Monday, September 28, 2009


It happened again. Just about the time I get caught up and start to think I'm getting ahead of the game, it hits the fan.

I had the grandson down for the weekend to try out the midget and spend a little bit of fun time. The midget was quite the experience. I tied a rope to the back of it to make sure he didn't run in to anything, put him in the saddle with a few words of instruction and he put it to the floor. Even though I put a throttle stop on it, it still runs a little too fast for the boy. And grandpa, who was running along behind him tugging on the rope to slow him down. I'm going to change the sprocket on the back and put some kind of stop directly on the carb linkage to get him down to a safer speed. But it runs and he had fun. So there you go.

Sunday we went out for breakfast and then to a steam/power show. Lots of old trucks, tractors, fire trucks and stationary engines. Everything and old man and a young boy wanted to see. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. The young-un is old enough now that he's a lot of fun to spend time with. So that was the upside of the weekend.

I was going to cut the grass before the grandson came down but the mower quit on me. Like someone turned off the switch, quit. So I decided to check the switch and something didn't look right. I just figured I'd jumper around it and finish mowing and check it all out later. Bad idea. Instead of the starter cranking but the engine not running, now it doesn't do diddly. Also Saturday, Jimmy showed up with our "new" folding chairs he found for the gym. We got 63 free chairs but they're all rusty and need to be painted - before next Saturday's exhibition. So today, myself and a couple of my aces took the wire wheels to the chairs and then I went back after work and painted. So far I've got 27 of them painted and 9 more ready to paint. I'm shooting for another 18 or so tomorrow and the same on Wednesday. What a pain in the ass. Plus the grass is still growing and I had to have progress report grades posted by eight in the morning.

I've really got to start leaving myself a little breathing room so I don't have to go into a panic when the unexpected comes along. Because the unexpected, always comes along.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teeter-Totter With a Little Progress Thrown In

I saw this at The New Cafe (Racer) Society. Stainless tubing and Brooks saddles. Pretty cool, don't ya think?

The midget's a runner. I got the motor lit off the other day and it's ready for the maiden voyage. As Cuzzin Ricky says: "It's cute as a speckled pup."

Drug out some parts for the 900 last night. I started working on the clutch hook-up. I've got a new lever and cable plus I've got a clutch release plate that was the latest thing about thirty years ago. Vance & Hines or RC Engineering used to sell these things. It allows you to throw away the stock cover that has the clutch actuator in it so you have easy access to the countershaft sprocket. I knew I was missing something to bolt it on but I couldn't remember what until I started digging around in the parts box. I need two long metric bolts, which around here will be difficult enough to come by, but the piece behind the sprocket that this gizmo bolts on to is in need of some serious repair. Apparently, once upon a time the chain broke and tore a big section out of it. That was pretty common, actually. One of the bolt holes is also stripped out. I've got a 6mm Heli-Coil set, so I can fix the threads and I can weld up the missing piece. So that'll be the next step. Like the black powder gun, I want to get most of the heavy lifting done before it gets too cold outside. If I can get most of the parts acquired and hung on it at home, I can take it over to school and get it painted on a weekend or during vacation - Christmas would be real good. That might be a little optimistic but I've never really had a good grasp on reality anyway.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mr. Lucky

Man, I got lucky today. I received an invitation today from a fellow teacher in my department to go on a cruise this evening on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. Boy-o-boy, what a nice night to be cruising around downtown Chicago it was! We boarded the Elegante right by Navy Pier and went through the lock to catch the Chicago River. The owner of the boat - not the guy I work with - provided a lovely dinner and a tour guide. We got a chance to see the city as the sun was setting and then cruised back out onto Lake Michigan for a short run along the shore line.

If I had money, I'd have me a big ass boat too. And you'd all be invited for a trip down the Chicago River. Shame it's never going to happen on a teacher's salary. When I build my little boat, I will give you a chance to row a little bit, though.

Thanks for the invite, Jeff.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lookin' Good

We had a two hour delay yesterday due to a real heavy fog, so I didn't get as much done as I had planned on the midget. The only things left to do are the throttle and brake cables and a kill switch, though. Should be done by next weekend -maybe have the boy come down on Saturday or Sunday afternoon and give it a spin. Right now the weather man is forecasting rain for the next five days.

We did get the scrap box emptied out and loaded into the back of my truck yesterday plus a lot of general clean-up. Twenty-eight minute class periods don't allow for much welding time but they actually work real well for a clean-up day. There's still some work to be done but that's always the case. I've got to work out a schedule to start bringing things in. Cuzzin Ricky has the dune buggy that needs to be finished along with some ramps for his trailer, the gym "bus" needs patch panels, and we need to make a heavy duty log splitter just for starters. Plus, I really need to see some progress on my VW this year. I've got some really good students this year so we should be able to turn out both quality and quantity.

Now it's off to the scrapyard, do a little trenching and hit the gym. Get outside and enjoy the weekend, people.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Midget Progress

Maybe I should reword that. Midget progress is what I usually have going on. Progress on the midget is what this is all about.

I'm putting the finishing touches on the grandson's midget, finally. I got a couple of jobs that came into the shop to repair but I decided if I don't take some time to work on the midget, it never will get done. I put the other jobs on the back burner and started thrashing on my job for a change. It's almost back together after taking it down to paint the frame. I worked on it Tuesday during open shop and last night as well. I'm coming down the home stretch and it's looking just like I want. I was going to paint the body but after getting most of the sheet metal back on and rubbin' it down a little, I'm leaning towards a little splash of blue on the nose and leave the rest of it in the raw. Everything should be ready to run except for a little clevis to fasten the throttle cable to the carb linkage and a kill switch. Hopefully, it will be done this weekend or next week at the latest.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Fun

Jimmy, myself and one of our young guns from the gym ran a 5K Saturday morning. I was going to do the race walk but another one of our fighters had signed up and ended up working out of town, so I took his place. It was the first time I had entered this race and I expected a few more people - it was a very small group of runners. As it ended up, Jimmy and I ran together and finished 1 & 2 in the 30 - 39 age group. I didn't factor in the possibility of winning something when I decided to just run in the other guy's place. I would have placed first in my age division had I had a legitimate entry. Like I said, it was a very small race.

Jimmy bought an old Dodge van to haul his band stuff around in and for the gym to use to transport our boxers to shows. It runs pretty good, doesn't use any oil and has new tires all the way around. It does have some major rust issues, however. It looks like the Dodge will move ahead of the Volkswagen in the project line. With this one I can drive it back and forth to work while I'm working on it or throw a bicycle in the back in case I need to stop in the middle of something. Don't need to be driving around with a patch panel held in place with a half a dozen Vise Grips. We finished the trailer the other day, so there's an open spot big enough to drive the 12 passenger in and work on it. Always plenty of projects available.

Later on that evening we took the grandson to see the balloon glow. This is an annual event that has a bunch of hot air balloons that they fire up after the sun goes down. It's a fundraiser for the Kiwani's and it was a great night to be out. I bought the grandson a hot dog and an ice cream and we had a swell time.

It was a great weekend and it looks to be heading towards a great Fall. Get outside and enjoy the weather, people.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Black Powder Shotgun

I started machining up a few more pieces for the black powder shotgun I started a couple of years ago. This is going to be my at home winter time project. Instead of sitting on my rump in the evening vegetating in front of the television, I can go down the basement and tinker on the gun project. I want to get some of the parts that require machine work done before it gets cold out - no point in heating up the shop for an hour or two when it's freezing out.There's going to be a lot of filing and fitting so I can do that at my little bench down the basement and be happy as a clam.

The photos show the breech plug and the spindle/tumbler. They both still need quite a bit of hand work but I'm sure it's going to be a long, cold winter. Of course you can buy everything you need to build a muzzle loader from Dixie Gun Works or Track of the Wolf but what's the fun in that? Besides, those gun kits aren't cheap. Depending on the quality of the components, you can easily get $700 - 800 wrapped up in one. I'm planning on making everything myself. I picked up a little book from the library years back and made a photocopy. It's a "how to" on building a percussion pistol and I'm adapting the plans to build a 20 gauge shotgun. I'm hoping to have all the metal work done this year and with a little luck have the stock done as well. If this one goes well, I want to make a single shot rifle next. A breach loading 45 Long Colt should be just the ticket.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Student Resource Time

The Student Resource Time is turning out to be an interesting way to end the school day. Several students are really interested, several students not at all and a whole bunch of them want to come down just to hang out. The hanging out part isn't so bad because they come in and weld or tinker a little bit or they just want to hang out in a place where they feel comfortable. I have no real curriculum I need to follow - the class is whatever I make it. As always however, I'm surprised by the number of people who don't have enough natural curiosity to take a look at something when it's offered.

Our first blacksmithing project turned out pretty nice. It's an iron daffodil, in case you didn't figure it out. And if that's the case, maybe it didn't turn out so nice. The pounding on the anvil always brings in the young boys and the old men but apparently the magnetic attraction isn't quite as strong on high schoolers. It was fun making it anyway.

The helmet is progressing right smartly. The frame is done and I made up one of the panels. It just needs a little more planishing and it's ready to rivet in place. I'm going to offer up the chance to let the students try making the other three panels and see if I get any takers and if so, see what kind of job they can do.

As soon as the trailer job goes out ( left over from last year) and I do a little clean up, I'm going to bring my 900 in and finish up the sheet metal work on it. A student is going to bring in a gas tank from a go-kart for us to make as well. That should give the class something different to see. There's really no end to the metalsmithing field. I'll keep throwing things at them and hopefully something will create a spark. If nothing else, I'll get the chance to work on some of my own stuff guilt free.

We're working and posting again on the high mileage car, by the way. Joey should have at least one post per week. We should be able to work that into the enrichment time as well. Check out the link if you're interested.

The new boss seems to be interested in what we're doing down here in the Tech hallway. I need to publicize what we're doing a little more. The school has a page on their website for my program. Maybe I need to post some of our jobs there. If I get around to that I'll throw up a link. That way you can see how your tax dollars are being misspent.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bike Trip

I was invited to a camp-out over the weekend so I took the touring rig and rode over Saturday. It was about sixteen miles of backroads, which made for a nice ride. It rained sometime during the night and woke me up but I closed up the side flaps and went back to sleep. I bought a good tent a few years back so I was good and dry. The rain stopped early in the morning so I had a good ride home as well. Had a good time while I was there, too. Nice group of people.

Bike camping can be a lot of fun and it's relatively cheap, as well. I bought the bike for four bucks and I made the trailer. I did some machine work to add another sprocket on the front for a low gear and bought a better saddle and panniers. I cruised over the other day at about 13-14 miles per hour. I can easily do 60-70 miles per day on relatively flat roads day after day. Not much when you compare it with a car, but it's a fun way to see the country. You might want to start thinking about it. Fall's always a good time for a camping trip. I'm already working on a trip for next summer.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Moto GP - Part Three

We went to the Ducati Island at the track Saturday. You enter through the museum section that contains some super nice bikes ('70's Sport and Super Sport being my favorites) as well as some of the other things Ducati used to manufacture, like a razor and camera. After you walk through the museum, you go outside and it's loaded with Ducati's of all types. These are bikes of people who came to the races. I saw lots of newer bikes but also an old 160 Monza Junior, and an 860 GT. All kinds - if you dig Ducati's, you need to see it.

Also, there are vendors located around the outside wall, including NCR. The Ducati frame in the photo is one of theirs and it's the lightest frame I've ever seen for any bike, including some bicycles I've owned. It had to be some type of titanium with some gorgeous looking TIG welds. NCR has a history of producing cutting edge parts and frame modifications for racing motorcycles. The box of parts in the photo is like the sample case the door to door salesman in the old days would cart around - knock on the door, open up the case of samples and give you the pitch. The cost of the parts in that sample case are probably more than I make in a year and it's not even a complete gruppo like you would buy for a bicycle. Beautiful stuff.

So with all of this finely crafted machinery I saw, welding and machining were in evidence most everywhere. If you look at the old Italian bikes, they had sandcast crankcases and were very pretty in a somewhat primitive way. Now the cases are pressure cast and the bikes have all types of CNC machined parts on them. Racing modifications still involve a lot of skilled craftsmanship due to the low volume of the parts being produced. And then I looked at the Formula One Ferrari.

The Formula One is the epitome of the racing machine. The fastest and lightest and best of everything goes into building these things - except welding? I gave the car a quick once over and the suspension arms that were once welded up from chrome-moly steel are now carbon fiber. The body is no longer aluminum as they were for many years. Basically, anything that's visible on the outside of the car is some type of composite. I'm not an authority on Formula One cars by any means, but other than fabbing up exhaust systems, do these guys even need a welder in the shop? I'm not worried about the demise of welding due to composite materials but it's interesting to contemplate how much of this technology is going to continue to trickle down into other forms of motorsports, including the family sedan. Regardless of how that shakes out, I had a great time at the races. It's always a good time with the Surly's and Unk.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Moto GP - Part Two

We went to the flat track race Saturday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, it's been a long time since I've been to a flat track race. I forgot how good they are. They put on one helluva show Saturday night.

The first race was for 450 singles - the up and coming stars of tomorrow. Good racing but a travesty when it came down to the payday. These young kids are out there racing their asses off and after the race they bring out the big cardboard check and the third place rider gets a measly $350. Second place got $500 and I'm not sure what first place got but whatever it was it wasn't enough. $350 wouldn't even pay your travel expenses if you lived across the street from the place. They introduced the head of the American Motorcyclist Association and he received a resounding chorus of boo's. Had I known they were going to pay these guys as little as they did, I would have joined in the chorus myself.

Prior to the main, King Kenny Roberts took a couple of laps on his TZ 750 dirt tracker from back in the 70's. He won Indy on this bike and swore he would never race it again. A two stroke motor with light switch power is not exactly the power supply needed for dirt track. He looked like he was having fun on it Saturday night, however. Lots of noise and a big dirt roost off the back wheel when he pitched it sideways into the corners. That alone was worth the price of the ticket.

The main started with a horrific crash - the worst I've ever seen at a flat track. One bike and a rider went over the fence. The word at the track was that the rider suffered a broken hip from getting slammed into a fence post or a pole on the outside of the track. When I saw him go over he was head down with his arms spread wide. The kind of thing where nothing good was going to come out of it regardless of how he landed. I hope he's doing O.K. Indy has some great surgeons to patch these guys back together. The race itself was an ass kicker. The Harley XR 750 is apparently alive and well still. The factory bike with Kenny Coolbeth in the saddle ran away from the field that included bikes by Ducati, Aprilia, Suzuki and Yamaha. It's amazing that a design that old can still compete with newer style bikes. I'm not exactly sure of the rules but stock based bikes can use 1000 cc motors versus the 750 cc of the Harley. Of course, the TZ 750 proved that it's not all about horsepower. I think I'm going to have to resubscribe to Cycle News to stay up on all this stuff now that I'm going to the races again. If you check the link they have a short write up about the event.

The program was a long one and we didn't get to our hotel until after 12:30 - late night for an old man. I'm usually falling asleep in the chair about 10:00 but it was well worth it.