24 August 2019

Took Midlana to a sort-of Cars and Coffee event in San Diego with my brother and his car. “Sort of” because it was sponsored by a high-end vinyl wrap place (providing a hint for what constitutes “awesome”). There were a number of supercars, Corvettes (no mid-engine model, yet), VW Golfs (a train of them heading to the event passed everyone on the freeway at ~100mph), some old-school muscle cars, and I guess not surprising, a Tesla car club. You might wonder what can be done to a Tesla, and so did I: a wrap, wheels, and air suspension is about it, about 15 nearly identical cars lined up, meh. I guess this trend will only strengthen over time and become the new normal. A few other cars may have been track rats but looked suspiciously clean. There was a Lambo with a full roll cage inside; I can only imagine the hit to its resale value, but I guess if they’re fine with it, okay.

Anyway, our cars got plenty of attention, probably because of the wide cross section of car people. I posted a couple pictures to Instagram but to be honest, not much stood out. Many were just stock with custom wheels and maybe some vinyl, but I couldn’t help but get a shot of one of the attendees, looking like a guy from Central Casting for Road Warrior and Game of Thrones. Later, I heard him tell a friend that he was going into contract law. You just never know!

The drive showed that the fast idle is solved; I didn’t realize how annoying it was until it was gone. While the cause is now understood, it’s a puzzle what was going on, as somehow the throttle cable was getting shorter as the engine warmed up, which is backwards from expected. Maybe the sheath is expanding (getting longer) as it heats up, while the inner cable isn’t? Anyway, I’m glad it’s resolved, which means attention moves to the next item on the annoyance list, which is how crankcase blowby gasses from the dry sump tank exit out the bottom of the car. At a stop, depending on the wind, the vapors will emerge, enough that I wonder how long it’ll be before someone points out a “problem” with my car. All engines produce the same vapors, but they’re feed back into the engine. The concern is that doing so may fowl the plugs, which I rather not risk. Typical fixes include having a “puke can”, basically a container containing stainless steel wool to strip out most of the vapors. Haven’t decided whether to go that way yet.

In other car news, aluminum is on hand for the new engine cover. While I don’t remember the price of aluminum being high while Midlana was in construction, $55 for a 4’x4′ sheet of 0.050″ 6061 does seem a bit much.

Because we’ll be in the Reno area for about a week, dust, rain, and maybe unwanted attention might be an issue, suggesting that a car cover might be wise. I took a chance on a first generation Miata cover, which actually fit very snug.

In shop news, a tool post height gauge was fabricated, ensuring that the cutting edge is at the exact height of the center of the chuck. Since it was free to do, it’s double sided, so that the cutter can be lowered down to, or raised, to the correct level. A tool holder rack was also built, mounting on otherwise unused vertical space above the lathe. About the only thing left to add is a (probably plastic) backsplash to ensure flying metal and oil ends up in the lathe tray and not on the floor.

A bit more on the lathe; you may recall that it didn’t come with the external factory set of change gears (necessary for threading or driving the carriage at particular speeds). Of course, they’re long out of stock, impossible to find used,  and cost around $1000 for a custom set (some people say 3D printing works but I doubt they’d last). I’ve decided to take the leap and build an electronic lead screw. Normally I’d design and build something from scratch, but someone beat me to it. Clough42 on Youtube is currently doing just that. After watching his series of videos, I couldn’t see how I’d do any better without spending a lot more time and money, so instead, will follow along and make one of his, using the same hardware, development enviroment, and his embedded software. Since I left the embedded controller world, things have changed in a big—and good—way. Back then, the end user (me) had to make or buy development hardware and software, typically costing $$$$. Chip manufacturers finally figured out that they were doing it all wrong. Instead of making developers pay through the nose up front, they finally switched to the razor blade approach. That is, practically give away the development hardware and software, then make up for it when selling the millions of chips that go into end products. So now you can get a very powerful development board with built-in debugger for the crazy price of $30, and the entire software development package to go with it, for free. To be fair, it still requires a stepper motor, driver, gears, and a belt, but for about $200, it means being able to cut any thread, English or metric, and drive the carriage at any speed.

Lastly, someone apparently hacked my FedEx account, which is pretty amazing because I thought it had been closed years ago. FedEx confirmed that  it was closed in 2009, and they were puzzled how they managed to bill me $14.41 (to ship something to a police station in Massachusetts!) I was almost tempted to call the police station and ask what “I” shipped them, but thought better of it after thinking about what it could have been…

8 August 2019

My old lathe moved to its new home yesterday; I hope it serves the new owner as well as it has me. What offsets the slight sadness at seeing it go is getting a superior replacement for “free” (the buying and selling prices being essentially the same). Of course, the budget got blown by upgrading the chuck and tool post, as both were beat. This was a lesson about paying for a machine with the coveted “extras” we’re told to get, only to then pay a second time to replace them. The chuck will go to a buddy who’ll use it as part of a rotary table, and the tool post was given away with the old lathe. I feel fortunate to own a well-made lathe and realize that if it’s treated well, it’ll likely outlive me, hmm.

So now what. With the mill and lathe issues dealt with, attention turns towards preparing Midlana for the hillclimb, which is creeping up on us six weeks from now.