Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Today's the Day

There is a whole lot going on today. My school corporation, like every school corporation in Indiana, has had their funding cut. They offered an early retirement incentive and have already sent Reduction in Force (RIF) letters to quite a few people. This all had to be finished up by the end of the day yesterday. Hopefully, the number of retirees will be enough to prevent others from losing their jobs. While I don't agree in the slightest with the way our corporation has handled the short fall (in fact it was just plain cruel), the real culprit is down there in Indianapolis - the same guy who was going to straighten out the time zones in the state.

I'm in the twilight of my career, so the dumb decisions that politicians make will have little immediate effect on me, at least as far as my employment goes. But just once, I would like to see a common sense approach taken with school reform. The schools are required to perform high stakes testing and ensure everyone passes and they cut the state budget in Indiana for education by 300 million. Granted, there has to be some waste and some fluff in any corporation, whether a school or not, so it should be possible to trim a little fat. But to ask every school to decrease spending and increase test results, graduation rates, and attendance rates, offer foreign languages, art, band, tech classes, advanced placement classes, and athletics at the same time, is just not going to happen.

So in the future, before any of you knucklehead politicians decide to pass educational reform laws, I suggest you run it past me first. I'll consult a couple of my people and get right back to you. Before you call, though, just remember this: No unfunded mandates, and I expect you to be at least somewhat in touch with reality.

Monday, March 29, 2010

South Bend Lathe

I got the lathe back together and finished up the part for the high mileage project I was machining when things stopped rotating. The headstock spindle is still a little loose but I needed to get the piece threaded so I'll tackle tightening things up at another time. The lathe came out of a high school machine shop and had seen a lot of service prior to my getting it. I cleaned it up and replaced a few parts before putting it into service but it needs a good going over once again. I've been using it for close to twenty years and I've made a ton of parts with the thing.

I did an internet search for South Bend lathe to see about ordering some parts and came up with the website of the factory. I thought they were about out of business but it looks like they are on an upswing. The website has a history of the company that's pretty interesting. They also have a page of historic photos that is also pretty cool if you're a machinery junkie like myself. It looks like they are going to bring a couple of their small lathes back into production. That would be good to see. I'm pretty well fixed in the lathe department but a small tabletop lathe would be nice to have. Something like an Atlas 6" or a South Bend 7" would be just the ticket. I could put it down the basement and make all kinds of things when it's too cold to go out in the shop. I'm starting to see myself in the future as one of those old geezers who tinkers around making little steam engines and whatever else comes to mind. Not the worst thing that could happen in retirement. In fact, I started building a live steam locomotive when I worked at the other school. I still have a box of parts and the plans. Maybe I can drag those out in about five years.

When I first started teaching school I didn't know much about machining. The instructor there, Ray Pawlowski, took a liking to me and taught me a lot. I had always been making things and when I realized I had a complete machine shop at my disposal, it really opened up the possibilities. Ray really helped me out and I'll never be able to thank him enough. It's been a real blessing to have come across people like Ray and my Uncle Pete. Great craftsmen who were willing to share their knowledge and skills. I'm just glad I had enough sense to pay attention to them.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Break's About Over

Spring break is just about history and as usual I only got about half as much done as I wanted to. I did make it to the dentist, the tax lady, Purdue for my metabolism test, ran a couple of days, made it to the gym a couple of times, went to Indy for the Gloves, went to Terre Haute for the weekend, worked on the van, fixed a couple of things at school and a couple of things around the shack, and I shoveled a little over 7000 lbs of gravel yesterday to patch up the driveway. The only things I still really need to get done are finish putting the lathe back together and fix the lawn mower. Going back to work is starting to look good to me.

I did have a little time to stop and smell the flowers. These are from one of my magnolia trees. This one is a Biond magnolia and this is the first year it has really blossomed out. We had a frost Friday night and it browned up a few of the blossoms but it still should be pretty for at least another week or so. They have a nice fragrance, as well. Spring is definitely in the air!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gym Van

The large gaping hole.

The step plate installed.

The rocker panel tacked together.

Almost done.

I spent the last couple of days working on the van for the gym, among other things. The van is a big Dodge and like all of the uni-body vehicles that have spent their days in the Midwest, the bottom 10 inches of the body has suffered some major rust damage as a result of all the road salt that's used in the winter. This one has been repaired once already but what wasn't fixed plus some that was is in need of some major sheet metal work.

I worked on the step and rocker panel on the passenger side. As you can see from the photos, it was pretty much a matter of cutting everything out and starting fresh. The actual step part was a piece of cake. Just cut the old out and make a new panel. A little measuring, cutting and bending and there you go. I also put a couple of beads in the panel to match the factory one. I then made up a couple of small pieces to fill in the door post area.

The rocker panel below the step was the hard part. The piece tapers out about two-thirds of the way back. I made the piece in three parts and then welded them together. The piece has a flange on the back side to fasten the bottom edge to the van. I still have to weld or maybe just rivet the flange in place yet but everything else is welded up and ground down. Lots of work for a vehicle that's not worth much even if it was 100 percent.

I priced paint and patch panels today from the local auto parts store and that wasn't too encouraging. The only replacement rocker that they could find a listing for was for the right side and it's $160.00. The left side is the one that needs it the most, of course. I'll look into it a little deeper but I'll probably just end up buying a sheet of 20 gauge and making everything my self. A little more work maybe, but it will cost less and if I can save us a little money it will be worth it in the long run. Plus, if I make the parts myself, I'll get a chance to improve my skills with the English wheel. That ought to be worth something.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eames Skateboard

This one's for Surly.

Bitchin' skateboard, don't you think. If you follow the link to the photos, you can find a spot to get your own custom board made up. Lots cheaper than a motorcycle or a hot rod. Of course you have to offset some of the savings with band-aids and the occasional emergency room visit. Most of the guys I see at school who ride these things are always scabbed up. They're usually darn fine athletes, however. Reflexes like a cat, excellent balance. We could use them on our athletic teams but most of them just don't have the team player mentality. There is something to be said for independence, though.

I came across this at Ride the Machine. There are a couple more photos of it here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weekend Fun

The Missus and I went to Terre Haute this past weekend to attend the Ring Ceremony at St. Mary of the Woods college. The rings are presented to those finishing their Junior year at the college. It was a lovely day and a lovely ceremony and my congratulations go out to Debbie for all of her hard work and persistence.

While we were in town we also had the chance to go to the Clabber Girl museum. Clabber Girl baking powder is where the Hulman family of Indianapolis made their dough - pun intended. It's a nice little display with no charge to get in, first of all and a nice little restaurant, second of all. If you check out the pictures, you can see the appeal to a guy like me. With food, race cars, bicycles, and beer on display they pretty well covered all the bases.

We spent a couple of nights at the Inn at Turkey Run State Park. It's been a while since the last time I had stayed there. The park has some great hiking trails and beautiful old growth hard wood forest. I didn't have much time to hike around but I did manage to get a little time in on the trails and see a few things, including a Pileated woodpecker. They're big suckers and make a lot of racket when drumming up lunch.

Speaking of racket, Saturday night was probably the loudest night I had ever experienced while staying in a hotel. The Inn is a lovely building, the staff very nice and the food in the restaurant was top notch but quiet, it ain't. The mechanicals are noisy - you can hear toilets flushing and heaters cycling on and off, which wouldn't have been all that bad, but then add in a bunch of college kids who were going out on the fire escape for a smoke and a giggle next to and above our room every five minutes. Every time they went back inside they let the door slam behind them and then proceeded to stomp around in the room above us and down the hallway. If we had been camping at the park, there would have been a 10:00 pm quite time rule in play. Instead, these mopes were still slamming the door at 11:30. Tough to get a good night's sleep that way. If I go back, next time I'll get a cabin or camp.

Lots of things lined up for the week. I'll see how much of it actually gets accomplished. I hope the weather cooperates.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Joys of Teaching

Now most of you who know me have to be looking for some sarcasm to accompany that title but no, really, here's some of the joy of teaching:

I received a letter from a former student the other day. We've stayed in touch pretty much ever since he graduated 18-20 years ago even though he left the area. Good kid when in school and has done well for himself over the years. He worked as a weldor for many years and has a little sideline hustle still using his skills. He's a police officer now. Really great to hear from him. I also got an e-mail from a former student about a month ago. He graduated in '93 so it's really been awhile since I've last seen him. He too is doing well and is planning on coming down one of these nights for my Open Shop. He's bringing another former student with him as well.

As a teacher, you always wonder what happens to these guys once they leave school. I've always been of the opinion that I can't be a success unless they are. Kind of puts me in tough position, with my fate determined by theirs but it's really the only way to see it. It makes me extremely proud when they go out and make something of themselves. And of course, it's very rewarding to know that I had some small part in it.

The educational system is always in the news for one thing or another and there are lots of things that could be improved. There are some slugs in the classroom just like any other profession and Lord knows I've made my share of mistakes but most of us just keep plugging along trying to do the best we can with whatever comes through the door. It's the guys like the ones I've heard from recently that keep us coming back, though. Thanks fella's.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Side Two

I got the other side welded of the Rickati tank welded on the other night during Open Shop. It's looking pretty good so far but it's going to be a little bit slower going to get it planished up nice. I can't use the pneumatic planisher because it won't fit underneath the lower post, so everything has to be done with a hammer and dolly. The hardest part is always right next to the weld bead. There always seems to be a slight depression that's a son 0f a gun to raise up. I'm getting better at this as I progress, so the old adage "practice makes perfect" certainly applies but knowing myself as I do, I don't need too many delays or I'll drop the project and move on to something else. The wheels have already been turning. My buddy Bob dropped off some parts for me the other night, though. I've got new levers and cables ready to go, so that helps. I'm going to try and get some more done over Spring Break but I've got a lot of other stuff around the shack that needs some work as well. As my old pal Joey B. used to say - "steady by jerks".

The weather has been teasing us with temperatures in the high 60's, so it's time to get outside and start running and cycling. Depending on my schedule, there's a 10 mile run in about a month I'd like to be able to do. Don't know if I'll be up for that one but there's a 5k in about two months that's going to be a definite. I'm planning on riding to work on the bike as soon as Spring Break's over as often as I can. I've ridden in a couple of times this year but there's just been too much snow and ice to get out and run or cycle. Spring is definitely in the air, however. Get outside and enjoy it people!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Rail Bike Redoux

click to

In response to a comment/question on my last post:

I would be happy to give you the dimensions and specs for the guide wheel set-up on the rail bike but if you're looking to make a four wheel dolly, there's an easier way. If you take a rubber tired wheel like you can get from Harbor Freight, cut a circular piece of plywood a couple inches larger than the diameter of the rubber tire and bolt it to the wheel, you have a flanged wheel that will stay on the track. Make an axle the proper length and fasten this to the bottom of a wooden frame and you're in business. You can raise the platform up with the brackets if so desired as shown in the sketch. Harbor Freight sells a 10" tire and wheel for $9.99 but they have them on sale for $6.99 occasionally.

My question to you is: How are you going to move this platform down the tracks? Planning on pushing it? You could pull it behind a railbike if you had one but if you had one you could probably just mount the camera on the bike. Of course, if you had a Fairmont car or a speeder of some kind, you could have all kinds of fun. Me, I'd like to build a handcar, just because.

I live fairly close to the Chicago area and am interested in the abandoned line. Could be a good spot to safely ride the rail bike and a video camera could probably be mounted to it, as well. Keep me in the loop.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tank's Progressing.

I got one side welded on the Rickati tank. I planished both the side and the top a little more and then sanded them up a little. There are still a few small bumps but not looking too bad. Thursday morning was spent cleaning things up in the shop, grading papers and doing school teacher type things, so no time to work on the tank. The afternoon was spent heading to Indy for the Golden Gloves. You can check the story here.

It's been a busy week and I will continue to be busy for awhile. I was gone every night so far this week and will be taking the Missus out for dinner tonight to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Thirty-nine years of wedded bliss so far. My parents went 42 before getting a divorce - still haven't quite figured that out - so only three more to tie, four more to win.

I have a memorial service for my Aunt Dot in the morning. She was a piece of work, that gal. Made it all the way to 92. She had her sights set on 100 but just kind of fell apart the last year. Vaya con Dios, amiga. We'll miss you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Photo Shoot

Photo from:

Nice bike, huh? Vintage Jawa dirt bike with the look that I'm seeking for the Rickati.

When I get the gas tank finished, I'm going to work on the seat next. Get the pan done and then see about getting it upholstered. It's a little tough to see in the photo due to the young lady's lovely gam being in the way, but that's what I'm shooting for in a seat. Longer than a solo, shorter than a dual and climbs right up the rear fender. Click on the photo for the big view and you can see what I mean. Surly's been working on becoming a Strobist, so when I get the Rickati done, maybe I can contract him for a similar shot of my bike. The girl would be optional.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The First Side

No school today due to fog. We started with a two hour delay and then they called it off. Everything was pretty well burned off by 10:00, though, so I went over and worked on the Rickati tank a little bit. I got the first side roughed in pretty well and did a little more planishing on the top. The top is pretty well finished up other than some sanding. If you click on the photo to make it larger, you can see that I ran a body/vixen file over the side. That shows me the high spots and then I can raise the low spots with a hammer and dolly and keep working it in. The side has a little crown on it now and will have just a little more by the time I'm done bumping up the low spots. It should come out just like I want it to. The edges of the top piece show marks from the shrinker that will have to be worked out but I think I can do that after I weld the pieces together. When I get both sides on I'll put the filler neck in and make the bottom.

I found a blog where a guy made an aluminum fender for a bike. I want to make one at least for the rear of the bike. It actually doesn't look that hard. Of course, most people who are good at what they do make things look easy. I'm going to give it a try one way or the other. It's a good way to develop my skills and I want this bike to be really nice when I'm done.

Lumpy Tea Kettle?

Maybe not! I made the first piece for the Rickati tank and it actually looks pretty good.

Here's the rundown:

Cut the blank slightly oversize
Anneal the blank
Run it through the English wheel
Shrink the edges - hammer to fit the form
Trim edges
Shrink the edges - hammer to fit the form
Trim edges
Shrink the edges - hammer to fit the form
Touch up with mallet and slapper

I've got about three hours in that one little piece but it fits and it's pretty close to being ready to file smooth. Part of the time spent was dragging out all the tools and setting up the air planishing hammer. I bought the hammer a couple of years ago and only used it once. Little bit of a learning curve here - I initially had the air pressure too high. The annealed aluminum shapes pretty easily. Looks like the time spent on the hammerform was a good investment.

I'm going to try and get the sides made this week but that might be a little optimistic. After making the first piece, however, I'm feeling pretty upbeat. Maybe I'll order that Monza filler cap this week!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Hammerform, The Sequel

I got the hammerform finished up the other day. The sides are a little flat but not so much they look like a Sportster tank. I'll start out with it like this and if I don't like the look in aluminum, I can always put a little more curve to them. That's the theory anyway. Holding it up next to the bike, it looks pretty good. The length and scale of everything looks right, so now it's just a matter of starting in on it. I'm thinking four pieces to make the thing - top, sides and a bottom. I picked up the aluminum Friday, so it's about time to get started. If all goes well, I'll order the Monza style flip-up cap. If things don't go well, lumpy tea kettle it is. Or maybe a watering can. Or maybe a planter. I guess the list of possibilities for a junk gas tank is almost endless.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

Lot's going on now. Still working on getting the lathe fixed. I started putting it back together but I need to make some shims for the headstock. It's got a rather ingenious setup for setting the bearing clearance. The spindle runs on a split bronze bushing with the bearing cap having a wedge type of gadget to set the spindle to bearing clearance. The bearing cap also has shims under it to set the "crush" on the bearing. Instead of replacing the inserts when they wear, like you would on a car crankshaft, you can change the shims and adjust the clearance with the wedge and still use the same bushing. So as soon as I can figure out a way to make some nice holes in material that's only .002" - .003" thick, I'll be in business.

I made a new coil mount for the Rickati. The other one just looked like crap. I'm machining up a couple of little bosses now for the skid plate mounts. I picked up a lathe for the school and I'm getting that tooled up at the same time. I bought a tool post and a lathe file. I already had a set of cutting tools that has a boring bar, knurling tool, threading tool as well as the turning tools. A few more things and it should be a real handy addition to the shop. I'm planning on adding some machine shop work to the program next year. Most of these guys have no idea what a lathe and mill are, let alone what the machines can do. It's a little scary thinking about turning some of these guys loose on rotating equipment, however.

I've been teaching metallurgy for a few days to my beginning classes. Whew, that's a real chore. How do you get a high school kid interested in things like martensite, cementite and critical temperature? I'm going to keep pitching and hopefully they'll at least try to do some catching. Usually we end up with a lot of passed balls but even if they don't learn a lot, I've managed to keep them awake through the whole thing. That's not all that easy an hour after the school lunch, regardless of the subject.

Getting geared up for the Gloves at the gym. Jimmy sparred with just about everyone this evening and I did the same with the mitts - for about an hour and a half straight. Arms are a little tired tonight but I'm going to sleep good.