Monday, December 28, 2015

An Expensive Lesson

I violated a rule a couple of weeks ago. I didn't even know it was a rule until after the fact, when Phil Oles acquainted me with it. It's called the "Three Tooth Rule," and it basically says, "when cutting, make sure you have at least three saw teeth in the material at any time."

I found out that if you violate the rule, you are liable to have two simultaneous outcomes:
  1. A loud bang.
  2. Broken parts.
Sadly, the broken parts were on one of my most prized tools, my Bosch compound miter saw:


Sunday, December 27, 2015

An Experiment in Frugality

I just saved $4.13! That's the cost of 30 ea. #6-32 x 3/4" screws at Home Depot. Of course, it took me two and a half hours to do it, so that comes out to $1.65 an hour. Makes McDonalds' wages look like the 1% by comparison.

When I wrote about my recycled 14-drawer cabinet from Radio Shack, I mentioned that I was going to use part of it to store hardware - screws, nuts, bolts, etc. I recently took stock of what I had on hand, and found a pretty motley collection. But of #6-32 machine screws, for some reason I had 70 screws of 1-1/2" length. No other lengths, just that one, which is actually sort of long for such a small screw.

I got the bright idea that I'd make several fixtures to hold the screws, to allow them to be shortened to a standard length.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Vise for Cutting

First off: yes, it's "vise." The other word, "vice," is something different, as in "Miami Vice." But if you're looking for a big metal holding thingy on Craigslist, it pays to search for both spellings!

Part of my modest collection of machine tools is a small metal-cutting band saw. I had been using it with varying degrees of success with a homemade sliding table, but I wanted better. Specifically, I wanted a vise that could hold the material very near the blade, while keeping my fingers a very safe distance away. After pondering a bit, I bought this at Harbor Freight - on sale and with a 20% discount coupon, it was only about $15:


Monday, December 14, 2015

My First Engine

My first automotive engine rebuild was actually decades ago, but this is something different - my first engine built from scratch! Not very big, and not really able to do useful work, but it's an engine, and I made it from a small pile of aluminum, brass and steel. It's powered by air:


Monday, November 30, 2015

New Tunes for Ringo, and New Boots too

Ringo has some new tunes. No, not Ringo the Beatle, it's Ringo the Beetle! This photo was taken just before the center dash went back in the car:



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Yet Another Interior...

When John Zimmerman and I finished changing the carpet in Ben and Cindy's minivan about a month ago, I confidently stated, "That's the last interior I'll disassemble for a while!" Well, as the old saying goes, Man plans, God laughs! I've already disassembled the next one...



Yes, that's Ringo the Beetle's interior.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Excessive Organization, Part 2

In the first Excessive Organization post a few months ago, I detailed buying and filling a new tool cabinet for my automotive tools. That turned out to be a satisfying experience, and the value of having all those tools in one place has proved itself over and over since done. I think it also sort of started the ball rolling to do some more shop organization. A lot more!


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Better Part of Valor

Referring to the title: it's "Discretion," in case you've forgotten that saying. Discretion is the better part of valor. Like so many of our idioms, this one came from Shakespeare. Falstaff says it, more or less, after playing dead on the battlefield in Henry IV, Part I. Anyway, after a frustrating day in the shop, I have shown some discretion! Read on...

Faithful readers will remember the story of Ringo, the 1998 Beetle that I bought for short money from my friends Lynn and Lynne. In the initial installment, Bob Zimmerman and I replaced the catalytic converter and the temperature sensor and cleaned the throttle body, successfully correcting a check engine light and a stinky exhaust. At the end of that post (dated August 15), I promised that "soon" I would replace the timing belt and other parts, rendering Ringo ready for winter duty.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Bench for the Makerspace

A few months ago, Bruce Schreiner of the Make717 group asked me if I'd make a small workbench for the group's Innovation Center makerspace. I agreed, and over the past couple of months worked on the bench. It's done! Here's the finished product:




Friday, October 23, 2015

Deferred Maintenance

I have read of woodworkers who spend the first 30 minutes of each shop session on tool maintenance. Predictably, their chisels and planes are always sharp, everything is always put away, and their major machines are in perfect adjustment. But the rest of us... well, we use things until they work so poorly that we have no choice but to take time to maintain them. My jointer was like that:


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Minivans are BIG

The Grant St. Garage has been occupied of late by a real labor of love. My dear friend and trusted colleague Cindy gave birth to twin boys in September, bringing the household count to five, plus Pete the dog. Cindy's husband Ben bit the bullet and went out looking for a "Mommy-van." I offered him my sincere condolences.

Ben found a 2008 Toyota Sienna in fine mechanical shape, but well under book price because of the state of the interior. Frankly, I think a family of incontinent warthogs lived there - ones that often rolled in grease. Ben asked John Zimmerman to do one of his uber-detailing jobs on the van, but it quickly became obvious that the carpet was just done. Ben ordered an inexpensive replacement from the web, and John recruited me to help change it. Little did we know...


Saturday, August 15, 2015

A New Old New Beetle

As the title says, a New Old New Beetle. That is to say:

NEW - to me.
OLD - 1998 model, the first year of the...
NEW BEETLE - that's what VW called it at first, although now it's just the "Beetle."

So, here we are with a fifth member of the fleet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The 2015 Hemming Sports and Exotic Car Show

Mary Ellen and I recently spent a week in Lake George, NY on a wonderful vacation trip. Very relaxing, and lots of good food and interesting top-down drives in the BMW Z4 on the shaded mountain roads. And of course, no vacation would be complete without a car show. On Saturday we drove about 45 minutes to Saratoga Springs, NY for the Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car Show, on the grounds of Saratoga Spa State Park, adjacent to the Saratoga Automobile Museum. It was a hot, clear day, so we enjoyed alternating between the show field and the air-conditioned comfort of the museum! Here's an example of the quality of car that was there - a gorgeous Jaguar XK120:


Friday, July 24, 2015

Excessive Organization?

An imaginary conversation...

Me: You know, I think I have that obsessive/compulsive thing going about a place for everything and everything in its place.

Everybody else: We have seen your shop, and you definitely do not.

Me: Right...


Monday, July 6, 2015

Dissecting a Disaster

I think all of the regular readers of this blog already know that I had a serious accident in the workshop recently. Don't worry - I'm not about to show you medical-grade photos of my hand. But for the sake of completeness for those who stumble across this post, here's the outline of the damage:


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Truth in Advertising

On a recent vacation, we took a modest side trip to the town of Leonardtown, MD, for the sole purpose of visiting a book store:



Sadly, the guide we were reading failed to mention that Fenwick St. Used Books and Music is closed on Mondays. But since we were there, we walked around a bit.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Nice Gift

The other day, when Kelly Williams and I had our adventure with his Stanley Steamer, he presented me with a nice gift! Look:


No clue, huh? How about if you see the business end:


Well, if you know that the bar is an inch wide (very exactly: 1.000) and half an inch tall (ditto: 0.500), you at least have a sense of scale. Yes, they are letters, and yes, they are both reversed and upside-down. So, if you hold your monitor upside down in front of a mirror, you'll see it says, "GSG". It's a Grant Street Garage stamp!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wine Rack, Part 6 - Done!

After nine months of intermittent work and many interruptions for other projects, the wine rack is finally done, and installed in our kitchen:


Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Steamy Story

Today was a gorgeous day in central PA, with high temp around 70, and clear, sunny skies. Kelly Williams called and said he was going to take his Stanley Steamer out for a shake-down cruise. I suggested the Grant St. Garage as a destination, in case it needed some mid-trip adjustments. He agreed, and said that Mary Ellen and I could have a ride in the Stanley - one at a time in this two-seater.

As we were walking to Grant St, Kelly called again, and said there was a problem. The car was immobile on the side of Marietta Pike, a couple of miles outside the city. We walked on to Grant St. so I could collect the Z3 Coupe and get out there. Not the most likely rescue vehicle, but it was all I had. The truck is in the shop for some gas tank work I wasn't willing to tackle myself.

Once I arrived, I pulled around behind the Stanley and turned on the emergency flashers. Those weren't exactly standard equipment in 1911, so Kelly didn't have them on.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hold the Phone

My phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, is one of those "phablets" - the great big phone that is almost a small tablet. Works great, but it poses special problems if you want to mount it somewhere in a car. It's big! My first attempt was a mount that held the phone perfectly because it was designed specifically for the Note 2, but it clipped into the air conditioner vent, and was so loose and floppy that it rattled and moved around and was impossible to type on.

Then, I found the same phone mount on a suction cup base, and it was cheap - only about 4 bucks shipped from China. Of course, it took a few weeks to get here, but it did arrive:


It looked very promising, but there were two immediate problems: 

A Welcome Addition to the Shop



The Grant Street Garage has a new toy! It's a metalworking lathe, of the class of lathes usually called "8X". That means that you're supposed to be able to spin something eight inches in diameter, if you're crazy enough. Regular readers of this blog know that I already had a metalworking lathe and also a mill. Indeed, a recent post detailed an upgrade I made to my smaller "7X" lathe. That upgrade helped a bit, but the small lathe was still just too light and non-rigid for serious work.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Wine Rack, Part 5

I just checked: the last post on the wine rack project was way back on Nov 6, 2014. In that post, I postulated that the fifth and final post would be in January. Hoo boy - I sort of missed that one! This blog has detailed the four or five other projects that took precedence in the ensuing months. This is part five of, I sincerely hope, six for the wine rack. I won't be so bold as to predict when that sixth post will occur...


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Lathe Upgrade

It happens in every shop - projects get started, and then pushed aside for other, presumably more pressing, projects. Last November, I started a project to upgrade my metalworking lathe, one that promised to make the lathe more accurate and cut with a better finish. The first detour in that project happened right away, when I managed to wear out a gear in my mill while making the lathe part! I documented that here.

The "fix" in November left me with a mill that works better than ever, but in the process of doing that, I just put the lathe back together so I wouldn't lose any parts, and somehow did four or five other projects without ever getting back to the lathe. Well, no more - I decided I wouldn't work on anything else until the lathe was done!


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Christmas, finally

Christmas came a little late for Mary Ellen this year. Well, that's not exactly true, since she did have a pile of presents to open on Christmas Day! But, her "big" present just wasn't ready in time. Now it's done, and her response was just what the hubby would hope: "I LOVE my new under-cabinet lights! They look great!" Here's the final product:


Friday, January 2, 2015

Scary Brakes

When John Z. and I went to get my old workbench the other day, something happened that I didn't mention in that blog post because I didn't want to get off-topic. But it was a significant happening.

I was slowing down for a traffic signal, foot on the brake, when the pickup truck in front of me went into full panic-stop mode. Nose down and tail up. I hit my brakes hard, and after a couple of seconds, the pedal went soft and dropped about two inches! Fortunately, I still had enough brakes to stop without hitting the truck. I slowly and gently made it the rest of the way home, frequently testing the brakes.