Sunday, October 3, 2010

Franklin Stove Restoration

This is another project that has been sitting in the barn for 5 years.  Found on the property, partially disassemnbled, it nonetheless seemed to have a ll its major parts.  I didn't know it was a Franklin stove until someone happened  to remark on it.   I was excited because an original Franklin in good shape has some value.  I was disappoointed to learn that this one is not an antique, but part of a flood of Asian reproductions that flooded the market in the 1970s and 80s during the energy crunch.

Parts.  Some painted others cleaned and waiting.  
Cleaning is best done by sand blasting, but after I found out it wasn't an antique I decided to clean it myself (more time, less money).  I used Marine Clean and Metal Ready, the most amazing metal prep solutions I've ever used.  Then painted with POR-15 on the hearth and mantle and Stove Bright for the rest.  All the nuts and bolts were replaced with stainless steel.

Like the original "Mayflower" design that this is patterned after it improbably rests on 3 feet.

I had envisioned it as an outdoor fireplace and so it shall be in Portland.

I assembled it in the driveway for its test firing (needed to cure the paint). 

Now dissassembly, transport and final install in Portland.  Of course, there is the patio and pergola to build first.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Alice asked for a dragon as decoration for the apex knee-brace on the garage.   Well I just couldn't say no even though I have no skills in this area.  I can barely carve a turkey let alone a block of wood.  What started out as a plan to make simple "whirligig-like" silhouette has morphed.  Here's a look at it sans claws in natural cedar.  I plan to paint it red.  Wings are copper.

This is Insane

I'm restoring an old (but not antique) Franklin stove.  I discover, via the Web, that a highly recommended paint is Stove Bright from Forest Paint Company.  Also via the Web I find it $5 a can cheaper.  I need 5 cans and shipping is $10 so I save $15.  The 5 cans of paint travel 3,000 miles to get to me...


Yes, I did try to buy from the factory directly (they have a store, but don't ship.  Yes, I did try to find a local dealer, but only one, out-of-the-way stove shop had it.

I understand completely how shipping 5 cans of paint 3000 miles out and 3000 miles back can be the low cost solution and make economic sense. It may be the road to economic prosperity, but is also assuredly the road to environmental poverty.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Marc's Secret Two Night Stands

For the craftsman home in  Portland I built two night stands, but they have a secret.  I don't ike all the clutter on the top of night tables, and to fit these would need to be small.  The problem with putting stuff inside the cabinet is retrieving it while still in bed. My solution, a sliding door in each cabinet on the bed side


Vise Grip

Five years ago "I bought the farm." It all sorts of intriguing out buildings with promise of buried treasure. In the end I sent thousands of pounds of scrap metal to the recycler. One item I couldn't part with was an enormous bench vise. If I have any capability it is in wood. Of metal work, machining and vises I know little.

A couple of months ago I decided to bring it in from the barn and see what could be done to make it functional again. After some Googling around, I now understand that a Wilton is one of the premier bench vise makers. A picture is worth a thousand words so here was the problem..

After l long debate on GarageJournal.com I decided to go for fixing her up.

She's back in service and recovering nicely. She has a big scar, but wears it with pride.  Through  Portland Craigslist I found Jim W. Fox (the "W" stands for Wilton [no, just kidding]). He is owner of a blacksmith forge company named Thermal Artist.

He bravely took up the call. I believe he TIG welded it with silicone bronze. You will notice a collar around the body. The weld is clean, the action is smooth (only binding up slightly at full close).

Jim also fabricated the new handle to my spec. One end is retained by a countersunk socket screw and is removeable. Based on comments in these forums I made the handle slightly longer than the original.

The jaws were soaked in weak acid for 4 weeks (I ended up being away for longer than expected). I then painted them with Krylon Silver Metal. The body is painted Krylon Italian Olive. The screw is lubricated with EP grease and the sliding parts with teflon.

I'm into this for $105 bucks and a pretty happy camper.

Knob & Tube

Lest you think all I did all summer was play with Lego (almost the truth) here's how I really spent it.  From dawn till dusk, for 3 weeks, in a hot attic, wearing a respirator, wading through rock-wool insulation to remove hundreds of feet of old-style knob and tube wiring.

The goal was to remove the K&T so that we could add a lot more insulation  into the attic.

Our knob and tube looked something like this, except buried in  6"  of nasty, rock-wool insulation..
 I originally planned one week expecting no more than two max.  Three weeks later I had run over 600 feet of new wiring, installed 7 ceiling light junction boxes (when we took the fixure down we found no junction boxes at all, just two wires sticking out of the ceiling) and reinstalled a dozen receptacles and switches.

Although the house had been upgraded to brekers in the 1970s, they had retained the old fuse panel to run the knob and tube.  This panel was completely removed.

This original panel was 30 amp capacity for the whole house.  Today 200 amp is the norm. 

At the same time we rewired the garage which had been supplied by a Rube Goldberg system that made the connection to the house in 1/2" indoor -rated conduit running overhead between the buildings.

Inside the garage a vintage fuse box led to an udersized junction box.
The garage got 100 amp, underground service with a real breaker panel.

A real breaker panel for the garage.
We did this all with permits, and throughout the inspectors were cordial and knowledgeable.  I wouldn't attempt anything like this without permits.  Some insurance companies won't insure you if you have ever had knob and tube.  But others' will if it has been removed properly.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rediscovering Lego

I was a Lego snob.  Or maybe Luddite is a better word.   I grew up with Lego; real Lego.  Perpendicular, rectangular, chunky, Lego. A slanted piece; a gold mine.  A color other than white; manna from heaven. Lego that didn't come in a box with instructions.  It was free-form, like pre-cast play-dough.  It required imagination to build something and imagination to see that something in the thing that you built.  It invited creativity and required flexibility, ingenuity, patience and resourcefulness.  And because the bricks were never meant to be anything in particular, there was no problem unsnapping them and throwing them back in the box to be reborn as some new form.

I suppose I was 13 or 14 when I stopped playing with Lego.  In the intervening 38 years I've regularly pontificated about the ruinous direction Lego has taken.  Toward prepackaged kits that are meant to be built into one object, like a model, but without glue.  I decried the loss of development of independent, creative mind, to that of a slavish, direction-following sheep.

Then, this year, during a sleepless night, I wandered into my girlfriend's son's play area and started perusing his collection of Lego.  They had been dumped out onto a rimmed baking sheet.  I ran my hand over the unfamiliar shapes, spreading them like pumpkin seeds to be dried.  The pieces were so tiny, like shards of broken safety glass, some even smaller.    How could anything of any size be built from such small fragments?  But there were gems in there too.  There weren't just slanted parts, but curves, and I don't mean just round parts but swooping, curvaceous, voluptuous forms.  Even ones that swept upwards and thus could be applied on the bottom side.  Unheard of in my day.  As I waved my hand over the pool, stirring it up with my fingertips even more was revealed.  Tiny hinges and parts that could be used with hinges and tiles made of one dot or knob; one-third the standard height and  and  in a myriad of translucent colors.  

I started with a cockpit at first, and then more.  I experimented with different solutions, found new features to add, and rebuilt the thing thrice over.  I was obsessed with working on it.  Stealing away at night, taking "breaks" during the day that would turn into hour-long Lego-thons.  Time whooshed by when I worked on Lego.  I missed meals, went reluctantly and urgently to the bathroom; didn't answer my phone.

The result, the FB-X1, is marvel to behold.  Well, not really, but for me it was a revelation and I took enormous pride in having constructed such a fun and feature-leaden product out of available materials.  I had used 2/3rds or more of the tiles; and all the good ones. 

 See more images of  the FB-X1 here.
The FB-X1 made me reexamine my assumptions about modern Lego.  Maybe instead of all those pre-designed, built-once toys I imagined on kids' shelves there was a big box full of parts just as in my day. But this box was full of parts relevant to this century.

Out of curiosity I visited Lego's website,  There, among many, many other things was Lego Digital Designer, a free download that enables you to build, in 3D, Lego objects using a large array and unlimited quantity of bricks.  You can then upload your design to Lego's DesingbyMe site,  create box art online and have the whole thing shipped with an instruction manual, just like a real product,  The service isn't cheap, nonetheless I toyed with the idea of recreating the FB-X1 in LDD just to see how much it would cost.  But this idea was quickly usurped as I became intoxicated with the  possibility of creating something new; the FB-X2.

See more images and animations of the FB-X2.
Once again I threw myself into the task, disregarding other projects and responsibilities. The freedom of LDD combined with its deficiencies much midnight oil to be burned, but in the end the FB-X2 is testament to two things:
  • Lego is still a whole lot of fun, and
  • It's said that the difference between men and boys is the size of their toys.  Lego proves that the difference between men and boys is just the size of the boys.  


Lego has crossed the chasm into the digital world.  Is Lego better than when I was young?  One thing that is very different is people: Lego people,  The Lego of my youth was very object and machine oriented.  People, if any, were purely imaginary and were just along for the ride,  Lego today is very much about the story and characters,  Many, if not all of these are drawn from Hollywood story lines like Star Wars and Prince of Persia,  The Lego provides the set pieces. It's not the main attraction. Is Lego now for budding liberal arts majors more than engineers or have the engineer moved on to other Lego products like Mindstorm and Technics? I don't know.  But I'm sure Lego is still playing a big role in kids' lives and I take comfort in the idea that in many a playroom there sits a box full of recycled parts, A 3-D jigsaw puzzle whose picture changes as you assemble it; limited only by your imagination.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shields Up

Nothing happier than a well armed child.

Roman scutum.

Campbell admires his birthday gift.

The shield is made by gluing two 1/8" sheets of plywood together and then strapping them to a 55 gallon barrel until the glue sets. The shield will then hold its form.  The boss in the center is a hub cap I had to buy and rivet onto a scrap of sheet metal.  It's held in by 8 carriage bolts with acorn nuts showing.  The "rivets" around the outside are wood plugs.  The paint is the amazing Krylon 18k gold.  There is more in paint costs than any other material.  1 can black primer, 2 cans red, 1 can gold, 1 can clear acrylic. 

The pattern on the shield is drawn from real scutum elements. The bold riveted trim is greatly exaggerated for effect.  The wings were drawn on the computer from a scan of real scutum wings, printed, cut-out and temporary adhesive applied to make a stencil.  Then sprayed gold and then the black applied with a Krylon paint pen.

I'm only worried that I will have to top this by building a full sized catapult for Christmas.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Bar is Open

I believe this is the last item from the original house plan that had heretofore remained unfininished.  In fact it had, until recently, remained unstarted. 

The bar was primarily designed as a way to provide a screen to the backside of the kitchen stove.  And, of course, it is a nod to the modern fancy of having guest hover over the kitchen while the host cooks.

This image is of the two "h" shaped, extruded aluminum pieces used as a cradle.  I salvaged this as a single piece, 4-feet longer yet, from the old manufactured home.  I didn't have anything specific in mind, but it was such a nice piece I decided to keep it.  It only occurred to me later that it might be good here.

The aluminum painted with that POR-15 engine enamel.  Looks like patent leather shoes.  The bar itself was contributed by my neighbor.  It's a 1" thick slab of walnut!!!

The nearly completed project.  Below the bar are 4 panels of perforated steel from Roy Manufacturing in Portland.

Just needs stools.

Friday, May 21, 2010


On Sunday, May 16, I had enough of the motor together to fire it up. Tommy started right up.

Compression spec is 355 psi min.  Before rebuild 185 to 225. Now 390 across the board.

No detectable leaks...yet.  Purrs like a tiger.

Yesterday bI put the rest of the sheet metal on and remounted the front-end loader.

I once again have a tractor.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Journey Home

T Slowly she comes back together.  Here's the flywheel end hanging from the porch and waiting for a lift down to the barn.

Side view showing much of the yellow detail

Chris positions the motor over the mounts as another neighbor, Mark, awaits the signal to lower it in.

Back in the chassis ready to be reconnected before attempting to fire it up.

Brace Yourself

 As can be seen in my prior post, the knee braces, while covered over in aluminum, were not really that interesting.  Only a nod to craftsman style.  I had planned to replace the two and add a third one at the peak purely for aesthetic reasons.  But once the soffits were removed and we could see the damage to the sheathing would require replacing it, the 3rd brace then became necessary.

As far as design goes there is the basic form.  A triangle formed by a 4x4 on top, a brace that ranges from simple to fancy and a backing plate or not if they were actually extensions of the framing.

It was clear right away that the diagonal brace at full width was too much for this diminutive brace so I cut it down to 2-1/2".  Nice.

I was holding the left-over 1" piece and it occurred to me that I might mimic but modify an existing style where the cut blocks are added to the brace.  Of course, the traditional style is full width, but I'd already stepped it in once, so I thought it might look good on this scale to step in again.

Unsure of the triangles, I experimented with rounds.

Six braces (3 front and 3 rear) ready to go.

Primed and in place.  The new design is also follows the more traditional method of having them pierce the trim board.

The middle one in the front is missing its "teeth" because something special goes there.  Stay tuned.

Look What We Found!

 The house that Alice and I own in Portland dates to 1921. The interior has been well maintained in near original condition.  The exterior of the house and garage  been carefully preserved by being shrouded in aluminum.  Aluminum siding, aluminum shingle roof, aluminum storm windows and even the knee brace details (those triangular bits of wood that stick out of the gable end of the roof and support the trim board) were fitted with custom bits of aluminum.  I say "preserved" but we didn't know if this was true.  Maybe the siding was put on to hide damage. Maybe moisture trapped under the siding has done damage.

We knew the garage needed a new roof when we purchased it, but we waited till this year to do anything about it.  The garage is to be a test case on two fronts. 1) how easy is it to remove the aluminum  and what's the building look like underneath.  2) choosing a color scheme that will be eventually be used on the residence. 

Here's the garage in its full suit of aluminum armor.

Removing the siding and finding a layer of Reynold's aluminum reflective paper.  In this photo you can see the knee brace with some of the metal pulled away.

Here is the knee brace exposed.

Et Voila!  Underneath 240 pounds of aluminum is a near perfect, cedar-sided garage.  There were few nail holes and the paint was even in good shape.  If we simply pressure washed it we'd be in good shape.

I had a fantasy that the salvaged aluminum would fetch enough to pay for part of the garage roof.  $0.58/pound.  About $130, but it beats paying to have it taken away.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Black is Beautiful

I started with the yellow which requires a silver undercoat. The silver applied smoothly, flowed evenly and created a beautiful finish all its own.  I should have stopped there.   The next morning I started painting the small partsnwith "Hi-Po Yellow." .The paint was viscous and pale.  Much paler than the sample card, but much closer to John Deere Ag Yellow than I expected.   The first coat was thin and translucent, not hiding the primer coat of silver.  Worse, it was simultaneously drying too fast to allow the paint to flow and even out brush strokes; yet flowing too much causing drip marks. 

Painting any of the small parts hung up on a makeshift rod was like trying to make a peanut butter sandwich with the bread hanging on a string.   It was long, tedious, detailed work that wasn't coming out right.

I was only thankful that the machine shop had painte dthe block black, causing me to abondon my plan to paint it yellow.  Still, and in spint of m experince with the yellow, I prepped the engine for black.

Black was a revelation.  It went on easily, covered in one coat.  Didn't flow fast enough to cause drips, but just fast  enough to fill in brush strokes.                                                 

The end result, an engine block that looks like a wet piano, even when it is dry!  A real pleasure to use and much better experience than the yellow.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fairness Means Never Having to Say "To Be Fair."

“To be fair”? “To be fair”! So starts the sixth paragraph of yet another factually erroneous Oregonian editorial that ignores the reporting in your own paper ("Endless process defeats LNG" 5/5/2010). “To be fair” can be translated as “unless we mention the following, what you have read so far would not convey the whole picture.” But is it fair to bury six paragraphs in one of the reasons Northern Star itself gave for folding up; namely the US is “awash in natural gas”? A phrase you yourselves reported almost two years ago ("With wholesale price cuts, why will natural gas bills rise?", Oregonian 8/14/2008).

Is it fair to misrepresent Bradwood as having received local approval when in fact the local approval had been successfully contested in a referendum by a 2-1 majority ("Clatsop County voters reject proposed pipeline for LNG   project", Oregonian 9/17/2008), and remanded twice by LUBA ("Board overturns LNG terminal approval", Oregonian. 1/27/2009 and "Oregon land use board rejects Bradwood Landing LNG terminal approval for second time", Oregonian (AP) 4/12/2010 ) and that Clatsop County refused to join in Northern star’s appeal of LUBA’s second ruling; something you seem to have failed to report on at all.

Is it local approval or something else when all commissioners who voted "yes" (over the "no" recommendation of professional staff, outside consultant and the vast majority of public testimony) eventually faced recall elections with only 2 surviving ("Voters in Clatsop County give Commissioner Richard Lee the boot", Oregonian 3/26,2008 and "LNG fight may claim Clatsop commissioner", Oregonian 10/28/2009)

Is it fair to headline your article, “Endless Process Defeats LNG” when on January 4, 2010 you ran, “The molasses-slow regulatory process governing proposed liquefied natural gas projects in Oregon moves to the high burner this week after federal energy regulators told their fisheries counterparts to get on with their analysis of whether the Bradwood Landing LNG terminal and pipeline would jeopardize endangered species.”

Doesn’t this and other facts undermine your whole “the deck was stacked against the Bradwood proposal” argument? Northern Star availed itself of FERC’s new super-siting authority. Northern Star already knew approving one of these facilities had been nie impossible in California (that’s why they and others moved on to Oregon). Northern Star, far from being the underdog, marshaled considerable resources in its favor After all they had $100 million to spend, top-flight legal help and the labor unions on their side. They knew or should have known the political, economic and legal environment they faced. In my view they misjudged the situation, "misunderestimataed" the opposition and had bad luck on timing the gas market. There should be no shame in this regard on failing. It was a high risk/high reward venture from the start. The deck was not stacked against them, but the odds were.

What has Northern Star left in its considerable wake? In addition to millions in unpaid bills, judging by some loyalist postings, some very bitter Oregonians who, in spite of the long odds, were counting on the Bradwood chicken before the golden egg had hatched. You aid and abet this conflation of projection and reality by unabashedly parroting without qualification that Bradwood "would have created 450 construction jobs and 65 permanent jobs." Not even an "according to company estimates" or "claims." While Northern Stars numbers are accepted at face value, opponents arguments are referred to as, " highly dubious, about the safety, economics and environmental impact." 

Is that a fair characterization when in the very next paragraph you admit that Bradwood might have been defeated “on the merits"? Indeed, the opposition was more properly characterized as based on, need ("Department of Energy report says Oregon doesn't need LNG", Oregonian 5/10/2008), legality under Oregon and Clatsop County's own land use laws (previously cited), compatibility with NEPA ("Federal fish biologists question Columbia River LNG project" Oregonian 11/21/2009 and "DEQ suspends permitting on Bradwood Landing LNG project" Oregonian 2/26/2009), and on FERC ignoring its own policies, rules and charter ("State asks court to toss Bradwood site's approval" 1/26/2009). How can you in good conscience characterize these as "dubious?" Would not a fair assessment characterize them as arguments that ultimately prevailed (land use, need), were likely to prevail (NEPA with NMFS and ODEQ) or were in process of being adjudicated (FERC).

Finally, is fairness and its modern, if ungainly dance partner, balance, the proper standard for an editorial? I prefer accurate and honest myself. Accuracy from the facts and honesty the ability not to cherry-pick the facts. The ability to render an opinion even if it conflicts with preconceived notions, ideas and prior pronouncements without regard to appearances other than integrity. Fair and balanced admits to predictability whereas accurate and honest may roam freely across the undulating waves of truth. With regard to LNG, the Oregon Editorial Board has become a predictable purveyor of fair and balanced. Whereas an honest and accurate reading of your own reporting leads ineluctably to a wholly different conclusion.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Kid on the Block

The block is back from the machine shop. Where does one have to go to find an old time machine shop that does things right? Why downtown Portland of course.

Even as new condos arise in the Pearl District and shi-shi restaurants open next door, Bearing Services keeps trukin' along.  Located just a block behind Powell's Books in a building so old it's back in style.  There you will find a complete machine shop smelling of solvents and overflowing with blocks, crankshafts and pistons.

The short block.  They painted it already so my plan to paint it yellow is foiled (mercifully according to many). Chris came over and helped me get it back on the stand.

Pistons all shiny and new. They should be for $2200. They had to be bored out "twenty-thousandths" (of an inch that is). Doesn't sound like a lot, but for this little engine it's right at the edge. Any more and the block would be junk.

After about 3 hours Chris and I (mostly Chris) have the head is torqued down, the timing gears are in place and its cover reinstalled and the oil pan is bolted down.

The mighty Yanmar 3TN75 starts to look look every part of its 23 horsepower.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Touch Up

I did a little prep work on the carcass of the tractor sitting in the barn.

The area where the fuel tank sits (at the very front of the frame) is always a mess when I remove the tank.  I decided to use the small amount of Herculiner, DIY truck bed liner, instead of repainting it.  The only known substance that dissolves Herculiner is xylene.   Pretty tough stuff.  I used it on the tractor foot rests.  Remarkable stuff.  Like rhino-hide in a can.

The battery tray looked terrible, but two coats of Herculiner later and the it looks better than new.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bit by Bit

This little motor has taken over my basement. In the foreground parts cleaned and ready to be painted.  In the background a table full of parts that are clean and ready to go as is.

I ordered POR-15 engine enamel in black and yellow. Even if it doesn't run well after all of this, at least it will look good.