Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review

This past year has been a crazy one from a political standpoint. Glad it's over but I don't think things are going to improve much either here or abroad anytime soon. One of these days there will be a financial reckoning and the politicians will be forced to admit that they can no longer kick the can down the road. That's going to hurt.

Here at Shop Teacher Bob Central, however, it has been a great year. Cuzzin Ricky and I went to a couple of midget races, 5 out of 7 races during Sprint Car Week, qualifications and the big race in Indy, a couple of Silver Crown races, and a bike race at Springfield. Also made it to the Peoria TT finally with Surly. Several of the races were at tracks I'd never been to before so that was good. Rick and I also hit the Jungle Park Reunion. So it was a very good year for the race cars and motorcycles.

Also managed to take the ride in the B-17 with my brother from a different mother. That one will definitely be on the highlight reel of my life. We're planning on doing the B-24 this upcoming year.

Managed to get away for a few days with the Missus with a trip to Kentucky. Took another ride on the dinner train while there, so it was definitely a planes, trains, automobiles and motorcycles year for me. Also very good that she is able to get out and about again.

Took a machining class at the college. Not only did I learn a few things about CNC machining but I came away with some parts for my motorcycle.

Made some serious progress on said motorcycle. The sidecar is just about done as are all the rest of the mechanicals on the bike. Still need some paint work and some engine work but the project is a lot closer to being finished than when the year started.

Likewise, I finished most of the sheet metal work on the VW so it's just about paint ready. Still working on mechanical things there as well, but definitely made a huge leap forward.

Did a bicycle race and a long ride this year. Didn't do diddly in the race but I finished in a respectable time for my age and the amount I had trained. Need to do more cycling this upcoming year. I like getting out on the bike and it's a good type of low impact exercise for an old duffer like myself.

Finished up quite a few little piddly jobs around the shack and got a few more pieces of equipment for the shop. Still got quite the list of things to do around here but it's good to have something to look forward to.

Read 54 books for the year with a total page count of 15,060. That works out to just a tick over 40 pages per day. I also read the newspaper every day and I subscribe to several magazines. I'm definitely a serious reader. I also put up 170 blog posts for the year. Looks like my days consist of either working, reading or sleeping, with a little travel and exercise thrown in occasionally. Beats the hell out of sitting around watching television, though. I might cut back on the pursuit of the 50 books next year, however. My time might be better spent working on the projects or some other worthwhile pursuit, like fishing.

Health wise, I'm good, the Missus is good and life is good. Looking forward to next year. Cuzzin Ricky and I are already putting together our calendar for the races we want to hit. I'll continue working on the car and bike projects, maybe take a trip out west to pick up the remaining two states I need to have all 48 of the Continental US. What I should do is book a trip to Alaska while I'm still working.

 However, I do have a tentative ride scheduled in this thing for next year. That should be fun.

Last but not least, I've had a large increase in my page views here during the past year. Thanks to all of you for stopping by. I hope 2016 has been equally as good to all of you. Hope 2017 will be even better.

Felice Anno Nuovo!

Thursday, December 29, 2016


I found this at a site that features French cars after 1946. The same guy has several other photo blogs of other marques.

Even though this is a Buick, This one is on  his Italian car site since it's been customized by Pininfarina. 

I like the late 50's - early 60's customs. These were the kind of things that were in the car mags when I was a kid growing up. Surly and I saw a few nice customs when we went to the Pile Up a few years back. There are probably guys out there that are still doing that sort of thing - low to the ground, lake pipes, tuck and roll interiors, big bass boat flake in the paint - you get the idea. I'll pick up a Rod and Kulture magazine every once in a while and they'll have a custom car and/or bike from that era or built along those lines in it, along with some wild drag machines from back in the day. I haven't been to the World of Wheels in a long time but I always enjoyed checking out the old school customs there. Might have to hit a couple of car shows in 2017.

Meanwhile, I got the backing plate for the VW primed and painted and a little piece machined up for the job I'm working down the basement. I need to get a die stock for 1" round dies before I can continue on with that job. I've got all kinds of taps and dies but all of my small dies are hex, rather than round. I can pick one up at the hardware store or Menards - they're not hard to come by but when I was looking through the tool box for a die stock, I was reminded that I need some rethreading dies as well. One of these days I'll have to take inventory and see what else I need to get and place an order. Seems like no matter how many tools I have or what my hardware inventory is, every new job I tackle requires a trip to the hardware store, lumber yard or an internet purchase.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Finishing the Year Strong

Warmed up to near record high yesterday so I worked in the shop a bit. Since the sandblaster is in the back where the heat isn't, figured I should blast the backing plate for the VW brake job. I get it painted and I'll be able to get that corner of the car back together. I'll start on the back brakes after I get a little more work done on the sidecar.

Speaking of which, I made up the tabs for the fender braces. The long pieces get welded to the tube braces and the smaller ones get welded to the sidecar frame. The bike is sort of boxed in right now. As soon as I get the brake finished up on the VW, I'll push it outside to give myself room to work around the bike. I should be able to put the finishing touches on the sidecar before too much longer.

I modified the throttle linkage for my buddy's Camaro. Not much to it. He brought me two new pieces so I could stretch one of them an 1-3/4".  I've still got another job for a "customer" pending. I've got to stretch a Ducati fender. Someone bobbed it once upon a time. I'm hoping I'm good enough at this point to make it about 10" longer and weld up a few extra holes it developed over the years. Welding the holes shouldn't be any problem but I'm not sure about making it longer. He's in no hurry. I told him I was going to finish up my sidecar before I started on it. 

We had a nice Christmas. I got some nice gifts. The wife outdid herself and got me a ride in an Indy car. Two laps around the Speedway at speeds up to 180 mph! I need to check my schedule and get a date for my ride penciled in for the summer. That should be a blast. Hoping to go for a ride in the B-24 this upcoming year as well. I'm one lucky SOB, I'll tell you.

I'm going to try and keep pecking away at things before it gets too cold again. We'll see how long that lasts.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

May Everyday Be Christmas

Peace on Earth, Good Will to All

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jack London

From Here

With only a couple of days left before Christmas, I've got the gifts wrapped and already eaten a big handful of cookies the Missus baked, so other than helping out with some housecleaning chores, I'm set.

The weather has been bitter cold but like always, after I spend a couple hours shoveling a big thaw is coming. That should help with the county roads around here. They're still pretty rough but that's all part of living in the country. So take that as an observation as opposed to a bitch. Likewise with shoveling around the shack. I enjoy being outside in the winter even if it's on the business end of a shovel. With the warm-up I'll get back out in the shop. "I shall use my time."  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Short on Wheelbase, Big on Fun

Photo From Here

I was wasting time on the web looking at old dragster stuff and thought a Fiat Topolino would be cool. 

Photo From Here

Likewise a '32 Bantam. Especially if it has a blown hemi with two four barrels. And flames - everything's better with flames.

Photo From Here

Of course if you want the ultimate in a short wheelbase, fiberglass bodied, hemi powered rig, you might as well run it on nitro and add a wing just like Wild Willie Borsch. That dude was just crazy. The photo above was pretty much a typical day at the office for him. 

Too cold to work in the shop again today. I did make it out on Saturday and did some work on the milling machine. Lots of aluminum chips to clean up when I was done but since the heat blows in right where I stand when running the mill, figured it was a good time to knock that job out. Sunday was spent watching the Bears. That's another three hours of my life I'll never get back.

Starting to get things done down in the basement la-bor-a-tor-y. (That pronunciation seems to fit with the old farmhouse basement. It's begining to resemble something out of an old British horror film down there.) I've got a little more work to do yet getting things set up like I want, but I've got a couple of models to put together and a few other things that I can amuse myself with - just need a place to lay them out without freezing or having the cats jump up on the table while I'm working. Unfortunately, the old "boom box" quit working the other day so I need to get some tunes while I'm down there. I don't really need the music as much as I need to drown out the ringing in my ears from the tinnitus.  

Stay warm everyone and remember the reason for the season.

Friday, December 16, 2016


I'm done with school for a month. I've got my grades all done and posted so I don't have to do anything school related until a couple of days prior to classes starting, and that will be posting my syllabus and getting material ready to go - no biggie there.

It's been snot-freezin' cold here of late. We've got more snow and frigid temps on the way, with a little rain/sleet/snow in the middle of it all. I've got a couple of little TIG jobs I want to finish up for a couple of friends but I'd rather not tackle them when it's zero out. Neither one of them are in a hurry but I'd just as soon have them done and gone. I'll kick the heater on one of these days, knock those out and finish welding up the braces for the sidecar fender at the same time. As much as I'd like to, I can't hibernate all winter if I'm ever going to see the sidecar rig run.

I've got most of my Christmas shopping done, I've whittled down the pile of magazines next to the recliner and I've got my fifty books read for the year. About the only thing left is to get back at it.

As Uncle Pete used to say: "Keep your end gate up".

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Exercise Routine

I've been doing some thinkin' as of late. Probably would have been better off working but stepping back every once in a while is not necessarily a bad thing. First off, my boss at the college has changed my schedule for the upcoming semester, at least for the first eight weeks. It's not that big a deal other than I need to move some other things around to accommodate the school schedule, like my gym schedule.

Since I'm not going to be able to get to the boxing gym like I have been, I need a new work-out routine. One that I'll follow would be good and one that will give me a good full body workout would be better still. My days of being a runner are past but I can still do some brisk walking. I don't know if I want to do any competitive race walking but if I don't train for something, I won't do much more walking than walking the dog down to the mailbox and back. I really don't care to just walk, in spite of the fact that it's low impact, you can do it just about anywhere and all you need for equipment is a decent pair of shoes - don't even need that if you walk on the beach or the golf course.

I enjoy getting out on the bicycle and I'd like to do the bicycle race I did last year again. There's also a couple of bike trails I haven't yet ridden I'd like to give a try, plus a couple others I'd like to ride again. What I need is a saddle pal - someone I can ride with once a week or so to keep me honest and push me a bit. It's tough enough to find someone to train with but now that winter's upon us, even if I wanted to get out, not going to happen with the icy roads. I don't get bored too easily but bicycle trainers and treadmills will sure do it.

Even if I get busy and walk/bike, I still need to do some upper body strength training. I've had a little trouble with that due to whatever happened with my chest a few years ago. However, I've been working with an exercise band and with hitting the bags at the gym, so I've been maintaining my muscle mass pretty well - at least what little I've got left that is. I should add some more work on my core and my flexibility.

My diet needs a little bit of a tune up as well. I've been slipping and eating more sugar than I should. Rather than wait until the new year rolls around, I'd like to get started on a new program while I'm on vacation and have it somewhat ingrained before I go back to work in January. I also need to find a couple of events to participate in so I have a reason to keep training. I understand why people have such a tough time staying with an exercise program. Unless you are extremely motivated, it's just not easy structuring your life around diet and exercise, even though those should be two of your highest priorities. I've been pretty active all my life but I'm at the point now where the cookies and the recliner are much more appealing than running around the block. I'll give it a bit more thought and come up with an exercise routine that's not too routine. Something that I hopefully can stay with three or four days per week. Build some muscle, keep the cardio where it should be and increase my flexibility. I'd advise the rest of you to come up with a similar plan for the benefit of yourself and your loved ones. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Birthday Boy

Johnny, the little cross-eyed guy on the left not carrying anything. Never did pull his own weight but he was fun to be around.There was another one of us added to the family a few years after this photo was taken. I'm guessing this was 1958, brother Jim came along in '62. He's got a birthday coming up real soon as well. 

We had it good growing up. Hopefully, those of us remaining will continue to have it good as we grow old. They say you can tell when a guy is old because he keeps looking backwards, rather than forwards. I don't think I'm there yet but I do miss John and the fun we had growing up out in the country.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Lady Formula One driver in a Maserati. It's a commercial but a good one. A Maserati would be my second choice behind the Jaguar if my ship came in. Maybe first choice for a driver and then get the XKE for funzies.

Not much happening around here on the projects. It turned cold, with serious cold - single digit stuff- coming next week. We had a pretty good snowfall also. We had about three inches on the ground. There would have been more but the first couple of inches melted due to the temps and the ground still being a bit warm. There's still some on the ground with more on the way today, tomorrow and on into the early morning hours Monday. Weatherman showed a couple of different models with snow ranging from about 4"- 8". I've got finals and certification tests to give, hope the snow doesn't cause a scheduling conflict. I've been busy getting the finals all printed up and the cert plates cut and tacked together. At the most it'll just be a bit of an inconvenience for me but it does create a hardship for many of the students due to their work schedules and the distances they need to drive to get to school. 

I started getting the basement workbench tidied up so I can work on a few things down there as the mood strikes me. I'm still debating what to do about a metal lathe. A little one down the basement would be nice for a few of the projects I'm working on/contemplating. As long as it would be big enough to cut metric threads on a motorcycle axle, it would be fine for my model making and tinkering. One of these days I'm going to need something in metric or I'll get tired of walking out to the shop and I'll pull the trigger on one. Actually I was looking at one at Grizzly that would suit my purposes and they were sold out.  

Still have a few things to do around the shack to get ready for Christmas but the grandsons are coming today to help Grandma with that. It'll be nice having the boys around. I don't get anything done when they're here but why should I? Kevin Cameron's column in the latest Cycle World had an interesting take on burn-out, by the way. As Willie Dixon sings, I can't quit you baby, but I've got to put you down for a little while.


Progress to resume shortly.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


Royal Enfield has a new model - the Himalaya. Carburetted, single cylinder, 410cc, 5 speed transmission. The Indian made Royal Enfield hasn't been seen  much in this country, however they're big around the rest of the world. They've surpassed Harley in the number of units sold worldwide annually and they've opened up their North American headquarters in Milwaukee, which also serves as a dealership. They're looking to open up 100 dealerships through out the US in the future. It looks like a fun little bike. I'm not a fan of the big ADV beasties and since where I live it's pretty much flat as a pancake, one of those big over powered and over priced things would be a colossal waste of my money. But this could be fun and relatively cheap. They're supposed to announce the pricing in March, I believe. I also read somewhere that Royal Enfield signed a deal with Polaris to develop some new products. The engine in this one could be just that. 

Maybe I'll take a trip to Milwaukee one of these days. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sort of Related Things

"In painting as in eloquence, the greater your strength, the quieter will be your manner." I might replace the word painting with boxing in that quote from John Ruskin.

Photo From Here
A young man came into the gym Saturday who I hadn't seen for a while. He's currently home on leave from the Marines after completing his basic training. Said he'd put on about fifteen pounds since he'd last been in the gym but it appeared to be all muscle. There's another one of our boys who's also a recent enlistee who will be completing his training next month. They're both real nice young men, good athletes and plenty tough. Every time I read in the paper about some sissy boy needing a "safe space" I think about guys like these two and the rest of the young men and women who come in to the boxing gym. The only safe space for a boxer is when you're sitting on the stool in the corner between rounds - and that's only good for one minute.

In addition to the opening quote from Ruskin, I got this from the Wall Street Journal as well:

How many of our citizens could build a nuclear power station, judge a case in Chancery, read a grant of land in medieval Latin, conduct a Mozart concerto, solve an equation in aerodynamics, repair a railroad engine? We don't need to have the knowledge ourselves, provided there are others, the experts, who possess it. And the more we outsource our memory and information to our iPhones and laptops, the more those experts are needed. If that is so, then the state must ensure that education, however available and however distributed, will reproduce our store of knowledge, and if possible add to it. . . . 
The state has another and greater duty which is a duty towards us all - namely, the duty to conserve the knowledge that we need, which can be passed on only with the help of the children able to acquire it.

I stumbled across The Art of Manliness and saw they had a list of 100 things every man should know. I'm good on about 90 of them. I'll skip the one about the bear attack, I can't speak a foreign language and I can't swim a lick. Nor can I whistle with my fingers. That one I would like to be able to do. My Pops did that using his thumb and middle finger of his right hand. Always admired that. However, one of the items on the list is to read. Not just read, but read to glean information. I'm thinking I'm real solid on that one as well as number 60 on the list, being able to throw a knock-out punch - in fact, I've been on both ends of that one.

The Art of Manliness also has a list of 100 books every man should read - lots of classics as you would expect - but while I didn't actually count the number of those on the list I've already read,  I'd guess I'd be lucky to have read even half of them. I've read the ones on the list by Hemingway. In fact I've read most all of his stuff. I didn't see Robert Ruark on the list but I would definitely add The Old Man and The Boy and maybe something by Jeff Cooper, which I'm ashamed to say, I've never read. I've read some of his things that were in Guns &Ammo but never came across any of his books at the library or second hand stores. It appears that they are available for purchase at the link, so I might have to do just that. As far as the rest of the books on the list, no way I'm tackling all 1000 pages of Atlas Shrugged or making a third or fourth attempt at Zen and the Art of Motorcycling Maintenance. I'd rather spend my time learning how to whistle with my fingers. I do plan on reading a few of the others in the future, however.

So. Be a man and read a book. Learn some skills every real man should know. Take that knowledge and be sure it's passed along to the younger generation. Practice the Art of Manliness. We need more of that.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Beetle Colors

Starting to turn cold now. I guess you would expect that here in the Mid-West in December. Regardless, I've got enough things done around the shack that I can get back into the shop and work out there for a while without feeling guilty. I've still got the right side of the VW jacked up so I can finish the front brakes. I need to get that done so I can roll it outside and give myself a little more room to work on the sidecar.

I like the color but mine won't have the elephant feet lights or the ugly bumper.
I mentioned in another post some time back about paint choices for the car. While farting around on the internet of things, I found a site that had paint codes not only for the VW but just about any other vehicle as well. It looks from the chart that the green that I uncovered while sanding was Cliff Green. Nice metallic color and not too far off from the Buick Riviera that I've always liked. The more I think about the project, the more I'm leaning towards the stock green. Granted, I'm a long way off from needing paint but I'm hoping to have one of my "growth spurts" where I stay camped out in the shop for long stretches at a time. If you're going to start the heater, might as well keep after it. And if you're going to keep after it, it helps to have the vision of the finished product in your head so you don't have to stop and contemplate your next step.

I think mine, after finishing up the front brakes, will be to make another cross bar on the roll bar right behind the seats. I've got safety harnesses but the stock seats don't have slots for the straps to run through. If you put on the harness the shoulder straps have a tendency to slip off your shoulders - no bueno. I'll put another bar across close to the top of the seat with loops to run the straps through and that will take care of that. I'm not sure if I have a piece of tubing around here long enough for that or not. Even if I don't, I can start on the loops. That's the kind of thing I can do at the school. I like those kind.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Business As Usual

Photo From Here
Ain't that a pip! Nice shot of the Mercedes-Benz W196. Those older GP cars and Indy roadsters sure were a thing of beauty. And the craftsmen responsible for building them were the absolute tops in the field, as you would expect. I need to quit looking at these things or I'm going to want to drop everything else and get started on one.

Photo From Here
I got a phone call the other day from friend of mine. We go back a ways having raced motorcycles and bicycles together. He wants to build a HD Sprint this winter so he called me to see what I had laying around and for a little bit of advice. He's planning on putting together something for the street rather than a flattracker like in the above photo, but I'm curious to see what he comes up with. He's a pretty handy dude.

I'm thinking that's a Rickman frame in the photo judging by the layout and the nickle plating, by the way. Those boys have made some beautiful frames over the years.  

Here's the little part I machined up for the lab at college. Pretty simple - turn and face. I found a cut-off about the right size on the stock rack there, so that made it simple. Making it in the CNC turning center I used last semester would have made it real simple. Probably would have only taken 2-3 minutes to make as fast as that thing runs. The machine has constant cutting speed compensation, so as the part diameter gets smaller, it turns faster. Not at all like my old South Bend lathe with the step pulleys and back gear. I've made a lot of parts with it over the years, however. I would like to have something that I could metric threads on. Maybe I should ask Santa for a new lathe this year. Be kind of tough getting it down the chimney.