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Dennis Country

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Please send me an email if you wish to leave a comment. My website includes sections on the environment, green woodworking and some industrial history photos from Gwent, UK.

1980s Bike Re-furb, Sun Tours Freewheel / Mega-Range Freewheel

Tools Posted on Sun, December 05, 2021 08:24PM

These are most of the parts I think (except frame & forks), ready for re-assembly:

I decided to disassemble the (screw-on) freewheel so that I could clean the rear wheel and repack the bearings etc. (no need to remove it from hub). This isn’t advised normally; see the great information source of Sheldon Brown’s website which features this type of freewheel (ca 1980).

The photos below shows the freewheel’s locking plate removed (it’s reverse threaded), also outer bearings and shim/washer removed (left); with the sprocket assembly removed (right). There was some oil in the ratchet & pawl assembly, which was moving freely.

Dis-assembly of Sun Tours Freewheel

On re-assembly I packed grease in the inner and outer bearing races, and added a few drops of medium oil in the ratchet & pawl section; that’s worked for about 40 years. Some instructions on the internet say to put grease on the pawls, even to achieve a certain sound. I thought it more important that the freewheel works reliably, as some grease types can harden in time.

Re-assembly of Sun Tours Freewheel

Mega-Range Freewheel

On another (1990s) bike, I wanted to change the 6-speed freewheel to a “mega range” type with a lower bottom gear, but as expected the old freewheel was difficult to remove. I’ve read that some people clamp the release tool in a large vise, use a large spanner, or a smaller spanner with a pipe extension etc.. This was my solution using a tree felling lever extension to an adustable spanner (largest I have) …

Having fitted the new freewheel it took a while to get the gears working again properly, including fitting a slightly thinner chain (7.1mm) and adjusting the deraillieur position. I can’t engage the large (34 toothed) sprocket with the largest chainwheel, not a problem.

No Need To Knead Bread Method

Miscellaneous Posted on Sat, December 26, 2020 04:11PM

… or wait 18 hours to rise, or touch with hands at all. I thought I’d discovered a new, not-so-messy bread making method, but I see that’s not the case after searching the internet. This is what worked for me, in about 2 hours. (Updated and simplified Feb 2021)

Ingredients: (see later on for different flour weights)

350g (12oz) plain flour (in this case 30% white, 70% with grain)
0.5 teaspoon salt (optional)
0.5 teaspoon sugar
1-2 teaspoons olive oil (optional, or butter etc.)
1 teaspoon dried yeast
200ml water (warmed)


  1. Mix 50ml of lukewarm water with sugar and yeast, leave for 5 mins
  2. Put flour in a baking tray or bowl, add salt, olive oil
  3. With a strong dessert spoon (or spatula), stir in the yeast mixture and most of the water.
    Work with the spoon for a few minutes, adding a little more water if required until dough is consistent and can be shaped.
  4. Place dough on a baking tray or in baking tin(s). Cover and leave in a warm place for 60-90 mins. I use a pre-warmed cooker grill compartment. The dough should have doubled in volume after this time.
  5. Bake in the centre of an oven, preheated to gas mark 6-7, for approx. 30 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.
Flour to Water (ml) Chart (approximate)

There are so many variables in this process, including ingredients, dough resting time, oven setting etc., so some experimentation may be needed to get the desired product. Although traditional methods often have two stages (mix/rest and knead/rest), I found that just one stage produced good results, but that may not be suitable for some bread types.

I haven’t researched why kneading is required in traditional recipes, but I suppose it would at least strengthen arms, or maybe increase the demand for bread making machines.

Vapourer Moth Caterpillar

Wildlife Posted on Sun, October 04, 2020 09:37PM

Found in my garden at the end of September, a very impressive caterpillar also know as “Rusty Tussock”. Wish it was a bigger and could be trained to do some household chores, like dusting perhaps! This webpage (amongst others) has some more information: . The photos of the egg stage look very similar to those I found on a piece of plastic sheet last autumn; shown in photo below with caterpillars emerging in May 2020:

I wonder if these are Vapourer caterpillars, they look hairy enough. If so, and since they were only a few metres away from the more developed caterpillar, maybe it was part of this batch.

Another moth caterpillar with a raised “tail” is a Pale Tussock; see earlier post, and more info here.

Hogweed Variations?

Wildlife Posted on Tue, September 01, 2020 09:15PM

A small-white butterfly feeding on Hogweed flowers recently. This was the usual form of the plant, but there are others in the area (Pontypool, south Wales) which could be a narrow-leaved type or hybrid, or not hogweed at all. Sample photo below:

“normal” and narrow-leaved hogweed together

There is a photo of three potential variations here, and an album of photos here. I’m informed the narrow-leaved type, on the right in the above photo, is widespread in the area (see comment). This has the scientific name “Heracleum sphondylium ssp. sphondylium var angustifolium” I believe.

Some Fairly Useless Signs …

Miscellaneous Posted on Mon, August 24, 2020 10:59AM

Maybe there’s a “most useless sign” competition this could be entered into. In recent years many of these “Community Links” signs have appeared in town, but I wonder why. Perhaps it’s a requirement of a funding body. Whatever the reason it seems a waste of money, environmental resources, and space. If the signs gave some idea of where you were or where they were pointing to it would be useful, they don’t. They merely point in the direction of where a road and/or path goes; we can see that surely. In most cases the road or path has been present for 50+ years. I wonder if there’ll be a phase 2 in which links to non-community places will be have unnecessary signs installed, payed for by …?

Can TV etc. Remote Controls Be Repaired?

Miscellaneous Posted on Mon, May 18, 2020 10:23PM

From my experience faulty remote controls for TVs etc. can often be made to work again, especially if just some buttons don’t work. Firstly, it’s worth checking that the batteries are OK, and also that the terminals and compartment connections are clean. If they are dirty or corroded cleaning with contact cleaner fluid might work. If batteries are OK it’s necessary to dismantle the remote, however there is some risk of damaging it in the process. Accepting that risk I usually check if there are any fixing screws, but on more modern remotes two halves of the case have to be prised gently apart.

dismantled Sharp TV remote control

In this case the inside of the keypad and the circuit board required cleaning with tissue paper, nothing abrasive of course. I also used contact cleaner spray with no ill effects, but it’s not essential. On re-assembly it worked as new, although I didn’t get the positioning of the round pad correct at first. I’ve done this several times on some remotes, but with a lot of use the contacts may wear away. Apart from saving money by buying a new one, it’s one less thing to be discarded / recycled for about 20 minutes effort.

Replacement Carburettor for Leaf Blower Stihl BG86

Tools Posted on Sun, September 01, 2019 10:36PM

The 2009 model machine needed a new carb., but the original type (ZAMA C1M-S141C) wasn’t available. A replacement carb. (ZAMA C1M-S261B, on left in photo) had an extra pipe to direct vented fumes into the air filter. This required a modification to the air filter housing, which was already marked-up with hole position. See video on Vimeo for more details. This is likely to be the case on other Stihl machines, as a result of  tighter emission control laws.

This is the modified air filter housing which accommodates the extra pipe (top left).

Mid May Sightings

Wildlife Posted on Sun, May 19, 2019 09:40PM

A couple of welcome recent sightings in Torfaen, south east Wales:

Firstly a Green Hairstreak butterfly, difficult to see when static amongst leaves, bilberry in this case. The only UK butterfly which is nearly all green (on underside of wings), mainly dark brown on top of wings. This one has some wear to the scales.

I was alerted by snorting noises near a garden shed which turned out to be two hedgehogs having a “stand-off”, possible arguing over hunting rights under the shed floor!

A fair sized, young Elm tree, around 35 feet (10m) tall. I was advised it was a Wych Elm species.

… and nearby male and female Brimstone butterflies, may be a courtship …
Please click for video (low resolution)

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