Coping: Why There is No “Retirement”

I heard it again from a neighbor down the road from us:  “I don’t have any TIME now that I’m “retired.”

Amen, and ain’t that the Truth, brother.

Like us, this fellow likes to tinker and build…and since “pulling the plug” on scheduled work life at the end of September, the noises from his property reveal what’s going on.  Long-deferred maintenance, a couple of additions, clean-up this, reorganize that.  “As long as I’m at it, why not build a somethingorother”   Oh, and a prized double-barrel 12-gauge is dialed-in now.

It’s a non-stop source of “happy noises.”  He no doubt hears the noises from up here.  Loud studio sounds, the built-in shop vac…outdoor power tools…

Father’s Day provides a perfect case study of where “retirement disappears to.”

The day started at 6:00 AM hauling out the plasma rig and the MIG welder to spend a couple of hours “creating in metal.”

First project – and I mentioned this was coming – involved four horse shoes welded to a piece of 1/2 rebar.  Came out pretty nice:

Don’t recognize it?  Well, it’s a luck machine.

I was planning to put a rabbit’s foot on the outer end of each one, but Elaine was disgusted with the idea.  “Wasn’t lucky for the rabbit, was it?”  Her icy stare was a refreshing break from the heat.

If my luck improves, I will add the Orgone Amplifier.  If not, I was careful in jigging the weld – all the horse shoe touch a single plane.  So I can cut off the sheet metal base and turn it into a “lucky stool” with the addition of more horse shoes to hold a seat…

After that rabbit gaff it was on to the “duplex bird-house” project, based on our old mailbox.

Since the great book on Welding had arrived Saturday, I’d read a bit of it already.  Unfortunately, it was clear that the two most important “Rules of Welding” – worked out in Sunday morning’s session – were not in the definitive book by MR. Lincoln of Lincoln welders.

The first Rule is:  When you are using a plasma cutter, use an adjustable tint helmet.  Because, with the #13 tint I use for arc welding, there’s no way to see your circle – even after going over it with a fresh black marking pen.

It’s like playing “weld the tail on the donkey” blindfolded holding plasma fire in your hand.  Refreshing when you flip your head back in a welderly way (getting the mask off your face) and there it is:  A complete disaster.  The new adjustable process welding helmet hadn’t been taken out of the box yet.  Oops.

One takes solace in being able to trouble-shootize one’s shortcoming/  Retirement is an ideal time to do this and it’s amazing how many short-comings you can acquire in 60-some years.  This seems to be where a lot of retirement time seems to be going, lately.

Monday afternoon, I spent a few hours in the Lincoln book trying to ascertain whether Lincoln himself ever articulated a version Ure’s New-Found Laws of Welding:

“The difficulty of the weld is directly proportional to the difference in thickness of materials being welded.”

I didn’t seer where Lincoln came out and directly said this.  The mailbox birdhouse presented the problem of welding 1/4″ rebar pegs onto 24-gauge galvanized cheap-metal.

24-gauge,, for those who aren’t already designing their Mad Max from Thunder dome-mobiles for the post-apocalyptic world, is 0.025 inches thick.  0.25 rebar and 0.025 cheapmetal.  Ten to one ratio.

Herein lies the method to learn if you are a good welder (or bad like Ure writer):  Can you weld 1/4″ anything onto sheet metal thinner than a file folder?  (

File folders, incidentally are usually manila and 0.030″ thick..another startling Trivia point to know “post-apocalypse” if you need to gap the plugs or points on the Thunder dome-mobile…[file under McGyver: plugs, laminating plug gappers.]

The 10-1 Thickness variable is a toughie.  I can weld 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8th inch all day long.  Passable beads, not upside down.  BUT, not welding it to paper-thin sheet. Prince of burn-through.

More study of the welding book.  More practice. Less power, more shielding gas, ticker with the wire feed speed….

Which has What to do with Retirement?

I was just getting to that.  Keep your shirt on.

You see, it begins with the mailbox.

As you remember, I got a Monster Mail Box so that Jason (our carrier) wouldn’t have to drive up the driveway, seemed like every other day.  I haven’t seen him for a week or three now with the big box.

When I was working (Oh, how we miss those 80-hour weeks…NOT!) the old mailbox would have been left for Goodwill or simply tossed in the trash.  Retired however, such waste becomes appalling.   Reuse, repurpose, recycle.  Oh, and learn to weld.

That’s where the time goes.

When your money slows down, your workload speeds up.  With enough money, you don’t even think of the mailbox.  It’s not in your pile.  Landlord, condo associations…anyone but thee.

Back to my neighbor:  When he was working, I’m sure he and his missus would have simply hired someone to come in and frame up the new rooms…write a check, and “Poof!!!” walls appear.  Write another check and the roofing goes on…and another brings electric and plumbing.  Here’s the check for the sheet rock sub.  The painter, the floor tile guy…

It’s magic check writing!

Thing is, when you decide to dial-back on check-writing, it means lots more “work.”  Fun, too…at least when the weather is reasonable.  For now, lots of inside work because anything outside only happens until it hits 83, or so.

But, if you are planning the Life of Riley when you retire?  Keep on working…you will have more spare time while you are.

Ham Radio: A What?

Here’s another example of a “retirement time sink” for you to learn from.

A while back I told you of my restoration of a classic Johnson Thunderbolt linear amplifier.  Been working great…except…

(This is the electrical part of the story…)

There is a four-pin plug on the back of the amp that goes to a maze of relays.  These switch the amplifier in line and out, as well as controlling bias voltages during transmit.

Since the amplifier came without a plug, I’ve had everyone I know in the hobby looking for one.  Even the highly esteemed Bob Grinnell up at Surplus Sales of Nebraska wasn’t able to find one just yet and he regularly has two of everything most times.

I was able to use the amp by putting little pins on the three wires involved in switching, but a few weeks back, the Class C bias stopped working (CW mode) – and I knew the pin for the bias had come loose.  I continued to use the rig in the linear (AB2) mode, but that was problematic because it left residual receiver noise.  I will skip the lecture on power amplifier cut-off biasing because it’s a work day.

(End of the electrical crap…)

Point is, I eventually found the same elusive plug in the most unlikely place!

This, ladies and gentlemen (and all in-between) is the CORRECT plug found on eBay.  It’s from a 1967 Tonnoy 8-Track stereo tape deck! ISYN.  Not only is it the correct plug, but I got two of them!  I can now buy another piece of Johnson gear with the same odd-damn plug!  Hooray!

I used to chide my late father about getting into macramé as a hobby somewhere around my current age.  I thought it was plain old odd for someone to say “I’ll be with you in a moment,,, I need to finish this row…”   Tying knots? Bored me to tears.  Still does, truth be…

Still, having reach a similar age and seeing how pits and bumps of Reality move around a bit on our way to the Check Out Line, it begins to make sense.

I’m pretty sure the Afterlife won’t involve much welding, but if what we take with us, between the ears, is a memory of our collected skills and learnings over a lifetime?  If it is, then mastery of new skills is perpetually important right up to the final breath.

Besides, it beats the crap on TV these days.

Better Deskkeeping

Newest little whizzie on the desk is a 4-port USB charging station.  I finally got tired of unplugging charging USB cables to plug in something I need.  (Keyboard is wireless, so it only needs power.  But it would be nice to have the magnifier on hand all the time – and the camera operation and…

Anyway, now the Bluetooth keyboards are both charging on the power station along with the GoPro and the Fire 10.  That means I can buy more peripherals…I remember the first machine I ever owned that had four USB ports.  “How will people use all of those?”  And now here I sit with a printer, USB wifi, fingerprint reader, additional audio card, scanner, magnifier, camera, label printer…and jeez, what does this one go to?

After looking long and hard at an iPad, I decided to stay with the Kindle 10, put Nova loader on maybe and WPS and keep the money in my pocket.  And Apple a Day keeps Cupertino at Play.,..but not my yob.

Sounds like someone’s a cheap bastard?  Who, me?

Write when you get rich,

36 thoughts on “Coping: Why There is No “Retirement””

  1. George, When you are welding two different thickness metals like you were start your arc on the thicker metal and wash the puddle onto the thin metal it takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it works quite well.

      • I second this. To weld, use gas, and don’t even touch the thin stuff. When the puddle is flowing on the thick piece, quickly reduce the flame, then make the joint with just the side of the flame on the thin piece. To braze, same thing, but don’t touch the thin piece at all — just flow the brass into the joint like solder.

        I have welded stuff as thin as 28ga with gas (a “00” tip is a really good tool. It won’t do steel thicker than about .0625, but with practice, and I got a lot of it as a kid, welding car fenders and doorskins, one can do nearly as good a job as with MIG. It does take much longer to do, though, and one has to be much more diligent with respect to warpage…)

        The best way to weld thin stuff though, is to acquire a spot welder (‘think E would let you surf Eastwood’s website…?) Universe is telling you your tool pile is deficient!

    • What Jeff D. said, plus, with a MIG, short ‘bursts’ of arc, spot welds if you will…or spray arc. It’s all good.

  2. I’d take a old 3 inch 3/8 bolt, lay it on a grinder except the closest half inch or so to the head, depending on washers/nuts, then bolt that puppy on. The ground off threads will be good on the birds’ tender feet, or maybe drill out an old dowel/broom handle piece and slip that over the bolt. :) But that doesn’t do the “welding” thing a bit of good. I can weld a bit, here and there, but it really is a perishable skill. I might have found an old coat hanger and attempted to braze something on instead, but that can mess up that paper metal too. No easy way out it seems. But it sure eats the day.

    I thought as a land-locked sailor you’d spend your spare time practicing your knots (figure 8s, sheep bend, hitches and whatknot) :)

  3. George, I’m surprised you’ve been welding so long with a fixed glass! I never got really good until I had the flashglass. It made all the difference. Harbor Fright has them for cheap. Shade 13 seems awfully dark for anything unless you’re welding bridges though.

  4. “If my luck improves…” you could elaborate more why luck is so much distributed in unequal proportion. I consider you lucky, because you seem to have sooo much time to do things. Myself, being retired already >25 years find that time passes so quickly that I need not bother to plan anything. I am not complaining, just curious about your opinion (in a possible essay on the distribution of luck!).

  5. Bird perch = 1/4 long bolt, nut, washer… into a drilled hole in mailbox. Run a file across exposed threads to avoid bloody bird feets.
    Think of the minimalist (no welding) carbon footprint merit badge that A. Gore will send you.!!

  6. I purposefully packed away ‘projects’ for “someday when I retire and have more time”. They are still mostly packed. Never knew I would be so busy in ‘retirement’ with home improvements and yard work and ham radio and… Anyway, I will never be bored for lack of something to do. Certainly not sitting in a rocker. I only sit in the shade for the ten minutes needed to recover a resting heart rate after a bout of ‘aerobic yard work’… pumping green waste!

    • Hank.. DO THEM NOW.. my goal was to make wood toys when I retired.. I build a beautiful train and airplane and a little carousel that everyone wanted one .. I was going to build wood toys when I retired..then my health took a turn for the worse and now my health issues won’t allow me to.. being basically blind in one eye and a peripheral vision loss.. I would cut my fingers off.. since we don’t know what the future holds for us.. DO IT NOW don’t wait for tomorrow

  7. George

    “Point is, I eventually found the same elusive plug in the most unlikely place!”

    Why go to all that trouble? Just find a suitable modern equivalent Plug and Jack on Digikey.

    Adapt, improvise, overcome!!

    • Part of the “joy” of old gear is being able to “keep it stock.” I knew several people back in high school who completely ruined, oh, a 1949 chevy, for example. “Hot rodding is not where colledctor value comes from.

      Could I have “tweaked” the Drake 2b/2bq and made them “better?” Oh, sure…but stock…therein lies the joy.

  8. Like the birdhouse idea – very easy to clean! – but install it in the shade! My old mailbox serves as my garden shed; holds all the hand tools, twine, gloves etc. right in the garden where I need them. I’m not finding enough time these days because it’s entwined with my energy level – that’s the real limiting factor! Three hours outside in the heat every day, tops; and easily six hours worth of stuff to get done out there. Rule of thumb, when there’s so much sweat on your glasses that you can no longer see out of them, it’s time to go in and kill supermutants!

  9. ” Long-deferred maintenance, a couple of additions, clean-up this, reorganize that. “As long as I’m at it, why not build a somethingorother” ”

    George.. I am right with you on that.. then the new tools.. oh my.. had a stopped mainline .. called rooto rooter.. the cost of a quick clean.. three hundred.. ( just under I averaged it up) but to buy the tool is five hundred.. guess who is buying his own sewer snake.. buildings.. well my dirt shed plans are on hold till it dried out a little bit.. found out the blocks have to cure for two weeks.. but once they are done.. up it goes..
    then the thought.. we were sitting out on the deck and one of the grandkids was talking about buying a home.. another grand daughter with children flew off the handle at her mom over a roll of paper towels.. the daughter didn’t understand it.. I had to explain it didn’t have anything to do with the paper towels.. it had to do with money the lack of it.. two kids daycare is costing her three quarters of her income.. and employers don’t understand having sick kids kids teething well daycare won’t watch them you have to stay home or find an alternate.. the stress..
    then considering the one that is frustrated over paper towels and the lack of cash.. the general cost of everyday items.. and a grandchild thinking about buying a home.. how do these kids do it.. a 140,000.00 house is minimum payment if 1400.00 a month.. or..8 dollars and change per hour take home.. groceries.. 1.25 cents per hour take home, car another 2.00 take home.. health insurance.. 7 dollars an hour and change.. minimum take home wage of 20.00 an hour.that isn’t even counting on all the other necessary and mandatory expenses and unexpected events like a sewer backup. so I wonder.. could the financial collapse be from within and implosion rather than from the other way.. there isn’t any blue sky wages aren’t raising as fast as they say they are.. the majority of what they report is coming from a very few at the top of the pile.. not the base supporting the top. How long will it take before the straw breaks that camels back?

    • I did find out what was causing the stopped mainline.. the rooto rooter guy said oh there must be a double y.. whenever there is a double Y this happens and that is quite common.. the one toilet is flushed the sewage goes up the other pipe.. as it flows back there isn’t enough water to float it down.. which causes the backup.. I built this house from the ground up by myself and yes he was on the money there.. there is a double y so this will be a recurring issue.. maybe every couple of years… never had this issue till we decided to have someone stay with us but since every couple of years..

  10. LOL I have seen that one before.. next time when you drill through that gauge of steel.. back board it.. tip it on end against a backing board then drill through.. you won’t get the tear out like that and have a nice clean hole.. then take a finger nail sand stick or a sand paper horseshoe and sand the edges.. the sanding stick works wonderful.. then a bolt for the perch use some J-b weld.. if you want to shorten up the mailbox.. then cut it again make sure you have a bandsaw that will do it without crushing the can.. here is what I tell all the kids what my dad told me about using a chiansaw.. don’t force the saw.. let the saw do its job even if it takes a little bit longer.. then to connect the two if you make sure bot ends are of equal distance get a crimping tool they both should just slide together j b weld it and you are done..

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