Tuesday, January 24, 2017

One Step Closer

We had a tremendous day around here on Saturday - sunny and 60 degrees. Not at all like what a normal January day would be. I went to the gym in the morning, came home and tackled a few little things outside and then threw the big doors open in the shop and worked a little bit on the sidecar project. 

I needed to fill in a small spot on the floor and fasten down the front of the fender. Fortunately, I found a piece of diamond plate big enough to do the job without having to order in a piece. After cutting it to fit, I bent up a piece of 3/16" aluminum flat bar to match the contour of the fender, drilled and countersunk a couple of holes for the Dzus fasteners, and then welded it on to the floor plate. Punched and dimpled the fender for the Dzus fasteners and I was set. The fasteners have the "wings" on them to be able to turn them without tools but those are only temporary. When I get everything ready for final assembly, I'll swap them out for ones with screwdriver slots.

Next up is to make the fender skirt for the inside of the wheel. I'm thinking about making another hand grip on the outside. I should do that, if I'm going to, before I close the wheel opening on the outside. It's not supposed to be brutally cold or anything this week. Maybe I can get the inner skirt done in the next few days.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


The recent Vintage Motorsport magazine e-mail had both of these. They're part of the upcoming Mecum auction taking place in Vegas soon. If you're flush with green and are looking for a bike, you should be able to find something to your liking. I went through the catalog and there's everything from scooters, to cruisers, old to new. A beautiful '68 Triumph Bonneville caught my eye, as well as several things of Italian origin. I don't need anything else with wheels under it but I'd love to be able to fly out there, buy the Bonnie or something similar and then ride it back home. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Virtual Welding

Here's a short promotional video about the Lincoln virtual welding machine. It features, among others, my boss, one of my students and a co-worker.

I've farted around with the thing and I'm not sold on the advantages of it, personally. My biggest problem with it is we only have one of them. It works well if you partner people up but with the eight week format of our classes, we don't have the time to cycle everyone through the virtual welder before getting them out on the real thing. It's fun to play with, however.

You can set up different scenarios where you'll be welding, different welding processes, different electrodes, material thickness, joint types and positions. The machine will tell you if the parameters are within the required range and then grade your performance on things like arc length, travel angle, speed of travel - all the things you would be looking at if your were actually welding. The view through the helmet is pretty realistic and you have to chip your slag like a real weld. And it has sound effects! 

It has the potential to save a lot of money in material and consumables but the machine is expensive. You'd have to use it a lot to get the payback, however. While it simulates the welding processes very well, I'd like to see it make smoke and spit out sparks as well. Then you'd have something.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


I'd finished reading I Had to Survive by Roberto Canessa and mentioned it to Surly. He recommended  I read the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Interesting book. The author's father was shot down over Germany while piloting a B-17. He was unable to get out of the plane and rode a chunk of it down from an altitude of 27,000 feet. Surprisingly enough, though badly injured, he lived through that only to be facing a German farmer pointing a pistol at his head. When the farmer pulled the trigger, the gun failed to discharge, literally dodging a bullet. The author goes into more details of his father's story at the end of the book after relating many other incredible stories of survival including that of Roberto Canessa, not all of which end well.

I suppose most every man has wondered at one time or another if he had what it takes to come out on top in a true survival situation. The Deep Survival book brings together some commonalities of the survivors as well as describing how the brain functions when in serious trouble. With all the interest in "prepping" on one end of the spectrum and safe spaces and trigger warnings on the other, what's really going to happen if there's a serious national event like the grid going down for a month? What happens to the preppers who haven't prepared well enough, say their food or water supply runs out. Does being a prepper make you a survivor or just put you ahead of the curve. Will all the "snowflakes" leave their safe spaces and become survivors.

I just recently saw the documentary on the Blizzard of '49. Good Lord, what a storm. If I remember right, however, there was only one fatality. Now those people were survivors. Also, last Thursday was the anniversary of the Children's Blizzard. I recommend reading the book on that one. While it's a tragic story, it really brings home the fact that Mother Nature can be a cruel mistress.

The appendix of the Deep Survival book discusses living your life while balancing the risk/reward ratio as well as offering some things to consider if you ever find yourself in a survival situation. Additionally, there are of course things that you can and should do to prepare if you're going to be involved in a risky hobby or adventure and the book lists several of these. Since these seem to be somewhat risky times with both politics and the weather causing major issues, you might want to look in to preparing yourself for some unforeseen situation. Reading Deep Survival would be a good start.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Photo From Here

Great photo of Katherine Hepburn. Now that the cold weather is here and it gets dark early, I should mix up some fresh chemicals and make a few B&W prints. I haven't done any photography work in quite a while. I should see what I've got for film and maybe shoot a couple of rolls of medium format and maybe a few shots with the 4x5 as well. Of course getting out would somewhat be weather dependent and around here that could be just about anything. 

Last weekend the daytime temperatures were in the teens. Wednesday the Missus and I had dentist appointments that had us driving through fog on the way in, and a serious thunderstorm on the way home with temperatures increasing from high 30's through out the day until they hit 55 at 8:30 that evening.. I had gone out into the shop earlier in the day and worked a bit until I ran out of propane for the furnace. I loaded up the tank and took it over to get it refilled. It's a fairly large tank - about 42" tall and 16" in diameter. I dropped it off outside by where the route driver fills his truck. I went back yesterday to pick it up and the tank was frozen to the ground. I borrowed a hammer from the guys there, thinking I could tap around the base and break it free. No go. One of the mechanics got a strap, wrapped it around the tank and gave it a jerk with his pickup to break it free. They're forecasting temps in the mid to high fifties next weekend, so I'm planning on getting out and doing a little ice skating this weekend. Crazy weather, even for around here.

I start back to school next week. Not really looking forward to working after having a month off but I'm sure I'll be fine once I get back into the routine again. I got caught up on a lot of little things while I was off and even though I've got a project list that's still a mile long, mostly it's just my stuff and not the honey-do things. I'll get started on an exercise routine, set aside a couple hours every day for project work and then just keep on keepin' on. You all do the same.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Educational Items

"Back when I taught at UCLA, I was constantly amazed at how little so many students knew. Finally, I could no longer restrain myself from asking a student the question that had long puzzled me: "What were you doing for the last 12 years before you got here?" - Thomas Sowell

1. Mr. Sowell recently retired and this quote was taken from his last column. I'm only vaguely familiar with Mr. Sowell's works, but since I started teaching at the college I've wondered the same thing. How did you guys get into college with your skills? Going along with this, I started a Facebook page a couple of months back - now that's one big sinkhole of a time waster - and it didn't take me long to discover that many of the people posting should have paid closer attention in English class over the years. Granted, some of the cell phone shorthand is to be expected, and people probably don't put a lot of thought into posts of cat videos or their grandchildren, but still, if you're going to send it out into the world don't make yourself look totally illiterate. The stuff I write here is not always grammatically correct. I write in "conversational" sentences, if there is such a thing and I think much faster than I can type which can lead to some interesting sentence structure. Normally, however, I try to write a post then come back later and proof read it. The cooling off period allows me to catch most of my mistakes.

2. I checked the National Endowment for the Humanities site to see what they were offering for summer workshops and seminars. Nothing much that an adjunct welding instructor would qualify for but they are offering the program at the Henry Ford again for K-12 teachers. I've attended three of these summer workshops on the subject of the Industrial Revolution including the one at the Henry Ford. Besides learning quite a bit of history, at the Henry Ford we rode the steamboat, the steam locomotive, toured a Ford assembly plant, did an after hours tour of the grounds of the Greenfield Village, and had access to areas of the Henry Ford normally off limits to visitors. Shop Teacher Bob highly recommends the NEH summer workshops. You can find the info here.

3. The  most recent Imprimis from Hillsdale College delved into education issues. Hillsdale has successfully started sixteen charter schools with more in the works. These offer an education based on the classical model with Latin, history, literature, philosophy, etc. being taught. The chairman of Hillsdale's education program has written a series of standards for K-12. The standard for each grade takes up only about a half sheet of paper but according to the author, if the child can do the things on that half page, he/she has learned a lot. Mostly it seems to be common sense vs Common Core. You can read the whole article online here

4. I just finished reading Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz. Interesting look at how young people are struggling to get a decent start in life - college loan debt, credit card debt, lack of jobs (especially those with benefits), and other factors that play into keeping them from having their slice of the pie. The book was written in 2006. After the meltdown of '08 and the following years, I'm sure things haven't improved much for those who fall into the 18 - 30 year old category. Looking at it from my perspective, I see things differently than the author but that's to be expected. However, when things are tough, that might be the time to look to your elders for some advice. As the book mentions, though, many of the older people they look to for help are people with problems of their own. The book does a really good job of explaining the problems and the issues facing young people trying to make their way in the world but I wasn't real impressed with the solutions offered at the end of the book. Here's a couple of things I would offer: Understand fully the economic concepts of compounding interest and opportunity cost. Have marketable skills. Get a job and do not quit that job until you have a better one.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ice Racing

Surly and I met up at Cedar Lake yesterday to check out the ice races. I was wondering on the way over if they were going to have any sidecars and, sho - nuff, they did. I talked to a couple of the guys about the bikes. Three of the rigs were just set up with a third wheel. The Sportster in the top photo was actually set up for a passenger. However, the course they ran on was just an oval, so all a passenger would do for you would be additional weight over the drive wheel. The sidecars can run screws in the front wheel only, so they don't build up too much speed. Apparently the trick is to cut slits in the knobbies to get a little more traction and refine the handling by moving the sidecar wheel for or aft as needed.

In addition to the sidecars, they raced quads and solo rigs. Most of the racing was without spikes around the oval. Not real exciting to watch when you're standing on the ice in 15 degree weather. The bikes with spikes, however, that was a whole different story. Instead of running just on the small oval, they raced on a big slalom course - and race they did. One guy took off and left the pack but he dropped out before the half way point in the race. He was flat gettin' it. Most of the rest of the racers were no slouches either. 

This is the first ice race I've been to since the early 70's here at the same venue. There were a few years back then when there wasn't enough ice to race and I guess everyone gave up. They started back up again a few years ago. Glad I went, in spite of the cold. I was dressed warm but my feet were getting cold about the time the main was over. It's supposed to warm up tomorrow again so I'm planning on heading back out to the shop to do a little more on my rig.

The group that put the show on can be found on Facebook:  MotoOnIce Cedar Lake, if you're interested.