wed may 2
I was working in the apple orchard when a porcupine came by to investigate!
Last summer, while riding the Suzuki from one Creemee stand to another, I noticed that the front suspension was bottoming out and the oil seal was leaking. I figured it would be a good winter project, so I ordered a pair of front fork seals on eBay and waited for winter. Then the Kawasaki came along, and I got distracted…
When I finally got around to it, I figured it would take about a day. I took apart the front fork, pried out the seal, and got ready to put in the new one. Wrong size! Cheapo eBay vendors!! So I ordered another pair (from a reputable outfit this time) and waited another week for them to get here, while the disassembled fork lay under a towel on the bench and the bike stayed suspended from the ceiling in the shop. Same wrong size again!! WTF?? Apparently, the forks on a 750L are different from a regular 750?? So I measured this time, and then ordered another set of seals (don’t worry: they’re cheap) which are made for a Honda (but at least they’re the right size) and then waited another week. I tore open the box like it was Christmas, only to find that they don’t sell them in pairs like everyone else, and I’d only bought one seal!
Enough is enough. Only the right-hand side leaks, so I’ll just fix the bad half and be done with it.
Meanwhile, I am still debugging the Kawasaki by taking it for ever-longer rides (and hoping I don’t get noticed by any cops before I get it licensed).
The clutch was really stiff, and I fixed it. A burnt bulb. Rear brake needs bleeding. Little stuff.
Today, it was a gorgeous day, so I took a back road to a place in Johnson that sells local kimchi. It purred the whole way, and I parked it, shopped, got back on, hit the starter, and … Nothing. Uh oh. I jiggled some wires and tried again. Nothing. I took a walk to let it cool down and tried again. Nothing. I kicked it, shook it, and swore at it and tried again. Nothing. Shit.
Now is a good time to point out that this motorcycle has no kick starter. What were they thinking?
I rolled the bike to the deserted area behind the store so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of the entire town, parked it, and gave it some thought. I’d have to try to start it on compression. You know: put it in gear, get it rolling, pop the clutch, and … stop very suddenly. After doing this a couple of times, I was sweating, and it looked like I’d have to ask Mary to come get me with the truck. The indignity of that prospect gave me a second wind, and I tried it one more time. It caught! And, it being a 750 with a healthy motor, it tried to drive off without me, and almost got away!
Needless to say, I crossed the rest of my errands off my list and rode it straight home. There is some electrical debugging in my future!
After two sticky attempts to work with carbon fiber fabric and epoxy, it was time to remove them from their casting investment core and examine the results. The photo below shows what went wrong and why.
On the left: my first try. I’d coated the plaster with paste wax, hoping it would make a good mold release agent. The results are spotty, though, because the wax didn’t stick very well to the powdery mold surface and, where the wax fell off, the resin seeped into the plaster and hardened. It also turns out that wax tends to dissolve in (and weaken) epoxy resin, so wax is a bad idea to begin with.
On the right: my second try, where I used epoxy directly on the raw plaster. (This is before I knew about the results above) Bad idea, and the resin hardened a uniform 1/16″ thick layer of plaster along the entire CF surface — the depth to which it had seeped in.
I had read that at about 375F, the investment plaster chemistry starts to drive off the structural water that made it ‘set up’ in the first place, so I’d baked it at 400F for 5 hours — sort of like firing concrete in a kiln, turning it back to powder. While soaking the core to dissolve it out of the CF wrapping, I could tell that this softening process had started, but I had to work pretty hard to remove the plaster. Next time, I’ll bake it hotter.
sat may 5
I saw that flash on my AccuWeather phone app, and I said to myself: “Give me a break!”
It was a beautiful day and, sure, Vermont is famous for its lousy weather, but we don’t get tornados.
Right on schedule, the sky clouded up, and we watched the rains move in from the North. The winds picked up and we decided to wait out the downpour before heading into Stowe for a Quatro de Mayo mexican dinner. There were 2 trees down on the road before we even got to the pavement. I had the wipers on High, driving slow, and I still didn’t see the tree in the road before I drove through it’s branches. (Good thing the other end stayed near the stump!) Same deal with the next one. By the time we took the turnoff, all the buildings along the road were dark, and the restaurant was running on emergency power. We turned around and headed back.
Our own power went out at midnight, and it’s still out. My second-hand generator and my transfer panel are paying off, and I bought an extra gas can today. Just in case.
sun may 6
The power stayed out until sunday afternoon. A pretty long outage, even by Vermont standards.
For the last week or so, we’ve been hearing a woodpecker pecking away on the west side of the house, but every time I look, he’s flown away, and I can’t see any sign of damage.
This morning, Mary finally caught a glimpse of him out the window, and he was hard at work on the metal staircase. Good luck with that!!
thu may 10
I’ve done a couple more carbon fiber molding trials, but I’m not quite ‘there’ yet.
It turns out that putting the plaster thru a self-cleaning cycle in the oven is enough to calcinate the pattern, but I’m still having a rough time getting the epoxy to release from the plaster. Stay tuned…
tue may 15
Mary took me out to dinner for my birthday. In Portland, Maine.
(Honestly, having been confined close to home for the last 6 1/2 months, I think the trip had as much to do with getting herself out of Dodge as it had with celebrating my 62nd.
Usually when we go somewhere, one of us drives and one of us navigates, as in: reads the map and tells the driver where to turn. Mary had printed off directions and was navigating and decided to skip step 16, and we took a left instead of a right. A kindly school crossing guard saw us pulled over and, um, “conferring” and gave us some old fashioned directions. Now I admit: long experience has convinced me that Mary is a better driver than navigator, and more than a few dark thoughts passed thru my mind as we resumed our journey, but I kept them to myself. Which is good, because we eventually got to Portland, had our fun, and headed back, this time with Me in the Navigator’s seat. No printout this time, so I was doing it with GPS, and my phone was not cooperating. I guided her to a run-down apartment building where a restaurant should have been and, more than once, she had to show me how to get my phone to do what I wanted it to. I still say I’m the better Navigator, but I sure didn’t prove it today.
Dinner was delicious, by the way.
wed may 16
thu may 17
Speaking of auctions, today was my first auction of the season. It was the estate sale for a Model-A maniac in Barre. This guy started out with a nice little machine shop and, over time, added on to his garage four times and then brought in two 40′ shipping containers to hold his spare parts. There were Model-A parts out the wazoo, and every Model-A enthusiast in the USA was there.
Aside from unexpected treasures, I have a mental checklist of things I keep an eye out for. A sandblasting unit, a TIG welder, a sheet metal brake, and a sheet metal shear are all things I’d love to come across, and this auction had one of each. It took all the restraint I could muster to let them go, though, because they were either too big or too expensive for my needs. SAD!!
fri may 18
Two of the four Kawasaki carburetor float bowls leak. Just a little, but I don’t like gas drip drip dripping onto the engine. I determined that it’s not the drain, but the overflow tube that’s leaking, so I made a little clamp to help to remove it, so I can epoxy it back in, gas-tight.
Naturally, when I pulled on it, the tube broke off at the base of the stem.
Just shoot me.
Upon inspection, it turns out that the brass tube was not a tube at all, but a sheet rolled into a cylinder, with a seam on the side that’s supposed to be watertight. Yeah right.
I ordered a foot of tubing online, and I’m hoping to fabricate a fix that’s better than the original.
tue may 22
After a lot of experimenting and a lot of mistakes, I finally have a process which “seems to sort of work” for making a carbon fiber forearm.
- Cast an oversized blank using jewelery investment plaster
- Machine it to shape while it’s still ‘green’
- Calcinate the plaster by running it thru a self-cleaning cycle in the oven
- Paint the whole thing with RTV ‘plier dip’ rubber.
- Give it 4 or 5 coats of buffed parting wax
- Add a coat of poly vinyl alcohol
- Apply carbon fiber cloth and epoxy
(Believe me: there’s a trial and an error behind every one of those steps)
thu may 24
I recently finished reading Cold Mountain, a book about a Confederate soldier’s trek back home after deserting. Many scenes in the book described seeking shelter from the cold and wet by crawling under a rock and starting a fire to keep warm, using only a flint and wet twigs. Life was simple. Life was tough.
Fast forward 153 years. Today, I decided to burn the pile of wood that’s been accumulating in the yard for about a year. Blue skies, not too windy, and 70 degrees, it was the perfect day for it. After getting a burn permit from the fire department and notifying the sheriff, I took a Bic lighter and a half gallon of diesel next door and … couldn’t start a fire. I’d spread the diesel too thin, and the wood just absorbed it, and the breeze kept blowing out what little flame I managed to make. I finally got another jug of fuel, thoroughly soaked the downwind part of the pile and … my lighter ran out of fuel. I ran to the house for another lighter and … finally got it going.
mon may 28
tue may 30
thu may 31