April 2018

mon apr 2
Easter came and went, and 3 hams bit the dust.
We went to Bill and Lisa’s in Woodstock on Saturday and then had Maggie and the girls here on Sunday.
As I get older, I find that a good metric for my mental and physical health is my ability to keep up with people half my age. (Mentally, it’s easy. Physically, not so much.) So I’m proud to report that I can still beat a 10-year-old and a 12-year old at chess. Four straight times!

tue apr 3
I finished the copper railings next door, but still had to put up the hand-rails on the stairs. Ideally, you take a piece of pipe, drill through it and into the studs, mount it, and then cut it to length. But copper pipe comes in 10′ lengths, and the stairway really could have used a piece 10’3″ long, so I had to either insert a coupling (ugly!) or drill all the holes in exactly the right places on the first try. Naturally, I tried it the hard way. Long story short: 1 hole missed the stud, and it took 3 coats of mud, 2 coats of paint, and a fresh piece of pipe before I could do the final install.

It turned out good.

It turned out good.

By using the wrong cutting speed on the lathe, I got a spiral chatter pattern that looks expensive.

By using the wrong cutting speed on the lathe, I got a spiral chatter pattern that looks expensive.

wed apr 11
Last week, the local online bulletin board advertised an apple pruning workshop in Elmore, so I signed up. I picked up some good tips, but I froze my butt off.

This guy is a highly regarded pruning expert. He started off by talking about pruning tools and keeping them sharp.

This guy is a highly regarded pruning expert. He started off by talking about pruning tools and keeping them sharp.

I was inspired, and I went home and sharpened my snippers and loppers and bought a fancy pruning saw.  I made a mental note that I better be careful, because the snippers now cut paper better than any of the scissors in the house.

I was inspired, and I went home and sharpened my snippers and loppers and bought a fancy pruning saw.
I made a mental note that I better be careful, because the snippers now cut paper better than any of the scissors in the house.

I nicked myself with my new saw, but since it didn't hurt much, I just kept working, and the vigorous exercise  kept my blood flowing.  All over the saw. All over my pants. All over the floor. All over the cat. All over the sink.  It stopped bleeding sometime between dinner and bedtime. For awhile there, it looked like I was going to have matching ring fingers.

I nicked myself with my new saw, but since it didn’t hurt much, I just kept working, and the vigorous exercise kept my blood flowing. And flowing.
All over the saw. All over my pants. All over the floor. All over the cat. All over the sink. Drip drip drip.
It was still bleeding the next morning.
For awhile there, it looked like I was going to have matching ring fingers!

Meanwhile, back at the green house, I used up a lot of the barn board off-cuts from the doors to hide some ugly plywood in the living room. No blood!

Meanwhile, back at the green house, I used up a lot of the barn board off-cuts from the doors to hide some ugly plywood in the living room. No blood!

sat apr 14
Still bleeding! I must have nicked a deep blood vessel. Taped it tight.

Mary wanted to use bark on the dining room partition next door.  She's going to learn the hard way that it sheds little particles on the floor every time you bump the wall.

Mary wanted to use bark on the dining room partition next door.
She’s going to learn the hard way that it sheds little particles on the floor every time you bump the wall.

sun apr 15
Since I got the Kawasaki running ahead of schedule, I decided to put the Suzuki back up on blocks for a little work. Although it was running pretty good last summer, my dirty little secret is that 3 of the gaskets leak, and the compression is low. While working on the Kawasaki, I (finally) figured out what I’d been doing wrong, and wanted to get it right once and for all. There’s no reason this work needs to drag on for months, and I want to see how long it really takes to do a top-end rebuild when you know what you’re doing and you have all the parts on hand.
So I stripped it down (3 hours), power washed the castings (1 hour), cleaned the components (3 hours), and then dropped one of the pistons on the concrete floor (a split second).

See that ding on the left? (There's also 2 more dents on the right you can't see) If I've learned anything at all since 2014, it's that the piston-cylinder interface has to be right.  That said, I think I can fix it.

See that ding on the left? (There’s also 2 more dents on the right you can’t see)
If I’ve learned anything at all since 2014, it’s that the piston-cylinder interface has to be right.
That said, I think it’s going to be OK.

mon apr 16
Stopped bleeding. All 9 fingers in good shape.

tue apr 17
Big day for motorcycle maintenance. I am bound and determined that this round of work on the Suzuki shall not drag on for months, so I spent most of the day re-assembling the engine. All told, I’m guessing it took me about 16 hours to do a complete top-end rebuild.
That’s pretty good.

Moving boxes around in the garage, I came upon a squirrel's nest. Looks like they raided one of my giant pumpkins and then chewed two holes in each one to get to the good part.

Moving boxes around in the garage, I came upon a squirrel’s nest. Looks like they raided our stash of plum pits and then gnawed two holes in each one to get to the good part.

C3pr has been stalled while a coupling has been on back-order and, while I wait for it, I’ve been reading up on carbon fiber fabrication. I need to keep my rotational inertia low, and the ‘forearm’, if I make it from metal, would kill me. I struggled for several days, trying to come up with a way to build a 24″ long tapered cylinder which is absolutely rigid, absolutely concentric, and weighs next to nothing. I finally found a solution and I ordered the $80 worth of parts I’d need, and then went back to musing about the details. The very next day, my brain farted and came up with an even better solution, using materials I’ve already got on-hand. So if you need a 2′ long, 4″ diameter chunk of machinable plastic, give me a holler.

For sale. Cheap.

For sale. Cheap.

thu apr 20

Celia drove up for a visit, along with Tara, her dog.  I was in charge of dinner.  It's hard to read, but the ketchup says: BZ Tara.

Celia drove up for a visit, along with her dog Tara. I was in charge of dinner and made meatloaf.

It’s hard to read, but the ketchup says: “BZ  Tara”.  It’s harder than it looks.

sun apr 22
We had a full house last night when Chris and Nina and Maggie and Suri and Sophia and Marina all showed up for bbq chicken and schmoozing with Celia. The kids wanted to zoom around in the go-cart, but I pulled and pulled and pulled at the starter and couldn’t get it started, so Chris took over — and it started on his second pull. After dinner (and 3 margaritas), I lost track of the conversation and went to sit in my easy chair. Apparently, I fell asleep, but woke up in time for dessert.

This morning, we got up late and, while Mary made brunch, Celia made bloody Marys.

This morning, we got up late and, while Mary made brunch, Celia made bloody Marys.

For c3pr’s forearm, I decided that a plain old carbon fiber cone is not going to be rigid enough, and I want to make a corrugated structure which won’t deform. I struggled to come up with a way to fabricate it, though, and decided to make a form out of casting investment powder (left over from my silver bullets a few Christmases ago). I expect some experimenting and a fair share of failures, so don’t laugh.

I made a mold from a cone of rolled paper, reinforced with duct tape, centered around a pipe I can mount in a slow lathe.

I made a mold from a cone of rolled paper, reinforced with duct tape, centered around a pipe I can mount in a slow lathe.

Even I wasn't surprised when the sleeve wouldn't support the weight of 12# of plaster. I stood on the bench and held it steady until it started to hardened, but I think there's going to be a sturdier mold in my future.

Even I wasn’t surprised when the sleeve wouldn’t support the weight of 12# of plaster.
I stood on the bench and held it steady until it started to hardened, but I think there’s going to be a sturdier mold in my future.

We had a long, late stretch of cold weather starting the day after I got the Kawasaki started, and I never got a chance to road-test it. Until yesterday.
The engine runs great, and I can’t tell you how gratifying that is.
The clutch is super-stiff, though, and adjusting the linkage only helped a little. I need to drain the crankcase and see what the heck is going on.

tue apr 24
Celia’s visit did Mary a world of good. After 6 months of limited mobility and interactions, she really needed a few days of girl-to-girl grousing. And so did Celia, I think.

The weather finally turned nice, and Mary has resumed her daily walk. I'm not saying she's setting any land speed records, but she's worked her way up to almost a mile at a stretch. Pretty good.

The weather finally turned nice, and Mary has resumed her daily walk. I’m not saying she’s setting any land speed records, but she’s worked her way up to almost a mile at a stretch. Pretty good.

wed apr 25
We went out to dinner with Mike and Nikki, the couple who bought the house in Westford, and they brought us a bag of home-made goodies. I thanked them for the syrup and decided to save the fudge for later.
Good thing, too, because it turned out to be soap! (Traditionally, you swear and then you get your mouth washed out with soap. I almost got it backward.)

thu apr 26I'm using this enormous chunk of jewelry investment to work out a method of fabricating corrugations to stiffen a CF cone.  It "should work," but I bet it doesn't.

I’m using this enormous chunk of jewelry investment to work out a method of fabricating corrugations to stiffen a CF cone.
It “should work,” but I bet it won’t.

sun apr 29
I win the bet! It didn’t work. Not very well, anyway.
It turns out that working with carbon fiber and epoxy on a geometry full of weird angles is quite unlike applying broad expanses of fiberglass on a canoe. I used lots of small pieces of bias-cut CF fabric, hoping it would conform to the curves, but the fabric has a mind of its own. On the plus side, there’s nothing like a little bit of hands-on experience to focus the mind on what you’d do differently next time.

First try on the left. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'm going to give it a 2. "Quite bad." 2nd try on the right. I give it a 7: "Much improved."

First try on the left. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m going to give it a 2. “Quite bad.”
2nd try on the right. I give it a 7: “Much improved.”

Nikki had suggested that my young apple trees (26 of them) would do a lot better if I fertilized them, so I ran right out and bought a 7 pound bag of 5-3-4. Then I googled it, and it suggested using about 1.5# per tree, so I … ran right out and … bought a 50 pound bag.
With a shovel, I scored a 2′ circle thru the turf around each tree, and then lifted the turf out, so the fertilizer would go to the trees, not the weeds. The soil is wet, so I left the turf upside down near the trees, thinking it would dry out a little and I’d be able to shake some dirt from the roots, but the forecast is for rain for the next 5 days. Can’t win.

It’s been non-stop food and relatives here. First Celia came and went. Then we met Maggie at a restaurant to pick up Suri. Then Charon had us over for a fancy crackle-skin Szechuan duck extravaganza. Then Maggie, refreshed after a kid-less weekend, was back (with Sophia) to pick up Suri and eat beat-up chicken. Usually, BZ is the one to get tired of all the strangers. By now, it’s me. At least BZ gets to hide under the bed when he’s had enough.

One Response to April 2018

  1. Ole Dad says:

    I can’t figure out what you’re making with the big tapered plaster filled what-ever. And then there is the build up of the thingey that looks like two v-belt pulleys. Do you expect to wash out the plaster to release the do-hickey? All a big mystery.
    About the copper hand rail? A 10 foot span of hand rail need an intermediate support. The first time someone needs to grab it to prevent a fall, it will bend. You better take another look at the sturdy ness of the rail. If it was made of steel pipe it would probably be ok, not copper pipe. Is it the proper vertical distance up from the edge of the stair tred? I forgot what the code calls for. This sort of thing needs to be code compliant.

    This summer is going to be a hell of a fire year for California. We have had virtually no rain. The hills are really dry, a tinder box. Tornados and hurricanes are already appearing in the midwest.

    About the tree bark wall: why don’t you seal it by spraying it with flat sealer? Surely Mary knows what to use.

    I’m still farting around with the leather work and learning by my mistakes. I’m about to finalize this project. I’ll send pics when it is complete. Ole creaky old Dad

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