May 2018

wed may 2
I was working in the apple orchard when a porcupine came by to investigate!

The nice thing about porcupines is that they don't run away, and they don't attack. They assume a defensive position and hold perfectly still while I fumble with my camera.

The nice thing about porcupines is that they don’t run away, and they don’t attack. They assume a defensive position and hold perfectly still while I fumble with my camera.

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.

Suspended from the ceiling while working on the front suspension.

Suspended from the ceiling while working on the front suspension.

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.

I need to work on heat treatment and parting agents.

I need to work on heat treatment and parting agents.

sat may 5
Tornado warning!
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

Here's why the Kawasaki wouldn't start, nearly leaving me stranded in Johnson. The wire to the starter motor got smashed when I fixed the clutch and replaced the housing cover.  The wonder is that it started at all !!

Here’s why the Kawasaki wouldn’t start, nearly leaving me stranded in Johnson.
The wire to the starter motor got smashed when I fixed the clutch and replaced the housing cover.
The wonder is that it started at all !!

may 9
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

The asparagus is up. Big, fat, and juicy.

The asparagus is up. Big, fat, and juicy.

thu may 17

This retracting pneumatic hose coil was in the way all winter, and I finally decided to put it (twelve feet) up in the garage.  It has a MSRP of $455 but I got it at auction for $30 last summer (plus 2 O-rings to fix a leak).

This retracting pneumatic hose coil was in the way all winter, and I finally decided to put it (twelve feet) up in the garage.
It has a MSRP of $455 but I got it at auction for $30 last summer (plus 2 O-rings to fix a leak).

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!!

Fenders, wheel hubs and body parts.

Fenders, wheel hubs and body parts.

On a nice day like today, lawn tractors served as easy chairs.

On a nice day like today, lawn tractors served as easy chairs.

This sign, 18" wide, went for $675.

This sign, 18″ wide, went for $675.

I'd been needing a few large twist drills lately, but I think I'm all set now.

I’d been needing a few large twist drills lately, but I think I’m all set now.

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.

The float bowl, the broken overflow tube, and the clamp that didn't work. Note the crack in the seam where the gas leaks out.

The float bowl, the broken overflow tube, and the clamp that didn’t work.
Note the crack in the tube seam where the gas leaks out.

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.

  1. Cast an oversized blank using jewelery investment plaster
  2. Machine it to shape while it’s still ‘green’
  3. Calcinate the plaster by running it thru a self-cleaning cycle in the oven
  4. Paint the whole thing with RTV ‘plier dip’ rubber.
  5. Give it 4 or 5 coats of buffed parting wax
  6. Add a coat of poly vinyl alcohol
  7. Apply carbon fiber cloth and epoxy

(Believe me: there’s a trial and an error behind every one of those steps)

Did you know that Aqua Net hair spray is mostly PVA and is supposed to be a decent epoxy mold  parting agent? It didn't work for me, though, and I sprung for a can of industrial strength PVA.

Did you know that Aqua Net hair spray is mostly PVA and is supposed to be a decent epoxy mold parting agent?
It didn’t work for me, though, and I sprung for a can of industrial strength PVA.

I machined the corrugations into the green plaster and mounted it in the oven. By a happy coincidence, the 3D hypotenuse of the oven is barely long enough to hold the mold.  I ran it thru a self-clean cycle, and it came out in one piece.

I machined the corrugations into the green plaster and mounted it in the oven. By a happy coincidence, the 3D hypotenuse of the oven is juuuust long enough to hold the mold.
I ran it thru a self-clean cycle, and it came out in one piece.

Not for long! While painting it with RTV rubber, it fell apart. Very demoralizing!   I patched it up as good as I could, but it's pretty ugly.

Not for long!
While painting it with RTV rubber, it fell apart. Very demoralizing!
I patched it up as good as I could, but it’s pretty ugly.

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.

Once I got it going, it got going a little too good, and patches of grass were catching fire faster than I could stomp them out without setting myself on fire too.  I started to become concerned, and I googled the Morrisville Fire Department -- Just in case! Incredibly, Google gave me a street address and directions, but no phone number!  In the end, I got it under control, and got my first sunburn of the season.

Once I got it going, it got going a little too good, and patches of grass were catching fire faster than I could stomp them out without setting myself on fire too.
I started to become concerned, and I googled the Morrisville Fire Department — Just in case! Incredibly, Google gave me a street address and directions, but no phone number!
In the end, I got it under control, and got my first sunburn of the season.

mon may 28

Repaired carburetor float bowls under test.  No leaks found!!

Repaired carburetor float bowls under test.
No leaks found!!

tue may 30

I keep finding that I need to scribe circles bigger than my store-bought one's capacity, so I made me a big one.

I keep finding that I need to scribe circles bigger than my store-bought compass’s capacity, so I made me a big one.

When I bottled 90+ bottles of cider last fall, it wasn't clear what I'd do with it all. Now that I'm down to about 10 bottles, I'm finding that a lot of it is ... um ... "naturally carbonated". It's still pretty good, but be careful where you point it when you open it!

When I bottled 90+ bottles of cider last fall, it wasn’t clear what I’d do with it all. Now that I’m down to about 10 bottles, I’m finding that a lot of it is … um … “naturally carbonated”.
It’s still pretty good, but be careful where you point the bottle when you open it!

thu may 31

Street legal !!

Street legal !!

One Response to May 2018

  1. Ole Dad says:

    I don’t understand what you are trying to cast, no matter, you work it out yourself. From the final picture it appears that yu finally got the bike running well enuf to get it licensed. Nopthing exceptional going on here except my learning process with my leather experiences.

    Couple weeks ago I bought a sewing machine from Tandy Leather that they advertised that sews leather among other things. I checked on line with Amazon, and local businesses. Tandy was the same price as Amazon so I went with Tandy. All the reviews of the machine were good. I deliberately held off really getting into the instructions because I wanted to concentrate in completing a project or two that has been occupying my time. However I went on line ti find out what I can about sewing leather. Turns out that there is much controversy about how and what to do. Maybe Mary has some experience with leather. Anyway the standards leave much to be helpful. The machine I bought cost $420 which is a couple hundred above a cheap machine. I expected that, however I talked to a sales person in a sewing center that says I need a $2,500 industrial machine to do what I want. Thi, inspite of the fact that Tandy has samples of my machine sewing 8 oz leather with heavy nylon thread and even doing zig zag and a lot of fancy stuff that I don’t need. The sales person is misinformed. Anyway I bought a spool of white nylon thread and a so called leather needle. Therein lies the issue. needle size is pretty well standardized, but needle geometry is not. point shape will vary wiith manufacturer. Leather needles should ne wedge shaped to allow cutting the leather rather than pushing the fabric thread aside to allow passage of the needle. Matching thread size to the nedle size is still another issue.I’m on page 9 of 44 pages in the instruction manual. Lots to learn, but I’m making progress. Ole Dad

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