Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year In Review

This has been an interesting and, for the most part, productive year. The big thing, of course, was dealing with the wife's cancer - several surgeries to drain fluid from her lung as well as lymph node removal. Then came the chemo. Just about the time she was recovering from one round, here came another. Not an easy thing to go through. Fortunately, it's behind us now and things are pretty close to normal again.

I finished putting the Sportster together. It shouldn't take more than a quick once-over, gas, oil, and a battery to make it go come springtime. I'm real happy with how it came out.

Finally finished the concrete in the back of the shop and got everything moved back in. I've still got a few things to set up but this was a huge step forward.

Read 53 books this year and kept the pile of mail and magazines in check as well. The wife's illness had a lot to do with that but never a bad thing when you're able to read a good book.

Cut back on the exercise this year so I could stay closer to home and help out more. Pretty much retired from coaching at the boxing gym until Jimmy got hurt. I'm helping out again, which I enjoy, I just don't want to get spread too thin again. However, I've been contemplating participating in the Senior Games this Spring. They've got both a 5K and a 1500M racewalk. Plus a 20K bicycle race. I don't know if I would need to do a qualifying event or not but the games are in May. Plenty of time to train and lose a few pounds. I need to get back on some type of regular schedule. Since the wife is better and I won't be teaching any morning classes at least until Summer, should be able to fit in a morning workout 3-4 days a week. That'll be hard for me to do unless I've got a specific goal to train for.

Even though the To-Do list is still a mile long, I made some progress around the shack and on a few of the wheeled projects. I ordered up some clutch discs for the 900 and a back brake caliper the other day. That's becoming a high priority project. The little orange Sprint has become the fill-in bike project. The goal from now on is the completion of two of the wheeled projects per year at a minimum.

I need to decide if I'm going to continue to work at the college. I told my boss he can schedule me for the summer session but I'll have to see after that. I like the job and the money's good, but it does cut into my playtime. If I'm going to continue to work I'll need to renew my Certified Welding Inspector license. I think I'm up for a three year renewal. If it's time for a re-exam, I'll just hang it up.

All in all, a pretty good year even with the cancer scare. I'm in a real good place right now - got everything one man could possibly ask for. Very much looking forward to the upcoming year - playing with the toys, getting some things done, maybe traveling a bit.

Here's to a happy and healthy New Year to all of you out there. Let's all be good to one another in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pic Dump

Photo From Here

That's quite the rig - makes my little teardrop look rather utilitarian. But in reality, I suppose it is. It's fun though. I need to drag it out and take a little trip one of these days. 

Photo From Here  NSFW

This on the other hand is anything but utilitarian. Man I dig those Italian sports cars. I would have liked to have seen them make that dashboard. And the rest of the car for that matter.

Photo From Here
MV 125 single - form follows function. Beautiful castings, precision machine work. There sure was some beautiful machinery produced in the 50's and 60's.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Power Tools

I put a 1/4 sheet pad sander on my Christmas list thinking that with the old Milwaukee repaired, If I got a new little sander I'd be golden in the sanding department. I got a nice DeWalt so I was going to toss out the little Makita with the broken wire in the cord. Just couldn't bring myself to do it, however. I went ahead and repaired it. As you can see from the photo, you have to dig pretty deep to be able to remove the cord. It was a pretty easy fix once it was apart. Only about five minutes to put it all back together but since it's at least thirty years old, one of the bearings will probably go out the first time I use it. I'll keep it down the basement so if I need a little sanding I'll save myself a trip out to the shop.

The Missus got me one of these Switchdrivers for Christmas. I saw an ad on TV for this thing and thought it was a pretty clever idea. Instead of swapping out drill and screwdriver bits all the time, just flip twist the head around. It came with two 20 volt lithium-ion batteries and uses 1/4" hex drills and drivers. I should of had one of these when I was putting up the new barn a few years back. It would have come in real handy since I screwed most everything together to make sure it would never come down again. I got a recall notice on my cheap Harbor Freight cordless. I'll do like the sander and keep the replacement drill down the basement for household chores.

Spent a couple of hours working in the shop yesterday on some odds and ends like the sander. Put the battery charger on the tractor to make sure it's up to snuff, brought some firewood in and made sure I had everything in place for an emergency power outage. Freezing rain and big winds are in the forecast. A few years back a similar storm knocked power out for four days. We did OK but were running out of water. I think I'm prepared for just damn near anything short of a nuclear attack now. I still need a transfer switch to hook up the generator but I can rig something up in a pinch if I need to. No reason not to do it properly for convenience and safety sake, though.

I've still got a couple more weeks of vacation left. Planning on working on things at a nice leisurely pace. Just make sure I get a little something done every day and start planning for the new year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to one and all from Shop Teacher Bob.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Dreaming Again

Forget the black falcon, when you're 16 years old this is stuff dreams are made of. Real deal Aermacchi racer. I think that's one of those Campagnolo brakes on the front. Fifty years later, here's what I'm looking at:
Photo From Here
Ford C900. There's one similar to this in the Indiana Auto & RV paper. The one in the paper looks to be a farm truck with a grain box. The blacktopping crew I worked for a couple of summers had one like this one here but with a regular dump bed. Like most of their rigs it was past it's prime but on the couple of occasions I drove it, it was fun. Like a scaled down big-rig.  Wouldn't be as cool as the big Mack but they're only asking $2950 for the one in the auto trader. $2500 would probably buy it. Since it has a gas motor, nothing on it I couldn't fix.  

The weather has been unseasonably warm - record warm in fact. However, it's been pretty dreary. Big rains yesterday so not like you can do much outside. That's OK. I'm about ready to burrow in out in the shop for the winter. I've got to get some things finished if I ever hope to bring that truck home.

Photo From Here

Monday, December 21, 2015

Dream List

I mentioned a couple of posts back that if I won the lottery I'd build myself a big shop and get started on an Indy roadster replica. If it was big enough, and the lottery prize was big enough as well, I'd get a few others that I've lusted after over the years. Here's a few that quick came to mind:

'63 Buick Riviera

Aston Martin DB5
While I'm never going to be as cool as James Bond, I'd still like to have one. I don't know what a decent DB5 is going for these days but a new Vantage starts around $120K. Not unreasonable if you're a millionaire. Only twice what a decked out pickup truck goes for. Besides, I've already got a pickup.
Maserati Bora
'62 Chevy
I had one of these - same color and everything. 327 with a 4 speed. Nice car - lots of good memories.

Jaguar E-Type
You knew there had to be an E-Type make the list. I'd probably opt for a convertible, however. Maybe in the light blue metallic paint or British Racing Green. A new F-type with all the bells and whistles is about the same as the new Aston Martin. Maybe opt for the E-type and then get the Aston Martin. Or, something a little more practical for around the farm. Something like this Mack:

Mack B-61

Thermodyne diesel and a twin stick tranny. Dual air horns. Maybe get one of those sun visors that go on the outside of the cab. Probably be more fun than any of the sports cars. Don't know what the attraction is with these things but I've definitely got a Jones for them.

I'm on vacation for a few weeks now. Hoping to make some progress on the fun projects, unlike the toilet repair the other day. Actually went pretty smooth for plumbing, though. Nary a single swear word was uttered. Might be a record for me. Flush toilets. Right up there with move-able type and cordless drills on the list of the greatest inventions of all time.

I've still got a bit of Christmas shopping to finish up and I need to go into the college to lend a hand moving some things around prior to the start of the next semester. I should be able to do both in a morning then I'm free for a while. The boxing gym is going to be closed for a couple of weeks also so nothing on my agenda besides working on whatever I feel like working on. Almost like being retired.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


Surly sent me a comment on the last post about an outfit that does auto restoration work on top end sport cars. I looked around the link he sent me and they definitely do some top notch work. My buddy Jimmy has a Jaguar XK120 that needs quite a bit of TLC. It's got a Chevy straight six with a Powerglide transmission in it rather than the correct Jaguar powerplant. It's also missing the doors. Looking at the photo above, seems they've fashioned one up. Looks pretty straight forward in the picture but I know there's a lot more to it than just rolling the outer skin and punching a few holes for the door handle. If I ever get remotely caught up on my stuff, I might tackle a pair of doors for him. I might just be good enough to pull it off.

I mentioned to Surly in the comments that I've no regrets for my career choice as a shop teacher but I do wish I could have worked with some of those master fabricators on the Champ cars. The drivers usually get the glory but it's the mechanics and the builders that make it all possible. Now the Indy/Champ dirt/sprint/midget all use carbon fiber or fiberglass for the body work. There's still plenty of work for a first class panel beater doing restoration or custom work but growing up in the 50's & 60's reading Rod & Custom, Hot Rod and all the rest, I was really impressed with the race cars and the true customs of the time. Forget the billet and the rat rods. Look at the work that was being turned out by the custom guys like Barris, Jefferies, Alexander, Roth, Starbird, Cushenberry, and all the rest. Those boys had it going on.

Life is just too short to be able to do everything you want to do, it seems. Of course sometimes talent is the limiting factor. That's why I was never a left-handed reliever but I'm hoping I've still got some time to learn a bit more metalworking, however.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Look Ma - No Hands

Quote from the photo source: "Get your bra off, put on a blindfold and we'll go like clappers up this hill, no handed." Gotta love them eye-ties.

You used to be able to buy a Gilera from Sears. I had bits and pieces of one for a while. I was going to make something out of it but swapped it off to a guy I worked with. Sears also sold Allstate motor scooters and the 250 "Twingle". Montgomery Wards sold bikes as well. Rebadged Benellis sold under their Riverside brand along with some scooters. Between Sears and Wards you used to be able to get just about anything your heart desired from their catalogs. They would send it right to your house, the closest post office, or the local catalog store depending on where you lived. My dad owned a rental house that was a kit from Montgomery Wards. Just like Amazon only without the internet. Maybe better.

I don't recall them selling cars but they probably did at one time. Pretty sure not like this though:

Photo From Here

Ain't that a beaut? That's a Lujie Lesovsky car. Below is an Ed Kuzma build. Every bit as pretty as any roadster ever built.

Photo From Here
If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to have a nice big heated barn and build me one of these. Maybe put an injected small block Chevy in it just so I can see the stacks poking through the sheet metal like number 82 here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Shopping

From a recent post from The Burning Platform, a few numbers about the state of the economy to think about while you finish your Christmas shopping:

Total mortgage debt - $13.6 trillion ($9.9 trillion residential)

Total credit card debt - $924 billion

Total auto loan debt - $1.0 trillion

Total student loan debt - $1.3 trillion

Other consumer debt - $300 billion

  • The amount of credit card debt carried by the average household carrying this type of debt is $15,355.
  • The amount of auto loan debt carried by the average household carrying this type of debt is $26,530.
  • The amount of student loan debt carried by the average household carrying this type of debt is $47,712.
  • The average household is paying more than $6,600 in interest per year, which means that roughly 9% of the average household’s income is being spent on interest alone.
  • Credit card debt — one of the most expensive types of debt — costs consumers an average of $2,630 per year in interest, assuming an average APR of 18%.
  • If you have the average amount of credit card debt ($15,355) and a 15% interest rate and only pay the minimum on that debt each month, it will take you more than 31 years to repay your debt and will cost you more than $18,600 in interest payments alone.
  • The average amount of credit card debt peaked at $16,912 in 2008, fell by 14% to $14,539 by 2012 as Wall Street banks wrote off billions in bad debt, and has since risen by 6% as consumers have been lured back by the Wall Street propaganda machine.
  • Consumers vastly underestimate or under-report how much debt they have. In fact, as of 2013, actual lender-reported credit card debt was 155% greater than borrower-reported balances.

  • The article puts all the numbers into proper perspective but just reading the nembers is pretty scary. In addition, The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed in last Thursday's paper that throws a few more scary numbers out there:
    40% of American households live hand to mouth.  
    Half the households queried  did not believe they could come up with $2,000 within 30 days to cover an unexpected expense. That includes almost a quarter of households making between $100,000 and $150,000. 
    55% of Americans either break even each month or overspend.
    Wooo-doggies! Doesn't anyone live within their means anymore? Throw in the US debt and the numbers just become ridiculous. ($18,783,493,000,000 when I checked) If you click on the link you'll see how fast the debt is accumulating and if the interest rates ever go up, there's no way the government will be able to service all that debt.

    I don't know why I read this kind of stuff. I know it's all going to come crashing down one of these days. It's just a matter of time. And when it does, we're all going to be in big trouble. Just so I don't sound too pessimistic, let me close on a happy note: If you have no debt and you also have ten dollars in your pocket, that gives you a greater net worth than about 25 percent of all Americans.

    Happy shopping!

    Monday, December 14, 2015


    I got the light up over the man door on the new barn the other day. I started on the project about a year ago. I did a little extra wiring inside and was going to put the light up the next day but it got cold - cold, so I put it on hold. It wasn't that big a deal because we have a big security light out there close by, but of course it quit working even though I change the electric eye no more than two years ago. Anyway, the light's up and functional. It's got a photoeye to turn it on and off when it gets dark out there. Might keep the Missus from taking a tumble, plus, it might help keep the raccoons out of there. I left the big door open when I went to the gym the other night and there was a big one in there that headed upstairs as I was pulling in. It took a little convincing to talk him down but he won't be returning any time soon. 

    Machined up a little fixture for machining up the exhaust collars for the 900. Not much to it. A couple of slots to bolt it to the milling table, two threaded holes to bolt down the part blank, and a hole in the center to set my zero-zero point for the CNC to profile the outside and machine the bore. I'll drill the two holes in the blanks on my mill to get an accurate hole spacing and then rough cut the profile on the band saw. Should be fun.

    Photo From Here

    Two shots of points covers for the HD Sprints. The top one is from the orange bike I'm currently working on. The bottom one is a custom cover. It actually is for an older Triumph but I bought one for my race bike back when. It has the same bolt pattern but it doesn't fit down inside the case as it should but they didn't bother telling me that when I bought it. I made up a little fixture for the lathe, bolted it on and turned a relief on the OD so it would nestle down inside like it should. I figured as long as I've got the fixture, I'll buy another one and that'll be that. I looked up the cover online and they're running between $45-$50 before shipping. I think I paid something like $15.00 for mine but that was a while ago. For fifty bucks, maybe I'll make my own. Instead of fins, maybe machine up the HD racing logo on there if I'm going to have access to a CNC. While I'm making points covers, maybe a finned one for the 900 also. It would look good with the finned clutch cover.

    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    Painting Thoughts




    Here's a couple of things from the 520 Chain Cafe blog. I've been thinking about what I'm going to do when the time comes to paint a few of the projects. Looks like I could hang the swingarm on the old weight bench. Like every other red blooded American boy, I've got one of those. Hasn't been getting much service since I screwed up my chest almost four years ago. Or the previous 40 years as far as that goes. I could use the treadmill but then I wouldn't have a place to hang the laundry.

    I do like the engine stand being pressed into service for a way to hold up the bike frame for painting. I could probably find/make something a little more sophisticated than a lug wrench to run through the swingarm boss but I've always admired good old Yankee ingenuity. A couple of pieces of heavy bar or angle with a stand-off on the end bolted to the engine stand would work real well. If it was bolted securely enough you could even swing the frame through a complete circle to make it easy to paint the bottom side. Easy to miss a spot when painting a frame unless you can get at the bottom easily and you have good lighting.

    Which brings us to the bottom picture. That's a brooder lamp for you non rural folks. They're used to keep the baby chicks warm. I've got a couple of the same type of reflectors I set up to use for some black & white portrait work with regular photofloods. At the 520 Chain Cafe he uses the heat lamps to give some instant warmth to his shop. Not a bad idea at all, plus, you can swap out the heat bulbs and replace them with regular incandescent/LED/fluorescent bulbs for an auxiliary light source when needed. I wouldn't recommend them when painting, however. That seems like an invitation to burn the shop down, especially with a hot incandescent bulb and enamel or laquer paint. Might be useful to help bake the paint on after the spraying and clean up is done though.

    I won't have anything big to paint for a while. I'll keep  thinking about a spray booth of some sort. I don't have that much to paint but I've got no place that's even remotely dust free or useable without moving a bunch of stuff around to keep it from getting over-spray on it.


    Friday, December 11, 2015


    Brother John circa 1976. He's sitting in the back of my 1950 Chevy flatbed that I rebuilt and painted in the welding shop where I used to work before I started teaching school. Those were some great days (when my buddy Kevin gets the way-back machine fired up, we'll set the controls for the summer of '76.) Like all hippie guitar pickers at the time, Johnny had a few Neil Young songs in his repertoire including this one:

    Happy birthday, Bro. I miss you.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2015

    Christmas Ham

    I got my shortwave/ham radio kit a while back but I haven't done much with it yet. I have been reading through the study book but I haven't done much that would be considered actual studying. I've got a vacation from the college coming up soon, so I plan on it hitting it a bit more in earnest then. I definitely plan on getting my ham license in 2016. What I'm finding out, however, is that it's a little tough to get info about the ham radio hobby. Info that's use-able, that is.

    I joined the ARRL thinking that would be a good place to start but most of the geek-speak in the magazine goes right by me. I went to a meeting of a "local" ham club and didn't get a whole lot out of it. Again, not speaking the lingo, much of it was lost on me. A couple of the guys came up to me after the meeting and offered some helpful advice and assistance that had I pursued  probably would have helped, but the meeting site is darn near 40 miles away so I can't see me doing that too often. Plus, like Groucho said, I don't want to join any club that would have me as a member.

    The internet is full of ham radio stuff and in fact, lots of ham stuff is done with computers these days from what little I can tell. The Silicon Graybeard has a couple of current posts on radios on his blog that shed some light on things. He seems to be very knowledgeable and open to helping people. I could probably contact him for a little advice on getting started if need be. Likewise, I could contact the ARRL. There is another "local" club. They're a little bit closer. When I get my license and ready to get on the air, I'll see about finding a bit of help if need be. In the meantime I'll see if I can figure out how to at least pick up a few signals on the new radio.

    Saturday, December 5, 2015

    Number 50

    After almost two weeks of hacking, coughing and gagging I'm finally getting back to what passes for normal. I thought I was going to get away without catching anything for the holidays but no such luck. Hopefully, that'll be it at least until the spring installment of colds runs through the area. Between the health issues of the Missus and I, I had plenty of time for reading this year so I should be able to meet my goal of 50 books again this year, however.

    The Design and Tuning of Competition Engines  - front cover

    The photo shows number 50 and I'm about half way through it. With more than three weeks to go in the year, I should make it without any problems. This one is kind of a slow read - much more technical than much of what I've been reading this year. Takes a little time to digest. Plus it's just darn near over my self imposed 500 page limit. 499 pages of text, 517 with the appendix and index. It's a good book, though. I'm enjoying it even though it's more than a little dated, having been written originally in 1954, with my copy being an updated 1977 edition. The back cover promotes another book by the same publisher, Robert Bentley. Racing Car Design and Development looks like it would be a good one also. It's still available at their website. Might put that one on the Christmas list. I didn't check Amazon or one of the other booksellers for a used version. Might be able to find a cheap copy out there somewhere. Since most of my thinking is stuck in the sixties and seventies anyway, I don't need the latest innovations. If I'm going to build anything around here, it won't be utilizing any carbon fiber or fancy electronics to control the suspension.

    The weather is supposed to be unseasonably warm the next week or so. Now that I can function at a reasonable level again, I want to get back out in the shop and pick up where I left off. Last winter was a total write-off. Need to make up for some lost time.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2015

    Alexander T. Brown

    There is an article in the November issue of the American Rifleman about the L.C. Smith shotguns. In it the name Alexander T. Brown is mentioned as the inventor of the Smith sidelock double barrel. Brown also was involved in the design/invention of the typewriter, bicycle gears, the pneumatic tire, and automobile transmissions among other things. Altogether he is credited with over 100 inventions and 300 patents.

    You would think with all those inventions and patents he would be better known. If nothing else, I should have been aware of him from his development of the Hi-Lo Bi-gear and the clincher tire for bicycles. I did a search on Amazon to see if there was a biography available but came up empty. I also went to the National Inventors Hall of Fame site and did a search and came up empty there as well. I also typed in the name of Charles Kettering and got nothing but Glenn Curtiss' name did come up. If I was running an inventors hall of fame I can't imagine not having Kettering listed and from the little I know about Brown, seems like he would make the cut as well. However, next time you drive your car and shift gears, remember the name of Alexander T. Brown, the inventor from Syracuse, New York.