Sunday, April 26, 2009

More Regular Maintenance

While you're cleaning out your gutters and changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, don't forget your furnace air filter.

This one was installed last fall. I use Honeywell filters that are pleated and about 4" thick. Pretty nasty looking.

The back side is nice and clean. This is what the new filters look like (except for the wire mesh which is only on the back side). The 4" thickness along with the pleating increase the surface area tremendously compared to a generic 1" filter. Because of the extra surface area I only have to change the filter twice a year.

Ghetto Metal Fabrication

Back to the rototiller I got for free a few weeks ago. I didn't notice it right away, but there was no shield around the tiller blades. This wouldn't keep it from operating, but it would make using it a very dirty operation for me as it would throw dirt all over me.

Time to do a little metal fabrication!

A few years back I did a lot of metal fabrication in the garage of our previous house. This Humvee replica was built on a Chevy Suburban chassis. Everything brown was fabricated from scratch. The cammo parts are military surplus, and the doors are replicas. Compared to this, a dirt shield for an old rototiller should be a piece of cake!

First step was to remove the motor from the tiller. Four bolts and the throttle cable were removed in about 5 minutes.

The lower unit only needed a little de-greasing.

I had enough spare sheet metal laying around to do this, but most of my metal working tools are still packed up. This was a pretty simple job so I went with hand tools. Aviation snips, a 24" x 24" sheet of aluminum, a 3 pound mallet, and cordless drill is all I needed.

The back end of the sheet was cut to fit over the frame and the sides were bent down. The aluminum bends easily, so I didn't have to use a metal brake.

It's probably wider than it needs to be, but I can easily trim it back later after I try it out for the first time. As it sits now it should easily keep me from getting covered in dirt. Total work time, about 90 minutes.

The thin metal would benefit from a couple of beads being rolled into it, but it's not worth the effort right now until I get a chance to try it out.

After mounting the engine it fired up on the 3rd pull. Life is good.

Spring Gutter Cleaning

We've had a lot of rain over the past few days, and it looks like it'll keep up for at least another day or two.

Since we moved in there have been pretty regular "issues" with the downspouts, as they get a pretty good build-up of leaves and twigs which can block the flow and plug the downspout. Plugged downspouts lead to water coming in at the foundation, which has meant water getting into the basement.

I took a little time when the rain stopped to go check the downspouts, and found that two of the four had some build-up. Neither was too bad, but one of them could have easily escalated to full blockage with a little more debris.

Five minutes of work and they're all cleaned out and ready for more rain. I also found that one of the drain lines was ready to come disconnected, which would have let all the water drop straight down to the foundation. Probably from the kids playing around it, would be my guess.

The blockage I get now is nowhere near as bad as it was last year thanks to the tree trimming I've been doing. Trees which were overhanging the house were cut back as much as possible, so now much of the junk ends up in the gutters thanks to the wind. I won't cut the trees back too much more, as they'll really start to look hacked up if I do that.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Taking Advantage of a Nice Day

It's been too long since I did any work in the garage. About all I've done in the past 8 months out there was making it messier.

Took care of that today, and got things about half-way done.

All the big stuff was pulled out and rearranged. I also broke out the leaf-blower and got all the old leaves and dust out.

I still need to go through all the stuff on shelves and clean off the work bench so I can tune up the chainsaws and do some other work which wouldn't be appreciated on the kitchen table.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yardwork FREEBIE!

A few days ago a neighbor had an old table saw and rototiller out at the street, giving them away.

The tiller found it's way to my garage, thanks to another neighbor who grabbed it for me. He talked to the folks giving it away, who said it was last used a few years ago and worked well then. Health problems led to it's dis-use.

I figured if I could get it working it would be worth the price (free).

Luckily, it was stored without gas, so there was no build-up in the carb. The air cleaner was damaged by mice, but they didn't get anything into the carb so I can run with it as-is. The throttle cable is shot and needs to be replaced, but works good enough for now. The plug was pulled and it looks good. I also confirmed that it was sparking when the starter was pulled.

I put some fresh gas in and gave it a few dozen pulls and couldn't get it to even sputter. I wasn't sure if there was a problem with the carb, fuel line, or anywhere else, so I poured a few tablespoons of gas directly into the carb.

Three pulls later and it fired up and quickly settled down into a smooth idle. I hit it with some engine degreaser and got it cleaned up so I can more easily give it a tune-up.

It needs: an air filter, a drive belt, a throttle cable, an oil change, and maybe a new plug. Maybe $20.00 in parts and it should be ready to rock. No idea how old it is, but it's probably at least 25 years old. We'll see how it really works later this year, as I'm planning to do a small garden.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Meat - it's not Just for Breakfast Anymore

"Vegetarian" is an American Indian word meaning "bad hunter".

Recently I've been spending more time working on my BBQ recipes - pulled pork, ribs, etc. Not just thrown on the grill, but in a slow-cooking smoker, designed to cook the meat at a low temperature for upwards of 18 hours.


While looking at recipes and methods online I noticed a lot of information on grinding my own meat for sausage patties, brats, links, etc. This seemed like an interesting thing to try, because I like to make sausage patties for breakfast on the weekends, but they're always expensive (I'm cheap) and you're never quite sure what is in 'em.

So I found a couple of promising recipes and picked up a meat grinder.

It's the old-style crank, and not motorized. I figured if I like how they turn out and I start making and freezing the sausage I can always upgrade later on.

After the first trial run, I'm surprised at how well it works and how good the sausage is. If I buy the meat in bulk it will cost me 30% less to make my own sausage and control the ingredients. I usually buy pork shoulder for $1.50 a pound in 14-18 pound bulk packages for making BBQ, so no problem there.

The first batch I made is pork, salt, cayenne pepper, rubbed sage, black pepper, crushed red pepper, coriander, and Accent (MSG). No other preservatives, additives, finger nails, or fillers. Accent is the only semi-questionable ingredient, and I'm going to do some tests to see if it tastes the same without it. If so, it's gone, too. I'm also planning to experiment with how much fat is in the mix. Pork shoulder is very fatty, and ground sausage is usually very fatty too. If I can use less and still get good results, so much the better!

First taste test confirmed that it's a very tasty recipe. The sausage patties aren't all perfectly round and even like the store-bought stuff, but who cares? It'll all look the same at the end of the day...

I plan to try grinding my own hamburger soon. Those who have done so often swear by it, as you can control what cuts are used, the amount of fat, etc.

Garage Door Maintenance

Since we bought this place, the garage door has been a big pain in the ass. It never really opened or closed as well as it should. Over the past few months it's gotten to the point where the door won't open or close without help (me lifting or pushing down on it as it moves).

Not knowing jack-sh1t about garage doors, I figured it was just binding up on the track somewhere, so I spent a couple hours screwing around with it trying to get it to work better.

No luck.

Finally I decided to just bite the bullet and call a professional. Scheduled appointment was today between 9 and 11 am. The tech calls at 8:30 asking if he can show up 15 minutes early.

Hells yeah!

Dude gets here and gets to work. First problem is that the rollers are all original to the door installation and are worn out, wobbly, and generally crappy.

15 minutes later and he's got the original steel rollers replaced with non-steel (Plastic? Teflon? Space-age polymer? No idea...). The door moves much more quietly and with much less slop, but still doesn't open or close properly.

He adjusted the springs a number of times trying to get the left and right side to have the same tension. It got better and better, but still kept binding up. Then he noticed one of the pulleys was a little worn out. Worn out to the point where the bearings were shot and it was very hard to turn. It was hard to see when it was installed because the brackets holding it covered almost all of the center. The pulleys were the real problem.

In go a pair of new pulleys and the door FINALLY opens and closes like it should. Quiet, smooth, and without extra effort.

None of what the guy did was rocket science, but if you don't know what to look for it's damn near impossible to guess your way through this job. Looking back at it now, I could have done the job myself IF I knew what to look for. This is one of those jobs where you pay the pros, watch what they do, and then do it yourself the next time.

On the picture of the new roller you'll see a bunch of grease on the wheel. This is grease that the previous owner put on the track, which is a big no-no. Grease actually causes more problems than it solves. In the winter it gets hard (at least up here in the north) and it traps all kinds of dust and dirt, gumming up the track.

After his work was done I sprayed the track with engine degreaser and wiped it clean. I love how quiet the door is now. The new rollers also come with a lifetime warranty, so if/when I ever install a new garage door they'll just use those rollers so I don't have to buy new ones. If I keep the receipt that long, that is...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Installing a Microwave Over the Stove

Forgive me Father, it has been 3-1/2 months since my last post.

It took that long to get over my renovation burn-out, I guess. Feels good to get back to work, since there is still so much left to do, and so much half-done.

Something which has been bothering me longest is that I haven't installed the microwave above the stove yet. We're still using the little counter-top one we've had for years. It works, but it wastes counter top space. I bought it's replacement when I got the appliances after we moved in almost two years ago. Time to get it installed!

First thing I needed to do was to cut a hole for the exhaust vent. I've had range hoods in the past that always just recirculated air back into the living space. Finally one that vents outside!

From below the hole is a little rough. Not a big deal, nobody will ever see it once the microwave is installed. Here you can also see the 4x4 blocking I added to drop the mounting hardware down a bit. The mounting screws that came with the microwave were 4" long metric threads, but I need 5-1/2" because I added a 4" spacer under my cabinet. Why? Because I mounted our cabinets 4" taller than normal and still wanted the microwave at it's "normal" height. No hardware stores around here carry longer mounting hardware, so this is "Plan B". It also lets me beef up the way it's installed - stronger than it would otherwise be.

Before I installed the cabinets, I installed an outlet on the wall for the microwave. I didn't know exactly where the cabinets were going to be, so I left some witness marks on the wall telling me how far up the outlet was located. The red ink tells me that the outlet is about 1" above the base of the cabinet. The black vertical line tells me where the wall stud is located, and the black horizontal line is the top edge of the microwave once it's installed.

A test-install shows that everything fits and works properly. The 4" spacer above the microwave is actually kick-plate for the base cabinets. The metal piece above the microwave is for the venting. It converts the rectangular vent to a round tube (it's upside down in this picture).

Hopefully I finish up most of the install today. I want to finish all of it except for running the exhaust into the ceiling. I need to find out where the joists are so I can cut the holes.