best features is the ability to set the TDS factor. This is important because PPM is calculated differently in different parts of the world. It gets very confusing."

"Having previous experience with scientific research grade pH meters, I've maintained this pen in electrode storage solution between uses, and always rinsed the electrode with deionized water between measurement and before storage. With those precautions, both the pH and EC readings have remained on-point without recalibrating for more than a month at this point. When I do check the calibration, the instrument is never more than 0.05pH off-target."

"The back-lit display is excellent for working under low-light (tap the power button once while the unit is on to activate), and the instrument fits perfectly into the top of 1-gallon water jugs.

A note of warning, make sure the EC electrodes are not submerged in the electrode storage solution while not in use, only the glass pH bulb should be in the solution."

Finally, here's a testimonial that seems pretty fair:

"After having gone through 3 different cheap meters last year I decided to spend a little extra on this one. I am not disappointed. It's well worth the money. It's fast, accurate and covers a range of tests. I read the previous reviews and was somewhat skeptical. However, after using this product for a few weeks on a daily basis, I would recommend it to anyone.

The LCD screen is a little small but I can read it without glasses. I found the instructions to be thorough and fairly well written. I think they must have updated their manual after previous reviews. I have backups just in case but after the first week, it became obvious I wasn't going to need them. By far the best meter I have used without spending a couple of hundred dollars."

If you think those reviews sound fair, check out the price on Amazon.

We've got one more tester that you might take a shining to the:

Bluelab Combo pH meter


bluelab ph level tester
If you are looking for a fairly upmarket solution to measure your pH solutions then the tried and true Bluelabs brand has the measuring device you are looking for.
The Bluelab Combo Meter is a portable pH, conductivity and temperature meter all in one.

The meter has two probes, a Bluelab pH Probe and a Bluelab Conductivity/Temperature Probe. When taking a reading, simply place them into the solution and the selected reading is displayed on the screen.

Calibration of the pH probe is quite simple as instructions are supplied on the back of the meter and the easy push button method makes this one of the more simple meters to use.

The pH probe is replaceable so you can use this meter for years to come and you should be able to do so as Bluelab offer a 5 year warranty on their product which should give you an idea as the quality of the product and the faith the brand has in it.

The Bluelab tester has the following features:
  • it measures pH levels, conductivity/nutrient (EC, CF, ppm 500 and ppm 700) and temperature (°C, °F)
  • it's lightweight and portable
  • features a large & easy to read display
  • Simple push button for pH calibration
  • pH calibration indicator
  • No calibration required for conductivity and temperature readings
  • Replaceable double junction pH probe included - make sure you look after them!
  • Over range and under range indicators
  • 2 x AAA alkaline batteries included with a low battery indicator
  • Auto turn off function to save on battery power
Check out the price on Amazon.

How does Automatic Temperature Compensation work?



Many of the higher quality meters use ATC functionality. This is when the unit compensates for the response of the pH meter's electrode with varying temperature.

So ATC accounts for differing temperatures of things like a beer's mash.

What is the definition of pH?


It is a measure of hydrogen in the solution and pH thus stands for 'potential hydrogen'.

pH is a figure that expresses the acidity or alkalinity of a solution on a logarithmic scale on which 7 is considered neutral, the lower values are more acid and higher values more alkaline.


Probes can wear out so require proper storage


Probes will wear out over time and you should expect that you’ll have to replace quality ones every 2-3 years even if you take good care of them.

The probes should be safely stored in a pH storage solution to preserve their lifespan. If they are left in the open, the dry air will ruin their potential life span.

So when buying your pH meter you should purchase a pH buffer or 'calibration kit'.

This is why units like the Milwaukee MW102 comes with solutions but replacement calibration kits can be separately brought online. You might see them called 'reference solutions'. The Bluelab Combo Meter is very popular with horticulturalists and hydroponics enthusiasts (yes, even marijuana growers... which is fine given how many countries and states have legalized the sale of drug).

It's is a good practice to regularly clean your pH electrode. This is because a film or coating known as the hydrated layer will otherwise develop on the glass bulb. It can cause inaccurate measurements and drifting or erratic readings if not managed properly.

You can always use pH strips - handy for testing Kombucha brews!
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