Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Difference Between Male and Female

You’d think I’d know the difference. Heck, I thought I knew the difference.

Actually I think I do know the difference, I just don’t always pay attention. The other day Tia asked me to help her fix some extension cords, which we use for the water heaters in the winter. The horses need water, and it tends to freeze in CO if we don’t add some heat.

I went out, cut the end off the extension cord, which was damaged, and used a replacement from the store to fix it up. Here’s what I ended up with:


Here’s what I needed:


As you can see when they’re together, they’re different. Since this end of the extension cord needs to accept the plug from the water heater, I screwed up.


So I had to remove my plug, then wire up the new one. It wasn’t hard, but I had to strip out the insulation in the cold weather. It wasn’t windy, but it’s about 35F out there and since I move slow with my big clumsy hands, it got chilly quickly. Working with those small wires and tight screwdrivers is tough.

I managed to get two wires in, and then in trying to get the third screw loose, I pulled out all my wires. So I had to put all three wires back in, tighten them, test things with my tester (it worked!) and then close things up and re-attach the PVC to the barn wall that covers the cords as they come down from the roof.

At least I learned that it’s worth checking whether you need a male or female plug before you start attaching wires.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It’s a Broken Weld

I don’t feel like a complete idiot after today. I had emailed with a dealer that could do some work on my tractor and mentioned that my rotary mower had lost the pan and blades. They told me to bring it up and they’d take a look, so with some time today, I decided to head up and see what they could do.

It’s a long drive, about 60 miles from the house, but these were nice guys (unlike the crew in Parker), so I loaded the mower into the back of the horse trailer and headed up. It’s a nice, easy drive, and I was on the phone most of the way, doing work, so it wasn’t a complete waste.

I got up there, and two guys came to look at it. They were as confused as I was in trying to figure out how this was attached, especially with a nut still on the bottom shaft.

Then the guy in charge came over, tipped it higher, and took a closer look. He told me that there was no nut on it. It was welded on and the weld broke.


Apparently, just above the not and notched pieces, that round part was welded to the blade pan. Not a great design, but a cheap one and this is a (relatively) cheap mower.

I feel better, though a little dumb for not pushing this sooner. I’ve been looking for a local place to work on it and a few places have been hesitant, most wanting to sell me a new bush hog instead. These guys were friendly, and they said it would take about a week, so I’m looking forward to seeing it working again.

It definitely pays to find good service people and be ready to call them. I’d have never thought about that.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fence Man

I went out this afternoon to work on fence. My wife was supposed to join me, but she has horses, and well, horses win out over fence. Actually she would have, but we have plans later and there wasn’t enough time for both.

So I headed out, pliers, clips, welded wire and gloves. As I wrestled the wire around on the ground, spinning it to unroll it by the foot, I was glad I had a hat on. Hot, sunny, and it’s tough work moving a 330’ roll of wire around. It went fairly smoothly, and I clipped it over the place I’d stopped and continued to the end.


The only thing slowing me down was a bit of an audience that was curious about what I was doing. There are 4 or 5 horses in the pasture next to where I was working, and they kept coming over the sniff my hands as I tried to clip wire on.

The North side is done! I had a little time, so I pounded in 3 t-posts, which is always a challenge when they’re 6 foot tall. But they’re in and the start of a track is going up.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Check 2007 Prius 12V Battery

Not a wood related entry, but this it’s a do-it-yourself-man-thing.

The Prius has seemed to be running the hybrid battery low quickly, and then charging quickly as I drive. It’s just a feeling I have from driving this car for 3 years. I posted a note on Prius Chat and someone suggested that my 12V battery might be low, which wasn’t something I suspected. I thought I might have defective hybrid batteries.

So I ran a quick check by turning on ACC mode (press power, no brake) and opened  the windows. Sure enough, they were really, really slow to go down. I then found this procedure as well:

  • Get your Prius into "Accessory Mode" - Press the power button without touching the brake pedal.
  • Put the MFD into "Maintenance Mode" - Press and hold the "Info" button on the MFD while turning the headlights on and off 4 times.
  • Press the "Menu" field on the screen.
  • Press the "Display Check" field.
  • Press the "Signal Check" field.
  • The 12v battery voltage will be one of the items listed, it should be above 12 volts. If it is lower, either the battery needs replacement or the charging system is not functioning correctly - see step 7.
  • Put a small load on the battery by pressing the power button again without touching the brake pedal. The voltage should stay above 12v. If it drops significantly, you need a new battery.

    My battery was reading 10V, so a replacement is needed. I called the local Toyota dealer and they have them for $174 in stock. A bunch of online places have recommended eLearnAid for low prices, but their sale is $165 (list $240). I guess Toyota realized it’s not worth overcharging for parts.

    So I’m off to get a new battery.

  • Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Two Belts as Good As One

    I didn’t make sawdust, but I did kick off some shavings of rubber recently.

    My riding lawnmower was in need of some work this season. I charged up the battery, changed the oil, freshened the gas (a little was left from last winter), and checked things over. The tires needed some air and fix a flat, and then it fired up. I was actually a little surprised that it started so easily and it was ready to go.

    When my wife engaged the drive belt, nothing happened. I got down and looked at it while she was sitting on it and nothing appeared to move. With a wrench I tapped the belt and saw the drive pulley was spinning, and the belt grabbed, but the lever that pulls over one drive wheel didn’t stretch the belt enough. After 5 or 6 years, I think this was something that needed replacement.

    So I got a belt from Lowes, lay down and threaded it back in and started the mower. I made my way around the yard and as I almost completed a loop I started to smell burning and lots of white smoke coming up. At first I thought that the engine was low on oil from a leak, but I disengaged the drive belt and as I was about to turn off the engine, the white smoke stopped.


    I pulled back to the garage and checked it and found strings of rubber hanging off and the belt loose. When I pulled the belt off, I noticed that there was one bent piece of metal near a pulley on which the belt had been rubbing. I realized that some pulleys have 1 metal guide to hold the belt on and some have two. Apparently I missed one when I threaded the belt around that pulley.

    So it was back to Lowes for another $20 belt, and a pair of pliers with some elbow grease to bent the guide back upright. This time I double checked the threading, ran it for a minute, then checked it again. Things were looking good, so I left it on and my son cut some grass.

    $40 and the belt is fixed, and I learned something. But it would have cost me more than that if I wasn’t willing to mess with the mower and took it to Sears to have them look at it. After replacing the starter last year and both blades by removing the deck the year before, I feel like I’m getting to know this beast pretty well.

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    It pays to engineer

    As I drove to drop Delaney off this morning at the bus, I saw this:


    This is my neighbor’s leanto, just off the road as I leave the property. Apparently it didn’t survive the wind all that well. Part of his roof was ripped off:


    I didn’t see this one being built, but I looked at it closely to check out the construction. Seemed flimsy to me. Not a lot of cross bracing, and the roof was 2 4x4s, butt jointed with the posts and screwed in. Not much support there.

    And apparently not enough screws.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    The Wagon Box

    My wife has a low garden wagon that she used to use to pull things around. She used to use it to move bales of hay around, and tow it behind the ATV. One of the wheels broke, and it had been out of service for months, but I finally ordered a new wheel and got it fixed last week.

    However with the wind, it doesn't let her put loose hay on top. So I decided to put a "box" on top. My plan was to build 4 sides, each independent and then cover the frame with chicken wire. Today I went and bought some 2x2s, pressure treated, with my son while we were out and then got to work.

    My basic plan was to cut 4 pieces that would fit in the wagon lengthwise. It wasn't clear quite how long to make them since the sides slope outward, so I cut them 34" long and then placed them in there, whittling them down to 33", which seemed to fit. I also cut 21" pieces (after starting at 22") that would fit the width, and this gave me a basic outline.

    I was thinking to make it 12-18" high, but when I used one of the 21" pieces as a spacer, that seemed fine, so I went with that as well, cutting 4 of those to be the vertical pieces. Once I had things cut, it was time for some assembly.

    Since I wanted to get done today, I used simple butt joints to assemble two frames that would be the sides. They were screwed together with 1 5/8" outdoor screws that I hope hold. They seemed fairly sturdy, but time will tell. Once they were up, I had to wrestle with the middle parts. I tried to connect them on the ground, but I didn't have anything giving me stability. After staring at it for awhile, I decided that I could just assemble the pieces in the wagon and that I didn't need to screw anything more than the top together.

    They say most plans don't survive to execute, and this was one of them. I realized here that I my plans to add a back weren't necessarily going to work, and that a top would also make things hard to load, so I had to build stability into the sides. I thought that stretching chicken wire tightly would help, and I was prepared to add some cross bracing, but first I decided to show my wife.

    So I bolted the four bottom pieces to the wagon by drilling through the base. I then walked over my three sided frame (the back had no top cross piece) to show my wife. She liked it, and asked if some of the OSB we had lying around would work for the sides. That seemed like a better idea to me, and since she evidently didn't care it if looked great, I went and sliced off a 24" strip. This was cut into two sides and a back, which were screwed on. The sides don't meet perfectly, but that's OK. It's close enough to get working, and this 3 hour project in the afternoon should prove very handy.

    No great woodworking skills used here, but after not being in the shop for a month, it was good to get back out there.

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    A bigger workshop

    I'd like a bigger workshop. I think everyone I know that does woodworking wants a bigger shop. The annual workshop issues from Wood Magazine often get me drooling, and I think one day I'll get there.

    However I haven't spent a lot of time in the garage shop over the last few years, mainly because it's been a huge mess. This past New Years I decided that I would spend time cleaning the garage and getting more organized, and I've been surprised how much I got done in 5 or 6 hours over the last few weeks. I can find more things, and I started building a few more organization projects that would let me find things as well as stay organized as I tackle projects.

    This week I found myself looking at shed kits, thinking that maybe I could put together a space outside and make it my own. Living on a small ranch, this barn kit is tempting, and maybe I'll do one someday. I'd like to build one, put on some passive solar heating on one side, and make it a space that stays relatively warm in the winters. I think that is a good goal, but for now I want to put it aside. Once I've done more woodworking and it seems like a good project, I'll look to tackle it.

    In addition I think I need to learn a few more things about how I want the space to look. I've gone from wanting 1,000sq ft to thinking that perhaps 400 is plenty, and that I ought to be more organized. So I'll put down thoughts, link to those I find interesting, and put up more photos as I organize things.

    In the meantime I'll be making as few permanent changes to my garage, putting lots of mobile things together, and getting more use out of what I have.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Working with Wood

    I can't really explain it, but the idea of working with wood, making something out of materials, has always fascinated me. I don't know why, and it isn't a great passion, but I enjoy putting things together, and look forward to getting time to do it.

    It's not a high priority with me, and often work, kids, exercise, and other things get in the way, but I do enjoy it and decided to start a blog that contains some of the work I've done and some of the skills I'm working through. Maybe this will become more than a hobby someday.