Thursday, June 29, 2017


Towing hubs for my buddy's Camaro. He used to flat tow the car to the dragstrip, unbolt the tow bar and rear wheels, bolt on the slicks and go racing. I made these at least 40 years ago. He got some spindles and hubs from a '69 Chevelle at the junkyard and I cut the spindles out from the uprights, made a backing plate and machined everything up true. I was pretty proud of my self when I got them finished. I wouldn't even remotely have called myself a machinist at the time but they came out nice and they still work as designed. Lakewood sold a similar item at the time but I think he only had twenty bucks in these, and they actually were a little better. I did a search for towing hubs and the only ones I could find were on EBay. A guy is making custom ones for $980.00. These appear to be quite the bargain now. 

My buddy just put new axles in his car and they have longer studs. He wanted to dig the towing hubs out to see if they would work as is or if a spacer was required. I've made a bunch of similar things over the years using Camaro spindles because the spindles were pressed in, rather than being part of a forging. Made it a lot easier to get the spindles out and use them for a trailer axle or whatever. Something to keep in mind.

On an unrelated note, Harbor Freight has a prize/award program going for high school tech teachers and their programs. Part of the money goes to the individual and part of it goes to the school program. Info HERE. Looking at some real money here. Nominate a worthy teacher or pass the word along.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Racewalk Results

Fun weekend. I did my 5K or a race of some indeterminate length Saturday morning. This was the second of the four race series we're signed up to run. All of these are just for fun - no prizes or awards - at small towns in the next county over. There was a real small group of us for this one, with maybe a few more runners than walkers. The instructions were to follow the course, come back into town and cross the finish line, then continue around the go-kart track back to the finish line again. First time I've ever seen that, but OK. 

The race started and I passed all the other walkers but when I looked back about a half mile into the race, there was a lady coming up on me. I picked up the pace and put a little distance between us and we stayed that way for most of the race until we came to the finish line the first time. I had a little bit left in reserve, so I was able to pull a little more of a lead when we went around the go-kart track. I thought it was just around the block but it turns out it was at least a half mile. When I hit the finish line the first time I was almost three minutes faster than my previous race but at least three minutes slower the second time around. My running buddy and a couple of other people had fancy-ass watches that said the race length was actually 3.6 miles rather than 3.1 like a normal 5K. Regardless, I knew I picked up the pace a bit and I'm starting to get my form back - which means I'm starting to look really silly like a real race walker should. 

I didn't realize the small town had this festival going on. The go-kart track was a street circuit around the town with hay bales, catch fence and bumper blocks. Practice was Saturday, racing was Sunday. I got a look at a few of the carts and they're the GP type - fiberglass bodies, two stroke motors with chambers and all that jazz. They had a drivers meeting that spilled out onto the track after the runners had made their way through but I had to thread my way through the drivers to finish up my lap. There was a parade right after the run, fireworks later that evening, entertainment, food trucks, etc. Small town fun. I'll have to remember the date for next year even if I don't do the 5 +/- K race.

Surly had taken the grandkids home for the weekend and when he brought them back he asked about swapping out the dropouts on one of his bicycles. He's putting together a designated track bike for an event he'll be participating in. In addition, he had brought a 20" BMX bike down and tossed it in the barn a while back. I needs a little TLC and when I saw the guy down the street was tossing some bikes and other scrap to the curb, I called Cuzzin Ricky and we went over and loaded up his truck. In addition to the 20" that's in the photo above, there was also a little bike with training wheels that should be just right for his grandson. I figure I can make one good one out of the two 20" bikes and then scrap the remaining parts. 

So I'm looking at a couple of bike projects in the near future as well as a couple more racewalks and an Indy car ride. Life is good!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Interesting Things

I was going to measure up the length of the posts for the deck off of the new barn, so I gathered up the tape measure, the level and a pencil. When I happened to look at the point on the pencil I saw a small hole in it. I turned it around and there was another one. This one was running parallel with the lead up under the paint. That's odd, I say to myself. Upon further investigation I find a bug of some sort in there. That would be the little devil in the picture. It was still alive but I've got no idea what it is or where it came from. The pencil was in a can with a couple other pencils and markers. The can had some dust in it from this thing gnawing on the pencil. I've got pine trees around the place that are dying off. Might be related to that. This one won't be doing any more damage, though. I think I'm going to check with my extension agent and see what he comes up with.

Rose hips. There's a bunch of them this year. I know they have many uses - they're used to make tea, they're high in vitamin C and the little hairs inside can be used to make an itching powder. You can also use them to propagate a new plant. I've never considered doing anything with them but I might look into a bit more while I've got a bumper crop and try putting them to use.

And finally, I walked down to the mailbox with the grandkids the other night. I kicked it into race pace for a little bit on the way back just to loosen up some for the 5K I'm doing today. The nine year old was running along side me and when I slowed back down he tells me: "I have to say, for an old man you're in pretty good shape." We'll see today if he's right or not.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I took some time off from the shop projects when it was super hot to work on a few inside things that needed some attention. Actually, the Missus and I were looking into buying a house. It had been in her family for years and is in a nice location, unfortunately, it has been neglected for some time and it looked like it was going to be more trouble repairing and bringing up to code than we wanted to get into. While she was doing the leg work on that I was working on a couple of things that needed to be fixed around the shack but mostly I was thinking what the hell was I going to do with all the crap I've got if we move. I'm going to try and keep that thought in mind and let it guide me to keep throwing things out and downsizing some. We'll have to see how long that lasts.

Moving forward, I bought a couple of things for the wiring on the sidecar project. I bought a terminal strip and a trailer plug. The idea here is to wire the lights to one side of the terminal strip and wire one half of the trailer plug to the other side. I'll wire in the other half of the trailer plug to the bike so if I want to run the bike solo, all I'll have to do is pull the trailer plug apart, unbolt the chair and I'm done. 

The two pieces of sheet metal in the photo are for the VW job. I thought I had already cut a couple of pieces for that operation but couldn't find them the other day. The bucket of drops from the shear at work had just what I was looking for, however. I just had to cut it in half and clip the corners off. I still need to bend them but that should be easy enough. Finding time will be the issue again. 

The Missus and I will be looking after the grandkids for a week or so, plus my brother is coming to visit. Both of these are good things but will limit what I get done. It'll be nice getting a chance to catch up with my brother and I might coerce him into helping me on a couple of things I need an extra hand with. It'll be a different story with the grandkids. The long range weather forecast looks like rain most of the days they'll be with us. I'll have to look for some indoor places we can visit to keep them off the electronic devices and keep from driving grandma nuts if the weather keeps them cooped up in the house for a week. I like a challenge, though.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

End Of The Line.

I live not too far away from a railroad track - like only 100 feet or so. Just to the east of me was a switch that fed into the grain elevator. The track into the elevator was originally part of the Chicago & Wabash Valley Railroad. It was a little short line started in 1898 by Ben Gifford and was sold to the Monon after his death in 1913. I've written a little book about the history of the railroad, by the way, but I need to make a few edits and get permission to publish it from the Indiana State Archives since it contains some items from their collection.

What you see in the photo is the last of the line. It only got used in the spring to bring in anhydrous and then later in the fall to ship out crops. The line it ties into services another grain elevator along the way and then dead ends at the power plant about 10 miles east of me. However, with all the government regulations and the new found abundance of natural gas, the days of coal fired generating stations are numbered, so it won't be too much longer and that line too will be history.

They brought in a couple of sections of track and I thought they were going to fix things up a bit. I should have known better. They used the sections to replace the switch instead. They just whacked the rails off with a cutting torch and then jerked the old rails over a bit for some extra clearance. No dignity to that death but business is business. The other tracks are currently part of the NS. Originally they were the Three I - Indiana, Illinois and Iowa - and later became New York Central. This section went in around 1881.

Obviously the C&WV wasn't set up for high speed service with only two bolts on the splice plate. This rail is some of the old stuff made by Illinois Steel Co, South Works in 1909. It also has the number 7506 rolled into it. I'm not sure what that stands for but the rail might be 75#. It's not very tall.

This is by where the old depot was located. Probably the base of a signal light. If they pull the remaining rails up, this will be the only thing left to indicate there was ever a railroad there. My buddy and I followed the old line from north to south back in the 70's. We spent a cold January day traipsing around to see whatever remnants we could find. It was still pretty easy to locate the railbed at that time. It would be a lot tougher if you tried it today.

My old farmhouse was built by Frank Lewis, who I believe was in charge of surveying for the line and who later became the superintendent. After it was bought by the Monon after Gifford's death, Lewis came with the deal and eventually rose to the position of superintendent of the Monon railroad as well. So the old shack has a little bit of historical significance. I'm not sure without checking my notes, but I think the original part of the house was built in 1903. There were quite a few houses built along the rail line to the same pattern, all known as Gifford houses. 

So the old railroad is no more. Likewise the the other one that runs by the house will probably be closing down in the future. They chopped the tracks off on the other side of the power plant years ago. When the power plant closes down that'll be it for that one as well. As a rail fan, it'll be a sad day. The upside, however, is that it'll probably make it easier to sell my place. Not everyone is like me and wants to live next to railroad tracks. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Cry Me A River

Actually, no need to cry me a river - things are pretty good around here. Since it was blistering hot on Tuesday afternoon, I was inside and the old TV show Laramie was on featuring an episode with Julie London. Even though she didn't sing, I've had the song stuck in my head ever since. 

Woke up yesterday to the Washington shooting on the TV. Initially I figured it was some right wing whacko. Apparently I was wrong.This time it was a left wing whacko. End result still the same though. Maybe Cry Me A River is more timely than I thought. Especially when I later hear about a workplace shooting in San Francisco.

It's really bad when you need to swap out the flowers in your hair for a flak jacket. I'm beginning to think we're witnessing the beginning of the end. All great empires have fallen. Might just be our time here in the USA.

This seems to fit, somehow. It's time to stop playing games and all of us do what's best for the country in the long term. As individuals we should be good parents, love our neighbors, man-up and do the right things. Those in political office, stop the bickering and pandering. You're supposed to be looking out for out best interests, not doing what's best to get you re-elected. 

Be safe out there. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Janus Motorcycles Discovery Day

I went to Goshen, Indiana yesterday to check out the Janus motorcycles. First off, the little bikes are pretty cool. I rode three different models - one Halcyon and two Phoenix models. The bikes get up and go pretty well for a 229cc. In fact, if I were to buy one I'd probably change the countershaft sprocket by one tooth or drop a couple teeth in the back to give them a little more top end and lower the revs a bit while cruising. The speedometer needle jumped around a bit and the seats on the Phoenix models were a little hard but that's really my only criticism. The finish on the bikes is all top shelf. All powder coating on the frames and the sheet metal. Nice looking welds on the frame. Disc brakes front and rear. Pinstriping and lettering all looks real good. Depending on the model and the options, 270 lbs and about 75 mpg.

In the foreground is the new Gryffin model. High pipe, different seat, tires and handlebars but essentially the same as the Phoenix models like those behind it. I rode both the red and black bikes. They were set up a little different. from each other. The black one has a little more displacement and narrower bars. More cafe racer style and I thought more fun as well.

In addition to the test rides, there was a shop tour. Here's a stack o' fenders. To the left of these were tires and boxes of engines. The tires and engines are imported but a good percentage of the bike is made locally. I was initially wondering why anyone would choose Goshen to start a bike manufacturing business but after hearing how the company came about and the fact that there are a lot of good craftsmen and other manufacturers in the area, it makes perfect sense.

The front ends all use the leading link style forks. This too makes sense. They function well and if you add a sidecar, which they are making available by the way, they work better than most telescopic forks. The "pedestrian slicer" is an option. The number is actually the number of that model that has been built. If that was on the Halcyon model, that bike would have been the 22nd Halcyon built. Pretty cool, that.

Frames and forks waiting to be assembled. They've got a backlog of work. If you order a bike now, you won't see it until 2018. Good that they have a waiting list. That means they're selling them.

This is Richard, one of the principals of the company. I had an opportunity to chat with him a bit and found it most enjoyable. He designed the frame and forks. The frame design is based on the Norton Featherbed frame - can't hardly go wrong there, I would suppose. 

Pinstriping is an option but I think everyone who buys a bike goes that route. It looks nice on the tanks but I think it really dresses up the fenders.

I didn't put a deposit on one for two reasons. First of all, I've got more motorcycles than I can properly care for already. Second of all, is the price. By the time you get one tricked out like you want, you'll be looking at $7K. That's a lot of money for a small bike. In my case that would probably buy most all the parts I need to finish most of my project bikes and the VW. However, I completely understand the pricing. The bikes are a very nicely done, low volume item that has a lot of R&D money that needs to be re-couped as well as the fact that these people need to eat. 

Fun bikes, nice people. I very much admire what they are doing and wish them all the best. And they are putting together a WERA racer out of one of these things. They're hoping to make their debut at Mid-Ohio. That should be fun. They'll also be having more Discovery Days. Shop Teacher Bob says check 'em out.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hit The Deck

Started on the deck for the "new" barn. Not really so new any longer but in comparison to the other out buildings it's the newest of the bunch. When I poured the floor in the back of the shop I also poured a couple of piers to support this thing. Since the barn went up about six years ago and the piers got poured two years ago, it's about time to finish this thing up. I still haven't decided what I want for a railing and a gate. I've got a couple of ideas I'm kicking around. I need to do a bit more investigating and then git to gittin'.

Finished up the first week of summer classes. Looks like a pretty decent bunch of students. My boss is still struggling with the new Learning Management Platform or whatever you want to call it. If or when he gets it figured out, he should have most everything ready for us adjuncts to use. From what I've seen of it, I think he figures that if I had to go through that learning curve, I'd just quit - and he's right. I almost feel bad for him but that's why he makes the big bucks. Take one for the team and all that.

The American Welding Society has a free on-line course on welding safety. I haven't checked it out yet but I'll probably take it. Always good to keep safety first and foremost in the welding game.

Heading to Janus motorcycles this morning to check out the little bikes I featured a couple of posts back. Seems they share a building with a brewery. If they sold bait & tackle or hardware, I'd be set. I'll get some photos and report back.

Have a good weekend.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Odds & Sods

I found myself a new drill motor like I was looking for. It's got a keyless chuck and I would have preferred one with a key, but this one has a new and improved ratcheting chuck that's supposed to be the hot set-up. It's got an 8 amp motor, comes with a carrying case that's much too nice to use for a drill, and it has a lifetime warranty on parts and service. So if the brushes need replacing or the switch goes bad, I should be able to fix it myself or get it fixed. It also says on the box I can try it out for 90 days and if I don't like it, Ridgid will take it back. And it came at a real good price. Apparently Home Depot isn't going to carry this model anymore. Their loss, my gain. 

Cuzzin Ricky donated this to the cause. He's clearing out a shed in preparation for a building project he's looking at - probably figured it would be easier to give it to me than moving it twice. It's a Palmgren like they made a million of, however, this one has a swivel base which you don't see too often. The base isn't marked in degrees however. I'll get it cleaned up and painted and I can use it with my drill press that's going up top of the new barn.

The school house bell is blasted and ready for me to paint and build a base. I measured a few things and drew up a layout on the workbench to see how it would look and to get a material estimate. I'm looking at making the base out of 2" x 2" square tube that will be trapezoidal in shape when looking at it from the side. Not much to it. Just need to get everything cleared by the boss.

Yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. There was an editorial recapping the story in the weekend's Wall Street Journal. It mentioned the repair of the USS Yorktown that had "recently returned to Pearl Harbor trailing a 10 mile oil slick. Repair estimates ranged up to three months. Three days, ordered Nimitz. Fourteen hundred welders and shipfitters swarmed aboard. Three days later, the Yorktown sailed for Midway." It's amazing that they could perform the repairs in such a short time but if a similar thing occurred now days would they be able to find 1400 welders and shipfitters to be able to perform a similar repair? From what I've read both the Navy and the Air Force are operating with very few ships and planes if you compare the numbers to historical numbers. No capitol or labor to rebuild the fleet. This could get interesting one of these days.

One of my former students passed away last week. From what I understand, he died in his sleep. I'm guessing that the cause would be drug related but I don't know that for sure and I certainly don't wish to darken his memory if that's not the case. However, I heard on the local radio station last week that the police had three calls for heroin overdoses in the same day. The Chicago news also had a story about heroin overdose in Illinois and I read that a town in Ohio added on to their morgue to deal with the increase in overdose deaths and they're still out of room. Something needs to be done - I don't have the answer but there are too many young people dying senseless deaths. I've had several former students die from an overdose. It's heartbreaking to see all that potential go to waste. 

School starts this week and I'll be teaching pipe welding. Going to need pipe welders if they're going to rebuild the fleet. At least I'm doing my part. I just wish I could do something about the drug problem. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

One Step Forward - Two Steps Back

My wife's grandfather used to have a collection of bells - farm bells, schoolhouse bells, even a locomotive bell. He passed away quite some time ago and his collection went around the family intact but now it's being split up among a few of the relatives. The bell in the photo is one from his collection. It's a pretty big bell as you can see from how the parts fit in the back of a full size pickup. So my job is to get it cleaned up and painted and make some kind of stand for it so it can be displayed here at the shack. I dropped it off last evening with a former student who does a little sandblasting on the side. He cut me a decent price, so that'll make the clean-up go much faster and easier. I'll design some kind of stand while it's out so I can get it on display without too much of a lag.

Along with the bell came some hostas, which also required the installation of some edging, skimming off the sod, etc. That job's almost finished. I need to get some type of edging along the other side that will lay flush when installed so I can run the mower over the top of them rather than having to trim around them. I'll pick something up soon so I can be done with it.

Here's the real doozy. My driveway/lane is about 1000 ft long. It was getting pretty rough so I talked to the young man who farms my place and he agreed to bring the tractor over and give the lane a good going over. After he scraped it down a bit we agreed it could use some more stone so I hopped on the bicycle and went over to the hot-mix plant and ordered up a load. Normally the drivers are very good at tail-gating the load. This time, not so much. He managed to only get about 50 feet before he'd dropped the whole 20 ton load. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say, so I had him bring a second load. He did a fine job spreading that one. However, between the big tri-axle leaking some stone out the sides, and the farmer having to move quite a bit of stone with the bucket and the normal amount that escapes around the edges of the grader blade, I have quite a bit of stone I need to rake back out of the yard and into the lane where it belongs. 

You can see in the photo that there's about a foot that needs to be raked back in so it looks like the edge of the lane in the top of the photo. The far end of the lane, maybe 200' or so, doesn't need the raking, and since we didn't do all the way around the barn, when you figure in both sides needing to be raked, I've only got about a 1/4 mile that needs to be raked. Actually, I've got the majority of it done already. I'll go back out this evening after the sun goes down a bit and hit it again - might be able to finish today. Part of that depends on if my back holds out.

So, just about the time I'm ready to hit it hard on my own projects, something else comes along. Nothing new there. However, the old homestead is looking a bit nicer now. So that's good. And the lane shouldn't need much attention for a couple of more years. That's even better. It's back to work next week. Not so crazy about that but that'll pay for the stone and the trees I need to have taken down. Moving into a little condo is looking better all the time.