Dry lining wall fastener fixing aid

In my experience there is only one fixing style that works with plasterboard lined walls. These are shown in the image below and are supplied in various mounting thread sizes. The image below shows the 4mm and 5mm versions. Also shown is an example of how they expand out when you clamp them inside the cavity behind the plasterboard. Note that while intended for dry lined walls, these can also be used on thin walled surface such as a modern ‘hollow’ door (good for bathroom towel hooks). The fasteners are available in various lengths to suit the mounting surface thickness.

In use you drill the appropriate clearance hole for the body (6.8mm for the 4mm version and 8.8mm for the 5mm version) and push the fastener into the hole so it is flush with the outer surface of the plasterboard. You tighten the screw to cause the ‘wings’ to expand in the cavity.

There are a few issues with this. To cause the expansion process to start you have to apply a lot of pressure downwards on the screw head. Once you feel the screw beginning to turn easier you are on the way to crushing the wings against the wall inside surface. The next test is judging when you have reached optimum expansion of the wings. This comes with experience. The screw rotation will go from relatively easy to increased pressure.

When used on plasterboard the two triangular prongs on the fastener are supposed to grab into the plasterboard surface and stop the fastener rotating as you tighten the screw to initiate the wing expansion. My experience is that you need to apply heavy downward pressure on the screw head to stop the prongs just rotating free and cutting a nice circular vee groove in the plasterboard surface. This is slightly less likely to happen if you are fitting one to a hardboard surface such as a hollow door as the hardboard will give greater resistance to the rotation.

This tightening process can be helped if you put a washer under the screw head with some grease. This eases the possibility of the whole fixing rotating.

You can buy a tool for mounting these fixings. My version is a 3D printed double pronged restraining jig. So far I have created two sizes, one for 4mm and one for 5mm threads. It is simply a disc with two 1.6mm panel pins embedded in it that mate with the notches in the fitting. The tool is offered up over the fastener with the pins in the V grooves and then pushed home into the plasterboard. The pins embed deeper in the wall surface than the prongs on the fastener and stop it rotating.

A couple of other comments. Once you have the fastening in place on the wall the screw thread will likely be longer than you will need to hold the object being fastened to the wall. You can therefore substitute a shorter screw as needed so long as it is long enough to mate with the fastener thread. You can also change the screw head style. When fitting curtain battens I use a number of these fittings along the batten length and replace the dome head screws with countersink heads into which I fix the commercially available small plastic star head covers (see below).

Here is an image of the fasteners, the two jigs sizes I use, a view from the rear of how a fastener expands in the cavity and the small coloured plastic covers that can be used to cover countersink screws.

Depending on the technique that has been used to fix the plasterboard, you can sometimes have a reduced depth of cavity for the fixing. This can be overcome by drilling the mounting hole for the fastening not just through the plasterboard but as deep as need to match the fixing’s length into the solid wall behind. This allows you to get the fastener in place and the expansion of the wings will not be inhibited. Clearly this is not so easy with a steel lintel behind the plasterboard …..

The STL files for the two sizes can be downloaded on the link below. I used PLA with a 4 perimeter print and 0.25mm layer depth. Once printed, clean out the two panel pin mounting holes with a 1.6mm drill. Cut the panel pins to around 6-8mm length and push home into the drilled holes. The small counterbore on the print surface will match the fastener flange but not to full depth so there is a pressure exerted from the jig as you push it against the wall.

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Simple Vice tommy bar modification

I have a Record #34 vice. It has a seriously chunky tommy bar. If you accidently let this drop with a finger in the way you are heading for expletives and a large blood blister.

The fix is to force two O rings over the end stops to act as buffer protection. Apart from lowering your blood pressure and saving your stock of BandAids it reduces the clunk when the bar drops with or without your skin in the way.

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Soldering Iron bit storage on Lytool soldering station

Including a 3D insert tip holder

In my recent post on a 3D print insert stand I mentioned the use of the Lytool soldering iron station. This uses a Type 936 style soldering pencil and it is supplied with five different profile soldering tips. When using the iron for non insert related soldering, I have found it lightweight to use, very quick to get to temperature and generally a good alternative to my Weller TCP1.

After some research I found that the best match 3D inserts tips for the Type 936 pencil are a screw in set with a common mounting bit. Here is the Amazon link.

Having now got five different soldering tips, the insert holder and six 3D insert tips, things were getting a bit messy and a potential recipe for something getting lost with all the ensuing frustration. The solution was a simple holder for these various components that mounted on the Lytool soldering iron holder. Here is the Fusion image.

and here is the finished item mounted on the soldering iron holder.

Clearly as a 3D print you can’t go putting a hot tip on a plastic prong … but that aside it is functional. As an alternative you could replace the prongs with M4 screws. Here is a view of such a variant. This uses M4 x 15mm countersink screws but space is restricted on the rear side to allow for the screw head size. There is still room for seven standard tips. If the threads don’t print well then the screws could be fastened with nuts on the top side instead. This would also protect the body plastic from any residual heat in the tip.

Here is a ZIP file with the STL files for the two versions.

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Water Softener goes AWOL

Lesson to be learned – protect your overflow pipes

We’ve had a few weeks in France and were worried to hear from our UK house sitters that our TapWorks water softener’s sump had filled with water and was leaking salty water from the kitchen cabinet onto the floor.

My immediate instructions were to isolate the softener using the bypass valves and turn the supply off.

On arrival home I drained the sump and tried a regeneration routine. This revealed water leaking from the pressure vessel. This clearly was the source of the excess water in the sump. What was not obvious was why the sump had filled when there was an overflow pipe to an external drain.

The overflow pipe would have been far more effective without the nest of insect life that had chosen the pipe as their new home.

Moral to the story is to make sure all external overflow pipes have a gauze mesh protecting them from new residents.

That aside the pressure vessel was acting like a mini volcano slowly weeping out the balls of the softener medium. Given it was installed in 2008 it has given a good run for its money.

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Noga External Deburrer and Cut Screws

Making life easier on cut threads

Minor tip – You have a thread that is too long. You hacksaw it down to length and then have the pain of cleaning the end up so it looks square and more importantly the thread will start. If you are organised you will probably spin a nut onto the thread and use this to clear the cut end thread.

Step up the Noga Classic Rotadrive external deburring tool. This is meant to take a burr off the end of a cut rod but is equally good for clearing the start of a cut thread. File the cut end flat and spin the Noga on the end for a couple of spins. Magic. Admittedly you can’t go down to diameters less than 4mm but below this size threads are usually not quite so difficult to start after cutting.

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