A Driving Instructor's Blog


The empty bird box at nightI have a new toy. A birdbox with a camera fitted into it. I will be installing it outside over the next few weeks, and maybe I’ll get some roosting birds in the autumn and winter, but I’m hoping to get them nesting next year.

The plan is to get Blue Tits nesting in my box. If that works, I intend to get another box and entice our Robin, who is tame enough to fly against you if you’re out gardening to let you know he or she is there so you can feed him/her mealworms (he won’t take them from your hand just yet, but he’s getting close on that).

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The birdbox I bought is from Green Feathers. They also supply their kits through Amazon. I chose the deluxe kit, which includes the birdbox, Wi-Fi HD camera, and all the necessary accessories. I also bought the daylight LED lamp to illuminate the inside of the box.

It comes with excellent instructions, and is easy to assemble as long as you can use a screwdriver (and perhaps an awl or small drill), and it connects to the Green Feathers app equally easily. I had it running with a live feed to the app within a few  minutes. For most people, that’s really all they need. The app tells you when any birds visit (motion detection). The camera also has a microphone, so you’ll be able to hear any sounds the birds make. The LED lamp (optional extra) uses a sensor to detect daylight, and turns on during the day to give a true colour feed. At night, the LEDs turn off automatically, and the camera records in infrared (black and white). You can record the video stream and save it through the app, and you can also take snapshots. For most people, the birdbox and app are all that is required. But me being me, that wasn’t enough.

I am not a ‘millennial’, but I am computer literate (I have been building and repairing them for over 20 years). I cannot see the attraction of doing everything on your smartphone when you have a PC in front of you. Fine, getting a live feed of the birdbox to your phone is pretty cool, but this is a HD camera we’re talking about, and there is no way on God’s green earth that you can get a decent HD image on a smartphone. They’re just too damned small – especially iPhones, which most millennials seem to want to own at all costs.

So, once the system was running on the app, the next thing I did was download ONVIF Device Manager (Green Feathers cameras are ONVIF devices). It is a network video client, which means it can access and manage as many ONVIF devices you like. On running it for the first time, it immediately saw my BirdCam, and I was able to view the video live feed on my PC.

Then, I turned to my Synology NAS, and set up Surveillance Station. Now I know most people won’t have a NAS, but I do. Surveillance Station is software on the Synology NAS which monitors multiple video feeds, and allows recording and playback. It is mainly intended for security cameras, but it will work with any IP Camera (which Green Feathers cameras are). It, too, picked up my BirdCam immediately.

Note that ONVIF Device Manager and Surveillance Station are completely independent of each other, and have little if anything to do with what I wanted to do next (ONVIF did help me identify my video feed address). ONVIF Device Manager was simply playing around (and understanding what was happening), and Surveillance Station would provide an alternative if what I did want to do next turned out to be difficult or prohibitively expensive.

My main aim was to be able to put a live feed of my BirdCam on the blog.

I’ve not done anything like this before, though I knew it was possible. But how? My first thought was that I could provide the feed directly from my computer, but my internet provider might not be happy (or capable of it) if I tried to do it through my router, and my router might not be happy if more than a couple of people tried to view the feed at the same time. It was clear that I needed a media server service, where I provided a single feed, and the server managed the necessary bandwidth and distributed it to others.

To that end, after some searching – and being put off by silly prices – I came across ipcamlive, who do just what I wanted. I’d got this far on my own, but I have to admit I needed to contact their technical support a couple of times to get it working. However, thanks to them, I can now be certain that I can do a blog page with a live BirdCam feed on it.

Right now, all I have to do is bolt the bird box to the shed and I’m set to go. And hope that some Blue Tits like the location enough to set up home next spring.


ReadlyA couple of years ago I was having a clear out and I was amazed at the number of magazines I’d collected over the years. They were mainly my Classic Rock mags, and part of my decision to have a clear out was that I’d been getting more and more disillusioned with that particular publication.

At the time, I was on an annual subscription, but Planet Rock had just launched its own magazine and that did exactly what it said on the tin – it covered rock music. Classic Rock acquired a new editor, and she made it clear in her introductory piece what she was planning. Subsequently, any rock music they covered had to include at least half female acts – meaning it became obscure and far from ‘classic’, at best – and they also decided that (as just one example) Depeche Mode somehow ticked both the ‘classic’ and ‘rock’ boxes at the same time (actually, they decided twice in the space of just a couple of months with that one example). Then they did their ‘best 100 female artists of all time’ issue, and necessarily had to include non-rock genres to fill it out. That was it from me, and I cancelled my sub.

Before any feminists start frothing at the mouth over this, I go to see lots of female artists and bands with female members. I actually seek them out if I hear them on Planet Rock and like the sound. Like Samantha Fish, Haim, Paramore, Evanescence, Courtney Love, Joanne Shaw Taylor, The Lounge Kittens… I just don’t need any feminist magazine editors trying to filter out the men for me. And if you don’t like the fact that I don’t like that fact, click the back button and go somewhere else.

Planet Rock mag suits me fine, but when the lockdown came along, it also came with a lot of extra time for reading and finding tips on how to do stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise had time for. And going out to buy magazines wasn’t an option – even if it would have been of benefit with the ‘current’ issue on sale (you usually need a series of them).

A few years ago, as a result of my quest to find some authentic German food recipes, I came across a subscription service called Readly. It carries – and this is no exaggeration – thousands of UK titles. They’re all the ones you see on the newsstands (and many you don’t), from TV Times, OK!, Hello!, through all the photography and amateur DIY magazines, through to music and musicians (including Classic Rock). They cover specialist computer and technology subjects, gaming, weddings, cycling, fishing, horse riding, pets… everything (but no X-rated adult stuff). Including back issues, too, which multiplies the content by at least ten. And as I already implied, they have similar numbers of publications from Europe, Asia, and America. They’ve also recently started including newspapers, though it’s only The Independent and Evening Standard right now.

My normal Readly subscription is less than £8 a month, but they offer a two months for free trial. Even so, at £8 a month, that’s the newsstand cost of just three magazines! If you were after foreign magazines, you’d probably pay more than that for a single issue once shipping was included.

You can get the Readly app with the offer through Amazon (it’s free), and you can read on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can also read offline by downloading the content.


DIY hand sanitizer ingredientsAs people will no doubt have found out, those members of our society who don’t wash their hands even after they’ve had a shit have been resolutely buying crates of hand sanitizer and thus preventing those of us for whom it might have some benefit getting any of it. In some cases, they’re selling it on eBay for stupid prices.

It’s actually quite easy to make your own. For hand sanitizer to sanitize, it needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Vodka has been touted across the internet as a suitable makeshift option, but normal vodka is only about 40% alcohol, and it simply doesn’t work. You can get some spirits which are 96% alcohol (which people have died from by drinking it neat), but anyone who is stupid enough to pay how much they cost in the first place puts themselves on this year’s list of Darwin Awards candidates immediately. It would be cheaper to pay the extortionate prices for a faeces-covered rip-off on eBay, being sold by ‘stevethetwat99’ in Manchester (made up name, by the way).

You can use ethanol or isopropyl alcohol (IPA) as your sanitizer base. IPA is often also called ‘rubbing alcohol’, though the great unwashed appear to have latched on to it and have cleared out most stocks of that.

I use ethanol – to be specific, bioethanol – which is used as a fuel for stoves and such. I always have a supply because it’s what I use in my homemade screen wash as the antifreeze element.

You need the following:

  • a suitable plastic bottle
  • bioethanol or neat IPA
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lavender Oil

I used a 250ml plastic bottle with a flip-top lid intended for hand creams (don’t ask why I have any of these in the first place).

Calibrate the bottle first. Pour in exactly 175mls (or grammes) of water. Mark the level with a felt-tip pen. Now add another 75mls (or 75 grammes) of water and mark that level, too. Empty the water away and shake any drips out.

Now you can make the sanitizer. Fill the bottle to the first mark with your alcohol. Then fill it to the second mark with Aloe Vera Gel. Add a few drops of the two oils (up to 10-15 of each, though neither is essential, and you can use anything you like the smell of as long as it’s only a few drops), then screw on the lid and shake well. It takes a while for the gel to disperse, but once it has your sanitizer is ready to use. This version contains 70% by volume of alcohol.

Be careful if you buy ‘rubbing alcohol’ as it is often already diluted to 70% and adding anything else will stop it sanitizing properly. It’s best to buy neat IPA, which is usually freely available as a cleaner.


The problem of smeared windscreens in the rain has driven me nuts ever since I started driving, but it became a major headache when I became a driving instructor.Smearing windscreen in rain

We’ve all experienced it. You get a few spots of rain, and when the wipers wipe you get a mosaic pattern left behind for a few seconds, and in heavy rain it’s like someone poured chip fat on the screen and you just can’t see properly. I’ve had varying levels of success removing it – from scrunched up newspaper (no good), to sodium lauryl sulphate (not bad), to various solvents (fair), to Clearalex (quite good) – but things came to a head when my lease company replaced my car a few years ago. In rain you couldn’t see anything, and absolutely nothing would get rid of whatever it was on the windscreen. I was so bad, I seriously thought that the glass must have been damaged in some way.

Essentially, what causes smearing most of the time is oil, or something related to oil (grease, wax, and so on). Virtually every vehicle on the road leaves deposits behind. Some of it is dusty, some is gritty – but a lot of it is oily or greasy. That’s why when it rains after a period of dry weather we’re advised to take care, because the road can be very slippery as oil sits on top of the wet tarmac before being eventually washed away. Obviously, any road spray is also going to be mixture of dirt, oil, and water, and when this gets on to your windscreen you start to get smears. Now, up to a point, your screen wash can deal with it, but eventually the oil seems to bond to the screen such that removing it is no longer easy.

As an aside, actually washing your car can be a major cause of smearing in the wet. If your rags (or the brushes on the auto-wash at the garage) have any wax on them at all, it will transfer to your windscreen. If you’ve ever noticed how a single greasy fingerprint is capable of smearing across the whole windscreen, it doesn’t need much wax to result in smearing on the outside when the glass gets wet. The wax also on to the rubber of your wipers, and collects underneath them when they’re off, so even if you manage to clean the glass the wax is smeared back again from the rubber as it dips into the stuff in the gutter, just like a pen dipped in ink.

The particular problem with my lease car this time around turned out to be, as far as I can tell, the result of a manufacturing residue. Something greasy gets on the glass during manufacture, and it’s still there when you get hold of the car. You also get it on the inside, too.

How can you get it off?

Most detergents and surfactants will remove the normal deposits of wax and oil with varying degrees of success, though car wax is particularly stubborn (and the manufacturing residue even more so). Even Fairy Liquid works up to a point. Some cleaners are more powerful – for reasons of chemistry – and are much more effective. Clearalex can be purchased (these days it’s a liquid, but you used to be able to buy it in sachets in powder form), and you add it to your screenwash. The problem with it is that it leaves a horrible white residue when it dries. I have had some success with Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), which is an anionic surfactant used in many household products. It removes quite a lot of windscreen gunk, but it didn’t seem to touch wax or my residue (it also leaves annoying white marks on the glass when it dries).

Then I came across sugar soap. I’d not heard about this before, but it is used by decorators and builders to remove grease and dirt from surfaces prior to painting.

Wikipedia describes it thus:

Sugar soap as typically found in Commonwealth countries is a cleaning material of variable composition sold for use on surfaces affected by greasy or tarry deposits which are not easily removed with routine domestic cleaning materials. When in dry powder form it looks like table sugar thus causing the name.

The solution is alkaline and its uses include cleaning paintwork in preparation for repainting.

The powder form looks exactly like Clearalex powder, and I suspect that there may be some similarities in chemical composition. But you can get liquid and trigger spray variants (above). However, compared to Clearalex, sugar soap is dirt cheap, and you can make up a bucket of the solution and give the screen a good going over. I bought some, made up a batch, and soaked some soft cloths in it, then gave my horrible new windscreen a good scrub and rinse. Then I then took the car out for a run in the rain.

Initially, I thought it hadn’t worked, but with each wiper pass the glass was getting noticeably clearer. The sugar soap appeared to have softened whatever it was on the glass and it was gradually coming off. So when I got back home I soaked the rags again and then left them covering the windscreen (including the bit at the bottom) for about half an hour. I also cleaned the blades with it. This time the windscreen was absolutely crystal clear.

Sugar soap is great for one-off cleaning, and it got rid of the residue I’d had trouble with, but it leaves the same horrible white residue as Clearalex if you put it in your screenwash for normal use.

Not long after this I stopped using my local ESSO garage because the new management had added 5p to their fuel prices (they used to match Asda, but overnight became one of the most expensive in Nottingham). I shifted from using their Tiger Wash machine to a hand car wash, and I was intrigued at how clean they could get the car just using some small garden hand pumps and a power spray. The next time I was in, I did a bit of snooping around the bulk containers of the concentrates they were using, and discovered “TFR” – which is “traffic film remover”.

After reading up on the subject, I bought some TFR from a company called JennyChem. They also supply the mysterious cherry-smelling shampoo the hand car washes use, along with a range of other treatments used by car washes. In a nutshell, a 1-2% TFR solution gets all the oil/wax film off a windscreen in one go, and it also seems to also attack the residue I’d been plagued with on my lease cars since that first one that had it, though sugar soap is still best for this. The same 1–2% concentration of TFR in your screenwash keeps it off, and it doesn’t leave much residue.

Right now, you can get a 5% discount at JennyChem using the following code at checkout.


Note also that Jennychem supplies a range of TFRs, one new one of which is a foaming mousse which clings to the car, so you can hose it off and leave a clean surface behind.

As time has gone by, I have started using the TFR in a small spray bottle to clean my alloys and bodywork in between visits to the hand car wash when I have an upcoming test. It removes brake dust from alloys like all get out, as well as summer tree gum and bird crap (especially when the little sods have been eating blackberries and insist on sitting on the telephone wire right above my driveway).

As a footnote, my hand car wash has just started using what I am assuming is a liquid wax (I haven’t yet identified it) that makes water bead very easily (and very impressively) when it rains. The problem is that it gets on the windscreen, and it is a sod to get off (two sugar soap treatments did it).

And a final note. You can make your own screenwash using TFR.

Does TFR damage the windscreen?


Does TFR damage paintwork?

If it is the non-caustic type, and if it is used at the manufacturer’s recommended concentration, no. But remember that TFR will remove any wax you have applied, so you will need to re-wax after using it on painted surfaces. However, removing wax is exactly what you want if it’s on your windows.

Strongly caustic types – which are cheaper and harsher, and often used to shift several centimetres of crap off the undersides of lorries – could damage painted surfaces if used at high strengths and if left on for too long.

The stuff supplied by JennyChem (linked to earlier) is not strongly caustic as far as I am aware, and is specifically designed for use on cars.

Does TFR leave a residue?

The stuff I use doesn’t – well, no more than normal windscreen washer solution does. You’ve got to remember that when you use your windscreen washers, you’re doing it to remove dirt on the windscreen. That dirt is visible, so when you wash it off it will leave visible streaks outside the wiper area when it dries. It’s like when a bird drops a load on the screen – when you wipe it off there’s a good chance it will sit on the screen at the edge until you scrape it off by hand. There’s not much you can do about that.

Is there a non-chemical solution?

A reader (from Australia) wrote to me to tell me that he had had success removing that new-windscreen film using Cerium Oxide paste. You can buy it easily from various places (including Amazon) in various forms – powder, paste, or block – and it is specifically used for polishing glass. If you buy it, make sure you get the finest grade possible – ideally, one which is specifically sold for the intended purpose.

Can you put oil on the windscreen to prevent smearing?

Or, as it was put to find the blog, “can u put oil on wind screen 2 prfent rain”? NO. It will make it worse. It’s oil (and suchlike) you are trying to remove. Put it on deliberately and you could end up killing yourself – you won’t be able to see properly.

You can buy things like Rain-X, which are intended to make water bead up and roll off more easily, but those who use it often complain that it is patchy in coverage and leads to worse problems with smearing when the wipers pass over the glass, especially as it starts to wear off. I nearly tried this, once, but the risk of it causing more problems put me off. I’m not saying it doesn’t work, just that not all reports about it are as positive as the advertising is.

My windscreen is smearing when it snows

That’s probably a different thing, and not “smearing” at all.

When the windscreen wiper rubbers get cold, they also get stiff. As a result, instead of flexing to the windscreen contours and bending forwards an backwards on each stroke of the wiper, they snag and bounce across. They may even not touch parts of the screen properly on the wipe. All of this is often accompanied by a horrible grunting sound, and it leaves behind a trail of water streaks.

Also, if there are remnants of snow on the blades, this can leave a trail of melt water as the blades wipe. You get similar effects if a leaf or small piece of blossom gets stuck on your blades.

There’s not much you can do if it’s really cold except put up with it, or let them warm up as the windscreen warms up (a cold windscreen will also smear until it warms up). But scrape off any snow or ice and at least you won’t get melt water (and they’ll warm up quicker if they’re going to).

I see rain spots after my wipers wipe

You’ve got wax or some other coating on your screen. I get it after I’ve been to the car wash, and I get it off using TFR and/or sugar soap. I would guess that you also have a visible line where the wipers stop at the end of their wipe span – that’s where they pull wax or oil residues from the bottom of the screen and leave it behind as they change direction. Like I say, TFR gets it off.

Don’t forget that the wiper blades must also be cleaned. There’s no point cleaning the glass of wax if the rubber still has it on it. The wipers will put the wax back as soon as you use them.

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Cheap wooden kneeling chairAs well as being a driving instructor I also do a lot of work on my computer (websites, programming, and so on). So being comfortable is very important.

I’ve used all sorts of chairs over the years, and ones with arm rests or which tilt drive me nuts. I’d much rather sit up straight. So for some years now I have been using one of those ergonomic kneeling chairs, as shown in the photo above. I find them very comfortable and versatile, but the ones I purchased have all had serious quality issues. It’s not surprising when you consider that the most expensive ones can cost upwards of £1,000. Spending around £50, like I did, was bound to raise questions.

The first two I had were made of wood, In spite of getting them from different suppliers, it was obvious that they all come from the same place of manufacture. They were identical to each other, and they both had the same eventual problem. To start with, no matter how well you assemble them (they’re flat-packed), the screws work lose and they start to squeak. For a while, re-tightening works, but eventually the threads will not grip and the movement gets worse until there is an actual wobble. Eventually – and it doesn’t take that long – the wood splits due to the movement and the chair is unusable. Furthermore, even from first use, it is quite possible for one of the castors to fall off while you’re sitting on it or moving it.

In desperation, the third one I bought was more expensive and made of metal. I thought that a metal chair would be indestructible, but I was very wrong indeed. It was clear that the metal version came from the same original source as the wooden ones. Now, that shouldn’t have necessarily been a problem if the metal box sections used had been sturdy, but they weren’t. To keep costs down, the box section was made from a light gauge of steel, and although it was less flexible than wood, this rigidity meant that stress was concentrated across a very specific area near the seat. After about a year I could detect movement and when I checked, the metal had simply cracked.Fairline arc welder and Black and Decker angle grinder

Anyway, like with most problems I encounter, I started to puzzle over how to get round it. I’d thought about drilling holes and fitting long bolts to act as supports – until I discovered how hard it is to drill holes in mild steel on something that is already assembled. The next thing that occurred to me was welding. I’d never done it before, and my only experience of it was my dad coming home with arc-eye on a regular basis when I was a kid (he was a welder, though admittedly on much bigger things), and I started thinking about hiring a welding machine. But then I found out how small and cheap they are. I picked one up for £50 from Makro. At the same time I also bought an angle grinder for £20 (more on that in a later article).

I got a couple of lengths of mild steel flat bar from B&Q and set about welding some strengthening spars to my rickety chair. This was quite successful and the repair, albeit temporary, was good.

By this time, I had discovered that welding isn’t easy. Not at first, anyway. Striking an arc is pretty simple, but keeping it is a skill. Welding rods get used up very quickly, and it is easy to get one stuck. Welded metal gets very hot, the heat spreads quite a long way through a metal object. Paint is flammable, even when it’s nowhere near the actual weld.

As a result of this article, I’ve had a few hits from people using the search term ‘welding rod keeps sticking’ or some such. This can happen if you are holding the rod too close to the weld – the current is therefore lower, so I guess the weld is cooler and solidifies more quickly, hence the stuck rod. It is even worse if you’re so close that the rod keeps touching the weld, as this can cause the arc to extinguish – also resulting in a frozen rod. Also make sure you are using the right current setting for the thickness of rod you’re using.

But back to the story. The idea of building an ergonomic kneeling chair from scratch had been running around in my head for some time, and now that I knew how to weld, the idea started jumping up and down as well. I found a company called Metals4u on the Internet, and they will supply any quantity of metal you want, and their prices are very good. So the project was set to get going.

The project summary can be found here.

* Note that Metals4U asked me to remove the direct link to their site. As far as I understand it, as well as getting too big for its boots these days, Google also appears to have outgrown its brain and is penalising companies for links to their websites from “lesser ranked” websites such as mine. Their web address is metals4u dot co dot uk


I was surprised to hear that some ADIs have never changed a wheel before. How times have changed.Flat tyre

When I first started driving on my own after I passed my test, I couldn’t wait for an excuse to get the jack out and have a go. Mind you, this was back when just about everyone (who was male) did their own brake pads and stuff on the banger they’d managed to scrape enough money together for in order to save it from the knacker’s yard! Nowadays, I drive a leased car which includes all maintenance and “breakdown recovery”, so it’s really only punctures I have to worry about.

I have to confess that for the first few years of being an ADI I used that free recovery option whenever I did get a flat tyre. The reasons for this were that I didn’t want to get dirty, I hate scissor jacks (my dad was once nearly crushed when one gave way when he was under a car), and… well, if you have a dog you don’t do all the barking yourself.

What made me start doing it myself again was the reliability of the recovery company. I am supposed to have priority service, but if that was the case then I’d hate to have been a pleb who didn’t! On the occasions I have actually broken down, they have turned up in less than an hour once. All the other breakdowns have seen me waiting for between 90 minutes and several hours – and we’re talking about breakdowns in the city of Nottingham here, not the middle of the Sahara. Several waits have been in the dark, and one involved a pupil for whom I had to pay for a taxi to get her home as the wait was over two hours. Yet another situation saw a passing breakdown truck from the same company stop and see if he could help as he was just parking up, but who was then refused permission, whereupon I had to wait for at least another hour – only for a third party contractor to arrive! When you call them, you always got that absolutely bullshit recorded message “we are experiencing high call volumes at the moment”. Every time without fail you hear that, and it doesn’t give you any hope at all that they will turn up within a reasonable time frame.Clarke trolley jack

The last straw came when I called them for a flat tyre about 8pm one summer evening about three years ago and no one was answering, even after repeated calls. So I got the jack out and did it myself. Apart from skinning my knuckles a few times on the tarmac (bloody scissor jacks), and losing about 10lbs in sweat, I changed the tyre in less than 30 minutes.

Next day, I went straight to Machine Mart and bought a Clarke trolley jack (shown above) for about £20. It easily fits in my tool chest in the boot, and I can change a tyre in not much more than 15 minutes without breaking sweat now. I have a torque wrench but my spare tyre is a space saver, so this is academic since I have to get the tyre fixed before I can do further lessons anyway.

I don’t waste time showing pupils how to change a wheel (except when a puncture occurs on a lesson). They’re not paying me to teach them how to do that, and in most cases they have no inclination whatsoever to try it. I would demonstrate it if anyone ever requested it, but no one ever has. However, I do tell them how easy it is, and explain the basics. I also advise them to buy a trolley jack!


My last lesson tonight cancelled due to being unwell, so I finished early. It was actually quite useful, because on Friday the central heating packed in and a plumber is coming out tomorrow now we know it is the the boiler (Ouch! £££) and not the pump.

Very ColdAs I mentioned in the previous post, it was -9ºC again this morning. It never got higher than -2ºC all day (so much for the forecast high of 1ºC) and that was with full sunshine throughout.

At 3.30pm I frantically started looking around for a heater. Maplin do quartz halogen heaters, but they had sold out and had 1,000 on back order, but all were spoken for. Machine Mart had sold out. So had B&Q – although they did have some basic quartz heaters, which are just as effective (so I bought one: only cost £20).

Just as well, really. By 3.50pm the temperature was -6ºC.


I wrote about this a year or so ago, but one of the best things I ever bought was a set a flyscreens from www.flyscreensuk.co.uk (tel. 01628 481919).

Hinged Flyscreen

I used to have major problems every year with my computer attracting all kinds of winged nasties – huge moths, daddy long legs, every gnat and midge in a 2 mile radius. It still does, of course, except that they cannot get through the flyscreens!

I’m not lying when I say that last summer I did not have a single bug get through – and that includes those thunder flies (thrips) you get every year (tiny little black things).

I received a mail-out today, and Window Screens UK (the name of the company in question) has opened a new showroom so you can see what the products actually look like. They’ve revamped their website, and introduced some new products (including ready-to-fit roller blind screens and spares/accessories for the whole range).

I honestly don’t know why I put up with the problem for so long, before wondering if it were possible to get flyscreens in the UK. They are, after all, very common elsewhere in the world – particularly America.

The screens I bought were self-assembly (very easy), and they fit over my window cavities using continuous magnetic strips. I really do recommend them to anyone sick of flies getting in the house.


A wooden self-assembly kneeling chairMy project to build an ergonomic kneeling chair has been one of the most popular items on the blog. This page is a summary to identify the various separate articles involved in the project.

Note that this kneeling chair is made out of metal, not wood. The finished article is absolutely bomb-proof.

The separate articles are listed below:

  1. Welding Isn’t Easy! (Introduction)
  2. Project #1
  3. Project #1 (Update)
  4. Project #2
  5. Project #3
  6. Project #3 (Update)
  7. Project #4

Follow each stage in sequence.

Someone asked me what size bolts I used. I didn’t include that information in my drawings – I think I assumed that the diameter of the holes was enough, but I should have explained more clearly. In fact, the bolt size doesn’t matter as long as you don’t make your holes so large that the structure is weakened, or use such small bolts that these themselves become the weak point. Mine were two sizes – the ones used to link the struts were about 5/16″ (or 8mm); the ones elsewhere were about 3/16″ (or 4.5mm). I bought them online.

Someone else asked if the drawings could be used to make the chair out of wood using 2x2s and 2x3s. The short answer is no – because the strain on the part where the struts join the feet would be so great that the assembly would split (and even wooden ones you buy suffer from this problem, which is why I went for metal if you remember the introductory article). I suppose you could modify my plans and develop a functional wooden chair, but that is beyond the scope of this series.

I should also clarify that the kneeling chair I built used three parts left over from the last one I bought: the seat and knee pad panels, and the raising mechanism.

The pad panels are just bean-shaped plywood with threaded mounting holes in them. I re-upholstered them using foam and fabric purchased online (detailed in the articles). However, if you were building one from scratch it would be a simple matter to make your own panels for the seat and knee pads using ¼” or ½” plywood. The raising mechanism  would be a little more of a challenge, but still fairly simple to construct. All it consists of is a threaded shaft inside a corresponding threaded socket. When the shaft is turned the overall length of the socket/thread assembly either increases or decreases. Since the ends of this assembly are fixed to the support struts of the chair, the seat rises or falls as the thread is turned.


The chair is now complete and in use! If anyone has any questions you can email me via the contact form (comments were abused so I turned them off).

Here are a couple of diagrams showing how I put the parts together – you need to refer to parts #1 (plus update), #2, and #3 (plus update) for this to make sense, of course.

First of all, this is the seating section (the seating plate attaches to the top).

The Seating Section for Kneeling Chair To put it together, I used a pair of small G-clamps to hold to spacers (SP2a and SP2b) in the positions I had determined for them on one of the struts (A1). I made a weld along one edge so I could get the clamps out of the way, then finished off the welding in a vice. Then, I used the G-clamps again to hold the other strut (A2) in place – I used a mallet to knock it into position to obtain the correct spacing (so my screw-adjust riser would fit). Note that at this stage I also made sure the curved bottom ends were level with each other so the foot (C1) would be horizontal. Then I made the welds as described above.

Placement of Seat Plate on Seating SectionI used a pair of powerful welding magnets to hold the foot (C1) in place while I welded it in place.

I made sure the 45º angle cuts were level with each other (just a little filing was needed to get the Seat Plate to sit level), then I used the welding magnets to hold it in place while I welded it.

Once the seat plate was welded in place (see diagram opposite for placement), I was able to slide in the Seat Support Struts (A1a and A2a) – again holding them in place using the magnets. They actually fit almost perfectly, but I did a little trimming to make sure I got the best fit possible. In each case I welded one side so I could get the magnetic clamps out of the way, then finished off the whole weld (all four sides) in a vice. Note that the dotted squares in the diagram show the approximate placing of the struts on the Seat Plate.

Next, the Knee Section. This is a little easier – note that I originally planned to use two spacers on this section, but I didn’t allow for having to slot the Seating Section through it, and a spacer higher up would have got in the way.

The Kneeling Section for DIY Kneeling Chair I assembled this in more or less the same way as the Seating Section. Initially, I clamped the spacer (SP1a) in place on one strut (B1) and did a single weld, then finished it off in the vice with the G-clamp out of the way. Then I positioned the other strut (B2), making sure the curved cut-out was level with the other one (for the foot) and that the spacing was correct along the whole length. Then I welded it. I welded on the foot as described for the seating section.

I used my angle grinder and a flap wheel to grind down all the welds and to remove spatter.

Next came the test assembly. Omitting the second spacer from the Kneeling Section had the additional benefit of allowing a little flexibility when it came to sliding the Seating Section between the kneeling struts. But I’d got it right and everything fit. I did have to do a little widening of the holes to get the bolts through – with hindsight I would have drilled after welding (unless you are millimetre perfect there is always going to be a slight mis-alignment).

I painted all the parts using Hammerite Metallic Black (from a tin). I inititially tried Hammerite Silver (from aerosol), but apart from the fact it doesn’t fill in imperfections very well, it also looks a bit cheap – too silver, if you ask me! It also makes a bloody mess.

This is the finished stool, fully painted and assembled. You can see how the riser mechanism fits between two sets of holes, and the other set is where the two sections are joined.

The Completed Kneeling ChairYou can also see the crappy cushions I am using at the moment – the final stage of this project is going to be to make a decent pair (I’ve found a great company called eFoam who can cut foam to measure).

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