Archive for July, 2012

Old Stuff

Monday, July 30th, 2012

My riding lawnmower is deep into its second career. It worked for many years as the mower for the cemetery up the road from our house. It is a John Deere 210, which is a vintage mower by anyone’s definition. About 15 years ago, the mower had enough hours on it that the cemetery association decided to sell it and buy a new one. Through an intermediary, I learned about it, bought it, and brought it home. I’ve had my issues with it, but it has served me faithfully for all these years.

The mower deck has taken a beating, however. Mowing a cemetery can not be an easy life for a riding mower, but mowing the two acres of roughly landscaped lawn surrounding our home is harder. The large wheels of the rider bounce over the bumps, but the little wheels on the mower deck rattle over every bump. The back wheel next to the discharge on the deck has been repaired several times, and unfortunately broke on me about half way through my mowing job the other day. I drove the mower into the garage, jacked it up, and decided to try a quick weld to repair it. I tried to keep mowing, but it broke again almost right away.

So I put it back in the garage and decided I’d tackle it again in the morning. When I jacked it back up again the next day, I decided I couldn’t assess the problem without removing the deck and putting it on the bench. This is a big job that is best avoided unless necessary, but I decided to tackle it. When I got it off and cleaned up, I saw a puddle of bubble gum welding on the offending joint. It appears to have been repaired numerous times, and each time broken again. I had to get the cutting torch out and cut away some of the previous repairs before I could even bend the wheel up into the position it was supposed to be in. Once I did that, a jagged gap opened up in the metal which was too wide to bridge with welding.

At this point, I reassessed my position. A serious repair was required here involving hours of labor. On the other hand, a new John Deere zero radius riding mower costs over $4,000. Looking at my old mower, I figured the dealer would be doing me a favor if he gave me $250 for it on a trade in. That clinched it for me. I have almost nothing to lose by attempting this repair, and will gain $4,000 if I can keep it working.

I found a scrap piece of 3/4″ angle iron I could heat and shape into a patch for the broken place on the deck. Using the torch and angle grinder, I smoothed off the previous 5 repairs well enough that the patch would lay relatively flat. I then welded the patch in place. I flipped the deck over, and welded the patch from the top through the crack. Then I added a small chunk of 1/2″ rod to the piece of tube that allowed the wheel to adjust. I think this last addition was what will do the trick. The critical stress area of this wheel is now supported below and above, allowing a transfer of compression and tension that should make this repair tougher than the original.

I finished cutting the grass, and swear the mower was working better than it had in many a year. Oh yes, and while I had it on the bench, I noticed I’d installed the blades backwards the last time I’d sharpened them. Doh!

I do like my shop and the tools I’ve accumulated. Had this mower been new, I would not have attempted this repair, and would not have gained the satisfaction I did. It suddenly made sense to me to try to keep the old equipment going. It is good for the environment to keep serviceable equipment running as long as possible, and good for the soul if you can occasionally use your tools to repair something that might otherwise wind up in the dumps.

Advice To Young Readers

Monday, July 30th, 2012

On two occasions in the past couple of days, I did something I swore as a youngster I’d never do. I sat and “visited.” My parents would take us visiting sometimes. Unless the people had children my age, I was bored out of my skull with visiting. I mean, all they did was sit around and talk. And what they talked about didn’t even make any sense. There was mud to splash around in outside, firecrackers to light, trees to climb, and we were stuck inside a boring livingroom listening to grownups talk nonsense for what seemed like hours.

Well my young friends, I’m here to tell you visiting isn’t quite so bad when you get a little older. (Some) adults have led interesting lives, and are willing to share their stories with willing listeners, Some are equally interested in the things you’ve done too. By listening and participating, you can gravitate towards the things you want to do, and avoid the pitfalls that can be so prevalent.

If you are a young reader, and you are still reading, let me offer you an important observation. Friendship is one of your most important possessions. Find yourself people that are interesting, and that are interested in you, and put some effort into that relationship. Do it as often as you can. As the decades pile up, the handful of friends that you grow closer to will ripen in their relationship with you. A good friendship gets better with time. Don’t let misunderstandings trip you up either. Believe in the intrinsic good of your friends. They have bad days, and sometimes say and do things that seem not to ring true. You are almost always best off giving the benefit of the doubt. But don’t be a chump either. If there isn’t a match there, don’t sweat it… there are lots of potential friends out there.

And when the time comes… when climbing trees and shooting off firecrackers loses the charm it once had, then sit with your friends with a cup of coffee. Listen to their stories and share some of yours. Only leave your kids at home, or make sure they have some kids to play with while you are visiting.

Two Shovels

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

It was a good day for the garage/workshop today. Two major projects were moved out. These two were taking up enough space that both vehicles had to stay outside until today. One was 20 signs for the North Country Trail, and the other was a rework of the fire department’s sign.

For the North Country Trail signs, I started with rough sawn pine, planed it down, sanded it, and routed in the letters. Then Alice, neighbor Marj Krumm, and I went to work priming and brushing on two coats of finish brown exterior paint. Once all that dried, we painted in the letters. The signs that will go on the national forest section of the trail get yellow letters, and the signs for the DNR section gets white letters with a white border one inch from the edge. We also painted several posts for the project.

The sign for the fire department was another story. It had been made of wood many years ago, and had received no maintenance. So much paint had disappeared that we had to reprime it. One of the letters was so broken I had to remake it on the jigsaw. The rest were serviceable by using some glue and screws.

I just reinstalled the fire department sign an hour ago or so. I used the bed of my pickup for a platform for the 8′ stepladder. It worked great. The 6 screws were reinstalled without a hitch, and the newly repainted sign is standing tall and proud in its old location.

With all the signs out of the garage/workshop and the vehicles outside, it dawned on me that this might be a good time to take a look at the floor. I corn-broomed the edges and corners, and shop-broomed the rest. When I put it into a pile and swept into my big grain scoop shovel, I got two full shovels, plus some. That volume of floor dirt might possibly be a new record. It is also a good thing… it shows we’re using the building for what it was built for.

Kingfisher

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

For the past many years, we’ve been lucky enough to attract kingfishers to our property. They’ve hung around the ponds, of course, and it wasn’t unusual to catch them, if you had a quick eye, flying about with what looked like a small fish in their beaks.

This summer we haven’t been so lucky… until recently. I think it is just one individual. Anyone seeing me the first time I head its chatter would have thought I was loony, because a smile spread across my face for no apparent reason. Looking quickly, I observed the bird swooping around some greenery, then floating up and perching on one of the dead trees surrounding the pond. I would not have liked being a minnow in the pond under the steely eye of that bird.

Perhaps this one will find a welcome territory next year when breeding territories are sought. I hope so.

Coveting

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

I’ve talked in the past about a unique characteristic of the gravel road we live on. The gravel comes from crushed mine rock. The mining that was done was copper mining, and it isn’t unusual for me to find a chunk of copper in the road on my daily walks. I’ve amassed quite a bit of this road copper over the years. I think my total is around 15#. It is getting harder to find, because the rock they are crushing lately is no longer from copper mines.

The other day I was walking with my neighbor. He and I walk these roads regularly. He is not a skilled copper finder. I am the one that spots the copper 9+ times out of 10. The other day, however, he showed me 4 pieces he had found on his walk before I had joined him. FOUR! I almost never find so many on one walk. One of the four was a beauty too. It is the kind I call a slug. They are cylindrical and are quite heavy. I know there are Judeo-Christian prohibitions against coveting my neighbor’s possessions. I will tell you though, that despite my upbringing, I coveted that slug.

Wouldn’t you know it… last night on my regular walk after supper, I found this beauty. It weighs 3 1/2 ounces. It will join my collection. I can’t help but wonder what sort of cosmic message this copper chunk entailed. Was it a reward for my sinful coveting? Or was it a punishment of some sort? Cosmic implications are rife with this piece of copper. Perhaps I should consult my quartz crystal!

Camera Tales

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

I’ve been carrying my little Canon digital camera on my belt for a couple of years now. I’ve gotten used to having a camera with me all the time, and have found I’m able to capture moments I otherwise wouldn’t. I keep it in a padded pouch that has protected it from the rough life I lead pretty well until the other day. I got the camera out and attempted to take a picture, and noticed that the LCD screen on the back of the camera had somehow cracked. The camera has a viewfinder, so I was still able to use it, but I decided to try to fix it.

I went on eBay and found there were several non-working cameras of the same type for sale. I picked one up for about $20 with shipping. When it came, I sat down at the table, and took the new eBay one apart, and figured out how to remove the LCD screen. I then took my working camera apart and removed the broken LCD screen. Unfortunately I was a little rough with one of the ribbon cables, and broke the connector that is part of the camera’s mother board. I tried several things to wedge the cable into the broken connector, but could not get it to work. Shoot.

I searched around online for a replacement camera of the same kind, and learned they were over $200 new. I then looked on eBay and found several working cameras selling from the $50-$100 range. I wound up buying two, one to replace my broken one, and one for Alice. She knows this camera because she borrows mine so often. Now we have some backup in the camera department.

New Peak Cap

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

About 20 years ago, when I built our garage/workshop, I made a bad decision. I made a lot of good ones too, so don’t get me wrong. The bad one was the roof peak cap that I chose to install. The metal roof has worked flawlessly for me over the years. The peak cap has leaked since the day it was installed. The building is insulated, and I wanted the peak to be vented, and the product the lumber company decided to sell me was a cheap aluminum thing.

About a year ago, I found myself at the lumber company I often deal with, and decided to order the materials I would need to replace the peak. I believe I made a much wiser choice this time. The materials sat in the garage for about a year, but my mind was active much of that time. 20 years ago, my knees were just 40 years old, and I remember installing the cap by straddling the peak with one leg on each side and my knees bent. I can still remember how my young knees hurt when I came down from that job. I was pretty sure my 60 year old knees would no longer tolerate that kind of punishment. So I spent the year thinking about how I would go about this project and still be able to walk once it was done.

The steps, as I saw them, were to somehow get myself, tools, and materials safely up on the roof, provide myself with a work platform suitable for removing the old cap and installing the new one, and the capacity to store my tools safely while all this was going on. Yes, it took me a year to figure it all out, and yesterday, I got up the nerve to assemble the necessary equipment, and tackle the job.

Getting myself and the materials safely up and down from the roof was the easiest part. For years I’ve been cleaning the garage chimney by using the bucket of my bulldozer to hold my extension ladder. I raise the bucket until it is at the right angle for the ladder to lay down on the roof, climb up into the bucket, extend the ladder, and walk up the roof. I’ve done this one enough times that I could do that part in my sleep.

The work platform part of the problem had also been worked out some years ago. In order to install the antenna for my long-range cordless phone, I had fabricated a little table with legs that sat neatly over the peak of the west entry-way to our home. This table’s job was to provide a safe platform for my ladder, which I leaned against the side of the house to install the antenna on the peak. As luck would have it, the pitch of that roof is the same as the garage. I kept this table even though it was in the way thinking I might have some future use for it.

The peak needed to be vented, so I had bought some special foam material that conformed to whatever pattern the roof had, and had another very special feature… a row of adhesive that allowed the assembly of each section of cap on the ground, and that actually stayed put until it was screwed down to the roof. Previous efforts with such foam strips involved trying to keep the dang thing in place while drilling and screwing while trying to balance in a very high and slippery place. The cost of this foam vent material was not cheap, but I’d recommend it to anyone trying to do something similar.

Armed with the selection of tools I’d chosen, the first row of new peak, and the little table, I mounted the roof and started getting organized. I had hoped I’d chosen to install the old peak with screws, but found nails up there instead. Back down I came to fetch my nail puller. Friends, if you have nails to pull out of boards and you don’t have one of these devices, you should drive to your nearest hardware and get yourself one. As it has been for many other projects, this tool was perfect for this job.

I’d arrayed my growing pile of tools on the table that straddled the peak, settled myself on the table with nail-puller poised, and started removing the first section of the old cap. I then very quickly returned to the ground. Besides crazy humans, what is the one creature that loves the peaks of roofs? Wasps of course. They did not take kindly to my pounding, nor were they pleased when I pulled the roof off their snug nests in the peak of the attic. My trip to the ground was to grab every bottle of wasp killer I had. Here is where the bleeding heart part of being a bleeding heart liberal kicked in. I do admire these resourceful creatures, and their pluck at attacking anything that threatens their young. They are home builders extraordinaire, and they consume the larvae of numerous destructive insects. However, I do hate the thought of getting stung and falling off the roof, so I used most of 3 bottles of this high pressure liquid, and am happy to say I did not get stung once.

I did about half the job without shoes, but eventually the sheet metal got so hot I had to get my shoes on. I’d pull off a couple of sections of the old cap, remove any of the old deteriorated foam or other insulation so the peak was open, then slide the new section of peak under the table, drilled pilot holes with one cordless drill, then installed the self-tapping roof screw with a different cordless drill. Once I had installed several feed of the new cap, it was time to move the table. I did this by spinning around on the table to face the other direction, placing my feet carefully on the roof on either side of the peak, and lifting the table up and sliding it 6″ or so. I’d do this 5 or 6 times until I had another section I could work on. Then I’d spin back around, and get back to work. The spinning caused a problem.

The tell-tale sound of a thunk followed by a ssssssssss bang was my first clue. I’d spun and dislodged my trusty Dewalt cordless drill from its place on the table, and it slid off the roof and onto the ground. A trip down the ladder was followed by an assessment that the drill still worked (yay Dewalt) but it would no longer change directions. I took it apart on my workbench and determined what had come apart, put it back together, and was back in business in a few minutes. No change to my operational method was made, however.

The second time my drill fell off the roof, I decided I’d better rethink this thing. As I was walking down the ladder, I thought some sort of bag that I could hang over the edge of the table would work better. Perhaps I could thread an “eye hook” into the 2″ lumber on the table. By the time I’d made it into the shop, I’d changed my mind about the bag, and had settled on that staple of construction tools, the plastic 5 gallon pail. The pail stayed put for the rest of the project, and I did not drop another tool.

This picture shows me putting the final screws into the final piece of cap on the project. It took me years to finally order the materials I needed to fix the faulty peak cap, and a year of shuffling my feet before I finally got up on the roof, and in a day, I had the thing accomplished. I hope the wasps find other suitable lodging.