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.

Tools That Don’t Suck – Tech Support

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.

ON-THE-JOB TECH SUPPORT?

So, In the last two blogs I shared a couple of tools that I’ve found very useful, one that makes cutting non-woven fabric easier than using the typical razor knife (see TTDS #1) and one that fixes those really inconvenient plumbing breaks right alongside fittings (TTDS #2). Today I’d like to move towards the tech side, to show you a couple of tools for the smartphone that I can’t do without. (Who knew years ago we would even have PHONES on the job, much less SMART ones?) The first is an app I have found particularly useful for on-the-job estimating and record keeping called CamScanner.

CamScanner App for Smart PhonesWhen I go on an estimate I will typically sketch up what the customers and I talk about, both to clarify the bones of the design and to get down on paper everything we have spoken about. In about 10 seconds, CamScanner lets me take a picture of whatever I’ve written down, automatically crop it, enhance the picture with a variety of filters, compress the image and store as a .jpg or .pdf. I can then immediately send it to my customer via text message or email, so both of us have a record. Oh yeah, did I mention it’s free?

For about five bucks the full version offers other features that I don’t have much need for. Optical character recognition lets you scan printed material and turn it into into an editable .txt file. You can set it to upload automatically to cloud services like GoogleDrive and Dropbox. You can even fax documents, but there’s a third-party charge of $0.99 per page.

Love Handle

Love Handle cell phone grip

The second phone tool I now use all the time is a little gizmo my buddy Sean Bell turned me on to at a diner one day. I had my phone down on the table sitting in the crumbs, while he was one-handing his, using his thumb with the phone apparently stuck to his palm. When I asked how, he said “Let me show you my Love Handle“. Before I could jump back in horror, he flipped the phone over and revealed a little elastic strap stuck to the back of his phone case. “You just slip it over your finger and it makes one handed operation easy. I even use this to hang the phone on stuff for selfies and videos”, he explained. I was very impressed and vowed to order one immediately.

Love HandleHe got exasperated after asking me ten times if I liked it and bought me one a month later. Bless his soul. I absolutely love it. On my phone there’s a special finger swipe to miniaturize the keyboard, so I can make one-handed calls when necessary, but for me, the best thing about the Love Handle is I don’t drop the dang thing anymore. (I used to. Yes, all the time. Let’s just leave it at that.)

Now, especially when traveling, or late to get on a plane, or leaning over the pond to get a picture of a leak, I enjoy the security of having the phone firmly stuck to my hand, impossible to drop. I can even use CamScanner one handed now. Definitely Tools That Don’t suck. Enjoy.

 


 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.

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,

 

How Many Eco-Blox do I need for my Pond-free Feature?

Pond-free System

Pond-free features, where a pond or waterfall recirculates from an underground reservoir, have become very popular because they are easier to build and maintain than fish ponds. The Pond-free basin is a hole lined with EPDM rubber to make it waterproof, filled with water matrix boxes called Eco-Blox that can support thousands of pounds.

This weight-bearing reservoir can be hidden under gravel, lawn, pavers – you can even build waterfalls right on top of it! The water in Eco-Blox basins stays clean and clear, so maintenance is much simpler. Pond-free water features are generally safer too, because there’s no way for anyone to fall in.

With the great popularity of these features,  we receive many questions. One of the main questions we get at Atlantic is “How many Eco-Blox do I need?”

Here’s how to figure that out.

First, find the volume of water needed to fill the stream and falls to overflowing.

Usually about 3” in the whole stream will do. Measuring everything in feet makes things easier, so convert 3” to a quarter of a foot. For a 6-foot by 2-foot stream:

Length x Width x 0.25 feet = 6’ x 2’ x 0.25’ = 3 cubic feet

We’ll want 3 times as much water in the reservoir as we need, so the level will only drop by a third when we turn the system on before it starts recirculating:

3 cubic feet x 3 = 9 cubic foot reservoir

Finally, we’ll divide by 4.3 cubic feet, the number of cubic feet in an Eco-Blox:

9 cubic feet ÷ 4.3 cubic feet/Eco-Blox = 2.1 Eco-Blox

With the addition of a Pump Vault to house and protect the pump, as well as providing a little extra water volume, 2 Eco-Blox will be perfect!

 

Now that you know how many Eco-Blox you’ll need for your next project, check out our video on how assemble one.


 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.