Time For That Jumper Battery

cars in snowIt seems like a bummer, since I was so recently talking about spending beautiful summer days whiling away the time looking at exceptional examples of automotive excellence, but the time for that is passed. At least if you live anywhere in the north country.

Winter soon approaches, and along with it comes the need to think about the unthinkable. Being stranded in the snow.

For years I have been fortunate enough to have my cars start most of the time, and when they wouldn’t I was either someplace warm and dry, or could shortly  get help from someone with a car that would start who would willingly spend the time to let me grab my jumper cables and get it going again.

But just because that is the way it has always been doesn’t mean that’s the way it will always be. As I get older and my innate sense of invulnerability gives way to forethought, I find myself getting more and more sensible.

In this case that means that I went out and bought a portable battery jump starter pack. Now I won’t be at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. It is always a bit odd to be sitting in a parking lot or alongside the road with your hood up and a set of jumper cables dangling from the front of your car, just waiting for someone to stop and give aid.

Now I will be able to diagnose the trouble myself, and so long as it is something simple, like leaving the lights on or just needing a bit of oomph to get the car started in the cold, I will be able to grab the starter pack, hook it up, and be on my way in quicker than getting someone to stop.

And that’s just me.

If you have loved ones traveling in the winter time, you well know how concerning it can be worrying about the possibility that they might find themselves stranded with no one to give aid. The peace of mind that a jump starter pack like this can offer to you and to them is beyond the relatively small cost of the pack itself.

If the thought of your spouse or children out there in the cold waiting for someone to stop with jumper cables to give them a hand, you are lucky that we live in an age where technology has presented us with a viable option.

Get a battery pack for them, teach them how to use it properly, and then breathe a small sigh of relief, knowing that that is one less thing to worry about. Don’t fret. There are still plenty of others.

Cool Cars

back to the 50sThere are few things that are as fine an example of the carefree days of summer like a good car show.There are many of them all over the United States all through the summer.

Many of even the minor ones can have over a thousand beautiful examples of automotive beauty on display, and the big ones have entries that total in the 5 figures.

It is simply astounding the number of excellent examples of cars that have been brought back to better than new conditions by restorers across the country, both amateur and professional.

An outstanding example of a car show of this magnitude is the Back To The 50’s car show held every June in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2016 they had nearly 12,000 entries, and many more examples that were near the grounds but not entered.

If you are into cars, these types of shows are a must see. If you are wowed by automotive achievements, achievements like flawless paint jobs, outstanding interiors,  or massive engines, it is easy to spend hours and hours just walking the grounds in appreciation.

If the exploits of the people who bring their cars to the show aren’t enough to get your blood going, there are over 400 exhibitors as well. You can put your car on a portable dynamo to see just what you have achieved, you can buy any sort of gage you want, or order a stroker motor for the chebby. There are always vendors selling nostalgic music to match whatever era of car you own or aspire to own.

And then there’s the food…

Generally there is also a swap meet attached to these big car shows where you can go to look for hubcaps for your Nash Rambler or an air cleaner for the ’69 Goat in your driveway. While the offerings at these gatherings may not always be the most cost effective, that is not an issue if someone there has a part you’ve been searching for for years.

I heartily recommend a  car show like this for whiling away a beautiful early summer afternoon if you get a chance. Even if you are not really a gear head, the experience is likely to be a good one. It’s always good to see the best of the best in any area, and the joy and passion, and beauty on display should appeal to anyone.

The Best Miter Saw Choice

compound sliderBack in the day the height of quality when it came to selecting a miter saw for woodworking was a heavy duty manual rig with a quality backsaw. With a lot of practice, and a very, very sharp blade you an experienced carpenter could do very good trimwork with  one of these rigs. Slowly.

A big problem with manual miter boxes is that the fine adjustments you could make to a bad cut were limited by the sharpness of the blade and your ability to hold the piece being cut firmly.  And even then there was a limitation dictated by blade flex. That means that there was only a limited ability to make cuts that might be thinner than the thickness of the blade itself.

These limitations virtually disappear when you are speaking of power miter saws. The thickness of the blade and the speed at which it cuts make taking hair thin adjustments to a cut become possible. Which means that the level of experience required to be able to do journeyman’s trim work is much lower. In fact, someone with a knack for the work can be trained for fine wood work in a matter of weeks, not months or years.

And much like the advent of the powered miter saw has changed the game for the workaday carpenter, the sliding miter saw  and most notably with the recent improvements in the realm of  affordable compound sliding miter saw options. In the same way that the standard electric saw made things easier, the slider improves things at the margins when it comes to trimming. Now, especially with compounding capabilities, making complex cuts on large pieces of wood become a possibility.

Not only is the sliding compound saw a boon for those doing complex trimwork, but it is useful for more mundane tasks – ones that used to require the use of a skillsaw (and  steady hand) or a trip back to the shop to use the radial arm saw. Things like making bevel cuts when joining large fascia boards or sills become a simple matter. Or cutting large boards when working on decks.

The next thing up is going to be the cordless sliding miter saw. Recent improvements in battery technology have made variable voltage options possible. Dewalt with the introduction of their flexvolt line of cordless tools, has now introduced a 12″ slider that uses two batteries and can run at 120 volts. Its battery life and cutting capabilities are quite impressive and the pricing is not that far off what a corded model would have run in the recent past


Darn Stuck Doors

plane the old wayIt happens every year, the summer comes, the humidity goes up, the doors stick. And every year I talk about fixing the damn things long enough that the fall comes, the doors unstick and the problem is solved for another six moths or so.

Except this year. As always happens, I finally got around to doing the something about them. And as always happens, the project went so well that I had to wonder why i didn’t just get it done sooner.

Well, over the years I have learned to just be happy that I finally got it done, and skip the whole feeling bad about not doing better.

So I got it in my head that I was going to do something like this about it this year. I got in my truck, went to the big box store and buy one of those new cool power electric hand planer thingies and take care of the problem once and for all.

It makes the whole making a door smaller so it fits in the hole project a breeze. In fact the biggest problem is making sure that you don’t make the door too small while you’re at it.

Just take the door off the hinges (if you have any sense at all) prop it up on it’s side, make some guide lines so you know how much to take off, set the depth and go at it. It works just like  a power planer. It has a rotating cylinder with blades on it that rotate incredibly fast and take little  bits of wood. Ends up with pretty much the same result as a belt sander, but quicker and with a lot less dust.

The only thing is to be really really careful with this tool.  Of course you have to be careful when you are using any power tool, but these little babies can do a lot of damage fast. There is no guard over the blade and if you are not careful or get too cavalier with handling the planer, it would be extremely easy to just set the tool down on a leg or brush it against some other part of your body with the obvious disastrous results.

Any way, the tool is cool, the doors fit again and I can go back to drinking beer, eating cheetohs an sitting on the couch watching the game.

That’s what I’m going to do. You do what you want.

The Truck

Old_Pick-up_TruckSpeaking of focus. I may not have a shop, but I have a truck. It’s not a beautiful truck and it is not a new truck. But it has potential.

The thing about potential when it comes to vehicles is that it can usually be translated directly into dollar signs. The more potential, the more money.

Things like engine parts and paint jobs cost serious money. New interiors are another thing and that doesn’t even cover wheels and tires. At some point you have to seriously wonder if you wouldn’t be better off simply buying a much newer vehicle. Not really wonder since depending on how you focus a new truck is certainly a better value.

But having something that is unique and uniquely your own is something that a new vehicle of which there are thousands of versions everywhere on the road with you just can’t touch.

One of the things that can really dress up a truck, old or new, is a tonneau cover. Though there are cheap pick up covers , most of them are not really worth owning. Some of the most popular covers are the roll up covers. They are inexpensive and they work well, but they really don’t have the level of good looks that some of the other types of covers have.

One of the more attractive versions is the hard cover. They are one piece covers that simply lift up from the back. Though attractive, they have a couple of issues that many of the other covers don’t have. Since they lift from the back and are one piece they have limited space to put taller items under. And they can’t be removed easily or partially in order to haul tall items.

Other types of covers, such as the tri-fold cover can be used to only partially cover the bed, allowing for items that stick up above the bed to be hauled while the cover is folded up behind them. The trifold covers are more rigid than the roll up versions, which makes them more attractive.  At least to me they are. You might feel differently.

The prices of tonneau covers are definitely a thing to be considered when deciding whether to add one to the plan for the look you want your truck to achieve. The cost several hundred dollars for the lowest cost versions to well over a thousand for the more well constructed hard covers.

In my case it’s just one more expense to add to the list of making the old truck I have now into the vision that I have in my mind. Then again.

Perhaps I’ll just buy a newer truck after all. Or in my dreams, I can have both.

More Blue Sky

Got to thinking about why it is that I don’t have a shop today. The kind of shop that I would like to hang out in. The type of shop that I alluded to in my last post.

Do I not want it badly enough? Apparently. That’s the thing about life. Unless you relentlessly focus on things they tend to drift off into  a future that never comes.

I figured out years ago the difference between motorcycle riders who ride a bunch of miles, and mid-life Harley wannabes. It’s focus. Here in the north where the riding season is circumscribed, if you want to put miles on your bike you really need to be focused. If you don’t regularly reserve at least one day a week to get in a serious ride, your odometer will never move very far.

If it is not a primary area of focus, the day to day interruptions will ensure that you never ride much. It is too easy to put it off until tomorrow and soon you will be one of those people with an 8 year old motorcycle with a couple thousand miles on it.

The same is true with most things in life. Unless you focus on them relentlessly they tend not to happen. And that is how old people end up not being able to retire or have to live on meager social security checks. The ability to focus on saving money for a far off day is a little bit rare. Most people are grasshoppers, convinced that the money they have today is barely enough to live on today, even when they know better. They know they lived like hermits when they were younger, and they know they could do it again if they had to.mardi-gras

But retirement is a long way off, and today is today. We are pretty hard wired to focus more on today than tomorrow and civilization has not yet had any real impact on the sort of hind brain evolution yet.

So why don’t I have a shop full of tools to call my own? It’s because I would rather go to a movie than save twenty bucks. I would rather have a week-end in New Orleans than a jointer. I would rather have a bigger engine for my truck than a bright shiny 12″ miter saw.

If you ask me to put all those things down on a list and take them in order of importance I might make different choices. But that’s not how it works. If it seems like a good idea today it happens today and the chips just have to fall where they will.

Maybe tomorrow I will make different choices and then I will have my tools. Until then life with the tools, and the truck, I have will just have to go on.


Nope, don’t speak a word of Spanish.  In fact I’m not sure that I could even learn it if I tried. I have a bit of a tin ear, and that has only gotten worse as I have gotten older and years of running power tools with no hearing protection catch up to me.

Speaking of things catching up to me, I have done a bit of research lately on the effects of saw dust on your lungs. I must say that it’s quite possible that I will have a ruder awakening involving my ability to breathe than I am likely to my ability to hear. One is quite annoying. The other is potentially life changing. And not in a good way.

Sufficient to tomorrow the troubles there of I guess. For today I can breathe well enough and hear well enough to get by. And if I ever actually do as I have threatened and start working on getting myself back in a little shape, it’s possible that I can put off the day of reckoning for a while yet.

Good thing too, since I have a lot of tools on my tool bucket list. I need to re-acquire a jointer and a planer. I have designs on a shaper one day and a really fine 12″ miter saw. And then there is the fact that I have wanted to become an adequate welder for a long time – though it feels like time is getting short for that.

And the day I win the lottery there is likely to be  new shop going up in the back yard (well, if I win the lottery it’s likely to be new back yard as well…) wherein will reside the collection of mechanics tools I have wanted to buy since I was a teenager. And they will be arrayed around a mill that I have no ability to run.

No one ever said dreams had to bear anything but a tenuous relationship to reality. They are dreams after all.