Sunday Coffee in the Shop

Many items on the agenda this morning. Not the least of which is the…

Fires Still Raging

Our condolences and support to families in California and Oregon who have lost homes and valuable personal effects in the raging wildfires out west.  Talking to friends up in the Seattle area, it’s much the same story up there.  Plenty of smoke – just like down in the SF Bay area.

Picture Courtesy of Mark P in SF/SJ

People who have never been around big fires, don’t appreciate how treacherous they are.  Firefighters have different names for fires  –  The Beast and things best not said on Sundays.

Your can get a feel for the real-life dangers of fire in movies like  Backdraft.  But for a more gut-level book try “Street Smart Firefighting” which looks at fire from the working end of an inch-and-a-half line.  And toss in D.E. McCourt’s really excellent “Notes from the Firehouse: Seventeen Firefighting Stories from a Retired Firefighter.”

Talked to George II who’s on the fires in Oregon (he rotates out Wednesday after 24 non-stop days on three fires).  He’s been moved to the Lion’s Head fire which is just south of the White River fire. 5% containment when I looked Saturday.  I reckon he’ll take 2 or 3 days and head out again next week to another one, but we’ll see.

Being with a department on the backside of the Cascades, he knows the risks.  “We could be next…

Talked about the food (OK to good) but I had no idea how much chow they go through:  Firefighters on serious type 1 fires eat about 6,000 calories per day – without putting on weight.  I’ll leave this as your Sunday math problem:  How many BTU’s is that?

My 3D Printing CPU Adventure

Picked up a 17-inch HP DV-7 series laptop a week or two back.  Including shipping (and tax) it was off eBay for around $120.  OK, Windows Vista and only 6 GB of RAM, but a working 500 GB drive and a  LIghtScribe DVD…hard to go wrong.

Well, except…   The computer wouldn’t boot when it arrived.  I opted to buy a new battery and charger on Amazon, and the seller (a very ethical seller “yellowchoo” – great to deal with!) refunded me 50% of the laptop price for my trouble.  So I still ended up with what I was after at the original price plus like $5-$10 bucks.  How cool is that?  And with a new battery and charger!  Can’t beat that with a stick.

Yes…there’s a point to this story which I’ll boot up to in a second…

“Wait!  Why did you leave Vista on the machine?  Why not just go whole-hog Linux Ubuntu?  Is Ure stupid here, or what?”

Tisk, tisk!  There’s the learning point on why I’ll keeping a Windows machine around (or saving the Win partition):  You see,  Logitech – which makes dandy wireless keyboards and mice – has as “unifying USB receiver.”

“So what?”

If you put the unifying receive in Linux directly, you can only use ONE of the wireless devices.  However, if you  pair the keyboard and mouse under Windows THEN the receiver will work with the keyboard AND mouse under Linux!

(See how these adventures occasionally get to some obscure but potentially useful points?  Let’s for another one…)

Love of 2-by-4 and 2-by-6’s

When I was a kid (how long ago was 1955?) I remember my mom handing me a bottle of Elmer’s glue and says  “Go ahead…make something…”

Well, I tried to build a bridge.  Turned into a glue-gob disaster because I have no patience when comes to letting glue (or paint, or cement, or undercoating, or dishes, or…) DRY.

Anyway, I’ve gotten over that.  And, instead of the toothpicks from the dining room table, I’ve up-sized to genuine 2-by-4s.  Armed with a band saw, planer, jointer, belt sander, and table saw (or chop saw if easier), I swear, there is NOTHING as useful as good straight 2-by-4’s.

I told you (I think….memory’s going, lol) that was going to make a “machine bench” under which I could roll the wire and stick welders and the plasma machine.  Well, Lookie here:

Plane old lumber, joint it on both sides.  Lam it up with pipe clamps…fill the attachment holes sand a bit (planer is nearly enough).  Whee!  Big boy fun!

All kinds of machines will populate this when it’s done:  Grinders, buffers, chain saw sharpener (not needed on the carbide-tipped chain, though) and a circular saw sharpener as well.  Then a 6-inch vise (nearly as heavy as me…well, not  quite) and a metal-cutting chop-saw and  (if there’s still room, the sheet metal bending brake (box & pan).

The “catch all table” in the shop where these things are presently scattered will become the 3D printing area.  Looking for used windows on Craigslist to enclose things.

Oh, and down at the (dirty, got to clear it off) main work bench end?  The fastener cart rolls right in under that end.

Make Your Own Tools?

Picked up a book a while back:  40-Tools You Can Make.  Gave it to my neighbor as he’s a very skilled fellow..  Anyway, point is there was one tool in this book that I memorized because I’m going to make one.

You take a regular jig saw.  Drill four holes – one at each corner of the foot of the tool – and then mount it upside down under a piece of plywood.

Since I’ll eventually get the 3D Printer going it will be  pi simple to make the top out of 3/4″ plywood.  Then counter-sink a quarter inch with a Forstner bit.  Then print out a slotted plug.

Presto!  Upside down jig saw mount.

Wait!  You have that 10-inch bandsaw…why not just use that???”

Excellent point.  Band saws are great for most curvy things.  BUT if you have to cut the middle out of a circle without an entry, how does a bandsaw do  that?  Ergo, the upsidedown jigsaw table.  Which is also a lot faster to change blades on (for cutting printed circuit board material, for example) than digging out the metal blade for the band saw and then bleeding putting the ultra-sharp wood blade back on…

Hell of a $30 project.  $20 for the cheapie jig saw on Amazon.  $5 bucks for misc.  And a $5 donation to the “beer on completion” fund.

Also Around the Ranch

Good news – and bad – about rain here.  44.42 inches year to date on the website.  In a more normal year, we’d have gone almost a month without outdoor burning by now.

Result?  More “butt in seat” of lawn tractor just ahead.

Tower Work in Sight

Out at the base of the crank-up tower, there are some issues:

The cheap solar panel has an internal fault of some kind – so no juice.  And the battery box is home to a black widow (or it  was until Mr. Spider Spray arrived).

In the rework the plan is new panel and new (white) battery box to lower the heat on the electronics in the box (charge controller etc.).

Then a new winch with the super-duper synthetic line.  Because the fancy stainless aircraft cable has become dangerously frayed…

And the new (cooler in summertime) Mailbox is set to go:

If it isn’t one thing, let’s another.  But keeps like interesting, I suppose…

Off for another half cup of coffee and then back into manic mode with the new shop air conditioner going in…

Write when you get rich,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

18 thoughts on “Sunday Coffee in the Shop”

  1. Morning George

    I love reading your page, you talk about real issues that effect real people in a world of fake people and even fake food.

    Use to be a Framer and traveled around from Maryland to Kansas building restaurants, banks and things. Got paid to see the country and play with tools. Good exercise too. The crew and I would cut long pieces of wood into smaller pieces of wood and nail them together and the end results were I sight to behold.

    All that works great on the construction site but when the media uses words like we used lumber, they keep peoples attention on the insignificant pieces we would throw into the dumpster. Media has no building skills … except for building confusion. Your projects are always useful and well designed.

    Love the solar. I have a small set of panels and a few deep cell batteries for back up when needed. Use to run my apartment lights and device charging about 10 years ago and had a whopping $12.00 electric bill … then I got married and she brought kids and blow dryers in and well, back to the grid. Ugh !!

    Found these to be a nice accessory. They keep the lead acid batteries from sulfating. Good for your car battery too.

    You have a good day George. Happy Sunday.

  2. George, you have been on a fabulous year lately! The shop and recipe reports are pure gold. Please do an article on one of the most vexing questions in life: “How big a shop should I build?” It’s not like a sailboat where the answer is “another 4 feet…”. Thanks!

  3. George

    “Picked up a book a while back: 40-Tools You Can Make.”

    If you ever watch the show American Picker on cable you will see an amazing number of tools and other devices that were made in decades and centuries long gone. Not only are they ingenious but a work of art also.

    Do we still have that inventive spirit these days or do we have to stick a microprocessor on everything to make it work?

  4. Just curious George… The upside down jig saw, is it a portable hand held model? If it is, does it have an “on switch” in the form of a trigger? If the answer is YES, don’t they require constant finger pressure to keep it running? If Yes then this leads to this question.

    How are you rigging it, so it runs continuously without your finger on the on switch? Thanks…

    • Hand held model – was going to do a weekend write-up on it.
      Zip tie on trigger
      And an electrical box on unit with on-off sw and outlet the tool plugs into is the vision…

    • Back in ye olden days, they either had a slide switch or a toggle switch. For years after manufacturers went to trigger switches, jigsaws and drills had a trigger lock which would lock the trigger all the way in, and release on a manual trigger-squeeze. Only since OSHA went rampant because they had no more major industrial regs to invent (’bout half way through the Clinton Administration) have saw and drill triggers NOT had the lock. For many brands, the earlier (locking) switch is a drop-in retrofit.

      A footswitch like this one:

      can be had for not much money, or built for a couple bucks by anyone with a Mouser or Digi-Key account and a couple pieces of scrap lumber…

  5. Excellent work in the shop. Good to see projects come to an end AND be pleased with the results.

    My poor husband has the wonkiest work schedule and can’t find enough time to do the project we have in wait. Little at a time is how we go about it, and it seems to drag on forever. Makes a person lose ambition. But onward we go. Little at a time. I do what I can, but I do not have the mechanical aptitude he has, nor do I know how to work the machinery he uses. Perhaps I should do some test stuff, to learn.

    • “Fires Still Raging
      Our condolences and support to families in California and Oregon who have lost homes and valuable personal effects in the raging wildfires out west. ”

      The girls were out there a few miles behind the fire for a vacation.. the wife said it was real scary.. the grass crackled from being so dry under their feet and the trees looked green but you could tell they were really heat stressed..

      The hole.. hmm.. I use a router.. but you can also use a table saw. A pin jig with a lazy Susan. Micro adjustments as you raise the material and spin it around. It will give you a perfect hole.
      Round table tops etc. Any size any place..

    • “My poor husband has the wonkiest work schedule and can’t find enough time”

      No one has a wonkier work schedule than I had. very few are willing to work the hours I did either .
      It all depends on the project and personal priorities.
      If it’s a necessity or construction then use the one board approach. One board..
      When iui built our house.. I made a framing table.. drew up my plans then set the boards in place ten foot wall. ( anything bigger is hard to handle by one person.. on a wall panel with a few headers go smaller panels)
      My project was cutt short when building the house when a masonry contractor took almost a third of my total building funds and ran..never to be seen again.

      It’s easy to procrastinate after a. Long day at work. The trick is get to it before you relax.dedicate one hour to it.
      Never put an unnecessary project or activity before family. That is what i did and it is the wrong way..

      I paid dearly in my health and personal life because of that to.
      Like i should be out gluing the cardboard up.. but i have grandkids that want my attention..i will do it later.

      • With a wall framing table. Place the windows and doors first. Then at corner sections place a nailer board..
        A ten foot wall can be set and nailed in about a half hour..

        For me..this was the hardest part.. he does it differently than I did..his way is cheaper to..
        I bought roof trusses…. I would love to build a house using hemp panels.. they are stronger and more fire resistant..

  6. “Then a new winch with the super-duper synthetic line. Because the fancy stainless aircraft cable has become dangerously frayed…”

    Yeah, noticed that here, with trailer winches.

    The stainless is low-grade. The galvanized is both low-grade and the galvanizing isn’t worth a crap. What I have done is replace crap with American. My sources are:

    Carl Stahl –
    Loos & Co –

    and for that soft touch, I use poly/kevlar rigging line from Dale’s Rope, which I purchase off eBay from Dale, himself (‘cuz his overstock and pieces are considerably cheaper than his stuff in stores) –

    All of it is American-made, and the cable companies have MIL-SPEC available.

    Can you tell the thing I hate worse than a job I shouldn’t have to do, is twice doing a job I shouldn’t have to do…?

  7. George,

    What kind of windows are you looking for? I can usually follow your projects, but not this one. Reuse the whole window assembly? Remove the glass and encase your items?

  8. I had a (too brief) respite from elder care to attack the ham shack for a total rebuild now that I have acquired a linear amp. You can see the results at the bottom of my QRZ.COM page under my callsign.

  9. Thanks for the mailbox mention. Your readers might want to consider what we have been doing in the hot Texas summer. Put a cold soft drink with a reusable ice pack to keep it cold and a “Reeses” mini in/around the mailbox. Postal folks work awfully hard and a daily refreshment is the least I can do for them. Ours told me how much he appreciates it.

  10. That is a awesome table. Scrolled down and saw the picture before reading the story behind it, thought it was a dinning table not a shop table. The wife wants a new dinning table, I’ll trade you my 30’×8′ shop table for your nice new dinning table. I’ll pay the shipping!!

    • Well, the only tools you will need are plenty of reasonably clear 2-by-4’s (I had some3 2-by-6’s on the edges for mounting tools like a big vise). Enough pipe clamps to set up on – a quart of TiteBond III waterproof and a jointer and planer.
      Hardest part for me was the waiting between coats of really good (=high VOC) UREthane. But thanks for the compliment!
      Get your 2-by’s before they’re no longer available!

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