Thursday, September 30, 2010



TIG Weld

Rickati Tank

Flip Side

I finished welding in the bottom of the Rickati tank Monday. All in all, it's not looking half bad. I need to weld the mounts on it now and it's a done deal. So I've got a little progress going for me there.

The other two photos are of the cazo or in English, the big ass bowl. This is for cooking up carnitas. Load the cazo up with pork, along with molasses, some cola and all kinds of seasonings and cook it up into some scrumptious Mexican grub. This thing is for the padre of one of my students. I showed him and another kid how to do the layout and then they plasma cut the pieces out - I did all the welding. I finished welding it all up yesterday and will put the handles on it today then out the door it goes.

The cazo is made out of 304 stainless sheet with a 1/2" diameter bar wrapped around the top for strength. I welded the bar to the sheet all the way around and it will get sanded smooth before it leaves. The top seam was easy to weld, the bottom was a little tougher. I don't get too much stainless to weld. Most of the little bit that I do is some little job for the kitchen here at school. I TIG weld all kinds of aluminum stuff but stainless is a lot different. The thermal conductivity is the big thing. Aluminum sucks the heat away and stainless retains it. Mild steel or chrome-moly is about half way in between them. It was good practice for me. I did a little job for Surly a while back out of the same material and was ashamed at the way that one turned out. The weld looked OK but I had a bunch of melt-thru that he had to file off the backside. That's never good.

I've been working on the gym van some more - I'll have the brake line replaced today. The next thing will be trying to get the bleeder screws to cooperate. As rusty as everything else is, I'm not anticipating anything easy here either. The pipefitter is coming in today to finish hooking up the heater, so I'll need to get it out of the shop until he's done. That being the case, it may be a little while on that job yet. I'd like to finish up the body work on that rig as well. That was one of the things I was going to work on this summer that didn't get done due to the construction at the school. It's also another reminder that I need to get things plumbed up at home so I can do that type of work after I retire.

The father of one of my students is building a tandem bicycle and was looking for me to weld it up. He's in a big hurry - like today or tomorrow - so I told the kid no on that. I'd like to tackle that job but not if it's a big rush. I guess he's got everything jigged up, but even at that, it's not something I'd want to do on a hurry up basis.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Project Wild

The Missus and I took off Friday afternoon right after I got off work and headed South. We spent the weekend in Terre Haute. I attended a workshop on Saturday for Project Wild and she visited with some family. The workshop was geared toward getting youngsters ages 3-7 outside so it was all women in the workshop except the presenter's father. Nice old dude - retired shop teacher - who I chatted with during one of the breaks.

While I'm not a preschool teacher, I do have a couple of grandsons that fall into the age group and I'm interested in when and why the disconnect comes with kids going outside. It appears that part of the problem is the parents. They don't want the kids to get dirty, they're afraid of what might happen to them if they are outside - anything from too much sun, or bug bites to who knows what. Also, lots of working moms who don't have the time to spend with the little darlings. One lady said the Indian population where she's at sends the kids to science and math camp during the summer instead of them getting outside. That might explain all the Indian physics professors and doctors. The people running their own preschools all seemed to be very interested in doing what's best for the little ones and seeing to it they get a chance to get outdoors and learn some things and have some fun too. That was good to see.

The workshop was held in Dobbs Park and we stayed right across the street Saturday night at a Bed and Breakfast. After checking in, the Missus took a little nap and I hiked around the perimeter of the park. The weather was great and there were quite a few people in the park. It seems like you never meet too many on the hiking trails, however.

So it was a pretty good weekend. I learned a little something, spent a little time with some educators I normally would have no opportunity to talk to, and spent some quality time with the Missus. Back to the old grind tomorrow.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Frame Repair

Finished repair

Not a pretty sight.

(Click on pictures to get a good look)

Jimmy took the gym van in to get the brakes checked out last Friday and not only did the shop find a bad brake line, they also found a bad spot on the front crossmember that holds the lower control arms in place. Not really a good thing. The bottom of the van is pretty much covered with big pieces of flaky rust. It looks like the previous owners sprayed it down with salt water every night before they put it to bed. We had the thing checked out when Jimmy drug it home, and while it looked pretty much like a 20 year old Dodge van from the Midwest, the front crossmember escaped detection. The bad spot was probably hiding under that flaky rust that I'm so fond of.

After getting the thing up on some ramps I checked the extent of the damage, and while it was certainly serious, it was just one small area. The metal on either side of the cracked spot was thick enough to tie into. This kind of work is definitely not my favorite but who else is going to do it?

The condensed version goes as follows: get the van on ramps, weld piece on control arm to level it out so the floor jack will support it, cut the nut off the pivot bolt, spray with penetrating oil and attempt to drive the bolt out, repeat this step while hitting hand with hammer, repeat this step, repeat this step, make pattern for new plate, remove old metal, cut out new piece, bend to fit, tack weld in place, make stiffener for bottom edge, tack in place, finish weld. After crawling under and back out about 100 times, job done. I should have chipped the slag off the welds and brushed the smoke off before taking the picture of the finished piece. While it's certainly not a work of art, it should be hell for strong. The metal thickness is about twice what the van started with and the 1/2" square rod I used for the stiffener along the bottom edge will keep everything securely in place. I still need to replace the brake line but that will have to wait until next week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday Morning Report

Tailstock - End View

Tailstock - Side View

Magnolia Seeds

Barn Floor

The Building Trades class got the second half of the barn floor poured Friday. I'm not sure when they plan on starting on the walls but so far, so good.

I worked a little in the shop this weekend, finishing up one job and starting on a couple more. The photos show the progress on a tailstock I'm making for the dividing head on the mill. I need to make a couple of ears to weld on for a pinch bolt, a tensioning bolt and the base for it. Nothing too difficult - just a little time consuming.

The magnolia seeds came off the tree in my front yard. I need to figure out how to get them to sprout. I tried a couple of different approaches with some seeds from another tree but didn't have any luck. I'd like to plant another one of these and one of the other one. Seems like a shame to buy them when I've got the seed.

I've got the van from the gym in the school shop again. Jimmy took it in due to some brake trouble and in addition to rusty brake lines, they came across a bad part on the front crossmember that the front wheels fasten to. I need to see what I can do with that this week along with a couple other projects I'm in the middle of. Nothing new here - typical of how things go. As soon as I get rolling on something, something else comes in with a higher priority.

Finally, I went out to breakfast with my buddy to discuss the alternative vehicle project. We kicked a couple of ideas around as well as catching up on the latest medical issues we've been suffering. He's going to look into a couple of things and then I think we're going to be ready to build. It should be interesting.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pedersen Bicycle

The latest issue of Bicycling Magazine has a nice article about the Pedersen bicycle. The Pedersen link will take you to the site of the maker of the bike in the article. I've never seen one of these in person but was aware of them. They were built starting in the late 1800s and Jesper Sollen has built about 6000 of them, so they are hardly a rare commodity. The construction takes advantage of proven truss technology so they should be hell for strong. The seat suspension is a little on the wild side as is the handlebar position.

I'm definitely not in the market for another bicycle but from a builder's standpoint, it would be a cool project. With an internal geared hub in the back and some decent wheels and brakes, you could make a really nice commuter. It would be a nice project for a retired welding teacher/bike builder.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be Prepared

Spent the weekend doing lots of odds and ends around the shack. I went through the Bug-out Bag and emergency supplies to make sure the flashlight and radio had good batteries and that the food and water weren't five years past their expiration dates. I usually check everything when the time changes, along with the smoke alarm and furnace thermostat batteries, but the Missus had the special about 9/11 on television so I figured why not do it while I'm thinking about it.

I'm not a black helicopter/conspiracy theory kind of guy but I had a relative killed by a tornado, I've been through several power outages - the last one was four or five days long - and I live next to a grain elevator that brings anhydrous ammonia in on railroad tracks that are little tiny things that are about 100 years old. So, it's not that it can't happen. If it does happen, I don't want to be looking around for a flashlight that works or wondering how I'm going to get out of Dodge when the tanker car of anhydrous is laying on it's side. So I got some fresh gas treated with Sta-Bil for the mower and the tractor and about the only thing left is to fill up a few more gallon jugs of fresh water so I'll have enough to take care of the animals for a few days if the power goes out.

I finished up the swing arm bolt for the Rickati after having to hit two different hardware stores for a couple of 3/4" fine thread nuts - I must be the only guy in the county who uses fine thread bolts.* But there's progress being made and that's the plan anyway. And if you're going to be prepared, you definitely need a plan.

* On the advice of counsel, this post was edited from it's original form.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Makin' Things

Now that I've had my 15 minutes worth of fame, I'm back at work on the projects. I've got all the pieces machined for the Rickati swingarm - just need to order a chunk of tubing to connect all the pieces together. I'm going to order a piece for my black powder shotgun barrel at the same time. I keep thinking that I need to order a piece of tubing for something else also but can't remember what it was or what it would be for. That's one of the problems of letting a project sit for six months or more before resuming activity. I'll give myself a couple of days to think about it before ordering anything.

I'm working on the gas tank for the bike as well. I started making the bottom for it the other day. I need to make a piece for the outlet and decide what I'm going to do for the filler neck. I've already got a weld-in piece that takes a regular style gas cap but I really like the idea of having the Monza/flip-up style cap. Big difference in price. Especially since I already have the one. I'm starting to spend a chunk of money on the barn project so I could always postpone the tank a little while. I still need to make a seat, get a rear wheel and shocks and make the shifter and rear brake controls.

Speaking of the barn, that project is coming along right nice. They poured half the floor Friday with the other half scheduled for this up coming Friday. I'll be able to get a measurement for the upstairs floor height pretty soon and then decide what I want to do about the circular stair. I'm getting pumped about the barn. It'll be nice to have a decent place to store the finished pieces, the Missus will be able to keep her car out of the weather and I'll have a decent place to do some woodworking.

Life is good!

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The Missus made me my favorite pie for my birthday - pecan. Her pecan pie is the absolute best. And I know my pie! Before I could take the picture she snatched a pecan out of the top, so there's a slight blemish photographically speaking, but nothing but perfection gastronomically speaking.

The other photo shows my "bumper" crop of filberts/hazelnuts. This is the first year the little bush really did anything. I had two bushes but the other one met an untimely death by mower. If I can remember to place the order next spring, I'm going to plant a couple of more. Maybe a couple of more fruit trees as well. I should have some persimmons ripened up pretty soon for some yummy persimmon bread. The grape vines are pretty much over grown with weeds but if I can salvage enough grapes for a pie, I'll be in hog heaven.

Today is Grandparents Day. As a proud grandparent of two young boys, I can say they have enriched my life immensely. I never knew my grandfather on my dad's side. He died a few years before I was born. My other grandfather I got to know rather well about the time I graduated from high school. After a few one on one conversations, I had a lot more respect and understanding for the man. Like many others, he got married, left the farm and headed North for work. He worked at the same place for the rest of his working days - just another working stiff trying to live a better life for himself and his family. He had heart trouble early on and didn't do much with us kids physically but he was always good to us. He had a big tree cut down in his front yard one time and the stump was about 4" above the yard. He took out his hearing aid, plugged in the transistor radio and tackled it with a 1" chisel and a hammer. I told him it was going to take him years to finish the job like that. He looked up with a smile and said "I hope so".

Friday, September 10, 2010


There's the Most Interesting Man in the World, Chuck Norris and then this guy.

Winterizing Bicycles

Maybe I'll set the touring bike up with a sink, then I too could be clean shaven. Since I've been clean shaven only once in the last thirty years or so, I can't see that happening. I did actually consider shaving the beard off this summer but I applied for a job and didn't want to have to go in for an interview with most of my face all tanned up except for a big white stripe running around my chin from ear to ear.

Since the weather was so nice last Sunday and I didn't feel like working too hard after a late breakfast with Surly, I decided to get the "winter" bikes out. The one on the left is an old Peugeot mountain bike that my brother gave me when he got out of the Army. I'm not sure how old it is but I've had it probably 25 years. I made a headlight for it from a 6 volt lantern that I bought from WalMart and I ride it when I know I'm liable to get caught riding home in the dark.

The one on the right is one that I made a couple of years ago and I posted about previously. I had it hanging up in the barn and managed to knock it down, pushing the rear fender into the tire. When I put the fenders on the bike originally, the bracket I made interfered with the rear brake. I took care of that, patched a hole in the tube and washed both of the bikes.

I have two routes that I take to work when cycling. One is all paved road and seven miles long. The other is only four miles but there is a half mile worth of gravel road. When the weather is nice and the days are long, I take a road bike and go the long way. When the weather is bad or the days are short, I take the shorter way. That's where the "winter" bikes come in.

Whatever strange affliction I've been suffering has eased up substantially. I worked out last week and I actually felt something loosen up. Since I'm feeling better, I want to get back on the bikes - the fleet's ready when I am.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I finished reading the book Churchhill by Paul Johnson last week. It's a good book - short, well written and informative. I was certainly aware of Churchill but I didn't know as much about the man as I felt I should. The book is a good starting point if you want to know about the very interesting life of Winston Churchill and in my case, it will probably be the endpoint as well. It satisfied my curiosity, so now I'll move on to whatever strikes my fancy next. However, the author sums up the book with five lessons to be learned from Churchill's life:

1. Always aim high. He conquered his aversion to math and mastered English history. He played polo to win the top award in the world. He won the Noble Prize for literature. He became the Prime Minister of England.

2. There is no substitute for hard work. He worked hard at everything to the best of his ability: Parliament, administration, geopolitics and geostrategy, writing books, painting, creating an idyllic house and garden, seeing things and if possible doing things for himself.

3. Churchill never allowed mistakes, disaster - personal or national - accidents, illnesses, unpopularity, and criticism to get him down. He had courage, the most important of all virtues, and its companion, fortitude.

4. Churchill wasted an extraordinary small amount of his time and emotional energy on the meannesses of life: recrimination, shifting the blame onto others, malice, revenge seeking, dirty tricks, spreading rumors, harboring grudges, waging vendettas. Having fought hard, he washed his hands and went on to the next contest.

5. The absence of hatred left plenty of room for joy in Churchill's life. Joy was a frequent visitor to Churchill's psyche, banishing boredom, despair, discomfort, and pain. He liked to share his joy and give joy.
Pretty good advice from one of the greatest leaders of all time. And for the record, he was a pretty good bricklayer, as well.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Hope you all enjoy the holiday for all of us working stiffs. For those of you who have to work today, you have my sympathy. It's been a federal holiday since 1894, signed into law by President Cleveland right after the troops he sent to end the Pullman strike ended with thirteen dead workers. Besides being the holiday for the working man, and woman of course, it also signifies the end of summer and the beginning of football season. My school's team has already lost three games and are looking at going 0-10 on the season. So far their opponents have scored 146 points to the home team's 6. In this case it would probably be better if it were the end of the season, rather than the beginning.

Shop Teacher Bob was also born on Labor Day, with this birthday being #60. I'm not old as dirt, but I do remember when it was new. We had a nice little celebration on Saturday at the boxing club. Check out the DBC post here.

Enjoy your day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Contest Looks Like a Go

Here's an idea for an alternative power vehicle and maybe the Darwin Award.

So as soon as I read the thing in the paper the other day about the alternative power contest, the wheels started spinning. I emailed the contact person for the contest to see if they were in fact going to have the contest next year and it's all systems go. I also emailed a real good friend of mine - we're like brothers only with different parents - and put a bug in his ear. I called him Wednesday after I got off work to see what he thought but he hadn't read the email yet. No matter, after I explained the program to him, he was hooked. He's going to look over the particulars and we'll get together in a few days and hash out a plan. If he's on board, we should be able to put something together that will be a definite contender. We've got a year to build and he's a finisher as opposed to me who's a terrific starter but not worth a hoot as a finisher. We've worked on some things together in the past - he built one of the nicest '68 Camaro's you'll ever see - and the dude has a great technical mind plus plenty of mechanical experience of all types to draw from.

This should be fun.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alternative Power Initiative

It starts like this and ends.....

like this.

I read in Sunday's NWI Times about a race that was held in Whiting for alternative power vehicles. The vehicles had to complete a 5 mile course through the city streets with a $7,000.00 cash prize for the winner. There were three entries with the most successful completing 1.2 miles and earning a $300.00 consolation prize. The rules are relatively simple: no internal combustion engines or electric motors, minimum of three wheels, licensed driver, and if more than one vehicle goes the distance, the winner will be determined by a drag race. That sounds like my kind of whacky project. You can get the scoop at the Alternate Power Initiative.

If any of you readers have any ideas for a sure fire winner, how about sending them along. I've got a couple of things I thought about right off the bat. Of course, I scratched the big-ass rubber band idea right away but it's an interesting design problem. One of the vehicles was powered by carbon dioxide and one by compressed air. Since I'm not running the high mileage car anymore, I'm sure I've got some students who'd be interested in building something for this contest. And if it would pull wheelies like Evel Knievel, that would definitely be the stuff.