Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Warming Up Your Cummins Dodge–Radiator Block-Off

(3rd Gen, but others would be similar)


This isn’t going to be one of my usual over engineered solutions for things mostly because it’s something that I’ll probably really need to use a few weeks a year (yea, I know, that might be more than lots of stuff that I’ve way over thought and over built) and more importantly it’s brutally cold out and I didn’t feel like dealing with it.  That said, lets get on with it…

Around here we have usually have 2 or 3 COLD but short cold snaps each winter that last a day or 2 at a time and that’s it.  The rest of our winters are pretty mild, spending most of that time around freezing or higher.

The last couple of weeks have been different.  It seems like we’ve spent most of that time below 20*F with most nights between 10 and 15*F and sometimes getting significantly colder (yea, some of you in the Midwest and Canada are thinking what, that’s cold???).  Well I’ve found that driving the Cummins around below about 30* it takes it A LONG time to warm up enough to get good heat, and below 15* without a load it seems to drop below the thermostat temp when you start moving and doesn’t get fully warmed up without a heavy load.  Considering the forecast for the next few days is colder than (expletives deleted for those with virgin… well… I’m just being civilized, for once), and getting down into the –5 to –10 range the next couple of nights, I decided to do something about it.

Even though I don’t entirely get it* I decided to take a page from what I remembered the school busses and trucks doing when I was a kid growing up in Buffalo- they used to drive around with zip-up covers for the radiators to cut down on airflow and warm them up faster.

I spent 10 minutes using some google foo and found that it’s a common thing to do or try to do with a Cummins Dodge, but there were a lot of people asking for ideas and pictures and none available, with the exception of commercial products (I wasn’t going to spend money on this, and I needed it now).

I grabbed a flashlight and tape measure and froze for about 5 minutes in the brutal wind trying to figure out what I would do.  I decided there are 2 issues:

  1. Where to put it
  2. What to use
  3. How to attach it

Um, 3 issues…

1- The “where” was mostly a question of all the stuff in the front of one of these things, in order from the front: AC condenser, a BIG intercooler, oil cooler and a big radiator, all with an assortment of brackets, supports and plumbing to get in the way.  My thought process was:

“I just want the engine to warm up faster, in a perfect world I didn’t want to block the intercooler (and possibly hurt power), the AC condenser I didn’t care about and I figured the oil cooler (it may be a transmission cooler, I didn’t crawl under to check where the lines went) sort of fell in the 6/half dozen category- I may want it blocked, I may not.”

I decided that the most convenient and safest place was between the core support and the oil cooler, behind the intercooler.

I measured the radiator core and found that the finned area was 26” across, and I had 17” from the top of the core support to a cross piece (but something thin enough could sneak past that).  I also found that a bracket and plumbing for the oil cooler was partially in the way on the driver’s side, so I couldn’t go all the way over to that side and because of some of the weird shapes in there it had to be about a 1/4” thick or less…

2- The “what.”  I initially considered cardboard, until I realized that any precipitation would turn that into a soggy mess, I had some thin plywood ,which wouldn’t be that much better without some sort of finish on it (I wanted to get this done fast, I’ve spent 2x as much time typing this as it took me to do it).  I also had the thought that any of the outdoor rated plywood that I had around would be heavy enough to beat up the fins on the coolers if I could jamb it in there at all…. I wish I had some waterproof cardboar…. AH HAAA!!!  I remembered that I had a good size chunk of coroplast in the garage (it was the sign they used to label the lot before they built my house on it) in the garage. 

For those of you that don’t know what coroplast is, it basically plastic molded shaped like corrugated cardboard that they use for making various signs.  Lighter than cardboard, waterproof and durable… SOLD! (literally, it had a sold sign across it from when the lot was sold to build the house on it Winking smile )

I pulled the tape measure out and it measured 24x18”… THAT IS ALMOST PERFECT… it will cover the top 1/2-2/3 of the radiator and leave a 1” gap on either side of the fins to make room for the mounting brackets and plumbing.

I ran outside and shoved it in the space.  It fit perfectly, and even felt like the friction fit with the support 17” down was going to hold it, till I pushed it all the way down to the height of the core support and it just slipped down :-/

By the time I fished it back out my hands were cold and numb.  I looked around and noticed some wiring, tubing and a couple of clips across the top of the radiator.  I measured them out with a tape measure.

I ran back inside and marked to spots 3/4” down and 6-1/2” from either side, grabbed a hole punch and punched two holes and grabbed to zip ties (had to find black ones, I couldn’t have 2 obnoxious yellow zip ties front and center in my engine bay):


You can see the holes punched at the bottom of the picture.  Yea, it’s a little beat up… the house was built in ‘99 and I’m pretty sure that this thing was run over by some heavy equipment.

At this point I ran back outside with my flashlight, my carefully calibrated (eyeballed) radiator airflow limiter (coroplast sign) and mounting kit (2 zip ties) and tucked it in it’s space:


Ran the zip ties through the holes and wrapped them around the assembly (wiring/tubing/brackets) on the top of the radiator and trimmed them off with my Kershaw Thermite:


Yea, it’s a little bit hokey, but it really fits perfectly and it will take 10 seconds to remove once it warms up again.

How does it work?  Last night I took the truck to the gym, it was 18* according to the truck’s thermometer, and I road around with an infrared thermometer pointing at one of the heater vents.  At right around 4 miles I was reading 88.1* at the vent (remember, this was after driving to the gym, letting it sit a little bit while I worked out and driving back, so this wasn’t a cold start, but the truck cooled off enough that the gauge wasn’t reading anything when I re-started.

Tonight I went to the gym again, it was 14*, and was at the gym 25 minutes longer (so the truck should have been significantly cooler).  I hadn’t moved the heater controls from the night before.  I checked the vent temps when I started the truck up and got very close to the same temp (33.8* last night, 34.5* tonight), and then drove the truck the same distance (it’s actually to the ramp getting off the “highway”). 

117.9*!  I’d say it works.  Blue (the truck) wasn’t fully warmed up by the time I got back but I did have decent heat.  I’m guessing on a longer trip it would warm up better than twice as fast.   

If I was going to do it again, would I change anything?  Well if I started with a bigger piece of coroplast or was buying one I would make it larger, probably the same width, 24” but I’d increase the depth to 20 or 24” hoping to get it to heat up a little faster.  If I had any signs of overheating (I really doubt it) I’d trim it back down.  Also, the bright white catches lights through the grill at night so I’d probably paint it back so it wasn’t visible from outside at all (I don’t think you’ll see it in the daylight without a flashlight, the inside of the grill has a pretty heavy shadow in it).

So why didn’t I take the time to make something to my normal over thought about, over engineered and over built standards that just slips in and has some lip that locks onto the top of the radiator or core support?  Well, between the cold and the high winds I was freezing, in the time it took for me to slip the panel in and zip tie it down was enough for my hands to turn purple and my finger tips to start going numb, this was about 5 minutes after I got back inside:


* Even though blocking off some of the radiator has been used for years, in theory the thermostat is supposed to prevent any significant coolant circulation through the radiator below its opening temperature, so blocking off the radiator should have very minimal effect on warm up.  My guesses why this works, without spending time testing it is that there is either significant coolant bypassing the thermostat and still flowing through the radiator and/or there is significant engine cooling just from the airflow through the engine bay and blocking the radiator cuts that down.  Maybe some day I’ll have the time with nothing better to do to test it.  Doubtful. Smile with tongue out

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Converting a Miller Spool Mate 100 (3035) To Use Standard Miller/Hobart M-15 Style Tips

Am I the only one who’s projects are mostly driven by “this was supposed to work and doesn’t, so now I have to build something/fix something/find something that does?

I decided it was time to use the Miller Spool Mate 100 spool gun that came with my Millermatic 211 Auto-Set MIG.  The first project I tried it on it did well, I melted a few tips but it wasn’t so bad.  The second one, when I finally got the settings hot enough POOFZAP!  No more tip…  After 30 minutes of taking the gun apart, clearing the birdsnests and some choice foul language… I was ready to go again.


(half an hour of muttering and swearing at the thing, I mean clearing the birdsnest and rollers)

POOFZAP!  WHAT THE… is wrong with this ARGH!!! 

I need more tips.

The LWS (Local Welding Supply, conveniently at the end of the next street over) hands me some standard Miller MIG tips… nope, the spool gun uses little tiny ones.  That no one carries.

{insert your favorite foul language, I’m sure I used it at this point}

I finally found them at Robert’s Oxygen after searching for 2 days.  Man those little buggers are expensive… why the heck didn’t they use the same tip as every other Miller and Hobart MIG gun use (M-15 style)?  Oh well…



POOFZAP! FLLAASSHHHHH!  Even the gun liner melted into the tip!

WHAT IS THIS SOME CRULE JOKE?!?  Let’s consult the all knowing Googles and see what’s up…

I found that I wasn’t the only one (does that make it better or worse?  I don’t know…), and that any heavier job tended to melt tips.  Right, and you can’t really weld light aluminum with a MIG, so HOW DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO USE THE TINY LITTLE TIPS???

I posted to a couple of welding forums and learned that there was a guy named Bob that will convert your spool gun barrel to use the standard M-15 gun tips but no luck finding any more information about “Bob,” just that “you can’t do this with normal tools.”

Yea… fortunately I’m not normal…



turned into this:


So how do I put the bottom one where Miller thought (wrongly) the top one should go?   Now I understood the “normal tools” comment, that barrel that the tip threads into is thin:


No problem (famous last words).  Unthread the barrel (and figure out that every wrench you have is too big to get in there without totally disassembling it), push it out of the insulator and pop out the alignment pin (and drop it and spend the next 15 minutes looking for it).

The M-15 tips look to have a 1/4-28* thread on them… Ok… Throw it in the lathe chuck, grab a #3 (7/32”) drill bit and drill out the end of the barrel (fair warning, this ends up pretty thin), I decided that about 3/4” was deep enough to run the tap in far enough:20141121_201202

ACTUALLY, at first I decided that 1/2” was, then after bottoming the tap out before having enough threads to thread the tip in I had to carefully drill them deeper without messing up the threads… :-/

1/4-28 tap* using a tap guide in the tailstock chuck:20141121_202149

Ah, a thing of beauty:


Reverse steps for reassembly:


(I just noticed the melted original tip sitting next to the trigger in this picture)


Yea, that gun nozzle still has some melted copper (probably a copper aluminum alloy Smile with tongue out ) from melting tips earlier.

How does it work?  I haven’t melted a tip running 4043 since and can lay down some pretty stacks of dimes with it and now, again, I only have to keep one style of tip around. 


What the heck am I going to do with the pack of 10 of small tips that I have left???

I originally did this so I could run 5356 (it wouldn’t work at all with the original tips, I haven’t been able to find documentation to this effect but I looks like it takes quite a bit more heat to get a good bead with), but I haven’t had time to get back to that project yet.  I’ll try to remember to update this when I do.

* interesting note, Lincoln/Tweco tips will thread into Miller guns, but not vice versa.  They appear to be a slightly smaller, courser thread (I’m pretty sure they’re metric but I haven’t taken the time to figure out exactly what), that threads and holds in the 1/4-28 female thread fine.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

MegaSquirt Cold Start Up

Those of you that think you have great drivability, check out this video from early Friday morning. 

My other car was showing 9*F (with 20-30mph gusts), the coolant temp was in the teens (you can see it fairly clearly in the video, it was almost 40*F during the day so I didn't expect the engine temp sensors to be as cold).  If I’m really careful I can get going and run it through the gears without using the gas pedal and stalling, even when this cold, but I wasn't going to try while shooting video.
Cold Start- 87 Trans Am + Megasquirt

  • 87 Trans Am
  • LB9 engine – 305 TPI with _a lot_ of miles on it (it gets <800 miles to a quart of oil) the odometer reads >120K miles and I’m not sure if it’s correct
  • T5 transmission (5 speed manual) which a previous owner put a lightweight Kevlar flywheel/clutch assembly in that did nothing for smooth driving.  With the stock ECM/tune it would try to stall all the time unless you gave it a lot of throttle, even in warm weather, even when warmed up
  • Megasquirt 2/PCB 3 running MSExtra firmware
  • It’s running my 93 octane “race” tune on 87 octane.  I quit loading the 87 octane tune after I got the knock sensing/retard working really well. 
    • It has run 13.6@99.9mph in the quarter at the track recently with this tune.
    • It seems to be averaging 22-24mpg in mixed driving (DC metro doesn’t have true “highway” driving until you get quite a bit out of the area, traffic just sucks).

I keep hearing people that swear by carbs say that they have drivability as good as any EFI car.  I’m pretty comfortable with carbs but I can’t make one run like this and I’ve never seen one run this well.  Maybe just when it’s cold, warm, economy, driveablity or performance, but not all of them.  Typically this lean a mixture will want to surge and buck and won’t make best power (though they’re not incompatible with a carb because they’re in different ranges), and if you richen it to get the driveability you loose MPG.

The funny thing is that this car does less weird stuff driving around than my 2012 SHO, well at least the engine... the rear axle is another story.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sears Does It Right…

A lot of people are acting like Sears is on it’s last legs, like it’s not sustainable… whatever.  I hope not.  At least for hand tools.


They were the first to offer a lifetime warranty (guarantee?) on hand tools, and in the last few years Home Depot (Husky), Lowes (Kobalt), even Harbor Freight (Pittsburg) have followed suit with various results (I’ve seen good and bad, notably Kobalt really took care of me recently), but Sears/Craftsman has always been good for me.


I’m usually not abusive to my tools, at least I rarely use them incorrectly unless there is no other way to get what I need to do done, but I am pretty big and can put forces on them that probably are not reasonable.  When I was a kid my dad would keep a nice pile of ratchets and extensions on display on a windowsill that I broke.  Usually I’d lean into a ratchet too hard, and pop, an extension would twist into 2 pieces (notably, I don’t think it was ever a craftsman extension).  A few times I’ve had a ratchet head explode or just rip the teeth out of it (only once a craftsman, a really old fine tooth ratchet that I found at a garage sale that I loved).


That said, I’ve broken A LOT of tools and although I wouldn’t consider any of the craftsman tools that I broke to be defective, I’ve always GREAT warranty service from them… just walk in and they replace it.  If it doesn’t exist anymore they do their best to give you something comparable or better.  They’ve also agreed to upgrades (sometimes charging the difference, sometimes not).  Never a hassle, never a question (sometimes a little joking around).  I like it.  I don’t want it to go away.

This brings me to the reason that I decided to write this:

Recently I was working on the Trans Am and had a stack of wrenches and some other stuff sitting under the hood.  Byron stopped by to give me a hand and knocked them into the support area in front of the radiator where the stuff ends up sliding down into the bumper.  Usually he’s pretty good about going after them, but this time both he and I forgot to.  Later I was driving to the gym and heard a THUNK, TING TING, Ting ting ting… as my 1/2” box end wrench left the car and bounced down the road.  I went back but couldn’t find it…


Yesterday, (on my birthday, happy birthday too me Winking smile ) I stopped by to see if I could get another.  I was talking with the guy at the counter about it and told him the stupid thing I did and he’s like “well, if you’re replacing an existing wrench I’ll cover that under warranty… I mean you had one, it’s a ‘no questions what happened to it warranty,’ obviously you intended to replace it… so here”



WOW!!!  I don’t know if it’s really your policy or if they guy there was just doing me a favor, but wow… Thank You!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Maryland MVA–You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

Tomorrow is my birthday… Yay for me Winking smile


The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration felt that they should celebrate the occasion by expiring my license and forcing me to come in and renew… Yea, it’s not that unreasonable every few years.  I decide to check their site to see if there is anything special to bring in, what the nearest locations are and check the wait times. 

I basically had 2 reasonable choices:

- Beltsville- ~6 miles/14min drive (as per Google maps)- 13 minute wait time/18 waiting (as per the MD MVA web site)

- Columbia- ~14 miles/17min drive (yea, somehow if you get just barely out of this area driving becomes reasonable, even in what I’m pretty sure is a more densely populated area like Columbia)- 13 minute wait time/14 waiting.


I decide I’ll head to Beltsville… should take about the same and I’ll use a little less gas.  Good plan, right?  I have someone coming tonight to pick up some car parts I sold but I have 3 hours before he’s supposed to be there… NO PROBLEM…


I get there and start wondering- the parking lot is full.


I should have just turned around and went home.


This parking lot was clearly designed as some sort of driving test, or possibly a psychology experiment… the aisles are barely wider than 2 cars wide and laid out in a bunch of boxes making almost a maze, so if you’re stuck with a non-driver coming at you near one of the ends where you have to turn, well it gets interesting.  Even better, the side lot has the end of it’s lanes blocked off for the line for the “road test” (like driving around the parking lot is really a road test, that really explains how some of the driver’s around here got a license), so if you turn down one of them there is no place to get out or turn around (all the spaces were full), so you end up having to back up into the main lane and, well remember the non-drivers… Yea…


I park at the far end of the lot, walk in the “Driver’s Services” door and am greeted by a Cop policing the triage line (to protect and serve the MVA lines… is their motto, or something like that), which is maybe 50 people long… huh, this is longer than the total number of people that were supposed to be waiting…


Oh well, I’ll play with my phone, catch up on email… Oh look, the MD MVA has a “Wait Times” app… I NEED that Winking smile  let me download that and see what it says.  For some reason I found the “also installed” apps funny enough to take a screen shot of them.  Read into it what you want but it does make an interesting commentary on the MVA’s customers:Screenshot_2014-12-29-15-38-03


2.8 stars… looks like they hired a brain trust to write this one.  Huh.


Lets open this thing and see what it says, I’m betting that a few more people showed up in the 15 minutes it took me to get here.  Ok, show me the nearest MVA location to my current location… um… how the heck is this possible.  Red pins- MVA locations, blue pin- my current location.  I AM SITTING IN A FREAKING MVA OFFICE AND THEIR APP SAYS THAT THE CLOSEST LOCATIONS ARE 4 AND 11 MILES AWAY!!!  I’m not making this up, look:



Arg, what do you expect from the MVA… OK, forget nearest.  I can choose by county… OK, Beltsville… OK, well crud- the app crashed…


Fine, I’ll just restart, at least I know how to find the Beltsville location with this thing now… {crash}, {crash again}.  Well CRAP!  THIS THING SUCKS!!!  Really, you retarded mouth breathing monkeys can’t do better than this???


Fine, now I really want to know what they THINK wait time is.  I open their site, arg, mobile site… won’t tell me anything without downloading the app.  GRRRRR.  Fine, they have to have a link to the full site… um… that’s a big NO.  FINE, I’ll play around with the URL and find it… OK, here we go… (this is actually 2 screen shots combined so you can see the whole chart):


Well, I was right… there’s a few more people waiting.  (at this point I was handed my number by a nice gentleman… B122, and no, I wasn’t rude, I put my phone back in my pocket when I was 2nd or 3rd in line).  WAIT… how does that work???  When I checked before I left there were 18 waiting and it said there was a 13minute wait time, now it’s 23 people (~28% more) and now the wait time is 40 min???  13, 40… carry the 3, square root of something add the remainder… How the heck does 28% more people equal 308% the wait time???  They must be using the new math or something….


B122… B122… B122.  What number are they on?  On their big board there’s F’s, G’s… There’s a B… WAAA???  B81???  I refresh their web site… 21 people waiting… HOW THE HECK DOES 122 - 81 = 21???  (Just in case your education ranks up there with the rocket surgeons that are somehow involved in this cluster… 122 – 81 = 41).  OK, even if they only update every 5 minutes, they checked in like 1 or 2 more people since me… not 20!!!


Now I’m getting worried… This place closes in an hour and a half… a 27% increase in people = a 308% increase in wait time, and there appear to be roughly 2 times the people in line than they can count to (10 fingers + 10 toes + um…).



A little over 3 hours later “now serving B122, now serving B122, now serving B122…”  Hold your horses… I’ve had my butt planted on this steel bench for 3 hours and you can’t wait 10 seconds for me to get to the… hey, it’s the nice gentleman that checked me in… 


So almost 2 hours after the MVA’s closing time I walk out with a spanking new license, I no longer have a corrective lenses restriction (had Lasik a few years before I renewed my license last time but I forgot to say something), and 55lbs lighter (I didn’t lie, I actually told them 4# heavier than I weighed at the gym tonight). 

I can tell you that after dealing with the MVA brain trust for > 3 hours I look quite excited (do you see how I did that- sarcasm) in my new driver’s license picture.  I’m stuck with this one for 8 years.  Arg.

Oh, and the guy that was showing up to pick up the car parts… yea, he was there on time, almost an hour before I got home… Luckily I had everything ready for him so he didn’t have to wait for me.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spider Slayer

This was originally posted to a mailing list in 6/17/04.  The original was thought to be lost (a bunch of my friends and I all looked for it in our email archives), but versions of it showed up on some message boards since.  A couple of weeks ago I found some what I thought were long lost email archives and found it.  Here it is in its original form with a few minor edits for readability:

Last night Jill, a friend of mine who is really creeped out by spiders stopped by and by coincidence when she was about to leave there was a spider about 3" across hunting on the top stoop in front of my front door.  I went after it but it ran off.

If any of my neighbors saw what happened later they probably thought I lost it.

After Jill left it was back on the steps, same spot, taunting me, insulting me, laughing at me. 

I'm not sure spider could see me but it was reacting to my shadow being cast by the lights on either side of the front door, running over the side of the concrete landing every time I blocked the light. I kept trying to get the thing but it was FAST. I even had the million candlepower spot light out, you know, the one that everyone keeps by the front door in case you need to flag down a low flying aircraft, to make sure that I could follow it over the side of the steps.

After a few minutes of this my feeble little brain came up with a bright idea "hey, carb cleaner kills most bugs” (they breath through their "skin" and the stuff coats them and suffocates them. Even if you don't get them well enough usually it will kill them later on). Spiders are bugs, well, sort of bugs, well not really, they aren't bugs, but it should work, right?

Well, what is one step better?  Think like a Mark, this is easy, or think like a great big retarded monkey.  Either will get you to the same place.

BURNING carb cleaner... huh, problem… I can't hold the million candle power light if I've got a lighter in one hand and can of liquid death in the second.  I won’t really be able to see the thing as it hides over the side of the steps. But wait, no problem.  If I light the carb cleaner I'll see the pesky beast, right?

Ahh, I love it when a plan comes together.…

Obviously, this kind of reasoning has put me among the great thinkers of our times. I have all my problems solved: this is the pure, glowing, brilliant fireball of genius. I grabbed the BIG can of B12 Chemtool (think super, extra heavy duty carb cleaner, it even has the word “super” on the label, you know that makes it better, if only the big can also had the word magnum on it all would be right with the world).

Well, I got up on the steps, looking down I thought I could see the shadow of a lump that was the spider on the side of the landing, and knowing from previous empirical data based on YEARS of CAREFUL testing that carb cleaner will shoot a 4-5' jet of flame… I took careful aim from a safe (always remember, safety first) distance back where the SPIDER couldn't hurt me, well not easily.

I lit the lighter... steadied my aim… and hit the nozzle…

At that instant I learned, I absolutely understood, exactly what was SUPER HEAVY DUTY about this B12 stuff. Instead of the normal and quite effective 4 foot jet of flames that carb cleaner gives you I got about an 8' long, 3' wide cone of flame which stuck to everything in it's path setting it on fire.

When this moment of sublime enlightenment happened I was standing with the thing at about shoulder level on the top step and the first thing I noticed was the wet ground around the bushes was on fire.
I was so surprised that I didn't even see if I actually got the spider.

Crap.  I need light, is the thing still alive? IT MIGHT BE STILL ALIVE, AND PISSED OFF... SHIT... I instinctively pull the trigger again... wait, dumb idea, that is what got me into this mess.

Too late... instinct and training took over. My fingers, being the efficient killing machines that they are overrode every reasonable thought that I ever had in my little walnut of a brain. FIRE!  That sucker was going to roast.

Burn in hell!!!

At that point it all caught up to me. I can't do this, not in the front yard, this just isn't smart.

(I actually ran this around in my head from a few different angles trying to figure out how to make it smart, in the mean time the flames were getting bigger, I was still spraying burning death all over the front yard)

I finally let go of the trigger... boxwoods... on fire. Front steps... they look like the entrance to hell, there were flames shooing up and framing every landing... wait, my wife’s cute little raccoon boot scraper/mud brush things on the steps, I HAVE TO SAVE THEM! I try put them out with my feet... um, now that's a real problem... that actually made them worse since my shoes are on fire.

After what was probably a minute of doing what probably looked like the funky chicken with flames shooting from my toes I finally got most of the flames extinguished.  The raccoons somehow kept bursting into flames which was impressive considering it was raining and they were soaked. When I finally got them out they were scattered in little bits around the steps.  Upside down.  Dead.

There was smoke everywhere. It looked like the aftermath scene in a war movie where they show the ruins of a town after getting firebombed, nothing but rubble, ashes and smoke.

Crap, the neighbors! I ran inside turned out the lights.  Lets pretend that didn't happen.

Do you think I got the spider?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Harwood 3” Cowl for “The Project”

It turned up yesterday. 

I’m not impressed with Old Dominion shipping.  The driver was pretty cool, I just backed my truck to the back of the tractor trailer and he just slid it in (yea, my Cummins Dodge is BIG, it was only a few inches below the deck of the trailer) but the guys at the dock sucked, didn’t seem to want to do their jobs- they couldn’t seem to figure out how to call and arrange a delivery, after a few days of trying I finally got the dock number from one of the main centers and called the guy that was supposed to call me.  For that matter, it was getting delivered to a business so they should have been able to delver anytime instead of letting it sit on a dock for a few days.


The back corners were banged up (actually poked through the box) and the space behind the passenger side headlight got smacked by something but otherwise it’s in good shape.  Nothing that I can’t fix.  I was surprised, I weighed it and it was 26-27#, where the stock ‘bird hood that I had on the car was 57-58#, and I know that a formula style hood is in the low 70’s.

I decided to test fit it on the project car around 3am last night, actually Christina helped me get it on the hinges around 10 when I ran out to the gym, I finished bolting it on later.  I’m betting the neighbors appreciated the impact driver.  I had about ½” gap in places, more at the front.  It also sat about almost 1” high at the back and more than that in the front: DSC_4208


When I got home tonight I spent a few minutes moving stuff around while grilling some ribs and ended up with it pretty well aligned.  I still need to move the headlights around, and the passenger side has roughly 1/32-1/16” more gap and sits slightly higher than the driver’s, the front bumper is crooked/needs to be fixed (the steel bumper support was partially crushed and twisted when I bought it, I have a nice aluminum one from my ’83 to replace it eventually), this is what I ended up with (need to find some weak struts for it).  I’m pretty happy with how it looks:


The dinged up spots need a little body work, but the back corners have slightly the wrong angle anyway, so I would have had to sand most of the banged up areas off when I finish it. I’ve also aligned the headlights a little better but didn’t bother taking any additional pictures.

BTW, I think that these are the only real pictures I’ve posted of this one anywhere… My wife has named her Cherry, but I don’t know if she’s going to stay “Cherry Red,” we’ll see…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What’s Up With PowerBlockTV???

Am I the only one that has a problem with this?

I know that most of the people visiting the garage are gearheads of some sort: how many of you TRY to watch some of PowerblockTV* on weekends?  It’s one of the few things on TV that I at all go out of my way to watch.  I won’t argue the accuracy of the information (I’ve sent them multiple emails about “issues” and never seen a response), but I do try to check them out, if for no other reason because there is some decent fabrication work on 3 of the shows.

So why do I say TRY? 

Well, the middle of every week I get an update email from them: it lists what is on the shows, if it’s a new episode or a re-run, a bunch of sponsor stuff… great, right?  Well, not really. 

It tends to be accurate about the episodes but if I tune in that weekend, sometimes they’re on, sometimes they’re not.  Sometimes they’re on but a 23minutes off of their normal time.  Sometimes they’re showing Star Wars episodes instead.  Sometimes they’re on on Sunday but not Saturday, sometimes they’re on Saturday but not Sunday… ARRGGG.

Come on guys, this is not that hard.  I don’t care if it’s Spike, PowerblockTV or Comcast, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER.  It’s not that hard, you say what you’re going to do, and then guess what, YOU DO IT.  I suppose that there might rarely be some last minute change that might happen, but this is not 99.9% of the cases I’m talking about.  I don’t know why re-running Star Wars would be an emergency last minute change.

Of course, Comcast (don’t get me started there, but they’re the only good choice here, and we waited something >6 years from when we built the house till we even had that choice) can’t show us listings for anything but the current day.

* - If you don’t know what the Powerblock is, check out their web page: Basically, 2 hours of car/truck/engine modification related shows played Saturday and Sunday mornings on SpikeTV.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Lathe Stand Part 3 – The Actual Structure

When last we left our intrepid hero…

I’m sure I was doing something.


(I need to get some better CAD software, but even with SketchUp you have to love how easy it is to manipulate your drawings.  I remember playing with a _really early version of AutoCAD in the early 80’s in my dad’s engineering consulting office on weekends, the PC AT with a HDD and 3 color screen… was just incredible.  I was 10 or 12 at the time)

OK, so with the adjustable feet made, casters bought… I could figure out the remaining dimensions and actually build the thing.

Guess what?  I found the 2 bolts that I lost in the last installment.  They were under the hood of a car that I haven’t driven for roughly 10 months… HOW DID THEY GET THERE???  Damned Dwarves…

Lets get started.

First thing I did is measured out the 3” box section pieces for the uprights/legs, threw them on my 4x6 bandsaw and cut out the vertical pieces.  While I was at it I also cut out the 2” box crosspieces. 

I set the legs on end, lined up the base plates, pulled out my trusty Hobart Handler MIG and ran some beads in the space that I left for them:


Next I set the pieces for the front and back down on the flattest clear part of the floor, measured the difference between the bottoms of the legs and the bottom rail to get the spacing right for the caster mounts and then once I got the diagonals to match I zapped them together.  To do the second side I set all the parts on top of the welded first side and used it as a pattern.  Once I got it tacked I flipped it over to check how square they were:


They lined up dead on (yea, they look a little off in the picture, I tripped over the setup getting the camera).

Next I flipped them onto their tops and assembled the whole deal upside down.  I set the ends on some straight 1” box to get them off the floor so any uneven spots in the concrete didn’t lift a piece off in the middle of it’s span, then clamped, bungeed, tacked (and used a few select words)… pretty much did anything necessary to hold things lined up till I got everything tacked:


You might notice that in this picture and the one before it some of the joints are tacked, some have multiple tacks, some have a partial bead and some have a full bead down one side of the joint.  This is more than just a random “this is where I stopped and shot the picture” thing. 

For those of you that don’t know, when you heat metal and let it cool, the spot that you heated shrinks.  When you run a weld bead, the area that you weld shrinks and pulls itself tighter.  I was wondering how to keep something like this perfectly square while you’re welding it and I decided I was going to use the shrinkage to my advantage.  As I added each tack I measured diagonals and would add more weld where I needed things to pull tight.  The thing is that as you get more pieces tacked together the whole structure gets stiffer so it takes more tacks or a bigger bead to get the same motion as you go.

FWIW, it seems like it worked well, every dimension I checked was within 1/16” or less of dead on once I got all the beads run.  I was quite happy with that for this size structure and not having a dead flat surface to work on.

Here is the basic structure welded and turned upright.  The only tube joints that weren’t fully welded were the top joints.  This was done on purpose because I wanted a flat surface to attach the top to.  I didn’t want the top resting on just a few high spots where the welds are.


This shot was the idiot check: before going any further making sure that the chip tray looks like it lines up about where I want it to.  Notice that the base is _slightly_ smaller than the width of the chip tray, that is because the top will end up with 3/4” banding around it and will overhang about that much:


This is where I decided to deviate from the original plan. 

Well, not exactly. 

I had this thought from the very beginning but this was the point where I decided that it was necessary, and I could finally see clearly how things were lining up, so I didn’t put it in the drawings and even if I did try to I wasn’t sure what the right answer was till this point.

The debate was if a top made of 2 thicknesses of 3/4” sheet goods (plywood, mdf or particle board…) would bend under the weight of the lathe and if it would be a sturdy enough surface to attach it to. 

What I decided was that I needed supports that would line up under the lathe’s feet, so while I had the chip tray centered up on the stand I marked the centerline of the lathe bolt down points on the crosspieces so I knew where I needed to add support.

I wanted something that would give me access to the back side (box tube crushes when you try to tighten a bolt through it so I only wanted a single layer), would be stiff enough and thick enough to tap.  I ended up going through my pile of steel and decided on some 2x2” angle that I thought was supposed to be 1/4” thick when I bought it but it ended up very close to 3/8” thick.  I cut to pieces to size, cleaned them up, tacked them in place and then flipped the whole thing over to weld it from underneath (again, no high spots to get in the way of the top laying as flat as possible).

Time to get started on the caster mounts:


The caster mounts were just some simple pieces of angle.  Since I intended to use swivel casters on the tailstock end and non swivel ones on the headstock end and they required different size mounts, I made one set of mounts out of 1” angle, and the swivel end ones out of 1-1/2” angle since they had a wider bolt pattern.

In the picture above you can see that I clamped them and then used the fine adjustment tool sitting on the end to tap them into position, then I set the casters on there to make sure everything clears and lines up like expected.  Finally below you can see where I welded it all together:


WOOOHOOO… this thing is starting to look like something.  An upside down something, but like something…

Here the caster pads are drilled and tapped and I spent some time cleaning up the surface rust using a combination of wire wheels on an angle grinder, some 3M scotch bright and a phosphoric acid based metal prep called “Right Stuff De-Ruster Metal Conditioner and Rust Preventer”:


Comment on the Right Stuff. 

I’ve used it before a few times, and have been generally happy with it, but have to an extent ignored the directions before now.  It recommends brushing it on, leaving it and then painting over it, not fussing with it before painting.  Specifically recommending that the sticky surface that it leaves will actually help protect the steel and help the paint adhere.

Previously, I’ve basically stopped and sanded before, after, during… any time I had a rough spot.  If it looked like anything besides smooth steel it got sanded, sort of the sand and wipe down every step of the way approach and usually wipe down with something like a paint prep grease/wax/oil remover if there was any chance that I got some on it or got a hand print on it.  The Right Stuff has taken care of any surface/flash rust and I never had any issues with sanding afterwards.RightStuff

So this time I followed the directions.  After the initial clean up I put it on (used a combination of a chip brush and a but of scotch brite dipped in it) and after it dried I painted right over the surface it left.

Well, that was a mistake.  It dried with a bunch of brush marks and runs and the first coat of paint looked AWFUL.  Like as in it looked like I let a blind monkey paint it by splashing it on with a mop and a bucket.  I kept hoping all sorts of things were going to happen, none of them did.  After letting it sit over night, giving it a good hard look and deciding that I’m not going to be able to stand leaving it that way no matter how many coats of paint I put on it I ended up sanding down most of it till it was smooth.

I put it up on stands for painting and put the first coat on with it upside down to make sure all the bottom surfaces were well coated, and the second with it right side up.  For anyone wondering, that is grey Rust-Oleum Hammered:


Yep, the hockey puck feet are installed, and wrapped in plastic bags so that the thing can be supported by something that does not get painted.

Here you can see one of the casters bolted in.  Before anyone says it, I know that that flange is probably a bit thin to hold those threads, but I didn’t seem to be having any problems with them and figured if I did it would be easy enough to add a nut on the back side.


Oh, and the Grade 8, cadmium plated, washer head hardware is totally excessive (and I had to drill the mounting holes on the casters oversize to fit the bolts), but I have something on the order of 30# or more of these 3/8” bolts left over from a tape robot/server room decommissioning that I was involved with making those cheaper than standard 5/16” bolts and washers

So, what do you think?


One last thing to do and the stand’s structure is done.  Drilling and tapping the top cross members for the lathe hold down bolts:


Another idiot check to make sure that everything lines up:


Next installment – The Top. 

Stay tuned, subscribe, tell your friends, pop some popcorn or grab a beer and hang out a while.

Smell Like A Monster

Sorry, it made me laugh, what more can I really say?