Covered Topics

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Of Battery Terminals and Devalued Currency

A couple weeks ago, I was given the 3-year old used battery shown in the photo to use for operating my ham radio equipment. In order to make this battery safer and more convenient to store and use in the house, I'm now in the process of making a wooden rack to hold the battery box, an old 400 watt power inverter I've had around for years, a pair of binding posts, and a pair of 12 volt autmotive type cigarette lighter power receptacles. In another couple paychecks I want to throw a couple wheels and a handle on the rack so I can conveniently move it around like a "hand truck".

While I do NOT normally intend to use the inverter to anywhere near its rating, I still for safety want the terminals and wiring supplying it to be safe for the nearly 40 rated supply amps just in case it is needed, albeit breifly. I also want to be able to charge the battery without lifting the cover on the ABS battery box shown in the photo, so again the system needs to be able to handle the 25 or 30 amps my charger puts out at maximum. The threaded bolt type terminals on the battery are either 5/16" or 3/8" diameter. For all these reasons, the wimpy little crimp-on connectors sold at most stores will NOT work. Some stout copper lug type connectors are in order here.

Sticker Shock
While visiting my local auto parts store and big box "home centers" to buy parts for this project, I have been horrified at prices on basic supplies nowadays. A copper "eye" type solder lug for #10 or #12 wire costs several dollars apiece nowadays. So I thought "Hey, a guy can make his own for less than 50 cents each out of soft-drawn copper tubing. I'll buy a foot of it and do that, and have PLENTY left over for future projects." Well, not so fast. They have stopped selling soft copper tubing by the foot; you now have to buy a whole roll of it for beaucoup bucks. The guy in the plumbing aisle suggested I use one of the 2 foot joints of 1/2" HARD-drawn copper pipe they sell for small repairs on water supply plumbing. On top of those costing nearly $5 EACH now, I was not keen on the hardened copper possibly breaking when I hammered part of it flat, nor do I want to fool around with the effort and expense of annealing it. [Annealing metal involves softening metal by heating it and allowing it to cool slowly.] As I started walking away, I heard the copper pennies rattling around with the other coins in my pocket and thought - there's my solution, for literally pennies :)

The plan is to solder my #12 gauge stranded wires to the pennies; the threaded terminal post on the battery will fit through the off-center hole drilled in the penny. The terminal nut on the battery will, of course, hold the whole assembly in place and make for a solid electrical connection.
Tonight, I fired up the drill press and proceded to drill 4 pennies off center to use as terminal lugs. Imagine my surprise at what I found! See the photo below. On the left is a 1977 penny, which is solid copper - or at least an alloy mostly of copper. The one on the right is a 1986 penny; it is only plated with copper. The thin copper plating is merely a decorative covering for some cheap base metal. Another penny was dated 2001 - it too has the cheap junky metal core.

I couldn't help but see this as yet one more example of how the US dollar has been devalued by 96% since the Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913. (Don't take my word for this - look it up, do your own research, and you will see it's true) And indeed as they pump up the supply of fiat 'funny' money, inflation will only get worse. I've read people saying on the Internet how poor people should hoard pennies because they're more affordable than gold or silver, yet are potentially valuable for their copper during an economic crash. All I have to say about that is if you are going to try that strategy, you'd best make sure the pennies you're getting really ARE copper. The ones I have here will marginally serve for my project; they're not good for much else.

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