Saturday, November 27, 2010

Barbeque Flashback Prevention

Nothing to be afraid of, unless you're about to light the barbeque.

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My home is near an undeveloped river valley, and the spider population around here is huge. I'd never seen so many of the creatures until I moved here. It's no place for an arachnophobe.

For the most part, spiders and I get along fine; they really don't bother me. But they get into the fuel supply tubes of barbeque burners and make little installations of silk that impede the flow of gas. The burners can still be lit, but the flame is weak. If not noticed and left unattended, the sluggishly flowing gas will ignite back through the supply tubes and you'll soon have flames all the way back to the control valves -- not a good thing to have going on.

It happened here near the end of last season, and left me with damaged paint on my barbeque's control panel, and two distorted plastic control valve knobs.

Anyway, the lesson is 'pay attention to the flame when you light a barbeque.' If it doesn't come up blue and energetic-looking, but orange and wispy, shut it off and clean out the tubes. You'll save yourself some aggravation. (I suspect that whenever you hear of a nasty incident with a backyard barbeque, odds are it was brought on by spider silk blockage.)

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Spider silk is tenacious stuff, and even a blast from a compressed air blow gun can't be relied upon to clear it out of a burner's supply tubes thoroughly. Pictured below is the best thing I've come up with so far to use as a 'brush'.

It's a length of eight-conductor computer networking cable with an inch of its jacket stripped off one end so the wires can be presented as 'bristles'. It's flexible enough to negotiate curves in the tubes, yet stiff enough that you can reliably shove it all the way through. After a reaming with the 'brush', I still follow up with a blast of compressed air.

I put the crimp terminal on the other end to secure the jacket from sliding off the wires within, and so I can hang the thing on a nail when it's not in use.

One last thing I should mention is that there's no such thing as a reliable interval between cleanings. You can clean the tubes at three on a Saturday afternoon, and they can be blocked up again when you go to light it at six. Or they might stay clear for weeks before some eight-legged little busybody gets in again. "You never can tell with spiders", to paraphrase Winnie the Pooh.

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Addendum -- THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 2011

The repair job I did on the distorted knobs is here.

There's a post here about barbeque fuel delivery tubing and valves.

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Addendum II -- SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2011

This time of year seems to be when the spiders are most inclined to go to work on the barbeque. (And we're enjoying some exceptionally fine weather this Thanksgiving weekend, so the barbeque is needed.) 'Went to fire it up, and the flame was pathetic. Below is a photograph of what my 'brush' dragged out of one of the burner tubes.

That bit of silk is all it takes to seriously foul up a burner's operation, with very nasty results if it's not noticed and corrected.

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