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.