Monday, December 29, 2008

Rumble Series

Cuzzin' Rick and I went to Fort Wayne for the midget races at the Coliseum on Saturday. This is turning into an annual tradition. The races are part of the Rumble Series and feature various classes of carts, Micromini sprints and midgets. The track is a short oval but the racing is top notch. The program is run like clockwork with very little downtime between races. The only hold up this year was when a cover plate for the utilities came loose on the floor and came shooting out at us. Fortunately, it hit the concrete barrier just below the catch fence. They were initially going to weld it in place but swapped it out for one in the infield. I was thinking the little 110 volt MIG they drug out there wasn't really going to do the job on a piece of 1/2" plate, anyway.

Many of the midgets have to be push started so they have this Hemi powered hot rod with a big wooden bumper to do the job. It's got big sprint car tires on the back to get traction on the concrete floor and the guy driving the rig really know his stuff. It's worth the price of a ticket just to watch this guy at work.

The fan favorite was Tony Stewart. He won the last two events we went to and we expected pretty much the same this year. He spun in one of the qualifiers and as a result didn't get a very good starting position in the main. He put on quite a driving exhibition just the same and finished third, I believe. It's hard to keep track of the placings on the little track. Lou Cicconi won, that much I know for sure.

Marvin the Martian didn't qualify for the show but there were little guys driving karts that were not much older out there racing. I think you can get started in kart racing when you're four. Some of the karts really fly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Up On The Seat

I found this picture HERE at Nostalgia on Wheels. Now that picture has just the sort of daredevilish appeal that Grumpy Unk and I would have found to our liking back in the day. While most blogging is pretty much self-indulgent, this post is basically a trip down memory lane for Grumpy Unk and myself. Unk's comment about getting the old '48 Chevy up on two wheels a few posts back got me to thinking about some of the goofy crap we did to amuse ourselves. First of all, there's really no trick to getting a car with a center of gravity about 5 feet high up on two wheels. Just run 'er into the corner a little deep and turn a hard left - it'll do it every time. Likewise, it's not all that big a trick to get up on the saddle of a bike. It seems like everyone Unk and I knew did this kinda crap on a regular basis.

The guy down the street from us used to ride around no handed on his Honda Super 90. Like leave the house and then come back and hour later no handed. Unk and I used to fool around on our Harley (like the one pictured) no handed, up on the pegs no handed and at least a couple of times up on the seat no handed. We didn't think much of it at the time. We weren't exactly the Victor Mc Laglen Motor Corps - just a couple of knuckleheads havin' some fun on a little motorcycle the old man had drug home. I did manage a little bit of the sit on the tank and ride backwards routine. A small bike and a soft spot to land are definitely recommended for learning this trick.

The little Harley is still around. When the old man brought it home the deal was, if I could get it running we would be 50/50 partners. The engine was locked up and missing the seat and tank. I got it running and terrorized the neighborhood for a while until I moved up to something a little bigger. My half of the partnership went to Unk and his half was later passed down to the youngest brother. When Surly was a young'un he learned to ride on it and I eventually ended up with it as sole owner. Surly went through the motor a few years back so it's pretty much ready to roll. When his boys are big enough to ride, they can take over ownership. I'm sure that would please the old man if he were still around to see it. When the weather gets nice this spring maybe I'll drag it out and get it running and take a few pictures like the guy on the Sporty.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not Just A Tot Rod - A Super Tot Rod

The Super Tot Rod is going to make Santa's sleigh right on schedule, which for me normally means at the last minute. I had a little weather delay due to the ice storm here in the Midwest but it's done and the paints even dry. It's nice finishing up a project. After all these years, I still can't figure out how I lose interest in something I was so fired up to start on (the projects for the grandsons being exceptions) or why I should have a dozen things going at the same time.

I think part of the problem is other jobs crop up along the way and seem to jump to the head of the line. Most of these are not my own jobs, by the way. Another part of the problem is I tend to lose interest once I have the job mastered mentally. By that I mean, if I know I can do it, why go ahead with it. If it's no longer a challenge, I might as well finish this book I'm reading. Of course, the fact that I'm constantly reading naturally cuts into my work time as well. Last, but certainly not least, I'm always spread way too thin. With the job, the gym, running, traveling, family time, doing what little maintenance I do on the shack, Mother Nature throwing the occasional curve ball like an ice storm stripping the branches off the trees and flipping the remaining section of the barn off it's foundation and throwing the roof into the middle of the driveway, plus a little blogging time, it's not always easy to find the time to get out in the shop and do a little something. The blog here should be an asset, however.

With my "legion of fans" tracking my progress, now there is a little more pressure to get things done. Usually if I set a completion date, it's just a suggestion. Carved in stone dates, like birthdays or Christmas, are something else. Likewise, involving others also rachets up the ante. If I post about a project here, theoretically at least, the whole damn world knows about it. If the whole world is watching, a guy probably ought to get up off the couch. With that in mind, the midget is now priority number one for the February 18th deadline. Cuzzin Ricky's buggy is still the official open shop night project, the 900 is looking to see daylight on April 1st, and I also have a couple of fairly big jobs cooking with the vocational class during day school. It should be a good winter for projects. Projects that get completed, that is.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cool Bike

My running buddy was cleaning out his magazine pile the other day and brought me an article from the December 2007 Popular Science magazine. It's about an infinitely geared bicycle and it's pretty darn cool. There is no derailleur but rather a rear hub that utilizes ball bearings and a couple of metal discs. It's based on an idea by Leonardo da Vinci - that was a guy who really had it going on. Anyway, the NuVinci transmission is something I'd really like to try out. You can check out "The Ride" at Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles. The thing is not cheap at $3,000.00 but quality and innovation rarely is. If you've got a minute, check out the link. You can read the magazine article at either the Ellsworth website or the Popular Science site. If you're in the market to build a bike or have one built for you, the hubs can be purchased at a bike parts supplier such as Alfred E. Bike. The hub might be just the ticket for a cargo bike here in the Midwest. Of course, you still have a couple of days before Christmas if you're looking for that special someone's gift.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wind Power

The weather has been, as they say, frightful the last couple of days. First we get an ice storm that wreaks havoc with the trees and the roads and then the cold air blows in sub-zero temperatures. And I mean blows in, laddies. After fixing the thermocouple in the furnace this morning (how's that for timing?), I went outside to feed and water the animals and get the Sunday paper. My lane is almost a 1/4 mile long and the walk back into the wind was just plain brutal. It was still below zero and the wind was gusting something like thirty miles per hour. I wish I could do something with the wind instead of watching the curtains blow in the old farmhouse on days like today.

There is someone doing something with the wind. These guys have built a couple of rigs to attempt to set the wind powered land speed record and the ice speed record. The land record got rained out this year but they're planning on an ice assault in January of '09 in Montana. The machines are basically composite construction ice boats built with solid type sails like an airplane wing. They sure look cool. If the high mileage team had some deeper pockets, I'd look into similar construction techniques for our project. The Ecotricity folks aren't just racers, however. They're all about green energy sources, zero carbon emissions and wind turbines for the urban dweller. I know I'd rather watch a wind turbine spin instead of my electric meter on days like today.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"We Are Proud to Participate ..."

sent me this picture. I don't know where he ran across it but it's pretty cool. The writing at the bottom says: "We are proud to participate in the industrialization of the nation". That's the kind of attitude we need more of.

The outcome of World War ll and the post war industrialization of the U.S. is pretty much the direct result of the welding game. When it came time to ramp up for the war effort, stick and submerged arc welding allowed heavy fabrications such as ships and tanks to be assembled much quicker than riveting did with less metal being used as well. The aircraft industry used gas welding for the tube frames and TIG welding or Heliarc, as it was called, was perfected to weld aluminum and magnesium. The importance of welding both during the war and after cannot be underestimated. Alloy Rods Corporation produced 14,000,000 pounds of stainless steel electrodes between 1940 and 1945. That's just one manufacturer and only one type of material.

Now there are over 200 types of welding processes. Some, such as atomic hydrogen welding, are not exactly household words but you can bet your bottom dollar that you won't go through a single day in this country without coming in contact with something that has been welded. The Welding Information Center has a brief but good history of welding at their site.

I've been welding for forty years now and I too am proud to say I participated in the industrialization of our nation. Before and during my teaching career, I've worked at a variety of welding jobs - structural steel, maintenance, job shops and construction. I've also had the great pleasure of teaching the rudiments of the trade to a very large number of people. All that those short-sighted financial geniuses who have been running the show can state is: "We are proud to have participated in the industrialization of other countries".

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'59 Chevy

I picked up a Rod and Kulture magazine the other day while out finishing my Christmas shopping. I've been checking out the car mags the last couple of years looking for inspiration to work on the Volkswagen and maybe someday give the old Plymouth the love it deserves. I like Rod and Kulture because it always has plenty of traditional hot rods as well as old drag racers. It also throws in a cool motorcycle or two and a couple of really nice pinups. Pretty much everything an old fart like myself is interested in with a minimum of advertising.

The latest issue has a '59 Chevy custom that is really nice. The car is somewhat of a mystery as to who built it but it's a really nice example of what an early '60's custom car looked like. It's got an upholstered trunk, lots of tasteful chrome and a 348 mill. Really sweet.

We had a '59 when I was a kid and it was nothing like this one. Ours had a 235 Blue Flame six with a three on the tree. It was my Mom's driver and my older brother's farm vehicle. He was doing a little farming while still in high school, so the old stovebolt got put to use hauling seed and fertilizer out to the fields and I'm pretty sure it hauled a couple of little piglets around as well. I remember borrowing it to see my future wife when we first started dating. The throttle linkage was sticking from all the dirt thrown up around the gas pedal so I tied a piece of baling twine from the linkage to the glove box door. I'd grab it to idle down the motor when I let off the gas to shift. Don't try this at home, kids. It was soon replaced by a '62 Impala that also had the six cylinder.

Now that GM is on the ropes, it makes you wonder if maybe they should have continued to make vehicles as rough and ready as those old ones. My family and I had a variety of straight six powered cars and trucks, the earliest I remember being my '48 Chevy Fleetmaster. The long stroke gave the motor plenty of torque and the gas mileage was every bit as good as what my Dodge pickup gets. The Dodge beats the pants off them for horsepower of course, but as a high school kid with no formal training, I could fix anything that needed to be fixed.

If the big three all go out of business, maybe I'll try to find an old Chevy to fix up for my next car. I still remember the drill for winter time starting. Heat lamp and a blanket or a dipstick heater. If it's going to be below zero, you better have both. Pump the gas a few times and turn the key. Do the throttle dance 'til she's running good and then head for the house. Run back outside in a couple of minutes and drop her off the fast idle cam so she's not going to run the rods out the bottom. If it was going to be real, real cold, you would get up in the middle of the night and start it as well. We didn't have any remote starters. We just figured it only had a remote chance of starting and did whatever we could.

I did stop in the local Dodge dealership the other day to see about a new truck. The one in the showroom had a sticker of 50 grand. You could fill a whole barn with project cars for that price. Oh wait. I have a whole barn full of projects.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

No Child Left Inside

I received an e-mail from Project Learning Tree and they mentioned the No Child Left Inside Coalition. They are trying to accomplish the same type of thing that was brought up by Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods and his description of "nature deficit disorder". The No Child Left Inside Coalition apparently has been able to get this point across to our politicians and there is now a No Child Left Inside Act that has passed through Congress. It doesn't seem like it should take an act of Congress to get your kids outside but in these changing times, I guess it must.

I also received my new Small Farmer's Journal this week. As always the editorials by Mr. Miller are spot on. He brings a common sense approach to the nuts and bolts of farming but also sheds light on how important the role of the small farmer is. More important, at least in my view, is his crusade to make the small farm a much bigger player in the lives of us here in America and through out the world. To clarify the definition of a small farmer, basically all you have to do is plant yourself a small garden and your in the group. Of course there is no need to stop there. You can get yourself a few acres, plant a truck patch, get a few chickens and keep working yourself into a bigger operation complete with draft animals. Basically it's any small scale operation both in size and in mindset.

With these two things in mind, it would seem only natural to combine the two. Get the kids involved in a gardening and/or small animal project. Even if you live in the city there are community gardens. Volunteer with the kids on beautification projects. Talk to the folks at the farmer's market and see if you can't arrange to visit or help out - there are farming apprenticeships available. Magazines like the Small Farmer's Journal and Small Farm Today are great resources. Get a subscription and have it available for the kids to read. I went to the Horse Progress Days in southern Indiana a few years back and it was very interesting. It's basically a trade show for those who farm with draft animals. Even if you have no intention of ever farming with horse or oxen, it's still a great thing to see. It's not often you get to see a team of horses making hay or plowing.

Of course that's all in the spring and summer. Now's the time for sledding, skiing and skating. Get outside and enjoy winter.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tubing or Not Tubing

We're bending tubes now, by golly. We got the first one done at open shop on Tuesday night with only one minor setback. The very first bend on the back hoop I managed to line up on the wrong line. I was going to bend that one first because it was the easiest. Oops! Fortunately, the piece was long enough to make the front hoop and all's well. I don't bend enough tubing to stay sharp. If a guy did this every day, it would be a whole bunch easier - especially pieces that have several bends on them.

Other than doing a little math, the next thing in the difficulty department is coping the tube ends so they fit together nicely. I bought a PipeMaster from A.E.D Motorsports Products in Indy to help with the layout. It's actually a little bit of a luxury item. I've done quite a bit of tube bending on motorcycles over the years and I can usually fit things up pretty well just on the grinder with a little file touch-up. The 1-1/2" tube I can make a wrap around pattern for the 90 degree on paper easy enough. I also learned an old trick on marking them from the auto shop teacher where I used to work. Once you've got the pipe coped just like you want it, wrap a piece of paper around it. Then go around the paper with a couple of layers of masking tape. Take a razor blade and cut the paper and tape section to the outline of the cope. Slide the newly made template off the pipe, slide it on the next one to be cut at the same angle and mark around it. It works real slick and only takes a couple of minutes. The PipeMaster should expedite things and allow the students to cut the tubes with plenty of accuracy.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Das Boot

The photos are of the cradle boat I made for the grandson a couple of years ago. I mentioned it in one of my earliest posts but I didn't have any pictures at the time. I've been storing this thing for a while and when we were loading it up to move it the other day, it seemed like a good time to get a couple of pictures of it. The ropes weren't rigged properly but when you build yours you can do a nice photo shoot. The plans were obtained from Jordan Wooden Boats. It's the Baby Tender II. The plans are relatively easy to follow with full size patterns for most of the parts.

One of the hardest things about the job was finding decent lumber for the side planking. I hit a couple of the local lumber yards for some clear pine but couldn't come up with any. They carry some type of crap that's from Africa as I recall but it's not pine. When I ran it through the planer it actually pulled apart. The sides are only about 5/32" thick and bent, so you need something straight grained and workable. I ended up with cotton wood from a local guy with his own sawmill. I asked for pine, he said no problem. I went to pick it up and it was cotton wood. After my initial disappointment, both at the material I received and the price, I found it worked quite nicely and looked pretty good in the bargain. Besides, babies don't wait. When it's time, it's time. The baby came a little early but the boat was done in time for the shower, so everybody was happy.

One of these days soon, I'm going to tackle the full size boat. It will be the same type of construction with lapped side planks riveted together with copper rivets. The bottom will probably be plywood instead of individual planks but basically the same thing. I've got some big pine boards from the barn demolition that I think I might be able to use for the planking. I think it would be pretty cool to be able to recycle the old barn into a boat.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Dashing, Simply Dashing

I got the dashboard for the midget pretty much done. I still need to file it up a little and drill some mounting holes but it's pretty much there.The "kit" from Eastwood for engine turning isn't much of a kit but rather a couple of abrasive sticks and a little pamphlet of instructions. Worked like a charm, however. It's very time consuming to do but it sure looks sexy when your done. I started with a rectangular piece of plate that I had welded the steering boss onto. After boring the hole through at the proper angle, I screwed the plate onto a piece of 2x6 and clamped that down on the table of the milling machine. The swirls are 1/2" in diameter, so I stepped over a 1/4" each time. Each row had a 1/4" offset as well, plus I moved the circles ahead 1/8" as I advanced from row to row. Easy to do on the milling machine. You don't really need .001" accuracy for engine turning but why not? If it wasn't for the time required, I'd engine turn everything I own.

Finally showing some progress on Cuzzin Ricky"s buggy. We should be bending roll cage tubing real soon. That will be fun. The vocational boys are looking forward to giving it a try. These are the kind of things that make welding fun. All new material and every time you work on it you have something to show for your progress. A whole lot more interesting than the rust repair I'm still facing on my own VW. We get his roll cage and steering hooked up and there won't be much more for us to do. Maybe I'll actually get a little something done on mine when his rolls out.

The Super Tot Rod is job #1 right now. I've only got about three weeks until Christmas but it's progressing along right smartly. Most everything has been sandblasted or sanded down. I need to find some plastic bushings for the axle. If Ace is the Place doesn't have them, I'll have to order them in. Not really a problem as long as I get it done real soon.

Didn't get as much done over Thanksgiving as I wanted to. I managed to catch a cold so I took it easy the last couple of days. I did run the 10K Thanksgiving morning. I've decided to try the progressive marathon that will be held locally in the spring. There's a 5K, a half marathon and a ten miler on three consecutive Saturday mornings. As long as I can fit the time for running into my schedule, it should be fun. That way I'll get four more tee shirts, besides. I think next year I'm going to start giving them away for Christmas presents.