Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bike Tools

Using tools is fun. Any guy know that. But what many guys don't know is that the enjoyment of using that tool is increased if you built or modified that tool for your specific purpose. For my job I work with some guys that have some major skills. They are actually called "the toolmakers". I get to design for them and collaborate with them on some pretty neat stuff. Of course, I don't get to use any of those tools. Sure, I use them when we're developing them in tightly controlled test situations, but I don't actually use them to accomplish anything.

I have to do that in my garage.

Of course, the tools I make or modify in my garage are nowhere near the awesomeness of the tools they make at work, but that's to be expected. Sometimes at work we end up with tools that look shoddy, though. Due to time constraints, mistakes, or inexperience, sometimes the tool looks awful. I've jokingly said at those times that it looks like something an engineer would make in his garage.

Well, here's some more stuff that an engineer made in his garage.

These are two tools I've needed for doing some work on my mountain bike. They are, of course, commercially available, but they are also expensive. Being cost conscious, and willing to try many things at least once, I decided these were good candidates for home construction. They are a 1.5" crown race setting tool and a nipple driver. The crown race is part of the headset of the bike which is the bearing that lets you turn the handlebars. The setting tool is used when you change the headset or the fork. Nipples are those little nubs that connect the spokes of the wheel to the rim. This is used when you want to make bicycle wheels, something I've been considering attempting for some time.

Crown Race Setting Tool (~$65):

Nipple Driver ($30):

So that's $95 for tools. At that rate, I'm not saving much by doing myself rather than having the shop do it. But who am I kidding, I would still probably do it myself. 

For the crown race setting tool I started with a 1.5" piece of schedule 40 PVC pipe. The inside and outside diameters were good, I just needed to shape the end a little so it wouldn't damage the crown race as it was setting it. I set up a jig that would allow me to turn the pipe while holding the Dremel still. Unfortunately, I did not immortalize that with a picture for you all. But this is how it turned out.

You can see how the end was only slightly shaped. It would have turned out better if I had a lathe, which I would have if the government hadn't been so stupid this fall. Whatever. The bottom line is I have my crown race setting tool. Material: 1.5 feet of PVC pipe from Ace Hardware. Cost: ~$3. Savings: ~$62. 

The next one is a little trickier. As you can see the nipple driver can in no way be approximated by a length of pipe. Not to worry, our friends at Klein Tools make a nice little Rapi-Driv (tm) screw driver that looks like this:

Well that's 90% of the work. This little number is had for only $10 on Amazon. Again, I turned to my trusty Dremel. All that was left was to shape the end of the screwdriver to look like the nipple driver, thusly:

I'm sure my brothers and dad would consider this a brutal defilement of a perfectly pristine Klein tool. They would be right, but I think it's worth it. The great thing about Klein tools is you know they are likely to outlive you, so you don't worry about spending a little extra. My dad still uses many of his Klein tools that he bought before I came along. So there you go. Now I have my nipple driver. Material: Klein screwdriver. Cost: ~$10. Savings: ~$20.

So that's $13 payout for $95 worth of tools with an extra helping of satisfaction on the side. But like I said, it looks like something an engineer made in his garage. Because it is.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I've been thinking for a while that I should write this post. My last post about biking in Idaho is long since stale, but that wasn't enough to get be back out here. It's funny that that should be the case, though. The last few months have been pretty eventful. But since November is the month of gratitude, I am finally spurred into a long overdue expression of thanks.

The world today is filled with so much uncertainty and division. Don't get me wrong, those things always exist, but somehow, right now, it seems more acute. Most forget the common ground shared in favor of focusing on the divisive.

Earlier this year it looked as if the divisive issues in the government would render this a lean year. The spring was filled with anxiety for most of the people I know. For whatever reason, however, Chelsea and I were spared. We felt the anxiety and experienced just as much uncertainty as anyone else, but as it played out over the months, we found we were unharmed. Twice this year I was threatened with lost work, but neither time resulted in actual trouble. We were able to weather the normal problems of life. Problems like unexpected car problems and unexpected home repairs,

Of course, that's not to say we're out of the woods. Washington D.C. still hasn't figured out how to pass a budget, so it's still pretty touch and go. The watchword at the Shipyard is to just keep doing a good job and things will work out. That's pretty much right, too, because there's not much that we can do to help matters (since we failed to do so at the last election).

But that's enough about politics and ranting about working for the government.

The next thing I'm immensely grateful for is Chelsea and I have finally received the opportunity to be parents. As the months and years pass, it seems increasingly likely that our calling is to serve only children that are not our own. So far this has been a great opportunity.

We have been blessed by the children themselves but also by so many others who were so generous as we prepared to welcome children into our home. We are literally surrounded by friends. I'm thankful for every one.

Different divisive issues attack another part of my life. I love scouting and the associations formed there, both with other adult leaders, but also with the boys. It is very rewarding and I am grateful to be able to be a part of it. Issues (and the division they bring) at hand today have the power to destroy the scouting movement, but for now it continues to shape the lives of young men the way it shaped my life. I'm grateful for my involvement with it and that it continues to endure.

The list goes on, but that's all I can cram in here for now. Thanks for reading.