Monday, December 30, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 8, Conclusion

So, as of now, I have opened up all of my study notes and travel logs to you, my beloved followers, on my struggles with alternative fuels. I will now summarize the gist of what my alternative fuels class offered at UVU.

Accept the fact or not, but we as a nation are addicted to oil! If you look at the statistics on oil barrels consumed a day the population of the U.S. is the leading consumer, with a population of 3.1 million. China has a population of 1.4 billion. So why are we consuming 12 million barrels a day more than the most highly populated country in the world?

Obviously with the limited diminishing supply and the rapid demand we are starting to find ourselves in a crisis. Well then, why don’t we stop this rapid oil demand by switching to alternatives? It’s not that easy. Petroleum is used mostly, by volume, for producing fuel oil and petrol (gasoline), petroleum is also the raw material for many chemical products:

•          Wax
•          Synthetic (man-made) fibers
•          Detergents
•          Fertilizers
•          Food additives
•          Some medicines, such as penicillin, Acetylsalicylic acid
•          Synthetic rubber (the demand is four-times greater than for natural rubber)
•          Pen ink
•          Plastics
•          Compact discs
•          Make-up, nail polish and lipstick
•          Bandages

Why do we as individuals choose not to switch our vehicles to an alternative fuel? 10% Conspiracy, and 90% America’s lack of education and fear of change.

While I was in class we had many guest speakers who were inventors and some were crack pots and some agreed that they did encounter threats from big business and shareholders invested in the automotive business because they felt threatened. The threat is shown clearly in the documentary you can watch called “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Every guest speaker agreed on the above-mentioned statistic that we choose not to change because it’s mostly lack of education and fear of change. For that reason I have created this blog to hopefully help contribute to finding the better alternative.

What is the solution?

The reason why we are seeking an alternative fuel is to get away from paying extreme gas money which requires paying for extreme alternative. There’s the expensive cost in maintaining an alternative fuel vehicle. Most competitive businesses want to offer alternative fuel at their stations but there is no profitable way of getting it started. My alternative fuel class covered and analyzed every possible alternative available and every single option did not offer a plausible solution to the summary above.

Here is my own personal solution on what I will do next. The hybrid is a genius system that is just barely being offered on the market by dealerships. It has a continuously variable transmission which helps switch between gas and electricity. The system is supposed to save you a ton a of gas mileage. Chevy and Ford only have expensive brand new ones right now so I’m waiting until they are a little cheaper. 

Another cost effective alternative is the 3 cylinder Geo Metro. The engine is small, and thus you get the best gas millage. The only drawback is that it isn't family-size friendly.

Do you agree with my solution or do you have a better idea?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 7, Researching Propane

In my alternative fuels class, we were given a final project to research and present a 15-minute lecture on a certain alternative fuel. Everyone in the class had to do something different, so I chose to do mine on propane.
The technicians from Freeway Propane were nice enough to provide me with some information. This is what I learned: propane is a clean-burning fuel and is supposedly more abundant and easily accessible than CNG. I found out the overall cost to convert a vehicle into a bi-fuel propane / gasoline truck would be around $17,000. This is about the same cost as a conversion to CNG. That is very pricey.
Pros to owning and maintaining a propane vehicle:

  • Supposed tax incentive upon completion of conversion  
  • Propane is better for emissions, it is nontoxic, nonpoisonous, and insoluble in water. Compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel and gasoline, propane vehicles can produce lower amounts of some harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases, depending on vehicle type, drive cycle, and engine calibration.
  • Unlike CNG, since propane is liquefied and not compressed you can store more of it in your secondary tank.
One of my questions in researching propane is why it is considered the red-headed stepchild of alternative fuels. Here's why.

Cons to owning and maintaining a propane vehicle:

  • There are no universal connectors. You can’t simply head to the nearest KOA campground that sells propane and fill your vehicle up if it’s not equipped that way. Which disproves the myth that since propane is sold everywhere you won’t run into the same limited filler stations problem as CNG. Propane has fewer filler stations than CNG.
  • Just like converting a vehicle to CNG, the new computers on the newer models are so technical (sensors and monitors specifically programed to work with gasoline) that you have a potential of jacking up your vehicle's on-board computer by trying to rewire and reprogram it. With this in mind, you're better off purchasing a dedicated propane vehicle (and we have already covered why anything dedicated is a bad idea in my CNG blog).
  • The conversion is very expensive and not worth the cost of saving money on gasoline.
  • Propane has a lower thermal efficiency range in its detonation resistance than gasoline has. With that in mind, you are actually getting worse MPG from propane.
This research helped me decide to never consider getting a propane vehicle since it is also not a cost-effective alternative to gasoline.
This drawn out series of blogs will be concluded next time. What do you think my personal solution to our oil crisis is? Find out on my next blog.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 6, Researching Hydrogen Fuel

Hydrogen is believed by some to be the best alternative fuel and is undoubtedly the best that will be available for future use. Aside from being abundant and inexpensive, hydrogen is also clean, efficient, and renewable. Some people hope that hydrogen will be the replacement for all other fuels that are used today.

You can surf the web and find multiple bogus inventors that claim they have an inexpensive hydrogen fuel cell kit for your car that you can easily install yourself and save money on gas by raising your miles per gallon (MPG) on the water-based fuel source, which should act as a hybrid for your internal combustion engine. In layman’s terms, you buy their kit (which usually consists of: mini hydrogen generator (a funky mason jar), wiring harness, tubing, and accessories to hook it all up) and some sort of an easy do-it-yourself installation video. This can all be shipped to your house for 100 bucks. You attach it to the plenum, or the vacuum section of your manifold, and then you can have hydrogen pumped into your combustion chamber, which allows a secondary fuel source that sustains your combustion engine much longer before it needs another fill up at a gas station.

Cheap online hydrogen kit

One of my professors at UVU experimented with one of these kits when he drove his motor home from Orem, Utah to Anchorage, Alaska and back. He claimed that he observed no substantial change in his MPG.

Pros to Hydrogen as Alternative Fuel:
  • Hydrogen fuel is beneficial environmentally, has better emissions with less carbon dioxide, no nitrogen oxides, and no unburned hydrocarbons (all of which gasoline has).
  • Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements on earth and can be extracted from water. The most common method of achieving this is through electrolysis, although there are some organisms, such as algae and bacteria, that can produce hydrogen from water. Hydrogen is produced by splitting a water molecule into its individual atoms, two hydrogen and one oxygen. When the hydrogen is burned it bonds with oxygen, producing water vapor.
Cons to Hydrogen as Alternative Fuel:
  • If you buy a car that is a dedicated hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, just like CNG, you will run into expensive maintenance, and a lack of filler stations
  • Hydrogen gets lonely and is hard to separate from other atoms

My undergraduate research team performed multiple experiments in hydrogen production through electrolysis using ammonia and water as a fuel source.

When electricity is applied to water, the oxygen atoms are attracted to the anode, and the hydrogen atoms are attracted to the cathode. This splits up the water molecules and the two gases bubble up into the air. The hydrogen can then be captured.

We ran tests with water in a bubbler with precious metals from a catalytic converter to hopefully create enough hydrogen to power a small and simple fan. We would monitor any spikes in electricity. We did the same with using ammonia instead of water.
Our experiment

Unfortunately, we never brought the fan to life but we did see a slight increase in the power when we used ammonia.

UCUR Presentation at Westminster on Hydrogen production through electrolysis

Although GM and Nissan are introducing a new franchise of hydrogen-powered cars in 2015, I don’t think it will be financially beneficial to any consumer who buys one. I am predicting it will be another flex fuel fiasco.

Here we have another alternative fuel option that although is healthier for the environment, it is not very cost effective for the buyer.

Do you remember the Hindenburg disaster? With that in mind, does that frighten you to never consider hydrogen as an alternative fuel?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 5, Researching Ethanol

Ethanol or Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel consisting of FAME
(fatty-acid methyl ester). It is produced from vegetable
oil or rendered animal fat.

Option 1

Cooking With Crisco! Some diesel engines can be converted to be able to run off of the power of ethanol. My professor who lives in Mt Pleasant had some local nuns ask him to convert their Volkswagen Rabbit to be able to burn off old cooking oil. After the conversion they would giddily collect the used french fry cooking oil from a local franchise in town. This plan seemed flawless and it made their emissions smell like french fries. This was in the summer… seven months later my professor heard that the nuns had to scrap the rabbit because the engine seized. The problem these nuns ran into is that cooking oil is a saturated fat once it cools down thus it would seize their engine from the gunky build up.

1983 Volkswagen Rabbit

In 2007/2008 my Under graduate research group for UVU’s Automotive Technology department  decided to run some tests on our own to learn more about the efficiency in investing in a bio diesel vehicle. Our Programs Initial objectives:

  • Become proficient at producing industry grade biodiesel
  • Test the biodiesel for gas emission comparisons
  • Test the biodiesel for horsepower comparisons
  • Test the biodiesel for MPG comparisons
  • Accomplish the above objectives with the aid of UVU students
  • Use the information gained for the development of Alternative Fuels curriculum
UCUR presentation: results for biodiesel 

Our overall analysis of biodiesel verses regular diesel was poor. You loose horsepower, and your mpg does not improve significantly better.

Overall pros:

  • Sligthly better for the ozone then regular diesel is
  • As long as you have a supplier it could be more cost effective than gas
  • 10% less carbon and sulfur in it verses regular diesel,
Overall Cons:

  • 12% less horsepower than diesel
  • Raises Nox in emissions
  • Natural solvent that clogs 
  • Ethically it's wrong, we’re burning food
Natural solvent that clogs
We're burning food

So back to my two original questions: Is biodiesel better for the environment?  Yes, it does have less toxic emissions that can hurt the ozone compared to diesel. Is it more cost effective? No, most diesel engines are not meant to run off of used oil based products you would either have to modify your engine to accept that type of fuel and still risk the possibility of gumming up your engine and once again the maintenance is not worth cost in savings on diesel.  Chevrolet is now offering a flex fuel model of truck which burns a small percentage of ethanol in its diesel fuel but how are you saving money on that?

John one of my old bosses for ECO MOTORS was actually considering starting his own franchise in opening a gas station locally that mainly offered alternative fuels including ethanol at prices per gallon that would be competitive to gasoline and diesel. After going through all the red tape with the local government plus all the other hefty expenses in starting a risky business in that form was unwise because he would never be able to sell any of his alternative fuels cheap enough that would be a sufficient competition to gasoline and still turn a profit to get him out of the red zone from debt.  Many other visionary inventors I met with also discovered that problem and that my friends is the main reason why we can’t shake our addiction to gasoline.

Do you think it is ethically wrong to burn food for fuel instead of gasoline?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 4, Working in the CNG Business

The summer of 2008 was very busy for me. I was hired on as an amateur student mechanic/installer for a plumber (let's call him Tim), who wanted to start a side business installing CNG systems onto mostly work trucks for industrial drivers. He found me through the university which I was attending. I was recommended by my professor. I should’ve followed my instincts on this one.

Note to self: if you want to be a mechanic, don’t work for a plumber, especially a shifty one. He promised me a decent hourly wage, (more than what I was making through Jiffy Lube at the time) plus health benefits (which I never saw). When I told him I was a still a student and hoping to learn more as an apprentice for a while he said that I could use his new business partner as a reference if I ever had questions. His business partner (let's call him John) was a self-employed company of one for a mobile brake business and specialized in brakes steering, suspension, and front ends. I was young and convinced that this was a dream come true. John and Tim, the shifty plumber, decided to call their business ECO MOTORS. Catchy isn’t it?
The shifty plumber sent John and me to train and buy two different kits, tanks, and products from two different companies.

All sorts of businessmen at this point were investing in installing different kits and systems onto any vehicle that wanted to run on CNG. Some shifty websites offered to sell you simple install-it-yourself kits for cars at much cheaper prices than the patented kits were selling for. Magellan, I believe, was the name of the cheap do-it-yourself kit. I have heard bad results from people who have bought and tried this.

A week after I was hired on, John and I went to Denver. We spent three days learning how to install a patented system and learning how it worked. This was very expensive but it was EPA approved. EPA approved means that the Environmental Protection Agency approved that this kit was safe to run in our atmosphere and eligible for a tax credit. I have discovered with most kits that I was trained on that the only difference between an EPA approved kit verses one that wasn’t was whether or not the inventor/supplier of the kit paid an extra hefty fee to the EPA. Thus, they would have to charge the consumer thousands of more dollars to turn a profit for themselves. The training and supplies purchased from this company was way up in the $30,000 range which the plumber seemed to have no problem at that time with forking over that huge chunk of change.

Installing my first CNG tank in Denver
2008 Ford F-250: My first installation

John and I then went to Mesa for more training on a different kit that was not EPA approved but was cheaper. So we spent three days down there and bought all the tanks and supplies they were willing to sell to us.

2nd installation CNG fuel injectors on a Tundra
2nd installation CNG regulator

Meanwhile all of this carefree spending by Tim was starting to catch up to him. Since the inexperienced and slightly immature family member who was Tim's sales representative for ECO MOTORS was not doing a thing, when it came to selling our kits to potential clients, I didn’t have any work to do for the six months that I stayed with them. Tim was generously willing to keep me busy around his shop doing all sorts of complicated odd jobs that were way out of my league. He had me fix his diesel trucks which was something I was unfamiliar with. He had me do all sorts of other mechanical jobs that you would normally give to a technician with at least three years of experience off of an apprenticeship. He also had me paint his office, and do other tasks around his warehouse. While I was working for him I actually got to install a CNG kit onto one of his friend's delivery truck. That was it. So, our profits were not even close to covering the huge overhead that my boss created.

I suppose Tim and I were expecting something else out of each other when my employment started with him. He started blaming me for his loss in revenue and thus he demoted me (on my birthday) by giving me a major pay cut and cutting my hours back to an on-call situation.

To make things even more complicated, my boss then got called by a shifty salesman that duped him into buying yet another kit. They decided they would train me in Utah and would provide us all the tanks and equipment we would need providing that we sign on to only sell and maintain their product and drop all the other kits from other competitors. Since the kits and training was reasonably cheaper than what he paid for the first two, Tim quickly signed us up with them to sell only parts provided by them. We then had to figure out how to sell almost $100,000 worth of other kits which were now useless to us.

When I went to this third training I saw that I was being trained with 32 other mechanics, representatives from other shops, and other crackpots who worked from home. We were the third of more than one group that they were casually training. They were apparently attempting a monopoly by training anyone and everyone on this new system. I saw this as a major bad sign and I wanted out before the crap hit the fan for my boss’s business.

I painfully negotiated a way out. After I  had trained a replacement for me, I  officially resigned in October of 2008. Luckily for me (not so much for them), my pessimistic prediction was accurate. A month later, gas prices unexpectedly and dramatically dropped from 5 bucks a gallon to 1.50 a gallon. ECO MOTORS's only angle for selling was gone. The last place I was trained at realized they no longer could sell either and also closed their doors at the end of that year. Everyone who bought their system could not get any replacement parts or anything else associated with that former company. Nobody from their company would ever answer the phone or return messages for the hoard of angry mechanics and customers they sold their system to. CNG was finished!

Also, at the end of this year I completed my degree in Automotive Technology and I realized that I did not want to be mechanic any more.

Have you ever gotten to work for a shifty company?  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 3, Owning a CNG Truck

My proud CNG truck

Back in 2007 – 2008, Utah got fed up with ascending gas prices and many people searched the valley looking for alternatives. I was one of those people. I had tasted the American dream and started my own business in lawn care, which required a truck. One popular option then was to buy a factory-built bi-fuel CNG truck from a secondhand amateur dealer. Some secondhand dealers would go back east to shady auctions that were selling any old and very used factory-built CNG cars and work trucks. They would go with deep pockets and buy everything they could and then come back to Utah and sell them at outrageously jacked up prices. Their sales pitch would be, "Yeah, they’re expensive, but think of all the gas money you’ll save. 63 cents a gallon!"

Just in those two years, I started to see more of those vehicles driving around town than usual. Mechanic shops frantically pushed to have their technicians learn how to repair and maintain these odd new vehicles. When I bought my factory-built 2001 Ford F-150, I had difficulties getting my credit union to finance an old make and model at such a jacked up expensive price. After many negotiations with multiple loan officers and regional managers for my credit union and finally after selling my 2000 Toyota Camry I was able to get the loan to purchase what I believed was the best deal in the valley, which was still too expensive according to my credit union.

Another option I was mulling around was to buy a new truck and install a CNG system and tank onto it. The cost for this procedure was $10 to $15,000 in parts and labor on top of the purchase of a new truck. I knew this option would never fly with my credit union. I finally purchased this CNG truck in the Spring of 2008. It had its flaws but it was still reliable for my humble business. Fast forward to 5 years later. Now my truck is starting to fall completely apart.

The compu-valve: a very expensive part to replace

Since my truck was factory built by Ford to run off of two different fuels, the system is completely complicated. There is a part in my system called a compu-valve which controls the computer or PCM and the overall CNG operation of my truck. That part is highly sensitive and if handled the wrong way you can completely fry it and then have to replace it. This part is no longer being stocked by Ford and they would have a difficult time ordering you one. If you are lucky, a mechanic who knows about the compu-valve could try to call some re-manufactured parts, and even then you’re looking at about $2,600 - $3,000 range to just buy the part. Be aware, if you ask the dealership to go through this trouble they will charge you more than an independent shop would. When I worked for a Ford dealership, their parts department always joked about how we charge the customer 200% for the part. I know the truth in that joke.

After my last trip to the independent mechanic he learned through his diagnosis that my compu-valve is going out. After paying the loan off along with all the other money I have put into maintaining and repairing this vehicle, I have learned that it is not worth it to keep around anymore. I have talked to all sorts of dealerships, even the shady ones that only sell this type of truck, and no one wants to pay what we believe it is still worth. We will most likely be selling this truck next spring.

Two problems that we faced with this vehicle: 1. The factory-built components to this vehicle and the cost of such in maintenance does not justify the savings in gas prices.  2. It’s a Ford. I know all the Ford jokes, I’ve heard them all. Let me lay these rumors to rest. Around 2003 Ford improved the overall 
quality of their vehicles. 

2011 Ford Taurus
The 2011 Ford Taurus is actually pretty decent competition to the Toyota Camry. Anything older than 2003, yes the rumors are true. Unfortunately, my truck is a 2001 and falls into that category. We have spent tons of money on the typical maintenance issues that every Ford faces on top of the shady CNG system.

So, in my opinion, is buying a CNG vehicle (either dedicated or bi-fuel) the answer to our country's oil crisis? Does it help the environment and satisfy the EPA? No, according to California. Carbon dioxide is still harmful to the ozone. It’s much less harmful than carbon monoxide but that does not satisfy them. Only dedicated CNG vehicles still have the privilege of using the HOV lane. Bi-fuel vehicles, as of last year, are now excluded like any other vehicle.

Does it save the average consumer money from gas prices? Yes, but do you really save anything? No, because now you are being charged 8-10 times more in parts and labor from the mechanic. Even if you have a system installed onto your truck, because of expensive patents on kits, they won’t make the transition easy or affordable for you.

So, my overall opinion about domestic CNG vehicles is poor. If you are thinking of buying one, I do not recommend it.

Have you ever bought or knew someone who bought a CNG vehicle? Please share your story with me.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 2 CNG

CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) is methane compressed at high pressure that can be used in place of gasoline. CNG combustion produces primarily carbon dioxide emissions instead of carbon monoxide, which is toxic. CNG is stored in a compressed state instead of liquefied and thus requires a tank that can hold up to 3,600 PSI. 
CNG Tank

It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. CNG may be found above oil deposits, or may be collected from landfills or waste water treatment plants where it is known as biogas.

Bi-fuel CNG Ford F-150
CNG is used in traditional gasoline-powered vehicles that have been manufactured for CNG use, either dedicated systems (which is the only source of fuel for the car), or bi-fuel (where is has been added on to your regular gasoline engine and you switch back and forth between the two sources). In response to high fuel prices and environmental concerns, CNG is starting to be used also in commercial transportation like buses and trains.
Pros to owning and operating a CNG vehicle:
  • Even though it is no longer 63 cents a gallon, it is still cheaper than gasoline per gallon

  • It is more environmentally friendly and if you have a dedicated CNG vehicle, you can legally drive in the HOV lane (car pool lane) on the freeway alone
  • Park for free in downtown Salt Lake City
This license plate sticker gives you special driving privillages like HOV lane and free parking downtown
Cons to owning and operating a CNG vehicle:
  • The tanks take up space in your vehicle, which could be a problem when loading for a long trip
No storage space for traveling

  • Very few stations have CNG pumps. You have to plan your trips accordingly around these few stations and hope that they are not out of order. Questar gas has a small staff of maintenance workers who can’t make it out there to fix every pump that is malfunctioning. If you have a dedicated CNG vehicle you are pretty much stranded at that point.

  • The maintenance for your CNG vehicle is expensive! Very few mechanics or technicians are familiar with CNG vehicles. Finding an honest mechanic with that knowledge can be difficult. Parts are expensive to replace. You are looking in the thousand-dollar range just to replace the part.
  • 20% less horse power when running on CNG
  • Diminishing driving privileges
In spite of the cons, the number of vehicles in the world using CNG has grown steadily at about 30 percent per year and still remains the number one choice for alternative fuel shoppers.

After this rant do you still want to buy a CNG vehicle? Even though I do not recommend it I promised to not hold anything back.

To convert:

            SnoMotion - Salt Lake (801) 281-4766
            Semi Services Inc - Salt Lake (801) 521-0360
            Ashton Motors Kaysville Blair (801) 336-6678 or Jeff (801) 628-0174
            Booker Hatch – Layton (801) 865-5695

Cost to convert a regular gasoline car to a bi-fuel CNG is $12,500.00 As of June 4, 2008. It may be more expensive now.

To purchase an already installed bi-fuel CNG vehicle:

            Semi Service Inc. – Salt Lake Call Joan (801) 209-8979
(This is where I bought my truck from)
            Auto Excellence – 1320 West 7800 South, West Jordan, Marty (801) 301-7499
(Auto Excellence is the biggest CNG Dealer in the valley. You’ll probably find what you’re looking for there. Give Marty a call or look at his website 
            Canyon Motors – 610 W. Center Street. Provo (801) 356-1750
(Canyon motors mostly sells bi-fuel minivans if that is what you’re looking for than more power to you. The other dealers mostly sale trucks and cars.)

Kevin Frazier of CNG Utah – Orem (801) 224-2499

Monday, November 11, 2013

Alternative Fuels: Is there a Solution? Chapter 1

Anyone who owns and maintains a car, truck, or SUV is usually grumpy about the ascending gas prices in our country. If you’re a Republican then you blame the Democrats for overdoing it with the environmental protection of our country and thus preventing any inland oil drilling that may ruin our sacred eco-system. If you are a Democrat, then you blame the Republicans who were in the 2nd Bush administration for supposedly being in bed with Halliburton. And if you are a crazy old person living in Utah County, then you blame it all on one big diabolical conspiracy.

I spent 2-4 years studying automotive alternative fuel options both in class and in undergraduate department research for Utah Valley University. I worked for an alternative fuel business installing CNG on work trucks and I have interviewed a few people who have tried or invented other ways to power their vehicle.

Allow me to first state the complaints our country has about burning gasoline for fuel in cars, trucks, and SUVs:

Complaint number 1. The cost is too much for me to bare!

Complaint number 2. The emissions from gasoline is killing our environment...think of the children!

I have found that most people like myself are more concerned about complaint number 1 more so than 2.

I myself am not a tofu farting tree hugger and am more concerned about the economic strain that high gas prices are causing instead of what is happening to the ozone.

Since a few of you, my beloved readers, have asked me to share everything I have learned about alternative fuels (both in my studies and suffering through experiences), I will break this lengthy blog into multiple chapters released once a week until I have covered it all. I won’t hold any of my research or experiences back. At the end I will propose my only feasible solution to this crisis. Enjoy.

What’s your biggest complaint to ascending gas prices is it economical, environmental, or a combination of both?

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Grand Canyon behold in it's majesty!

The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the state of Arizona. It is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and has a depth of over a mile. This marvelous attraction is visited by thousands of people from all over the world who gather to marvel at the spectacle this giant canyon has to offer. After a three-hour trip from St. George we were lucky enough to capture this view forever on camera.
This is the view you should see from the Grand Canyon:

This is what I saw from the Grand Canyon:

After seeing this picture do you think the Grand Canyon is by far the biggest canyon in the world?

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween craft time with Kirk

I survived another Halloween. 

I wanted to show you how my Halloween project turned out for Halloween 2013!  

Previously in my blogs titled "I Love Halloween part 1, 2, and 3" I had constructed an old western toe-pincher coffin. I then acquired a heavy skeleton meant to teach an anatomy class about the human skeletal structure and planned to decorate it to look like a rotting corpse and live forever in my toe-pincher coffin. Here’s how it was completed.

First the eyes

I gorilla glued some real glass eyes into the ocular cavities of the skull. 

Then the face

After that I melted hot wax and molded it around the face to give it more of a fleshy texture.

Now color

Then I spray painted it all with a tan color with green undertones.

Final facial details

I tried to open the jaw to show the mouth open but I broke the springs holding it in place so I had to wire the jaw shut and settled for a closed mouth expression.
I blackened the teeth with acrylic paint

Mounting the corpse
close up: moss and cobwebs

Finally I bolted an “L” bracket at the head of the coffin, and wired the skull to it. That way I can either lay the coffin down, or stand it up and the body won’t slide around and fall out.
I stapled moss and cobwebs around the interior to add to the aged looking effect.

Now that's curb appeal

Final project on display

I got very few trick-or-treaters this year to admire my handy work. Hopefully that changes in the future. 

Any advice on where I can store this heavy Halloween decoration until next year? Please leave your comments below!