Friday, November 29, 2019

Hmmmmm....Ariens -or- Honda?

Well now that the "SnowJoe" snow blower has thawed and dried out, I put the batteries in it to see if I could get a handle on the thumping noise, and the "Coffee Can Full Of Gravel" noise it was making.

It powered right up, and rattly-buzzy-bad-bearings noise was gone, and the thumping noise was extremely subdued.

I'm putting the gravel-in-a-can sound down to it having a bunch of gravel/stones/frozen mulch stuck in it's craw, but I haven't fully diagnosed the thumping noise yet.

The auger assembly consists of two sets of augers on a common shaft driven by a right-angle gearbox. The augers kind of "float" on the driveshaft, and have two "shear pins" each, consisting of a soft 1/4-20 (or a Metric bolt that size) bolt that shears if the auger gets jammed. Pretty standard stuff, and I wonder if the bolts have started to shear from the workout it got two days running.

ANYWAY....since this thing handles wet snow so poorly, and was taxed to the max dealing with 20" of snow, I'm throwing in the towel on it, and getting a gas-powered snow blower to replace it.

I'll either dump it on craigslist, or more likely strip the motors, electronics, and other useful stuff from it and scrap the rest. I'm thinking go-kart for the kids, or maybe buy a used Power Wheels riding toy and "upgrade" it a bit.

So what do we get for a replacement snow blower? I've got two thumbs up from Reverend Paul on an Ariens model, and they get great reviews on-line. Talking with the menfolk of the clan at our Thanksgiving gathering, I found that they don't have much experience with "little" snow blowers, but they agreed Ariens is a very good brand. They also liked Honda, and Toro. Anything Honda with an internal combustion engine in it rates very high on my list, but YIKES! A 24" Honda goes for $2,200, while the Ariens goes for about $1,100.

The other night, Well Seasoned Fool suggested I look on craigslist, which I did.

What did I find? A one-year old Honda 24" for $900!

And the ad was well written by what appears to be an intelligent person, sometimes a rarity on craigslist.

To wit:

Looking for a heavy duty snowblower with lots of options and quality construction? Then it’s time to introduce yourself to the Honda HS724.
This snow blower is just the type of machine that will handle the type of snow fort collins just found itself in!

Don't compare these to the machines you see parked outside the big box stores. These are expensive high end machines new! Check out Honda's website and see for yourself! This was over 2000 new!

I Don't need to sell, not in hurry to sell! PRICE IS FIRM.

It has a 24 inch clearing path and a 7hp Genuine Honda OHV engine.
This has more power than residential machines rated at almost twice as much! Full commercial grade!
This features Honda GX series engine that is the workhorse of a ton of different honda products!

The Hydrostatic drive system is similar to that of a lawn tractor. The reason these are so superior is that the hydrostatic offers the user infinite speed adjustment for the self propel. There are no set speeds that limit your options. The build quality is top notch!

Comes with a working headlight so you can see the path in front of you no matter the hour.

It fires up and runs GREAT!

Tires are like new. Ariens for $1,100, or a slightly-used Honda for $900?

I'm leaning towards the Honda.

What say you?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

YaY! Snow Finally Cleared and Happy Thanksgiving!


And it only took 4 battery charges!

Seriously, if this thing:

Was powered by dead dinosaurs, I could have finished last night. The batteries are good for about 30~40 minutes of use, depending on snow type and depth. Then, depending on how depleted they are, you stick them in the charger for two to four hours. Since I was moving snow about twice as deep as the maw is tall, I had to lift the front, drive into the snow, pull it back, drop it down, and take another run at the two feet of path I just plowed. And the tires don't have much traction, even with the air pressure set per the manual for increased traction.

Kinda slows you down a bit, 'ya know?

Anyway.....The drive is cleared "good enough", and snow melt has been liberally sprinkled on it. Probably going to have snow blowing off the top of the Jeep all the way to the in-laws tomorrow!

And I took another charge down the 24" path I made yesterday on the sidewalks to open it up all the way.

When you have the right type of snow, this thing clears the sidewalks OK, but even with the skid shoes and scraper plate set "best effort" on my part, it still trips over cracks and height changes quite easily. The left-to-right white stripes on the sidewalk are where it hit something, and I had to push the handles down to get it over the something, leaving a band of unremoved snow.

I know, I know, "They All Do That", but this one seems much more sensitive than the snow blowers the neighbors have. Maybe I still have it set too low. I'll check it again after it dries out. It also started making a thumping noise when you power up the auger, like an old, worn out washing machine, so I have to look into that, too.

I definitely see one of these in the future:

It's a 24", two-stage, GAS powered Ariens, like I should have bought in the first place. It's bigger than the electric one I have now, but that's OK, I'll clear a space in the garage for it, and roll it into the backyard and cover it up in Spring. It's probably overkill for here, what with Globull Warming and all, but if we're on the threshold of a new Maunder Minimum, it might come in handy.

If scenes like these occur regularly, it will be a Good Thing to have.....

Hope you all have a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving! We're headed up North to one of the in-laws ranches for an old-time Western Thanksgiving.

I have no idea what that might be, but I'm sure it'll be wonderful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Digging Out.....

Began today about noonish.

I plowed a path from the garage door down to the sidewalk, turned, and continued to the corner.

Then I turned around and went the other way. 

This ran the batteries down to "One Bar" on the indicator so I stopped, put them in the charger, and took a break for a couple of hours.

They only charged to two of the three lights on the "gas gauge", so I dumped them back in, and went at the driveway some more.

This ran them down to NO lights, and it quit running.

I'll get going on this again tomorrow to finish the driveway and widen the sidewalk path.

It's pretty, though.....

Snow Daze.....

The storm that's moving out of the area has dumped more snow on us than any other since we moved here two years ago. The area West of Horsetooth Reservoir received up to THIRTY INCHES in places, which means they're pretty much cut off from everything until the plows can get to them.

My "Snow Gauge" reported 22".....

And I've never seen it pile up on the fence like this, most likely because we had very little wind last night.

It even stacked up on the tree trunk.

The neighbors front porch is over 24" AGL, and the snow is almost flush with it.

Thirty minutes of carefully shoveling cleared the front steps and down to the driveway.

I'll power up the snow blower after I warm up a bit. I'm taking it REEEEAL easy doing the shovel work. The snow is pretty dry and light, but it's 25* outside, and even mild exertion can cause Bad Things to happen to Olde Fartes like me who overdo it.

It's still coming down lightly, and the winds are expected to kick up, meaning it's gonna drift like crazy.

I would not want to be out East of here today. Getting stuck in a blizzard out on the Plains can have devastating consequences.....


The snow blower actually works OK on this dry, powdery snow! I have to take two bites at the path, though. One with the front of it picked up about 6", and then I let it back down on the skid shoes, and get the 6" left after the first pass.

I plowed a 24" wide swath down the driveway, and all the way to the corner. Then I backed it up, turned it 180*, and did a 24" swath across the driveway, and down the other section of "our" sidewalk. By this time (over 35 minutes of run time, and the batteries were warm) the batteries were almost depleted, so I parked it, put the batteries on the charger, went back and cleaned out the inlet and sprayed it down with silicone spray, and brewed a big mug of Joe.

After the batteries charge I'll go back out and widen the path.

I amazed I was able to get that much snow moved on one charge. If I hadn't had to lift it up and hit the same section twice, like with only 12" of snow, I think I could have finished on the first charge.

I'm still not real enamored of the thing for several reasons, but at least I'm not screaming at it today.....

Monday, November 25, 2019

Gird Your Grid For A Big One, Doc...

We're just getting started into a Major Winter Storm (ZOMG!! SNOWMAGEDDON!!!) this afternoon, where it's currently 2300UTC, 29*, and snowing.

Expected accumulation is 1"~3" this afternoon, 12"~18" overnight, and another 3"~5" Tuesday, for a storm total of sixteen to twenty-six inches of snow. And on top of that, it's forecast to be "blustery", with sustained winds of ~15MPH gusting to near 30MPH.

Low tonight is forecast to be 20*, and low tomorrow night should be around 2*.

The NWS has forecast travel conditions along the I-25 Urban Corridor to be "impossible" at times. That means I-80 will most likely be shutdown, so travel in and out of here is pretty much a NOGO until Tuesday afternoon, maybe.

Out the front door at 1600 local:

And the backyard:

So it'll be a good night to stay in, follow the weather, and just kick back. I've had to work outdoors in weather like this, and it's not pleasant. Downright brutal, in fact. So a tip of the hat to all those who do work out there, and please keep warm.


Backyard at 2000 local time. Compare the patio table for an estimate. Looks like at least 6", and it's just getting cranked up.....


2200 local. Looks like the chairs and tabled will blend together by morning.
And now the forecast is for an addition 13"~19" overnight, with 3"~5" more before noon......I don't think anybody is going anywhere Tuesday morning!

Midnight Update

Still no wind, which is a good thing, as this much powder will drift like crazy. It's right about 26*, with an expected low of 20*, and a high Tuesday of 26*, so it's gonna stay pretty frozen, dry, and driftable.

Wonder what it'll be like in the morning.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Let There Be.....BREAD!

Ok, so I finally got off-the-dime, went and bought nice set of mixing bowls and a few other kitchen items we'd either lost or tossed during our CALEXIT, and got down to making some bread.

I looked around on the Interwebz, asked some questions, and got a basic heading to go. Thank you all who helped get me started!

And me being me (damn Engineers) I had to learn the "Science" of bread. One thing I learned was about flour. To me, "Flour" always came out of a white "Gold Medal" bag like Mom used when she baked. I kinda-sorta knew there were different types of "Flour", but never knew what the critical differences were, and their intended uses. Turns out to make good bread, you should use "Bread Flour" vs "All Purpose" or "Self Rising" flour. The key is in the protein/gluten content, with "Bread Flour" having the highest concentration, making it most suitable for bread.

And since I loves me some rye bread, I learned about rye bread. Rye flour doesn't have the high gluten content, making for a denser bread that doesn't rise as much. So we don't use 100% rye flour, but rather a mix of white Bread Flour and Rye Flour, which rises better and gives a more "bread like" texture tha using stright rye flour.

Or so I've read. Let's kick this off and get started. I first made a "Rye Sponge" with the rye flour, yeast, sugar (I used raw, unfiltered 'local hive' honey), and some water. Mix well and then let sit for about 20 minutes.

Further mixing in the other ingredients, the rest of the flour, and kneading/mixing the whole shebang together gives us this nice, buttered ball of dough.

Letting the dough rise ~2 hours while we trimmed the tree:

Good Job, Little Guy!

Here she is, all ready to be smacked down, and divided.

It actually got bigger than that. I took this shot at approx 75 minutes BRET (Bread Rising Elapsed Time), and we wound up at approx 150 minutes BRET.

I divided the loaves, and put them into bread pans that were well buttered up.

At 90 minutes PPIT (Post Pan Insertion Time), they were slathered with fresh butter from a local place, and popped into a oven preheated to 370*F.

Forty minutes later we were rewarded with these:

Two nicely browned loaves, and a house permeated with the lovely aroma of FRESH BREAD!

So how'd it turn out?  Let's try some.....

My Sweet Little Wife snagged the first piece, and her eyes opened wide when she took a bite. Uh-Oh....I must have screwed up the recipe......

NO! She pronounced it as "Excellent!". It's a bit denser than I would have liked, but holy smokes, it tastes GREAT. I'm amazed at how well it came out for my solo bread making experiment.

I did a bit of adjusting for altitude, and then next batch I make will be adjusted a bit more to lighten the consistency, but I think I nailed it on flavor. It's rich, filling, has a delightful crust, and an excellent flavor.

Hmm....wonder how much a bread making machine goes for.....

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Anybody Want To Buy A Slightly Used Payload Fairing?

Well....they're starting to scrap out stuff at Sea Launch Homeport. The entire "Payload Accommodation" (Fairing, Spacecraft Support, Interstage Assembly, Ordnance, and Avionics) was supplied by Boeing. We had one complete set of flight hardware in-house and 80~90% complete when Energia pulled the plug and suspended operations.

Now that all the ITAR controlled equipment has been removed from the the Launch Platform and the Command Ship and accounted for, they can start really winding down the operation in preparation for the ships to depart.

This is fairing part of the set we had in the Payload Processing Facility.

Wonder what carbon fiber scrap goes for these days.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Car and Driver

Looks like I forgot the all important head-on picture the other day, so here's a couple.

I also scrutinized the PROTOform body I have, and it's much more realistically done. Where this body has flat surfaces that you apply the "grille" decals to, the other body has the grille openings recessed, along with the headlights and turn signals/brake ducts being much more detailed. I'll probably do the Dodge Challenger next, as it's another straight white paint job, and easy to do.

One of the "legal" requirements to race in the Vintage Trans Am series is that you have to run a driver figure. There's a ton of them out there, and people have even put dolls in the car, but I'm going with something simple.

Yes, it needs masking, painting, and trimming, but at least it's not polycarbonate ("Lexan") plastic, so I can paint it like a "regular" model, on the outside, and use "regular" model paint that doesn't smell like a WMD experiment gone wrong.

It's a single-seat figure, like for a formula car, so I'll have to come up with some mounting arrangement to fit this two-seat-wide body. I bought a driver figure/cockpit from the people that made the body, but it's way too big to use. Even if I hacked it down to fit, the driver is out-of-scale by a significant amount. He'd look bigger than Andre The Giant inside the car, so scratch that. I'll have to see what else is out there, but for now, this will be fine once I paint it and glue it in.

I'd use pop-rivets or Dzus fasteners to hold it in, but I can't find any small enough.......

Anywhoo.....Currently 29* and lightly snowing. Looks like a little over an inch on the grass, and the streets and sidewalks are just wet. Expected to be like this through Friday, and then sunny again.

The wife and I are headed out tomorrow to see "Ford v Ferrari" at the local super deluxe cineplex with a wall-to-wall screen, reclining chairs, and food service to your seat, as long as they can deliver it before the movie starts. I lived through this time, and followed auto racing much more closely than I do these days. I was on top of the whole Ford/Ferrari thing at LeMans and other places, so I know the story. From what I've read on auto sites and movie sites, it's a pretty good movie. There haven't been very many Really Good auto racing movies made ("Grand Prix" is Really Good), and I hope this is one of them.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Time To Kick The Tires, And Light The Fires....

Which in my case translates to: Let's charge the batteries and head to the track!

The 1/10th scale Vintage Trans Am car is over 95% finished, and now needs a trip to track for inspection, transponder installation, and a few laps.

I still have to build-out the interior insert, or just add a driver figure, but since I'll be running in "Touring Stock" for a while (wonder if I'll have rookie stripes?) it might not be needed.

The lap times on this track for the VTA (Vintage Trans Am) class seem to run around 10~11 seconds per lap, and I have no doubt my first dozen or so laps will be about twice that. I set up a bunch of 6" tall traffic cones in the garage the other day, and "practiced" with my teeny-tiny Kyosho "Mini-Z", which is a little smaller than a 1/24th scale model car.

I have a long way to go to get to be smooth around a circuit.......

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Out Of The Paint Shop

WELL.....since I had some pretty light spots in a few places on the body, I quickly masked off the windows and shot some more white paint on it. Turns out the paint on the body was pretty thin all over, and you could see the consequences of my quick-and-dirty masking job from the outside.


Mask the windows off again, head to the hobby shop for some more paint, and come home and spray the inside again.

And since this paint will drive you out of a building, I opened up the garage doors and side door, put my big exhaust fan in the side door, and painted the body in front of the fan, drawing away the nasty vapors.

It's still not up to my quality standards, but considering it's the first one I've done in 30 years, I'm pronouncing it "Plenty Good Enough", and moving on. I know the next bodies I do up for this chassis will look much better, and it's gonna get banged up on the track, and I wanna take it to the track and drive it!

This thing is really SHINY when you peel off the protective film.

I've got a bunch of questions concerning ride height and a few other things, so that's why I'm anxious to get to the track.

Now I have to carefully trim and apply the decals/stickers. These are the sticky-backed, printed-on-clear-film type, so you have to trim them from the sheet, leaving only a small clear border around them. At least they go on from the outside!

I have numerous photos of the original car in competition, and one of the "tribute" cars on the track, so at least I know where all the little stickers go.

And since I was in a painting kind of mood, I took my prepped set of rims and sprayed them silver, and mounted the tires on them. I still have to glue them to the rims, and I'll do that tomorrow.

You can only buy the current spec series legal rim from one supplier, and they come in either black or white. White makes it look like a toy, and I'm so over the black wheel thing, so you can either find some "vintage" NOS wheels in "Matte Chrome" (looks like brushed aluminum, goes for big $$), or paint your own. A $6 can of paint beats a $60 spend on eBay hands down on this build, so I painted them. Hey, it's not going to Pebble Beach or The Quail, you know?

So I should have this thing finished enough by Monday night to take it to the track Tuesday afternoon (cue the Moodies...) for the Tech Inspection, and to buy a transponder and get it registered. Maybe I'll even have time for a few laps.....

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Off To The Rack With You!

The alignment rack, that is.

Or in my case, a set of graduated fixtures and holders so I can measure and adjust the camber, caster, and toe of the little R/C car.

The fixtures bolt to the stub axles in place of the wheels, and you place the fixtured car on a flat, level surface, and read the scales.

This poorly lit shot shows the toe-out to be 1*, per spec to start with. Toe-in/out is adjusted turning a little turnbuckle on each side's steering linkage, just like a full-size car.

This shows the left rear to be at -3* (negative) camber, and the spec is -2*. It's also easily adjustable with a turnbuckle.

And the left front shows -1*, also out-of-spec, but also easily adjustable.

So now I have the suspension dialed-in to the recommended settings to start with. Might need a toe adjustment, or perhaps run a different camber setting on the front and/or rear. I've done this before with full-size cars, and the principles are identical, so I understand what the settings do. What I don't understand, yet, is how they relate to a 1/10th scale model, this particular one, and the track I'll be running on. Still have a lot to learn, and I expect to be at the track in a week or two.

The window masks for the body have been cut and trimmed to fit:

And after cleaning the inside of the body again, they've been applied to the window areas inside the body:

Since it's forecast to be in the mid-60's tomorrow, it's going to get painted!

One of the electronics projects I had simmering away is now finished and in-service, my "vintage" Heathkit IM-103 AC Line Voltage Monitor.

I replaced the electrolytic capacitor, upgraded the rectifier to a 1N4007, and replaced two resistors. One of them was a 100 Ohm, 2 Watt resistor that was dissipating 1.8 Watts by design. More accurately, by design error, as running a part at 90% of it's maximum ratings is not a Real Good Thing to do. So I changed it to a 5 Watt rated resistor to keep things cooler inside the case. I also added an in-line "pigtail" fuse inside as a CYA protection. Using my calibrated Fluke meter and a big Variac transformer, I followed the calibration steps in the manual, and it's very accurate (better than 2%!) over the range of the meter. These were "Must Have" accessories for the well-equipped Ham Shack or repair shop in the 1960's, and I've always wanted one. Yes, the line voltage varies during the day. It's nominally 120 VAC, but I've seen it go as low as 117 VAC, and up to 121 VAC, so it's an interesting little doo-dad to hang on the wall.

And this unit has provenance!

It was owned by an Engineer who worked for Lockheed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. He was also a Ham, and I bought a few of his estate items from his Granddaughter via Big Internet Auction Site. I don't know if he used this at work, or snuck it through the Calibration Lab, but I was very careful not to disturb the stickers on the case:

The case was off when I calibrated it, and the two potentiometers were the type that can be adjusted from the back, so the stickers got through untouched.

Adds a nice touch to the workshop wall, I think.

Hope y'all have a good weekend. I'll be attempting to bake bread on Sunday. If you see smoke, I didn't do very well.....

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