Thursday, April 8, 2010

How Plans Change

One day after installing a trans in our Ford and feeling a bit light in the wallet because of it, I got a call from some folks that really changed things after a slow winter.

One of my customers had recommended me to their friends to "install some new windows". Well, you know how plans change and projects tend to grow a bit when you get started, right? After removing wood paneling and drywalling two bedrooms, tearing out the kitchen all the way to the floor joists, removing all the flooring (except the bathroom) and starting a new hardwood floor, a new door, etc., we are now installing the new Pella windows and two new sliding glass doors.

Turns out that this couple (who are way cool people to work for!) had been renting this house out (in Wrightwood, CA) and when the renter had moved out they decided to "fix it up" and use it for their weekend get away.

Let me tell you. These folks are on a mission! They also have good taste when it comes to quality building materials and good beer. The house, however, is an older Wrightwood home that was build by (and added to many times) somebody that did not own a level, ignored things like layout, and seemed to like his beer in quantity instead of quality!

The bedrooms. After pulling out the wood paneling and getting a good look at the framing, I knew that this drywall job was going to take a little extra in the prepwork. Some studs had to be plained down as much as 1/4" and others now have as much as 3/8" of shim just to get them flat. Not much I could do about studs that were out of plumb by 3" top to bottom or the fact that entire walls have a lean in or out to severe that you can see it without using a level! I know buildings can "settle" but that's not the case. The windows are level and shimmed to accommodate it. It really was built that way! Standing outside you can also see walls that lean, bulge, etc.

The floor. The floor was built on 2x6 joist. Not 2x8. And the joist have spans of 10' with no blocking! One we found was broken. Big surprise. The sub-floor is 1/2" plywood (not 3/4) and on top of that is 3/8 particle board. It is also lumpy, squeaky and has a "few" places with water damage. As I said, the entire sub-floor in the kitchen had to be replaced due to rot. A lot of time was also spent getting rid of squeaks and speed bumps before the new flooring goes on top of it. It's a very nice engineered hard wood (glue down) so I really want that, um... sub-floor under it to be right.

Kitchen. Gone. Plumbing and electrical fixed, repaired and corrected. New cabinets going in. Sounds easy, doesn't it.

Windows. Um. Let's just say it's Wrightwood and leave it at that. However, the aluminum siding on this place makes removal of the old windows a royal pain in the......... skill saw. At least the end result looks promising.

Stay tuned for pics. And updates.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Lighter Side of Senior Parks

I must say that there is nothing quite the same as workin' for the folks at our only local 55 and over mobile home park. Don't get me wrong, they are truly a wonderful bunch to work for. They always want to feed you, tell you everything that everyone else in the park is up to (picture a crowd of 75 year old gossip machines!), and all of them have great stories to tell from their past. Most of these you will hear three or four times. Even every time you visit!

Most of the work there is just repairs that are good for a few bucks like fixing a roof leak or plumbing problem. Sometimes I find it hard to charge much some of the quick fixes when they are on a fixed income, make you a sandwich and tell you that story... again.

There are times when it seems like I'm a fix it machine that they pass around to eachother; "He's at my place now. Then he has to go to Sue's. But it won't take long, so you can have him after that."

Over the years they have had a hard time finding good help at this park and of course have told me all about people that worked for them in the past. In fact, a few of them told me about it yesterday... again.

Once in a while one of them will treat themselves to a new deck or some laminate flooring, and when that happens and I kid you not, I could sell tickets. The second you start, those ladies (my wife termed them my "golden groupies") start calling everyone that is one of the good side of the gossip list.

One thing that you quickly become aware of at a senior park is when ya get up there in years people like anything else wear out and start collecting various medical problems. Many of those are obvious while others you prefer not to hear about......again......while eating that sandwich. One problem I can see is possibly not enough entertainment and exercise. One legged walker races, perhaps?

When the day is done and it's time to go home, I have to remember one thing: LEAVE EARLY! Even though the entrance to the park is only 400' away, it will take you up to 45 minutes to get to it. They watch for you. They will stop you. And they will talk... alot. At least you know how long. You heard that story last week!

All in all I do enjoy helping my 'golden groupies' with all those things that need to be repaired or replaced on a mobile home. They like to keep their places clean and well maintained which makes my job so much easier.

The best part is it's like having a lot of wonderful grandparents!

So to my "golden groupies", I would like to say thank you!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lasers On Chop Saws Are Stupid

The laser on my compound miter saw is basically a marketing gimmick that looks neat at the store. In the real world however, it is not bright enough to see in daylight. When cutting the cheap plastic trim they get covered up with the bits of melted plastic that come off the blade due to the fact that it is inline with the blade. Then when you clean it off a few times, you end up making the line fuzzy.

I don't know about you, but when I want an accurate cut (when would you want an inaccurate cut?) I always look down the edge of my blade to my mark. If I want firewood, I'll use a different saw.

So, what is that laser thing anyway? Simply put, it is a diode. Normal operating voltage is 3vdc. Now the fun stuff! A nice, bright white LED (also a diode) normally also uses an operating voltage of 3vdc. See where I'm going with this?

How many times have you still been working when the sun is going down, almost done with a job and your marks are getting pretty hard to see? Would it not make more sense to have that useless laser shining some light to see by instead of a fuzzy red line that you don't use? Do I only ask questions that only have one obvious answer?

Most saws are different of course, but as far as the laser goes they are usually tacked on like an afterthought. That makes things a bit easier to change without having to resort to performing major surgery on your saw. Note: To be on the safe side, remove the laser from your saw and check exactly how much voltage is going to the laser, then choose an LED flashlight that uses the appropriate number of batteries. For AAA, AA, C and D batteries, one battery = 1.5vdc; two batteries = 3vdc; three batteries = 4.5vdc.

In this example we'll use 3vdc. First, look around for an old LED flashlight that uses 3vdc (two AAA batteries for instance) and a single bright LED. A multi LED may require more work to put it into a small space. You can get a lot of light with a single LED if you want to. I have a 3w LED in my Mag-lite that would be too bright for this purpose! That bulb also cost me about $20!

A few notes:

1) LED's won't work if the pos. and neg. are reversed; if it won't light up, switch the + and -.

2) If the LED flashlight you took apart uses a small circuit board, use it. These are from the better flashlights and that little board makes the LED almost twice as bright. Don't ask me how, though.

3) Always use a housing and a lens to keep the components clean. Put shrink tubing over bare wires and make sure the blade won't hit if you didn't keep it small.

Now with a few hours of goofing off in the garage and using up a few of those bits and pieces that have gotten tossed into the "bucket of everything" we keep for no other reason than 'ya never know when I might need one of these!', you can take something that is useless and replace it with something that's useful!

Hmm, where else can I use some LED's? Tool box? Belt buckle?


Monday, January 4, 2010

A Must Have Tool

...otherwise known as the almost best tool in the world!

Here is a simple tool that I made a few years back when I ran into some roots that made running one of my least favorite tools (a shovel) nearly impossible.

All I did was take an old axe head and a heavy piece of pipe over to my welder, then welded them together to make a heavy hoe of sorts.

This simple tool has worked so well for chopping through roots, helping dig a quick ditch in hard dirt, taking out large bushes in one swing and quieting noisy chihuahuas, that I had to let you in on it. After you use it, I'll bet you will wonder why all of us didn't already have one!

You won't want to use it for more than a few minutes at a time, because the steel pipe handle makes it heavy. But, that's why it works so well! In fact, it is not often that it takes longer than that to finish the job. Now, where's that chihuahua?

(and...for all you nutcases out there, yes, I am only kidding about the chihuahua)


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Design A Home And See What Kind Of Person You Are?

Ok, I know that sounds a bit out there, but follow me. Do you lay out the floor plan first then let the front of the house sort itself out? Do you design a house that is awesome and inviting from the street and fit the floor plan in afterward?

In my opinion (the only opinion that matters on my blog), the person that designs the house that's very inviting from the street is going to be more social, willing to be friends with the neighbors and likes to spend time taking care of their biggest investment, which is their home and family. The person who designs the floor plan first in my opinion would be more likely to sit in the house surfing the web all day, not know more than one neighbor and spend very little time outside or working on their home.

Is your house (as viewed from the street) symmetrical or asymmetrical? Well, this could be very bad news for what seems like everyone designing homes today, if my opinion mattered outside this blog, because if your house design is symmetrical, my only logical conclusion is that you are a well balanced, level-headed person with smart kids. I think asymmetrical designs lend themselves to the unbalanced, unpredictable and uncaring types who's kids will rob you.

Now, I'm just poking fun at some of the designers out there today that really seem to be stuck in a rut of making big ugly stucco boxes they call "homes". Many of them have great floor plans, but the outside looks like a poor attempt to dress up a few randomly placed blocks.

Let's all start pushing for designs that look as good on the outside as they look inside. My opinion (again) is that you can have a great looking home inside and out! If you are in the process of designing a house, why would you not spend some time to take into consideration the aesthetics of a home when viewed from the street?


A Few Notes On Antique Harley-Davidsons

Owning and riding a nice Harley-Davidson is to many people an experience that is often difficult to put into words. I often hear things like freedom, leaving your worries behind, natural high, etc. I sometimes call my bike my "mechanical therapist", among a few less flattering words you don't say in polite company.

Owning an antique Harley brings with it a whole new set of rules, pleasures, feelings and life's little lessons. Here are a few things that differentiate the WWII era bikes from the new push a button and put wind in your face bikes. You know...the ones that you see running and being ridden!

Plan on two hours of maintenance and cleaning/polishing for every hour of riding.

If you stop anywhere, you will meet that old dude who will want to spend the rest of the day telling you about the bikes he, his friends and his family had and the rides they went on. Trouble with that is, they are great stories and you want to listen.

Shock absorbers and electric starters are just passing fads. I keep telling myself that...

You spend a lot of time checking the mirror. Not for traffic, but for anything that may have fallen off.

The mirror vibrates so bad that in order for anything to be seen, it must be the size of a tailgating bus with the high beams on.

If you lack mechanical ability, you won't for long.

Leave lots of stopping distance! Old style drum brakes suck.

Always bring a cell phone. Old bikes are hard to push and for some unknown reason only break down where you have to push uphill.

You will spend hours pondering things like how in the Hell did people ride these damn things from coast to coast before cell phones, major highways or high quality lubricants and parts!?!

You do not own an antique Harley-Davidson. It owns you. It is older than you and will still be here when you are dust. Face it, you are just it's latest curator.

With all the people who want one, why don't you see more of them on the road? About half the bikes like mine (1945 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead) I've seen are sitting in a museum.

You spend hours picking and fussing to get that bike looking and running perfect. Then you go for a ride...repeat.

Most projects have an end. But when you start on an antique Harley, you will never be done. There's a good reason my bike was nicknamed "Time Bandit".

You will use very expensive oil so it will leak out. Hey, if it's leaking at least it has oil.

All that said, the feeling of an old bike that is running perfect on that perfect 80 degree day as you go through the gears (foot clutch and hand shift) is nothing short of a religious experience........crap! What was that shiny, bouncing thing in the mirror?!


Friday, January 1, 2010

Forget Your Propane Powered Megabucks Outdoor Kitchen!

Here is the Best BBQ Ever! If you are like my wife and I, you know there is nothing better than a steak cooked over a wood fire far from anything that makes noise or looks anything like civilization.

One year we came across the best little BBQ for a quick getaway. Ready? It's just a simple grill with folding legs (which we found inexpensively at Wal-Mart). When your fire gets down to a nice bed of coals just drop the grill over it and start cookin'.

In my sketch I also drew in adjustable legs that ours doesn't have, but would be nice.

Toss some butter slathered potatoes wrapped in foil onto the coals, put your corn-on-the-cob done up the same way and add in some dinner rolls, then you'll prefer this over the so-called "best" steakhouse every time!

Tip: Use a battery powered fluorescent light placed 30' to 40' away so any bugs go there...not where you and the food are. Enjoy.