Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pair O' Gizmos

We'll I did make it out into the shop and get something done the other day. I'm not exactly sure what these are, but there's a pair of them just the same. Even if you did know what they are, you probably couldn't tell from the crappy photo. These are for my brother the mechanic. He explained what they were for when he was checking with me about making them, but to be honest, I really don't care. They're for my brother, which is reason enough to make them, but otherwise not much interest beyond what was required to actually do the machine work.

While trying to remember the lessons from Stress Relief Mondays and incorporate those into my daily living, I think I may have gone over to the other extreme. I used to worry about anything and everything. Now the circle of concern seems to have shrunk down to the size of a pinhead. Obviously I still haven't found the elusive middle path, and to be honest, I'm not sure I ever will. I seem to have the type of personality where I either care or I don't. The problem is I care too much about things I'm involved in and in the past I was involved in way too many things. I think it's a lot healthier on me if all I'm concerned with is my health, family and a few close friends. Hard to keep the old habits from creeping back in, though.

I did enjoy farting around on the old lathe making these. Even more so because they're for my brother. The piece of stock I started with was just a little too big on the diameter to fit into the center hole on the lathe chuck so I used a steady rest to hold one end while I faced, center drilled and through drilled the part. After that I removed the steady rest and supported that end  with a live center. Then it was pretty straight forward: turn the three diameters, thread, flip it around and repeat on the other end. Cut the pieces off on the band saw and then put them back in the lathe and face them - that's machinist talk there, by golly. A little more involved than doing the daily crossword but in the risk/reward formula, much more satisfying.

As long as I'm on a roll, maybe a little more machine work next week. I'm kind of intrigued with the idea of widening the rear wheel on the 900.  If it keeps raining, I'll get all kinds of things done in the shop.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lost Weekend

I went to Terre Haute with Cuzzin Ricky for a sprint car race last Friday. According to the weather man zero percent chance of rain. My understanding of zero chance of rain means quite simply that it's not going to rain. It damn sure doesn't mean lightning, thunder, wind and rain coming down like Hell wouldn't have it. I'm sure by now you can guess which we ended up with. The van in the photo driving around on the track in the rain probably was a little tip off. Anyway, within a couple of minutes of the finish of qualifying, the rain hit and that was it. Show's over. In addition to the qualifying laps, we did get a chance to see a few warm up laps - long way to drive for not much racing but we've been pretty lucky over the years. We've only been rained out a few times. 

Sunday was prep time for my colonoscopy on Monday. If you've ever had the pleasure of having one of those done, you know I didn't get much of anything else done prior to the exam. Nuff said about that.

Looks like thunderstorms on and off the rest of the week. Hard to schedule anything outside but it'll give me a chance to get into the shop and do a little machine work. I haven't done much in the shop of late. It's about time.

Hawks Win The Cup!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going to Let it Shine

I've been spending a little time working on things to make working on things a little easier. The number one item is the light set-up I made out of a couple of scrap pieces of 2" x 4" to go over the top of the VW sunroof. I've been working on the car in the evenings and once the sun goes down it's a little tough to see. When I wired the barn I had the good sense to put three lights in the ceiling rather than the normal two, so I've got a light shining down on each side of the car but you still spend a lot of time working in your own shadow. With the light coming through the sunroof and the ceiling lights, I can see pretty well to work on finishing up the floor pan now. What I really need is a couple of fluorescent fixtures mounted on the sidewall of the barn like the body shops have. When I built the barn I wasn't planning on doing a lot of mechanical work in there but right now it's pretty convenient with the Bug. 

After a little research on the hood hinges for the Bug, it appears I do in fact have the correct hood hinges. The problem seems to be that it's a piss poor design and the manual shows the hinges for the early Super Beetles with the flat windshield, rather than the later model with the curved windshield like I have. I need to dig out the hardware for mounting them up, install the hood latch and the gasket and then see what I've got. It seems that the hood is located mostly from the gasket surface as opposed to anything like a mechanical alignment. The idea being, if you make the hood flimsy enough, it will conform to the gasket. We'll see how well all that works out. A couple of strap hinges welded to the cowl would probably work better.

I got a couple more things finished up around the shack. I replaced a board under the back door that had rotted where it was in contact with the concrete stoop. Not a big job but a definite needed to get done job. Got the pile of sheet metal moved that was on the north side of the barn and planted some grass seed to cover the bare spot. Seems like the list is never ending but every day I try to get a little bit done for the "company" and a little bit done for me. Pretty happy with the progress of late. 

Enjoy the weekend. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Coming Unhinged

If you looked closely at the nose of the Beetle in the last post, you would have seen a tarp strap holding the hood on. I've got a pair of hood hinges that came with the car but they're a different color than any of the other colors the car was at some time in the past and they don't seem to go with the car. Not being an authority on Volkswagens, I don't know what the difference is between the hinges on a Regular Beetle and a Super Beetle. Likewise, even if the ones I have are for my car, I can't figure out what they bolt to on the car body. I'd like to get rid of the tarp strap and get the hood operational. The hood had a remote cable release that needs to be scoped out as well. Lots of time involved sorting all of this stuff out - rummaging through boxes of parts, fixing/cleaning the parts, and if everything is there, installing them. If everything is not there, figuring out what I need to order and where to source them from. I keep pecking away and eventually all the parts will be out of the boxes and on the car. Then I can take it all apart, paint it, and try to get it all back together again..

Not sure what these fit but they don't look like the ones in the manual
Surly came by for Father's Day and while we were eyeballing the car and the ripsaw, he mentioned the Samba. I was aware of it and had checked it out a couple of years ago but at that time it just looked like another place for me to spend a bunch of time in front of the computer screen looking at Volkswagens rather than working on one. However, now that I am actually working on mine, the forum could be of help answering questions about things like hood hinges and such. It's still possible to waste a bunch of time, especially if you want to look at 46,000 pages of photos, but I joined up just the same. Might come in handy and it'll give me something to do when it's siesta time.

It looks like I'll be teaching three days per week this fall semester. That will give me lots of time for my projects and some traveling. Actually, I couldn't ask for a better set-up. Seven days in a week, and I'm working a little less than half of them. I'm thoroughly enjoying what I'm doing and there's a real possibility that the VW and the 900 will actually move under their own steam in the foreseeable future. Hard to imagine but it could happen.

Monday, June 17, 2013


I forgot to grab the link where I found this one but you have to admit it's a pretty cool fridge, even if you aren't one of the Volks folks. Me, that's way too nice for my operation. It would be covered with greasy fingerprints and the glass would be pitted with grinding sparks if it was in the shop. And since I don't have any fancy man cave, not much use to me. I dig it, though.

I do have an honest to goodness VW in the barn, however. While it's not quite as sexy looking as the refrigerator, it is showing some progress. I decided to start putting things together, first of all to locate all the parts, and secondly to see how things are going to go together. I've got both front fenders on with the bead welting installed along with new hardware. I was missing one of the headlight buckets when I got the car but picked one up at a swap meet a few years back. I had to soak the screws holding the lamp into the bucket with some penetrating oil for a couple of days before I could them to turn but everything is loose and I've now got both headlights installed and adjustable as they should be. The "eyebrow" trim pieces around the headlights came with the car - there weren't any stock rings included. I'm not sure I'll end up using the eyebrow pieces but at least I've got something hanging on the car now. 

I found the screws for the door hinges today. There's no latch on the door jamb, so I need to dig that up and make sure the door will latch properly. The outside door handles aren't in either of the doors so I need to get them out and install them to make sure everything works. Basically what I'm trying to do now is the get all the bits and pieces hung on the car and make sure I have everything and that it all works. I've never had the car together since I've owned it. It was in pieces when I got it. Always makes things tougher to put together if you weren't the one who took it apart, especially if you don't have any experience with this particular type of vehicle. But that's OK. I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

The car has lots of bumps and dings and some rust damage. I'm not too concerned with the dings and dents but I do want to take care of the rust damage. There's a couple of spots on the exterior that are going to require some welding but most of that is pretty straight forward. I want to sink the antenna in to the cowling 1950's style. I made up a piece of tube and bought a new antenna. It's going to be a little bit of work for a car that the closest it will get to a car show might be the parking lot, but it's something I want to try. 

Since I'm only working a couple of days per week now for the summer, most of my day time hours are going to be spent on projects around the shack. After supper, however, it's VW or 900 for a couple of hours. If it gets too hot during the day, which it probably will be pretty soon, I'll just get after things early in the morning, come in and rest up during the heat of the day and then go back out for a little bit in the evening. If I can keep going like I have been lately, I'll soon have the outside of the car looking pretty good and I can start welding floor pans and heater channels and all the rest of the fun stuff.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wood Rack

Busy day today. Got up early and went for a bike ride with a buddy I hadn't seen in a while. We did about 16 easy miles in the beautiful cool of the morning and then later in the day I finished sheeting the wood rack. I was going to leave the sides open but since I had plenty of left over sheet metal from the barn collapse, I cut a couple more pieces and installed some sides. Pert near a wood shed now. Now I need to move the rest of the woodpile and finish a little more clean up on the north side of the barn and then the view out the kitchen window will be a little less Clampettesque.

I'm sure Granny would approve. 

I got a little more done on the VW.  Still not much for a photo-op but a little something is better than nothing.  I can't find the screws for the door hinges. I bought some metric socket head screws with a flat head but can't find them in the boxes and bins of parts. I moved everything out of the high school in a big ass hurry once I decided to retire. They could be anywhere, including at the high school. I'll look again but if I can't find them, there's plenty of other things to keep me occupied.

The farmer who has taken care of my little acreage since I moved to the country passed away the other day. The Missus and I went to pay our respects and out in front of the church was one of his John Deere tractors with a big black bow on it - nice touch for a nice man. I always enjoyed our little chats out by the barn. With "Farmer Norm" farming was more than an occupation, it was a calling. We're going to miss him.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


The Square Foot Garden is starting to pay off. As you can see from the photo, I've got radishes. That one on the left is about the size of a ping pong ball. Surprisingly enough it wasn't pithy when I had it for lunch. Everything else is looking pretty healthy and seems to be growing pretty fast. I'm curious to see how things go when the plants get taller and sunlight will be a little more difficult to get down on to the smaller plants. I did take that into consideration when I was planting but you can only do so much in such a small space.

Summer school started at the college this week. This will be only the second time in all of my years teaching that I've taught summer school. Only two nights per week and a small class. Not too tough and it will pay for my projects and my trip to Europe - which I'm signed up for, by the way. Happy as a clam about that. In fact, just plain tickled pink.

Two nights in Paris, two nights in Florence. Apparently good things do come to those who wait.

Getting caught up around the shack. I've still got a list of things a mile long to get done and I added a puppy fence to the list. I did manage to put a little time in on the VW the other night, however. Nothing much accomplished that's photo worthy but I made a move and that's what counts. Since they're forecasting rain the next couple of days, I'm hoping to get a little more done on the VW and get the swingarm bridge for the 900 tacked on as well. Coincidently, Frankie Flood will be posting some stuff about his bug project. Might be the shot in the arm I need to get me moving on mine.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I came home from the gym yesterday, parked the bike in the barn and headed for the house. The Missus was on the front porch giving me the keep it quiet and sneak on up here look. She said she looked out the patio doors a little bit ago and a peacock was staring back at her. It was now on the back side of the house, so I got my camera and went looking. Sho 'nuff. A big old peacock pecking around under the pine tree.

Don't know where it came from but it strutted around the back yard for a while and then walked into the woods. I happened to glance out the patio doors before going to bed and it was roosting on the railing.

In between peacock spottings, the Missus stepped on a little garter snake. Shes's not a fan of snakes and this wouldn't have been so bad except she was barefoot. And it was in the house. She was just getting ready to sit down on the couch and she lets out a warhoop that would wake the dead. I managed to get it pinned down and then took it out back and tossed it over the fence.

Not sure how the snake got in. You would think with an inside cat and a puppy, plus two outside cats, there wouldn't be too much in the way of wildlife that would make it inside, certainly not without notice. We've had a bird or two and a squirrel fall down the chimney into the fireplace. Had a couple of bats get in over the years. Had a raccoon get into a non-accessible part of the attic one time - that was fun trying to get rid of that one. A combination of sheet metal skills and a .22 rifle took care of it, however. I've been battling a raccoon or two out in the barn recently as well. They figured out how to push the weight off the top of the metal garbage can where I keep the cat food. Then they tip the can over and gorge themselves. I put a tarp strap across the lid but it wasn't a real tight fit. The next morning the can ended up about fifteen feet away from where I normally keep it and somehow they got the hook off the tarp strap. I tightened things up a little and when I was out there this morning, the can was knocked over but the lid was still on. When I was at my brothers he had to have some wiring replaced on two different vehicles due to the pack rats. At least we don't have those to contend with.

This is Marlin Perkins signing off for Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Disston D8 Ripsaw

I did a little checking on my four dollar saw that I bought in Kansas and it appears to be a Disston D8 Ripsaw. If you check out the link it'll take you to a site that has all the D8 saw models in chronological order. With just my cursory examination, it appears as if the saw is roughly 100 years old. Also, I didn't realize that ripsaw teeth are sharpened straight across the face so that the teeth cut like a chisel rather than at an angle like a cross cut saw. I was probably told that in 7th grade, which was the last time I had any formal instruction on hand saws, but that's been fifty years ago. And, having never owned one, the subject never came up. However, having taught wood shop for about 3/4th of a year, seems like I should have known that.

Here's one last picture from the Kansas trip:

This is at St. Meinrad in southern Indiana. If you're looking for a casket, the monks make them there. They have a little showroom off the gift shop. Nice craftsmanship. Prices pretty reasonable, as well. The top of the line model was $2395. All you need to do is have them swipe your Visa card and die. All set. 

I'd like to be able to go back down there one of these days and take some photos with the 4x5 camera. It's a beautiful campus. They'll rent you a room if you want to stay.

All told, about 1700 miles for the Kansas trip. We saw motorcycles, an archabbey, relatives, roadkill  and tires hanging from fence posts. Had a great time visiting with my brother and his wife and my sister-in-law who was taking care of our puppy for us. Always good to get away. Always better to get back home. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Jayhawkin' Part III

We made it to Kansas after driving through a rainstorm from Des Moines, Iowa to St. Joseph, Missouri. Lots of standing water out that way and, of course, tornadoes - might not have been the best time to go visit.

These are a couple of my brother's beaves - I love that word. It used be be in common usage out in Kansas 100 years ago. Don't know about now but I've taken to using it. My brothers property is an old homestead that sat abandoned for years. He and his wife built a new house, a couple of pole barns and repaired one of the old stone buildings that was part of the original homestead. In addition to the beaves, he raises sheep and a few chickens. It's a really nice small farm/ranch on the edge of the Flint Hills, so the ground is rocky but rolling and very scenic. This was our first trip out to see him since he moved out that way and the farm was pretty much what I figured it would be from out conversations at holidays and the pictures he had shown me. That is, functional but still needing some things. The important stuff has been taken care of but some of the cosmetic things still need a little tending. Basically, just what one expects from a working grain and livestock operation run by a guy who routinely puts in long hours at his day job. He recently cut back from his university position to only three days per week which will free up the time for him to see his master plan to fruition.  

On our last trip to Kansas, the wife and I followed the Santa Fe Trail west and I was reading the book Prairie Eryth by William Least Heat Moon while traveling. In the book he comments on the old tires hanging from fence posts that you occasionally see out there. When we crossed into Kansas I mentioned to the Missus that I hadn't seen a tire yet. However, when my brother and I went to the sale barn with some sheep, sure enough, not only was there a tire but a five gallon bucket to boot. The trip wouldn't have been complete without one. 

That's my brother trying to make hay while the sun was shining - something that was pretty rare while we were out there (In fact, they had just had some snow a couple of weeks previously). He bought a round baler while we were out there. I was hoping to see it's maiden voyage but the weather didn't cooperate. He did custom baling when he was young and I used to help him out. Because it was his equipment, he always drove the tractor and ran the baler but I made enough money stacking bales to buy my first motorcycle. The round baler will ease the labor requirement for him so he can utilize his time more efficiently. All part of the master plan.

My brother has been involved in agriculture all his life. He farmed when he was in high school, became an agronomist, and has kept the dream of having his own farm even though he has had a very successful career in academia. Most people who dream of farming look at it as a very romantic vocation. Working the fields, tending crops and animals, raising a garden, picking fruit from your own orchard. It's romantic. But it's also hard work. From my way of looking at it, I'd say it's about 90% hard work and only about 10% romance. But I guess that's why I'm a welder, not a farmer. My brother, on the other hand, he's happiest running the tractor or tending his flock, regardless of the physical labor, the long hours involved, or the vagaries of the weather. Now that he's semi-retired, he'll be able to really enjoy the fruits of his labor and continue to follow his farming dream.

I need to say a word here about my sister-in-law before closing. My brother didn't do all of this on his own. He and his wife have been married for 45 years and like most couples, started with nothing and worked together as a team to get where they are today. Knowing that I'm now a vegan, she made sure I was going to get fed and even found a place that makes vegan pizza prior to our coming out. "Behind every good man there's usually a better woman."

Thanks to them both for their hospitality. It was nice being able to spend some time other than the rush, rush of a holiday visit.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jayhawkin' Part II

The second stop along the way on our Jayhawkin' trip was the Amana Colonies.  The Missus and I had been there once before quite a few years back and she wanted to stop again. Since I went to the Motorcycle Museum, the Amana Colonies seemed like a pretty good trade. Basically the Colonies are a place to shop and eat. Lots of handmade items there - in fact I've got a fillet knife that I bought there from the last trip. The knife maker still has a shop to sell his wares but he's no longer located in the big building behind the woolen mill that was a blacksmith and tinsmith shop if I remember correctly.

The food there is fantastic for someone other than a vegan. If you go there with a group, get your grub family style and they just keep bringing the side dishes until you can't stuff anymore in. We ate at the Ox Yoke Inn and they had a new menu that had a couple of vegetarian meals on it. I had a rice dish that was very good.

This is right across from where we stayed while in the Colonies. The bus in the photo was from South Dakota. It had a bunch of young people on it but didn't stay long - thank goodness! We stopped for a cup of Joe on the way home at a Micky D's and there was a bus full of high schoolers that was just leaving when we got there. Gave me the heeby-jeebies just to be around them. 

They've also got a brewery and a sawmill there. I did the brewery tour the last time I was there. They make some really good beer but I passed this time. Actually I walked past and went down by the railroad tracks to check out the old depot and the sawmill. I struck up a conversation with the guy at the sawmill and ended up with a really nice cherry 4x4. I was looking for a piece of maple to make a couple of Indian clubs but the biggest piece he had was 3x3.  He said the cherry had been sitting around for quite awhile so he just gave it to me. Sweet! I think part of his generosity might have been because they were thinking they might have to move everything to higher ground for fear of flooding. A few years back the water got about two feet deep in the shop. There was already a lot of standing water and more rain was being forecast. Now I need to see if I can sneak back in to the high school woodshop one of these days and get access to a wood lathe.

I also picked up another saw while I was in Kansas. I assumed it was a rip saw but after getting it home and looking at it, it might just be some kind of heavy duty saw. It's a Disston, so it was a good saw prior to the neglect it's suffered. I'll give it to Surly and he can check it out. If he wants to play with it, OK. If not, it'll make a fine wall hanging in the woodshop.

Next stop Kansas.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jayhawkin' Part I

Just got back from the Flint Hills of Kansas. The Missus and I headed out west to see my older brother and a few other sights along the way. In spite of the crazy weather they were experiencing, we had a great trip.

The first stop, other than the requisite coffee, pee or gas stop, was in Anamosa, Iowa at the National Motorcycle Museum. If you're at all interested in motorcycles, this place is a definite must see. They have about 400 motorcycles on display.

I can't imagine having a motorcycle museum without having one of these. Lots of other BSA and Triumph models, both street and race. Several Brough Superiors and Vincents but surprisingly enough, not much of the smaller Villiers' engined brands like James or Frances Barnett. In fact I own a couple of bikes that I didn't see on display there.

This is a two seater Curtiss. Glenn Curtiss is one of my personal heroes. At one time Curtiss held the record as the fastest man on earth and in the air. His engine designs were very sophisticated for the time. 

All the classic Japanese bikes were represented, like this Kaw 900. That's what mine would look like if the engine hadn't have come off a go-kart and the frame hadn't have come off a wrecked bike and the front end hadn't have come off a 1000 Suzuki. Nice to see a bone stock model.

Lots and lots of HD stuff, as you would imagine. The little Harleys were well represented, like the Rapido in the top photo as well as oodles of Sprint/Aermacchi models. Plenty of Sportster and big inch stuff also. The middle photo is the XR750 that was campaigned by George Roeder. That's also him in the bottom photo on the right side. I screwed up when I was young by not getting over to Santa Fe Speedway and seeing these guys. I did see the Outlaw Sprint cars run there several times but missed the bikes - "You ain't seen nothing 'til you been to Santa Fe" as the old radio commercial used to say.

Race bikes of all kinds, stock bikes, primo restorations, ephemera, this place has got it all for only an eight dollar charge for admission. Well worth the price. It's located northeast of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We came in on the Grant Wood Scenic Byway, by the way. One of several named trails, highways or byways we were on during the trip.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Nice Jugs

Since I've got the square foot garden going and I planted a few more trees this Spring, I needed to upgrade the watering can fleet. I was going to buy a new can but being the cheapskate that I am, I just drilled some 3/32" holes in the lids of the empty cat litter jugs and I'm all set to go. They hold a little more water than my old galvanized can and unlike many of the things I've made that were a really bad trade-off of time to utility, these only took about five minutes, cost nothing and work really well.

Also in the cost nothing and works really well department, check out the saws. Surly has been getting into collecting and restoring old hand tools in general and saws in particular. The saw in the foreground I found in the weeds when I worked for a blacktopping crew many years ago. It was already rusty and dull when I brought it home but I took a file to the blade and did a half-assed job of sharpening it once or twice over the years. Surly took it home and serviced it and it's like new again. Actually better than most new saws you would buy at a home center. It's still possible to buy a good handsaw but they're not cheap. He tuned up the other one in the photo as well, so now I've got a pair of sharp saws. I've got power tools but it's a lot faster to make a couple of cuts with a handsaw than it is to drag out an extension cord and a circular saw. Quieter as well. Next up is to modify my cabinet so I can hang up both of the saws.