Sunday, April 19, 2020

Making a stable composting toilet base.

okay so we're really pretty happy with the new composting toilet build.  It works well and frankly looks nicer than any of the other versions of this design that we've played with. It's easier to dump and clean, and far simpler to route the urine diverter hose.  It's a keeper.

This one has worked out really well.
The only drawback is, of course, it's a bucket, and the sailboat moves.  We needed some way to anchor it securely to the cabin sole without making it difficult to remove and dump the waste.

We have, of course, done this before.  One of our first builds aboard Floating Empire was a similar bucket composter, but that one was without a urine diverter.  You can read about that build Here. if you're interested.

The method we finally fell upon to secure the head is a simple one: we use the bottom of yet another five gallon bucket to make a holder for the composting head.  It's pretty simple.  Wanna see?

Start by cutting off the bottom 6 or so inches of a bucket.
Begin by marking off the bottom five inches of another 5 gallon bucket.  The best way to do this is to lay the bucket on it's side and rotate it against a sharpie or something until you have an even line all the way around the base.  Then drill a starter hole and use a pvc cutting blade to cut the thing off.  Can you use a knife?  Yes, but it's hard to make the cut straight and, frankly, the chances of you cutting yourself are not insubstantial.

Here we go, the bottom five inches or so of the bucket.
Once you have that cut off, mark three relatively equidistant places along the rim and cut out three slots.  This you may need to use a blade for, because the jigsaw is kinda awkward.

This is pretty easy
You want something that looks like this.
The reason we're doing this is from horrible experience.  In our earlier build, we affixed the bottom foot or so of a bucket to the deck and dropped the composting bucket toilet into it.  It worked beautifully, keeping the john stable and stationary.  It was perfect. . . .

. . . until we went to dump it.  The polyethylene from which these things are made is slightly sticky, and the buckets had been pressed together repeatedly by . . .well. . .body weight.  When we went to dump the thing, it wouldn't budge.  Not an inch.  Not a freaking centimeter.  It was an airtight seal between the two of them and the air pressure didn't allow them to separate, which ordinarily wouldn't have been much of a problem, except one of the buckets was screwed to the freaking deck and the other one was full of . . .well. . .crap.  I wound up drilling holes into the base of the outer bucket to free it, and even then I very nearly collapsed the full bucket in the process. 

The cutouts are to allow air to get between the buckets and to allow some wiggle room to un-socket what is essentially your composter holding tank.

Check your placement, then just screw in place.
The new base holder can just be screwed to the deck with stainless screws and fender washers.  Then just drop the composter setup into it.  Voila!  You now have a slide proof, tip resistant john setup for boat or tiny home.

See the seam?  That's where they meet.
This has really been such a great version of our composting toilet, and with a total cost well under $50, it beats the living hell out of shelling out a grand for a commercial composter.  Nuff said.

As the weather has begun to cooperate a little, we've been using some of our time in Quarantine to do small projects and tidy up stuff, making ready for travel.  I installed grablines to the inside of the salon, which turned out well.

The new grablines.
If they look familiar, they're actually the underside of the identical grablines I installed on the top of the deck.

We just replaced the nuts holding these lifting bolts with ring nuts.  Took all of five minutes.
We're jonesing to get out on the water, waiting on the weather and to see what we can do during the Social Distancing.  I mean, what's more socially distanced than being anchored in the middle of the water?

Because nothing says Social Distancing like a few hundred yards of water.
Be sensible and safe, guys.  We'll all get through this if we just act like responsible adults.  Admittedly, I'm bad at that, but for all our sakes I'm willing to try.

More shortly,


Thursday, April 16, 2020

New Composting Toilet Build and Install (with Improvements) Pt. 2

So having finally ripped out the old blackwater system from Constellation, we braved the virus to go get some parts and put together our new composting toilet.  If you'd like the basic design and construction, you can find our pamphlet on the thing HERE or check out our earlier build on the blog HERE.

You will need:
Two, 5 gallon buckets.
Some 1/2" ID tubing
A right angle fitting for the tubing
Some very short stainless steel (trust me) screws
A "Luggable Loo" or other snap on seat for bucket toilets.

While you can do this with a knife, I strongly recommend using a jigsaw with a PVC cutting blade.  It will make VERY short work of this project and save you a lot of frustration.  It's also quite a bit safer.  You'll also need a 3/4" bit to cut the opening for the fitting in the urine diverter.

Okay, ready?  Here we go with the basic construction.

First, cut the top part off of one of the buckets.  Typically these things have two built up bands that re-enforce the top rim.  You want to be about three or four inches below that, about eight inches or so below the top rim.  You'll need to remove the handle.

Here's the cut of top of the bucket with the urine diverter in place.  Notice my elegant and regular cut.. .  .not.
 Cut across the bottom of the bucket just short of halfway and cut an arc from that out of the sides of the bucket to make this kind of wedge shape.  There are some more detailed photos of this piece in our original article HERE.

Here's the wedge shaped cut from the bucket bottom that comprises the urine diverter.  This is where to drill the hole and screw in the fitting.

Drill a hole in what will be the new urine diverter next to the edge of the bottom and screw in the pipe fitting.  In the photo above, the fitting is a straight one with a 1/2" barb connector for the tubing.  I changed that for a right angle fitting, which prevents the hose from kinking quite so easily.

Screw the diverter wedge in at a slight angle a couple inches below the rim (it has to clear your bum after all).  The fitting, obviously, has to be at the lowest point.  

Screw your diverter in a couple of inches below the rim at an angle, so it forms a "V" with the pipe fitting at the bottom.  Note, you'll need some pretty short screws or be willing to cut them off, and this process will slightly deform the bucket.  That's okay, it'll flex more than enough to still fit into the lower bucket.  Go ahead and attach a couple of feet of your tubing.  You can always trim if off later.

Now here comes the new bit.  We cut a groove down about five inches in the side of the lower bucket for the tubing to set into.  Like this:

Notch the lower bucket out like this.  The groove should easily accommodate your tubing.

Put in your liner (we use biodegradable trashbags).   Push the liner down into the little groove you just cut out.

Push your liner down into the cut.  The tubing will sit in this groove.
Now put the top part with the urine diverter onto the lower bucket.  The groove you cut should be on the side and the diverter to the front.  Putting in a bit of sawdust or wood stove pellets (which is what we use) at this point will help hold the liner down and in place.

Tidy, hunh?  feel free to trim off the liner bag if you dislike the aesthetics, but I like having the excess to tie off when dumping the compost.

Now put your tubing in a container (we used a cat litter container, but anything that's short enough to be below the diverter will work).  Trim the hose as needed.  In a permanent, on shore installation, you can leave your tubing long and just run it into a dry well or into the garden (most plants will love the nitrogen).  Try to avoid kinking the hose as this will make the thing drain rather slowly.

It makes a rather tidy installation. 

Now, snap on the seat and give it a try., really.  You'll need to make sure the back of the urine diverter doesn't hit your butt.  If it does, you can either rescrew it on a bit lower or take a pocket knife and cut down the back a little.  Once you're sure the back of the urine diverter doesn't touch you when you're sitting there, you're done.

This entire thing takes about a half-hour to build, works beautifully, will last for literally years, and costs about $30 to put together, less if you have the buckets.

Next up, I'll be making a mount to secure the thing in place.

Stay tuned


Thursday, April 9, 2020

THE BEAST IS OUT: Diy composting toilet install pt1

I really wish I had more photos to show you of the removal, but we wound up taking the blackwater system out during a driving thunderstorm (at the moment we have winds gusting to 71mph.  Not restful) but we managed to get the old blackwater toilet and holding bladder out without too much difficulty.
I feel like I should say something like "thank you for your service," but truth to tell i think the thing was just exhausted.
A couple of notes on removal:  in most of these systems, the pump and most valves in these systems are designed to be placed ABOVE the water line, so that, in case of a failure or needed repair, you won't flood the boat.  If, as in our current case, you can't close the seacocks and there's nobody working in the marina to pull your vessel, you can use that to your advantage and relocate the open ends of the lines to above water level and cap them.  As it was, I put some oak bungs in the intake water hose and in the outlet hose right below the valve that sends the waste either to the holding tank or overboard, and then ripped out the rest of it.  Some stout pipe clamps and I'm comfortable enough with it to live with it until this plague is over and I can get a haul and hang to address the through-hulls safely.

The old head location is now occupied by our redoubtable camping toilet, pending the new composter.
So, one more thing off the list.  Over the next couple of days we'll complete our measuring and arguing over the new layout, and then we'll build in our new DIY composting toilet with urine diverter.  Wow, I'm so glad that went as well as it did.

Windy here tonight, with gusts into the 70's (MPH) and we're probably stuck with this weather for the next two days, but stay tuned for pictures of the new install.

More shortly.

Stay safe everyone.


A tiny little hack

Isn't this sweet?  Yeah, that's celery.
Just a little short one today, though lots more to come.  See the pretty little plant above?  That's just the bottom of a bunch of celery cut off, put in a very small amount of water, and left to sprout, which it does very quickly.  Not only is it a little bonsaii-like splash of green in the galley, the everbearing little leaves are great additions to stocks and salads.  This little trick can be done with lots of plants, including carrots, garlic, and onions.  It's not a lot of food on the hook, mind you, but it's a bit of green for the galley and a bit of fresh flavors to add to your food.

I just thought it was kinda cool.

Today we start ripping out the old blackwater toilet system from the head and replacing it permanently with a composting toilet using the design we developed.  It's going to be a pain in the butt, but it will free up a lot of storage space in the bow and get rid of the smelly thing.

Photos as we go along.