22 June 2020

Though I haven’t been posting here much, things are happening on the Midlana Builders’ Forum. There’s is growing excitement as several builders are reaching major milestones, including getting their cars on its wheels, first engine start, and the beginning of final assembly. So if you’d like, wander over and take a look at the build logs to share in the fun!

16 June 2020

I’m still here, no virus, though I did have a nasty 24-hr flu that shares many symptoms. Just been working from home, and with the 1.5 hours saved everyday from commuting, the time’s been spent getting the 16″ f/4.3 telescope done, and it nearly is.

The design is commonly called a “hexapod”, and consists of six tubes assembled into three truss assemblies 120­° apart. There are several reasons to go this way over the more traditional 4-truss 8-tube design:

1. The telescope is collimated (aligned) solely by adjusting tube length. The tube assemblies are just like the toe control links in Midlana, with each using a left and right-hand rod end to set its length. What’s interesting is, once fully assembled, turning just the upper ends of the truss ends adjusts the upper assembly tilt, and turning just the lower ends adjust its location relative to the main mirror.

2. #1 means that the main mirror cell and secondary holder do not have to be adjustable, which lowers weight, increase stiffness, reduces cost, and make the assemblies simpler—sound familiar?

3. To some extent, focusing range can be adjusted by altering the upper-to-lower assembly distance.

The last point has consumed the most time. Every primary mirror has a unique focal length, this one is 68.7″. This means that from the main mirror, to the secondary diagonal mirror, and out to the focuser has to be 68.7″ inches, sort of. The catch is that the value gets modified if a “coma corrector” lens is present. Anyway, if it ends up being wrong (outside the range of the focuser’s travel limits), the strut tube lengths can be adjusted if it’s slight, or different length threaded Delrin tube inserts may become necessary. I started with one set and found that focus was off by about 2″, so a second set was made that was 2″ longer. What’s left me scratching my head is that it didn’t correct the situation by the expected 2″. The catch is that I may or may not have had the coma corrector in place, and probably didn’t use the same eyepiece. That’s another issue, that different types and brands of eyepieces all have different focal points. This means that before the scope can really be considered finished, all the eyepieces have to be checked to confirm whether they all come to focus… and one eyepiece (one said to have a strong focus offset) is currently back ordered.

In the meantime, servo drivers for tracking start targets are being installed. Some people consider such a thing a waste, but I find it annoying having a planet or star under high magnification drift fast from the field of view, and then the scope is pushed to follow it, only to then lose it. Anyway, that system will take a bit to learn.

Even with composite construction for the upper assembly, carbon tubes, and low-profile lower assembly, the overall assembly is around 65 lbs, enough that I don’t want to carry it, so wheels and handles are being added as well. After it’s fully operational and checked out, it all has to come apart for paint. While part of me would like a furniture-grade varnish-like finish, nope, paint it will be. I don’t want to deal with the time, mess, and smell that beautiful wood finishes entail, especially all the sanding. Been there done that with Kimini, no more sanding!

The little voice in my head did ask though, “A scope, that’s nice, so how does someone who has to be in bed by 9:30-10pm in order to get up at 5am for work planning to spend hours out under the stars?” Good question, but this project and other going-ons in the garage are about planning ahead about how I’ll spend my time in retirement, someday. Anyway, through dumb luck, it turns out that Mars is going to be the closest in its orbit to Earth this Fall, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Stay safe!

04 May 2020

I’m still here but haven’t been working on Midlana. Builders, on the other hand, are pushing ahead on their builds, and you can check that out on the Midlana forum. Locally, car events keep getting cancelled, and who knows when we’ll start risking ourselves in the name of fun again. Here in Southern California, activity and travel restrictions have lessened slightly, but it seems almost certain that by the end of all this, we’ll have all been exposed to the virus, it’s just a matter of when.

Our American culture is such that we sometimes don’t like being told what to do, and often involves mention of freedom and Constitutional rights. What protesters (including anti-vaxers!) don’t understand however, is that we’re dealing with a virus that simply doesn’t care. Wanting things to go back to normal is understandable, but that’s in conflict with a virus that only cares about finding its next host. What bothers me most  is how some people figure that because they’re young and don’t have symptoms (and even if they do), what do they care? Wow.

On the other hand, the damage to the economy is dire, and I heard a pretty good analogy that went something like: “We currently have a speed limit on most freeways of 65 mph, but we could save a lot more lives if we lowered it to 20 mph.” The reality is that there’s a balance between lives lost and the economy. If you ask the protesters, we passed that point long ago. On the other hand, if you ask a mom how much should be spent treating her critically-ill child, she’ll say whatever it takes. Where the balancing point?

Anyway, I’m fortunate to be able to work from home, which has brought to light a new situation, where it’s sort of like being retired,  but not. That is, everyday feels very much like the day before, and sometimes I have to remind myself what day of the week it is. Midi, our dog, is confused because he sees me sitting for hours staring at a laptop, when I should obviously be giving him walks or tummy rubs. He’s getting old and has really slowed down lately, not helped by him hurting his foot while running around barking at the increased number of people walking by. He’s sleeping a lot more recently, to the point that sometimes I watch him to see if he’s still breathing. Yeah, I fear that he’s getting close to the end of his adventure, and I really don’t like to think about that.

To end on some positive news, I am working in the garage, just not on the car. The new workbench has been put to good use, supporting construction of the new telescope that’s been in the works for a couple years now. In other news, the wooden gear clock project has been shelved, as cutting the gears and finishing the teeth is more work than I want to do. A CNC router was tried, but even it left a lot of chipped and frayed plywood. What I’d really like is to have it cut via laser, but the only place that returned a quote wanted $600. So, it sits.

9 April 2020

Between working from home, light but long term rain, and the virus, Midlana is safe in the garage on a trickle charger. If you’ve ever driven an open wheel car in the wet, well, you’re missing out. Perhaps you remember riding a bike without fenders through a puddle, and the sudden realization that you now have a muddy racing strip down the middle of your back. Only takes once to learn that lesson. As far as driving in the wet, anything off straight-ahead results in a shower, and even after the car is dried off with a towel, everything that can rust, does.

When weather allows, work continues in the backyard, replacing our 25+ year-old railroad ties with retaining blocks. When it’s rainy, I’m in the garage working on the new telescope 🙂

25 March 2020

It’s surprising to see an uptick in book sales. Maybe it’s due to people stuck at home looking for something to read, but I’m also hoping that it might be that people have the attitude that “this, too, shall pass”, and are considering building a fun car. Glad that I can help!

24 March 2020

Attempted to contact another hot rod company through their web page and heard nothing. Found an email address and tried again; it came back as a bad address—sigh, here we go again. Called their number and got an answering machine, no reply yet. Maybe they’re on vacation,  maybe they’re busy, but the more time that elapses puts doubt into the minds of  potential customers as to whether they’re a good place to be sending money to. Good to find this out upfront. Before I’d started contacting hot rod companies, for some reason I expected them to be more reliable and responsive than kit car companies. Now I wonder why I thought there’d be any difference. Regardless, there’s no timeline for this project, so there’s time to mull over sources, project goals, and the budget.

In other news, I can tell that people are staying home, not just due to how many people are out walking, more cars in driveways, but the rust on brake discs from disuse. It also seems like air quality has improved and visibility is better, which says something about us mucking with things.

23 March 2020

Project thoughts continue. One contender is the Chevy 3100 pickup truck, for no other reason that it looks okay and is available. Authentic steel ones are still around, but they, like most old trucks, are utilitarian vehicles with very upright seating and short cabs. Hot rodders demanded more leg room so it’s common that aftermarket fiberglass shells are about 6″ longer than stock. Also, the cab is typically chopped (the roof lowered) about 4-6″ for looks. Price wise, a very used steel 3100 is a fair bit cheaper than a fiberglass shell, and you get “everything” (much of which is useless to me), but they also have all the expected issues that go with a 70-year old vehicle. The question is, is starting with that better or worse than starting with a fiberglass shell?

That said, I haven’t really made a final decision on the overall envelope, so letting the issue sit for a while usually helps focus in on a solution.

20 March 2020

Contacted a couple more hot rod shops and they’ve been more responsive. While doing so is a bit premature, it’s necessary to see whose out there and still in business. Some are a little sketchy, with websites looking like they were made 25 years ago (you know the ones: varying text sizes and fonts, flashing text, a total pallet of only eight colors, dead product links, etc). I suppose that could be spun to mean that they’ve been around a long time and haven’t updated their site, but when there’s no contact info other than a phone number, it makes one wonder.

Typing out loud, some time is needed to let this stew. The concern is whether I’d be okay with a cookie-cutter hot rod, regardless of performance. I’m not sure. On the one hand, I like to pretend that I don’t care. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I’ll be happy doing anything other than going my own way. What’s testing that creativity is having a weather-tight cab as a top requirement, which for me means starting with something preexisting (don’t get me started on dealing with doors and weatherstripping, see the Kimini blog for that). Technically I could start with a metal truck cab and go from there—modifying composite is undesirable for many reasons listed elsewhere. I have a couple design ideas about how I want it to look, but am I prepared for the years of work to do a full custom project again?

There are other factors too, such as whether the windshield is flat or curved. If the car is used on-track, the windshield is going to get pitted and cracked fairly quickly. If the glass is flat, it’s easy to have another made up. If it’s some old oddball OEM curved glass, there’s always the possibility of hearing “sorry, those aren’t available anymore” (and then what do you do?). One negative regarding flat windshields is that, depending upon angle, it can reflect whatever the driver’s wearing. This may not seem like a big deal until you’re driving into the sun and wearing a white shirt! (Midlana’s flat windscreen doesn’t have this problem because it’s angled back at a steep 45°.)

Speaking of oddball, I learned of a car I’d never heard of before, a Henry J, which was an economy car sold in the US in the early 1950s. It’s quirky and unusual enough to get my attention, but with a 100″ wheelbase (Corvette is 106″), it means shortening the torque tube, something I want to avoid if possible. Overall length is 178″, oddly close to the 15-ft length that keeps popping up.

My garage has a vertical clearance of 8-ft. If final ground clearance of the car is 4″, and the shell is (total guess) 48″ tall, then that leaves 96 – 48 – 4 – 2 (chassis tubing), for a working space between the two of 42″. Not great, but probably workable. There could be an issue as the roll cage is fabricated because it’ll extend up into the shell even with it up against the rafters. Whether that becomes a problem at some point needs some thought. The point of bringing this up is that a multi-piece shell is both a help and a hindrance, as in, where are they stored? Starting with just the passenger compartment (like a truck… again) keeps the clutter down. It does mean potentially paying a shipping fee twice if the nose is decided on later, though as discussed earlier, it’s highly likely that where I’d place the cab wouldn’t be where the manufacturer intended.

Anyway, around and around the process goes!

18 March 2020

A hot rod manufacturer that I requested information from called, pushing to know if I was ready to make a decision. I asked if they’d read my email, which they hadn’t, so I read it and things kinda went downhill from there. He (and I understand why) seemed to think that I didn’t know what I was doing, it wouldn’t work, and that I shouldn’t buy their shell. I tried to explain that I’m familiar with making things work, which only made him flip to the opposite extreme, which, paraphrasing, was, “okay, fine, I’ll sell you whatever you want, you’ll find out.” Neither sales strategy worked.

I suspect that he doesn’t know what a late model Corvette “rollerskate” is. I tried explaining, but he had already decided that it wouldn’t work. He said, “the cab’s not nearly wide enough.” Not true. The Corvette envelope is 6 feet wide, and their cab is 4 feet wide. That leaves 12″ on each side for the wide tires.

He said that the hood assembly wouldn’t possibly fit, and I said there’s no way to know because they don’t supply dimensions (I left out the part about probably not using the front anyway).

I can understand where he’s coming from. If I sold hot rod shells to the general public, I’d probably be pretty cynical myself based upon what people say they can accomplish, versus what actually gets done.

I tried explaining how all I need are the cab and doors but, being a salesman, he kept pushing to sell the whole set (with nose and bed), saying it would cost more to ship them separately, and seemed puzzled that anyone would want just part of it (how do they not know about rat rods?). The conversation ended with him never saying what the cab and doors would cost, but he did say that he would talk to the experts. Okay, though I’m not sure what’s to discuss.

There are other manufacturers out there so I’ll try them. If that fails, there’s always starting with a mid-60s OEM steel cab. Heavier, but more easily available, cheaper, and with no unhappy sales people. I have time on my side (assuming viruses stay away!).

17 March 2020

Moving pieces of the mental puzzle around, I realized that, without a full-size workshop/garage , this build will be difficult. It would require one car bay for the ‘Vette “rollerskate”, a second bay for the car that’s getting converted to sit over it, a third bay for all the parts as they come off, and a fourth bay for the “machine shop.” That’s basically twice the garage that I have now, but even if somehow this home’s garage was doubled in size, it cannot be one large area due to the exiting floor plan and plot. It’s just not going to happen. Because of this, unless we move (unlikely, especially now), the Corvair/van/Volvo/etc imaginings have to get shelved. So what does this leave?

It suggests using the construction technique used with Kimini, where composite subassemblies were used, carefully measured, the tube frame chassis build, and the composite placed over it frequently for test fitting. During the build, the cab assembly can hang up out of the way from the ceiling on pulleys such that it could be lowered and raised at will during the build.

This narrows down the ideas to something already under consideration: a pickup truck. The advantage of starting with a hot rod truck is that it’s already in three pieces: the front hood assembly; the cab; and the truck bed. I only need the cab initially because that’s where all the work happens. The cab gets placed such that it’s not interfering with the engine. I don’t want the engine intruding through the firewall because it gets crowded and hot, and it’s hard to work on the engine if it’s buried under the windshield. So that locates the cab. The front and rear suspension ends up wherever it has to be, and the engine and front suspension can either be left open, hot rod/rat rod style, or integrated into an existing hood/fender assembly, and maybe it’ll fit. Leaving it open though, means not having to worry about where the tires end up relative to the wheel wells.

This leaves the truck bed, which handles two issues rather conveniently. Since the cab was likely set back further than stock, the rear tires almost certainly won’t line up with the factory fender cutouts. No problem, the bed and wheel arches are cut to align it. Also, since I keep complaining that most cars are too long for the garage, the rear of the bed can be cut such that it just supports the rear wheel arches, while keeping enough internal volume underneath for the gas tank and mufflers. If the truck bed ends up being short, like 4.5 feet long, so what. The truck bed is very straightforward to fabricate, and also avoids the expense and shipping of a fiberglass bed assembly I’d have to chop up anyway.

There are several vendors advertising composite cabs for hot rod trucks (a stretched version is nice because the actual size cabs are cramped). Also, most have doors available, along with glass and electric lifts.

This is much more pleasant to think about, rather than certain other things going on right now!

15 March 2020

Whether you enjoy sci-fi movies or not, we’re all playing a part in one now…

Assuming I survive (mostly kidding) I’m thinking about the next project (does that mean that I’m an optimist? On that note, is this a really good time to do the remodel, or a really bad time? I really don’t know).

Anyway, I asked for suggestions on Grass Roots Motorsports and there are some pretty cool ones, with a few shown below. As you can see, I’m still all over the place. My rules include it being older than 1975 (or appearing to be, for the California SB100 exemption), 15 feet or shorter, a wheel base of around 106″, doors, roof, and provisions for a heater and A/C. Right now I really like the look of the Corvair in black, and the black rat rod pickup truck, two very different approaches. The Volvo does offer some quirkiness as well, and I doubt that early 1970’s ones are worth much. So many decisions…

Regarding the rat rod approach, a search for fiberglass hot rod truck cabs shows that to get one in-hand, with doors, would be on the order of $8K, which is pretty high for what it is. Starting with an old car shell could be a lot less, but then there’s the inevitable rust and rot to deal with, and maybe impossible-to-find body parts.

This certainly isn’t Midlana related, but as long as nothing’s been purchased, and the path forward remains nebulous, I don’t see it as direct competition yet. I have decided that if this happens though, that it’s time to move into this century and do YouTube installments instead of a blog or book. Whether that’ll be better or worse depends upon one’s definition I guess.

10 March 2020

Thoughts on home repairs continue, with future car projects orbiting in the background. The good thing about this stage of such car projects is that they cost nothing, mistakes don’t matter, and all sorts of different approaches can be tried in one’s imagination without concern.

I asked for input on another car forum about what to put on the Corvette drivetrain, and they’re as out there as I am, ranging from Corvairs, El Caminos, vans, early mini vans, trucks, rat rods, used NASCAR chassis, Teslas, and even a Pontiac Aztek (lime green of course to match the one in Breaking Bad). Anything more recent though from 1975 is an automatic disqualification.

I keep going around between a rat rod truck to a van-ish sort of thing, because I want storage for stuff ( track tires, jack, cooler, chair, etc) during trips so I don’t have to trailer the car. So there’s that, and wanting working doors, rain seals, air, and heat. There are a fair number of fiberglass hot rod shells available, but by the time doors and glass are added, they’re up around $8K shipped just for the truck cab. Moneywise, it seems to make more sense to start with a mid-1960’s truck, and then I’m right back to something like what that guy bought to the Del Mar hot rod show, a “farm truck” on a corvette chassis.

I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not trying to be unique, but instead want something usable, something that makes me smile to look at (I appreciate sleepers) and is fun to drive. The only downside with the truck approach is that after a lot of work, it could end up weighing as much as a complete Corvette, but with twice the aero drag. Can’t have that. There are complete fiberglass truck bodies, but they’re set up for drag racing and have non-working doors. They certainly are not trivial to add, what with weather stripping, rain channels, glass guides, etc, but who knows.

Oh, regarding using a Corvair donor, a number of people have put V8s in them mid-engine, ahead of a transaxle. That’s fine for them because they can apparently afford the $12-18K for a proper transaxle that won’t break. Also, these builders claim that their cars have a 50/50 weight distribution. I can’t see how that is because a Corvette, with its front engine and rear transmission, is also 50/50, so someone’s incorrect. I still want to stick with pretty much a dead-stock Corvette driveline (engine, tranny, suspension, and brakes.

BTW, I read that late model Corvettes use the latest generation of LT1 engine, which is direct injection. You know what DI engines work really well with, right? Turbochargers, but there I go again 🙂

16 Feb 2020

Regarding last week’s post, I think I’m getting way ahead of myself, for a number of reasons:

  • The house needs a lot of work.
  • The “25-yr smog rule” apparently no longer exists, so that angle’s out.
  • What I was considering won’t fit in the garage.

So fear not, potential builders, Midlana is staying. I think first on the list is for us to decide what needs to be done to the house, what we want it to be, and weighing that against the inconvenience of a messy remodel, versus… moving. That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish, as there’s as many variables in that as there are in building a car from scratch!

In the meantime, I need to learn how to drive Midlana better; that’s a project that can happen along with, or in spite of, everything else.

9 Feb 2020

It’s raining, I’m on-call, so here’s an infrequent stream of consciousness.

I’ve started a thought experiment on a future project, but there are a lot of questions, so fear not, Midlana builders, I’m not jumping ship. First, some background:

In the back of my mind has been to build one more vehicle before I’m too old, different from what I’ve been doing, like: motorcycle powered?; electric commuter?; 3-wheeler?; or ? Initially, there was thought of an electric “something”, but I can’t get past the value-per-dollar aspect which makes it a no-go for me. There’s already a couple electric Locosts out there, but there isn’t much detail on power, range, and most importantly, cost. While I agree that someday, people will build custom electric cars just as we do now with internal combustion parts, but I feel it’s currently too expensive for what you end up with (ignoring specific goals such as autocross, where one could do very well, but I have no interest). In addition to overall cost are other potential gotchas such as Tesla remote-bricking cars that have been written off. That’s fine for their liability, but what about the guy who buys it at auction, thinking he’ll get it running again (this has already happened). Avoiding Tesla parts, at least their controller, means building a hybrid, which is all very doable, but again, what do you want at the end of the day? That said, one good thing about Kimini and Midlana is that they aren’t powertrain specific, so if someone acquires the parts, an electric version is certainly doable.

So if electric is off the table, how about motorcycle-powered then? I thought about it, but for me it would be track only because I don’t think bike drivetrains are a good choice for a street car. I also don’t want to spend 1000s of hours building something that I can’t drive without towing it 100s of miles to a track.

Three wheelers? Mentally I’m stuck on the styling (like I’m fashionable, hah). I just can’t get around how a 2-front-wheel-and-one-back-wheel design looks. Well, it can look good if the nose can be kept low, and the CG kept toward the front, but those two are at odds with each other.

So this leaves what? Right now I still think the best bang for the buck is an internal combustion car engine. Having owned a turbo car, I’m tempted to go the other direction for the performance per dollar, meaning large displacement.

I’m also considering taking a different tact with the chassis in an effort to avoid spending 5-10 years both designing and building it (as I’ll be how old by then?). One way is starting with an existing frame that can be adapted into what I want, so what kind of tube frames are on the used market? Dune buggies, meh… and NASCAR shells. Hmm.

Now the catch: would it be street legal in California? The law that both Kimini and Midlana used—SB100—worked great, but that was for a truly scratch-built car. Using a preexisting tube frame that looks like a Chevy or Ford may make it ineligible. Here’s the exact phrasing from SB100:

These vehicles may be built from a kit, new or used parts, a combination of new and used parts, or a vehicle reported for dismantling (junked) that, when reconstructed, does not resemble the original make of the vehicle that was dismantled.

A specially constructed (SPCNS) vehicle does not include a vehicle that has been repaired or restored to its original design by replacing parts or a vehicle modified from its original design.

Example: A Volkswagen “Beetle” with modified fenders, engine compartment lid, and front end, but still recognizable as a Volkswagen is not considered a specially constructed vehicle.

The key term phrase seems to be “does not resemble the original make of the vehicle,” which seems to mean brand. So if it uses Chevy parts but doesn’t look like a Chevy, does that makes it legal? NASCAR vehicles looks very little like their street-going counterparts, but I don’t know if that’s good enough. OEM parts that I’d want to use include the door frames, lightweight doors (hah), windshield frame, and roof, but nothing else. As far as asking the DMV, the answer can change depending on who’s asked. Another approach (at least in California) is to buy a >25 years old car so that there’s no smog test and go from there, but then I’m back to building an entire tube frame chassis, but there are tube frame kits available. Regardless, the legality has to be worked through before anything else but that’s the thought, preexisting frame and single donor drivetrain, exact brand left as a surprise if it happens. My brother says that he’s got it all figured out, so all I have to do spend my money and time… That’s good to hear, because I don’t know exactly what the end goal is at this point.

Of course, there’s also remodeling the house, but thinking about this is more fun, and is free for now.

26 Jan 2020

A TV show that I refer to often, both in the books and in previous build diary posts, is the 3-part documentary, Plane Crazy, that ran on PBS years ago, where a guy sets out to design and build a plane in 30 days. Yes, really. It remains a show that’s really stuck with me (when it aired, I’d just completed Kimini). It became all but impossible to find copies of, and those that exist are on VHS tape. No more! It’s now on YouTube, where you can relieve the painful/funny/sad/entertainment of watching someone set an impossible goal, then drive himself crazy trying to meet it. It’s an excellent study in human nature and psychology when it comes to any big project. It’s three hours, but very much worth the watch:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

4 Jan 2020

Just a quick PSA about following sketchy “Midlana” URLs.

Lately there have been a bunch popping up with URL extensions “.de” (Germany). I have nothing against Germany, but all the sites are the same in that they’re just random text snippets from the Internet, designed to trick Google into pointing to them as legitimate sources of information. I recommend staying away.

Dec 31 2019

Sorry for the lack of posts, it’s not been from a lack of working in the garage.

A few weeks back I posted the first picture below, wondering if anyone could guess what I’m building. Not one message, which either means that no one guessed, or that no one reads this stuff other than myself, hah. Anyway, it’s done – a power drawbar for the mill, very much a copy of the Kurt brand. Sure, there are a lot of DIY power drawbars on YouTube, but having always been a contrarian, where’s the fun in copying a simplistic one when I could spend a lot more time figuring out how Kurt designed theirs. It’s mounted and working; the question now is how long my custom 3/4″ socket will last against the hardened drawbar. I may do a Youtube series on its development…

In the last picture, my brother mentioned that someone he knows regularly waxes his metal workbenches to keep them from rusting and to keep liquids from the metal. Seemed worth a try and it came out pretty nice, but time will tell.

Not much going on with Midlana, as it’s been raining a fair bit. After that, it got cold enough for snow in the mountains, which means tons of traffic during the holiday, never mind wet roads to spray down Midlana. Being on-call also serves to put a damper on fun things, for now.

13 Dec 2019

Checking over the car, a front spring was found hung-up on its spring  perch. Makes me wonder how long it’s been that way, because it changes where the tire is on the camber curve. Oh well, tire wear isn’t much different, but it is a reminder to keep an eye on things.

In the garage department, my brother made a workbench that sits over the front of his car, and given how little space I have, it seemed like a good idea. I almost went with wood, just because, but due to the design, worried that over time it would sag, so I went all steel. The fun started with a 36′ x 72″ sheet of 1/4″ steel plate, having not figured out what I signed up for—180 lbs., by the way. The first entertainment was that when it was pulled out of the truck and the back edge sat on the ground, it caught on the cement joint between the driveway and garage. No problem, I thought, because it kept it from sliding the rest of the way out of the truck. I managed to stand it up vertical, but then the bottom edge dropped all the way down into the joint. The joint is deep and narrow enough that I couldn’t lift it out far enough to keep it from sliding back in, but it also wasn’t deep to keep it from falling over if I let go of it to go get tools, and would likely snap off the cement along one edge. Fueled by many bad words and getting irritated, it finally came free.

The plan for the table was for the legs to fit between the front wheels and the nose of Midlana, offset to miss the front suspension. The top would be offset over the car, creating a new workspace in otherwise wasted space. Locking swivel caster wheels means that it can be rolled out when necessary.

So that’s what was done. Once the legs were done and welded, with a connecting frame between them, came the next challenge, getting the sheet onto the frame. Theoretically, one end could be sat on the frame, then the other end lifted up and slide over. In practice, it didn’t go well, and I’ve learned to listen to the little voice saying “you’re going to hurt yourself.” Time to pull out the chain hoist, which made short work of lifting the sheet onto the legs. It’s tack welded to the frame in case it ever needs to be removed, and also forms a convenient electrically conductive welding table. Not shown is that the four corners have been radiused to avoid damaging clothes and flesh.

Once in position, it was time for the first project, which I may have mentioned before, a wooden-gear clock. In short, this project hasn’t gone well. The first problem was finding that my laser printer doesn’t scale drawings properly in both dimensions. Next, I tried having the parts cut with a CNC router. The problem there is that the edges are somewhat splintered and in a few places, chipped. With a lot of work with sandpaper, they’re probably usable. Still, I was frustrated by the daunting amount of work, so checked into having another set cut with a CNC laser. This leaves very nice (if somewhat burnt) clean edges, and given the number of gears, that’s a pretty big perk. Unfortunately, going that route is around $600 and kind of took the wind out of my sail. Until I decide which way to go, again, that project has been set aside, again.

Next project… well, let’s see if you can guess what it is based upon the last picture, hah.

30 Nov 2019

It’s that time of year when Lulu, Midlana’s printer, starts its annual discount season, and right now, it’s 25% off at checkout. Discounts vary day to day so it’s smart to keep an eye on them (they don’t inform authors). The sale typically extends into the first couple of weeks into December, so now’s the time to hint what you want for Christmas.

On the lathe front, I received the interface board and everything is up and running. The first attempt at threading lead to some head scratching before figuring out that the software was unaware of my 4:1 gear reduction, plus, I had the servo driver box configured wrong, go figure. Got that sorted out and, dang, it works. Only thing left is to come up with a cover over the controller assembly to keep chips out of it.

On my drive home, I go through this stop sign everyday, and everyday I puzzled over this and finally decided to share. Typically, a car doing a burn out goes straight or slews left or right, but not back and forth. Once moving, some cars with independent rear suspension will slew back and forth (“fishtailing”), but not at the start. Given where the burnout starts, maybe it’s a FWD car and the driver’s just turning the steering wheel back and forth… Shows what I know, having never owned a FWD car, hah.

3 Nov 2019

I get into work early, about the same time as the developer of the electronic lead screw posts his weekly videos. I knew he was really close to putting the boards up for sale, and I’d even checked his website the night before. Unfortunately, I had some real, actual work that had to get done and completely forget about it for a couple of hours. When I remembered (“crap!”), I went to his site, he had them in stock, so I tried to order. Unfortunately, there was something wrong with his site, his connection to Paypal, Paypal itself, or the version of IE I was using. After that failed, I tried Ebay. Got there, “two left”, so I tried ordering two. Pressed Buy, and it said “sorry, one left”, AHHHH! Quickly changed my order to one, pressed Buy and it said “sorry, zero left.” Aaaaahhh!

My saving grace is that a kind reader on my build forum bought two and offered to send me one. The plan is to finish up the rest of it first, and if a second batch isn’t available by then, I’ll take him up on his offer. Using plywood for the baseplate was a matter of convenience, we’ll see how it holds up. A metal cover will ensure no chips get into the unit, especially the processor with its 0.020″ pin spacing.

In car news, my brother and I are considering possible trackday events.