Friday, October 30, 2009

Paul Goldsmith & Company

Knucklebuster posted a reprint from an old Popular Science magazine featuring a story on Paul Goldsmith. When I was vintage racing I used to drag my American Racer book around with me to get autographs from the great ones from the past. For a while BMW was sponsoring a "legends" race and these guys would show up plus they would have an autograph session at Daytona. I got my book signed by several world and AMA champions. Phil Read, Walter Villa, George Roeder, and Don Vesco, just to name a few. At the time I drove right by the Griffith airport just about everyday and it finally dawned on me that I should stop in there because it's run by Paul Goldsmith. Goldsmith is the only driver to win Daytona in a car and on a motorcycle. He was a USAC champion and had a couple of top five finishes at Indy.

So one day I stopped in and asked to see Mr. Goldsmith but unfortunately he wasn't in. I explained to the receptionist what I wanted and she said she would take my book, have him sign it and I could stop in the next day and pick it up. After she noticed the fear in my eyes of leaving my precious book in the hands of a total stranger, she told me not to worry, she'd lock it up in the safe. I stopped in the next day and he hadn't been in yet but just about the time I was going to head for the door, in he comes. I introduced myself and explained what I wanted. He signed the book for me but not before thumbing through it and telling me some stories about many of the racers and the what it was like to race on the beach at Daytona. The man couldn't have been nicer.

I was fortunate living where I did because Goldsmith was in partnership with Ray Nichels. Nichels is the man who was responsible for the great NASCAR Chryslers of the 70's. His wife and my wife used to bowl on the same team, so I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to him a few times. The man was an automotive genius. He was the only mechanic to have the pole sitter at Daytona and Indy in the same year.

Also in the area was Johnny Pawl, another racing legend. He was the last of the on board mechanics at Indy and was known not only for his work on the champ cars but also for his midget cars. In fact he was the owner of the rights to the Kurtis Kraft midgets. After he closed his shop in Merrillville, he had a little space he rented in Crown Point, just to keep his hand in. Cuzzin Ricky and I looked him up one morning so I could get him to sign my Offenhauser book. Crown Point was also the home of the #99 Belanger Special, winner of many champ car races in the 50's, including Indy.

I wish I had been more aware of all of this when I was growing up. I probably would have gone down a different career path. I talked to Johnny Pawl about a part time job one time. I didn't have the TIG skills at that time to do what he needed. I did shovel his driveway with a buddy of mine after a big snow one time back when I was in high school, though. So I've got that going for me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I started hollowing out the inside of the little yacht - technically, I think it's a sloop - with the gouge we made. Since I'm not much of a woodworker, I don't have much of a collection of carving tools, so one of my students and I made a gouge from an old file. He ground off the teeth and shortened it up. We then heated it up and shaped it, did a little grinding, heated, tempered and then sharpened it up. It does the trick right smartly. I do need some better sharpening stuff if I'm going to continue woodworking. A good Arkansas stone and a couple of slips for sharpening things like gouges would be nice. I think there will be room under the Christmas tree for a couple of those items.

You can see the saw kerfs in the photo that I made with a circular saw. I figured it would be a lot easier to remove all the wood inside the hull if I made some saw cuts first. The next thing I need is a transfer caliper. With one of those I can shape the outside of the hull and then finish carving the inside while maintaining the proper wall thickness. When I get them made I'll throw up a picture. I started on a set but the stock was a little flimsy. I'll beef them up or maybe even make them out of brass. Might as well go whole hog if I'm going to build a collection of tools. I've got a real nice brass and walnut pencil compass I made from plans in Wooden Boat magazine. The calipers would look good in the drawer of the new tool box with the compass. How's that for logic?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tool Storage & Boat Building

One half of the keel weight mold.

I've been putting together a little spot down the basement to fart around with my projects this winter. As always though, one thing leads to another. In order to build the little pond sailer and the gas powered airplane I picked up last year, I need a few more tools. Nothing serious, just a few small scale woodworking things but then I'll need a place to keep them. Plus, I need to have a spot to store some of my machinist tools when I'm working on the black powder gun. So in addition to working on finishing up the trim in the parlor, and the dozen other things I'm currently juggling, I'm going to build a small machinist type box of some sort for the basement. I should be able to knock this one out at school without too much trouble. I'm going to work on the design this week and maybe pick up some wood and a couple of the tools I need next weekend.

I did start on the mold for the lead keel weight on the little boat. I chiseled it out of a piece of scrap. The mold needs two matching sides. When it's done, I'll put the sheet iron keel down inside it and then fill it with lead. The book I got the plan out of was originally published in 1935 and was for junior high school kids. It includes the recipe for making lead based paint in addition to pouring lead for the keels of the boats. Probably not the kind of thing you'd want to teach the young'uns these days. Lead exposure isn't healthy for anyone, especially little ones. Needless to say, I won't be mixing up any lead based paint but I will make the keel weight out of lead. I'll paint it up and make sure no one eats it. It should be safe on the mantel or if it ever gets to a pond, it won't contaminate the water. It certainly won't be any worse than someone dragging a lead sinker across the bottom when they're fishing.

When we were kids we made our own lead soldiers. Melted the lead on the kitchen stove, poured them into molds and painted them up. I still have the molds and a few soldiers. And of course, we all used leaded paint and leaded gas back then as well. Fortunately, we're all a little smarter now and the little tykes aren't going to be eating paint chips with lead in them and people living next to busy expressways aren't going to be sucking in lead fumes any more, either. One of the things the home hobbyist has to remember is, you're on your own when it comes to safety. There aren't any OSHA inspections in your garage or studio. You have to be careful with your health whether it's casting lead bullets for your muzzle loader, painting with isocyanite hardeners or putting chemicals on your lawn. Keep it safe for you and yours.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Busy week as usual. The glove dryer is progressing right smartly. We've got all the tubes brazed up, the fan clamp welded on and are finishing up the base.

The medicine ball rack is all set except for the final clean up and paint.

The two guys I had working on it struggled a little bit lining everything up but I expected that with the design I worked out. We're one fourth of the way through the school year now and by the end of the year I should see some serious improvement in their welding and fabricating skills. A lot of it just depends on what comes through the shop door. I've had several aluminum car rims in lately. Not the kind of thing that a beginner can easily handle but I should have several guys capable of safely TIG welding them up by the end of the year.

I made up a cover for the new heat exchanger at the gym. We're putting in hot water heat from one of those wood burning outdoor boilers. I had to cut a hole in the plenum, make some brackets for the heat exchanger to sit on and then close up the hole. I had the vocational classes work out some missing dimensions to make the cover using some pretty simple math but it was like pulling teeth. Some of these guys are so used to rolling over whenever they run up against something that involves math, that it's almost impossible to get them interested in wanting to solve a problem. Kind of a sad comment but true none the less. You would think that it would be rather obvious that it will help them do the types of things they're interested in. Most of them love making things as long as someone else does all of the heavy thinking. They'll either learn the math or learn that they should have learned the math.

This is the start of a pond sailer. It will be a 24" long yacht with fabric sails, lead keel and brass rudder and trim. Maybe a Christmas present, maybe not. Time will tell.

I put up some more wall paper Monday, so the next thing is to get rolling on the trim. Still have a couple of things to get done outside before the weather closes in but no panic, yet. Got a chance to make a couple of little parts for the 900 headlight bracket last night. I've got a four day weekend coming up next week. I should be able to get a few things done then and with a little luck maybe go camping for a night. I love being outside in the fall.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Rail Bike Lives!

The rail bike made the maiden voyage yesterday. It runs down the tracks pretty much like it was made to, surprisingly enough. The outrigger wheel could be out just a little more to center it up on the rail a little better and the wheel on the bottom of it seems to be a little noisy but it works.

Here's the rundown on the bike set-up. I started with a Schwinn Varsity girls bike that a former student gave me. I read somewhere on the internet when I started contemplating this project that a girls bike is the way to go because of the difficulty getting on and off with the extra height of the track. This one wasn't much of a prize with all of the chrome being pretty rusty and the wheels rusty to the point there wasn't any chrome left on them at all. Because it had nice horizontal dropouts, I converted it to a single speed. You don't really need much of a speed selection on railroad tracks because the grade that a train can navigate normally doesn't exceed about 3%. I put a couple of other wheels I had laying around on it and bought two new tires. I also put a couple of new brake cables and some better brake pads I swapped out from one of my other bikes.

The outrigger upright is made from a piece of aluminum tubing and a caster wheel I had in my box of misc. wheels and casters. The arms are 1/2" thinwall conduit. They are bolted to the bike frame in three locations with ears welded to the frame. The front guide is made from 1/8" sheet metal with old skate board wheels used to keep it aligned to the track. The wheels are adjustable for width to get a snug fit on the rail. Two other wheels ride on top of the rail (see previous rail bike post for photo). This assembly is connected to the bike fork by a couple of angle iron arms bolted to a boss on each fork leg. These will allow it to pivot upward if I get around to adding the lifting rod and handle.

Total cost for the whole thing is probably less than $30.00. I remember the tires were ten bucks each and the 1/2" EMT is about $1.25/stick. If I wasn't such a junk collector it still wouldn't cost more than $75.00 as long as you had a donor bike. If you had to pay someone to fab all of this crap together, it would be a different story. If you figured in research time on the internet and engineering time, it would be a whole lot less than cost effective. However, one of the great benefits of being a shop teacher is being able to work on this goofy crap on company time or at least using the facility whenever you want. If, after putting a few miles on the thing, it seems like it's going to hold up alright, I'll get some yellow paint and rattle can the rest of the parts to kind of match up with the bike color and to prevent it from rusting. Actually, as bad as the bike looks, it wouldn't hurt to paint the whole thing.

So where to ride the thing? There's a train museum not too far from here that offers excursions. They have about ten miles of track that runs from their yard to another little town. They only run Saturday afternoons from May to October and the occasional extra on Sundays. The track runs through some nice bucolic country and there's only a few grade crossings. Spend an hour or so each way with a couple of photo stops and it will make for a nice Sunday outing. The outrigger will unbolt and fold flat against the side of the bike. With a little more work I can rig up a couple of brackets to hold it in place easily enough. That way I can fold the thing up and ride the bike to a restaurant for breakfast, then put it back together, throw it back on the tracks and come home. It should be fun.

The screaming you hear at the end of the video is the Missus hollering at the cat. The cat wanted to climb up the Missus' leg because I interrupted her lunch so she could video tape my maiden voyage and the cat smelled the bacon she had been eating.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The bicycle is the Scorcher model from Antbikemike. The ANT stands for Alternative Needs Transportation. It's a really nice looking bike that he'd be happy to build for you. He's got plenty of options, including the old fashioned cream colored tires.

He's also promoting a working vacation at his shop. You spend a week and $2,500 and come home with a bike frame that you built, plus the chance to work along side someone who really knows the bike business. If you like that, he'll let you stay longer for a substantially larger sum of money and you'll come home with a half dozen frames and about everything else you need to set up shop as a custom cycle builder. When I first looked at the money (20 large), I thought no way, buddy. But after thinking about it, I see my students enrolling in trade schools and going off to college and they invest sums as large or larger than that. If you want to build bikes for a living, it might actually be a bargain. You can learn the skills needed and get plenty of insight into what it's like running your own custom frame making business. Me, I'd love to build frames and cool bikes. I just wouldn't want to deal with customers. Just put me in the back with my tools and I'd be a happy camper.

I found this at Knucklebuster. It's mostly motorcycle chopper stuff but he's been posting some old how-to articles that are pretty good. He's put up a lot of vintage bike photos lately as well. He's got an article on soldering and a real good one on heat treating if you check the September archive. If you click on the picture, it should be big enough to actually read. If not, check out his site. It's definitely worth a look, anyway.

Check out the sites and see what people with "hands-on" skills are doing these days. Buy a bike and build a vise.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rail Bike and Glove Dryer

I'm finishing up the rail bike this week. Should be pretty close to being able to test drive it this weekend - of course there's no telling what else will show up in the shop before Friday. The photos show the guide that keeps the front wheel of the bicycle centered on the rail. It still needs a little welding and grinding but I'll take care of that when I add the arms that fasten it to the bicycle fork. I'll still need to make the pivot rod off the handlebars but that can come later. The pivot rod will allow me to raise the front guide up if I come to a switch or a some other break in the tracks but I might as well see if the whole rig stays on the tracks before I try to engineer that.

We're also making a glove dryer for the gym. Things get pretty sweaty and stanky if you don't keep the air circulating. Jimmy made one out of pvc but it's not holding up too well. This one should be hell for strong. It's designed to fit into a corner so it won't take up too much floor space. It should last forever or as long as the fan holds out. Good job for a high school kid to fab up. Because the pieces are galvanized, we're brazing everything together. Not a whole lot of call for brazing any more but it's a good skill too have. If you've got a set of tanks and can gas weld and braze, you can fix and fab all kinds of stuff. I'll post some photos as the job progresses.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Project of the Week

Was busy hanging wallpaper today. I got up this morning and turned on the Chicago Marathon, screwed up my courage and got after it. I usually do a pretty good job with the paper hanging but I'm not very damn fast. Of course, there's not a straight wall in the house and there's plenty of corners and a stairway to go up. At least I'm getting something done around the shack. The Missus wants things tightened up inside by Thanksgiving. I'm thinking that's possible but the new trim is going to be a little time consuming. I'll keep plugging away - I want this one off the list. The winner of the marathon set a new course record this morning, by the way.

I got a little more work done on the black powder shotgun this past week. I made the trigger guard and did some filing on the tumbler. It still needs some more work but one more session and it should be about ready to go. I need to order some 5-40 screws before I can do much more on the lock. It's about time to order a piece of chrome-moly tube for the barrel as well. I'm going to machine the muzzle end for a removable choke. Not exactly your traditional muzzle loader, mind you, but good lathe practice.

The shiner's looking pretty tasty a week after the fact. I got quite a few comments this past week about it. Seems funny that I went to the doctor Monday afternoon and he didn't mention it. I'm beginning to think he just has me come in because I've got good insurance. At least the photo quality is better this time.

Lot's of project work lined up for next week both at school and at home. Getting ready to strt on the log splitter and a couple of things for the gym, which the Missus now refers to as the shiner shack, by the way.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Boxing on Saturday Night

We had another boxing show/fundraiser for the gym Saturday night. All the newly painted chairs looked pretty good in there. We had a sell-out crowd again and most of the matches were paired up pretty well. Big Dave fought a guy about half his size but took it real easy on him. I went against a young guy who just wouldn't stop coming at me. I showed a little bit of my potential in the first round and let him throw a few at me in the second. I told Jimmy to have the kid go easy the last round and we would work on a couple of things. Of course, Jimmy told him to turn it up on me. He managed to sneak in a couple of shots and gave me a little something to remember him by. Kind of a crappy picture but the do it yourself photo session at 11:30 (photo taken Sat. night) was about all I could muster up. Like all shiners, they take a couple of days to really look their best anyway. We took a picture of Ernie, Jimmy and myself after Monday's workout and sparring session that's a real doozy. Jimmy just got a mouse under his eye from sparring, Ernie's nose is bright red from some nice uppercuts, and I'm sporting a two day old shiner from Sat's exhibition. All of us with big grins and battle scars. The things guys do for fun!

That's going to be it for me boxing. I shouldn't have been in there anyway with my previous head injury. I'm definitely going to miss it. Anyway, the gym is doing well, I've got about 25 more chairs to paint and the van to start working on. I'm going to have one of the boys at school put a rack together for the medicine balls as soon as I get a moment to draw up a sketch and we still need to get the chin-up bar mounted. Always lots to do.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

David Bradley

When I took the grandson to the steam/power show last weekend, I saw a bunch of David
Bradley tractors and accessories. Since yours truly, Shop Teacher Bob, is the proud owner of one, I took particular interest in a couple of the sulky carts that I saw.

The David Bradley two wheel tractors were very popular in the fifties and they had a huge variety of implements available for them. I've got a push blade, snowblower, planter, plow and cultivator for mine. They also made a couple of types of mowers, both sickle bar and rotary, you could get. I picked my stuff up from a guy I used to work with. He had bought it at an auction, but like me, he's always got so many irons in the fire he figured he'd never get around to making it work or do anything with it, even if he did get it running. Plus he owed me a couple of favors so he sold it to me for what he paid for it, which was a real bargain. He's a big fan of the small tractors, though. He said "If grandma had one of these, she never would have left the old country". Probably right about that.

Mine was stored in my old barn and I needed to get it out of there prior to the demolition. I decided it would be a lot easier to drive out than push out. I had a plastic gas tank from an old mower that was almost a direct bolt on to replace the rusty one, put some new points, plug and a condenser in, rebuilt the carb and it runs surprising well now. It's not one of the pretty Art -Deco sheet metal covered ones but it's a work horse, especially with the new belts. So I drove it to the other barn and there it sits but I have been fixing up the implements for it. But if I had a sulky cart, I could ride behind it down the lane to pick up the newspaper or the mail. Kind of like the mini-bike I made a few years back. It usually takes me about twenty minutes to get the thing running because it's been so long since I've started it and only five minutes to walk down to the mailbox, but that's the trouble with all the infernal combustion engines. If you don't run them on a regular basis, they won't run on a regular basis.

So maybe I'll add a sulky cart to the long list of projects for the school year. It will be a little more utilitarian than the one in the photo, though. Since I shortened up the list this summer a little, what's the harm? As long as I don't start on it, that is. I've still got to finish a few others.

If you're interested in David Bradley tractors, check them out here. If you look up the different models, mine's a Super 600.

The tractor picture is just because I dig old tractors and if you're going to have tractor porn, why not make it a Cockshutt.