So we’ve got good news. The press is built! Unfortunately, we also have some bad news. The press is broke.
The saw mill that we are stationed has been a great work sight. We have shade, solid ground to work on, and the most friendly and curious workers that anyone can ask for. The kindness that Ghanaians exude has been nearly overwhelming. The workers at the mill, having only casually met us during our work, insist on helping us carry our tools and supplies across the lumber yard every morning and afternoon. The owner offered, without our asking, to lock the tools in his office nightly.
The press construction went slower than expected. Unfortunately the electric tools that we brought don’t like 50 Htz electricity available in Ghana. Therefore, some manual labor was in order. It took longer than hoped to source a hand drill and wood saw, but we finally succeeded. When the tools were available, press construction moved along as planned. We finally completed the press yesterday. It was looking good, so we decided to press a few briquettes before dusk. During the second compaction of the first batch of briquettes, we heard a loud crack. Immediately, we noticed the cracked main beam that compresses the briquettes. As bad as it looked, we decided to continue to carefully work until it reached complete failure, thinking that a patch would be impractical, so complete replacement was inevitable at some point. The third and final compaction was the last it could take. The two hardwood 2x6’s broke with quite a startle. It appears that the wood that was used to create the main beam was old and rotted, with evidence of mold growing along the fracture line. We hung our heads and called it a day, planning on purchasing new wood first thing in the morning. On the way out, we mentioned the problem to the saw mill proprietor. For the loss, he agreed to purchase outright the replacement boards for the beam. On the bright side, he happened to be cutting 4x6’s for a client, a perfect replacement to our joined 2x6 set up. We agreed to the deal and will start work tomorrow morning.
Another point of mention is that we designed and built the drying rack. It is an A-frame structure supporting bamboo pieces acting as skewers for the donut-shaped briquettes. We have had a lot of luck finding wild bamboo locally, and are anxious to get it working. That’s all for now, updates to follow.