Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nanny state run amok


If there’s any small “L” liberals out there who have stumbled into reading this you may want to move on. Reading this – and taking it to the polling booth – would be good for all of us but I’m not holding my breath.

Yesterday our neighbour stopped for a visit.  In the course of the visit he happened to mention that he had to get a set of winter tires installed.  Of course that sent me off on my standard rant about how stupid the whole winter tire marketing scam really is.  I’ll spare you the details except to say that we went through all this when we stopped using winter tires 30+ years ago.  All season tires work just fine and – if you want to get all enviro-friendly – 4 all season tires have a much lower environmental footprint than 8 tires swapped out twice annually.  Its nothing more nor less than a marketing scam on the part of tire manufacturers and governments are complicit in the scam.

Once I ran down on my first rant, Keith set me off again by telling me that winter tires were mandatory in BC.  I of course assured him that we have been driving out there for years and it simply wasn’t true.  After he left though I went online to check his claim and, sure enough, the idiot lawmakers in Victoria introduced a new law, effective October 2014 – winter tires are now mandatory for effectively every bloody inch of highway in BC.  They claim the requirement is limited to highways that cross a mountain but when you look at the coverage map its the whole bloody province.  So of course I had to first apologize to Keith and then I phoned my favourite tire shop in Preeceville.

Boycotting BC simply isn’t an option for us – at least not while Gray Hawk is moored on Vancouver Island.  I phoned a buddy in BC and unloaded on him about his idiot lawmakers.  He in turn assured me that nobody was paying a lot of attention to the law but I don’t believe that lack of attention will extend to out of province visitors.  I can easily imagine a checkstop at the Golden scale that simply watches for SK and AB license plates and then checks tires.  At $150 or $200 a pop for the tickets that could be a good revenue generator to help cure the provincial budget deficit.  Worse, the sons of bitches could tell me to turn around and go back to Calgary to buy new tires.

And before any of you try to tell me about the so-called advantages of winter tires let me assure you that I believe there is some measurable advantage to winter tires.  Just like the there’s a measurable advantage to 4WD, tire chains, studded tires, vehicle weights and any number of other DISCRETIONARY steps that I may take to make winter travel safer.  Of course the single most important step that any of us can take to make winter travel safer is to simply stay home when the roads are not fit for travel.  If a situation exists where the difference between winter and all season tires will be the difference between life and death then the drivers involved should have stayed home or the highway should have been closed.  Legislation can never make us completely safe.  As long as there’s idiots on the road my life is in greater danger from idiots than it is from whatever I choose to run for tires.  Chain up laws are no different – if the pass is so bad that trucks need chains to get over the top THEN PARK THE BLOODY TRUCK AND WAIT IT OUT. 

Our world is doomed as long as we have lawmakers who think they can legislate us into safety cocoons. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I’ve been building boat parts for the last week. 


The bottom piece with the rounded end is the teak bow pulpit, visible in the photo below.  The angle irons are new fabrication and the existing bow roller bracket is visible in the drawing and the photo.


I drew the area using Sketchup before we left the boat in July.  The final rendition is this one where I have scrubbed out the teak bow pulpit to leave only the stainless steel assembly which I need to now build. 


Some of you may have experience fabricating in stainless.  Its challenging.  Stainless is not that hard to cut, if you cut it the first time.  The problem is that it does something called “work hardening” which means that if your saw or drill misses even one opportunity to cut then the material becomes so hard that nothing will touch it.  A good example is my experience cutting 2 little tabs out of 2” x 3/16 bar yesterday.  On the first cut my reciprocating Dewalt cut through the bar with one blade.  On the second piece I clearly didn’t put enough pressure on the saw because I scrubbed the teeth off three blades before I finished the identical cut that had cost me one blade the first time.

My drill press turns out to be not even close to adequate for drilling stainless.  In order to keep it cutting you have to put serious pressure on the drill and my press simply doesn’t have enough rigidity and torque to handle the necessary forces.  Fortunately I was able to figure out how to do the drilling in the lathe.  Before I figured that out I spent a whole morning drilling one pilot hole in the press.  In the course of that fiasco I broke probably 6 or 8 bits.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work for a total of 14 holes in the entire project.  To make matters worse, most of those holes are 1/2” diameter but I broke all those bits on a 1/4” or possibly smaller pilot hole. 

I had to partially disassemble the lathe, removing the back plate and the guard but with those items out of the way I was able to clamp the parts to the cross slide and from there it was dead simple.  All morning to drill one pilot hole in the press versus roughly a day of drilling to do all the finished holes in the lathe.  Then I ran myself out of MIG wire welding everything together.  I almost got done before I ran out so it won’t take much to finish up and we were already planning to go to Saskatoon on Boxing Day. 


1/2” bit emerging through 2 x 2 x 1/4” 304 SS.

(The guard and backplate are still in place in this picture – I had to remove them in order to drill the holes closer to the centre of the long angle irons)

This project arose because our windlass won’t bring the anchor completely aboard.  If you look at that first photo above with the anchor chain leading straight down from the bow roller you can imagine what happens at the point when the anchor stock reaches the bow roller.  At that instant there is roughly 100 pounds of anchor hanging 2-1/2 feet below the bow roller with the chain bent at 90 degrees over the roller.  There’s no way in hell any reasonably sized windlass is going to pull the stock at that point because the entire weight of the anchor has to swing up and out.

The theory of my modification is that the roller and the entire bracket that houses the roller will pivot at the critical moment.  By the time the anchor stock “emerges” it will have travelled through the pivoting bracket which will give the windlass roughly 7 inches of leverage to lift the anchor.  That should be more than adequate.  Currently I go forward and give the anchor a little tug with the boat hook while Marilyn works the windlass button.  It only takes a momentary lift to get the anchor past the sticking point so I don’t think it will take much help to get it home with only the windlass.  There are times when its not entirely convenient to climb out in the pulpit and lift the anchor, not to mention the challenge that single handing creates.  I’ve lifted the anchor alone but I actually can’t remember how I did it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Learning new skills

Today I finished building a #2 Morse taper.  Which may not seem like all that great an achievement or it may seem like a major accomplishment, depending on your perspective. 

It turns out that tapers are a common means of attaching tooling to lathes or milling machines and there are a few common standards in use for what is essentially a piece of steel turned to a slightly conical shape.  The old boy that invented the Morse taper – presumably Mr. Morse – evidently was shooting for 5/8 of an inch per foot but his tooling wasn’t perfect.  So depending on the size of the taper – they’re numbered 1,2,3,4, etc – the taper ranges within 1000’s of an inch either side of 5/8” per foot.  All of which means jack shit when you actually cut one of the things.

Initially I tried setting the compound at 5/8” per foot, reasoning that for the accuracy I was likely to achieve, 5/8” per foot was close enough.  Officially a #2 Morse taper is .5994 inches per foot (0.625 would be an exact 5/8” per foot) so the old boy was way off on his spec for #2.  But like I said, that’s all pretty well moot when you get right down to cutting the taper.  When I set the compound at 5/8” per foot I neglected to take into account the fact that the compound should be set for exactly half of the total taper so when I set it at 5/16” for 6 inches I was setting it at twice the angle I should have been using.  That became immediately apparent when I tried my first effort in the tailstock – it was way loose at the tail. 

Next I tried narrowing the angle by eye which got me closer but there wasn’t a hope in hell that I was going to randomly arrive at exactly the right setting.  Time for Youtube and Google. 

My final and successful effort involved a dial gauge and an existing taper thus:


That’s my tailstock drill chuck in the headstock chuck with its #2 Morse taper extending.  Setting the compound was simply a matter of setting the runout on the taper to zero.  I say “simply” but it took a bit of fiddling, although not as much as I expected. With the compound thus set it was pretty straightforward. 

20141214_130702 After all that effort, this is the end result – not much to look at is it?  My initial goal was to build a spring loaded tailstock centre which would be very useful for starting taps in the lathe.  My taper ended up eating up too much of my stock to continue with my original design but the taper will come in handy at some point.  Next time I’m at a farm auction where they’re giving away broken tools I’ll be looking for a 1/2” (or larger) dead electric drill that I can cannibalize the chuck off of.  In the interim I learned a lot.

UPS Ripoff_1


If you zoom in on the image you will see that it is a UPS invoice charging me $34.41 in order to collect a total of $3.23 GST.  (for those of you that argue that the total GST is actually $4.71 when you include the GST on the usurious collection fees I say “PHOOEEY to you”).  This happens occasionally and it is the reason that I avoid using UPS as a delivery option for online purchases.  I actively avoid using suppliers that only offer UPS as a delivery option.  Occasionally though it is unavoidable, as it was in this situation.  Usually what happens is that the driver arrives and then holds my parcel hostage until I pay the blackmail.  This time for some reason the parcel slipped under their radar and I received it followed by this invoice.  Today I mailed a cheque for $8.23 accompanied by a letter outlining my concerns with their attempted blackmail.  I arrived at the sum of $8.23 by totalling the legitimate $3.23 GST and a more reasonable $5 service charge to collect that $3.23.  The reality is that this is simply an electronic transaction for UPS.  Banks generally charge fractions of a dollar for electronic transactions so I think my $5 allowance was more than generous.  I also sent the whole mess to CBC’s GoPublic.  I don’t suppose that will go anywhere but a quick search will confirm that I’m not the only one dealing with and detesting UPS’s attitude on this matter.


Other than minor skirmishes with UPS and learning to use my lathe this has been a pretty quiet week.  Marilyn has been completely occupied with recruiting her replacement at the village office.  She is extremely motivated in that regard because I have made it clear that I absolutely will go to the coast in the middle of January, with or without her.  After the Regina adventure she takes my threats seriously.  More importantly we have a commitment to deliver a lecture to our yacht club at the end of January.  Our topic is “Cruising Off-Season in BC and Alaska – What were we thinking?” 

Most of our fellow club members never untie their boats between the end of September and the middle of May so our winter cruising habits are a great source of entertainment.  Our experience however has been that there are great advantages to winter cruising.  At the risk of spoiling some of those advantages by encouraging others to clutter up the docks and marine parks, we agreed to do the lecture last spring before we came back to the prairies.  Now that the date is looming it is also providing a convenient deadline by which time the village absolutely needs to have a replacement for Marilyn in place.  If it wasn’t for that hard date I suspect we would be sticking around here for at least another month and likely right through to spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Not much happened this week

It went by quickly but when I look behind me I don’t see that I accomplished a hell of a lot.  Mind you, I lost three days out of the middle going to a time waster conference in Calgary so that only leaves 4 days and I’ve been sick the last 2 of those. 

Several years ago now the Canadian Consulting Agrologists Association (CCAA) put on a few really good PD seminars in Banff and then in Calgary.  Then the CCAA merged with some high falutin’ management consulting outfit from eastern Canada and they haven’t put on a decent conference since.  The one last week was really bad – there was hardly anyone there and the content sucked.  The only real reason left to attend the thing is for networking opportunities and if there’s no one there then there isn’t much opportunity to network.  So I won’t be going to the one next fall, assuming they actually try to hold one again.


SWMBO is alternating between answering the phone and collecting water bills for the village and making sanding dust in the house.  We’re nearly ready to paint the ceilings but we may postpone that until spring so that we can have the windows open.  We’re going to use oil based paint for the ceilings – it will likely stink pretty bad if the house is closed up when we do it.

I’d been postponing changing the plugs and coils in the Lincoln because I had heard so much bad about the job.  Apparently the plugs often strip out the heads and when they don’t do that they actually break off in the head.  They’re in the bottom of a really deep recess so I can imagine how they could be a problem.  They also have super long threads on the plugs which could help them get stuck in the heads.  I had all the parts before the Calgary fiasco but decided to put the project off until I got home just in case it went south on me.  As it turned out it wasn’t really a problem at all.  I blew the recesses out with compressed air and then pissed a bunch of my favorite weasel piss (3-in-one) in all the holes.  After that had sat for a couple of hours each plug came out easily.  It took a lot of torque to break most of them free but once they were free they spun out by hand.  Then I put a copious amount of never seize on the threads on the new plugs and carefully started them back in.  The whole project probably took 3 hours but that was only because I was being super careful and it included changing the headlamps as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oh dear, this looks bad

And I’m not talking about the weather either.  Although, at minus 28 this morning with a minus 41 degree wind chill, it looks pretty ugly too. 

Nor am I referring to my little Case tractor, despite the fact that it royally let me down yesterday.  First the steering wheel insisted on slipping on the steering shaft.  I’ve got a bad setup there.  The original “system” sucked a bit and my repair to it didn’t really improve the situation.  The original relied on a bakelite hub fitting tightly to about a 1-1/2” knurled shaft.  The two parts are held together by a nut but there isn’t enough taper on the knurled portion, there is no key and eventually the bakelite wheel broke into pieces.  I fixed that with epoxy and ended up with a wheel that looked like it would work but the epoxy isn’t hard enough to hold on the knurled shaft and over time it has just worn out the epoxy.  I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board but in the interim I have drilled the shaft and put a bolt through the steering wheel.  However, no sooner had I solved that problem than another much more serious problem appeared. 

When I started the engine the blade wouldn’t raise and I quickly realized it wasn’t going up because the little tractor was bleeding all it’s oil out.  Its not as serious as it might be – there’s a piece of 1” flex hose that connects the hard line return to the cooler which has failed.  I replaced it when I reconditioned the tractor but perhaps I used the wrong kind of hose – I used whatever I could find at hand which likely wasn’t the best way to select a piece of hydraulic hose.  Regardless of the reason, the tractor is hors de combat until I replace that hose again.  Fortunately all this happened in the relative comfort of my (unheated) shop. 



That’s the real reason for my heading.  My lathe finally arrived.  I ordered it several weeks ago after determining that whatever I was going to find for an affordable used lathe wasn’t likely to be significantly better than what I could buy a new Chinese lathe for.  The one I ordered was shipped from Toronto.  They wanted an absurd amount to ship it to Buchanan but only about $130 to ship to Regina.  I was planning to go to Agribition anyway so I told them to ship to Regina and hold it for me to pick up.  That turned into a bit of a fustercluck because they seemed incapable of providing the most basic order confirmation and their idea of tracking information consisted of a weblink saying “its shipped”.

Early last week I got a phone call from Ridsdale Transport in Yorkton.  Evidently my crate had been passing through the depot in Yorkton when the manager recognized my name.  My little skidsteer went through that depot so that must have been why he remembered me.  Perhaps there was some mention of Buchanan on the bill of lading despite the final destination of Regina.  Whatever the reason, he called me and asked if I really wanted to pick it up in Regina.  I agreed that coming to Yorkton would be preferable.  So I did and of course the excellent manager was away when I arrived and I had to deal with his idiot helper who I had a run in with when I picked up the skidsteer.  This time he was freaking out because I also had a desk in the back of the truck.  He started by asking “How are we going to load it on there?”  I was baffled by the question so I assumed he meant he didn’t have a forklift – the crate weighed around 400 pounds.  When I finally figured out that he was simply too stupid to understand that I could move the desk I told him to find something else to worry about.

The next challenge was getting the heavy crate from the truck to its destination in the basement.  The desk was easy and I was spared any idiot commentary from Ridsdale’s temporary help.  The lathe was a bigger problem and at one point I seriously wondered what I had got myself into.  The little skidsteer easily moved it to the porch and I was able to drag it to the head of the stairs with relatively few problems.  Once it was sitting at the top of the stairwell though the reality of moving 400# down the stairs without losing control of it set in.  I ended up entirely removing the crate except for the plywood base that the lathe was bolted to. That allowed me to remove all the loose parts in the crate as well as most of the weight of the crate and likely dropped the net weight to be moved to around 300# – still enough to get me in trouble but manageable.  Then we strapped it to the little 2 wheel cart which has served us through several moves and I slowly dropped it one step at a time into the basement. 

The next challenge was to get it raised onto the desk but that was anticlimactic.  I just screwed a couple of brackets onto two floor joists, stuck a 1” swing handle through them for a bar and used a nylon ratchet strap as a winch. 


Now I need to figure out how to use it which clearly will take 100s of times as many hours as putting it in place took.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unfortunately its really winter now

….. fortunately my little Case started like a trooper.  I did have to fiddle fart around with the choke to keep it running.  We’ve got spoiled by computerized ignitions and fuel injection on gas vehicles.  When a diesel starts it generally just runs but a carbureted gas engine can be a temperamental bitch, as those of us of a certain age can well remember.  I can remember many frigid mornings bent over the open engine bay on one of father’s vehicles trying to coax it into life.  My earliest memory of that was when mother’s ‘58 wagon burned my eyebrows off after it coughed a fireball up through the carb.  I can also remember one bitterly cold day in Regina when the radiator in the ‘66 Montclair slushed up and we had to run it with a blanket over the hood until it generated enough heat to thaw itself out.  It had a 390 with an early automatic choke.  Those auto-chokes pretty well never worked.


Its remarkable what the little 446 will push, as this photo should attest ….


That was early going – as I got better at managing the controls I managed to push a lot higher.  I’ve got about 200 pounds of weight on, maybe a little more, plus the tire chains and it handles remarkably well.  I’ve driven full size tractors with blades that handled a lot worse.  Its sometimes a little light on the front end with the blade down but that’s normal too – with the blade on an angle it will tend to steer the tractor but its really quite manageable.  All in all I’m very impressed with how the project turned out.  The only incident this morning was minor.  At one point I started to lose steering control but it turned out that I had failed to tighten the steering wheel nut sufficiently.  It held together long enough to get me back to the garage where a couple of turns with a wrench solved the problem.

Other than last night’s snowfall our week was pretty uneventful.  We made a trip to Nipawin on Wed/Thurs so that I could attend a 3rd degree – actually a 3 candidate 3rd degree.  I haven’t sat in Lodge in Nipawin for years – we couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been.  The degree team from Grand Lodge was in attendance so that brought out a large crowd.  There were close to 30 of us showed up for supper prior to the meeting.  We worked in a visit with Grace and Al which ended up keeping Gracie up until after 2:00 AM.  I expect she was wishing we had stayed home by the quitting time the next day. 

Marilyn has been sanding up a storm getting ready for paint.  We had a good look at the Pinkney ceiling to confirm how we want to paint the ceiling here.  There was a guy in Nipawin who was (locally) famous for the effect he created on ceilings.  We had him do the ceiling on the 1st acreage as well as most of the house in town.  What he did was paint the ceiling with a high gloss oil paint and then, while the paint was still wet, he waved a coal oil lantern around over his head, turning the wick in and out as he did.  Those of you who have used a kerosene lamp know how much soot they can produce.  As that smoke comes out of the top of the chimney it creates a marble effect in the wet paint.  The paint stays glossy but absorbs the soot.  You end up with a very unique ceiling effect that is dead simple to keep clean.  We were pretty sure we wanted to do it again and seeing Pinkney’s ceiling just confirmed that.  Their ceiling is probably over 40 years old now and still looks wonderful.  If this one lasts even half that long it won’t matter to either of us anymore.  The biggest problem now is finding a decent oil based gloss white paint but its out there, we just have to buy it and put it on.  I bought a kerosene lamp off eBay.  We’ll be painting before Christmas.

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. 


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. 


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. 


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.