Sippican Cottage



A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

A Blunderbuss, Not a Rifle

Alright. Let’s get down to it. I freely admit I lied yesterday when I said I was going to use a leaf blower to insulate my house.

I do own an electric leaf blower. It was “free” when I bought two very expensive lithium-ion batteries to resurrect my old cordless ni-cad tools. I use it to clean the workshop. You just blast all the dust off of everything, and then run out of the room before you’re asphyxiated. The sawdust eventually ends up on the floor and you sweep it up. That’s thing’s a toy. For homebrew insulation tasks, you don’t exactly want a leaf blower. You want a blower/vacuum/mulcher. It’s not precisely the same thing. I got this thing:

I can’t remember if I cared that it made a 260 MPH breeze or huffed 340 cubic feet per minute of blower bad breath. One of those statistics, or both, gave me the idea that it was big enough to achieve the coveted 3.5 pounds per square foot dense-pack. This model had a metal impeller that you can see in the +6 image on the left. That baby’s gonna get a workout, so you don’t want a plastic one.

First, you remove the screen cover that protects you from sticking your finger or something worse into the impeller while you’re doing lawn cleanup. Then you replace it with that trumpet shaped tube. That’s the attachment for the vacuum/mulcher operation this thing excels at. We’re going to feed cellulose into that tube, and blow it out the black snout. With mucho modifications, of course.

First you get a big, heavy duty cardboard box. Like this:

It has to be heavy duty, because it’s going to get battered. We screwed the box to a scrap of OSB plywood. We cut a hole in the box the size of the plastic mulching tube, and pushed it through to click into the blower. Then we zip tied the handle of the blower to a 2×4 block which is screwed to the OSB as well. Pretty solid like that. The inside of the box looks like this:

We fill this box right up to the top when we’re really going. One person turns the blower on and off, and also pushes their arm through the insulation in the box to keep it feeding into the pipe. The blower is strong enough to suck in the insulation without any help, but it clears a hole around the pipe and then starves for material. You have to feed it, because it goes fast.

Here’s everything put together. We used three plastic wand extension attachments from shop vacs, one duct taped to the short nozzle on the snout of the leaf blower, and two on the business end of the long, reinforced hose. I’m not proud of the duct tape, but it’s an oval snout with a circular tube rammed over it. The duct tape made for instant air sealing. We used hose clamps to seal the hose to the plastic wands. You can buy hose like this online in lots of places.

The hose doesn’t work well when it’s all twisted up like it is in the picture. You have to stretch it out and make sure you only have gentle curves in it. And here’s where you can come a cropper if you’re not careful: Everyone in the videos I showed you yesterday wants to increase the pressure in the hose, and accomplishes this by stepping down each length of the apparatus until it gets to a very small whip hose at the end. That’s a recipe for constant clogs. It’s smarter to have the same diameter hose the whole way. At the end of the line, we put the last two plastic wands on backwards, so that the end flares out, like a trumpet. It’s a blunderbuss, not a rifle. We hardly ever get clogs that way, and never at the end.

The insulation comes in heavily compressed bales, so you can’t use it right out of the package.

We take the big barrel, and put about a third of a bale in it. Then we chuck a big mixing attachment into a big drill, and plunge it into the barrel.

We bought that one because we have a big drill with a chick big enough to handle it (oops, I meant chuck. My wife’s kinda petite), and it’s long enough to reach into the bottom of the barrel. If you were smarter than me, you could get a less hefty one and keep the carps out of your tunnels.

The paddle¬† loosens the packed insulation very effectively and quickly. It fluffs up nicely, making a full barrel out of the less than half a barrel you start out with. Then you dump it in the box. We have two big barrels standing by, and the box full, before we begin, because the work goes fast, and it’s tedious to stop and mix up a batch every few minutes. As you can infer from the duct tape on the side of the barrel, that mixing paddle beats the living bejeezus out of the barrel when it really gets going, and it will break your wrist if you’re not careful. But it gets stuff done.

[Tomorrow, we get stuff done]

4 Responses

  1. Are they going to blow this in from the inside, or in from the outside?

    Tune in for the next show and find out!

    Enquiring (or just nosy) minds want to know.

  2. So you start with compressed bales, use your drill-driven fluff-o-matic to decompress the stuff, then run it through the Leaf Blower From Hell into wallspaces to be compressed again. There’s an invention lurking around in there somewhere. Which I expect that iCollege man of yours dawdling upstairs will transmogrify into something lucrative to support the Old Man in his dotage.

    I can barely wait for the next exciting episode. Will there be a video of the contraption in action?

  3. Oh dear. I was going to try to talk my contractor into “blowing it like Sippican”, some how I don’t think that will work!

  4. I have another question: how do you get all the equipment up into that roof? It is about 1 1/2 story off the ground floor.

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