Snowplow Proof Mailbox

How to make a Snowplow Proof Mailbox

Last Saturday our mailbox was taken out by a snow plow! This was a job for something besides duct tape (although that did cross my mind).

Broken mailbox arm after plow hit

I ran down to the hardware store but couldn’t find a support arm that would fit the post. I couldn’t find any mailbox support arms. Actually I’m not good at finding things in the stores. Kris used to send me to the grocery store. But after wondering around every aisle I’d return home with the bad news that the grocery store doesn’t carry whatever it was she was looking for. Kris doesn’t send me to the store very often now days. Anyway, I couldn’t find mailbox parts. But I did find hinges and a container of bungee cords! Perfect. If I’m going to have to rebuild it myself I may as well build it to survive a snow plow hit.

Equipment used

  • Circular Saw
  • Impact Drill, Drill/Driver, and bits
  • Speed Square
  • Deck screws and 2×4 left over from the Tree House.
  • Bungee Cords
  • Hinges

DIY Snow Plow Proof Mailbox

Sketch of snowplow proof mailbox

The first step for any project is to draw up a detailed plan on a paper napkin. But if you don’t have a napkin the side of a cardboard box in the garage will do in a pinch.

I cut and mounted two small 2×4 pieces to the bottom of the mailbox (this wasn’t exactly part of my sketch but sometimes you have to improvise).

First steps building snow plow proof mailbox

Next I made a few more cuts to build a triangle mounting arm. Attached everything with deck screws.

Building a Snow Plow Proof Mailbox

Drilled some holes through the steel post to mount the hinges on.

Added a partially drilled screw on the right-side of the arm to hook the bungee cords.

Now when the snow plow hits our mailbox it will swing on the hinges and the bungee cords will pull it back into position. It’s fault tolerant!

It may not be the prettiest design since I threw it together at the last minute, but as someone who isn’t much of a handyman I’m proud of it. At least it will get us through winter.

Practical Fountain Pens

“These scissors don’t work, can you pass me yours?  Thanks.   Hmm… these don’t work either.  Did they work for you?  They did?!  How did you get them to work!”  It is quite embarrassing to be the only kid in class who doesn’t know how to use scissors.  Although it was odd that these scissors didn’t work because my scissors at home work just fine.   My Sunday School teacher eventually found the problem–I was left-handed!  That was 30 years ago.

My experience with pens was similar.  At the end of a writing session I’d have ink smudges all over my writing and ink all over my palm.  I compensated by writing with a hooked hand.

The Fountain Pen

Last year, I discovered the Fountain Pen and Noodler’s Bernanke Ink (an homage to Ben Bernanke who needed fast drying ink to print all that money).   The ink in most cases dries before my palm gets there.  I left ballpoint pens behind and have not looked back.

Fountain Pens

Fountain pens have a few advantages over ballpoints.  The pens last forever and the ink is refillable without the need for disposable cartridges which is more economical in the long run.  There are a variety of inks to choose from and they all have different properties.  Some are waterproof, archival quality, forgery resistant, dry fast, don’t freeze, etc.  But the advantage I like the most is how little effort it takes to write with a fountain pen!  It has been said that the ballpoint pen killed cursive.  On a ballpoint for ink to flow the pen has to constantly move to roll the ball, and in order to do that you must exert pressure.  The trick is you need enough force to roll the ball, but not so much you punch a hole through the paper.  With a fountain pen the weight of the pen is enough pressure for ink to flow.  It took me awhile to train myself not to apply force.   This changed how I write.

3 Practical Fountain Pens

Some fountain pens are extremely expensive, I don’t really see the value in those… but here are three affordable pens, all under $30 that write great.

Pilot Metropolitan (top), Lammy Safari (middle), TWSBI Eco (bottom)

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot with cap off

Pilot Fountain Pen

The Pilot Metropolitan is the least expensive and the first pen I bought. It includes one disposable black ink cartridge and a converter (a converter is used to “convert” the pen to be able to use ink straight from an ink bottle) pictured below.  In this case squeeze the tweezer things, dip the end of the ink converter into a jar of ink, release the tweezers and it will draw up ink.  Insert that into the feeder and it’s good to write.  This is the only pen I have that comes with a Japanese nib which tend to run finer than German or Italian nibs.  I got a fine and it is the finest so far, even more so than Lamy Safari’s extra-fine.  The Pilot can also be purchased with an extra-fine which would be finer than anything I’d want.

Pilot Metropolitan Apart

Lamy Safari

Lammy Safari

Lammy Safari Cap Off

The 2nd Pen I bought was a Lamy Safari.  I like this pen because it has a nice matte plastic texture and it’s one of the least flashy fountain pens one can get (if you get black that is).  It’s plain and simple.  Even the nib is black which is unusual.  One nice feature is a window on the side lets you know the ink level.

The Lamy comes with one disposable ink cartridge, but does not come with a Piston Converter so I had to get that separately which adds to the price slightly.  The converter is simple, insert it into a bottle of ink, twist the knob at the end to drive the piston up along with the ink.



TWSBI Eco PistonThe TWSBI Eco is the last pen I purchased.  It is my favorite so far being the only piston filler pen which means it doesn’t need cartridges or converters.   Refilling is as simple as placing the pen in a bottle of ink, and twisting the cap to drive the piston creating a vacuum to pull in the ink.  This pen also has more capacity in the ink chamber than any of the other options resulting in fewer refils.  Obviously since it’s transparent this is also the easiest pen to see how much ink is left.

The pen is very economical, by far the simplest and least expensive piston pen on the market and doesn’t seem to sacrifice any quality.


Noodler’s Ink

Noodler's Ink

The only ink I’ve tried is Noodler’s and I don’t really have a reason to try anything else.  So far it’s worked great in all three pens.  I usually write with Noodler’s Bernanke Blue or Bernanke Black which both dry fast and are my favorite inks.   But the Bernanke inks do feather on cheaper paper so I keep one pen filled with Noodler’s Heart of Darkness which seems to be a nice compromise between anti-feather and fast drying.  Before buying a whole bottle of ink, GouletPen’s sells ink samples, I started with those to find which inks I like best and how it works on the paper I typically write on.  Jet Pen’s Fast Drying Fountain Pen Inks guide is great if you’re looking for fast drying ink… expand each color to see pictures of how it stands up to smearing after 3, 10, and 20 seconds.

Ink Samples
Ink Samples

Thoughts so far

So far I have not lost any pens which is good.  After about a year the maintenance on them has been minimal.  About all I do is refill them.  I once let the Pilot sit for several months so it didn’t start, to get it going again I ran water over the nib and it was good to go.  The few times I pick up a ballpoint I notice… it doesn’t effortlessly glide across paper like a fountain pen.  The ink (even Bernanke) doesn’t always dry faster than a ballpoint (depends on the paper), but the angle I write with is shallower so I don’t smudge as much–with a ballpoint I have to write at an almost vertical angle.  I don’t think I’ll be going back anytime soon.  Despite all that some habits are hard to break: I still write with a hook.

If you’re interested in fountain pens I would suggest looking at Goulet Pen’s Founten Pen Education

This post is licensed under the CC BY 4.0 license.


Eli picked this tree for his tree fort.


Draw up plans…

Attach a couple of 2 x 10s using 1/2 inch lag screws.

Eli using racket wrench to screw two by ten to tree

Install Hurricane Ties.

Eli installing Hurricane Tie on 2 by 10 that is attached to tree. On left is a 2 by 6 joist attached to a 2 by 10 using a Hurricane Tie.

Add 2x6s on top of the beams.  Eli wanted to drill in the screws so I turned the torque all the way down and let him have a shot at it… he is doing all he can to hold the drill!

Eli trying to use a drill ...he can't quite hold it up and position it correctlyI originally was going to pour concrete for the posts, but I found these concrete post blocks at home depot which was a lot easier than making sure they get below the frost line, and also makes the tree-house slightly more portable if I should ever need to move it.  Attached 4×4 posts to the outer joists (with two deck screws for now, but added 3/8 x 5.5″ bolts later).  Eli’s job was to make sure everything was level.

Framing of treefort. Beams, joists, and vertical posts attached at each corner.

2x6s for floor boards.  I left a gap between the tree and joists so it can grow a little without affecting the tree fort.

Floor boards are down, Eli on top of treefort. Drill and a box of screws. Eli wearing gloves.

Eli partway on ladder and treehouse surveying floor

Add walls…

Two walls have been added to the treeouse using 2 by 6es and 2 by 4s

Those 45° angles are perfect… Eli leveled them to 45.  We left an opening on two walls so there will be a few ways in and out.

Eli at a side entrace to the tree house, last wall built with an X pattern

Trap door

Trapdoor near trunk of tree

Inside the tree house-- tree trunk coming up in the middle.

One side..

Outside of tree-house showing completed wall

Another side… every side is a bit different.

Another angle outside of tree-house showing wall.

Discussing our plans for the two openings…

Eli in tree house

Add a climbing cargo net from Amazon…

Eli climbing treefort climbing cargo net

Used two screw ground anchors to hold the other end of the net to the ground.

Eli climbing cargo net up to treehouse

Added a 2×4 diagonal brace on each side.  Also notice the bucket connected to a rope and pulley on the right?

Added 2 by 4 diagonal braces

Ran out of color film…

Diagonal brace on back wall... Google turned the photo to black and white

Oh, something came today, we need one more 2×4…

Eli carrying 2 by 4

To support a slide!

Eli attaching two parts of slide with boltsSlide is attached to teehouse. Eli is going down slide.

Ben and Eli pose in treefort

Tree house floor plan showing slide and net

Eli Playing Chess

Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world.  And I’m going to beat him.  – Elijah Bryan

Eli playing chess

Eli playing Chess

Eli practicing Chess speech


Why I Still Prefer Paper Statements

Paper vs Online Statements

I suppose sending the actual statement as an attachment in an email isn’t an option?  If security is a concern encrypt it to my PGP key.

Eli and Screwdriver

Kris gave me a small powered screwdriver for our Anniversary (thanks Kris!)

Eli took an interest in it so I got out an old hard drive and a few screws… he sat there the next 15 minutes screwing and unscrewing…

Eli with Screwdriver


jonlumley here’s the Minecraft world


If you are jonlumley here’s the Narnia Minecraft world that I can no longer host from my server because I’m stuck behind a Verizon NAT.  The rest of you can ignore this.


Website back up

My Xeoned Microserver caught fire and burned up!

Just kidding. |:-)

deer_backyardA few weeks ago out of the blue a real-estate agent told me the house we’re renting was going to be put on the market.  I was surprised because owners typically list in Spring or Summer when people are looking to buy a house, but here I am a month away from snow with the possibility we’ll have to leave at any moment with only a 30 days notice and at this time the housing market is very thin.  I really don’t want to be moving during a blizzard and couldn’t find a place in town this time of year.  I thought the wisest choice was to preemptively move when we have some control of the timing so we moved to a house in a semi-rural area.

aircraft_ran_off_runwayWe’re enjoying the new house–It’s fun to see wildlife in my backyard, also my commute is great, I get to see fun and exciting things on my drive home for lunch like airplanes running off the end of the runway!  The downside is the area I live in has been reported as having the slowest and worst internet in the United States.


2013_subaru_outbackIt took me awhile to get internet because I was concerned with quite a few other things like unpacking essential stuff, fixing important things in the house (like outlets with no plates) and buying a car since I no longer live close enough to walk to work and making sure to still spend time with Kris and Eli and also prayer and meditation so I just didn’t have time to get to it.  When I got around to it, getting the website back up was challenging.  Cable and DSL were out of the question, there isn’t even a phone line to the house.  I spent a couple weeks trying to get a local site-to-site wireless provider but none could reach us due to trees and mountains blocking line-of-site to the towers.  So backyardthat left two options, Satellite or Verizon Wireless (I do get LTE here!).  Both had limited bandwidth so the obvious choice was Verizon Wireless via Millenicom which gives me 20GB data per month (I am used to 250GB/month so we’re having to cut way back).  I used my extra DD-WRT router to act as a wireless bridge between the MiFi and my main Tomato router to get an Ethernet connection to the server–so that’s what is serving this website up now.  If you should try to visit this blog and it’s down, you can assume it’s either a snowstorm or I ran out of bandwidth–in which case it will be back up on the 1st of the next month.

Earlier in the week to see what my Google ranking damage was I did a search on “b3n” and I did see that someone on homeservershow noticed it was down–I tried to register for an account so I could reply, but I can’t seem to get the activation to work.  I got an activation email, clicked on the link, but I still can’t login.  But thought I’d let you know the website owner dragging worked.

Well, I’m off to look at snowplows…

Drudge Interview


Drudge Report.  Run from an apartment, website never redesigned, HTML edited by hand, three man operation, yet it gets 2 million unique visitors per day and drives more news traffic than Facebook or Twitter…

Here’s a rare press conference speech and Q&A session by the reclusive Matt Drudge from 1998.