We might as well jump right off into the weird this morning – because I had one of those “waking moment” insights that are often quite valuable
The idea goes something like this:
When I was a kid I was bounced around between regular and accelerated math classes. Some damn fool thought I had a brain but didn’t realize that I didn’t come with a single ounce of attention, discipline, or will to study.
But curiously, my second-highest scores in school were in English. Not spelling, not proof-reading, not syntax…just English.
Fast-forward to this morning’s life review.
Long time ago -In one of those “accidents” that happen to kids, I was up the street at my life-long friend’s place and we were (age 11 or so) messing about with a tape recorder as I recall, and as I got up, a #2 Yellow Pencil fell out of my shirt pocket and I stepped on it as precisely the moment it was pointing straight up.
Naturally, it didn’t remain standing up and promptly broke off with about one-inch of pencil point broken off inside my right foot.
So off to the emergency room, doctor fishes out the left-over pencil parts, puts a piece of surgical rubber tubing in, and for the next three weeks, I pull an 1/8th inch of it out every other day, or so…
The foot healed find and that was that.
Until this morning.
At which point, something in the brain finally fires – 55-years after-the-fact – and asks a very profound question:
“What is the one skill that pulls about all of your work experience together as a common thread? Writing, right?”
Well, I sit there pondering this-here little gem for a couple of minutes and sure enough what is it that on-air broadcaster, newscaster, management geeks, and financial writers (and did I mention airline VP and college president) all have in common?
They have to write like maniacs.
And grad school…what was that? Again, more writing. In fact, what I learned in grad school was how to write for an audience – my faculty advisor. The more and better I wrote, the higher the GPA until when all was said and done it was a 4.0. But not necessarily on quality – I think it was more the quantity that blew ‘em away. 2000 word essay? Two hours flat. Hell, that’s only 17 words per minute…
Education is comprised of two parts. There’s the rote/parrot part – and I know people who excel at that. Then there’s the logical analysis, problem identification, recipe formula, and eventually the implement of the problem-solving. But we don’t score the latter highly. Modern education is still trying to figure out the topology of intelligence but the way is slow. Way slow.
This pencil-breaking-in-foot story got me to wondering how many people get “inoculated” in some manner into what will become their life’s work?
I have seen bits and pieces of it: A young man who falls in with bad company rises to become a Raymond Reddington criminal sort. A woman who was always playing with her dolls as a child, who then ends up in the fashion industry. The boy fascinated with chemistry and fire as a child grows up to be a firefighter…Kid breaks an arm or leg and is captivated by medicine – hears mom and dad talk about how expensive health care is so he grows up to sell malpractice insurance, lol.
When I see kids who are playing with video games (to the exclusion of much else in life) I can’t help but suspect that these ‘inoculations’ are in some manner about to appear as our future. The video gamer is now a drone driver and they m ay have a bright future as remote vehicle operators. In an earlier time, the gamer might have been good fodder for the nuclear power industry which does a good bit of remote-control work.
When you get a few minutes, it may be productive to think back on your youth.
If my nutty idea du jour is correct, there may be a pivotal moment when something happens that forever locks you onto a path in life.
It also places huge importance for parents on tracking the activities of kids to see what the ‘inoculation’ happens to be.
Daughter who is getting married next month, for example, had a serious brush with celiac disease (wheat allergy) when young – and that put her on the path to a career in the culinary arts…that kind of thing. The ‘inoculation’ was a food issue and the career just followed down that path.
You’re welcome to report any experiences along this line in the comment section below. I’m collecting a few and what comes out of it is a very interesting question about exactly how these childhood/prepubescent events form us throughout the balance of life to follow.
OK, on to practical matters…
Self Reliance: Death of an Air Compressor
My 10-gallon air compressor is finally giving up the ghost after about 8-years of service.
I was cutting up some 10-inch wide galvanized flashing for the deck with my nibbler (similar to the Neiko 30067A Pull Type Air Nibbler $57) and the compressor started to scream (belt slipping) and the cylinder head completely overheating. Almost hot enough to catch fire.
Time to get a new one, although I will dink around with belt adjusting over the next couple of days, but it’s not too hopeful. A replacement compressor pump is $80 on eBay and then I would still have a 8-9 year old tank…
It was time for it to go down the road, anyway. It was a half-assed machine from day one. Mainly because it didn’t make enough air for the kinds of things I like to use air tools for.
If you have never considered the joys of air tools, the main reason I like them is there are just some things where air tools do a better job than electric versions. For things like paint spraying, for example, there is no substitute if you’ve moved beyond the power roller stage.
The main thing about air tools is that they are inherently safe. Which means given a choice between using an electric framing nailer in the rain or an air-powered version, you’d be a damn fool to choose electric except for rare circumstances.
When comes to fasteners, once you get under an inch in length with fasteners, then find, electric brad drivers are easily used for things like finish work. Damn little of that goes on outside.
Also with electric tools, investing in a 14/3 or even 12/3 100-foot extension if a good idea with the usual caveats about don’t use a cord that has any insulation issues at all – that’s how people get killed by electrocution.
In automotive and aircraft work, you don’t use electric tools because of the risks of a cord being cut up on sheet metal and such.
Air compressors are spec’ed on two air pressures. One is typically at 40 pounds of pressure – a level that might be useful spray painting a house. The other is 90-pounds of pressure which is where more serious tools – framing nailers, impact wrenches, and air drills and grinders, are used.
The 40 pound rating is nearly (but not quite) useless. If you are using it for arts and crafts (air brush painting is an art) then yes, the 40-pound rating is useful. But its at 90-pounds that you want to get at least 5 cubic feet per minute (5 CFM @90Lbs). 6 CFM at 90 is even better.
Only two more important points: Get the biggest tank you can deal with. The tank is a reservoir of airs so the damn compressor isn’t running all the time.
The other consideration is hoses. If you are running big tools, then ante up for the larger diameter 1/2” hoses. The standard 3/8ths are OK for home shop use (which is what we’re on) but money saved on 1/4” hoses isn’t worth it.
Air compressors are like sailboats, motorcycles, and everything else in life: A Compromise.
My “dream compressor” would have been a the California Air Tools 15020C Ultra Quiet and Oil-Free 2.0 HP 15.0-Gallon Steel Tank Air Compressor but it tips the wallet over to $459.
On the other hand, Harbor Freight has a $180 compressor that – while light on the pressure at 90 pounds – 4.7 CFM – should still work OK because it has a 21 gallon tank. And that’s $180 and there’s a fair bit of party can be had for the almost $300 difference in price.
What I may do, though, is install the compressor in a sound-reducing box…we’ll see how loud it is. You just know the cheap compressor will be louder.
You get what you pay for…but no point to buying a 50-year tool if you only plan to be futzing around the shop for another 20-30 years.
One last IMPORTANT DETAIL” Be sure to drain your compressor regularly. They will load up with water fairly quickly, especially here in the South when the humidity is high in the summertime. A quarter to half cup of water a week, depending on weather and use.
Also – if you use it around your shop, there is absolutely nothing like a 50-foot auto-return hose reel. Set you back $70-bucks, but it makes blowing off tools and keeping things looking sharp a very easy task.
One of these days I will use mine for clean-up….
Another Thursday Tool Slut Note
Let’s talk roll around tool boxes, for a sec.
The best tool I have added to the collection is down at the airplane hangar. It was $25-bucks and it is absolutely great: Stanley 018800R Mobile Work Center.
It is NOT SnapOn or Knaack. But for around the house? Come on, now…
I am planning to pick up a second one for Elaine to keep her “house tools” organized.
Yeah, she already has a regular (fishing tackle box-sized) tool box. But she has too many tools so the only way to keep them organized has been to put the spillover into a drawer in the kitchen.
Since we’re both always in motion doing something, or other, this works. But the tool cart has lots of other applications. For example, I may get one for the recording studio – load it up with the odds and ends that make any room look messy. I could put the microphone collection in one, for example.
I used to think that the major cost of projects around the home would be the materials.
Becoming a tool slut has changed all that. Having the right tool for every task has turned out to almost always make the tool cost higher than the material cost. Which is why I should have bought Lowes stock a long time ago – but didn’t. They have a real “mine the miners” franchise when you think about it.
Off to work then! Most places around the country are now in prime workshop weather: Cool enough not to be miserable and warm enough you don’t need gloves on to work. You might consider my rule: Knock off for the day when the temp passes 83 or drops below 45.
My next design/build project is to put about an 8×8 deck on the front of the sun room using recycled material. See your local CraigsList for additional tools, look under the FREE heading for projects and – if you have any money left – check used tools there, too. Sometimes you can come up with some real winners.
Old tools are sometimes as good (or better) than new tools and remember our recent discussion about the needle scaler to remove rust and then cover with POR-15 45006-6PK Gloss Black Rust Preventive Coating – 4 fl. oz., (Pack of 6). You want the six-pack because it’s too easy to ruin a quarter if you’re only doing an occasional project.
One Last Tool Note
I don’t know why, but I have always been intrigued with ShopSmith rigs..
Out of my price range, but do you know anyone who has used one of these things? I’ve always wondered how they worked out.
Well, One More, Then…OpenSourceMachines
I assume you know about http://opensourcemachine.org/ which is the brainchild of Pat Delany or (where else?) Palestine, TX…I mention this periodically.
Way cool and if you want to do a bit of scrounging around, you can make most anything you need in the way of machine tools. The .PDF of the manual is available online here – free. There’s also a Yahoo Group.
And yes, the point is, where there’s a will, there’s a way. And why the Nobel committee doesn’t dispense awards to people like Delany who are really changing the world, is beyond me. Bootstrapping is incredibly important knowledge. This is well past Vince and David Gingery stuff, but that’s classic, too. I still dream of building their metal shaper machine…
So much for the mid-week version of This Old George…
Write when you break-even,