Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain


I recently noticed the waste water leaving my bathroom wash basin was taking more time than usual to drain away. Realising this meant a total blockage may be imminent, I set to work dismantling the waste pipe and bottle trap so that I could begin unblocking my wash basin drain. Boy was there some gunge to clear out.

Tools Required:

  • Thin bladed knife.
  • 6mm Posidriv® screwdriver.
  • Boa Constrictor wrench.
  • Rubber Gloves to protect from bleach and gunge in pipes.
  • Eye protection to protect from sprayable bleach.
  • Bucket.
  • Old newspaper.
  • Polyethylene sheet if floor is not waterproof.
  • Old toothbrush.
  • Small adjustable wrench if brackets have to be moved.
  • Sprayable Bleach, e.g. HG Mould Spray.


  • Use eye protection when spraying bleach.
  • Use rubber gloves when handling bleach or bacteria laden gunge in waste pipes.
  • Get help to lift heavy objects.

Gaining Access To The Pipes Under The Wash Basin

My wash basin is an Armitage Shanks Ascania semi-pedestal variety. That means the basin is bolted to the wall and is not supported by a pedestal underneath it. The pipes are then covered with a ceramic cover known as a ‘Semi-pedestal’ which has brackets fixing it to the wall. It looks a bit like the top half of a pedestal but it does not provide any support for the basin. I installed it in 2005 so I am familiar with the way it is fixed. Hopefully my description here will help anyone who has never dealt with one before.

How My Semi-pedestal Is Attached To The Wall

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

The Semi-pedestal Fixings

Left: The semi-pedestal is fixed by two continuously threaded screws which pass through the top corners of it and screw into plastic right-angled brackets which are firmly bolted to the wall through the bathroom tiles. The brackets have many holes in them close together. The semi-pedestal fixing screws are screwed into whichever holes are most convenient when it is presented to the underside of the wash basin.

The fixing screws are sleeved and cushioned with plastic ferules which mount into holes in the porcelain of the semi-pedestal. The ferules have a head on the outside of the semi-pedestal, for screw caps to click onto, which is countersunk for the screws. When the screws are tightened they sit nicely in the ferule heads and clamp the porcelain to the thick plastic brackets. The screws are finally covered with a good quality screw cap.

If the screws are tightened and the right-angled brackets positioned correctly the semi-pedestal won’t drop down under its own weight. The plastic brackets are nearly 1cm thick and suitably strong and held with anchor bolts and washers. They have to be positioned to sit flat against the inside surface of the semi-pedestal so that there is no flexibility when they are clamped to the semi-pedestal.

Removing The Semi-pedestal

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Supporting the Semi-pedestal

I had to take the semi-pedestal off the wall by first removing the screw caps which had to be flicked off with a thin bladed knife forced under the edge.

Before removing the two screws the semi-pedestal required support from underneath. A strong person could hold it up but to keep holding it with one hand, while removing what might have been difficult to remove screws with the other, would sap the strength of the best worker. I used a plastic children’s step atop a plastic kitchen step as a support. They didn’t quite fit under the bottom edge of the semi-pedestal, but since it has a sloping bottom surface I was able to wedge them under it by pushing the top step towards the wall.  Each screw could be removed half way and still support the semi-pedestal but for final screw removal a good support was required, so I kept holding the support in place with one hand while unscrewing with the other. Another pair of hands would have helped.

Good Advice: If you think you can hold the semi-pedestal with one hand while unscrewing with the other without extra support. Consider the situation where you are removing the last screw and the screwdriver slips out of your hand and rolls out of reach. How will you retrieve your screwdriver without damaging the semi-pedestal or the bracket by letting it dangle precariously?

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

With the semi-pedestal out-of-the-way the underside of the wash basin looked like this:

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

The Wash Basin Hot & Cold Water Pipe and Waste Pipe systems

Removing The Bottle Trap And Waste Pipe

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Preparing to remove the Bottle Trap Bowl

Before dismantling any pipes I put some old newspaper on the floor and placed a bucket under the bottle trap to catch the water from it. If the floor had not been waterproof I would have put some polyethylene sheet down first.

The bottom of a bottle trap has a screw on bowl (cover) which can be removed for cleaning or removing small items lost down the plug hole (waste) of a basin, e.g. jewelry stones.

I then unscrewed the bowl on the bottom of the trap with the aid of a “Boa Constrictor” wrench. Grip the trap firmly while unscrewing the bowl to apply a reactive force.

A Boa Constrictor wrench is a plastic wrench with a rubber strap which wraps around the item to be turned. The handle is then used as a lever to turn it. The Boa Constrictor wrench has to be applied such that it grips tighter as the force is increased. One of these is almost as good as a Stillson and more suited to working on plastic.

I have a pair of Boa Constrictor wrenches shown here:

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Boa Constrictor Wrenches

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Gunge seen looking up into the Bottle Trap

When the bottle trap bowl was removed the dirty water in the trap poured into the bucket. I then looked up into the trap with my camera to see this.

As I expected it was very dirty so I then removed the whole bottle trap and pipework and took it outside in the bucket for cleaning.

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Gunge hanging out of the Waste Pipe after removing the Bottle Trap

To remove the Bottle Trap I unscrewed the top nut from the Waste Outlet where the waste water goes into the trap. These nuts should not be excessively tight. They do have a soft rubber sealing washer and the water pressure is low. I didn’t need to use a Boa Constrictor wrench.

Once unscrewed I lowered my trap from the Waste Outlet. It was flexible because the waste pipe plugged onto a right-angled bend (elbow) which could twist around on the original copper pipe to which it fits. The trap could then be removed from the Waste Pipe by unscrewing the other nut where the waste water goes out of the trap and into the waste pipe. When the trap was removed I could see how much gunge was in the waste pipe.

I then pulled the short waste pipe out of the elbow and put that in the bucket. The gunge was hanging out of the elbow too. So I removed that by twisting it off the horizontal copper pipe under the tiles by working it up and down and forcing it to the right at the same time. That too went in the bucket.

At that moment water and gunge came out of the horizontal copper pipe so I had to make a quick move with paper towels to stuff them underneath the end of the copper pipe to soak it all up.

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

Gunge in the old copper pipe

I then took a bottle of HG Mould Spray and squirted it directly into the copper pipe after repacking the space below with dry kitchen roll sheets. I squirted plenty into it in the hope that it would react with the gunge in the pipe and dissolve as much as possible. This pipe, in my case, is only 600mm long before it goes into the vertical stack pipe. If I had found it seriously blocked I would have cleaned it with a long pipe brush I have.

I took all the components I had removed in the bucket to an outside tap and washed them thoroughly with bleach and an old toothbrush before returning them to the bathroom for reassembly.

With the bucket placed under the open waste outlet I then squirted HG Mould Spray into the waste outlet and into the holes in it designed for the overflow water that enters the basin overflow at the top to exit from. I did my best to work it in with the toothbrush. I then ran warm water from the tap and used it to rinse the are I had cleaned.

Reassembling All The Dismantled Parts

Reassembly is very much the reverse of the dismantling procedure. The push fit pipe joints went together easily. If they hadn’t I would have used some petroleum jelly to lubricate them. Some people use washing-up liquid. Below is an image of the plastic pipe parts laid out clean and ready to be assembled:

Unblocking My Wash Basin Drain

The plastic parts of the Waste Pipework

The Reassembly Procedure Is:

  1. Put the right-angled elbow on the old copper pipe.
  2. Plug the short white waste pipe into the elbow.
  3. Screw the bowl onto the bottom of the bottle trap and tighten.
  4. Put the nut, plastic washer and rubber cone onto the end of the waste pipe.
  5. Present the bottle trap to the waste pipe and screw the nut onto it taking care that the rubber cone seats well in the process but don’t tighten yet.
  6. Screw the captive nut at the top of the trap onto the bottom of the waste outlet.
  7. Tighten both nuts on the trap gradually moving back and forth between the two so that both joints seat correctly.

Testing For Leaks And Water Flow

When all the pipework was reassembled I ran water into the wash basin and tested for leaks. There were none. However I noticed that water still built up in the basin as if there was still a blockage.

I decided that if there was still gunge in the old copper pipe, which I had difficulty cleaning, I might shift it with some boiling water. I filled my kettle and boiled it. I poured three kettles full of boiling water down the drain in the end, and I do believe it improved the water flow. The gunge is made mainly of soap fat which melts in boiling water. Several kettles of boiling water were needed in quick succession because a lot of heat is given up to the pipework. It all needs to be raised to a high temperature to melt the soap fat.

NOTE: I think you can reduce the gunge created in waste pipes by using liquid soap instead of soap bars.

Refitting the Semi-pedestal

Again this is much the reverse of the procedure to remove it. After cleaning it with a vacuum cleaner and a damp cloth I lifted it into place and wedged the plastic steps back under it to support it. At first I had difficulty locating suitable holes in the brackets. So I removed it and trued up one of the brackets and tightened its anchor bolt.

I lifted the semi-pedestal back in place and supported it as before. This time I managed to find holes as desired (hopefully the original holes used initially) and tightened the screws. Then I clicked on the screw caps. “Job’s a good one.”

Falling Meteor

A Meteor Narrowly Missed A Skydiver

A Meteor Narrowly Missed A Skydiver

A meteor narrowly missed a skydiver, Anders Helstrup in 2012, when it  passed him after he opened his parachute whilst skydiving above Hedmark, Norway. It was all captured on his helmet cam.

The “dark flight” meteor (called that because it was not glowing hot) is thought to have broken off a larger meteor higher in the atmosphere. It was considered to be the first time such a meteor has been captured on video.

You can read all about it and see the video here.

parcel scales

ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales


I found these ABCON® PostShip® parcel scales in COSTCO, Derby. They seem to be a parcel shipment persons dream.

parcel scales

Until I bought these ABCON® PostShip® parcel scales I had been using my wife’s Salter Electronic (Model No.3007) kitchen scales for weighing packages destined for the post.

parcel scales

They were O.K. from 5g up to 5kg but had various disadvantages:

  • Large packages covered the scale readout. So I still didn’t know how much they weighed.
  • By using them I was introducing dirt into the food preparation area.
  • Tubes being weighed could roll off the scales. (I should stand them on end.)
  • The reading was lost as soon as the item was removed from the scales.

The ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scale Models Available

NOTE: ABCON® make five models covering different weight ranges. Mine is in the middle range (highlighted). The full list of weight ranges covered by these models is in the table below:

 POSTSHIP® 16KG/35KG 0-1kg / 0-2lb 2g / 0.1oz
1-16kg / 2-35lb 5g / 0.2oz
POSTSHIP® 25KG/55KG 0-1kg / 0-2lb 2g / 0.1oz
1-25kg / 2-55lb 10g / 0.5oz
POSTSHIP® 34KG/75KG 0-1kg / 0-2lb 5g / 0.2oz
1-34kg / 2-75lb 10g / 0.5oz
POSTSHIP® 40KG/88KG 0-5kg / 0-11lb 5g / 0.2oz
5-40kg / 11-88lb 10g / 0.5oz
POSTSHIP® 45KG/99KG 0-5kg / 0-11lb 5g / 0.2oz
5-45kg / 11-99lb 10g / 0.5oz

The ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales Specification

The table below shows the specification for my model. I don’t know if other models have different specifications.

POSTSHIP® 34KG/75KG 0-1kg / 0-2lb 5g / 0.2oz
1-34kg / 2-75lb 10g / 0.5oz
Platform Size 22cm (w) x 18cm (d)
Net / Gross Weight 1260g / 1625g
Package Standard carton: 33 x 26 x 12.7cm
Operating Temperature 0-40°C (32-104°F) : Optimum : 19-30°C (66-86°F)
Power Source 6 x AA 1.5V batteries (not included)
AC Adapter 9V / 100mA DC output (optional)

NOTE: These parcel scales change in 5g/0.2oz steps between 0kg and 1kg (0lb and 2lb) and then they change in 10g/0.5oz steps between 1kg and 34kg (2lb and 75lb).

Setting up ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales

When you remove the ABCON® PostShip® parcel scales from their box and polystyrene protective packaging you have to attach the weighing tray to the metal plate on top of the scales. Then insert batteries or connect to the mains through a power supply (provided). The picture below shows the weighing tray upside down and the parcel scales without the weighing tray in place:

parcel scales

parcel scales

The weighing tray has five plastic pegs coming down from underneath it which fit into the five large holes in the metal plate. The weighing tray has a hinged section which, when lifted, helps with weighing packages that can roll about, or any package which must be leant against a vertical surface while being weighed. See below:

parcel scales

Six AA batteries (NOT PROVIDED) can be inserted underneath by turning the parcel scales upside down. See picture below with the battery cover removed:

parcel scales

parcel scalesAlternatively the parcel scales can be powered from the mains using this power supply: Transparent Boundary Line

The power supply plugs into the mains and the socket shown below:

parcel scales

Operating ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales

  1. Place the parcel scales on a firm surface at a convenient height. Ensure that the surface they are placed on can take the weight of the items to be weighed. (With this model up to 75lb/34kg.)
  2. Press the ON/OFF button to turn the parcel scales on and let them warm up for a minute. The scales go through a start-up routine which involves counting down from 99999 to 11111 then – - – - – . Finally they show one of the following zeros depending on the unit set for measuring weight:
    • 0g
    • 0. 0.0lb:oz
    • 0.000kg
    • 0.00lb
    • 0.0oz
  3. The weight unit is indicated by an arrow head in the display which points to the appropriate unit marked on the plastic cover to the right of the display. It can be changed by continual pressing of the UNIT button either prior to weighing an item or afterwards while the scales are on HOLD. The units change in the following order before returning to the original unit:
    1. grams (g)
    2. pounds and ounces (lb:oz)
    3. kilograms (kg)
    4. pounds (lb)
    5. ounces (oz)
  4. If the figure displayed is not zero and the zero indicator “-0-” is not visible in the top left of the display then press the ZERO button to force the scales to display zero. When satisfactorily zeroed the zero indicator “-0-” will be displayed.
  5. Place the item to be weighed on the weighing tray. The number on the display will increase. After three seconds have elapsed the scales will make a single bleep sound and HOLD will appear on the screen as well as the stable weight indicator “ʘ” in the bottom left of the display. The display will continue to display the measured weight even when the item is removed from the scales for at least 90 seconds (120 seconds according to the manual). After that time the display returns to zero and the HOLD indicator is cleared. If, before that time has elapsed, the HOLD button is pressed the display will return to zero.
  6. If a second item is to be weighed without taking the first item off the scales then press the ZERO button to set the display to zero. It will also remove the HOLD condition. Then place the second item on the weighing tray too. This can be repeated time and time again, presumably until the maximum weight is reached by all the items on the scale. Why would you do this? I haven’t spoken about it until now but these scales would make excellent kitchen scales where that practice is required when adding to a mixing bowl. However they would suffer from the ingress of foodstuff around the buttons. So if these are used as kitchen scales just put them inside a flexible transparent polyethylene bag.


Weighing A Box:

parcel scales

Weighing A Tube:

parcel scales

Adjusting Some Of The Functions

The following functions can be turned ON and OFF to suit the requirements of the user:

  • Auto Shut Off
  • Auto Backlight
  • Auto Hold

Full instructions for doing this are provided in the accompanying manual. Initially all these functions are turned ON.


Many scales are calibrated in the factory and cannot be recalibrated later or at least they have to be returned to the manufacturer for that, but that doesn’t apply with these scales. The manual describes how to recalibrate them.

NOTE: I would emphasize that although it advises these scales can be calibrated using various commodities whose weight is known I wouldn’t advise using say 5kg of potatoes weighed out by the man in the local market. His scales may not be very accurate. When and by whom were they calibrated? Are they just a spring balance? I would more rely on the manufacturer’s calibration for some time and only recalibrate them when I was certain there was a problem. Then I would do my best to get the calibration as accurate as possible. Maybe I would take advice from the local government department responsible for weights and measures.

NOTE: Another point of concern is – be careful not to destroy the existing calibration by accidentally pressing the wrong buttons, i.e. the ON/OFF button (when switching ON) and UNIT button at the same time. Don’t let the cat do it either.

Typical Error Messages

See page 8, 13 and 14 of the manual:

  • Error due to faulty calibration.
  • Error due to damage.
  • Error due to overload.
  • Error due to being on an unstable surface.
  • Low battery.

These are all discussed in the comprehensive Troubleshooting section.


My ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales came with the standard 12 months warranty with the option to obtain a further 4 years warranty by registering the purchase of the scales with ABCON®. Registration was an online process.


In the original box

If not used very often the parcel scales can be stored in their original box but as it stands the polystyrene packing is shaped such that the weighing tray has to be separated from the parcel scales to fit. However with a bit of skill and a suitable small sharp knife the polystyrene packing can be cut so that the parcel scales can be fitted into it with the weighing tray mounted on top.

NOTE: Batteries can leak corrosive chemicals. Don’t forget to remove batteries for long time storage (6 months or more).

On a shelf

Alternatively the parcel scales can be stood on a shelf on their side. The edge of the weighing tray and the overhang of the top cover allow them to sit very nicely in a vertical attitude. See below:

parcel scales

Where You Can Buy ABCON® PostShip® Parcel Scales

Here are some places you can buy these parcel scales from.

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Opening Derby Train Station Forecourt

Opening Derby Train Station Forecourt With A Flash Mob

On 16th April 2013 Derby celebrated by way of dance to an appropriate tune “The Loco-Motion” from a Flash Mob while opening Derby Train Station Forecourt after months of disruption and a lot of money spent. See the video below:

Other dances were performed too (at least one other) and the opening ceremony can be seen here in the article published by the Derby Telegraph.

Dwarf Planets 1

We Have Another Dwarf Planet

Dwarf Planet 2012VP113

Astronomers have found another dwarf planet in the Solar System. This is a dwarf planet and it doesn’t have a real name yet. It just has a number ’2012 VP113′ as do so many dwarf planets in the region of space occupied by Pluto. It doesn’t seem long ago that there was just Pluto beyond Neptune but new dwarf planets are being discovered regularly. There is a long list of them (46) here by Mike Brown (not updated since 2008), but here is Mike Brown’s up to date list of Probable Plutoids (as of 27/03/2014) and other people’s submissions at Wikipedia.

What is a Plutoid?

Mike Brown has a Plutoid definition embedded in this article.

We all know it's a bit of a pain cycling up steep hills especially on your journey to work, but CycloCable gets bikes up that hill.

CycloCable Gets Bikes Up That Hill

CycloCable Gets Bikes Up That Hill

We all know it’s a bit of a pain cycling up steep hills especially on your journey to work, but CycloCable gets bikes up that hill.

Well the Norwegians have got that sorted, in Trondheim at least. Just watch this video:

You can see more detail about how the ‘CycloCable gets bikes up that hill’ at Gizmodo. Better still why not nip over to the Trampe Home Page to read more about the CycloCable® System.

fixing battens for shelves to old walls

Fixing Battens For Shelves To Old Walls


I found myself fixing battens for shelves to old walls for  someone. They only required two supporting battens at each end of each shelf. The job took much longer than expected. Why? The Victorian house walls on which the battens were fixed were crumbling underneath the plaster. This severely hindered the normal process of drilling holes, tapping in wall anchors and screwing in screws.

Continue reading

From investigation and reason comes understanding.

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