Some French Connections and Contemplations

Apologies that it has been quiet on the blog.   We took a couple of weeks down in France.   This coincided with some very hot temperatures (>40C) both in France and at home in the UK.   We had a number of outside jobs to catch up on down there and the only way to get these done was to get up very very early and do what we could before getting back inside to shelter from the sun.

The jobs and the temperature aside it was a good visit with some excellent community meals and celebrations.   We also met and compared notes with a UK couple who also own a second home in the village.

The French are very formal about saying hello, shaking hands etc and do get offended if you don’t indulge, something that Brits abroad don’t always understand.   I saw this on a blog site which sums it up in an amusing way.

The other reality incident was a close model engineering friend contacted me to say he had had a heart attack but was thankfully recovering in hospital.   Having just notched up my 70th birthday it was a sobering thought.

The other news during our stay in France was John Saunders posted about the loss of his dog Judd who often featured in John’s YouTube posts.   John was clearly quite emotional and I fondly remember Judd from my week long training course at NYC CNC.

Anyway back in the workshop today and trying to remember where I got to on various projects.   I’ve also got a few catch up blog related requests for Fusion files and further help with some of my post content.   It’s only when someone looks at your text with fresh eyes and comments that you realise how badly you described something … Please be patient as I respond to these messages.

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France visit and more jobs stacking up

Sheep Defences and Stainless Steel in Stainless Steel nightmare

We’ve just had 3 weeks in France and so I have been low profile in the workshop.   Lots of jobs to do out there and we had 30C temperatures most days.   This can be a bit draining, particularly after an extended lunch and glass or two of red.

Two main jobs done which are interesting to report on.

First of all we regularly get invaded by sheep who in bad weather prefer to use our terrace as a sheltering location.  Sheep in France or at least our part of France do not seem to regard a fence or hedge as a barrier.   If the grass is greener on the other side they are on their way.   The owner of the sheep does not seem to care too deeply about this migration.  Compare this to my farming upbringing in Yorkshire where we were liable for damages if our stock wandered loose onto a road and caused mayhem.

Back to the plot.   The terrace has three entrances and our neighbour had helpfully taken the step of placing wooden pallets across these.  This worked in stopping the wandering beasts but did not look too pretty.   After the previous trip I measured up the entrance apertures and on return to the UK TIG welded some angle iron based barrier gates.   These are held in place by some ‘drop in’ brackets.   The TIG welding did not bare a close inspection but it created functional barriers.   The mounting brackets were CNC milled on the Tormach 440.  Image below.

For the first time ever I used some cold applied galvanising paint by Rust Oleum to coat the finished steelwork.   This would coat easily if the metal was degreased thoroughly.   I applied two coats and left it to harden.   It smells and is very heady so application in fresh air is essential.   Now I can’t exactly correlate this but I had a serious trouser clip session after using the stuff.  Could be me.  I certainly did not have a dodgy curry I can blame it on.   Beware and mask up just in case.

The second major problem to be solved was that we have a three panel glass balustrade on the balcony where two of the panels had slipped.

As you can see above, the glass is gripped in some stainless steel rubber padded brackets which are clamped by eight M8 stainless countersunk socket head screws per panel.   Due to high temperatures two of the glass panels had slowly slipped in the brackets and come to rest on the balcony tiles.  I just managed to get some expired credit cards under them.

You know what is coming next … stainless steel screws in a stainless steel body is a recipe for a bonding to take place between the two.   After some serious attempts to free these screws I was left with three out of eight in one panel and one out of eight in the second panel refusing to budge.   Added to the nightmare was my resulting own goal of total gouging of the hex holes in the heads of the unmoving screws.

The local Brico (aka DIY emporium) had some Cobalt twist drill at a reasonable price and a screw extractor set.   I drilled down the centre of each bolt with a 5.5mm drill bit until I broke through the far end of the screw.    Next step was to very carefully play a blow torch on the head of the screw (while protecting the glass) and once very hot, squirted it with freezer spray and then followed this with penetrating oil.   I then left the screws to sulk for a couple of days.

Result.  After hammering the screw extractor in place and applying some stiff force, the offending four remaining screws came out.  It was interesting that the torque on the screw would not do anything until it reached a certain point and then click it would rotate free as if to say ‘what’s your problem’.

Having loosened the screws we than had to somehow lift the two very heavy sheets of glass.   This was done with strapping tape loops at each end of the sheet and a lever rod onto the top of the adjacent post or wall.  As I lever lifted, my wife shuffled larger and larger blocks of wood under the glass until we got the panels back to the correct height.

I then fitted new shorter M8 screws into the brackets with everything smothered in DC4 silicon grease.   We left the panels sat on the wooden blocks and with the screws just tight enough to hold the glass vertical but not clamped hard.

The brackets as fitted are a bit like chocolate fireguards when the weight of glass is considered.   I am currently looking at some additional supports that will sit under the glass (to replace our less than aesthetic wooden blocks) so the weight is supported by these and not just the original edge clamping brackets.

So not quite as restful a trip as we had planned but two problems solved.

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Internet in France finally solved using SFR

As a regular reader of my blog you may recollect my frustrations last year trying to get reconnected to the internet in our house in France.   This followed failures by Orange and Free to deliver on promises.

We called in at a SFR boutique on Wednesday afternoon and somewhat apprehensively signed up with them on a new contract.   

On Friday evening we were told our line had been activated and that our router would be ready for collection on Saturday morning.   By midday on Saturday we were back on line.  Our previous router delivered around 9MB/s download and the new router is peaking around 15MB/s across the same infrastructure.  Full connectivity is now restored to all our devices in France and back into the UK.

To say we are pleased is an understatement.

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Absence Update – French Leave

I’m sorry it has been a bit quiet of late but we had 3 gloriously hot weeks in France which were a nice mix of friends coming to stay, local visits and jobs …. always jobs.

Outstanding in the visits category was the trip to the Gouffre de Padirac which is an extensive cave system where you go by boat from one area to another.  The scenery was stunning.

Job wise a new set of steps for the spa dominated along with re-work of the foss septic tank ventilation system.   Just a bit smelly on this one.

The house is in a village like many other villages in France where there are few young people and young families but rather an aged population.   Houses are plentiful but mostly have their shutters closed apart from a few days or weeks in summer when family visit to cut the grass and the shrubs.   It is a reflection of French inheritance laws that require assets at death to not go to the surviving partner but to the children.   The children then have difficulty deciding what to do with a house and any associated land so it goes on the too difficult pile and the house sits empty and shuttered up.   As a result the heart slowly goes out of the villages which is only mitigated by crazy foreigners buying and renovating.    While we were there this time two more elderly inhabitants passed away and two more houses closed their shutters.   It is all quite sad.  If a head count was made of empty houses in France it would astonish.

That aside it was a good visit and the weather made it perfect.   Back to the workshop now and I am keen to install a diesel heater to give some low cost comfort over winter.   Reports to follow. 

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French Connections, House Numbering, Shed Building, Left and Right Hand Threads

Sorry it has been a bit quiet but we had three weeks in France albeit with not the best of weather.  As ever a few jobs on the list and some new experiences.

The village where our house is located has always had very ambiguous addresses such that deliveries were a nightmare unless by Post.    The parish council decided to solve this with a ‘numerifcation’ and tasked a local man to decide on street names.   Given that there are probably less than 200 properties in the whole village and very few of these in our road, we were surprised to be allocated number 436.

On arrival and taking a wander round the village the numbers appeared totally erratic and certainly not conforming to the norm of odds one side of the road and evens on the other.   It then dawned on me that the numbers were related to the distance from the starting point of each road relative to the village centre.  We were therefore 436 metres along the road from the first house.   A quick cross check on Google Earth confirmed this as the distance to the centre of our gateway.

Now you could label this as French perversity but I think it is rather elegant.  Deliveries can now find us easily and if someone does a barn conversion mid street a new unique number can easily be created rather than 6A or similar. The council provided us with rather nice enamelled number plates and these match the new street name boards.   We noticed on the drive home that one or two other villages we passed through seemed to have had similar initiatives.  No doubt Macron will claim credit.

The first test of the new address was when I ordered a garden shed (abri de jardin) from Alice’s Garden and it found us successfully.   The aim was to have a storage shed for our ride on lawn mower.   The shed was a bit on the low cost side but did arrive OK in two flat packs.   When opened up it all seemed a bit flimsy.   Two of our friends had arrived to stay and they got roped into putting it together.  The instructions called for two people and predicted 2 to 3 hours work.    It took four of us a bit longer than this and lots of self tapping screws later we had a shed. 

alices garden shed
Garden Shed from Alice’s Garden for ride on mower storage but with door too narrow …. another fine mess

Given the flimsy nature of the materials it was surprisingly sturdy. The one flaw in the plan was the mower would not go through the door …. I had measured across the wheel width and not across the cutting bed.  We left our friends with the challenge of solving this minor issue …. so far they have managed to widen the door opening and it now needs a new enlarged door.

We had also ordered an electrically operated sun awning and this was installed while we were there.   This is a seriously heavy piece of kit that the two technicians were struggling to lift between them.   The installation involved mounting three plates on the house wall and then ‘dropping’ the awning housing onto these with retaining fastenings.   Because of the style of block work used in France they tend to use chemical based fixings for anything substantial that needs mounting.   The technicians arrived, measured up, drilled and chemically bonded 12 lengths of M12 studding into the wall.   After the prescribed setting time they attempted to mount the plates only to find their logistics team had supplied them with left hand thread studding and right hand thread nuts.   Much French cursing ensued.   

Out came the angle grinder and the studs were chopped off.   Rummaging around in their van they found some more right hand thread studding, re-drilled and re-bonded this in place and finally got round to mounting the awning – which was a real struggle to lift even with three of us wobbling on ladders.   They didn’t leave until gone 7pm so not the most cost effective installation quote by the salesman.

awning in france also called a store
Awning in place with correct thread studding used

This excitement apart we had a good stay with a round of golf at Souillac, a village festival and an excellent meal with our neighbours and their extended family.   The house is looking pretty good now and perhaps next time we can just relax with nothing on the ‘To Do’ list – perhaps.

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