Sunday, May 3, 2015

Crown molding install

I spent quite a bit of time last month installing crown molding for my wife, and I thought I'd show some of the kludges I've come up with.

One of the problems is attaching the crown molding to brick.  My nailgun isn't going to blow nails through brick.  So I cut triangles (sorta) out of a 2x4 and used Liquid Nails to attach it to the brick.  The picture to the left is the first backing block I put up.  I traced the angle from the back of the molding and then cut down that line.  I let the Liquid Nails set overnight, and then nailed the molding to that.

Our crown molding is actually 3 pieces.  The picture above is just the actual crown.  Below that, I put a row of dental molding, and shoe molding above.  I needed to attach the dental to the brick directly, but it and/or the brick wasn't straight and it wouldn't hold by itself long enough for the Liquid Nails to set.  The picture to the right is the first way I tried to hold it in place overnight.  I have a 1x4 clamped to the top of the ladder's feet, and that is pressing against the dental molding, so the feet aren't quite touching the brick.  It only worked well enough to hold one side, though.  When I took the ladder off the next day, the left side came loose again.  So I found another way.
There was just enough brick ledge to get a clamp on, and then I clamped the 1x4 to the first clamp.  This way I could put pressure right where I wanted it, and put more controlled pressure than the leaning ladder anyway.

The first problem I had though, was just trying to get the crown molding up to the ceiling.  16 foot segments are just too long, and our ceiling isn't straight, either.  Somehow, I've lost all of the photos, but the first thing I tried was standing the ladder next to the wall and clamping the 1x4 at an angle.  The notch you see in the last held the bottom of the crown, and let me put it at the right height.  But it never quite worked right (which turned out to be mostly the crooked ceiling) so I found another way. 
First, I bought these hooks from Lee Valley.  There are other hooks, but these are adjustable.  I didn't actually use the adjustment much, but it helped a couple of times.  But they are a LOT more expensive than the others, so you'd probably do fine buying the others.  Or just making your own; I saw one made out of a coat hanger.  Anyway, I bought 4 of these, and that let me get the molding much straighter and closer to correct. 
Then, I found the image to the right.  Once I made one for the molding I was installing, I was able to get the molding as close to the correct angle as possible.  With my ceilings, it still didn't make it perfect, but it was much better than just going by feel against the wall.

Monday, April 20, 2015

New Crank for the Tablesaw

I have a 9 inch Craftsman tablesaw and broke the crank off that adjusts the height of the blade.  It broke apart where the shaft goes into the center, so there wasn't much hope of repairing it.  So I decided to build a new one.
The shaft is basically half an inch, so I took a half-inch nut and drilled out the threads with a half-inch drill.  It's too small to clamp, so I just held the nut in place with a pair of locking pliers.  My drill press isn't that powerful, so I had plenty of leverage to stop the drill and wasn't worried about it yanking the pliers out of my hand.  And it did lock up several times, as the drill bit would catch on the threads.  Then I took a 5/32 drill and drilled through one flat side of the nut.  The shaft has a flat side, and the original handle had a flat spot in the hole.  Then I threaded that hole for 10-32 for a set screw.

I used the same half-inch drill bit to drill through the center of a quarter-inch steel plate.  The plate is 5 inches across, which is about the same diameter as the original crank body.  I picked up the steel plate out of a shapes bin at  If it was a "shape", it would have cost more, but it has a notch on the edge.  The employee said that made it a scrap piece.  I don't know if the notch was made to mark it as scrap, or was a mistake while cutting a circle, so it ended up as scrap.  Either way, I got it at the scrap price.  I put a half-inch steel rod through the plate and the nut (it's one of the ones I used to wind my garage door spring when I had to install a new one) and then welded the nut to the plate.  I welded every side except the one drilled for the set screw, because I didn't want to risk fouling the threads. 

I pulled the original handle off the crank and drilled a hole for it near the outer edge.  I put the original lock washer (I don't know that that is what it is officially called.  It's shaped like an internal tooth lock washer, but the teeth are smaller than the shaft.  So when you push it on, the teeth bend and lock against the shaft, making it difficult to take back apart)back on.  The handle shaft is too long, since my plate is thinner than the original crank body, so I put an oversize nut on the shaft to use as a spacer.

Overall, it works pretty well.  The handle is a bit loose, probably because I messed up the lock washer taking it off, so I'll probably replace it with a true bolt.  And I really need to cut a hole through the plate large enough to fit an allen wrench or something through for the set screw.  There isn't much clearance between the plate and the saw, so getting a screwdriver back there is a pain.  But it does it's job, and that's what counts.

Bee Update

Last week, we brought home a package of bees and a "nuc".  The package mostly disappeared, and I tore up a swarm I didn't even know we had, thinking it was the rest of the package.

Well, the swarm stuck around despite my disruption, and is now bringing in pollen.  That means they have larvae to feed, and can be moved into an official hive.  The brood makes them less likely to abandon a hive, so some people suggest waiting until they are bringing in pollen before moving them, or they may decide to find another home.

The package is really small, with very little outside activity, but is at least alive.  Tomorrow, I'll open it up and make sure the queen is free and see if she is laying.

The nuc is doing fine and gaining strength.

And I think I caught another swarm in my other bait hive yesterday.  I didn't get a chance to get a good look, but it looked like hive activity, not just scouts.

I built the bait hives, but didn't REALLY expect to get any swarms, so I don't currently have enough equipment or stands for 4 full hives.  I guess I've got to get to Lowe's and buy some wood.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Best luck I've had in years, and I may have stomped it into the ground.

We ordered bees for two hives this year.  We really should do a lot more, but we're being cheap.  Maybe if one makes it through winter and the other doesn't, we can split the good one.  In order to hedge our bets, we bought one package from R Weaver Apiaries, the same place we bought our last package, but we ordered a different breed.  Then we ordered a nuc from BeeWeaver Apiaries, Inc., mostly because they were sold out of packages.

The package from R Weaver was shipped 2 day via UPS on the 6th.  But then UPS left it stuck on a trailer in Mesquite for a day and a half or something.  Plus, when we got it, the package was inside of another bag, and I found out that UPS stopped letting the shippers include liquid feed.  So the bees sat in a hot trailer, inside of another bag cutting down ventilation even more, with no food and no water.  And they all arrived dead.  R Weaver guarantees the bees and queens, and they had another one available on the 14th (it would have been sooner, but they said UPS was screwing up every package this year, and they had 30 so far that had arrived dead).  We drove 4 hours down to Navasota on the 15th and picked them up.  Bee Weaver doesn't ship nucs, but they were trucking them into Dallas on May 19th for us to pick up there.  We went ahead and called them to see if we could pick it up early, and they let us.  (I knew they were in the same city, and were started by the same family.  The brothers had split based on breeding philosophy; R Weaver breeds for traditional targets of gentle bees and good honey production, but you should use the normal medications and such, while BeeWeaver breeds for disease and mite resistance so that you don't have to use the chemicals as much.  But I didn't know how congenial the split was, so I didn't know exactly how close they were.  Well, they are literally right next door to each other.  I have a feeling they probably just split to separate two breeding bases that they already had anyway.)
So we got home around 4 o'clock Wednesday and I started installing the bees.  Initially, I put them both on my hive stand facing opposite directions, but my wife made me paranoid about it, so I moved the R Weaver bees 10 minutes later. I noticed that the old comb I had put in was leaking and appeared to be blocking the small entrance.  So I opened the top just a little to let the bees inside out.  At that time, there were a lot of bees still in the box, so I don't think enough workers had left that moving the hive could have confused their location.  

But a couple of hours later, most activity at the hive had died down, much further than it should have.  At about the same time, I noticed that my largest bait hive had a lot of bees flying around it, a few clustered at one side of it, and a lot going in and out of it.  I checked the other bait hive, and it had no activity at all, so I thought maybe a swarm.  It would have been a big coincidence since there were no bees on it the day before, but possible.  But I had also just refreshed the paper towel of lemon grass oil inside the previous week, when I moved it to get it out of the way of the hive I would set up for the packaged bees.
So I thought maybe the package had thought the lemongrass was a stronger queen pheromone, and chose it over the caged queen.  Or that I had disturbed them too much (or let in robbers, which may still be possible) and they just decided trying their luck elsewhere would be better, even without the queen.  There was also the rare possibility that the package had included a virgin queen that the apiary hadn't realized was being raised.  But without a queen, the colony would die, and if too many had left, the colony left in the package hive would die as well.  I looked inside, and there were only 10 bees or so on the queen cage.  But, I was going to leave well enough alone.  I think the bees last year died because I managed them too much, and this disaster could have come from me messing with them too much when I installed them.  So we should wait and see and at least the nuc would do fine.

But, I let my wife talk me into emailing R Weaver for advice.  They suggested, based on what I had told them, that it did sound like the package had left, and that I needed to take the frames from the bait hive and put them back in the other hive and close it up for a few days.  So I rushed home and started doing that.

I found eggs and new comb, but I had only seen "laying worker" eggs in pictures on the internet, and I reasoned that these looked like they could be that.  I didn't see a queen anywhere or anything.  There were about 3 frames covered with bees, mostly hanging together for support, since my frames didn't have foundation.  I started putting them over in the bait hive and set the eggs aside so I could take a picture.  About the time I was ready to close up, I noticed bees coming back out of the package hive and clustering on the frame with eggs.  When I brushed them aside, I found a very large queen.  I immediately put the egg frame and another frame of bees back in the bait hive, put the rest of the empty frames back in, and put both boxes back where they were.

So, I had gotten very lucky and caught a swarm the same day I brought the other two colonies home.  And it was doing great, building comb, and already laying.  And then I ripped it apart and threw them into another box.  I'm hoping that maybe some of the swarm bees will stay to take care of the other queen, but I mostly want them to be able to leave and find the bait hive without killing what's left of the package hive.  And I'm hoping that the swarm won't be too disturbed if the bees get back to make them leave.  But the possibility is that I threw strong workers into a weak hive who will simply strip it of everything useful, go back to their own hive, and then build back up strength to leave the obviously unsafe bait hive.  For now, both have activity, but I'll just have to watch to see how they do.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crappy machining job - Making a new stop for a sink valve stem

I broke the stop one of our bidet valve stems.  It was made out of pot metal, and I turned the handle too hard (I was trying to figure out how to get it apart).  It broke in half and I had to find some way to make a new one.  My wife found a large nylon spacer at lowes, so I used that.
First, I ground a steel bar down to fit in the hole of the stop washer from the other handle.  I used that as a die, because it was easier than trying to cut out the center hole.  I may have been able to drill the corners, but then cutting the straight part would have been hard on something that small.  Plus, using a die, I can try again later if I have to.
I heated it up with a butane mini-torch until it was hot enough to melt the nylon, and then pushed it through.

Then I used the band saw to cut the washer down to the right thickness.  I lined the two up on the die and scratched an outline on the nylon, then used the bandsaw to trim the outside down.  Then I cut a notch in the middle from two sides at the thickness of the main ring, then cut inward at the edges of that to remove the extra.

Here's a picture of it finally installed, with the remaining metal one in the foreground.  It's pretty rough, and my cuts in from the face weren't quite perfect.  It was a little short on one "wing", so I can only install it one way.  It currently turns just a bit passed full on, which is fine.  But if I turn the stop the other way (they're made to allow you to set the stem to turn "on" either clockwise or counter clockwise) then it turns just a little passed full off, which leaves a trickle.  It may wear out fairly fast, I don't know.  Especially if someone has a habit of turning the handle a bit hard, it could flatten the wings and let the stem turn too far.  If that happens, I'll try to make another one out of metal.  Maybe I can heat a piece of aluminum just hot enough with my propane or acetylene torch to pound my die through it.  Otherwise, I may have to try the drill and cut method.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Frantz filter part 2

I finally got the Frantz oil filter installed on the F350 6.0 Powerstroke diesel.  I had to order new adapters because the pressure sensor wouldn't fit the any of the fittings that came with it.  It took me a while to decide where to put it, and I finally realized that the bolts holding the hood on weren't actually over the side panel rails.  So I could mount the filter bracket there and it barely has enough room.  I'll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it isn't vibrating against something, and I didn't consider the heat build-up.  I don't know what it is that it ends up sitting on, but the oil line is running right against the air conditioner line.  So that's going to affect the AC efficiency, at least.  Anyway, I've got my before and after oil samples put together, and I'll send them off to Blackstone this week.  Since I've already put 10,000 miles on the oil, I know there's no way it's going to come back saying it's still good, but I can at least see what the difference is  between the two.

If it makes a mess the first time I change the toilet paper roll, I'll probably end up moving it under the truck.  But it's not supposed to and part of that mess-free experience is based on it being able to drain the oil out.  It can't do that if the filter is mounted lower than everything else in the truck.  My return is running into my oil cap, so there's really nowhere I could mount it that would be above that.  But I can open the hood and now the filter is above everything.  Of course, I don't have a lot of confidence.  The "before" sample was taken by running the truck up to operating temperature and filling a sample bottle from the return line without a toilet roll in the canister.  Then I shut the truck off and waited a few minutes before opening the canister.  It was still hot, but wasn't gurgling.  Luckily, I turned it down before I opened it, because it was almost completely full of oil.  The guy that sold it to me, Ed Greany, has a video where he says he lets it drain overnight, so maybe when I do that, it will be fine.  We'll see in 500 miles or so (the first change is supposed to be at 500 miles).  We may see even before then, since I bet Blackstone comes back telling me I'm stupid to have let my oil change go this long.  When they do, I'll change the oil and the TP roll, with another before test done before I change it.  (And probably a virgin oil sample just for future comparison).  I left it in so long because I wanted to get this filter and get it installed and tested with dirty oil.  Plus, I have a sticking injector now, and I want to see if the Frantz filters out enough stuff to get that cleaned up.  It's probably too far gone to fix without additives, but we'll see.  If it doesn't get better over the next week or so, I'll probably go find something to pour in there.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Frantz Filter

I bought a "new, old stock" Frantz bypass oil filter the other day (meaning it's old, but was never used). It's basically a canister that gets part of your oil pumped through a toilet paper roll. It's not the soft fluffy kind of toilet paper, but the thin, tightly wound, commercial toilet paper. The fluffy stuff would leave bits of that fluff in your oil, but the commercial kind is just paper.  I still have to find a place to install it on the truck, but I did get a couple of test kits from Blackstone Labs, so I need to hurry up. I'll send in samples before and after the install, and see what they show, and post the results here.

The theory is that a normal "full flow" oil filter only filters down to something like 20 microns. That's what the engine manufacturers say is a safe level. But that still means that you can have pieces of metal or whatever that are that big wearing away at your bearings. The problem is that ALL of your oil has to go through the filter; that's why it's called "full flow". In order to get enough oil everywhere it needs to be, the filter can't stop much smaller than that or the oil wouldn't travel through fast enough. That's where the bypass oil filters come in. It takes a small percentage of your oil and sends it through a much better filter. That small amount can get slowed down without starving your engine of oil, and over time, all of your oil will go through this filter and get better cleaning. Just about everyone will tell you that you should have a bypass filter. Every bit of contaminant you can keep out of your oil will make your engine last that much longer. The controversy comes from using a toilet paper roll as the filter. According to the manufacturer, almost all filters are made of cellulose of one kind or another, so just because his filter is made of paper doesn't make it more likely to fall apart than any other. In addition, most filters are relatively thin, whereas a toilet paper roll is almost 4 1/2 inches tall (the oil is pumped top to bottom). If you leave aside the argument that it might fall apart, then the Frantz filter is probably better than almost every other filter out there. Amsoil is a high-end oil company making a similar filter. The unit costs about the same, but the filters are 40 dollars each, so it will cost quite a bit more in the long run. The only other argument comes up when people claim that you won't ever have to change your oil. They say that the additives that are in oil will wear out, and you have to change your oil whether it's clean or not. Whereas the other side argue that the additives DON'T get used up, so you shouldn't ever have to change it if your car is in good repair and your oil is kept clean. It might not matter for oil in diesel engines, though. The reason your oil has two viscosity numbers (the 10 and 30 in 10w/30) is because of special molecules called "viscosity improvers". At colder temperatures, they are curled up, and your oil has a natural viscosity. At higher temperatures, they uncurl and make your oil thicker, canceling out the thinning caused by heat. But I've read that the gears, and especially injectors, in a diesel engine cut those molecules up like scissors. Commercial grade diesel oil is supposed to be formulated to prevent it, and oil with certain viscosity values have less improvers which helps as well. But I don't know if it can be eliminated entirely.

I'll take a sample of the oil before I install the toilet paper, and then a sample after I've installed it and the engine is back up to temperature. Blackstone will tell me whether the additive package is intact, and whether there are any "insolubles" (of which toilet paper would be one) in the oil. Basically, they can tell me whether the oil is good enough to be left in the engine or not. The best case scenario is that both samples will have an intact additive package, the first sample will be high enough in insolubles that they recommend the oil being changed immediately, and that the second sample has no insolubles and is fine. This would tell me that the additive packages isn't wearing out under normal use, and that the filter is doing a good job. Unfortunately, I actually expect that both samples will come back as being recommended to change, because it's been too long already. I've got symptoms of "sticktion", which is when an injector wants to stick instead of working properly. This is supposedly caused mostly by bad oil, and causes misfires and bad gas mileage. I need to change the oil, but I want to use what I've got to test the filter. Regardless, I'll be retesting at each interval, even if I have to start with fresh oil after the first test, and we'll see how long the oil lasts.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New way of telling the short version

I know I talk and write an awful lot that no one wants to read.  For the most part, there are probably very few people that are actually into the details of whatever I do.  For instance, if I come up with a cool app that has some cool features, y'all just want to hear about the cool app and cool features, not all of the nuts and bolts of what I did and how I did it.  Normally, I write all of the details, then realize that it is way to long, and write a "So, long story short," section.  Then I end up moving that to the top, and hoping it's enough.  Well, now I think I've found a new way to do it.  Instead of trying to add a paraphrase section, I'm writing an app where I can highlight the portions that make up a short version and hide everything else.  So the posts will start out with the short version visible, and When you click the "tl;dr;" button, you'll see the rest.  If you don't want the details, don't click the button. And, by the way, this post is simply a test. :)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bees are dead

I went to check on the hive today.  It's too cold to open, so I just stick my ear to the side to see if I hear them; no sound today.  I knew the hive was small, and was afraid it wasn't going to survive, and apparently I was right.  I didn't take pictures (because it is awfully cold out there) but from everything I could see, they simply froze.  There wasn't any honey where they were, but judging by the bees that had their heads stuck in the comb, the cluster was only about 2 inches across.  I'm taking the opportunity to cut down a couple of the frames that had been built out too much.  I've mentioned in the posts before that I was trying to do some foundationless frames.  The bees built the adjoining frames thicker into the empty space instead of building comb in the foundationless frame.  So now I can cut those down to their proper thickness.  I'll probably split the comb into two boxes and install two packages in the spring.  Then I'll use the rest of the comb as bait in other boxes to try to trap swarms.  Maybe I'll get lucky.  There's also a woman at work that thinks she has a hive under a water feature in her yard.  I'll try to capture that as well.  Maybe next year will be better.

I still don't know for sure why they were weak in the first place.  Maybe we installed them too late, and they missed the spring flow, or the drought kept the flows from being large enough.  I don't see signs of disease, but I may also just not know what to look for.  The queen was unmarked, so something may have happened to the queen late in the season and stressed the hive that way.  Or there may have been more varroa than I thought.  At least next time I'll have more than one hive, and I can compare them.  I'm thinking about calling the apiary inspector to come out and look it over, but I don't know if I can do that since I haven't actually registered yet.  I don't know what he'll say if he comes out and the hive isn't branded (which is required in Texas).

Into the Woods - Not worth the money

We watched "Into the Woods" the other day.  Definitely not worth the money.  The story was alright, (although my wife said it didn't make any sense to her), but the music was pitiful.  I haven't watched a musical in a while, but I seem to recall them having several tunes.  This one seemed to just have one or maybe two tunes in the whole thing, that they just kept singing different words to.  And the tunes were so repetitive that it seemed they were just a flimsy excuse to sing instead of talk.  It wouldn't have been worth seeing at the dollar theater.