Friday, June 5, 2020

Cool Water

I went to the hardware store to see about the gasket for my pitcher pump and they had one but it was larger than the old one I brought in to match up. Since the gasket is made from leather, I figured I'd just make my own.

I had a sheet of leather, so I traced around the old one and cut it out after making some adjustment for the distorted shape. I punched a hole for the center bolt and punched holes where the check valve hinges. When I went to install it, it looked like maybe I should have made the OD bigger. In fact the hardware store gasket might have worked. I'm going to make up another larger one for a spare before I put all the tools away. I should be set then for as long as I'm going to be living here. Never occurred to me to have a spare until this one failed. I suppose if you were going to be homesteading or living "inside the wire" you'd put a little more effort and planning into what you'd need for spares and tools than what I've done. Since I've got all kinds of tools and a hardware store is only about 5 minutes away, most of my disaster planning has been food, water and shelter. However, if it's not prudent to leave the house or transportation isn't running, things could get very bad in a very short period of time.

While continuing the clean-up campaign in the big barn, I broke down a couple of bike tires. The three small spoons/levers in the photo are store bought. They're handy enough to pack along if you were touring but they don't offer enough leverage to make it easy to get that initial bit of tire over the edge of the rim. The two longer ones are a couple I made up from 1/2" cold rolled that I hammered out on one end. Not real handy to pack along on the bike but they sure make the job easier. The length was determined by the tool box I used to carry along for my race bike. The other little gizmo in the photo is a tire tool that is used to bleed the air out, remove the valve core and hold the valve stem in place when changing a tire. Everyone should have one of these in their kit. The county usually has a recycling day when you can take in old tires but that didn't happen this year. Maybe I'll set the old tires out behind the shop and start a mosquito farm until I can recycle them. Making progress on the clean-up at least.

I had to replant a couple of the mounds for the cukes and cantaloupes. My seed was stuff left over from a couple of years ago. I didn't want to leave the shack to get new seed, also, all I really needed was about four seeds of each. It's still early enough I should be able to harvest a couple of things from these as long as they germinate. If not, a couple of the cantaloupes did come up so I should get some melons one way or the other. The tomatoes and peppers are looking good and I'll be getting some strawberries soon. Gooseberries are looking good, so there should be a pie in my future.

I did read something the other day concerning gardening that I found interesting. Even though you may have a large garden with a variety of vegetables, the caloric content in these is probably not going to be enough to support you. As a half-assed vegan, I can tell you man does not live by garden vegetables alone. If you add in some some cheese, pasta, rice, or potatoes, you can make it through the day alright but long term living off veggies is not going to sustain you very well. However, fresh garden veggies and fruit are a great way to balance out your diet and supplement your food stores.

This pandemic has been pretty interesting from a scholarly point of view. The Missus and I have been doing quite well, fortunately. However, just about every day I come across something I had never considered as far as disaster preparations are concerned. Hopefully we'll never have to go through something like this again but it has given me the opportunity to see a few weak spots in my quest for self-sufficiency. The cost of freedom is eternal vigilance, after all.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Sore Tooth

The sore tooth I mentioned the other day decided to really blow up Sunday afternoon. I went to the dentist yesterday and the offender is the last remaining wisdom tooth. He prescribed some anti-biotics that hopefully will quiet things down. If not - out it comes. It states on the package that the anti-biotic may cause diarrhea. Not just while taking it but weeks or months down the road. So now I have to deal with a pandemic, civil unrest with protest marches and riots and whether or not I'll be able to make it from my shop to the bathroom in the house. Shitting my pants may not be a big concern in the big picture with all that's going on, but it damn sure is a big thing on a personal level.

I read an editorial in the Fabricator magazine the other day concerning individual health during this time of pandemic. Since the cooties only seems to effect people if they are old, fat and sickly, the editorial stresses the importance of not being fat and sickly - not much any of us can do about growing old. The editorial offered an interesting take on why we should all take charge of our personal health from a source usually associated with the business end or specific techniques of manufacturing.

Now in an attempt to tie the two paragraphs together, a couple of observations from the quarantine. I was probably as well prepared or better prepared for the pandemic as the average guy. Not knowing what exactly I was preparing for makes it a bit difficult to be prepared for all contingencies. I don't have any anti-biotics in house, so I had to leave the house to go to the dentist. However, the dentist just recently opened back up. I don't know what if anything I can do about that.

Sunday I went to put the pitcher pump back on the stand pipe and found out the gasket between the top and bottom pieces of the pump was leaking. Since I got the generator and a new well, I should have water all the time, but if the electric pump were to quit, what then? I'm heading to the hardware store today to see if they have a replacement part. If so, I'll get two.

I usually keep a few bucks cash around the shack but my real stash is in the lock box at the bank. I don't know if I can get access to that or not. Most all of the banks have closed their lobbies and all banking is done through the drive-up windows. I'd rather not keep a lot of cash on hand but I would like to make sure I can access it during a time of emergency. Need to think about that. Ammo can buried out back with a pirate map I can give to Surly. All of you might want to consider spending more cash and less debit or credit card. The government now can follow you around by tracking your phone, vehicle and purchase records. Probably the only reason they haven't outlawed cash already is they don't allow you to buy weed with a debit card and they don't want to lose that source of revenue. Thanks dopers.

Looks like I need to make a list of spare parts and stock up on essential items - redundancy. Two is one, one is none and all that. Probably be a good idea to get one of the old bikes running that doesn't have any electronics to worry about in case of an EMP event. I also need to do a better job of rotating my back up food supply to keep it fresh. Maybe start a calendar with a list of things to do annually, semi-annually, monthly, etc. Now that there's people taking it to the streets, which is liable to get worse before the summer is over, take some action in that direction as well. I keep a bag packed in my truck all the time but the Missus needs to put something similar together.

The tooth is feeling a little better now after taking a couple of Tylenol, so I'll get busy. Just need to remember - never trust a fart! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Welding Cart

Surly built himself a new workbench and like most homeowners, ran out of room in the garage. Doesn't take long when you've got several motorcycles, bicycles, tools, etc. He knew I was looking to get a cart for my new welding machine, so he donated this to the cause. I picked it up Friday and turned it into a welding cart on Saturday.

Didn't take much work to get the job done. I drilled out the rivets that held the lid on, removed the front lock and cut out the side where the torch and ground cable exit the machine. I flipped the handle and moved it up to the top holes after I touched up the paint where I made the cuts. Once the college gets up and running again, I'll pick up another MIG reel and mount that on the side where the cables are so I can wrap up the TIG torch properly.

I've got a drawer in my other roll-away box that has a bunch of welding stuff and I've got some more sprinkled around the shop in a couple of other locations. I'll be able to organize things a bit better with a few extra drawers now. The photo above is one of the small drawers with the TIG accessories that came with the machine and a couple of adaptors I bought to use another set of cables I have. The ground and electrode cables that came with the machine are only ten feet long. I can use those when I'm working on the bench and then throw the longer set on if I need to do something outside or under a vehicle. Easy to change - no tools required.

As soon as I get the collets, collet bodies, gas cups, etc. organized, I'll power the machine up and get familiar with all the controls and see how it works on aluminum. Once the cootie scare recedes, I'll have the guy who wants my old one come by the house and I'll give him a lesson or two on running the old Miller. I'm assuming he still wants it. I'd like to get rid of it because, like Surly, I too am short on floor space.

Friday, May 29, 2020


I made a rack for my grinding wheels. One stick each for grinding wheels, cut-off wheels and flap wheels. Made from a scrap piece of angle and some 1/2" conduit.

I brazed the conduit onto the angle. Conduit, because of the galvanized coating, brazes real well. Also, if you were to MIG weld it, best practice is to grind the galvanize off prior to welding. Because the conduit is thin, it's also the kind of stuff that ends up looking like something Paddy shot at and missed, shit at and hit when people use the hobby welders with the flux cored wire.

Brazing is a skill that's not taught or practiced much anymore. However, for this job it's a real good choice. Because the conduit is thinner than the angle, concentrate the torch heat on the angle, when it turns red add the filler and away you go. Grind the mill scale off before brazing and remember the brass flows towards the heat. I use plain filler rods rather than the flux coated ones. On a job like this, because the angle was clean and I was welding to galvanized, very little flux was required. With the powered flux in the can you can add as much or little as required. Just heat up the end of the filler rod and dip it in the flux. By using the minimum flux required, clean up is held to a minimum and as long as you keep the lid on the can when not in use it will last just damn near forever. I don't know how old the can in the photo is but AIRCO hasn't been around for a long time.

If you're going to be a decent all around fabricator, you need to learn some torch skills. The plasma has replaced a lot of the oxy-fuel cutting, and the MIG and TIG have replaced a lot of the torch welding and brazing. That doesn't mean that it's not a viable process. I've mentioned this previously a couple of times here but it bears repeating. If you're going to set up a shop, get yourself a set of tanks with a combination torch and learn to braze and fusion weld. One very handy skill.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Photo Frame

I've been working on another picture frame. This one's from recycled material like the last one was. The outside part is from an old cast iron floor register. It had a bunch of paint on it and it was cracked through in one spot. I sandblasted the paint off and put a bit of weld on the back side. The crack was almost invisible but it allowed the frame to twist - no twist now. The inner frame is made from a piece of decking used on low-boy trailers one of my students at the college gave me. I'm not sure exactly what type of wood it is. It looks like mahogany but is harder. I had to bevel the outer edges at a 20 degree angle to match the angle of the inner edges of the cast iron frame and route a relief around the underside for the glass and the photo and then cut the miters. I think it came out pretty nice. I've got a couple of negatives of the Missus from way back I'm going to make prints from. I'll decide which one I'll use after I get them printed up. I was planning on doing that last evening but I had a tooth ache that was taking all the fun out of doing anything.

Nothing else much of interest going on around here presently. Cutting grass, some garden stuff and household chores. I'll be getting back on one project or another today, however. Not sure what yet, but I'll get moving shortly.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day

2020 will be one for the books. Seems like half the world is shut down. Unemployment figures here in America are at record levels. Businesses are failing - Hertz has filed for bankruptcy after being in business for 100 years. Soldiers and sailors are still dying and for what, I don't know.

This will be the first year in a long time that Cuzzin Ricky and I won't make the Dead Relative Tour. The Missus usually handles getting the flowers but her normal sources were dried up this year. I don't know how strict a quarantine Rick has been observing but you can't stay six feet apart in the cab of a pickup. The Missus told me they didn't put the flags out in the cemetery this year either. I'll take a solo trip in a week or two. Even if I can't come up with any flowers, I'll at least stop and pay my respects. When things quite down a bit Rick and I can make the trip.

They say the hot weather should kill the virus. It got up to 93 around here yesterday so hopefully that will accelerate the process. I just hope what with all that's been going on we still are able to remember and appreciate all those who gave their all for us.


From Here

I came across this after posting the above - actually sums up what I've been thinking rather nicely.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Rapido Update

I finished putting the Rapido back together last week. I need to put the new foot peg rubbers on, clean out the gas tank and then see about getting it running. It ran when I parked it but that was a long time ago. As long as the crank seals are good, it should run. I've already cleaned the carb and it actually didn't look too bad. That's one of the nice things about two-stroke fuel mix - it doesn't turn to varnish over night like the stuff they pass off as gasoline these days.

And in the same vein, I got the motorbike I finished last year out and running again. I should have done a walk-around like the airplane pilots do before take off, however. There were a couple of loose fasteners and the chain needed adjusting. Not all that surprising, really. When we got it running the grandson rode it quite a bit that day and then nothing until the other day. It's all good now, though, so I can use it to fetch the mail or whatever.

I was thinking about the Rebel build and while it has a passenger seat/pad I think it might be cool to get rid of the stock one and put an old school pillion pad on it. I did a quick search and found a couple online but they don't really have the same look as what I remember them looking like. I might have to brush up on my saddle stitching or find myself a leather worker. One of these days I'll take a good hard look at the bike and see which way I want to go with this thing. In the meantime, I'll keep working off the list wherever that takes me. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Little Rebel

Surly dropped a comment on my post showing my new acquisition. He says, in no uncertain terms, chop it! He said they sell hardtail kits for these little things so I did a quick search and came up with this:

I saw these at a couple of different sites - one of the businesses is actually fairly close to me. A weld it yourself kit is about $200.00, fully welded is $320.00. The kit lowers the rear a couple of inches and stretches it 3-1/2" or so. I don't know that I would need to go rigid. When I look at the bike from the side I can visualize making a few minor changes and having it look pretty nice.

First off, get rid of the big tailight on top of the fender and replace it with something like this one under the fender. They come with a clear lens on the bottom so you can use it for the license plate light.

I've got one of these around here so I'll dig it out and see how it would fit. By getting rid of both the stock taillight and license plate light you'd probably shed a couple of pounds.

You could clean up the front end by shaving the fork legs and using a pair of these handlebars or something similar.

I could make these easily enough. Send them out and get them powder coated or make them out of stainless and polish them.

Something like this one would be be do-able.

Looks nice and clean. Surly told me a buddy of his just ordered one of the hardtail kits. I'll check it out after it's safe to go out and decide if I want to go all out on this thing. Regardless of what I decide, it's going on the back burner for now, though. Lots of other things in line ahead of it.

Friday, May 22, 2020

All Over The Map

Like Always. Not necessarily a bad thing, however. I'm staying busy and getting things done. While I've still got a million half-finished projects, there's nothing that absolutely has to get finished now. I like the freedom of just working on whatever strikes my fancy every day. Like the brake pads in the photo.

They go on my commuter/city bike. Of course there's been no commuting of late, and when I was commuting this past year on a two wheeler, it was on the Himalayan. However, when I was going with the boxers on their run I would ride this rig. The brake pads are hard as a carp, so they don't stop me well and they squeak really loud when you clamp down on them. Hopefully, the new pads do the trick.

When I went back through some old posts looking for the picture of the bike, I came across this quote:

"Go without a coat when it's cold; find out what cold is. Go hungry; keep your existence lean. Wear away the fat, get down to the lean tissue and see what it's all about. The only time you define your character is when you go without. In times of hardship, you find out what you're made of and what you're capable of. If you're never tested, you'll never define your character."
- Henry Rollins

Something to think about during this pandemic. Also something to keep in mind in the future, seeing as how the government's response to the pandemic is to bankrupt the country. When they decided to flatten the curve, I didn't figure they'd use one of these:

Save your money, get debt free, stock up on supplies and don't put your full faith and trust in the US government. They've already run out of our money. Now they're just printing it up out of thin air.

Stay safe, improve your skills, assume responsibility for yourself and your family. And in your spare time, make something.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

They're Not All That Easy

I got a call the other evening from a buddy of mine. Seems his nephew is planning on a track day with his motorcycle this weekend and the rear sub-frame needed to be repaired. My buddy has a new welding machine and he tried fixing it but no luck. He's a pretty talented dude but he's an electrician not a welder so he referred the nephew my way. I had the nephew drop the piece off in the garage and he picked it back up from there without me even seeing him. Plenty of social distancing. I don't know how safe I really need to be with this stuff but since I didn't know anything about this guy, probably the best way to handle it. If it wasn't for the fact I know his uncle well, I probably wouldn't have taken the job at all.

I did go over to the former side gig yesterday morning, complete with mask and hand sanitizer. I got the boss fixed up and came home right away. Pretty tight quarters there. No way I could stay six feet away from people all day if I went back. I am considering going back in the evenings to resume the welding lessons. I'm going to give it another week and make a decision.

However, this is what a Covid-19 chest x-ray looks like. For a good explanation of what your looking at, go here, which is where the photo came from. I damn sure don't want to catch this crap. If the Missus gets it, she'll be done for. So we definitely need to be careful still.

Picked up this little Honda yesterday. Might be a good one for one of the grandsons. The price was right, clean title. Getting some use out of the bike carrier. So that's a good thing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Sometimes It's Just Too Easy

I broke the plastic clamp on a little cheapie lamp a while back. I was working in the room where I had it last when I broke it and in keeping with my new modus operandi of non procrastination, I grabbed it when I left the room and took it out to the shop. I had the yellow handled clamp from a different lamp so all I had to do was file out the hole and bolt the lamp to it. Six months and five minutes later, all fixed.

Belly side view of a Mack Bulldog hood ornament. I picked this up someplace years ago because everyone should have one. The only problem was there was a bolt broke off in one of the mounting holes. And it's been that way for years and years. It too was in the same room as the lamp, so I scooped it up and took it along to the shop when I took the lamp out to get fixed. This one took about ten minutes but it was an easy fix just the same. Ten minutes and who knows how many years. Sometimes I wonder what in the hell is wrong with me. Not enough to change but enough to wonder even after all these years of being this way.

The bolt was a 1/4-28 that was broken off in there and it was below the surface of the leg a bit. There's a couple of ways to fix these things. Drill a hole and use an EZ Out. Rarely does this end well, especially on small bolts or studs. You can drill it out to the proper tap drill size and carefully tap out the remains of the original bolt. This works much better on larger bolts but you have to drill exactly on center of the bolt. This rarely works well either. Mostly because some ham-fisted dude will try drilling it out with a hand drill and the hole is no where near the center. You can drill it out using a left-handed drill bit. This works pretty well unless the reason for the broken bolt is due to someone bottoming out the bolt in the hole. The idea behind the left handed bit is that hopefully the bit will catch in the bolt and spin itself out. If it doesn't and you have the hole on center, you can still drill it with the proper tap drill and go that route. 

The problem with trying to drill out the bolt on the Bulldog is it would not be easy to clamp securely to put in a drill press or mill. My drill press doesn't run backwards so I would use the mill. It's also much easier to center the bolt using the handwheels rather than bumping the vise around on the drill press. If it's a precious part then you could take it to a machine shop with an EDM machine and they could take care of it. Wouldn't be cheap but it would be done and done right.

However, if you know a cracker-jack welder, this method is the way to go. Since the bolt was broken off below the surface a bit, I used the TIG to build up the top of the bolt until it was slightly above the surface of the leg. I then welded on a lever to turn it out of the hole. Rather than just cranking on the lever, however, as soon as I break the arc, I spray the bolt with penetrating oil. I usually use PB Blaster.  Then I tap the top of the bolt with a hammer. The penetrating oil shrinks the bolt slightly and the tapping helps work the oil down around the threads. This really helps if you have a broken bolt in an aluminum casting. Then you tap and wiggle the lever back and forth until you can feel the bolt start to turn. Add a little more oil and keep tapping and wiggling back and forth until it spins easily. Sometimes you have to work at it a bit but rarely will you come across one that doesn't come out. The worst ones are the ones where someone bottomed out the bolt and that's what caused it to shear.

Two jobs done in less than an hour, how 'bout that? Not sure what I'm going to do with the Bulldog but I like running up the score. I need to put on my mask and go to my side hustle this morning. My boss has a problem he can't figure out. Yep - gonna miss me when I'm gone. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Monday Recap

Yesterday was one of those days when you don't feel like you got anything accomplished but you were busy all day just the same. The dog had an eight o'clock appointment with the groomer, so I was on the road about 7:30. When I came home I finished hanging the new picture frame after rearranging a couple of things on the walls of the woodshop. Made myself some waffles, did some laundry, emptied the dishwasher, read the newspaper, picked up the dog, did a couple of more household chores, looked through some of my old negatives to find a couple of things I want to make enlargements of, cooked up some supper, measured a piece I want to make for one of the Sprints, and wasted a bit of time on the computer. The only thing I've got to show for the day is a picture hanging on the wall and a sketch of a part that's only about 2"x4".


The picture looks good hanging in the "gallery" though. All the brown tones seem to work well together. Next time in the darkroom I want to print up a couple things to hand color as well as a couple of "pure" black and whites. I've got a couple hanging now that are black and white with very little gray tones that are framed and matted in black. The frames are dollar store items but they look nice. Rather than making something I'll see about buying a couple more for the black and white prints. I'm not sure what I'll do with the ones I hand color. Time will tell.

I found this on Pinterest during my computer time, so I guess my time wasn't completely a waste. 23-1/2" seems to be the magic number for Chrysler automatic transmissions for crossmember location. That'll help me get a better idea of where things should be on the jitney project.

I'm building off a plan that's real close to what's shown here. This one is obviously powered by a four cylinder, rather than a six but I should be able to move the engine forward a bit and fit the tranny in without taking all the foot space in the cab. I'll get my tape measure and soapstone and do a bit of cipherin'.

I've got a couple little things to fix today and I need to bolt the motorcycle carrier back onto the truck. Looks like I'm going to be the new owner of a Honda Rebel. It's a curse.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Slant Six Book

I received my book on Slant Six engines the other day and I'm now able to know definitively what my engine is. According to the casting number and the number stamped on the block what I've got is a high deck 225 cast-iron block with a forged crank. Deck height is 10.70 inches with a 4.125 inch stroke. Blocks cast from 1960 to 1967 had three freeze plugs. Blocks cast from 1968 to 1976 had five freeze plugs. The book also states that all the 225 engines made during those years for passenger car use were painted red. I've got my block painted silver as some of the earlier ones were with orange on the rest of the parts. Orange was used from 1967 up for 225s with a 2 bbl carb for the South African market.

Lots of good historical info like that in the book. I haven't looked too deep into the rebuilding section but I did notice there was a section on installing a TorqStorm supercharger at the back of the book.

That would be totally bitchin' as the saying goes. The kit lists for $2,800 and requires a carb. Not the kind of thing I'm looking for but there were a lot of supercharged champ cars back in the old days. In fact, the designers, foundrymen and machinists really had it going on back then. Lots of innovation and experimentation with some superb craftsmanship. Not the ''billet" stuff you see now days but lots of castings. 

Now that I've got the book I'll get it read so I can feel comfortable putting this beast together. I need to set the engine down between the frame rails and get my mounts figured out before I do that but this will keep me involved on this project.

Lots of rain around here the last few days. I managed to get both the front and back mowed so I'm good there until it dries out. After today it looks like some pleasant weather coming in. It needs to dry out some or my farmer will have to replant my fields - there's been some standing water out there. I've been continuing with the spring cleaning, both inside and out. I've made a small dent in things but I've still got a long way to go. I've been taking notes while working and jotting down things large and small that need to be addressed. Some of the little things will be evening projects - run out to the shop for an hour or so after supper, rather than plopping my ass down in the recliner.

I really don't know what the straight skinny is on the virus but I've already written off any activity this year that will involve traveling or any type of a crowd, large or small. That being the case, I need to spend my time in isolation being productive. Since for all practical purposes I'm now into full time retirement, I can't let myself put too many things off thinking I can get to them tomorrow. I definitely need to discipline myself to get something done every day. That recliner must have some strong magnetic attraction to the lead in my ass or is singing the song of the siren like in the Odyssey and I end up shipwrecked there every evening. Definitely not good.

The virus numbers are still climbing state wide, which seems to be the story most everywhere. Stay safe, wash your hands, keep your travel to a minimum. All of us old folks will appreciate it.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

More Rainy Day Time Wasting

Saw both of these on Facebook. I've always had a hankerin' to have a nice looking bobber. Something along the lines of the above would do just nice. I suppose I could've built the Sportster into one. Maybe I'll get around to it some day. I will get a farm truck one of these days. It's not like I need one but a lot of things are more about want than need. Or as my old pal Joey used to say - pride of ownership. After I croak Surly can use it to haul all my junk away. Probably take more than one trip but that old Ford would be ideal for me.

I made the picture frame from a piece of lumber that came with the barn when I bought the property. It looked pretty rough when I drug it out of the corner - don't know how long it had been there - at least 25 years. Its fairly heavy, I thought it might have been oak originally but once I got it out in the daylight and cleaned up a bit, I'm thinking it's yellow pine. I put a coat of all-in-one stain and varnish on it and it looks pretty nice. It has some nail and worm holes which will fit right in with the rest of the stuff hanging on the walls in the wood shop. I'm planning on making some prints one of these evenings soon - see if I come up with something suitable for hanging in my "gallery". I dug out my photo oils the other day. Maybe print up something worthy of hand coloring.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Pandemic In Reflection

"Varnish" car came by the house the other day - saw it heading east so I had time to get the camera for the return trip. The tracks dead end a few miles down the road at the power plant so it didn't take long to make the trip. There was another car in between the engine and the car in the photo, it too was painted up nicely in Norfolk & Southern livery. If I was running the railroad, I'd paint the engine to match or at least make sure it had a fresh coat of black. Other than the occasional local that runs through, most of the traffic is a coal drag powered by UP engines. The power plant is scheduled to be shut down in a few years, so that'll be it for the former Three I and later the New York Central. Shame to see tracks abandoned. No better way to move heavy freight economically.

Meanwhile back to Covid-19:

The Missus and I are still chuggin' along. I did a bit of reflective thinking yesterday since it was raining and I couldn't work outside, nor did I wish to get trapped out in the shop. My emergency preps were based on being self sufficient for two months and that's about how long the Missus and I have been in self-quarantine. If we would have had to survive on the food we have set aside, things would be getting pretty dicey about now. Since the grocery store is still open, I've been making a trip once a week to resupply and get perishable items and snacks - way too many snacks. If the grid had gone down or something else happened that would have prevented me from going to the store we'd be short on fruit and vegetables. If we don't eat fresh we normally eat frozen veggies, rather than canned. However, might not be a bad idea to stock up on a few of those for the future.

We've still got enough dog and cat food for another month. I did buy another 50 lbs. of chicken feed. My little chickens seem to eat quite a bit. I still had a 50 lb bag left but I've now got a better idea as to how much I should keep on hand. I normally keep a couple of gas cans on hand for the mower and the tractor. If things were real bad, mowing wouldn't be a high priority, certainly, so I'm probably where I need to be on that. I haven't really noticed much else we weren't prepared with. The Missus and her meds could be a problem. I've got a faucet that's dripping and the post light out front is stuck on due to the photo-eye giving up the ghost. I've got some faucet washers on hand but I'll have to wait on the light. It's got a LED bulb in it, so electric consumption is minimal. I always keep an extra thermocouple for the furnace, so that's covered along with the normal spare batteries, candles, etc.

The Missus gave me a haircut so I'm not too shaggy. She's a licensed beautician, not a hack, so I'm good there. She, on the other hand, is not so lucky. I can do a lot of things but cutting hair is not one of them. One of the things I'm going to need to address in the future is needing help doing things around here. I'm getting old, like it or not, and I can't do all the things I once did. I've been very careful lately to make sure I didn't throw my back out and I was extra careful yesterday when using the table saw and router to make sure I didn't do anything that would require a trip to the emergency room. Surly's real good about helping out when I need anything but since we don't want anyone in the house these days, not sure how I'm going to get the window AC unit from the basement to the bedroom. I'm not bothered by the heat too much but the Missus suffers miserably from the heat since her cancer. There's an answer to every problem and we're a lot better off than many, so I'll get some sort of work-around if I don't get some muscle.

All things considered, we're looking good. Add a few more bulk food items, a little more chicken feed, make sure I don't get behind on normal/preventative maintenance, try to stay as healthy as possible and we should be able to stay here for at least another ten years regardless of what the world throws at us. At least that's the plan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The New Normal?

The roof's all done on the back of the house. Three guys on the job, two of which were tradesmen who knew what they were doing and the third guy was just hired muscle for the tear off and for keeping them supplied with shingles and making trips up and down the ladder. All three of them are currently laid off. They all are on unemployment now. No need for them to be standing in line at the soup kitchen, however. With the state unemployment and the money from the feds, they're maybe not making as much as when they were working but they're doing OK.

The problem as I see it now, though, is the number of people who were living on the edge and all of the businesses that were operating on a small margin. I've been reading about the uptick in people starting gardens, doing more cooking and baking and obviously saving more money, much of which is the result of no place to go to spend it. If you're relative debt free, it doesn't take much to live on. If you've got house payments, car payments, student loans and credit card debt and you're laid off for an uncertain length of time, let's hope your up to date on your meditation techniques because it's going to be a very stressful time.

Obviously the lesson to be learned here is to live within your means, try to get yourself debt free and make some preparations for any emergency that might arise in the future. Easier said than done for a lot of people, I know, but it seems that a lot of people are trying to move in that direction now. It's also obvious that while the government is handing out a lot of "free" money so there won't be any need for soup kitchens, someone is going to have to pay for this. That would be the working stiffs of America. When this all calms down a bit and things are back into a routine - I'm pretty sure it'll never be back to normal - hopefully the lessons learned from this will stick and we'll once again see people taking more responsibility for their lives. It's not too late to start that garden, by the way. Maybe plant a couple of fruit trees if you have the room.

We're living through some hard times and it's liable to get worse before it gets better. Now's the time to prepare if you're not already. It's not really like we're all in this together. It's more like what people have been saying for years: The get rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Act accordingly.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Monday Stuff

Might be a project like this one in my future. Surly sent me this - not sure where he came up with it - but he's thinking a bridged swingarm might be what he needs for his big twin HD. He's currently finishing up his engine work. He had to repair some ham-fistedness as is often found on used Harleys. He's also addressing some engine internals that didn't play nice out on the road. I think the issue was like the old days when a guy with a small block Chevy would throw a big cam and four barrel on it and then wonder why it wouldn't accelerate when you stomped on the throttle.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I got some organizing done in the big barn the other day. Hung some stuff up, put the front wheel back on the rail bike, finally, and found my basketball while I was moving things around. I've never been much of a basketball player but there's a school right down the road that has a playground with some backboards. There's never anyone around when I take my bike rides, so I figured it might be a good supplemental exercise to shoot a few baskets once a week or so. I doubt seriously anyone will run me off like some of the horror stories I've seen lately.

The roofers are supposed to show up this morning and start on the back part of the shack. Yours truly, as much as I hate to admit it, is no longer capable of that kind of work. I could nail down shingles but stripping the old roof off would wreak havoc with my chest. It bothered me for two days after cleaning out the chicken coop. Regardless, the roof is going to be fixed and I should be good in that department for as long as I'll be living here. I'm operating on a ten year plan now. If I'm lucky enough to still be kicking in ten years, this place will be too much for me to take care of and I'll either downsize or they can put me in the home.

It looks like the cold weather is over for the season now so I'm going to plant a few things today - peppers and tomato plants, as well as some other veggie seeds. Depending on how I feel I'll work on something else on the list as well. Not much chance of me running out of things to do.

I checked the "cooties" map and the numbers are still increasing in Indiana. My county's numbers are still pretty low but until the numbers start going down, my lock down continues. Fortunately, not really much of a hardship for the Missus and I. I keep reading of how bad things are financially for a lot of businesses and individuals and how it's going to be bad for a long time after the all clear is given. Going to be interesting, that's for sure - and I imagine there's going to be some good deals to be had on motorcycles, bass boats, snow machines, and other big boy toys. If you're going to have to sell stuff to make ends meet, might start with your guns. There seems to be a big demand once again.

Stay safe and keep your chin up. Better days are coming.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Photo Heist

Surly hooked me up on stealing photos from Instagram, so I brought this one in. Beautiful job here. Welder and plasma cutter both on the same cart, tool box below. The Rod Guards on the side are a nice touch as well. I measured up my welder and the hole where I want it to go and the tool cart from Harbor Freight I was looking at would be perfect. I checked out the new catalog and it comes in green, which would match the color of my welder. However, when I typed in the item number from the catalog a set of drill bits came up. When I looked it up doing a search on the website, all I could find was a red one. I want to get a couple of other items so I'll get my list together and give them a call. I'd like to get everything ready to go so when I pull the old machine out, I can just roll the new one in and go to work right away.

Nice day again yesterday, so more yard work. I also had to take the dog to the vet. I took the Missus along - that's two days in a row she's been out. We went through McDonalds drive thru Thursday. That's the first time she's been out of the house in about forty days. I don't need much in the way of human companionship but I do like being outside. I'm not alone judging by the number of people I've seen out riding bikes, jogging, etc. That'll change today I imagine, what with the chance of snow flurries this afternoon along with the low temps forecast for tonight.

Stay safe - it ain't over yet!

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Apple Blossom Time.

I mowed the front yard yesterday and the apple tree was just gorgeous when I was out there. I've got I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time by Chet Atkins in my music collection and started humming it while I was mowing. I thought I'd put that up here to go along with my photo but I came across this version by Allison Young.

I'd never heard of her before but she's got a lovely voice and I like this arrangement. The song's been around a long time and it's been covered by countless artists, most notably by the Andrew Sisters. I like the Mills Brothers version a little bit better, personally, but it's nice to hear young artists covering some of the old standards.

"My" farmer guy was here last evening as the sun was setting getting the field out front ready to plant. Maybe not as pretty a scene as a mountain vista or a beautiful lake, but to a flat-lander like me, this is what a beautiful spring day looks like.

Outback, it's a different story. The farmer was combining again on Monday. As you look out across the field, that's last years crop you're looking at.

Here's a better look of the field taken just on the other side of my fence line. If you look carefully you can actually see some soybeans in the field. This guy has to be the world's worst farmer. He "no-till" farms this field, relying on chemical inputs for weed control and fertilization. I'm not a farmer but I think he'd be better served by planting a cover crop and let the field have a chance to recover. Since it's fenced, maybe plant some good pasture grass and graze a few cattle on a rotating basis. I know my brother could come up with a way to bring this field back to health. I can't see how this operation is any way profitable as it is. If he ever gets the beans out, he'll plant corn and pick a windy day to blast it with Agent Orange, or whatever he uses and then I'll get to deal with the drift again.

The weather is supposed to be decent again today, cool but nice, at least until later in the day. I'm planning on doing some more yard work while the weather holds. Frost warning for Friday night. Hope it doesn't screw up the apple and peach trees. I'd really like to get a decent crop of apples this year so I can make some more cider and maybe a batch of wine again. Maybe experiment with some hard cider or figure out what I would have to do to make Calvados - like I need something else to fool with.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Lousy Weather But Moving Ahead Still

Here's yours truly welding on Surly's fender. Photo by him as well, of course. You'll notice I'm wearing a heavy coat and my flannel lined fitter's cap. It was late enough in the season to have put that away until next fall. In fact, I had already washed it and hung up in the basement hallway. I washed it up again the other day planning on tucking it away again - this time for sure - and now I see where it's going to be chilly all week and a chance of frost on Friday night. Damn! I want to get the garden started and the fruit trees are in blossom now. I can hold off getting the tomato and pepper plants in the ground but not much I can do about the fruit trees.

I do have the ground all ready to go for the garden and I've ordered some plants to doll the place up a bit. The yard needs quite a bit of work. The front isn't too bad but the back is fast getting away from me. I've been avoiding using too many chemicals since we've already had to deal with cancer here but I'm about out of other options. 

I bought a cheap de-thatcher last year to help with the front yard. The top is a tray that will accept a couple of concrete blocks except there's no provision to hold them on. I made a couple of hold-down brackets that should do the trick. There were punched holes in the tray already, so a couple of pieces of 1/8 x 1 flat with nuts welded to the inside was all that was needed. This should make for a little bit healthier lawn.

Surly pointed me to a really cool welding cart on Instagram. It's a tube frame built around a Harbor Freight bottom box. It's large enough for a welder like my new one and a plasma cutter both on top. It's a very well made and thought out job. I can't figure out how to copy the photo or I'd have posted it.

Since I just made a cart for the plasma and I'm pretty happy with it, no point in making a cart big enough for both the welder and the plasma. However, this cart would be just about right as a place to start for my new welder. It's 16" x 30" which will fit in the hole where I want it go with room to spare, I'm guessing. I think if I took the handle off one end and lowered the end plate a little, I'd have easy access to the controls and cable, drawer for tungstens, collets, etc., and I can make something for the bottom tray to keep welding rods and the foot pedal. I'm going to double check a few measurements and think about it a bit. I got a Harbor Freight catalog in the mail but it's still in quarantine. I'll take a look through it later on today and see if I get lucky and there's a coupon. You can usually count on a 20% off coupon on a single item. I don't want to go to the store, though, and it might be a little expensive to ship.

Indiana opened things up a bit starting yesterday. I'm thinking we might see a spike in the virus with more people out and about so I'm going to stay hunkered down as much as possible. I "attended" an advisory committee meeting at the college the other day. They're facing a lot of uncertainty right now as to how to get the students the welding time they need. Most of the courses are sequential, so if they couldn't complete the first one, they can't take the next one. The e-learning didn't go well, which is what I figured would happen. Most of the college students and the dual credit students take the lab courses because they aren't interested in sitting in front of a computer for their education. I've been wondering how the high schools can graduate their students without it just being here's your diploma, wink, wink. Maybe an asterisk on the diploma with the fine print saying something to the effect of don't expect too much from me. I missed the whole last semester.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Just Too Spooky

Surly stopped by late Saturday afternoon to pick up his heat shields and we chatted for a few minutes at a socially responsible distance. I mentioned that the previous day was my older brother's, Surly's uncle, birthday. Also that it was the anniversary of my younger brother Johnny's passing. Surly was pretty tight with Johnny, both being motorcyclists and having the common bond of being tradesmen. Surly headed home, I came in the house and that was that. Until yesterday morning.

I usually watch Noir Alley on TCM Sunday mornings - old black and white movies from the the darker side. At the end of the movie yesterday the host did a wrap on the movie with facts of interest as usual and he concluded by saying viewers should go on the internet and look up a Tom Waits song. I'm a fan of Tom Waits, so I listened to the song and then took a short trip down memory lane thinking back to when Johnny and I went to see Tom Waits. And then I noticed my medic alert necklace was missing.

I had my heart attack about 2-3 weeks before Johnny passed eight years ago. The Missus got me my medical alert necklace at that time. The only time I take it off is to shower, a medical procedure or go through a metal detector like at the airport. I lost the first one at the Dublin airport and the replacement has a heavier chain - no way it will break or come off - so you can imagine my surprise when I noticed it was missing. I checked the bathroom even though I hadn't showered the previous night. I finally found it under the sheet in the bed. In eight years I've never had it come off in my sleep. When I told the Missus about it, the first thing she asked was who have I been thinking about. When I answered Johnny, she replied and what did he do for a living? He was a nurse at the time of his passing. There's your answer, she said. Spooky.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Steady by Jerks

More progress on the Rapido. I ran into a couple of snags but nothing too serious. Went I took the fender and taillight off I cut the wires inside the taillight housing. The other option was to take the wires apart at a junction block up by the coil but that didn't appeal to me. There's a lot of room in the housing for a couple of spade connectors, so I opted for that. When I went to install the taillight I found I had only two pair of them, which is what I needed but when I was installing the light one of the fittings was going together overly tight. When I went to pull it back apart to work on it, the wire pulled out of the fitting. So I need to get a few more to finish the Rapido and restock my inventory.

When mounting the shocks you thread the bolts into brackets on the frame and then put a nut on the backside of the bracket as a locknut. The two top bolts came out hard when I took them apart. Both of them had some issues with the threads where the locking nut had rusted on. I was going to replace them but they are some super fine thread 10mm bolt. I had bolts in coarse and the normal fine thread but nothing in the super fine thread. I do have a metric thread file so I was able to get them cleaned up where they threaded into the frame brackets just fine. I might get the rest of the bike put back together today. Not much left, actually.

Close up photo of the inside of the heat shield for Surly's big twin. The piece missing in the middle is 1/4" wide and about 3/4" long to give you a sense of scale. These are to allow a hose clamp to be threaded through and around the exhaust pipe to hold the shield in place. When he brought them to me, two of the brackets had been operated on by someone previously with a MIG welder. And of course they had turned the voltage down to keep from burning through the pieces but so low that they didn't melt the wire to get any fusion - just a big blob.

I ground them down and cut some new pieces out of some 16 gauge and TIG welded things back together. I have an .040" tungsten set up I used with some .030" MIG wire for filler. The welding was not that difficult but preventing from damaging the chrome on the other side was the real challenge. I did OK on all of them except the one in the photo. Because the only place to weld was right on the original spot weld, there was a direct path to conduct the heat to the outside. I had the piece clamped down onto a wet rag and quenched the weld immediately after breaking the arc but I still got a bit of bluing on the chrome. I shined it up with a bit of polish and steel wool but it still is slightly noticeable. You have to look for it but I know it's there.

There's one of the finished repairs above one of the originals. I fixed five of these and it took me damn near two hours. No two pieces were alike, a couple of them had to have a bend on them and the welding went real slow to prevent any over heating. You'd be hard pressed to find someone capable of fixing these at a price that wasn't going to make you gasp. I wouldn't want to pay $100.00 to have these repaired if they were mine. But as Sailor Jerry said: "Good work ain't cheap, cheap work ain't good."

It's supposed to be warm again today - might take the Himalayan for a spin. I'm caught up on the mowing, so a little garden work, a little shop work and go for a ride. I think I deserve a little bit of Enfield time.

Happy belated birthday to my older brother - missed it by a couple of days. That's what happens when all the days are basically the same, I guess.