Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another project done

The noisy Onan wasn’t a whole lot of use to us in the backend of the frenchy-bus.  It was great when the bus was mobile but the last year, not so much. 

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The thought of digging it out of the back of the bus was daunting but I finally got at it and it wasn’t really that bad.  I kept the costs to a minimum, using mostly old junk that I had lying around. 

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I ended up springing for a couple of electrical boxes but otherwise I just used up junk that I already had on hand.  Last night I moved it out of the shop and set it beside the house.  I’ve got the two 8D start batteries out of the bus hooked up so I should have adequate start power.  I haven’t done it yet but I’ve got a battery tender that I will leave hooked up to them. I’m waiting for a call from the local electrician to get a quote on changing the house panel from 125 amp to 200 amp.  Assuming he isn’t stupidly expensive, I’ll add a sub panel into that project so that we can run a few critical circuits on a transfer switch off the genset.  At a minimum I’d like to have the furnace and the kitchen ready to go on the generator – the TV would be nice to have too.  I suppose now that we’re this well set up the power won’t go out but I guess you don’t buy insurance so you can watch your house burn down either. 

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I’m coming to the end of my outdoor project list which is a good thing because its getting too cold to work outside – minus 20 this morning.  I’ve got some plexi-glass to install in the skidsteer and I need to build a door for it as well.  I’ve also got a little 12 volt heater that I should hook into the engine cooling loop but I may put that off until warmer weather.  I don’t really need to run the skidsteer in the winter – that’s what the little Onan in the Case garden tractor is for.  If Tasca Auto Parts ever gets done screwing up my order and ships the lower steering shaft for the Lincoln I’ll put that in but its not urgently needed.  I’ve been keeping the old one alive with a grease needle and its nowhere near the end of its life anyway.  I would like to get it done and I’ve paid the bastards for the part but they just seem incapable of getting it shipped.  Other than those two projects I’m pretty well caught up on outside projects.

Whenever I run out of outside project weather there is an expanding list of indoor projects waiting.  Marilyn has already stripped the peeling paint off the kitchen ceiling and patched a bunch of gyproc.  At a minimum we hope to get that painted and lay ceramic tile before we go back to the boat.  Mind you, if both of us stay unemployed, we might just hunker down on the prairies for the winter.  Boating is expensive.  So is renovating.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cold, damn cold

The furnace is working overtime and I’ve been burning a lot of diesel to keep the little garage warm too.  I’ve got one of those construction heaters that is supposed to burn kerosene but works just fine on diesel fuel.  Recently I have discovered that I can get rid of waste oil by blending it off into the diesel.  I do have to concoct a bit of a witch’s brew in order to get it to burn.  Too much waste oil puts the furnace out and sometimes the smoke is a little intense but when I get the gasoline/oil blend just right it works well and I’m holding my own on the waste oil supply.  I just went through a big round of oil changes to get ready for winter so I’ve got a lot of oil sitting around.  We also brought back about 20 gallons of oil from the boat.  If I can figure out a higher analysis waste blend perhaps I can get rid of that over the winter as well. 

We spent most of the week in Saskatoon.  Ag in the Classroom launched Marilyn’s project with much fanfare at Prairieland and we were invited.  They had about 200 kids from Grade 7 schools around the city participating in the project plus as many more bussed in for the keynote speaker at noon.  The lunch speaker was Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children.  He’s a little full of himself but he has every reason to be proud of what he has accomplished.  He’s in his early 20’s now and heads up an organization that started with his dream – as a 12 year old – to make a difference.  Clearly he has made a difference in the world and he has a great ability to communicate with kids so he was an excellent choice for the session.  He’s also the founder of We Day which is a reward celebration for kids who have done some form of volunteer work in both the global and their local communities.  There was a We Day event in Saskatoon on Friday so Sara scheduled her Ag in the Classroom launch a day ahead of that in order to build on the media around We Day.  It worked well – the launch was exceptionally well done and we both had fun shepherding kids through the various learning activities.  Spending time with kids is great, particularly when you know you can send them home at the end of the day.

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We used the Saskatoon trip for some visiting and to stock up at Costco.  I brought home some micro-tractor parts and of course I had to stop at Princess Auto.  As soon as the mayor heard I was going to the city I had a shopping list for Princess Auto and Marilyn had a Dollar Store shopping list.  The Dollar Store item was plastic tablecloths for the local hypnotist evening.  They do a celebration here called “Christmas in November”.  Its kind of a combination fall supper, village Christmas party, corporate Christmas party & dance evening.  The DJ for the dance was lame but they usually are.  Larry Christie is the only DJ I can think of who was ever any damn good.  Most times they just play music that they like to listen to which usually is no bloody good for dancing.  This time was no exception so we left before midnight. (which we probably would have done anyway I suppose)

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The hypnotist was pretty much like any other hypnotist except that this one is a local lad.  When Wendy from the Co-op walked into the hall they had a big reunion because apparently she used to babysit the guy.  Marilyn spent a bunch of Friday and Saturday in the Community Centre helping prepare the evening meal.  They have a deal at the Plus 50 club here where the men pay a higher annual fee because the women are expected to help with the cooking.  It may not be sexually enlightened but it works for me. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Little tractors, perverts and cold weather

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The little Case has come a long way in a short space of time.  Its only about 3 weeks since it was lying in bits scattered around the backyard.  Now its substantially together and today I hung most of the decals on it.  I have to pick up a rattle can of clearcoat to keep the decal edges from lifting and I need a few more electrical bits to finish it up but its real close now. 

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I spent a bunch of time this afternoon giving the Onan that came out of the little Case a gasoline bath.  I know you’re not supposed to do that anymore – maybe it never was a good idea – but its not the first engine rebuild that started out with a gas bath and it won’t be the last one either.  I’m not doing a rebuild by any stretch but I do want to clean it up a bit.  Right now I’m waiting for a new crankcase breather plate and then I’ll start bolting everything back together.  I pulled the heads this afternoon and scritched a bit of carbon off the deck and pistons.  I’m going to cheap out on replacing the head gaskets.  I’ve read in several places that I can coat the old ones with several layers of aluminum paint and slap them back on so that’s the way I’ll be doing it.  I’m not real sure what I’m going to do with the engine if I manage to get it running again but these little Onans are pretty rugged engines and they still bring a lot of money if they are running. 

Other than futzing with the tractor I haven’t cut a very wide swath this last week.  Of course we’ve been watching the Jian fiasco unfold and I am hoping that – since he seems to like rough sex – he’ll get a chance to experience rough sex in a prison environment.  I never liked the little SOB.  I can’t claim to have known anything about his sexual perversity but I just didn’t like him.  It always seemed to me that he had an unhealthy interest in interviewing perverts.  Pervs of a feather flock together.

About a week ago the mayor consulted me on the purchase of a fancy transfer switch to sit between his house panel and his generator.  I’m not sure what my authority is to speak about transfer switches but it got me thinking about our own generator and the fact that, when the power goes out in Buchanan, it generally stays out for a long time.  We got spoiled in Nipawin.  Sask Power makes most of the power for the whole province within 40 miles of Nipawin so, on those rare occasions when our power flickered, that usually was all it was, a flicker.  Buchanan, on the other hand, is at the end of a very long extension cord.  If that cord gets unplugged it can take a very very long time to get it all hooked up again.

We sat through a day long power outage here a few years ago in the bus.  At the time it really didn’t impact us because we could run the generator.  We still have the generator but it wasn’t a bunch of use 3 blocks away from us in the back end of a dead bus.  So early this week I started unbolting it and on Friday I pulled it out and loaded it in the back of the big white Ford.  Its pretty dirty so I thought I might as well take it with us to Saskatoon this week and give it a bath.  Then I’ll have to jury rig some kind of fuel supply and a battery but it should be relatively straight forward to get us a backup genset.  Gary bought his fancy transfer switch online so – whenever it arrives – I’ll have a look at it before I decide if there’s one of them in our future too.  The same switch is available in Canada for a mere 2 times the price that it sells for in the US.  So if we do buy one, it will be coming across the line as well.  The post office lady is getting used to me coming in to pick up parcels.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Simply obscene

And no, I’m not talking about what happened on Parliament Hill this week.  The topic of the day is Ford Stealerships and for that matter, stealerships in general.

I’m likely a little more willing than the average consumer to buy online but, if I’m in the forefront of online purchasers, I believe there’s a tidal wave about to engulf conventional dealerships if they don’t wake up to the risk.  Yesterday I backed the Lincoln over a dirt ridge and ripped this thing open:

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The “thing” in that picture is the evaporative emissions charcoal canister which some bozo/engineer thought it would be wise to locate under the trunk of the Ford panther series platform. Every manmade problem in this world can be traced to either an engineer or a lawyer …. but I digress.

The box that is now flopping loose below the trunk contains the evaporative emission control system.  I’ve had an encounter with it already so its operation is not entirely foreign to me.  And other than the colossally stupid location on this particular vehicle platform, I don’t really have any issue with the concept.  The way the system works – and its been on all gasoline vehicles since sometime in the 1990’s – is actually relatively simple.  The gasoline vapours which we used to smell every time we walked up to a vehicle on a hot day are now directed to a charcoal canister.  The fuel system is under a low pressure by means of a sealed fuel cap which effectively forces the vapours into the charcoal canister without letting them leak out into the environment.

If that was the extent of the system, eventually the charcoal would become saturated with fuel vapour and stop working.  So the rest of the system is a solenoid controlled by the engine control module (computer) which opens periodically to connect the charcoal filter to manifold vacuum.  All gasoline engines operate with relatively strong vacuum in the manifold which is what draws air and fuel into the engine.  When that vacuum is connected to the charcoal canister it purges the vapour which has collected in the canister and allows the charcoal to continue to do its work of absorbing fumes off the fuel tank.  Apparently fuel vapours were a major component of the city smog that those of us who are of a certain age can remember, not fondly.  All modern gasoline vehicles have had some variant of the above system for 20 years now so the fact that most of us don’t know anything about the system tells me that they are pretty reliable. 

The stupid location of the system on the Lincoln – did I mention it was designed by an engineer? – means that it gets full of dirt and assorted road crap.  That was why I even knew it existed.  Last summer it got plugged up with crap and the computer started throwing a check engine code.  Last fall I pulled it all apart and cleaned it up which got it working again and stopped the engine codes.  This time it has missing parts so, rather than just replace the necessary parts, I decided I would change out the entire assembly.

Tasca Parts online has the assembly for $231, plus freight of course.  I found it in various other places including eBay for about the same money with only the freight charges varying widely. 

canister The genuine FoMoCo photo, complete with Ford watermark. 

I also need a little connector which got ripped off in the incident.  It is ridiculously expensive – the best I found online was $32 which is just stupid considering its the size of a coke bottle top.  I expect it is manufactured in Taiwan and the original manufacturer gets something less than a dollar for it.

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This morning I started phoning local Ford dealers to see if I could shop locally.  I phoned Preeceville first but they didn’t even have a message on their phone.  After about 10 rings I concluded that they likely weren’t open on weekends so I called Yorkton.  The nice man in parts took an incredibly long time to come up with a price considering that I gave him two genuine Ford part numbers.  Google or eBay will turn those part numbers into a price in less than 30 seconds but it took Dennis in Yorkton a couple of minutes before he came back with a price.  He wanted a mere $65 for the electrical connector.  And over $700 for the canister.  I asked him if those prices were negotiable and – while he did offer a slight discount – his idea of negotiable and my idea didn’t exactly mesh.

Now I don’t expect that local dealers will be equally priced with online retailers.  I’m perfectly willing to pay a premium to deal locally.  I’m not however willing to pay double and if the truth be known its not so much a percentage as an absolute amount that forms my barrier to dealing locally.  I’ll pay $50 to $100 for the “privilege” of dealing locally but no more and I’m not really sure why its worth any premium at all. 

If the local retailer stocked anything then I could justify paying extra for quick access to the parts.  The simple fact now is that nobody stocks jack shit locally.  So the online timeline may be the same or at worst only a few days longer than the local timeline.  There’s also the matter of professional advice and support but again, I’m not so sure the local person is better.  All too often I’ve gone up to parts counters and had the idiot on the other side of the counter tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I didn’t actually want what I said I wanted.  Just yesterday I was forced into NAPA in Melfort where the old bat at the counter told me they didn’t have any panel mount volt meters.  I said “come on, you must have oil pressure gauges and voltage meters somewhere”.  She wandered over to the aisle that I hadn’t made it to yet and said “see, we don’t have one”.  I reached out and pulled the volt meter off the wall in front of her, pointed out where it clearly said “Volt Meter” on the packaging and then had to listen to her blather about how she thought I wanted something different.  That kind of experience happens all too often and I don’t appreciate having to work hard get around someone who presumably is there to help me.  So I’m not sure why I would willingly pay any premium at all for “local” access to parts.  The fact remains that I will pay more but increasingly I don’t.

Since I had an order coming from Tasca Parts I ordered the intermediate steering shaft at the same time.  There’s two u-joints in the steering column on the Lincoln, one up under your knees and the other exposed to the elements right next to the exhaust manifold.  Guess which one dries out and fails first?  I’ve squirted grease into it with a grease needle a couple of times now but that’s only postponing the inevitable.  It doesn’t sound like its very hard to change – one online mechanic says it took him less time than an oil change.  139 bux from Tasca – I wonder what the local stealerships would think it might be worth if I let them sell it to me and install it?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Painting

The artist has returned.

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It turns out there’s an art group in Buchanan.  Who knew?  They meet once a week to do art.  SWMBO has been attending and she has started painting again.  She also drew Gray Hawk anchored in a bay with crayons.  (she drew the picture with crayons – Gray Hawk was anchored with an anchor)

I’ve been painting too.

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I got the little tractor tore apart and then hung it from the rafters in the garage.

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When I was in Saskatoon last week I picked up a few quarts of Case tractor paint.  I bought a quart at Hergott’s in Humboldt for $21 and 2 quarts at Redhead in Saskatoon for $56 – evidently there’s a lot more overhead at the Redhead store.  For the vintage of my tractors I should be using Case Power Red (which is actually orange) and Desert Sand (which is kind of a shitty brownish yellow).  I wasn’t able to find Desert Sand so I settled for Power Tan which is actually the Case construction yellow but its a pretty close match to the original colour for my tractor.  The whole point of this repaint is to make the tractor look better than it did.  I have no illusions that I am doing a restoration quality paint job. 

Last night I buggered around with the welder trying to patch up the rust holes in the front of the hood.  It was kind of like trying to weld tin foil so I quickly gave up, mixed up some epoxy paste with colloidal filler and goobered the hood up with that.  That went WAY quicker and once its covered by paint no one will know the difference.  I did weld the broken hood hinge back on.

This morning I started squirting paint onto the various bits and pieces hanging from the roof. 

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I’ve still got all my spraying equipment from the summer when I painted the bus.  I’ve also got a lot of odds and ends of paint leftover from that project so I had plenty of reducer.  It was moderately cold this morning – about 10C – so I threw in some additional hardener as well.  I don’t really know what I’m doing but it seemed like a good thing to do and the guys at Walker’s Auto Body Supply in Saskatoon thought it might help.  I had read online that adding hardener was a good idea but I thought it might just be internet bullshit so I checked with Walker’s when I was buying gunwash.  They said it wouldn’t hurt anything and might help in colder weather.

The forecast is good out as far as they can be trusted so I hope to get the tractor back together while I can still remember where everything goes.  When I was in Saskatoon I also picked up my used Roper garden tractor complete with new Linamar (Onan) engine.  The tractor is a piece of shit but the engine runs like a charm.  I haven’t pulled anything apart yet but maybe by Tuesday I’ll be ready to do the transplant.   

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turkey, tractors and a football game

The mayor and I spent most of the week not fixing the grader.  In the end our problem was so simple I’m reluctant to admit I was too stupid to diagnose it.  We had a fitting on the hydraulic cylinder that lifts the wing which just barely touched a support when the wing was fully lifted.  Evidently it was touching hard enough to eventually break the fitting.  We never saw it touch so we stayed focussed on the problem being too much pressure.  Finally on Saturday we had a supervisory crowd of locals and one of them spotted the real problem.  So ---- finally ---- that project is fully behind us. 

I immediately launched into tearing the 2nd of my two little tractors completely apart.

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You may recall that I bought the two tractors last fall, intending to use one while I fixed the other one.  I started out using this one but the mighty Onan had so much blowby that I eventually switched to the other tractor.  It wasn’t without its challenges either so the summer slipped by without any fixing getting done on either unit beyond what was absolutely necessary to get the lawns mowed regularly. There was only one time this whole summer where I drove a tractor to the other house, mowed the lawn and came home without incident.  That was the final mowing of the fall.  On every other occasion something happened during the mowing which necessitated returning home for repairs.  Neither of them ever made me walk home but it was a near thing a couple of times.

20141013_110225 These little Cases came with Kohlers or Onans with the Onan being the “big” engine.  The Kohlers were single cylinder, rated at 14 HP.  The Onans are twins rated at 16 or 18 HP.  Onan eventually licensed an outfit called Linamar to make a copy of the B43M which is the engine I had in the 446 Case.  Onan repair parts are stupid expensive but I was lucky enough to find a low hours Linamar that some guy in P.A bought new and stuffed into a piece of shit Roper lawn tractor.  He seemed astounded that I wanted to buy his lawn tractor so I could cannibalize the engine but that didn’t prevent us from making a deal.  Before I put the “new” engine in I’m going to slobber a bit of orange paint around the tractor frame.  It will by no means be a restoration paint job but once its covered with grass slime and oil slobber it should look OK from a hundred yards. 

Along with drooling some paint onto the frame I’ll replace the obvious things like worn out hydraulic hoses, worn out tie rod ends and boogy wiring.  I expect I’ll be able to cannibalize more than just the engine from the little Roper – the seat looks good as does the steering wheel.  My tractor is actually pretty tight, its just been neglected.  A simple cleaning along with replacing a few obvious parts, changing the fluids and adding some grease will go a long way to resurrecting it.  My goal isn’t a restoration – its a usable lawn tractor.  That shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.  I still haven’t figured out what to do about the tiller.  The tines on the ones I got are pretty well pooched and so far I haven’t been able to find jobber replacements.  We don’t have a garden so its not a big issue yet.

Today we had a few people over for Thanksgiving dinner and to watch the fiasco in Montreal.  That was a particularly forgettable experience.  We can only hope that Kerry Joseph injects some playoff life into the team.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fall yardwork

Shortly after we moved in here at 515 I posted this picture of the house …….

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… and Jim Vancha quickly commented that he expected there was a chainsaw in my future.  As it turned out a Dewalt reciprocating saw did the trick just fine.  There are a lot of advantages to the Dewalt solution: its lighter, much lighter, it starts immediately when you squeeze the trigger, it doesn’t stink, it doesn’t puke oil and when the blade gets dull you chuck it and put in a new sharp one.  I used to own a really nice Husky 266 with a 26 inch bar but the more I think about it the less I miss it.

ChipperChipping We’d been holding off on cutting the trees until Marilyn’s new toy showed up and it arrived yesterday.  I spent last night putting it together.  Its incredibly well built but the assembly instructions were equally incredibly poorly written. In spite of the instructions I got it together and we fired it up today.  It easily chewed through six inch branches.  The specs claim that it will handle eight inch diameter and I expect it would.  The challenge is to get the branches that stick out from the trunk to feed in so even a branch that is much smaller than the nominal capacity may jam up and not feed through.  All in all though it worked remarkably well and we reduced several relatively large trees to a surprisingly small pile of wood chips.

Neighbour Keith was having as much fun as we were.  As soon as I fired up the tractor he was right in the middle of the project. When we got done our trees we pruned several obnoxious branches off his trees and quickly reduced them to wood chips as well.  We were clearly dealing with our own trees on our own property but in Keith’s case we were mutilating the village’s trees.  I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us.

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Now we’ll have to paint the house because you can actually see it.  Once we got the trees out of the way I fired up the little Kubota and yanked out a couple of stumps.  It was a little spooky working that close to the house but I didn’t damage anything.  Apparently the plan is to allow the cedars by the front steps to regrow.  I don’t get to make the plans – I’m just the goof that helps to make them happen.