Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Welding Certification

I certified my first weldor of the school year the other day. Plate certifications are not all that difficult if you are willing to spend some time in the welding booth doing repetitious work for days on end. Many of my vocational students aren't willing to do that even though they have the opportunity to become AWS certified in all position welding at little or no cost to them. Every year I get a few willing to make the effort, and it can really open some doors. You'll notice two sets of coupons in the photos. If you take a guided bend test and don't pass it on the first try, you have to pass two good ones in a row and that's what happened here. Nothing wrong with some additional practice, however. The kid stuck with it and because these were welded in the vertical position, he's certified on plate in flat, horizontal and vertical positions. To be certified overhead requires another test.

At the beginning of the school year, I was telling my vocational students that there would be all kinds of good welding jobs available in the next few years but now it looks like it might be the soup line for a lot of people. Many construction projects are coming to a halt, people every where are being laid off and it doesn't look real sunny for my soon to be graduates. So, if you have a bunch of high schoolers who have a hard time visualizing what they're going to be doing in the next few years, what impact is the economic downturn going to have on them now? Are they even aware that it might be tough out there for them? Will it mean they will actually come to school every day trying to learn as much as possible so they can have a leg up on the other guy? Do they realize that job skills learned now for free are going to be in demand in the future but will be costly to learn in the future? Is youthful bliss going to allow them to muddle through?

Even though the world seems to get crazier every day, I'm still blessed with some good people who want to be craftsmen. When all of this Fanny and Freddie and Big Three stuff settles down, it will be manufacturing and the trades that ultimately will have to do the heavy lifting. If you don't have Atlas to support the world, you need people making things to generate real wealth. As soon as we get the money changers out of the temple and get back to honest labor in the factories and small farms, things will be a lot better for my graduates and the rest of us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Midgets and Tot Rods

The midget is progressing like most of my projects - steady by jerks. I did get the seat back done and a start on the floor. I'm currently working on the dashboard. I bought a kit from Eastwood to engine turn it but I haven't had a chance to put it into action yet. As soon as the dash is in place I can hook up the steering. Hook up the pedals and it's going to be pretty close to being done.

The other pictures show a Murray Super Tot Rod I'm working on as well. My wife drug this thing home a few years back and it has been hanging in the shop ever since. I decided it was time to be done, so I'm trying to get it finished in time for Christmas. It had been run over by a car or something. Kind of bent up in places and missing a steering wheel, the steering rod and a front wheel. I've got it pretty well straightened out, made a new steering rod and bought a few pieces from Speedway Motors. They had a steering wheel and a decal set. They have front wheels but at $22 something each, I decided to pass on the wheels. I'm figuring some type of lawn mower or utility type wheel for maybe $6.00 or $7.00 each. I'll see what I can come up with. A little sanding and painting and it should be a cool little pedal car.

Nice thing about all of this is the fact that there are two grandsons. When the older one out grows something, the little guy can take over. Grandpa can then build something else for the big guy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boxing Update

It's been real busy around here lately. The boxing gym is bursting at the seams. We took some guys to fights on Wednesday and Saturday. Wednesday night we had one exhibition fight and one match. The exhibition had our kid up against a much more experienced fighter. The other guy held back just the right amount to give our guy some good work in front of a crowd and made it a good show for the spectators. Our other fighter won handily by a decision. It was his third fight and he's looking a lot better than when he first started. It was his opponent's first fight. The guy was a gamer but he was no match for "Bazooka Joe". I forgot to take my camera along. I could have gotten some good shots of the fighters and the card girls as well. They were a couple of cuties.

Saturday we went to Indy and things didn't go real well there. Our first fighter up was in the ring for the first time and fought really well. He lost by decision but if he had busied it up a little more in the third round, he might have been able to pull it off. He kept his composure and looked pretty sharp for his first time. A lot of guys forget everything you ever told them when they get in there. The second fighter got robbed, plain and simple. I don't usually complain about the decisions but this one was just plain wrong. Our guy easily won the first two rounds. His opponent received two standing eight counts in the second round and he was basically just getting the snot pounded out of him. The third round, our fighter eased up but the other guy didn't throw much either. I wasn't the only person who questioned the decision, either. Everyone in the crowd thought the same thing. That's how it is in the old boxing game, sometimes.

We do have some real good talent coming to the gym now. Even though the ones who've fought didn't always win, they all fought well and looked sharp doing it. We're going to be able to field some good fighters in the future. We've got a bunch of young guys coming to the gym and we're going to have a real nice facility when we finish our expansion. I think we'll be able to put on a pretty good showing at this year's Golden Gloves.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Riding in the Dark

Now that the time has changed and the days are getting shorter, it's time to switch to my winter bike. It's an old Peugeot mountain bike my brother gave to me many a year back. He bought it while stationed in Germany and Uncle Sam shipped it back for him. He wasn't in need of a bike at the time so I ended up with it. It's got to be at least twenty-five years old by now but it still goes. I put some new tires on it a few years back and oil the chain every once in a while but it's pretty much low maintenance. It's heavy like a truck but that probably contributes to the reliability factor.

For commuting in the winter darkness, I've got the thing all geeked up with lights and reflective tape. I wear a reflective vest and an ankle strap. I have a tail light on the bike and my helmet and I've got two headlights. The one small light is a cheapo bike headlight that would be OK if you were riding around in the city but out here in the sticks, it's my emergency backup. The big light is a 6 volt lantern that I bought at Wal-Mart for about six bucks. I sawed the back of it off and TIG welded up an aluminum tube and plate that's riveted into the back of the lantern. The battery is in the bottle cage with a short length of zip cord to get the power up to the light. It's nice and bright and does a nice job of allowing people to see me and me to see the road. The handlebar bracket it sits in I made to fit a Dollar General flashlight. The little flashlight was a big improvement over the bicycle light but as always, if a little bit is good, a whole lot is better. I carry the flashlight with me for a backup headlight as well as just having a light in case I need to fix something while I'm commuting. I don't know how this setup compares to a high end store bought setup but the price was right and I'd rather make things anyway.

I rode in Monday and it was 26 degrees when I left the house. Lots of rain and real busy this week, so the truck has been called into service but so far I've driven less than 20 days of the school year.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Architecture and Politics

I've always been interested in architecture and for a long time, I've been interested in labor history. In particular, how the role of guilds, craft unions and workers in general have shaped the history of the world and this country in particular. The years between 1880 and the late1930s were a time of tremendous development in industry, art and a combination of the two. It was the time of Streamline Moderne, the jazz age and all kinds of really fine designs like the Twentieth Century Limited, the S. S. Normandie and Auburn boattail speedsters. Henry Dreyfuss and Raymond Lowey were designing all kinds of cool things and Elbert Hubbard, Dard Hunter, Gustav Stickley and others were making all manner of Arts and Craft items.

Also during this time period was a strong labor movement. Mother Jones, Eugene V Debs, Samuel Gompers and a host of others were involved with the Wobblies, the Socialist Party of America, the American Federation of Labor, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, etc. Some of this was a direct result of abusive labor policies of the robber barons in the steel and railroad industries. Some was a result of the dangerous conditions in the coal mines and some was a result of the philosophies adhered to by immigrant laborers. It was as Dickens said: "the best of times and the worst of times".

Even though I'm interested in these subjects, I know a little bit about a lot of it but a lot about only a little of it. So I'm always trying to learn more, especially what was going on in other countries. So after the long lead in, I'm recommending you check out this blog if you are interested in similar topics. This was Blogger's blog of the day awhile back. The blogger is an English writer/critic/PHD candidate/and who knows what else. He writes on architecture, labor and political topics and how they all interact, especially from a historical standpoint. While much of what he writes concerns England and current issues, it applies to a greater or lesser extent to America. His October 17th post has the movie Manhatta by Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler. I'm a big fan of Sheeler and of the Russian poster art he throws up. Because I have a little background and an interest in all of this, I can understand some of what he's writing about. However, much of it is either way too deep or just too far out in left field for me. But I like getting the world view on much of what is essentially glossed over in history class. However, after reading a couple of his posts, I just had to stop and take a deep breath and wonder what the hell did I just read? So check it out and see if you can make sense of it. If it all seems perfectly clear, let me know and you can interpret for me.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Our internet spam filter at school is GWAVA, whatever that means. It does a pretty good job of taking out the inane and pornographic so it doesn't end up in the e-mail inbox. However, it also filters out the occasional one that needs to be read, which means I'm still compelled to read the subject lines on all of the junk mail. The subject lines are usually trying to entice you to buy a drug, buy a watch, buy a degree, get out of debt, or view some pornography, with some of these lines being pretty graphic.

Having spent many an hour in a college classroom, I can see why buying a degree would be a lot easier. Never mind the fact that if you get the new job as a result of it, your employer may actually expect you to have mastered the knowledge associated with said degree. I can also understand buying drugs from the internet. Let's face it, with your new degree you should be smart enough to self-medicate - especially when most of the drugs advertised are for your sexual pleasure. That being the case, might as well order the porno stuff at the same time, smart guy. And of course, you will need to buy a watch. The Rolex knockoff will be a good investment to make sure the effects of the self-prescribed drugs don't last longer than four hours and, if so, you can seek medical treatment. And last but certainly not least, be sure to keep the e-mail address of the financial genius offering to get you out of debt, because after you get canned because of the bogus degree, your only options are going to be laying around the house with your Cialis and your porn and maybe checking your watch to see when the last time one of your irate creditors called.

If the losers of the internet world would stop opening up these e-mails, maybe the spammers would find a new hobby and I wouldn't have to wade through all of that crap first thing every morning. Or maybe some genius can find a way to send them back where they came from along with the promise of a punch in the snoot if it happens again. That might make a good fund raiser for the boxing gym. I know I'd be willing to pay to see these knuckleheads get a good thumping.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hiking Stove

Surly and I were discussing some arcane things, as we are wont to do, and the subject of disaster preparedness came up. In the event of a natural disaster or some other event requiring evacuation, living without electricity, black UN helicopters, etc., a small stove would be handy to have. I made myself a plumber's backpacking stove a couple of years ago and the little thing works really well. All you need is a tuna can, some cotton balls, a piece of scrap aluminum and a little alcohol. The link has all the info you need to make one up. In fact, that's where I got the idea to make mine. I usually use Heet gas line antifreeze for my fuel. They have twist off lids now on the bottles and you can find it almost everywhere. The aluminum strip will also fit around the little Sterno fuel cans like Coghlan markets.

I've carried mine on two long distance cycle trips and a couple of backpacking trips and it does the job with very little weight to drag around. It heats up a Sierra cup full of water in about 5 minutes and cools off in even less time. I don't know how it would work at high altitudes but I did make coffee at about 5,000 ft just down the road from the Idaho/Montana border at Lolo Pass.

So in keeping with the make stuff theme of the blog, get out the tinsnips and build a stove. I took mine into school for a pattern and had a couple of students each make one. They knocked them out pretty quick with little or no instruction. One for Surly and one for a spare. You can take one camping on these late fall days or throw it in your bug out bag so you're ready when the zombies attack.