Thursday, November 30, 2017

Family Tree

I've been taking care of some things around the shack while the weather has been so nice. I even mowed the yard on Tuesday. It wasn't so much the yard needed mowing as it was to chop up the leaves but I don't think I've ever mowed this late in the season before - it'll be December starting tomorrow, after all.

I got the heat situation taken care of out in the shop. I broke down and bought another heater while it was on sale as part of the whole asinine Black Friday thing. I wasn't about to leave the shack on Friday but since it was a three day sale, I went about 10:00 AM Sunday morning and no real crowds to fight.

On those couple of chilly days when I was out in the shop working on the milling machine, I fired up the old kerosene heater. It took the chill off things but the heater wouldn't shut off when I was done. It's got a lever on it that you depress and the burner unit drops down and snuffs out the flame. Except now it won't. I had a hell of a time trying to get the fire out - one of the reasons I bought the new heater. So now I have a new heater and two old heaters, both of which need repair. I should probably just toss the propane one but I'd like to have the kerosene one as an emergency unit for the shack or to use in the barn or garage as a hand warmer since it requires no electricity.

In between all of this I've been typing up the family history. I'm not much of a typist but I'm making pretty good progress. I had most everything typed up a few years back but with the advent of there's been quite a few additions, plus I want to scan in a bunch of photos - like the one of my Pops shown above.

I had my DNA tested earlier this year and it confirmed the family connection of a cousin who popped up out of the woodwork a few years back. It also appears I've got a couple more. I made e-mail contact with one of them this week through Ancestry and he lives less than fifty miles away. The Missus said I should check to see if he's on Facebook, and sure enough, not only is he on there but he looks a lot like the guy in the photo above. Small world. I'm still waiting to hear back from the other one.

So now that I'm finally putting the finishing touches on the book of Shop Teacher Bob, it appears as if I'll have to add a couple more branches to the family tree. I was going to print out a hard copy for my brothers and the cousins that are interested but I think now I'll just print out a copy for myself and put everything on a flashdrive and give those to people who are interested. That way they can print it out if they want and update their branch of the tree as it grows.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Three More Weeks

I posted this one not too long ago but with only three weeks remaining of my teaching career, seems justifiable. I just need to make it to the middle of December. When I left the high school I never really retired. I had the heart attack and just didn't go back. This time around I have the luxury of savoring the moment, and I have to admit, I'm liking it. Just six more days and that's it. Just need to stay healthy so I can enjoy a few years of retirement.

And going along with that:

I did a 5K yesterday. There were seven of us from the boxing gym that entered the race. Three of us came home with medals. I got first place male walker and two of the other guys got first place in their age groups. I figured out the average age of our group and it came out to 41! Just not enough of those young guys willing to get out and do their roadwork. Those of us that competed had a good time, though. This was the first time for this event and it was nicely run - interesting medals as well as good weather for a race. Sunny and not too chilly. I also ran into a guy I used to teach with. Fine man and an excellent teacher. Good to know there are still guys like him in the classroom.

I finished up my milling jobs I was working on, so I can go back on the lathe restoration project.

The tool post I ordered showed up. I need to make a piece to bolt it down onto the compound and see about getting tooled up. Next up is making a chuck wrench and a piece that threads onto the compound screw. Then I'll have to decide what I'm going to do about the left handed Acme screw thread piece for the cross slide and the half nuts.

I'll just keep picking away at the easy ones for right now and tackle the tuffies after I retire. Did I mention I've only got six more days of teaching?

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Another Thanksgiving holiday is upon us. In my life, however, most every day is Thanksgiving. My health is good, as is the wife's right now. I've got family and friends that all seem to be doing well. I've got a roof over my head, don't owe anyone any money and a couple of bucks in the bank. What more could a man ask for?

Weather has gotten cold around here. It was spitting snow a couple of days ago - not really cold enough but it was snow just the same. Yesterday it was definitely cold enough for snow. I worked out in the shop finishing up a couple of milling jobs. I still don't have my gas heater repaired so I fired up the old kerosene heater. It was good enough to take the chill off things but I really need to make a decision about the other heater. If I take it somewhere, it'll be pretty close to a break even as to the cost of repair versus a new heater. If I buy another one like it, how long will it last? I've got one other thing to check out before making a decision. I'll see about that tomorrow or the next day. I'll probably spend some time out there tomorrow working on a piece for the basement lathe and a couple other machining jobs.

Hope all of you out there are doing well and remember to just be thankful for what you've got.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fire Pit

Surly was looking to come up with a fire pit/grill for his back yard. He came up with a big truck rim and brought it down to the house. I was able to scrounge up the rest of the material - I posted a photo of the bottom recently - and was able to get it finished in time for Thanksgiving. Not that a fire pit is normally critical for Thanksgiving dinner but he said he would like to have it done by then and I was able to accomplish that. I forgot to take my camera along to work with me but Surly took a shot of it in the dark after he got home. The pipe coupling is so he can add a grill later on that will swing out of the way and adjust up and down.

As uncle Pete used to say: "It ain't much for looks but it's hell for strong."

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lathe Progress

Makin' a little headway around here of late. In the photo above is the new drill chuck and arbor. I bought it off EBay for a song. Maybe not the same quality as a Jacobs but I'm sure it'll do fine for what I'm planning on working on and as often as that'll happen. The pieces for the compound and cross slide both had some pieces missing to hold the gibs in place.

The lock nuts for the setscrews are smaller than standard machine screw nuts. The one on the compound is for an 8-32 screw but the nut size is as if it were a #4 screw. I had one in house so I drilled and tapped it for the larger size screw to match what was on there. Likewise the cross slide - 8-32 nuts drilled and tapped for 10-32 screws. I was missing one of the setscrews but I had one of those as well. The new one has a hex head instead of a screwdriver slot and the other end needs to be machined down a bit still, but it's coming along.

The micrometer in the photo is one that I've had for years and years. It's a mechanical digital, if there is such a thing. It reads to the thousandth with the numbers coming up visible in the three little windows. It also has a Vernier scale to read out to the ten-thousandths. It was packed in its foam lined little plastic box and when I opened it up I found that most of the foam had disintegrated, some of which had stuck to the mic like glue. I got it cleaned up and by coincidence, the Missus was tossing a glasses case that is just the right size for the mic to fit in. I learned that trick from an old millwright. Put the mic in the glasses case and it'll fit nice and handy in the top pocket of your bibs. If it happens to fall out, it'll be protected and it'll stay clean.

I ordered a quick change tool holder for the lathe that should be here any day also. It comes with the tool post and a few different tool holders. I probably won't need to buy much else for tooling. Won't matter if I don't get the rest of the lathe repaired but I plan to spend a couple of days out in the shop during Thanksgiving break working on lathe parts as well as a couple of other machining jobs I've got going.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Professional Dabbler

Traveling Pirate left a comment in the last post about how me dabbling in the cowbell business didn't really come as a surprise since I've dabbled in many a thing over the years. After reading the comment, I thought for a few minutes about what all I've worked on over the course of my career, and yes, I've done a lot of dabbling. I've worked on most anything with wheels underneath it - cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, bicycles. Much of it repair work, some of it fabrication. Garbage trucks to race cars. I've worked on ocean going freighters and jon boats and a few things in between. I've built and repaired trailers from small utility trailers to steel hauling semi-trailers and the hitches to haul them with. Made and repaired a few musical instruments. Welded quite a bit of structural steel, including work on overhead cranes, and a few pieces for the mining industry. A little bit of gunsmithing and blacksmithing. And, of course, fixed chairs and desks literally by the hundreds. So yeah, I've dabbled. Pretty much everything except military vehicles and helicopters.

Now I'm back into machinery repair. While finishing up my class in the welding lab the other day, the man in charge of the Machine Tool program popped his head in and wanted me to check out one of his Bridgeport clones. Simple fix - about five minutes was all - but now I'm starting on my little Craftsman lathe and it won't be quite so easy to fix.

After taking off the compound and the cross feed, I looked everything over and decided it was going to take more than a little adjusting. I went on-line and much to my amazement found that Sears actually has parts available for this thing. The down side is that the parts aren't cheap. The screw for the cross feed is available for $188.00 and the nut it threads into is $71.19. The nut doesn't really look like a seventy dollar item, especially since it's only about 1/2"x5/8" x13/16". The screw looks to be a left hand 3/8 -10 Acme thread. I looked at MSC for Acme threaded rod and they carry 3/8" rod but 12 threads per inch. Likewise, no dice on a tap of the required size. I think I can make the cross feed screw easily enough but the nut is going to be a stretch of my ability. It might be worth my while to buy the nut and then I can machine the screw to match the nut.

The lathe is going to need some new half nuts to engage the feed rod for threading. Those are no longer available from Sears, so even if I wanted to buy them at what was probably an un-godly amount, I'm going to have to come up with the fix on my own. The guy who ran the machine shop when I first started teaching used to fix the ones on the South Bend lathes he had in the shop. I'd build up the threaded surface, he would then fasten the two halves together and bore and thread them back to size. I suppose if he could do it, I can do it. The only difference between him and me is the fact that he was a really good machinist and I'm not. If I get in a bind I can always call in Surly for a consultation. In fact, that might be the first place to start.

So now I'll be dabbling in machine repair for a bit. This one's going to be a bit of a challenge but it's the kind of work I like to do - just like when I worked as a millwright except that was on a very much larger scale. I would guess that I'm somewhat of an exception as far as my work experience goes, even for people of my generation. I learned to weld from a guy who could do pert near anything and there were always a bunch of people hanging around his shop that were of a like mind. I was definitely lucky there. I don't know if there are many young people coming along that will be able to do the variety of work that I and others like me can do. I hope so. I know there are a lot of talented young men and women out there. We're going to need them more than ever now that us old farts are starting to hang up the tools.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Completing New & Old Projects

Working on another job for Surly - this one's a little bigger than the cowbell, which is completed, including sandblasting by the way. This one's certainly going to be a lot heavier than the cowbell. We're making a grill out of a large truck wheel. This is the bottom plate I cut out of a piece of scrap metal. He wants a grill of some sort across the top for a cooking surface that will swing out of the way and maybe a hook of some sort to hang a pot of beans or a coffee pot from. I've got a couple of ideas as does he. We're both going to sketch something up and see what we can come up with utilizing as much of the scrap material I've got as we can.

Grandma Hazel?
I've been doing a little research on my family history lately. I've worked on it off and on for years. I recently joined Ancestry to help with the research and to get my DNA tested. I was a little surprised by the Scandinavian blood line showing up and I haven't found any Vikings in the genealogy research but I don't think there's any downside to it. Not like I could change it even if I wanted to. I think I'm about at the point where I'm going to call it quits on any further research, however. I want to get everything organized, scan in some old photos and then get everything I've got printed up and copies distributed to the family members.

I ordered some cheap Chinese tooling for the new metal lathe. I'll be starting on the refurbishing real soon. Looking forward to having some machining capability in the basement shop for the long cold winter. I'm thinking we're about due for a tough winter. I just hope it holds off until after the middle of December when I no longer have to drive to work. I'm under ten on the number of days left to work now. Looking forward to being done.

Monday, November 13, 2017

More Cowbell!

One of my old cowbells come back to haunt me. Years ago when I worked at the career center, a musician came in wanting to know if I could make him a cowbell. Sure, why not? He was involved in overdubbing television commercials from English to Spanish and whoever was in charge wanted Latin rhythms to go along with the Spanish voice track. Anyway, this guy was looking for a specific sound and he gave me some dimensions and I made him a cowbell. And then I made him about ten more, including one out of brass. Since I was in the cowbell business and my son was a drummer, I made him one also. And a couple of the students wanted one as well. And when I changed jobs a couple of the students decided they wanted to ride bulls, so I made a couple more to hang from their bull ropes. I did get a chance to hear one of my cowbells on an Old Style beer commercial on one of the Chicago Spanish channels - that was pretty cool. Didn't understand a word they were saying but I knew a cowbell when I heard it.

The one in the photo is the one I made for Surly. It's probably 25 plus years old now. Still sounds good if you tap on it. According to Surly it's a little too loud, actually. Since I'm a welder rather than a musician, I'll stick to the you can never have too much cowbell and if a little bit's good, a whole lot is better still. All I need to do on this one is change the mounting for it. He's thinking sandblasting and a fresh coat of paint as well. No reason not to. Clean it up and bang away for another 25 years.

One of the reasons I went to FABTECH the other day was to pick up my 25 year award from the American Welding Society. If you pay your dues for 35 years you get a lifetime membership and you no longer have to pay dues. I need to maintain my membership at least two more years to keep my CWI active. I'll have to decide then if I want to renew the CWI or my membership. At age 67 if I pay dues for 10 more years I might not get much of a return on the lifetime membership. If I had joined the AWS when I first started welding, however, I would have gotten my 50 year award. There were several people there who received them. Fifty years is a long time to be involved in the industry - any industry as far as that goes. Lots of good, dedicated people in the welding field. It was an honor to be seated with them the other day.

While I was at FABTECH I talked to a welding salesman about a plasma cutter and the conversation went to Jeeps. Seems he used to work for an outfit that makes radiators and he said they are supposed to start shipping them to Jeep August of next year. Said they look good, as well.

Put my aunt to rest the other day. She made it to 95. The last years haven't been good but she was a sweet old gal. Rest in peace, "Bets".

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Craftsman Lathe

Picked up an old Craftsman metal lathe yesterday. Haven't looked at it too closely but I managed to get it down the basement without throwing my back out, so that's a good thing. Since the weather has gotten cold - temps in the teens the last couple of nights - it's about time for me to start working on a couple of my projects down in the basement shop. The little lathe should come in handy for not only the projects I started last year but also for a couple of steam engine projects I want to make.

I started on a live steam locomotive years ago but put it on hold when I changed jobs. I was working on plans from Live Steam magazine for an A-3 Pennsylvania switcher. I've got a box of parts, the plans and now with the addition of the lathe, most of the tools necessary to build it down in the basement shop. Since I've about given up on television, other than reading my paper every day, not much going on in the evenings. Might as well use the time to make something.

The lathe didn't come with any tooling, so I need a chuck key, tool post, drill chuck, etc. I'll start getting it set up next week starting with a good cleaning and adjusting, leveling it up and getting a light over the top of it. Take inventory of what I might need and if I don't have something, maybe put it on the Christmas list.

I'm really starting to fit the profile of the old retired guy who tinkers around with things down the basement/garage/shop. In my case, however, it's pretty much what I've been doing since I was a kid. Not a bad thing at all. And I'm looking forward to making a lot more things in the future - might even get a few of them finished.

Friday, November 10, 2017


Went to FABTECH on Wednesday. The show was great but driving up to the city wasn't all that pleasant. Big accident on I-94 so traffic was backed up on I-65 before I even got on I-94. I worked my way around that and then hit a couple more spots where things slowed down due to construction, including right where you get off the Stephenson to pull into the parking lot at McCormick place. Fortunately, it was a nice day and I was in no hurry but I think maybe I've lived out in the country a bit too long.

However, I did get a chance to see the Paley and James sculptures. They would have looked better in the photos if they were in front of a plain background of some sort but I was lucky to get photos that didn't have people in front of them. There's obviously a lot of work in these things but they aren't really my cup of tea. I don't think I'd commission anything like these even if I could afford one but that's how it is in the old art game. Glad I had a chance to see them, however.

The show is huge. I saw a good part of it but didn't really spend a lot of time talking to too many of the vendors. However, I did talk to a representative from the Ironworkers and the Sheet Metal trade. Pretty interesting conversations but, unfortunately, a lot of it was the same old thing of showing up to work, being on time, keep your phone in your pocket and all that. The rep from the sheet metal trades went into it a little deeper and noted that a lot of young people think these construction jobs are no big deal - like you can find them anywhere so don't put the effort in that they should to keep a job that will pay good money, have a pension and health benefits, and pay for your education. No student loans here. You start out making a decent wage and get a raise every six months during the apprenticeship program. If you like the work, you can't really ask for more from a job.

He also mentioned that the sheet metal trades merged with another union about six years ago so now they are sheet metal, air, rail and transportation. Had no idea about that. Also, I had no idea Hyundai was as big as they are in the production of electrodes. In fact I had no idea at all they were in that business. The salesman said they were the world's largest supplier of electrodes - even bigger than Lincoln. How 'bout that?

The thing I was most impressed with of everything I saw was the tactical welder. It's a battery powered MIG welder that's small enough to fit in a back pack. It weighs only 27 pounds, a little more if you run solid wire due to the weight of the bottle of shielding gas. It uses a spool gun, which means you could switch from carbon steel to aluminum easily. Pretty clever.

I came home with a bag of brochures, catalogs and stuff to wade through. When I get a chance to look through it, I'll post a wrap-up.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Royal Enfield

Royal Enfield is coming out with a 650cc twin. It was unveiled yesterday at the big bike show in Milan. It appears there will be two models, the Interceptor and the Continental GT. Enfield also must be about ready to put the Himalayan on sale here in the US. They have some updated info on their website including a video about how the bike came about and the testing it underwent.

When I talked to the owner of the shop in Indy earlier this year, he seemed to think it wouldn't be too much longer before it would be ready for sale with all the proper EPA approval and all that. He also said he had several used Moto Guzzis. Maybe a deal where I swap off my Suzuki and a wad of cash and get a Guzzi and an Enfield to bring home. Maybe I should run down there one of these days soon. Check on the bike situation and go to Trader Joe's to replenish my stock of peanut butter.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Bit of Motorbike Progress

Not much exciting around here lately. I've just been working off the list. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to get any shorter, though. I have gotten a lot of homeowner type stuff done. There's still lot's more to do but now if I see even the littlest thing that needs some attention, I jot it down in the little notebook and try to get to it in a reasonable time frame. It does seem to be paying off. So that's a good thing.

I did make it out to the shop and hit a little lick on the motorbike project. The top photo has the pieces for the pedal chain tensioner plus a piece of threaded rod to fix my cheap paper towel dispenser in the wood shop - that's the kind of thing I've been doing. Instead of struggling with things or thinking I'll get to that one of these days, I've been trying to just knock them out as I come across them.

The bottom photo shows the tensioner clamped in place. I'm finding the little magnetic clamps to be pretty handy, especially if I'm TIG welding parts. With the MIG or stick I can hold a piece with one hand and tack it with the other. Not so with the TIG. One hand for the torch, one hand for the filler rod, means no hands left for holding. Next up will be tacking a few of the parts in place and then I need to install a small tube through the top frame tube for the throttle cable to pass through and a chain guard for the pedal chain. Shouldn't be much in the way of fabricating after that.

After I get that done I need to decide if I should try to get it running and make sure everything works as designed or just trust that it will and tear it apart and get it painted. The paint job will just be rattle can Regal Red from the hardware store. Nothing fancy, so if I need to fix something after it's assembled, I should be able to touch up the paint without making it look too trashy.

Have a good week. Write if you find work.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mr. Versatility

Made a zipper pull for a leather jacket I bought years ago. Maybe the fact that I had gained some weight could have had something to do with the zipper pull breaking. I was going through the closet the other day and pulled it out thinking that either it fits, since I've lost some weight, or I'll toss it on the pile going to Goodwill. Tried it on and it fit like it was supposed to. That being the case, I made a pull for the zipper out of a piece of stainless sheet I had laying around. Back in business - still need to lose at least another five pounds, however.

And this might help - finished the brackets for the speed bag platform. They seem to help dampen the vibrations and give the bag better rebound. These bags aren't real fast, anyway. I bought three of them when I bought them, one for home and two for the gym. They do seem to quicken up a bit after a bit of a break in period. The one I use at the gym is a Ringside bag and I really like it. Anyway, I've got a bag at the house I can use whenever I feel like it along with a  double end bag set up out there. I bought a rubber exercise band that I use in the house. I might put a hook in the wall so I can use it along with the bags. I'm not much on weight lifting, but the exercise band helps prevent sarcopenia.

So there's a couple of things done. Got some trees taken down last weekend and I've still got a bit of cleanup from that. I need to mow the yard at least one more time this season. I'll tackle the gutters today and a couple of other things, then get back on the motorbike project. Not much left on that one.

Progress - it's a beautiful thing.