Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pack Those Closets

A few weeks ago we decided that now was not the time to build or buy a new house. I couldn't stomach getting a brand new mortgage. The reality, though, remains that the house is pretty small so we have to address that and soon.

So what do you do? Declutter, reduce, organize. Develop a system, use the system.

Step one of that is to perform surgery on our master closet. I've thought for many years that I'd like to put an organizer into our master closet and we decided it could not wait any longer. Sketchup to the rescue.

Once I got it all squared away I decided on how to buy everything. Ended up using the Rubbermaid HomeFree closet system. Lowe's has some pretty good kits in stock, and they had the biggest kit on sale for a really good price. I bought three kits because I have this closet and one other to do. It worked out great.

We decided to paint the walls while we had the closet emptied out. That made the project a lot longer. I probably could have done it all in a day if it wasn't for two coats of paint.

I emptied the closet on Sunday night, Chelsea prepped the walls Monday morning and I painted the first coat Monday afternoon. Tuesday after mutual I ran up to Silverdale because that Lowe's had what I needed, then ran home and rolled on a second coat. Wednesday I started putting the organizer in and that took some time Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (tonight).

My garage is a mess.

I think it turned out pretty good. I left a perfect place to put the gun case which had been clumsy before and I set the height to fit a specific type of tote on the top shelf. It will work perfectly.

Before Painting
 After Painting

 Many shelves

 See, the gun case fits perfectly.

 There's the tote on the top shelf. I'll be buying a few more of those.

I'm glad to be done. Tomorrow it's off to find some bins and totes to complete the organization. This is going to be great.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

It's November Again. Almost.

Man, this election year is a doozie, isn't it? I mean every election year is annoying and teaches us a lot about ourselves and our friends and neighbors, but this one...

Now, I'm about to spout off a bunch of political stuff. Please remember that I don't study politics, nor do I consider it a worthy field of study (Note 1), but as a citizen I guess I'm forced to face these clowns. So take my comments for what you will and please remember that nothing I say here will have any affect on the outcome of the election.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to tell you why voting for a third party is not a wasted vote and why the major parties want you to think it is. Then I'm actually going to predict the outcome of the election and tell you why I think it will go down like that. Now's your last chance to back out and stop reading.

The Third Party

It has been a long time since both major parties have produced such poor candidates at the same time. I really liked a piece I read in the Chicago Tribune that said this about the republican party (Link): 

"The mystery and shame of Trump's rise — we have red, white and blue coffee mugs that are more genuinely Republican — is the party's inability or unwillingness to repulse his hostile takeover." 

They said this about Hillary: 

"Clinton's vision of ever-expanding government is in such denial of our national debt crisis as to be fanciful. Rather than run as a practical-minded Democrat as in 2008, this year she lurched left, pandering to match the Free Stuff agenda of then-rival Bernie Sanders."

I also don't think we've seen third party candidates this strong in a long time. I particularly like Gary Johnson. He's not perfect, but who is? So we're here at the intersection of poor major party candidates and strong third party candidates. Unsurprisingly, we're starting to see statements from the likes of Bernie Sanders saying you shouldn't vote third party because this is no time for a "protest vote" (As if your only motivation for voting third party was as protest). This could as likely read "I gave this up so my party could win, don't negate my sacrifice." 

I also like this one from the Washington Post . This one states that a third party vote is not only wasted, but unprincipled. I suppose that is to say, "if you vote third party, my candidate may not win and you, therefore, have no principles."    

These kinds of attacks are coming from both parties. This is no surprise. Both parties are scrambling a little because of the situation. Both are losing ground in the polls with the folks who are not on one end or the other of the political spectrum. Both major parties don't want you to believe a third party vote is worthwhile because both realize this is an actual threat. Particularly more this year than it has been in a long time. Largely in contemporary history this is true. When is the last time a third party was on all 50 state's ballots? This year, however, has the potential to be historic. (Indeed, it already has been with the libertarian entry on all ballots and with the non-quality of the major party candidates.)

The bottom line is that I agree with these guys who say that the only truly wasted vote is an unprincipled one. No matter who wins. 
So, now you've come to the part where I predict the future and make other loud-mouthed and uninformed claims.

Who's it going to be. We have a guy who makes no effort to stifle the ignorant things coming out of his mouth, a woman who has shown capability as an administrator, but whose honesty and dedication to national security we are all right to seriously question, and the third party guys. 

I'm only going to talk about Johnson/Weld for two reasons. They are the only third party on the ballot in all states, and I like them the most. Also, I'm not interested in exhaustive research. This is my blog not a newspaper. I can say what I want.

These are two guys that have also shown ability for administration. Johnson did good things as a governor. Now, 2012 taught us that America doesn't care how good you were at being a governor, so that shouldn't matter. He's willing to give it the old college try, and to me that's more valuable than someone like Hillary who can do somethings, but surely has her finger in all the pies.

That being said, I actually think Hillary will win. As many have said, she is better connected, better at politicking, and probably better at rigging elections. I do not think Don will win because I think there are few enough people that are buying into his lines. Now, it seems like the people that like him are the people that have come to feel like they have no voice in politics anymore, the extreme right. 

The real problem with the republican party today is its failure to recognize change in the world and to unify along a common thread to make headway and actually deal with stuff. Instead there is so much in-fighting that the best candidate they can come up with is Donald...F**g...Trump. 

So, I think that Hillary will win and Johnson will come in second. And this may mark an inflection point on the demise of the republican party. A turning point election where it became doubly clear that new thought processes are required to meet new challenges. 

Remember, just because the two parties have been the main parties for decades, that doesn't mean they didn't at one point supplant another party. It's happened a few times in American history and saying it's impossible is foolish.

Thanks for reading. I'll be watching on election day.

Note 1: Please don't take offense. Study something good like history, economics, art, physical science. This is where the answers to political questions are found.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Re-shod the Steed

For a while I've wanted to build a new wheelset for my mountain bike. So far I've dabbled in the art of wheel building, and ever since I started playing around with it, I've wanted to scratch build a new wheelset.

For many bike mechanics, knowing how to build wheels is an important checkpoint in skills development, and for me, it's no different. The first time I did it was when I replaced the fork on my first full suspension mountain bike. The new fork had a different axle type, so I had to replace the front hub. I got it back together and it worked well.

The only thing holding me back was the wheels I had were working fine. But then, one day, they weren't. The rear hub bearings were shot and I wasn't able to get replacement parts for the OEM hub.

Pitted Races - No Good.

I went through several iterations of deciding what to do, including simply rebuilding the rear wheel with a new Shimano M525a hub. (That was my second wheel build and I considered it a practice for this build.)

At last I decided on a plan, ordered spokes, and waited for stuff to arrive. During that time I found some great deals on Shimano SLX hubs with centerlock brake rotors (which I prefer to 6-bolt mount). I was lured by the siren song and bought them. It was like  a Shimano Christmas. 

Alas, it was not to be. When they arrived I found I had made an important miscalculation. The hub flange diameter of the SLX hubs were much smaller than the hubs I was originally planning to use. Basically, this meant I would have to reorder spokes, and the spokes I had would not be usable.

So, facing extra expense, and worse, extra waste, I decided to send them back and return to my original plan.

Here's the setup.
Front Hub: Giant OEM (Reused), 15 mm thru, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rear Hub: Shimano M525a, 135mm QR, 32 hole, 6-bolt brake mount
Rims: WTB ST i23 TCS, 27.5, 32 hole
Spokes: DT Swiss Competition Double Butted, 2.0/1.8 272 mm, 273 mm, 274 mm
Tires: Continental Trail King 2.2, Chili Compound with Protection sidewalls

Since I decided not to buy the fancier hubs, I had extra money for rubber. For a long time I've been a big fan of Continental Tires for bikes, especially the King series. Just before I sold my Trek, I put Trail Kings on it. My last mountain bike came with Maxxis Ikons, which I didn't care for. After a while I swapped those out for Mountain Kings. Now, my Giant came with Schwalbe Nobby Nics. I thought these worked well, so I wasn't in a big hurry to get new ones, but now I was at the intersection of new wheels and great end-of-season sales. I couldn't resist.

Passing the torch from the Schwalbes to the Continentals.

 And now for some gratuitous images.

I learned a lot by doing the build from the ground up. Spoke lengths have to be calculated very accurately and made to within a millimeter of the right length. I also made careful measurements on the wheels that I took apart and compared those with the spoke calculations to see what they did at the factory. Based on this there are a couple things I'll do different next time.

1. I'll order 14 mm nipples instead of 12 mm.
2. I'll add 1 mm or 2 mm to the calculated spoke length because it would provide a little better thread engagement with the nipple.
Having the extra length on the spokes might make item #1 less important, but we'll see.

I can't wait to get them out on the trail. That will be the true test. Will I have nipple breakage due to over tight spokes? Will I have rim cracks for the same reason? Is my spoke tension even enough? How long will I go without having to retrue? The answers to these questions will determine whether I got a passing grade or not.

The next step is to decide if I'm going to switch to tubeless.

Here's the reading and study list.
Master Wheel Building DVD by Bill Moulds
The Bicycle Wheel by Jobst Brandt
Sheldon Brown
Approximately One gajillion Youtube videos

Spoke Calculators
DT Swiss
Pro Wheel Builder

Market Forces

Yesterday I met with a contractor to investigate building a new house. The folks I met with were very nice. They are a well-known builder in the area that has been highly recognized as providing quality services. I was referred to them by someone who had used them to help build their house around 15 years ago. It surely was a different market then.

The meeting was highly informative on some aspects as well as deeply discouraging on others. I learned that my numbers for site development were very much inadequate where I had considered them well-padded. They repeated the mantra that 2-story is cheaper to build than ramblers.  They told me about the absurdity of the North Kitsap real estate market including instances of $400K-$500K houses being sold for cash without even making it to market because it was sold within whatever real estate office was listing it. And they told me about FHA 203K Rehab loans that I might be able to use for a renovation, if I chose that instead of a new build.

They also told me about the pitfalls of owner-building. The pitfalls they told me about were almost verbatim from what the several owner-building books that I've read had told me they would say. They said the main difficulty was finding subcontractors, and that was what was causing me the most heartache. They also told me (indirectly) they are not willing, under any circumstance, to give out subcontractor referrals. Again, in alignment with the reading.

All in all, very useful. Those guys are clearly talented builders, but talent only gets you so far. At the end of the month, you still have to know how to work the business. They sincerely wanted to open my eyes to the process and let me know what was in store, whether they built my project or not.

Being equal parts thick-headed and belligerent, I do not consider the project dead. Delayed, reconsidered, reshaped, but not dead.

My main problem is the market. The market is pretty silly right now. Again. See the aforementioned absurdity of the North Kitsap market. Things down in Port Orchard are not much better. In the meeting, they said one of the reasons that happens is people see the dollar signs when they find their house is worth a bunch and decide to sell. They are then successful pending the purchase of a new place. Now the pressure is on to get the new place. Figuring they are making out like a bandit on their old house, they are willing to plus up the offer a little to ensure success. Realtors will encourage this. After all, 6% of more is more than 6% of less.

Soon, the guy down the street sees the success of his neighbor (whether or not he knows that they ended up spending the extra them made to get into the new house) and decides he wants to realize the same benefit. Probably by this point, the talking heads on cable news or are saying that the market is great, and you should totes sell. Pretty soon things compound and you have a silly market. Personally, I view buying in a silly market to be a poor financial decision embarked by folks with more money than sense.

In all fairness, the vast majority of people have more money than sense, the only variable is exactly how much money we're talking about. It's just as stupid for a guy like me to buy a house for $700K as it would be for somebody with a much lower income to buy my house. The foreclosure would  be unavoidable either way. I mean, I still consider the timing and purchase price of my house to be the worst financial decision I've ever made. Even after seven years. When you think about it, though, when it comes to houses, most people just have more ability to contract debt than sense.

I guess that's what it really comes down to. For my next house, one of my absolutely non-negotiable requirements is that I don't have any mortgage insurance. I'd like it to be a 15 year mortgage, but that's not as important as no mortgage insurance. Right now, in this place, at this time, that's not likely to be possible.

I don't want to make a move in a silly market, but I can't ignore the fact that my family needs more space. As for now, it's more closet organizers and a few more trips to goodwill. One thing I have going for me is that I really do like this house.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Out of Commission

I hate to say it, but my mountain bike is out of commission. Hard out. It's a wheel hub problem and if you keep reading you are in terrific danger of hearing all about it.

I have very little experience with bike wheel hubs. Especially the "cup & cone" bearing type (which most of them are unless you paid more for the bike than your first car). Right after I bought this bike I was thrown into learning about hubs by the failure of the freehub, the part that goes click-click-click-click when you stop pedaling. On the first trail after assembling the bike the freehub broke and I could no longer pedal. Fortunately, I was on a hill and was able to coast most of the way back.

I called the local bike shop, but they were booked three weeks out. No way was I going to wait that long. Next I called the guys I bought the bike from, Chile Bikes in Moab, to see if they could sell me some parts. Not only did they have the parts, but they sent them for free since I had just bought the bike. Good people over there.

So replacing this thing was my first foray into bike hubs. Well, after a few Youtube videos I thought I was ready. I'm happy to say that I made the repair, reassemble hub and wheel, and put a year of riding on it.

The hub is clamped into an axle vise on 
my mill table for adjustment.
Then recently I started to notice some little wobbliness in the back wheel. Nothing major, just a little movement that didn't seem right while riding. Then I adjusted the hubs a little. I didn't seem to help and I started to feel a strange vibration. Right at 15mph the bike would take on this vibration. It wasn't a lot, but it felt like the whole bike vibrated. I was curious, so of course, I monkeyed with it.

This is what I found.

What you are looking at is the cone from each side of the hub. The picture below shows how all the parts go together to make a functional hub. You can see "Bearing Cup" and "Bearing Cone" and it see why we call it "Cup & Cone".

(Image courtesy of kiethonearth.) 

So, normally, the cone surface is nicely polished so that the bearings can roll smoothly across it in their interminable journey round and round the hub. As you can see from the first two pictures, this smooth journey has been rudely interrupted by the presence of some fairly deep pitting.

From the outside, this kind of damage would manifest itself as a feeling of grittiness that you would feel if you used your thumb and forefinger to rotate the axle while holding the wheel stationary. The axle may even bind a little if the pits were bad enough.

Being my first bonafide failure with regard to hubs, I have to investigate this and find out the cause. The main culprits are insufficient lube, over-tightening, or under-tightening. (Cup & Cone bearing require a pretty good "feel" to get right.) My money is on insufficient lube, since it was drier that I thought it should be at disassembly. The good news, though, is the hub races are OK, which means if I can get parts, I can save the hub.

So that's where I am. I want to fix this so that I can say I saved it, but I've also decided to build a new wheelset. The awesome wheelset is another post for another day, and since I'm pretty excited to be doing another wheel build, I'm sure it will end up reported here.

The wheel build parts are taking their sweet time getting here, and I haven't been able to locate new cones to repair the old hub. So now it's the waiting game. In the mean time, my bike hangs like a slain beast awaiting the butcher's block. Hang in there buddy.

Update: I learned from the Giant dealer that getting replacement cones for that OEM hub was basically impossible. That's unfortunate, but it kind of changed my plans. Even though I've already bought rims and spokes, I decided to use the new Deore hub I bought to rebuild the back wheel with the existing rim and spokes. This is the most budget solution to get things running again.

In a couple of months I'll buy new (better) hubs and do a complete front and rear wheel build. That will get me 1. SLX level hubs front and rear, 2. much better rims, 3. double butted spokes, and 4. Centerlock disc brake compatibility (which I prefer).

The main concern with this is that I have to buy hubs with a close enough flange diameter to be able to reuse the spokes. The Shimano hubs I'm planning to buy are close enough that it will still work.

I rode this bike to work today and it feels great.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Here's Something Fun

Today's post is another one of those "engineer monkeying around in the garage" posts. It's fun though, because it's the first productive usage of the mill drill that that I've had in my garage for the last couple of years. It's not on its table yet, so I have to work on my knees, but that will come.

Anyway, the foot rest on one of our kitchen chairs broke. You can see the mis-colored piece in the picture. This was a test fit of the test piece.

And when I say it broke, I mean it really broke. The tenon broke off of one side. Behold. Normally to fix this you would need complex woodworking machinery including (but not limited to) router, this cool jig, and a table saw.

So after I thought about it for a while I came up with this idea to use three dowels to replace the oval shaped tenon. Here's a picture of what they look like while drilling the hole. 

I used a forstner bit so that I could drill away part of the adjoining dowel. Regular drill bits would wander when adjacent to a dowel, but forstners are designed to drill a hole with essentially a flat bottom. Here's a shot of the setup. I had to put the drill head all the way at the top of it's travel to fit the piece. I held the bit with a 3/8" R8 collet.  

 Here's a shot of drilling the test piece. You can see how the middle dowel gets partially consumed. This worked out really well because it allowed each dowel to fit very snugly with the next.

 Here's a shot of drilling the actual part.

Now my chair is all back to good. Finally.

Well that was fun. Now I have to get the lathe going so I can make some bike tools.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sport Utility.....

I love to go Outside®. Of course, both of you, my loyal readers, know this. The first world problem of the ages for folks like me is how to get myself (and all my toys) Outside®. That problem compounds when you begin to have children and insist on taking them Outside® too. Oh, there's a dog in the mix. Almost forgot about that.

Getting Outside® with the kids.

For our needs, we had narrowed the field down to a midsize SUV or a minivan. The SUV probably would have been a Toyota Highlander (admitted Toyota fanboy that I am) or that hot new Pilot that I was raving about a few weeks ago. Things that were dismissed early on were things like a Sportsmobile Ford van or Suburban. These things are just too big since we have to balance this vehicle between the daily business of toddler transport and the occasional use that we're discussing here. (If I'm being honest, that Sportsmobile was never an option anyway.)

So basically I was facing the decision between the social stigma of the minivan or the or the extra capability of the SUV. Of course when you phrase it that way there's not really much of a debate. The truth is, though, that minivans have so much more space than a midsize SUV. They even have more space than most full-size SUVs. And when you throw the dog in the mix we really don't have enough space in that midsize SUV for everybody. Thus, the debate becomes more complicated. At this point you may be saying it may be bigger but it's still got to get where you want to go Outside® and a minivan may not get you there. That may be true but to refute that I'd like to paint a little picture for you.

My other car is a Land Cruiser. That's definitely SUV you want to have if you want to get where you need to go and take a lot of stuff there. I can't carry as much as a half ton pickup but it can go a lot more places. All too often I've headed out for some trailhead in some remote location only to be greeted with huge potholes and all kinds of rough road along the way. At this point in the journey I congratulate myself on having an SUV capable of getting where I want to go. Those potholes and stream crossings and stuff pose no problem whatsoever. When at last I pull into the trailhead and find the last available spot next to......a Prius.

So that Prius with its five and a half inches of ground clearance got to the same Trailhead as me at the cost of only 35 or 40 miles per gallon instead of 12 miles per gallon. Of course they clearly didn't look as good doing it, nor did they bring as much stuff along with them, but I guess they feel like they need to offset their carbon footprint or something.

So an honest accounting shows that having something with less ground clearance than an SUV will get me to 95% of the places that I want to go, especially seeing that I'm dragging small children along and they won't be able to go too far into the backcountry. And I can bring that up to 96% or 97% if I'm willing to live with a little bit of ground scraping along the way. I'm not by the way.

So a minivan it is, BUT, I will do this on my terms. There are a few requirements that will need to be met before this van is acceptable. The first one, all-wheel-drive, eliminated most of the field. I was really only seriously considering the Honda Odyssey or the Toyota Sienna, but the Odyssey has two inches less ground clearance and the Sienna comes in all-wheel-drive. That made the choice pretty simple. Also, if you do your research you will find that the Sienna ages better than the Odyssey. (And if you're looking for a used one, for the love of all that is holy, google "pax" and read up.)

Now, of course, we need to get all our stuff Outside® with us. We gotta have a hitch for the bike rack and possibly towing in the future. The SkyBox will go on the roof rack and someday I hope to buy longer load bars so I can fit a boat or a couple more bikes up top. The hitch is easy I've already installed 3 of those, now four. All this weight is going cause problems unless we can get some extra stability. The extra stability I addressed with Airlift air Springs. In my opinion the springs improve the van's handling in ways I hadn't expected, even when unloaded. I ran it for the whole trip at 20 psi, even though 30 is the max. I had planned on going up to the max somewhere along the way, but never got around to it. 20 psi is what I run it at under normal around-town driving.It's probably not meant for that, but as I said, I think it handles so much better.

Hitch. Non-optional equipment.

AirLift 1000 suspension enhancement. Also non-optional.

It's all set up now. The only thing I will add later is a Yakima Timberline Rack with some 70 inch load bars. Probably next year.

The only negative I have is about the in-dash navigation. How is it that a nav system from 2013 does not work as well as an old Garmin from 2004? The touches are less responsive, it takes a long time to think between selections, and can't navigate forest roads, logging roads, or other little used roads of the like (even though they are displayed on the map). Of course, this last consideration is a BIG negative given my use case. It's also a pain that you can't search destinations while underway. I understand the reasons behind this, but it also means that my wife can't search for the next rest stop as we fly down the freeway. I hate to say it, but I may actually need to keep a Garmin in there on road trips. Toyota needs to figure this out.

All in all, it's working great, and hopefully it will live up to its Toyota badge.

See you Outside®.

Friday, June 03, 2016

A Little Night Wrenching - Conclusion

At long last the radiator is in and the truck is up and running. As I said in the last post, sometimes the gremlins teach you the meaning of pain. That was the theme of this job.

I've been working on this old truck for many years and in all that time I've never really had problems with broken fasteners. The only other one I can remember is one that held on an access plate under the front of the engine. In that case I still had three good fasteners and it was only holding a small plate. I didn't repair it.

In this case, two of the broken bolts attach the steering damper to the frame. Being unwise to live without the steering damper, I had no choice this time.

The other broken bolt is one of four that hold the driver's side headlight assembly. I probably could have gotten away without that one, but since I was setting up the bolt-drill-out shop, I figured I might was well get that done too.

In all I fixed three holes and managed to drill none of them straight through. They all ended up being off center and at some angle. For the two large holes, I think I removed about 1/4 of the threads, but the bolts went in easy (after chasing with the tap) and took the torque I put on them.

The next picture is at an intermediate step. The holes to be repaired are the right and left holes. The middle hole is not part of the project. You can see that for the right hole, at this intermediate step, it was pretty much centered. For some reason when I went up to the final size the bit dove to one side and ended up way off center. The picture below is of the fastener after I got it out. you can see how far off center it was.

The other fastener was much more stubborn. Even after I drilled the final size, the remnant was still locked into the nut. I had to eat away at it using a carbide bit in my Dremel-dentist fashion. There wasn't a big enough piece left to photograph. This operation unfortunately cost me two expensive Dremel carbide bits.

The smaller bolt (for the headlight) was a little more challenging because it was harder to reach. It was pretty far inside so I had to come up with a long extension. I had this hex shank extension for those quick change bits and I found this little drill chuck that I could use with it. My only complaint about the little chuck is that it wasn't very strong and this 5mm drill slipped more than I thought was ok.

When it comes to working on cars, extensions are golden. Over the years I've collected quite a number of them including a 24" 3/8" drive and a 16" 1/4" drive. There's also this 12" hex shank adapter. These combined with all the little adapters and universal joints make the work go so much easier.

The last major hurdle in this job was that the new radiator did not fit well. It was about 3/16" too wide. that doesn't seem like much, but it's enough to prevent it from fitting without modification. I had to grind the mounting brackets as well as the mounting holes.

I did not end up putting in the power steering cooler, but I have figured out how it's going to go in and I'll do that later this summer. Taken with all the extra repairs and modifications I figure this job took about twice as long as it would have otherwise. On the up side, I got a bunch of new drills and taps and that cool little drill chuck out of the deal. Not to mention the satisfaction of success hard won. Even considering all the extra tools I had to buy, I still only paid out about a third of what it would have cost at a shop. Of course, when you weigh that against the amount of time it ended up taking, your cost-savings argument is destroyed. But as we determined in the last post, it's not about the money.