Thursday, December 30, 2010

Footpegs Are Done

Flex Rod is Almost

Clutch Hub is Done

Not Even Close
to Done

I spent all day Tuesday at the gym. Jimmy and I painted from 9:00 in the morning until about 7:30 that night. Jimmy put the second coat on the bottom part of the walls Wednesday morning and we both went back that evening to finish things up. Looks good - I'll post a couple of photos at the DeMotte Boxing Club site after we get everything cleaned up.

I spent the better part of Wednesday at school. The kid with the speeder came in and worked on it a little. He's changing motors in the thing and the new motor has a larger output shaft than the original. I brought some tooling in from home and got him lined up on the lathe. He bored the clutch hub out from 1" to 1-1/8". He farted around on a couple other little things as well, mostly getting himself lined up on the game plan.

I fixed a piece for one of the double end bags at the gym, finished filing the footpegs for the Rickati, filed out the holes to fit the flex rod for the steam engine, cut some trim for a job at the shack, and did a couple of little maintenance chores around the shop. Lots of time to think about my New Year's Resolutions while I was tinkering around. I think I need more of a revolution as opposed to resolution. Or maybe, more resolution instead of making resolutions. However it goes, I just need to keep on the path to finishing things. I've been doing pretty good lately - just can't fall off the wagon.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Walter Russell

I received the book The Man Who Tapped the Secrets of the Universe by Glenn Clark for Christmas. It's a short little book first published in 1946 describing the life of Walter Russell, who with his wife Lao, founded the University of Science and Philosophy. I breezed threw the book pretty quickly and was pretty impressed with the late Walter Russell. He was an accomplished musician, sculptor, painter, philosopher, teacher, architect, and figure skater. Quite the resume.

While I have only a minimal understanding of Russell's theories and philosophy, in a nutshell, he thought the whole world was basically run on electrical energy - you, me, the whole universe. If you take the gift of God's electrical energy and work with it rather than oppose it, you can accomplish all kinds of things. I don't know for sure but I would guess that the whole New Age thing started with the Russell's. Because his philosophy is of the New Agey sort, statements like: "Very often, sexual repression will reverse ones polarity" might be a little difficult to make sense of but the following quotes give you something to think about:

I believe sincerely that every man has the consummate genius within him. Some appear to have it more than others only because they are more aware of it than others are, and the awareness or unawareness of it is what makes each of them into masters or holds them down to mediocrity. I believe that mediocrity is self-inflicted and that genius is self bestowed. Every successful man I have ever known, and I have known a great many, carries with him the key which unlocks that awareness and lets in the universal power that has made him into a master.

Every successful man or great genius has three particular qualities in common. The most conspicuous of these is that they all produce a prodigious amount of work. The second is that they never fatigue, and the third is that their minds grow more brilliant as they grow older, instead of less brilliant. Great men's lives begin at forty, where the mediocre man's life ends. The genius remains an ever-flowing fountain of creative achievement until the last breath he draws.

Since genius is self bestowed and they all produce a prodigious amount of work, I think I'll hold off on bestowing myself with the title of genius, 'cuz then I'd have to produce. But on the other hand, if mediocrity is self-inflicted, I need to do something. I'm pretty sure this isn't what the Buddha had in mind for the middle path ,though. Maybe I need to sign up for the Russell home study course. Seriously though, some interesting ideas presented by the Russell's. Worth a deeper look.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Harley Cafe Racer

Photo from here:

How sweet is this? My kind of Sportster right there, by golly.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Machine Work

Brake Rod

Steam Engine Piston

Footpeg Mount Before Machining

After Machining

Completed Tailstock

I've been busy the last few days doing machine work. It hasn't been too cold so I've been able to go out in the shop and work. My little kerosene heater gets it up to about 40 degrees before my feet get cold, so I can stand in front of the lathe and mill and make chips. The brake rod and the footpeg parts are for the Rickati. I've got a little grinding/filing to do in order to get the pegs to pivot but I'll have them ready to weld onto the bike this week.

The piston is for the steam engine project. I've got both of them done but the cylinder bores are not quite true. The cylinders are copper tubing caps and they're a little smaller in diameter on the bottom. I'll chuck them up in the lathe and "tickle" them a little bit with some emery to see if I can even the bore up from top to bottom. I'm a little behind on the steam engine project but that's nothing new. I need to machine the valve and a block that changes the linear motion into rotary but there's nothing too tricky involved on the block. The valve as shown in the print is something else, though. There doesn't seem to be any seal on the thing to keep steam from leaking out. I'm going to try and rig up a couple of O-rings to cure that. The plans definitely leave a little to be desired.

I finished the tailstock. If you look on the right side you can see the groove turned in the rod and the bolt with the washer used to tension the rod in the end of a part when in use. I need to put a tack weld on the washer to keep it from unscrewing but no biggy there.

I've still got a weeks worth of vacation left, so I should be able to make some more progress on things. A former student bought himself a little Fairmont motor car/speeder and brought it over to school last week. He wants to work on it a couple of days so I'll be at the school working on some things and we're going to paint the gym this week as well. As always, lots to do but as the pictures show, I'm making progress.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday and get a chance to spend time with family and loved ones. There are a lot of people hurting this year, so if you get a chance, drop a couple of bucks in the bucket for the Salvation Army or make a donation to your local food pantry. I'm extremely fortunate to be living such a good life. I'm warm, fed and loved. I wish the same for all of you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fireplace Tools

I finished the fireplace tools that I made at the Blacksmith Shop during the fair. Actually, I made the tools two years ago and made the pieces for the stand this year. I need to put some linseed oil on everything still as I write this but that might have to wait a couple days as I seem to have caught something of a sore throat, runny nose kind of thing. No surprise, however. Happens every year at either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Whatever goes through the school, I manage to get to a greater or lesser degree. I do especially like it when it happens while I'm on vacation. If I'm going to be miserable, I'd prefer having the opportunity share that with the little SOB's at work who passed it around in the first place. It is after all the season of giving.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Big Picture Learning

I was talking to Surly the other night at the fights about his photography work (he shot Jimmy's fight and several others) and his new camera. With any new tool there is always a learning curve and trying to master a skill like low light action photography will of course take some time. He mentioned how non-professional photographers have been known to say "I could take that same picture" but of course, they didn't. The old photographers had the saying "f8 and be there", meaning have your camera ready and show up where the action is. I found a similar thing at the Big Picture Learning blog.

In order to learn you needed to hang around the other musicians. You needed to persist. You had to be in the right places and keep your eyes wide open. And you had to develop your ownstyle that translates to personalizing standards. - Jay McShann

If you want to be good at something, you have to devote the time and effort. You have to learn the basics of the trade before you learn the tricks of the trade. If you stroll down on the above link to the entry dated October 30th, you'll see a graph of the attendance rate of New York City schools. It's absolutely pathetic. How are you going to learn if you're not there?

The answers to the problems America is facing with its educational system are out there. Unfortunately, the politicians keep looking in the wrong place. You can't mandate performance. If my pay rate is going to be determined by student test scores, the little darlings had better be showing up on a regular basis with a good breakfast in their little tummies and a good night's sleep under their belt. To find what works, you need to take a page out of the Jay McShann book. Hang out with the other musicians or in this case, check out the Big Picture schools or the one started by Thomas Bloch of H&R Block fame, or look to Finland. Find what works and give the schools and the staff the freedom to implement change.

Indiana public schools are short on money to begin with and, if State Superintendent Tony Bennett has his way, will be looking at some changes that will not improve the situation regardless of how much money they receive. I've seen the proposal for teacher evaluations and no one will be able to be rated at the highest level. There aren't enough hours in the day to do everything that will be required. Schools will also be given a letter grade evaluation now, just like students receive on a quiz. Inter-city schools will still receive poor ratings and places like Munster or Brownsburg will still be at the top. The only way to make things better is to change the culture of the school and the community. Parents need to place a higher value on getting little Johnny to school everyday and the the schools need to be a little less torture chamber and a little more interesting. It could be done.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lunar Eclipse +

I added a gadget showing the phases of the moon. It also gives the correct time (I'm not sure how it does that in the State of Indiana. We've only got two different time zones but there is no geographic boundary or even any rhyme or reason as to how it was determined what time it is where).

After my brief digression and shot at My Man Mitch, the point is that you, meaning me, will be able to stay on top of the moon phases. This should make it much easier when it comes to planting your garden, sailing your yacht, or planning for the embarrassing moment when once a month you notice your canine teeth growing rapidly and male pattern baldness is no longer a problem. If the latter applies to you, I would stay in this evening, by the way.

Tonight there will be a lunar eclipse and since I don't have to work in the morning, I was planning on setting up the telescope and checking it out. Unfortunately, it's supposed to be cloudy and start snowing, which will pretty well take care of that. I bought a telescope a couple of years ago and really haven't gotten around to doing much with it. I need a little more knowledge about what I'm actually looking at. I can pick out the North Star and the Big and Little Dippers but I could do that when I was about six. When I bought the telescope I figured I'd be able to take it with me when I went camping in the little trailer and give me something to do once the sun went down besides swatting mosquitoes and drinking. The problem is most all of my camping the last two years has been by bicycle. I have used it to check out the Space Station and I've learned a few more of the planets and constellations but I want to know some more. It's a big world out there. In fact, it's an infinite world out there, which I'm still trying to get a grip on.

A Quality Shop Of Master Craftsman posted a nice little diatribe about education the other day. This comes from the viewpoint of a craftsman who has a son who is in school. The Wisdom of the Hands also posted a video of how education works in Finland. You might want to check them out. One guy asks the questions, the other guy answers the questions. The only ones not doing anything about it are the ones who have the power to change it. If I get a little more proficient with the telescope, I might be able to find out where the policy makers come from. Some of the stuff they come up with has to come from outer space.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tailstock - Part Two

I got the tailstock welded up this past week. It came out looking pretty sexy with the silver hammertone paint. It's got about an inch of vertical travel and maybe 10 degrees of swing, both left and right. To be honest I never even measured the amount of swing, I just figured it might come in handy sometime. I still have to cut a groove in the rod that runs through the middle and make a screw with a big washer on it that will fit in the groove on the rod. That will allow me to snug the rod up tight in the end of a shaft I'm going to machine. I'm going to try and get that done while I'm on Christmas vacation. I've been knockin' 'em dead when it comes to finishing things lately. I'm going to try and keep that streak going.

I picked up the flex rod and "O" rings for the steam engine. That project is also a priority for the vacation. They still haven't got the painting done in my shop at school so I'm not going to try and tackle anything big in there yet. A school board member came in to see me about it, though. He's a new board member and is trying to make some positive changes. Let's all hope that's the way it turns out. We've got lots of room for improvement.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paul Revere

I was here a couple of years ago. The North Bridge in Concord, Mass. The birth of a nation right where I was standing.

When I attended the Appleseed shoot, they recommended reading the book Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer. Since my curiosity was aroused and it was in the school library and it didn't violate my self-imposed 500 page limit on any book that I read, I read it. It's a well written account of the events leading up to the famous ride of Paul Revere and the immediate after effects that precipitated the Revolutionary War.

I've been interested in Paul Revere as a craftsman having seen some of his silver work, but was fairly ignorant of his role in bringing about our independence from England. Paul was a major player in the events leading up to April 19, 1775 when the British marched on Concord and Lexington. In addition to his silversmithing, he also was an accomplished engraver. In fact, the Library of Congress traveling exhibit had a copy of one of his engravings in it.

The events leading up to the Revolutionary War seem to be happening to some extent again in this country. The emergence of the Tea Party in the last election had to be prompted by something, right? Depending on your point of view, there are lots of attacks on your personal freedoms going on. People wanting to take away firearms and if they can't do that then outlaw all lead ammunition. Force you to buy health insurance or else. Tax the poor and give to the rich - oh wait, that's Robin Hood. Here we tax the middle class and give it to the poor corporations who are too big to fail. Any way you look at it, there are parallels that can be drawn.

In addition to detailing the events of Revere's ride, the book also sums up what happened to the major players in the story later in life but I need to find another good book to pick up where this one left off. It's a shame that in all the twelve years you spend in public education, so little of that time is spent on history. The founders of our country were true patriots. Their vision and sacrifices should not be forgotten.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Day

Photo from here:

I had the day off today due to the blowing and drifting snow. Since it rained and froze up good before the snow started, the snow just kept blowing across the driveway for most of the length. The part around the barn and where we park was a different story. I shoveled some drifts that were a couple of feet deep to get the snow away from the vehicles and shoveled about 6"-8" off the sidewalk. The old Allis Chalmers took care of the rest. I started it up about two weeks ago, put a little fresh gas in it and charged the battery up and I ran it a little yesterday. It fired right up this morning and I got everything plowed and shoveled in about 1-1/2 hours. The wind has been blowing, so it'll need another pass tomorrow.

Spent the majority of the rest of the day down the basement. I'm working on a couple of little projects that are mostly an antidote to television. When it's too cold to work in the shop or I don't want to go back to school, I can grab a cup of Joe and head downstairs. As much as I enjoy reading, I still need to be making things. I got an e-mail from my partner on the steam engine project and he's got some parts we've been waiting on. I should be able to get back on that pretty quick. I'm going to try and get a little bit done on the Rickati project this week as well. We've got final exams this week which always leads to a lot of dead time in the schedule. I should be able to accomplish something while waiting for the next final to roll around.

Speaking of accomplishing something, if your looking for a duck or goose call, check out 2 Rivers Calls. I just found out today that my old pal Shawn McDowell and his brother Casey have gone world wide with his duck calls. Shawn used to run the woodshop and was the head football coach when I started my current teaching position about 17 years ago. He was farting around making them and all kinds of other things then and looks like he still is. He's a real good craftsman, especially in the woodshop. I wish he would have stuck around a few more years so I could have gotten some turning lessons from him. I know my way around a metal lathe pretty well but Shawn could have really improved my wood lathe skills. He's a helluva nice guy with a wonderful family. Buy yourself a handmade duck call. If nothing else you can use it for a noise maker on New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress had a semi-trailer set up at the Merrillville Reference Library this past weekend. I was a little disappointed in what they had inside but if you've got 145 million things, something has to be left at home. The exhibit was primarily an advertisement for the Library of Congress and it was quite effective in that regard. I've already checked out the website and have kicked myself in the ass for not at least going in the building while I was there this summer. The building is remarkable from the outside and from the pictures of the interior I've seen, the interior is even more remarkable.

The Library is also a founding partner in the World Digital Library where you can find cool pictures like Elvis and Tricky Dick Nixon.

The online gift shop has all kinds of things available for purchase. Might be a little too late for Christmas this year but next year I'm going to ask Santa for one of the photographs by Edward Curtis or Arthur Rothstein. An 8x10 photo is $28.00. I'll never be able to afford an original Curtis but I have seen a couple. Shame I wasn't born rich instead of good looking - I'd have myself an art collection.

The Library of Congress has 745 miles of bookshelves in three buildings and as Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams on 6/10/1815: "I cannot live without books".

Friday, December 10, 2010


"Pie and Coffee is approximately the third best social interaction a man can hope to have with a woman." I'm not sure what's in second place but I'm not going to argue the point.

In addition to the Hoosier Mama Pie Company, I saw a short blurb in Esquire about The Red Truck Bakery making mince meat pies. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought it looked good. They're sold out of them at $26.00 a piece. If you hit the link, you'll see why. The list of ingredients should be enough for the Missus to make something similar. She made me mince meat pie a few years back with real minced meat. Grandma Miller used to make one every Thanksgiving along with her jam cake but she used the mince meat stuff out of the box. It was still darn good. Must have been the buttery flavor Fluffo in the crust.

And this just in (Wednesday at 5:00) - the Missus made a mince meat and a grape pie for the Christmas get together with her crochet group and there was about half the grape and the whole mince meat pie left over. Yippy - Skippy. Home made pie and I'm taking Friday off. Life is good, but it's always better with pie.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I'm finally getting around to making the tailstock to go with the spacer head for my mill. Enco sells one thats a plain Jane for $164.95 and a fancy adjustable one for $362.29. Both of them are too short for my spacer head however, so I'd have to make a block to put underneath it to raise it up an 1-1/2" anyway. Instead of parting with my "hard earned" dollars to buy one, I'm fabbing my own on company time - the American free enterprise system at it's best, though I must confess I did quite a bit of it last night during Open Shop. I'll need to cut a slit in the top for the pinch bolt at home as soon as the weather warms up a little but everything else I can do at work. I need the tailstock to finish one of my non bloggable projects I'm working on and I could have used one several times in the past for other projects. I want to get all my tooling in order for retirement so I'll be able to tinker on whatever, whenever.

I ordered some bearings and Heim joints for the Rickati project and a couple of pieces for the steam engine that should be in today so I can continue working on them as well. Everything is progressing right smartly.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lookin' Like a Sickle

Starting to look like a bike

Muffler with heat shield


Bike's starting to come together finally. I got the exhaust finished up yesterday. The nut holding the pipe into the cylinder head is kind of rough, though. The nuts were all made from brass with fins ringing the top and unless you had a wrench made for them the standard practice was to tighten them up with a screwdriver and a hammer so you could break the fins off. This one's missing about a third of them so I'll see if I can find a better one. When I worked at the other school we had a CNC mill and I made a couple of them up out of steel. I first turned the OD, built it up with brass, turned and threaded it, then put it in the CNC mill and cut the fins in it. They looked real nice and I machined a wrench up to match the slots and everything. Unfortunately, I didn't save one for myself and I don't have access to a CNC mill anymore. I also don't have a lathe currently that will cut metric threads either so I need to address that issue one of these days soon.

I threw the gear gazer on the engine to see how that looked (that's the shiny thing on top of the motor just under the gas tank.) I made a couple of those up when I had the mill at my disposal and at least I kept one of those for myself. They're really not good for anything other than you can watch the oil splashing around on the bevel gears but they look real cool.

I made up a footpeg mount last weekend to use the original Rickman footpegs and it came out pretty nice but unfortunately, I took one of the pegs off awhile back and now I can't find the darn thing. I made a couple of the aluminum pegs like in the photo a long time back so I think I'll use those and make two new mounts to fit them.

I still need a chain guard, brake stay and some type of piece for the rear brake cable to fit into and, of course, a brake pedal to actuate it. I still need a seat and a couple little brackets but it's moving ahead. I was even eyeballing the Volkswagen the other day. I'd like to hit a couple of licks on that over Christmas vacation. I need to get some rust repair done on the heater channel in order to finish the floor on the one side and I can't do that when the boys are around. Every time I crawl under a vehicle I hear something I can't identify or sounds like mischief and out I come. Oh well, it's not like I never work on my own stuff on company time. Probably wouldn't hurt me to do a little of it on my time.

The construction guys are back in the shop again. I had to move somethings around today so a guy could check out the new heater. Apparently the pulley is the wrong size on the fan and it's running about 50% faster than it's supposed to. It sounds like a jet taking off and it'll damn near knock your hat off in the tool room with the amount of air it puts out. So they'll be back to fix that and they are coming in to paint the trusses they reinforced to hang the platforms on that they didn't hang. The one is right over the top of all the benches and the TIG welder we just moved back about a week ago. I wish they would have kept me in the loop when they were planning all this crap. I would have made a couple of big moves before school was out last year and everything would have been Jake. It is nice and warm in there now though and as Martha says, that's a good thing.