Friday, June 19, 2015

Going up

I didn’t start cutting the studs on the garage until I saw the whites of the movers’ eyes but they finally showed up around 8:30 yesterday.  Then we settled into about a half hour of “negotiations”.  It didn’t seem to matter that I have spent close to 2 years thinking about the best way to do this in order to maintain as much structural integrity as possible in the old structure.  Two minutes after arriving on-site the mover had a better idea. 

I was patient.  Very patient.  But I didn’t stop discussing the matter and eventually he came around to – grudgingly – saying that probably my idea was equivalent to what he wanted to do.  So we did it my way.  To his credit at the end of the day he came up to me and said “Its a really good thing we did this your way because my way simply wouldn’t have worked.”  I resisted the urge to respond “I know”. 


Waiting for the movers


Putting in the cross beams.  At this point it was still a big mystery to me how this was going to proceed.


Sliding the main beams in.  The process becomes clearer to me.


Getting closer to the final height.


Final height with the first row of sheeting in place.  Now waiting for the movers to return and remove their beams and blocking.

The big debate was about what portion of the garage we would actually lift.  If you look close at the 2nd photo above you’ll see that I cut roughly 1 foot above the bottom plate.  That left stubs of the studs attached to the plate.  Once we got to height we levelled the building and then put cripple studs in alongside each existing stud.  Its not quite that simple because we couldn’t put studs where the beams stick through the building. And they had some wildass idea about starting with one end low and and slowly lowering the building from the other end.  Fortunately we ran out of day before they could entirely implement that nonsense.  As near as I could tell the only thing that accomplished was to make it nigh on impossible to figure out where to attach the cripple studs.  Once we got the building levelled at the right height it was dead simple to stand 12 foot 2x4s up alongside the existing studs and stick them together with the air framing nailer. 

There’s not much left of the old bottom plate.  Too many years sitting on damp concrete means that the nails or bolts or whatever originally held it to the concrete are, for the most part anyway, no longer with us.  My new highest priority is to get some concrete poured inside the existing building and out into the expansion areas.  That will help to anchor the old plate and the base of the studs.  I think I’ll figure out something to tie down the studs a little better at the same time.  I’m not sure exactly what that will be but something to tie them into the new concrete. 

I’ve settled on adding 12 feet onto the east side and an 8 foot lean-to on the west side.  Despite the fact that every garage save one on our lane is a full 20 feet or more east of the garage, I think the property line is actually about 14 or 16 feet east of the garage.  The fact that everyone else feels comfortable building on the lane easement doesn’t give me any confidence that we should do the same.  Even though I can’t do the 16 foot addition we’ll end up with a main building 38 x 22 and an 8 x 22 lean-to which will be a hell of a lot better than what we have now.  I had several looky-lous yesterday who asked me why we were making it so big.  Leaving aside the fact that I don’t consider that particularly large, my answer was the same to all of them.  “I’ve built a few shops and talked to lots of guys who have built shops but I have yet to meet one person who says ‘Damn it I wish I’d made mine smaller!’”

IMG_5671 IMG_5666

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Ever since we landed in Buchanan I’ve been scheming about some kind of a shop.  At one point we seriously considered a new build at 210 but fortunately we waited and this place came available.  Since we moved in here we’ve considered waiting out some of the oldsters that surround us in the hope of moving into something with a little more yard and then consolidating in one location.  Both here and at 210 our neighbours are elderly with health issues.  They also both have large “shop like” buildings on their property.  But we’ve kind of got used to the 2 yard situation and it has some advantages.  More importantly both neighbours seem like they aren’t going anywhere soon.  So for the last year I’ve been considering how I can economically end up with a usable shop.

The little garage on this property is structurally sound with a good roof, half of which has good shingles.  The south slope has obviously been redone fairly recently – the north slope is getting pretty sketchy but it probably has a few years left in it if we push it.  The problem is that the headroom inside is the shits – I don’t think it had a clear 8 feet when it was built and they’ve eroded that by putting a wooden floor over the concrete.  Up until yesterday I thought the wood was sitting directly on the ground but I accidentally discovered that there is a pretty decent concrete floor underneath the wood.

I discovered the concrete in the course of emptying the garage completely.  When I started removing the fairly substantial shelving unit in the NW corner it turned out to be sitting on the concrete with wood floor built all around it.  I was emptying the garage because the building movers are coming on Wednesday.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I decided that I could salvage some significant value out of the existing garage by raising the roof.  And not just raising it a little – I propose to raise it 7 feet.  Now that I have discovered the concrete it makes even better sense.  Without the concrete I figured I would just barely come out ahead by renovating compared to demolishing and rebuilding but with the floor in the picture the renovation is a clear cost winner.

Once I get the existing structure raised I will add another piece on the east end.  I haven’t made a final decision on the size of that addition but it will be at least 10 feet and likely 16 feet by the roughly 24 feet width of the existing building.  If I go with the 16 foot addition that will give me a finished 40 x 24 shop with headroom for a 14 foot door.  That in turn will let me easily get the fifth wheel inside and it will let me use a car hoist as well.  Murray has a car hoist and I’ve been jealous of it ever since I first helped him do something on it.  Like he says “When you need a wrench instead of rolling out, standing up, getting the wrench and then crawling back under you just walk over to the toolbox and get a wrench.”   I’ll also probably put a 10 foot lean-to along the west side which will house the workbench, welding bench, tool crib and parts storage. 

The first step in the whole process was to find a building mover and the first one of them that I phoned has yet to call me back.  The second one said “Well we could come Monday.  How’s that work for you?” Ummm – well – aahhhh – I’m not actually ready.  The more I thought about it though it seemed like I should grab the opportunity before he gets busy somewhere else so I called him back.  Then he sent one of the kids who works for him (and lives in Buchanan) to scope out the project over his lunch hour.  Aside from the formidable task of emptying all my junk from the garage my other big worry was the SaskTel phone line that runs directly over the existing garage, clearing it by maybe 2 feet.  My building mover assured me that he knows “the SaskTel guy” and that he will get him onsite before they get here.  So on that basis we committed to being ready by Wednesday. 


The west side (faces the house) of our little garage

And we’re more or less ready tonight.  I’ve got a truckload of lumber scheduled to arrive tomorrow.  Once it gets here I’ll put a ring of 2x6 around the garage roughly a foot above the floor.  Then I’ll cut through the sheeting and studs along the bottom of that 2x6 ring.  I won’t cut everything loose until Wednesday when the crew gets here but I’ll be able to do some of the cutting before they arrive.  They will lift the top of the building up 7 feet leaving stubs of the studs sticking up roughly 1 foot high.  They will have to leave the top of the building level and plumb but then I’ll scab in studs to fill the gap and sheet the gap.  They plan to leave the blocking in for 2 days but I don’t think it will take anywhere near that long to fill the gap.  I’m going to use 12 foot 2x4 for the cripple studs but I could probably make 10 footers work.  I’ll have a foot of overlap at the bottom and 4 feet at the top – 10 footers would only have 2 feet of overlap at the top which might end up being a little wobbly.


The east side of the garage this morning before I removed the POS doors.  The wood over concrete floor is kind of visible

The garage is so poorly wired now that I’ll be able to save all the wiring, for whatever that may be worth.  There’s very few outlets and there were no lights until I hung a couple of fluorescent fixtures.  All the wiring that there is goes up so it will all stay intact when I cut off the bottom of the building.  I’ll have to splice in an extension to feed the panel but other than that the existing wiring won’t be touched by the roof raising.  If nothing else it will give me lights and power while I’m doing the renovation but I will absolutely need to put in a new power service.  Right now there’s a 4 breaker panel with what looks like 12/2 loomex feeding it from a 20 amp breaker in the house.  When we had the panel in the house upgraded last fall I had the garage renovation in mind.  I’ll put in at least a 60 amp sub-panel and I think I’ll bury gas line as well.  As long as we’re going away in the winter I don’t really need heat but if I’ve got a trench open I might as well put a gas line in it just in case.


Empty and doorless tonight.  Shitty wood floor visible.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The frankentraktor butt buggy project

So when I got done rejuvenating the little 446 last fall I had a pile of surplus parts.


The refurbished 446 that generated all the spare parts for the frankentraktor project.

Not least among the pile of spare parts was a more or less complete Roper chassis.  Its a pretty solid little chassis – in fact I felt momentarily guilty cannibalizing the engine out of it for the 446.  When I was all done that exercise I ended up with 2 surplus Onan BF series boxer engines.  They’re a great little engine but wicked expensive to rebuild which is why I never seriously considered rebuilding the one out of the 446.  The 2nd spare came from the idiot that I bought the Roper from.  He had very recently swapped a new Linamar into the Roper but he kept the original Onan and included it in the deal.  Poor Doug came home one day to find Onan parts hidden all over his front yard.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he discovers a few more in the course of lawn mowing this summer.  The guy had them in his mailbox, behind his garbage bin, on his doorstep – I can’t remember where all he said he had hidden them.  I guess random thievery of dead Onan parts is a huge issue in Prince Albert (where the Onan originated) but I didn’t realize the crime wave had spread to Saskatoon as well.  Doug didn’t know anything about it either and he’s lived there for a long time.

So I had a Roper chassis and 2 Onans, both of which ran – sort of.  The one from PA. likely has a hole in one of the pistons.  I haven’t taken it apart but it appears to run on one cylinder.  Mine was pretty tired but I took the heads off, scraped off the carbon, reset the valves, painted the head gaskets with aluminum paint and slapped it all back together.  It runs pretty good now and I don’t plan to work it at all so it will likely last me a long time in its new service.  So far I haven’t persuaded it to put out 12 volts on the charge circuit but in the worst event I can pull the stator out of the P.A. engine and that will likely solve the problem.



That’s the current state of the Roper chassis, now rebranded as Bob’s Butt Buggy.  I have to be careful to enunciate that clearly because Bob’s Butt Buddy has a whole different meaning.  Its not pretty but it is functional.  I’m forever running back and forth to the little house, which is only 4 blocks away but still it gets tiresome to walk and its not worth starting a real vehicle.  This morning I ferried a battery charger and extension cord down there because I’m getting ready for another episode of wood chipping.  The butt buggy ran like a trooper but I need to speed it up a bit.  Its got 6 gears – a 3 speed transmission with a high/low on it – but even in 3 high it only goes at a brisk walking pace with the engine at mid throttle.  Since I’ll never make it do any serious work I think I can double or triple the size of the drive pulley on the engine and get up to maybe 15 MPH at idle in high gear.  That should give a pretty useful range of speeds. 

Right now it doesn’t really have a usable hitch – that will be another early improvement and it needs some mirrors.  I don’t know what the village bylaw says about safety accoutrements like mirrors and signals but it seems prudent even if its not mandatory.  And it may need a wheelie bar – the clutch is pretty sensitive and the new seats & tool platform has made it fairly light on the front end.  On  the plus side it steers easy.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Our tax dollars (not) at work

I suppose Curtail M or a shot of Banvel is out of the question but if the lazy bastards would get their lard asses out of the coffee shop and onto a mower this place could look a lot better.

And now for something completely different

horse stuck in fence laughing cow


W T and F - Sesame Street

Friday, June 5, 2015

Back where we belong


We left home last Sunday planning to spend the week in Saskatoon followed by the weekend in Waskesiu.  That plan almost came off the rails when the fridge in the fifth wheel packed it in at the start of the trip.  Many years ago now Al Dahl told me that I could revive an absorption fridge by whacking the coils and taking it for a drive.  I whacked it vigorously and, while we never actually took it for a drive, I have to believe that the newer fridges maybe don’t respond the way Al led me to expect. 

Youtube showed me how to replace the cooling unit in the fridge and it looked more or less doable.  But at a significant cost.  A new fridge is not cheap and the cooling coil replacement was going to end up costing over half the cost of a new fridge.  When I combined the relatively minor cost saving with the fact that there was no 100% dead certain guarantee that replacing the cooling unit was going to fix the problem, it seemed logical to replace the entire fridge.  So that’s what we did.  Carl at Mr. RV ordered one late on Monday and it arrived early Thursday morning.  Removing the old one and replacing it took less than an hour.  The new one took a while to get cold but its working like a charm now.  I still have to rehang the doors because – of course – they open the wrong way and the new doors came with blank panels so we’ll need to fit the decorative wood trim from the old fridge to the new doors.  I’m not going to try fitting the wood panels until we get back to Buchanan but I’ll likely change the door swings tomorrow.

The fridge incident temporarily made us consider not going to Waskesiu.  When I was thinking that I might replace the cooling unit it made sense to go back to Buchanan while we waited for the new cooling unit to arrive.  Once we decided to replace the entire fridge then we were able to put Waskesiu back on the agenda.  Big thanks to Doug and Jo for the use of their freezer.  Marilyn had stuffed the freezer in the fifth wheel with meat before we left Buchanan.  Its all back in the freezer now, none the worse for its detour through the Barmby freezer.

Tonight we had supper in site C5 in the trailer park at Waskesiu.  I guess they call it Red Deer now.  We’ve spent a lot of time up here over the years in various RVs.  When the kids were small we liked to stay in Beaver Glen which is more rustic.  The sites over there include fire pits which was a big deal when the kids were smaller.  There’s a few of the sites in Beaver Glen have water and sewer but most of them are completely unserviced.  The ones over here in the trailer park are less scenic but fully serviced. 

After supper we rode our bikes into town, bought tea at the store and then sat in the big chairs in front of the store watching the world go by.  There was a little thunder storm late in the afternoon but by early evening the lake was dead calm.  We can’t really remember when the last time was that we were up here but it sure feels good to be back.