Best water quality meters and test kits for drinking water

Sunday, October 25, 2020

How to choose the best water quality test kit 


Did you ever hear of a place called Flint in Michigan, USA?

It's famous for having perhaps the poorest drinking water quality in a first world country. You literally cannot drink the water as the city's pipe infrastructure is rooted which resulted in lead leaching from the pipes and eventually into its citizens directly.

There's no need to use a water meter in Flint because the water comes out rusty red and the locals have to make do with bottled water.

So much for water quality.

We state this to highlight that water quality is massively important - from keeping the human population healthy through to testing river pollution though to making kombucha or homebrew beer (pH levels are super important), there are a million reasons why brewers, scientists and swimming pool users need to check water:

  • Too much chlorine? 
  • A bad swimming experience? 
  • Is your water too hard?
  • Excess iron
  • You're getting calcium build up?
  • Suspect your house's old lead pipes are leaching?

If so, you are looking for a water quality tester, here's the range of things a good tester can account for:

  • bacteria presence
  • chlorine
  • copper
  • iron or lead
  • pH levels - alkalinity
  • pesticides
  • nitrate and nitrites
  • hardness or softness
  • salinity
  • dissolved oxygen

But at the end of the day, most users just want to know if the water is good for cooking, cleaning, and drinking. Especially if you are checking the water that has gone through a home filter.

water quality tester phHome testing kits and meters are great because you can get fairly instant results and you certainly do not have to send off samples to an expensive laboratory or testing company!

So what are the best water testers?


If you want to just check out the best of the best, here are our top five recommendations for pH testers:

  1. Hanna Instruments HI 98128
  2. Milwaukee MW102 PH and Temperature Meter (Amazon Best Seller)
  3. Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter
  4. Hach Pocket Pro + Ph meter
  5. Apera Instruments AI312 PH60F Premium pH Pocket Tester

Read on for a more in-depth discussion about how to choose the best water tester for personal use.

First up, here's some of the functions and features that you might want to consider when buying a meter.

  • You want the damn thing to be accurate. And frankly, you probably want laboratory results accurate because 'near enough' doesn't cut the mustard when we are talking about drinking water or swimming in it!
  • What kind of probe does it come with? Is it easy to calibrate and clean? Is it strong enough to withstand a little bit of a bump and are the probes cheap to replace (they can wear out over time and quite quickly if they are not properly cared for. A good kind of probe to keep an eye out for is a multi-sensor probe which usually allows for the measurement of standard parameters including pH, oxidation reduction potential (ORP), conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and of course, temperature.
  • Is the display waterproof? Sounds stupid to ask but you kind do want a waterproof tester because...water. Especially if you are using a smaller, handheld device that you could potentially drop in a bath or pool eh?
  • The device needs to be simple to set up, basically, you want it to be able to be turned on, calibrated and sampling without undue fuss such as pressing too many buttons.
  • Are you intending to use a 'simple' handheld meter? If so, do not be tempted to buy a cheap one. They will crap out pretty early on and will quite likely not give you results accurate to the degree you need. Spend a little more, to get a quality tester. 

Drinking water test kits

Water testing kits are different from digital testers or meter tools.

Say you want to test for the presence of bacteria in your water source. 

Say you're concerned that the water in the tank that's connected to your beach house, hen house or outhouse may have water that's given you an upset stomach due to the bacteria. 

A simple test will help you determine if there is some contamination.

Basic kits will have a vial which you will carefully open up. 

You then carefully take a sample from the tank or tap, add it to the vial and wait a short while to see what happens. The kit is usually designed to change color if bacteria are present. 

The color will depend on the kind of kit you have. Once you have determined the presence of bacteria, you'll then need to take action to remedy the contamination. 

Other tests for the presence of lead or pesticides are usually undertaken by taking a specialised strip into a sample of the water to be tested. 

Back when we where kids on holiday, our Great Aunt would add a teaspoon of bleach to the old metal tank that was connected to our beach house. That sure killed the mosquito larvae that were often found swimming around in it...

The reality is the point of these kits is they are a screening test and not a comprehensive data set of results. If you get a negative result then you'll need to think about how to take proper remedial action and this may include further testing as a starting point to actually identify what bacteria is present.

So, what are the best kind of water kits to use?

Maybe this one:

What are the containment levels that are of use?

While most countries have different standards, the famous American agency, the EPA has the following guideline standards for these commonly tested areas:

Bacteria presence None
Lead Below 15 pp billion
Pesticides Below 3ppb (atrazine), Below 4ppb (simazine)
Nitrite < 1.0 pp million
Total Nitrate/Nitrite < 10.0 ppm
Water hardness 50 ppm or less
Total Chlorine Below 4 ppm
pH level 6.5 to 8.5

How to test water for pH level


Speaking scientifically, pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity of a solution, where the number of hydrogen ions is measured.

You basically want to test the pH level of water so you can drink it (such as for making beer), or to be sure that the level will not hurt your eyes and ears when swimming for example.

To use your meter for testing pH levels, you will need to calibrate your instrument. Essentially this means you take a known reading from a calibration solution, configure your device, drop the electrode in the sample solution and you are away.

One of the most popular pH meters on the market (and a huge seller on Amazon) is the
Milwaukee MW102. We're not kidding, beer brewers love it because it's reliable, durable and doesn't break the bank cost-wise.

Indeed, it's at the cheaper end of the mid-range pricing scale.

Newly legalized marijuana growers in California love it too (we're talking hydroponics here) ! Kombucha brewers can even use it!

The MW102 is portable and gives fast, accurate and reliable measurements whether you're in the classroom, laboratory or for general field use:.

Check out the price on Amazon:

How to test for dissolved oxygen in water

No one likes to jump the shark when it comes to testing for dissolved oxygen levels.

That's why people use the... Winkler Method.

The Winkler Method is checking for the amount of oxygen in the water as this can be a great indicator as to the health of the water. If your sample has a high oxygen content, then it's likely healthy water that can be drank and support life such as fish. Ponds and lakes that are not refreshed with water (or suffer from too much pesticide runoff) will suffer from low oxygen levels, become stagnant and not able to support aquatic life. 

Scientists can use these levels to determine how much biomass a lake or river can support, and the amount of decomposition that's occurring. 

While the Winkler method is quite a formal testing method which encompasses using titration, home users or enthusiastic amateurs can simply use field kits. 

The short description of the test is a sample is mixed with reagents (kind of like the Marquis reagent testing process). When the endpoint of the chemical reaction is reached, you can determine the result, again by judging the color result against the guide. 

The Apera Instruments PC60 Multi-parameter Tester simply tests pH, salinity and temperature in an accurate, quick and reliable manner: The multi-parameter probe is replaceable, and equipped with Apera's unique BPB (Brush-Resistant Platinum Black) sensor, ensuring an accurate and reliable EC measurement in a wide range.

Testing pool water with strips


While some hardware stores such as Home Depot may offer free instore testing of your pool's water, it can be a pain in the but to get there and you just now you are going to get sold the 'up sell' when they give you your results. If you have a pool testing kit, you can do your own testing at your own pace, when you want.

So what are you testing for when you check your pool or spa or 'hot tub' water?

If you are properly maintaining your pool, you are probably using chlorine to keep the bacteria at bay. Which follows then you need to check the chlorine levels are withing swimming range - especially if children will be using it. While a lot of chlorine will plenty of bugs, it will hurt a swimmer's eyes. 

So what is the test then?

There are two simple ways - and again it's by taking a liquid sample or by using a test strip. 

There's a handy way to test for seven key points of health check using a single test strip.

AquaChek strips are a quick and simple test. These strips tests for 7 important pool chemistries rather fast and those being:

  • Total water hardness
  • Chlorine
  • Bromine
  • Chlorine
  • pH level
  • Total alkalinity
  • Cyanuric acid


To use the strip, quickly dip it in your pool or spa water for one second and remove it immediately. The strip will react immediately to the water and any indicators of the tested substance will be quickly revealed. You conduct your analysis by matching the resulting colors to the color chart that is supplied with the kit.

AquaChek strips are tried and tested. Here are some reviews from users on Amazon:

" I do thank you for having a very good product and would highly recommend the strips since they have been pretty accurate so far. I work on about 50 pools a week so I am fairly knowledgeable on the subject."

"These are the only strips I use. They tell me everything I need to know about my above ground pool. The only thing they can't tell you is if you have algae or cloudiness, which... are both obvious to the naked eye."

"I was a skeptic after using the little chemical droplet tester my whole life but decided to give these a try anyway. They work great! Just to test the accuracy it ran a test strip them brought a water sample to my local pool supply for testing and their results matched the strip perfectly. No more messing around with color coded chemical bottles for me!"

If these test stips sound like they might help you check your pool health, easily and efficiently, then check out the price on Amazon:

digital pool water tester bestIf you don't wish to use strips, then a digital meter, such as the Safedip meter will serve you well.

The Safedip digital meter from Solaxx is designed to make measuring pool parameters easy.

It's simple to use. collect the water sample from the pool or spa using the onboard cup and press the Start button to take your measurement. The results will quickly be displayed on the large digital LCD display and easy push- buttons make the meter easy to read and easy to use. 

This pool meter measures pH, levels, the total amount of free chlorine, salt, TDS (total dissolved solids), ORP (Oxidation Reduction Potential) and temperature.

The best feature is that the LED indicator light illuminates if the pool or spa is safe to swim which takes a bit of brain work out of it, which is handy if you're keen to just jump in the pool!


best aquarium test kits

Checking water quality in fish tanks and aquariums


Like the people of Flint, your fish need clean water to drink and swim in too.

Given that pet fish can be extremely sensitive to chemical treatments being added to their water and even to temperature changes (tropical fish are famous for needing water within the right ranges) then as a pet owner, one really does need to ensure the quality of the aquarium water is just right.

Because no one likes a floater right?

So, when checking aquarium water, what should be tested for?

I think we can cover off the temperature pretty easily. As a responsible pet owner, you will already know the temperature that is ideal for your fish and you will simply use your thermometer or digital meter to take a reading to check. Some aquariums simply have a thermometer permanently placed inside the water so readings can be closely monitored.

Fish also need to breathe.

So, naturally, you’re going to want to ensure your aquarium has an oxygen pump at play. If you recall above we talked about testing lake water for dissolved oxygen as a higher rate demonstrated that the water was ideal for fish and biomass?

It’s the same thing for a pet fish’s aquarium!

When testing specifically for fish water quality, these are your typical checks using a test kit:

  • Nitrite
  • Nitrate
  • Ammonia
  • pH level

Fish excrete and then have to swim around in it. Over time this can build up making their water pretty disgusting so a health check on the water so you know to change it or to work out how well your filter is working is a good idea.

High nitrate levels will stress your fish and also provide a catalyst for algae growth (phosphates too) and everyone hates it when fish tanks get overgrown with green algae (and all over the gravel) as it doesn’t look good and is hard to actually see and enjoy your fish!

Many fish experts stated that if you detect ammonia in your water then you should immediately add 20 percent fresh water to reduce stress on your fish. Then gradually make adjustments to the water over time.

As aquariums ‘bed in’ over time, the pH level can change. Too much alkalinity is not good for fish so keeping an eye on that level is crucial for having healthy fish. Sudden changes in pH due to a new addition to an aquarium (e.g. plant material, food, new water) can stress fish so bear that in mind.

The good news is that there are plenty of test kits out there  for both freshwater and saltwater which allow you health check your water very simply, and just like testing most pool water, it is just a matter of taking a test strip and dipping it into the sample and then comparing the results to the color chart to determine the level of pH, nitrate or ammonia.

You can also measure salt or salinity with a refractometer or hydrometer.

This is one of the most popular test strip kits on Amazon:

Using glyphosate weed killer safely around the home & garden

Thursday, October 22, 2020
best weed killer glyphosate


Using glyphosate to kill weeds effectively and safely in your garden


Glyphosate (Glyphosphate) is a herbicide that when applied leaves of plants it will kill both broadleaf plants and grasses. It is one of the most effective weed killers on the market and is perfect for use around the family home and garden.

Perhaps the most famous branded version of glyphosate is Roundup which was made popular by Monsanto.

It's considered a nonselective weed killer so it isn't picky about what plants it will work on so if you accidentally spray it on your lawn like I did last summer (I swear I picked up the prickle poison!) then it will kill your entire lawn. Thus when using glyphosate, you need to be careful about spray drift onto flowers or bushes.

It is arguably the most commonly used herbicide in the world:

Why is glyphosate so effective as a weed killer?


Glyphosate (or glyphosphate) is a clever little chemical when it comes to killing plants. It works by preventing the plant from making certain proteins that are required for growth by cutting off its food supply. When the plant cannot function as it normally would, it slowly begins to die. The roots also die, meaning there is little chance of the plant regenerating.

How to safely use glyphosate


At small quantities, glyphosate is very safe for use around the home but commonsense rules about safe application practices should of course apply. There's no point unfairly exposing yourself to chemicals is there? 

So when using weedkillers like glyphosate you should follow these safety practices:

  • Work in good weather only - a wind free day is best, because spray drift will kill plants you may not intend to die!
  • Wear clothing that covers the whole length of your arms and legs.
  • Use goggles, gloves, and a face mask to limit exposure, especially if you are spraying about shoulder height
  • When mixing the herbicide, you really should use some plastic gloves to protect against spillage.
  • Do not touch plants that have been sprayed with the herbicide
  • After application, safely dispose of your plastic gloves and then wash your hands and face with hot water. Have a hot shower if you can. 

How long does it take for glyphosate to work on plants?


It takes around two weeks to really start to show that it's working but starts working on killing the weed as soon as it enters the plant's system.

You will notice that the plants you have placed it on are slowly starting to go yellow as they die.

The herbicide works best when the air temperature is above 60 degrees Fahrenheit and finally, there should be no rainfall for at least two days after application.

If you are watering flowers or the vegetable garden, be mindful of getting water where you may have sprayed.

how long does glyphosate take to kill weeds
Dying lawn grass

How do I apply weed killer like glyphosate?


If you have a large volume of weeds to cull, it's best to use a pump sprayer that has a wand attachment to help you target where you spray and to assist with wide coverage. 

In our personal experience, a sprayer with a shoulder attachment is a really good option because a gallon of mixed concentrate can suddenly start to feel really heavy on the shoulder blade!

If you are doing some spot work, then a hand held spray bottle will help with the surgical placement of the weed killer. 

You can also use sprayers that connect to your garden hose which means you do not have to mix up the chemicals. You just connect your hose, spray and then walk away!

When is the best time to use glyphosate?


It works best when the temperature is warm and there is no rain likely. If it rains shortly after spraying, it may not adhere to the plant and be washed off and you'll need to reapply it to the target area.

Who discovered glyphosate?


Glyphosate was first synthesized in 1950 by Swiss chemist Henry Martin but his work was never formally published. It wasn't until the 1960s when it was patented for use as a chemical chelator.

Its use as an effective herbicide was discovered popularized by Monsanto in the 1970s, leading to its popular use around the world for helping with cropping and home maintenance under the Round Up brand.

best weed killer spray

How safe is it to use glyphosate?


This product has been approved for use in many countries around the world under approval from responsible regulatory regimes that have recognized the benefits of its use when considered against potential hazards. 

Though there has been a lot of debate, the general scientific consensus is that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans or genotoxic which means damaging to genetic material or DNA.

In short, it's largely safe unless you are exposed to large quantities for a lengthy period.
This chemical does, however, kill bees so for any amateur bee keepers out there, we'd recommend you do not use this product near your hives.

And as for most chemicals, do not add this product to waterways such as home fish ponds as it will kill your fish. 

How long does glyphosate last on the ground?


While it may be detected on the ground, glyphosphate is not active for a long period. It degrades relatively quickly by the soil's microorganisms. Because of this, it's unlikely there will be enough glyphosate in the soil to cause plants to die.

So yes, glyphosate can be detected in the soil for quite some time after application, however, it has no practical effect as a herbicide. This means when it is used between cropping seasons, it won't have an effect on the new plantings.

Many tests have been completed which demonstrate that glyphosphate does not transfer to crops that are subsequently planted after its use.

Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe: Review

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
best small forest axe

There are many kinds of axes in the world but we feel you define them into two groups, they are either designed and hand made by Gränsfors Bruk and then there is everyone else in the axe market such as Hultafors or Wetterlings... 

The Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe is excellent for felling trees and climbing about the forest or range and is a quality tool when compared to similar kinds - what sets it out is it's strength of character in the field and that it's one of the sharpest axes you can buy 'off the shelf' without having to hone its edge yourself. The axe is delivered with a sheath and features:

  • Length with handle: 19 inch, Comes original Gransfors "Axe-book"
  • A reason weight: 2 lbs
  • It's perfect for splitting small sticks or cutting limbwood
  • The Small Forest Axe is excellent for felling trees and limbing
  • Cut your own kindling wood with ease (it's fine for urban use).

The small forest axe, as the name implies would not be ideal for someone looking for an axe to whittle and carve wood (that would be a more straight edge model axe), however if you you are looking for a bit more power in your swing, you might prefer an axe as it's 19 inch handle allows for increased momentum and control with harder strokes.

While not specifically a survival axe or hatchet, it's utility means you can consider it for such purposes. It is certainly a suitable axe for having round a cabin or lodge and taking on a busman's camping trip. 

Because Gransfors Bruks are handmade, they’re all going to be a little bit different from one another. 
They aren’t perfectly smooth and polished, each axe comes from the forge with unique characteristics - and so they are not all uniform in look. 

As you would expect, the hatchet only weighs two pounds which quite lighter than 'standard sized' woodman's log splitting axes, so it is light enough to carry around with you on your hip or in a rucksack.

They will all have the same weight and feel - and that is in part due to the handles are shaped from American hickory, which time has shown is the simply one of the best kinds of wood to use for axe handles (the other popular kind being Ash).

best small axe for back packing

Don't take our word for it, however, here are some Amazon reviews from users who have felt the hickory in their hands and swung the head down hard: 

"This axe was highly recommended by Cliff Jacobson, in his excellent book "Expedition Canoeing" He had such good information in there. Some of which I already knew, so I took a chance on his tool preference. He's right! You can bet your life on it. You can shave with this thing! It has great balance, and great handle design. Perfect size for a car. Big for a pack, but you get full performance in a relatively small package."

"This has to be my favorite axe for packing out into the country when camping and hunting."

"The Rolls Royce of axes. Be VERY careful, these things are RAZOR sharp. I've never had an axe that was this sharp, I figured something as thick as a axe head couldn't be sharped like a filet knife but I was wrong. This thing can literally shave the hairs off your arm when new. I've used it a couple camping trips and it's the perfect size."

"Great product. Axe is quite light. Very high quality materials used. Holds a very sharp edge after a lot of use. Great all around axe and very portable!"

"This axe is an amazing axe! It is traditionally made, no synthetics! When it came, the grind was perfect, and was the sharpest thing I have ever felt. The reason why I took off a star was because this axe is ment for soft woods. This axe has no problem getting dull when I use it in hardwood such as maple. I shouldn't say dull, I mean "less sharp" then beford but still useable. This is meant for alpine areas, such as woodlands with a lot of pine trees, or birch and beech trees."

"Weight is balanced very well. Handle curvature is amazing in the hand, well, as comfy as if gets for a tool."

If you think this axe will help you sever limbs from trees quite well, check it out on Amazon.

Best pH meter for testing Kombucha

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
ph levels of kombucha

How to test the pH of homemade kombucha with a meter


"Making your own" food used to be almost frowned upon as something best left to the hippies (like making apple cider)  but in a quest for a healthier lifestyle, people make so much stuff in their sheds and kitchen these days, it's the norm.

And so it is with kombucha.

I knew kombucha was more than a standard health fad that would pass when the people at work started drinking it and making their own. 

Crikey, you can get Kombucha tea and facewash and some lovely cleansing gels now!

Brewers of kombucha will still have the same pH level problems that the hippies had so if you feel you need to adjust the pH balance or 'reduce the acidity' of your kombucha culture then measuring the level is a great first step.

The problems to which we refer are brews that are not acidic enough to prevent pathogens such as mold or unwanted bacteria from growing and tainting the drink.

As kombucha ferments, the good bacteria produce and gluconic and lactic acid. These acids then contribute to lowering the pH level.

When freshly brewed a batch of kombucha will test at a pH level of a range between 4.5 and 4 and slowly begin to drop off. So, brewers will test the pH range to ensure they are at the right points of the fermentation process.

Once primary fermentation is complete, the raw kombucha will ideally produce a pH reading anywhere from pH 2.5 to 3.7. It's good to know that the higher the pH level, the sweeter your kombucha will taste.


So how do you test the pH of Kombucha brew?


There are two ways you can test the pH of your batch - using a food grade level pH meter or testing with a pH strip.

There are pros and cons of each - both in terms of accuracy and ease of use.

The short version is if you are on a budget and have a 'she'll be right' kind of mentality then testing with a strip will get you a ballpark result.

If you want an accurate result down to a single decimal place, then handheld digital pH testers are ideal.


How to test pH of Kombucha with a pH strip 


Fill a beaker or glass with the sample of the kombucha you are testing. Your glass must be extremely clean and free of any dirt or other contaminants that may influence the test result.

Take a pH strip  or stick from the pack and add it to the solution.

It will then change color.

You can now compare this color change to the color chart that was supplied with your strips.  

For kombucha, you are looking for the yellow to light green result. If they match, you have attained the desired pH level for your drink.


Using a pH meter to test the pH level of a Kombucha brew


If you are dead keen on getting an accurate, scientific reading of your brew, then a handheld digital pH reader is for you. 

The beauty of this product range is you can go small or large - you can get a cheap pocket meter for 20 - 30 dollars on Amazon. If you want something with a bit more quality than consider the:

Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter for Kombucha



Oakton EcoTestr pH 2+ Pocket pH Meter review
This is a fairly popular pocket product from Oakton. The display is fairly large with a good viewing angle.

It has indicators for battery life (1000 hours) which means you can test your Kombucha for hours and hours!

The unit features 'one touch' calibration, and shows both the parameter and temperature readings at the same time.

The cap is designed to be leak-proof and can be attached to the top of the meter when not being used.

The cap also features a fill line, so you know how much kombucha sample you need to use to produce an accurate reading when using the cap as a sample cup (make sure it is clean before use!)

The housing is compatible with lanyards to prevent losing or dropping, but is still waterproof and floats just in case you drop it into your kombucha...

Many kombucha brewers use the Hach 9532000 Pocket Pro+ pH tester to get the results they need.

Specifications:

  • Backed up with built-in performance diagnostics, you never have to guess when to clean or calibrate the sensor. 
  • You also get replaceable batteries for convenient field use, and a large, easy-to-read LCD screen.
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation
  • Instructions are found in the manual, which may be downloaded.

What are you waiting for, order the Hach from Amazon!

As with all digital pH meters, they do need calibration from time to time so you will need to use them with calibration solutions as appropriate.

Many meters are also great for sampling water quality as well.



What is the correct fuel & oil mix ratio in a modern chainsaw?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The engine set up of a chainsaw from 1959 might not recognised today's modern chainsaws. One of the main causes of this is better & more efficient uses of fuel and oils - so much so, the fuel mix ratio of fuel (gasoline) to oil has changed a great deal. 

Older saws have tended to have smaller ratios - often the recommendations were 40:1 but today's engines can take a 50 to one ratio. 

For example, the Husqvarna 272 made in the 1980s had recommended mix 40:1 and the Husqvarna 272 made in the more modern 2020 has recommended mix of 50:1

Wood choppers ask the question about fuel mix ratios because it can affect the smooth operation of the saw. 

Running too much oil can cause excess carbon build-up which contributes to spark plug 'fouling'  - meaning the plug will not provide adequate voltage to the firing tip and that cylinder will not fire properly. 

The way a 2 cycle engine works, is that the oil in the fuel lubricates everything. While running a saw on less oil it most likely won’t cause a problem in the short term, it will however likely cause increased wear and shorten the overall life of the saw. 

Translation: use the correct ratio - which is what the manufacturer says to use. They know their own engines, If you do not know the ratio, look in the user manual - if you've lost it, a quick google for a PDF copy should sort you out. 

If you cannot figure out the ratio mix, a cautious person might decided to add a little bit of extra oil and have the presence of mind to regularly check the spark plug for carbon build up.

Can I add two stroke oil to a 4 stroke lawnmower?

Wednesday, August 19, 2020
4 stroke engine oil

Is it safe to add two stroke oil to a 4 stroke engine?


So I recently bought a brand new lawnmower. It had a Briggs and Stratton engine which was a real selling point.

As I was in the store, I grabbed some oil as I figured the oil sump was probably empty.

Turns out I was right, as there was a big yellow warning sticker on the engine to remind the user to add oil.

To actually add 4 stroke oil.

Which made me take note as I had bought only 2 stroke oil as that's what I had been adding to my old Briggs and Stratton engine until the casing gave way due to rust and I could no longer safely push the mower.

Maybe that wasn't the smartest idea in the world!

So, given it was a brand new engine, what should I do? Use the recommended oil of course!

Now, I wasn't going to drive all the way back to the store to grab the oil as that would have taken an hour and I really wanted to cut the lawn, so I'd thought I'd just grab some 4 stroke oil from the petrol station down the road.

They had none.

Nor did the other one across the road.

Nor did the supermarket.

So screw it I thought and added the two stroke to the brand new engine.

And you know what happened?

Nothing but the grass was cut.

The engine didn't smoke and it started the first time which is simply a great feeling when you've just laid out some serious cash for your first ever brand new lawnmower!

Cool story bro but your example doesn't mean much...


So in terms of the science, 2 engines stroke engines work slightly different from 4-stroke engines.

The engine of a two-stroke will complete its combustion and exhaust cycle in only 2 strokes or cycles of the piston, whereas a 4 cycle taking 4 strokes of the piston.

The only other difference between the two engines is that a 4 stroke engine uses oil from a sump system rather than being added directly to the fuel in a 2 stroke system.

However, adding 2 stroke to a 4 stroke engine is not a long term solution. 2 stroke is designed to be used with the fuel inside the engine and not in a 4 stroke engine.

It has different qualities, especially its performance under the high temperatures of engines bigger than it is designed for use in.

It's for this reason that you should indeed follow the engine manufacturer's advice and use 4 stroke oil.

Sure the 2 stroke works in a pinch, but for the long-term efficiency and performance, the 4 stroke is the way to go.

If you suddenly feel you need to buy some 4 stroke oil, check out some options on Amazon.

Best staple gun for DIY & Upholstery projects

Monday, August 17, 2020
best gun stapler for repair projects

Best gun stapler for DIY home projects


As a kid, a staple gun was a brilliant tool.

You could use it to put up Star Wars posters and you could also use it to fire staples at your little brothers.

As a mature man (!) and father of two kids, I still regard staple guns as being one of the best tools one can have. I still use them to put up the kid's posters and now maybe instead of trying to blind people, I use them to staple in insulation.

I recently converted my shed into an office and man, did that stapler prove a life saver when trying to keep the insulation in the ceiling before I added the plasterboard.

I found the 'karrthank /// kaarrrthuunkk!!' of the staples going into the insulation and wood framing quite satisfying.

What's not satisfying is accidentally leaving one's stapler behind the shed and months later discovering it rusted up, inside and out...

And so here we are looking at the number one selling staple gun on Amazon:
best gun stapler

  • A manual staple gun, it's made of thick carbon steel which means it's built for long-lasting durability.
  • Features the Quick-Jam-Clear - When the nail of the staple gun is stuck, you can pull down the binding switch and remove the stuck nails to ensure the nail gun works properly.
  • Power Adjustment - Use the knob of the power staple gun to adjust the pressure to fit the thickness of the material you are using, which will make your decoration work easier - this means you can use it on 'lighter' items.
  • 3-Way Staples - D-type, U-type, T-type 3-in-1 manual staples are ideal for repair, decoration and fastening to meet your different DIY renovation needs.
  • It's yellow, so you know it works really well.

But can you trust the claims of a manufacturer?

The proof of the pudding is in the reviews of actual users who've bought the gun on Amazon:

"I bought this to finish a chair repair/ re-upholsterey project. I was mid-project when the staple gun I was using died, so I bought this one. This new one is a big improvement over my old one and the last half of my project went much quicker and easier.

I love that it can use different types of staples for different types of projects. I used this staple gun to repair some damage to the wood of the chair and I also used it for the upholstery. It was easy to use & worked very well. I’ll be using this on several upcoming projects I have around the house."

"This does what it says on the tin. I have got quite staple happy with it, if it is not fixed down I am tempted to staple it, loving the power within my grip!

Highly recommend for all odd jobs I primarily used it for upholstery but have since used to tack garden mesh, and fix a reed panel to a board"

"Before I made this purchase, I tried to be fancy and get a compressed-air staple gun that would shoot both brads and staples and make my small reupholstery jobs easier for my small hands. When the fancy staple gun arrived, I realized it was way too much power and too many parts for little jobs that a manual gun could do with ease. 

Enter, this purchase. The staple gun was easy to load, even without instructions and more importantly perfect for my small hands and weaker grip strength. I’m beyond pleased and glad I opted for this straightforward, no frills staple gun. It comes with staples, too!"

If I've found one complaint about this stapler it's that it doesn't come with instructions on how to load staples. To my mind, if you can't figure out how to put staples in a stapler, perhaps you might just want to sit this one out... or check out a Youtube video."

Gauge that how you will.

But if you think you have a grip strong enough to handle this heavy-duty tool, check out the price on Amazon:

It's a free world and we believe in freedom of choice. So if you don't want steel but prefer plastic, then the Bostitch Upholstrey stapler could be on the cards for you.

The key feature is that it has a pretty handy squeeze mechanism so you can get those staples in without work out:
upholstery  staple gun with easy grip mechanism

The Bostich boasts a lightweight diecast aluminum design. The steel handle has an over-molded rubber grip for easy grip and comfort. It as a convenient bottom loading for quick and easy reloading of staples.

stanley light duty best stapler gun

If you are looking for a simple yet faithful light-duty staple duty then the Stanley is a classic around the home or office unit. Though made of chrome, it's lightweight which means it is perfect for simple office jobs like putting up signs or posters.

How do you fix a jammed staple gun?

Nothing much worse when you are trying to get a job done quickly and the stapler jams up. If you are lucky you will be able to pull it out with your finger with a bit of manipulation.

If however that staple is jammed well and truly, then you might want to use a pair of long-nosed pliers to clear the jam. Before you do that, it's often easiest to slide out the pusher rod so you have slightly more room to maneuver.

You don't necessarily need pliers... some times a flat head screwdriver will do the job and in a real pinch, you can use a nail clipper - just don't apply so much pressure that you cut the staple...

The real issue is that not all staplers are made the same so you'll need to adjust or remove any screws accordingly.

If you into woodworking, you might find the need to do some planing and in that case, let me introduce you to the Cowryman Router Plane, a fine quality  handheld tool
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