Monday, January 31, 2011

Snowing and Blowing

Photo from here:

1954 Giro

I'm thinking Italy
I'm thinking Spring

They just called school for Tuesday and with the weather that's being forecast, I imagine that's it for the week. I started putting the frame for the apple grinder together. Pretty simple - 1x4's for the legs and a frame to support the disposal and the top. There's another frame made from 1x6's for the motor mount. I ordered a coupler to join the motor to the disposal - $12.00 rather than the $27.00 from the farm store. I ordered a couple other things I needed for the shop at the same time which will absorb some of the shipping cost. It should be there tomorrow or Wednesday even if I'm not. Regardless, it'll be there by the time I need it so there will be no delay in the construction process. Remember the mantra: Don't start it unless you can finish it.

I've got a few things I'm working on around the shack and if I'm going to have a few days off, I should be able to get the valve for the steam engine machined up. I also need to shorten the brake stay on the Rickati project. I bought some kerosene the other day. I'll just have to pick a day, light the heater and spend some quality time in the home shop doing some machine work, unless of course the power goes out. They're forecasting some pretty high wind gusts in addition to all the snow. Could be bad.

Stay warm and stay off the roads. Spring will be here just as sure as the swallows return to Capistrano.

Whizbang - Son of a Gun

I'm proud to say my scrounging skills are still intact. I taught a construction class a few years back and there was a garbage disposal floating around in the tool room. I checked it out the other morning and it was still there. So I got the hard part of the apple grinder taken care of right away. The maintenance crew came by to have me fix a piece for the snow plow so I asked the guy about the best place to buy an electric motor locally. Just so happens, due to the construction this summer a surplus motor came to the surface. So that took care of the second big expense. I think I'm going to go with the apple grinder plans as drawn rather than building an aluminum frame. I picked up some lumber but I still need a coupling to join the motor to the disposal. I found one at the local farm store but it was $27.00, which I thought was a little excessive. I'll see if I can find something a little cheaper, but if not, I know where to get one.

I watched a new show on the Discovery Channel last week called Sons of Guns. It's a gun shop in Louisiana that builds all kinds of custom firearms and does restoration work on antique firearms. It was pretty interesting. They fired off a Civil War cannon, built a gun for breaching doors by combining an automatic weapon with a shotgun and made a suppressor for a shotgun. There wasn't a whole lot of drama like some of those bike/car builder shows. In fact, the guy in charge seems like a real likeable guy. Looks like the kind of place I'd like to work in. As a result of the show I would expect to see an up tick in enrollments in gunsmithing schools soon. Mostly machinist and mechanical skills required. Regardless of how anyone feels about firearms, you have to admire the skills of a good craftsman. The show is on Wednesday evenings, 8:00 Central.

I mentioned helping out my sister-in-law in a previous post. Her husband had this welder and I'm trying to move it for her. I'd like to get the school to buy it. I hooked it up the other day and tried it out. It will stick and TIG weld, plus it has a pulse option on the TIG. Its amazing what these little things will do with the inverter technology that's available now. You can plug it into any input power from 110 to 440 volts either three phase or single. 200 amps output and you can carry it around by the handle or the shoulder strap. It has a real small torch on it. It would have been nice to have when I was welding up the bicycle frame. I used it to weld the Rickati swingarm back together and it's the cat's pajamas as they used to say. She also has a MillerMatic 130 amp MIG welder, if you're in the market.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Apple Grinder

The cold weather has slowed my progress on a couple of projects and I experienced a minor setback on the Rickati project. I had put on the swingarm on the table in order to tack the tabs for the brake stay in place and a kid snagged it and threw it to the ground. Of course all the tack welds broke and now I need to put that back together. However, I want to get started on an apple grinder and cider press.

I bought myself a book on making the Whizbang Apple Grinder and Cider Press. It uses a garbage disposal for the apple grinder, which I never would have thought of. If I can find an electric motor fairly cheap I should be able to build both the grinder and the press for a couple hundred bucks, tops. So keeping in mind the resolutions, I'm collecting parts and modifying the plans for aluminum frame construction as opposed to all wood as the plans call for. Shouldn't be too hard to construct and I'm a big fan of apple cider. One of the main reasons I planted the trees in fact. Just have to finish it if I start it.

If you check out the link, it'll take you to the authors website. Lots of good self-sufficient agrarian stuff there. That's a big part of the retirement plan - to become a subsistence farmer. Perhaps not a lofty goal but if I can stay healthy, it should be an interesting one. Tinker in the shop, tend the garden, feed the chickens, make some cider and take the Ol' Gal into town once a week for a few necessities and a non home-cooked meal. Exactly the kind of lifestyle my mother was afraid was going to be her fate after my dad retired.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Water Trays

I made a couple of trays to put on top of the baseboard heaters in order to get a little humidity in the house. Following along with the New Year's resolution, job was started and finished within two days. Might be a record for something that wasn't a break-down job. Nothing much to them, though. Fold up a rectangular box and solder the ends tight. I put a couple of tabs on the back side to slide between the heater and the wall to keep them in place. You know the cat's going to be checking them out.

The other photo is the shop sink at school. They never tell you in college about all the things you're going to have to do as a shop teacher other than teach school. Things like taking the sink apart and cleaning out the drain. I know the other teachers in the building have no idea about these things as well. Granted I'm sure the English or math teachers might have to do a few things I'm not aware of but not the fix and repair kind of work that shop teachers do. I don't mind doing most of it. I cut rings off of fingers, remove splinters, replace switches and brushes in the hand grinders, run to the hardware store about once a week and even do a little minor surgery (after they smash a fingernail they come to me to let the pressure out). It's all good, breaks up the monotony and the students get a chance to see all kinds of things being done. Which brings me to the next subject.

I've had a couple of meetings lately dealing with more things that they want me to do. Some of these I see the logic and have no problem with. A couple of them are absolutely worthless in my estimation and are only going to be used so some mope can justify his position. If I'm the guy they always come to to fix everything in the school corporation, then how about cutting me a little slack when it's time to do the busy work? If I can't avoid it, which is how most of it will turn out, then create a little time for me to get it done. I could go back to my policy of a couple of years ago. I just quit fixing things for the school. They threw out at least a $1000.00 worth of desks but because no one other than the custodians knew what we did in the shop to begin with, no one knew I quit fixing things. Didn't really help the situation but I did get a chuckle out of watching the custodian haul the desks out to the dumpster. We've fixed five this week and last, by the way.

I'm down to the fingers on one hand as to how much longer I'm planning on working. In fact, I'm planning on just a couple of fingers worth. In addition to my resolutions about getting the jobs done, I'm working my pre-retirement plan. I've got a guy in mind for the job, so I want everything ready to go rather than everything broke like a new teacher usually encounters. So if I need to throttle back my disgruntled employee routine, so be it. Plus I'm working on getting everything at home ready to go when I no longer have the luxury of using the school's equipment which requires me to use the school's equipment.

So the finish out the career goal now becomes:
Do the minimum of the stupid crap they want done.
Do the maximum of what I want done.
Have as much fun as possible while staying under the radar.

Now that I see it in writing, it pretty well sums up my career.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Moto Rumi

Not surprisingly, I've been doing a little thinking about motorcycles lately. As always, there's a number of things spinning around in my head at any one time and then one of the thoughts will get thrown off the merry go round and I'll focus on that for a certain length of time depending on what it is. I came across this Moto Rumi photo a while back and when the odd random thought of me building a vintage race bike popped into my consciousness the other day I remembered when Surly and I were at Daytona for the vintage races quite a few years back and they had one of these things there. The exhaust note was ear piercing. The little megaphone sure made lots of noise for such a little bike. That was also the year Dave Roper was running the Benelli four cylinder on the high banks for Team Obsolete. It was big time loud as well but not the obnoxious kind. Click on the link and listen to 30 seconds worth of the finest Italian go fast. Then imagine that thing at full song around Daytona. Sweet!

Photo from Retro Racing by way of The new Cafe (racer) Society.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Everyone Needs a Hobby

Interesting concept, that.

Surly paid me a compliment about the lantern photo in my last post and got me to thinking. The majority of my photos are of projects and very little thought goes into the photographic process. As these are usually taken in the school shop, I just try to crop out as much of the background as possible, turn off the camera flash to minimize reflections from the metal, and then point and shoot. Quick and dirty but, normally, acceptable quality for my purposes.

I have no aspirations of becoming a professional photographer but I have done some portrait photography. The results were kind of hit or miss but I enjoyed doing it. As I mentioned to him in the comment section, maybe I should try some project portraits. I put together a little setup for that kind of work but I really haven't used it yet. Maybe do some Irving Penn type of stuff. He did many of his portraits with the simplest of backgrounds and lighting set-ups. Of course, then I'd have to start dragging things back and forth from school and I do enough of that already. There are photographers who specialize in just this type of photography. Trade magazines and journals are chock full of these types of images but that's not really the effect I would like to see. Now would be a good time to try a few things, however. It's too cold to work in my shop at home but the basement's plenty warm. I need to get back to doing a little photography before my trip to Italy. Sharpen up my eye a little and maybe get back in the darkroom. I want to take a film camera as well as a digital to Italy. Good time to get started.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Let There Be Light

Scratch the lanterns
off the list

Toolbox and proud

Start of toolbox project

Aluminum bin

Lanterns came out pretty sexy looking. Another job off the list. As easy as it was, makes me wonder why I drug my feet for so long. Character flaw I suppose. Maybe I should work on that. I'm sure it would make the Missus happy. I am working on a little job at the shack that's about the same deal. Two years getting warmed up and two hours to actually complete the job. Makes no sense but I've been that way for a long, long time. Project Completion Deficit Disorder? Maybe there's a support group for that. We could all sit around talking about why we don't get our shit done.

Busy week, like most. I inherited a bunch of sheet metal left over from the construction project at the school this summer, so I had one of the boys make a toolbox for the boxing gym. No biggy but these guys have never done sheet metal before or worked from prints much. The plan came from the Dave Gingery book Sheet Metal Technology available from Lindsay's. Nice little starter job. Kid did a nice job, too. While we were working sheet metal we made up a little box to hang on the end of the TIG table for the little pieces of filler rod and scrap aluminum bits. The Missus wants me to make a few water trays to put on top of the baseboard heaters to add a little humidity to the shack, so that'll be next weeks sheet metal project.

I also welded up an aluminum intake manifold for a former student and the toolbox parts in the photo are sitting on a cart for the cafeteria I welded up. Made a trip to the dentist, two after school meetings and I'm helping out my sister-in-law dispose of things that belonged to her late husband who passed away recently. Another reason I should be working on cleaning up my own act. No reason to leave the Missus or my son with a huge burden of half finished projects. Lot easier to get rid of things if they're all put together. I've got a Cat Scan scheduled in the morning - might finally figure out what's been wrong with the chest for the last six months. I'll try and finish the little job in the house and then watch a little football this weekend. I hate to root for the Bears because it's usually the kiss of death for whomever I root for but I'd like to see them in the Super Bowl.

Stay warm - supposed to hit zero tonight.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Made a little progress on the lanterns this week. As you can see in the photo, they started out a little rough. The one on the right has been sandblasted and I've since finished blasting the other one. I've got the clamps for the lenses about done as well. The roller gizmo didn't work quite like I planned but the inner piece worked real nice for a hammer form. They came out looking pretty good. I'm hoping to finish the whole project up next week.

If you checked out the Boxing Club post you'll know that I'm heading to Virginia in March to work Jimmy's corner. I need to fill out the paper work to get a Virginia Second license but nothing to that. This will be the first time I've worked outside the local area on a pro fight - might be able to do a little sightseeing while I'm there. I'm hoping the weather will be good. Virginia in March should be sweet but not as sweet as Italy. After I get home from Virginia I'm heading to Italy about 4-5 days later on Spring Break. Sweet, indeed.

Going to try and get a little machine work done on the steam engine this weekend. I don't have anything much cooking at school for outside customers, so now's a good time to get some progress made on that project. I've got some jobs lined up for the shop and the best time to get anything done with the students is now until Spring Break. After that they all pretty much go to seed. The seniors all start counting the days until they're done and the juniors just turn stupid like they're in rut. Happens every year just like the swallows returning to Capistrano. I've learned not to fight it but rather, embrace it. Don't take any big jobs I'm going to be stuck finishing and just keep the boys from clustering together for any length of time. Can't stand in one spot for too long. It kills the grass.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Boxing News

DeMotte Boxing Club - Check it out.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I read a book oriented blog pretty regularly, and the guy read 50 books last year. Much of what he reads is not my cup of tea but that's one of the reasons I read the blog - to at least be in touch with things outside my normal realm. Those of you who know me, know that I'm a voracious reader. I read anything and everything - lots of magazines, technical journals. I kind of go in spurts on books, however. I'll get a couple and burn threw them and then I'll get busy on other things or the magazines start stacking up and I won't set foot in the library for a month or two at a time. So this year I'm going to keep track of the books I read.

It's not a contest to see how many I can get in. I don't have to read 50 like the blogger did. Plus, some of the ones he read were whoppers. I have a self-imposed limit of 500 pages on any book I read. Just curiosity to see how many and what kind of books I digest through out the year. I'm on number four already but I had a few vacation days and it was too cold to do much in my shop. I'm guessing I usually do at least 30 every year. We'll see.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Outer Roller For Lens
Clamp Machine

Inner Roller and
Sample Lens Clamp

Speeder Car Fender

Inner Fender

It's been a fairly busy week but not too much to show for it. First week of the new semester so takes a couple of days to get back in harness. Did a little maintenance work around the shop, finished up a project that had been on the back burner for a while, and did a little planning.

Andy was here most of the time working on his speeder. That kind of slowed me down a little helping him but it's a pleasure working with a young guy who really wants to do things. One of the fenders was beat up beyond salvation so he made a new one. I showed him how to go about it on a piece of aluminum scrap and then he went to work on the real thing out of steel. As you can see from the pictures, he did OK. That boy has talent. He loaded up Friday so he could head back to college. I've got a ride coming when he gets the project done. That'll be fun.

I got a couple of railroad caboose lanterns a few years back that needed work. I was going to fix one for myself and one for the guy I got them from. He moved away but the lanterns didn't. The number one hold up was that I need some of the clamps to hold the lenses in them. If I spent some time and effort I could probably find them on Ebay or go to a railroad stuff swap meet but since that hasn't happened I doubt that it will anytime soon. In order to clean up the docket, I'm going to try and build a little roller that will make the clamps without too much effort. I had the large diameter plate cut out and laying on the TIG table for quite awhile. As long as I was cleaning up and I'm trying to finish some things, I figured might as well work on that a little. I machined up a couple of parts and will try to get some clamps made relatively soon so I can finish up that job. Just pickin' them off the list now. No real rhyme or reason to the selection process, just get them done and move them out. There's still plenty more to do.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tune Up

Hope the New Year has started well for everyone.

The steam engine project is progressing and while nothing has been definitely decided on the boiler, I did a little copper work job as a tune up. I started building a live steam locomotive when I was at the other school but had to cancel that project for a variety of reasons. I dug out the plans the other day to check the boiler design. Even though it's a little stinker of a loco, it will pull a guy my size and a few cars around. We could scale the thing up a little and be all set. It's made out of copper, to come back around to the subject at hand. I've never really made a lot of things out of copper, so a little practice couldn't hurt. I've always been a big fan of the Roycroft copper
so after I finish a dozen or so other projects, I'd like to try my hand at a vase like the one in the top photo. It's made from copper with German silver accents. The Roycroft shops used an applied finish on many of the pieces rather than letting the copper develop a patina. The lower photo shows the before and after of the copper sheet I worked with . The sheet has been laying around for a lot of years and was really tarnished up. Lemon juice, salt and a Scotch-Brite pad did the trick. I also annealed the domed piece.

Copper works the opposite of ferrous metals. When you anneal copper, you get it hot and quench it, rather than letting it cool slowly like steel. While I was doing that, Andy, the speeder repairman, had to anneal a piece of spring wire, form it, then reharden and temper it. Lots to this fabrication and restoration stuff once you stray off the beaten path. I told him the other day you have to be able to do everything, if you want to do anything. And since Andy is a lot like me, he understood immediately. "The lyf so short, the trade so long to lerne."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years

I usually don't put much effort into making New Year's resolutions but in response to a couple of comments to my last post I came up with the following:

Finish what you started
Don't start what you can't finish
For everything you bring home, two things must go

Pretty good for about two minutes worth of think time. Of course if it's that easy to figure out what to change, it probably should have already been done. I also need to continue planning for the upcoming retirement. One of these days I won't have access to the school shop, so I'll have to do everything at home. I need to buy or make a couple of pieces of equipment but I'll tackle that after the new barn gets done. Until then:

Finish what you started
Don't start what you can't finish
For everything you bring home, two things must go

Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year to you all.