Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Media bias and project updates

Ok -- I had to laugh just a bit yesterday when listening to the radio. The news announcer was talking about the "Big 3" domestic automakers and talking about their percentages of loss in sales, but then when he talked about import manufacturers he said that they were down by one third. Now they said basically the domestics were down by over 30%, but they said the exact same thing in different words about the imports, but how many people are going to say "oh wait -- 1/3 of 100% is 33.33% . . . duh?! It was just a little interesting media bias that gets read into things that I think is one way to get people to think by not thinking. People rarely think for themselves anymore, they want it spoon fed to them, whether it's product safety directions, or choices in presidential candidates, they like to feel intelligent by listening to what the media tells them they should believe. Enough ranting there.

(And for the real facts on who's down and by how much: http://www.autoblog.com/2008/12/02/by-the-numbers-november-2008-brother-can-you-spare-a-dime-ed/ )

So in other news, we've been anxiously working through some projects. I think I've got the hang of the Shopsmith finally . . . or at least enough to be dangerous. We were considering a pull-out storage pantry thing for the cabinet beside our refrigerator but instead we were considering the implications of the trash can in that scenario. After some more careful consideration we decided that a slide out pot and pan holder would be a much better idea for that area. The trash can went for a tour of the kitchen until we decided that it would be best at the end of the cabinet that we have. We decided that the trash can could go in a nice and swanky cabinet and that began the design process.

The design process was one of those "by the seat of my pants" thing. We first decided on having a flip open lid, and then the front was going to also flip open. I started building the cabinet and learned some important things in the process. I had to get a few more things, like clamps, and saw blades. I measured and decided to put the bottom of the box at one point and then under the trash can we would have a drawer to put trash bags. We stopped by the store and while there I was looking at sliders and realized that they didn't have any drawer slides that were less than 12 inches . . . and my cabinet was at 11.5 inches. DOH! We decided that instead of having a tilt out side for removing the trash can we'd make it a door, but where I put the bottom for the trash can portion then was going to interfere with the door, that I already had cut out. After some deliberation, we decided to just make one big door. On the bottom we're putting wheels to be able to move it for cleaning as well as those cleaning emergencies.

Whew! So the biggest thing is not the zillion dollar trash can project, but instead all the learning processes that I've dealt with. I bought a plywood blade for my Craftsman hand saw as well as the Shopsmith. I found out the Shopsmith uses a 1 1/4" arbor, so the one blade will need a 5/8" arbor adapter instead, which will also be needed for the blades that my dad gave me. It's been amazing working with my wife Peggy on this project and seeing the confidence that she has in me and my abilities. I'm pretty critical of my work and I'm wanting perfection, but I know I've only had a handful of wood working projects under my belt. I need to build a few jigs to help out with my accuracy in cutting, and the first one will be a cross-cutting sled. I bought some oak boards for runners and will work on getting that put together. My biggest problem right now is that all too elusive specter of time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Ok -- it's the little things in life that sometimes gives me a little joy. One of those things was getting my grandfather's ShopSmith finally up and operational. My dad had gotten it and had rebuilt the speed changer and added wheels to it, but then decided to just get a brand new one with all the goodies. I finally got it all setup with the newly welded legs and was just itching to cut anything. I found a little 1x2 board in the garage and plunked it down on the miter guage holder. I put it forward into the blade and it was jumping up and down and not at all happy. I tried it again and was met with the same issue, so I decided I'd quit while I still had all ten fingers . . . Peggy appreciates that aspect. :-)

I went back upstairs to read the manuals again and this time I caught one little point that I remember my dad remarking on -- the way the blade was facing on the arbor (attaching it to the machine). He said it was backwards, and sure enough, I double checked it and it was. I don't know how long it had been like that, as he had just boxed up what he could find and brought it from my grandparents home. With some quick action on the arbor flipping I was back in business and soon had a perfectly cut piece of wood. Yea!

Peggy and I have been planning to build some nice book cases for the basement to handle all of the books we have, but I think our first "get our feet wet" project might be something simpler, like perhaps a roll-out pantry for in the kitchen. That's something I've always wanted to tackle, and I think that it would be just enough to let me get a feel for how the thing should work and that. I'm thinking of a lot of different gift ideas for Christmas also . . . some other ways to see how this thing works and that. I'm quite excited to do some projects, because I've been kind of limited by the tools I had available to me. Now I have quite a selection of tools for accomplishing a wide variety of things. The only remaining thing to get is time!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New toy

This is my newest toy, it's my grandfather's ShopSmith. It's a 1985 model that he bought used about several years before he passed away. My dad got it and rebuilt it and was going to use it, but then he decided to just go and buy a whole new setup. I helped them sell a wood stove and had been hinting that I was looking for one and he said once things were all settled I could have it. Well, on my birthday my parents came over and Peggy hinted to have them bring it over. (The papers on the floor was from a batten board painting project.)

The only problem with the ShopSmith was in my grandfather's basement, the legs on one side were continually exposed to water and rusted away. I have been watching on Craigslist for parts/pieces for these and thought I found a really good deal one day. I had emailed/called on one particular ShopSmith in Kingsville, MO. One night Peggy and I drove out in the pickup truck to see the $100 special. First of all, any directions that involve "turn at the hood in the yard" should give you a little clue on what is up. The end panels on the $100 Craigslist one were ok, but the rest of it was totally trash, the aluminum tables were so badly pitted it wasn't even funny. The guy wasn't there when I showed up, so I don't know if he would have accepted $25 for the unit or not . . . because that's all it was worth!

So my thoughts of getting another end panel faded, so I came up with a better solution. I was considering some fancy metal work, but then opted for the brute force method. I took two peices of angle iron and welded them onto the end panel where I cut away rusted metal. (It ended up about 3 inches shorter when all the bad metal was removed.) I checked my work, and found that even though I carefully angled the ends on the iron, the Shopsmith was still only touching the floor at the highest spot, hence it could scoot around a bit on the concrete floor. I decided that the legs could have been just a tad longer, so I took another piece of angle iron and put it across the two legs and welded it together when the angle iron on the floor. That gave a much wider base and tied the two legs together. The wheels on the ShopSmith helped in that regard, but now the tie-in really makes the unit solid.

The best part of the whole experience was spending time with Peggy in the garage. She got to watch me weld with the old mask I had, while I tried out the new welding mask. My old mask had quit "lightening" and was stuck permanently dark. That's great if you can weld in the dark, but I have a problem getting the MIG gun and sparks going all in the right direction. It was great for Peggy though because she could watch, and she even said she would like to give it a whirl!

So that's the latest and greatest in the garage right now. All this is actually preparation so that we can start building some new book shelves for in the basement. This has been like a series of dominoes in the chain of events that needs to happen. I needed the ShopSmith to build the shelves, and once I got it I needed the welding mask to fix the leg. Now I've got the leg fixed, and I also bought a used router also to help out with the project.

After the ShopSmith experience, we were a bit hesitant on finding another good deal, but thankfully we did find one. I finally stopped by the person who was selling it and found a very nice Sears Router in a case with some new bits. I was going to haggle a bit on the price, but the seller was getting rid of it because her dad was in hospice care. As Dave Ramsey says, there are good deals, and there are times to know when you known you don't need a good deal. I opted for the full purchase price of $50, which was still a great deal with the bits. I like to have a clear conscience.

Friday, August 8, 2008

God's Guiding Hand

I shudder at the possibility . . . the pics make it seem so insignificant.
The frightening part was this was a "clip" on Interstate 70 this morning as I was braking for traffic . . . the rear tire is very close to having the bead blown out. The kid in the Mustang didn't stop . . . in fact, I had to call Peggy to take down the license plate while following him. When I finally got him to pull over he asked me to come up and look if the damage to his front wheel was repairable . . . it turns out it was just the rubber scraped on his rim . . . but the fact that he was so concerned about that is what I couldn't imagine. If there was just a small variance in ANYTHING this could have been a major crash. If it would have an inch further over it could have taken the rear wheel completely out, or off, or who knows.

God gives us each and every day and we can only wonder about TODAY'S events . . . and not worry about anything. There is NOT ONE THING that worry can change. It was God's guiding hand that kept a significant accident from happening . . . but I know if today would have been my day to meet God, that I would be totally prepared for that. I know my friends and family would immediately know where I would be. I know where I'll be, not because of what I do, or don't do, or what I give, or not give. It's not ANYTHING that I can do . . . aside from accepting God's grace into my life. Knowing that Christ died on the cross FOR ME. He took my punishment for EVERYTHING I have done, or will do. I only live my life like I do now because I want to please him -- to be an example of Christ in my life. I pray each day that I can be the father, husband, son, and friend to those people who matter the most in my life.

Today was just one other small episode in God's presence in my life. Things can literally change in a heartbeat. Don't let that heartbeat be your last before asking God in to know him further. Life is too short. Period.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Venting for a minute . . .

Allow me to apologize here, but I'm sick and tired of listening to the whiners of the world going on and on about how ____ (insert your favorite domestic manufacturer) is an idiot for contributing to global warming, inefficient vehicles, etc. It really irks me to see people babbling on completely at odds with what they (meaning the general population) have been buying for the past number of years. Once upon a time, I purchased a fairly lightweight (all aluminum V8) Buick sedan with decent gas mileage, room for six adults, and many other wonderful features. It, along with a lot of other vehicles in the era were manufactured for gas savings and guess what . . . it wasn't five years ago . . . or ten . . . or even twenty! My Buick was build in 1962! GM and it's subsidiaries (Buick/Pontiac/Oldsmobile) were making all sorts of interesting vehicles . . . even if your name wasn't Ralph Nader. My point is, the buying public shunned them and they went away very quickly . . . well, almost . . . the light(er) cars stayed and the engines just got bigger and become the muscle car fodder. (Ford Falcon -> Mustang, Pontiac Tempest -> GTO, Plymouth Valiant ->Barracuda, etc...) Fast forward to the 1980's . . . four cylinder cars with fuel savings . . . but trends towards bigger engines and bigger cars. Why? Because PEOPLE BOUGHT UPWARDS!

The minivan is a prime example of this trend . . . what started as a small people mover has blossomed and grown over the years. In doing so it brought people into shunning the platform, going instead to the SUV ranks to avoid "soccer mom" badges. ARGH! I remember having discussions wtith people . . . talking about the "need" for a huge four-wheel drive vehicle. I'm sorry, but the weather in the locale I'm at only makes 4wd a convenience a few days out the year . . . adn I've maintained, if I can't get around in a vehicle with FWD, then there's probably a good reason not to even be out!

So cry me a river how your not going to trust _____ (fill in your punching bag manufacturer) because they don't provide xyz car with 100 mpg. People are wondering how manufacturers can make money on small cars . . . . it's very simple . . . do the same thing that they did with trucks/suv's. They took standard old technology -- simple RWD platforms and began optioning them to the moon. Suddenly the farm truck had heated leather seats, power windows, moon roof, and a bazillion other options . . . since the suburbanites "need one" for towing a boat or camper once or twice a year. The balancing act will be offering cars they can charge a premium for, and ones that will be affordable for others to drive . . and making them appeal to each target market. Can you picture a $30K Chevy Cobalt or Ford Focus? Honda/Toyota/etc... have successfully pushed the envelope in that . . . but we'll see what happens in the next five years.