Tools That Don’t Suck – The Ryobi ES1500

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

Handy Phone Tool

So, as you might expect, I often get asked to recommend a particular pump for a contractor’s project. The steps are simple and easy (not the same thing.) There are four simple steps to finding the right pump:

  • determine the required flow
  • choose the right size pipe
  • add friction head to vertical head height
  • go to the charts to find a pump that delivers the right flow at the right head

The steps are easy. Multiply the flow per foot by the width of the waterfall, in feet. Pick the right size pipe by finding the flow on a chart. Add up plumbing length. Multiply the length by a decimal. Add that result to the actual vertical height of the waterfall to find the Total Dynamic Head (TDH) – and there’s the problem.

It turns out that most people overestimate the actual height of the water feature they’re planning on building. By a considerable amount. It’s particularly hard for anyone to estimate true vertical height on a slope, where many of our potential projects are situated.

Why does that matter? Well, you need to know the true vertical height of the water feature to find the actual load the pump will be under. Knowing the true workload not only lets you pick a pump that will thrive under those conditions, you can also cut costs by using very efficient low head pumps…IF you correctly estimate the vertical head height.

The Ryobi ES1500

Photo credit: www.ryobitools.com

I have come to appreciate the Ryobi ES1500, a little gadget that takes the guesswork out of measuring height. It fits on any phone with a headphone jack. (Sorry, you need to have the jack.) I found mine at a tool store under a banner advertising Ryobi Phoneworks. For $15, I figured I didn’t have much to lose. I paid willingly, if a little dubiously, and downloaded the free app.

The “Laser Pointer/Transfer Level” plugs into the standard headphone jack on my Android phone and shoots a bright red laser beam on command. The app has a couple of level functions, including a bubble level. The easiest to use is a red dotted line with the numeric value of degrees the unit is tilted displayed right next to the line. Once the phone is level, at 0 degrees, the beam coming out is pretty level too. The accuracy of the unit isn’t stellar, but it’s close enough. It’s just bright enough to be seen in the shade during the day. I do most of my estimates after work, and it’s really visible as the light falls.

I’ve gotten pretty adept at holding the phone level, at head height, while standing where the pond will go. I note of where the roughly five-foot-high laser beam hits on a tree or a slope near the waterfall-to-be. For larger distances, I’ll repeat the process, moving to where the beam struck the ground, until I’ve worked my way upslope, five vertical feet at a time.

I will admit it’s a bit crude, but it works well enough to get a pretty accurate vertical height for the Total Dynamic Head calculations.

The Ryobi ES1600

So, as I’m finishing up writing this, I look up the Ryobi ES1500 to find there’s a new version, the ES1600, that sounds like it has my shaky eye level zapping method beat all hollow. The newer version clamps onto the phone and lets you snap a shot of the site with the camera and get a picture with the level marked directly on it. Sounds a whole lot easier to have the pic right there to refer to. I still see the ES1500 out there for $15-20 and I’d still call it a Tool That Doesn’t Suck.  The newer version is double that, but might be worth the $40 if if gives you a permanent record right on a photograph. I’m gonna pick one up and let you know next month. In the meantime, I’ll continue using my TTDS, the Ryobi Phoneworks ES1500. Might work for you too.

Tools That Don’t Suck – The Perfect Hat

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

You Can Leave Your Hat On…

I certainly hope that phrase evokes a pleasant visual for all of you out there. It certainly does for me. The first time I saw it I thought, nice – wow that looks good…. The second time I thought it looked even better. The third time I really wanted to get up close and personal. I just had to.

So I asked my buddies about the Hat. You’ve probably seen somebody wearing it. You may know the one – looks like a solid suede brim, with a vented crown, jaunty little leather braid and a chinstrap. Sharp looking hat. But the Kakdu Soaka hat isn’t suede at all, it’s made of an absorbent microfiber. Just dunk it, shake it off and wear it. Water trapped in the microfiber slowly evaporates as air circulates through the vented crown, lowering the temperature of both the hat and the head under it. Sort of a wearable swamp cooler.

Kakadu Soaka Breeze

Lloyd Lightsey of The Pond Monster

Down in sunny Lake Wales my buddy Lloyd swears by his fully vented Soaka Breeze. He says it keeps him going when the temps soar into the 90’s. Another buddy, Sean, up Boston way, thinks so highly of the hat he mail-ordered a bunch of them when they were hard to get a couple of years ago. Nobody had them in stock for quite a while, so he’d order them from another company just to find out they were backordered there too, and so on. Waited almost a year, then everybody shipped at once. Now he’s got’em in every color. Wears’em constantly.

The Kakadu Soaka Breeze is just one of twenty plus styles of Soaka hats, some with more venting, some with solid microfiber crowns, but all share the same cool feature. The one I got the best picture of was Sean’s, a relatively fresh one that hadn’t yet really broken in. (Lloyd’s, on the other hand, was a little too, ah, personalized by wear, shall we say? for close inspection.) I got mine direct from Kakadu’s Washington State distribution center by mail order, but you can find them in plenty of other places too. If you work outside where your brain boils in the sun (and who doesn’t?), these hats are really worth trying. And at around $40 most places, you can cool the burn without frying your wallet.

Quick Tips – Waterfall Construction

In the world of water features, there are many different tactics that contractors and homeowners use to approach building a water feature. Over the years I have encountered a variety of construction methods water features are built and through my experience have put together a list of tips that I think will help you create a natural looking water feature.

Use different sized rocks to achieve a more natural looking waterfall. But let’s be honest, when building these features moving heavy rocks can be quite the challenge.

Tip #1.

Try cutting a piece of underlayment (commonly known as geotextile fabric) large enough to hold the rock you are trying place and use it as a sling. The corners will act as handles for you to hold on to. Because the fabric is very strong it can handle the weight of heavier rocks.

 Another option to move heavy rocks by hand is to use tow straps or tie down straps. This method can be used with heavier rocks and will require more than two people to move the size rock you are working with.

If you are using large boulder and neither of the two options prove useful, you may need the help of larger equipment.

**You do not want to hurt yourself trying to move these rocks, equipment can be rented on a day to day basis at your local rental yard.

While you are placing your rocks keep in mind that you are also creating a place for water to flow. When creating your waterfall or streambed you will notice gaps forming around and behind the rocks that you have placed. Once you turn on your pump water will flow into these gaps instead of flowing down your streambed causing you to lose some of the visual effects of your stream or waterfall.  In order to avoid this, these gaps should be filled.

Tip #2.

When filling the gaps, a mortar or cement type mix can be used but this method is highly susceptible to cracking and movement. Another option is to use expandable foam, the foam will not crack or move and can fill large or small gaps in the rock placement. Typically foam is grey in color so that it will blend with most rock colors. Waterfall foam cans from Atlantic are available in two sizes – a 12 ounce can with a straw applicator or a 29 ounce can, which requires using a professional foam gun.

I highly recommend the professional foam gun if you build multiple water features during the season.

For the average one or two builds a year, the DIY 12 ounce can works great. To save on the use of foam you will only need to apply the foam in the locations that water is flowing over.

Please be sure to wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling the foam as it is very difficult to remove.

Tip #3.

A great technique to disguise the foam that you used to fill in the gaps is by covering it with smaller stones and/or gravel. You can also add a small amount of sand over the foam before it is completely dry to disguise the foam to look more like a rock.

Make sure you give the foam time to cure before you turn your waterfall on. Once the waterfall has been turned on you can add more foam to push the water in the direction you prefer at any time.

Remember this is a foam product and is not glue or a patch product for leaks. It is only used to direct the flow of water.

 

Hopefully, these tips will help save you some time and frustration (as well as your back!) and keep your water flowing in the right direction! If you have any tips of your own, please feel free to comment below.

 

About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry,

 

Tools That Don’t Suck – Cordless (Liner) Trimmer

As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty, sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls, but we also value anything that helps make the work easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you.

Cordless (Liner) Trimmer

TrimmerThis first tool makes the nasty job of trimming liner and underlayment easier and much safer. Most of us have had to trim wet, bunched up, sand- and mud-laden underlayment and liners. It’s a dangerous chore. Razor knives that so easily cut clean fabric in the shop dull in minutes in the field, requiring new blades constantly (until you run out). There’s always the risk of cutting too close or through a hidden fold (or yourself) while hacking away. (And let’s not even mention where the dull-but-dangerous-used-blades-that-should-always-be-safely-disposed-of turn up.)

My wife Susan, who is always looking out for me and her boys, saw this little trimmer advertised for scrapbookers. She actually thought it might work for us! I laughed at the “toy” when it arrived. I don’t laugh at this tool anymore. I have since apologized to Susan. Many times. (She likes that.)

Skil TrimmerThe original trimmer shown is 4 years old and has gone through hell. It ain’t fast, but it still chews through muddy, sandy liner and underlayment for hours on a charge, though I’m not sure exactly how many. In the field, trimming in 10 minute bursts every hour or two, it doesn’t run out for a couple of days, very forgiving for when we forget to charge it overnight. The octagonal blade with its 8 corners almost self-feeds through a single layer of liner up to 60 mil or 8oz fabric with minimal effort, and it continually sharpens as it spins. One last thing, for anyone with employees (or sons, or an aversion to seeing their own blood) – it’s almost impossible to cut
yourself.

Skil discontinued the model shown, but there are a number of similar trimmers out there, many around $45. At that price, we can afford to test them for the day that Old Red finally dies. Give these cordless trimmers a try; I think you’ll find this is one Tool That Don’t Suck. Thanks, Sue!

**UPDATE

QUICK CORRECTION AND THANK YOU – out to the The Pond Gnome Paul Holdeman for being the REAL source for the nifty little Liner Cutter featured in the last blog. Although Susan had purchased them for me and the boys on a scrapbooking site, Paul showed it to her at a charity build he graciously donated his and his crew’s time and tools for at the Virginia C. Piper Cancer Center of Phoenix in 2014. Thanks Paul!!! It was a pleasure working with you!

 


 About the Author:
Demi is the Direct of Product Information for Atlantic Water GardensDEMI FORTUNA

Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

Social Media Tips & Tricks

Social Media these days is rapidly changing, and sometimes let’s be honest, it’s really hard to keep up! There are so many channels and there is always an update to be downloaded, or learned and let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to share this information with each other than it is for each of us to research it on our own.

So here are a few things that I’ve recently found to be helpful in my daily social media activities.

Facebook – Creating a Pixel:

facebookNow, I haven’t yet used this little gem, but my expectations of it are quite high. From what I’ve read, once you install the pixel code in the header of your website, you can track multiple things when a user clicks on your ad like what device they are using, where they are from, the average age of the user clicking on your ad, etc.

Here is a link to a page all about the Facebook pixel if you’d like to learn more.

Twitter – Tweeting Full Videos:

Now from what I’ve heard, not very many people know about tweeting full videos, only 30 second clips. Through one of the many Twitter webinars I’ve listened to or one of the many articles I’ve read, I came across a hack on how to tweet FULL videos. Hopefully if your company uses Twitter, you can use this to your advantage.

So here are the steps:

First visit your Twitter page and click on your profile icon in the top righthand corner and select “Twitter Ads”.Select Media

Next select “Creatives” and in the dropdown menu select “Media”.

On the left side of the page under “Library”, select “Videos”.

Select VideosSelect “Upload Media” and locate the video file you want to upload.

Unfortunately there is no capability as of now to schedule full video tweets in advance . You will have to follow these same steps to tweet full videos as needed.

Upload VideoInstagram – Use the Business Page to your advantage:

Instagram recently came out with Business pages, which is helpful if you use Instagram to push your brand recognition and get your name out in the open. It provides companies with the ability to add their contact information in their profile without being very limited to the content. Of course there still is some character limitations for this Information section, but at least now you don’t have to stuff that section with your contact information, website and about info.

Another great thing that they’ve introduced for business pages is the analytics side. You can now see your post impressions, reach and engagement on each photo or video that you post.

Not only do you get to see insights on posts, but your profile also offers insights on the percentage of which gender is following and interacting with you, the age range, locations, and the average time your followers are using Instagram each day. Pretty cool!Instagram for Business

If you haven’t already switched your profile over to a business profile, I highly encourage you to do so and start looking at your insights.

Pinterest – The Pinterest Tag:

pinterestAnother great trick that I have not yet implemented but plan to in 2017 is the Pinterest Tag. Similar to the Facebook Pixel, the Pinterest Tag allows your to track actions that users take even after they’ve clicked on your pin. Track things like actions taken or events that users have encountered like if they’ve added something to their cart, made a purchase, searched for something specific on your website, the list goes on with what this tag can do.

Here is a link if you’d like to learn more about the Pinterest Tag and step by step instructions on how to implement it.

If you know of anymore tips or tricks when it comes to these social media channels, or any others that you’d like to add, please add them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear what you’ve discovered.

 


 About the Author:
Meet Shelby, AWG Graphic Designer and Social Media ExtraordinaireSHELBY SCUDERI

Atlantic Water Gardens Graphic Designer and Social Media Extraordinaire, Shelby has been with Atlantic since 2011. In addition to keeping up with social media trends and ensuring that the website and all social networks are running smoothly, Shelby also manages Atlantic’s advertising and marketing programs.

The Importance of Biological Filtration

Over the years Pond manufactures have been working hard to give you the pond builders, a solution for the dreaded “Green Pond”. The answer? Biological Filtration! As I travel all over the US, I hear time and time again that pond builders do not use this filtration method because of the difficulties they have when it comes to camouflaging them. I am here to say, there is a way!

Before we get into the best way to disguise these black filtration boxes, let’s first talk about why they are important and why you should be using them.

beneficialbacteriaThese filtration boxes or FilterFalls, were designed to hold filter material to colonize beneficial bacteria and help filter your pond. Beneficial bacteria breaks down organic debris and fish waste, providing food for plants. Multiple pads or mats provide the oxygen rich environment for beneficial bacteria to flourish. The addition of biological media enhances beneficial bacteria growth by providing additional surface area for bacterial colonization. In turn making your pond clean, clear and a healthy eco-system.

The homeowner may still be weary about adding a filtration black box to their beautiful water feature, and educating your customer, is key. Having an up front conversation with the homeowner explaining why you are using the Filterfalls and why it is essential for the health and quality of the pond will help alleviate any concerns.

Another way to alleviate any concerns is to ensure the homeowner that they will not have to see any black box and their feature will look natural as long as it is camouflaged properly.

This will translate into a happy pond owner with fewer callback’s, saving you time and money.

Now that the customer is on board with using the FilterFalls, let’s talk about camouflage.

Line the inside of your Filter box with stone & plantings to help camouflage.

There are many ways to do this. First make sure that the area around the FilterFalls is or has been built up around the edge of the falls. Having higher ground is key to being able to easily camouflage the box. Trees, plants, rocks, logs, driftwood, floating plants are all great things to use for disguise.

Using plantings near and around your filter boxes will create more of a disguise.

Edge the inside of the FilterFalls with stones or rocks, you can also mix in some water plants for a more natural look. Logs or driftwood can be laid over top the FilterFalls for even more of a disguise.

By planting trees and bushes near your FilterFalls you can create even more of an illusion that the FilterFalls are not even there!

Another great trick is to angle the Filter box away from the viewing point so that the homeowner will not be staring directly into the filter box when they go to look at their feature. Remember, that like in nature, you never see where the water source is coming from. The same should go for the feature that you are building.

Hiding your FilterFalls

Angle the Filter box away from the viewing point so that the homeowner will not be staring directly into the filter box when they go to look at their feature.

 

If FilterFalls still aren’t your thing, Bog filtration can be used as an alternative. Check back for our next blog post on Bog Filtration by bog expert, Demi Fortuna.

 

 

 


About the Author:
Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens.
JIM CHUBB

Jim is the National Sales Manager for Atlantic Water Gardens. With 26 years of sales experience and 16 years in the water garden industry, Jim is your go-to guy for selling water features.