Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 4)

Continuing the saga of the mid-90's rims, today's post covers damage repairs, and masking. If you haven't read the prior posts that got us this far, the links for the other 3 parts are here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Basically, I got a set of rims, they were kinda beat up, but I'm going to use them anyway because a few hours of my time is worth the $700 I would have to pay for a new set of 15" rims. This is just one more way to express that the journey is the destination, and why incur the environmental cost of new rims when you can keep another set out of the landfill? Everybody wins. If the set you're messing with doesn't need repair, and you don't plan to do any fancy paint, you could skip to the end and shoot a few coats of clear and be done with it.

Filling the Gouges
The mid-90's Honda rims had been on a daily driver for most of their lives. There appeared to be some bad-parking days when the rim ate into the curb. There were snow and ice days when the owner put on tire chains which scratched up the face near the lug nuts. Because of how bad the damage was on a couple of the rims, I decided that I would fill and paint the bad areas, and have a consistent color plan across all 4 wheels.

I could have used "bog" or Bondo, but I had a small tin of Lab Metal from when I swapped out the Westy poptop for a Riviera/ASI top a few years ago. It had dried up a bunch, but a after letting a few ounces of lacquer thinner sit in the tin overnight, it softened it right up. Similar to bog, or spackle the Lab Metal applies like a paste. Work the stuff all the way into the damage. If the Lab Metal won't hold, you may need to dig some material out of the damage so the Lab Metal has something to bite into. It's sort of like how the dentist sometimes has to drill out some good tooth material in order for the filling to set without an air bubble, and then hold.

Either way and whatever material you use, over-fill the damage so there is extra filler all around and on top of the repair. Consider that you will be sanding this down, so don't go crazy with it, but if you try to make it all nice and flush when it is wet, the material will shrink as it dries so you'll have a concave patch relative to the size of what you filled. Once it is dry, lightly sand with a high-grit paper (like 220 or something) until it is flush with the surrounding undamaged wheel. I followed this step with a general light sand with 320-grit paper on the entire rim and then cleaned it with glass cleaner so there was no dust remaining.

Masking and Cutting
Masking sounds so simple. Just tape over where you don't want paint. When you're painting a door frame for your closet, it is that simple. The dry-wall is flat, the edges are square and tape sticks really easily. When you're talking about a rim, none of those things are true. It's round. The various lips are not hard-edged; they are usually beveled or rounded off and tape doesn't stick as easily partly because of those 2 factors and partly because tape just doesn't want to stick to raw aluminum.

But, it can be done. First, use tape like a tack-cloth, pulling the surface dust off the raw aluminum. Doing this immediately before you tape will definitely help the tape stick. I also found that over-taping, or applying tape beyond the edge of where I wanted the paint to be allowed me to direct the tape better. Once on, I would set the edge with a razor-blade held mostly parallel to the rim but at a fixed angle, sliding along the rounded edge. This defined a very clear and consistent edge that I couldn't do with just the tape-edge. Each transition from taped to not-taped where I could get a razor-blade I defined this way. Yes, this takes considerable time. For those areas where cutting the line with a blade wasn't possible, I followed the old axiom from when I painted houses: use tape to prevent paint from getting where you don't want it. More simply, if you can't get the tape right on the edge, err on the side of getting a little paint where you don't want it versus covering up where you really wanted it in the first place. This sounds obvious, but in practice we all are such perfectionists that we try to get the tape right on the line. Sometimes, this means you cover up a thin line where you wanted paint and you don't see it until you pull the tape. That moment really sucks. So, get that paint a little too far onto the raw aluminum and then work the line afterwards with a razor. This is much easier and looks way better than trying to do touchup or retaping/shooting. Between the sanding and the taping, this is where you spend 95% of your time and makes the difference between a not-that-great paint job and a looks-pretty-good one. It's all in the prep.

I can't believe how long this has gotten or how long it has taken to finish these rims. Anyway, I should be finishing this thread of posts with one more: next time with priming, color, wet-sanding and clear-coat. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hapy cube-inet

Taking a leave from the sports car (280ZX and MGB) projects, today's post covers a little side thing I've been clowning for Hapy the Wonderbus. It's not quite a cabinet, it's more than just a cube... it's a cube-inet.

No Stove/sink
pre-cut, starting assebly
I guess this all started when I put the middle row Vanagon seat into the middle of Hapy's floor (See Vanagon Seat Install). I couldn't fit the bench seat with the sink/stove unit that came with the '79 Westy interior installed. The unit jutted out 3 inches too deep into the bus interior. In retrospect, the sink/stove unit never really got used. I hadn't installed the propane tank because the '72 bus comes with an under-panel below the sliding door that I would have had to cut out/off. I have read that that under panel and it's partner panel on the other side (behind driver where a slider would be on that side of the bus) were added for more rigidity. Since this was the first year of the pancake engine, and the non-removable rear valence, this was probably a case of over-engineering. Still, I didn't remove the panels, I didn't install the propane, and I didn't use the sink/stove. I didn't even hook-up the external water source. I sold off the kitchen unit to a local bus guy a couple of years later. I hope it is being put to good use.

Regardless of all that backstory, once the kitchen was removed, it left a dead spot inside the bus. Over the next few years, the dead spot has been a great place to put coolers or milk crates full of gear. When we weren't travelling (read: full of gear), though, it looked pretty bad. The pile of gear didn't look all that great either, but I'm not so concerned about aesthetics, if you hadn't noticed.

The thought occurred: what if we build something that could fit in the dead spot that was the same height/depth as the fridge storage thing. Remember how I pulled the guts out of the refer to make it a storage cabinet? (See From Fridge to Storage if you're curious.) Our thought was that we could have one relatively flat surface running the whole length from the tail gate to the back of the driver seat. If done right, it could serve as a spot for a passenger to put a drink or a book while traveling, serve as visually blocked storage and then get removed so we have another surface in the camping/parking lot. Then, let's take that concept up another level. What if the thing we built could also stand up tall with something like a counter-top that was still the whole width from fridge to driver seat, but around counter height?

The next level sounded too hard at first, and probably sounds confusing to you. The picture below helps, but I didn't have anything like that as a guide. So, I focused on the dimensions and landed on building a hollow box out of 1" x 1" square balusters. This ended up being a pretty brilliant decision in my humble opinion. The design literally allows us to keep "out of the box" that hard sides would have created for us in how we can use it. Without sides, we can stuff things inside when its in the bus, or use it in much broader ways when we're set up for camping. Again, the pictures below will help.

For a top, we had an old dresser that was completely falling apart. It was pretty cheap when it was built 40 years ago, but because it was so old, it wasn't made of glue-board; it was a combination of solid wood and the plywood of the time. One of the side panels wasn't too beat up, and only had bad splits along one edge. Once I measured down what I needed, I could cut off most of the damage and all that's left is a distressed looking counter-top.

standing tall
As I said, I started with 1" x 1" balusters. Why? I had a pile of them lying around from an old guinea pig hutch we had torn down last spring. A cube has 12 legs, 4 each for length, width and depth. There are 24 90* angles that join these 12 legs, and for that I used 1" angles from Home Despot. That's a lot of drilling and screwing (4 screws per angle * 24 angles = 96). In the end, the box isn't perfectly square, but for an initial concept it worked out very well.

I took the side of the dresser and cut it down to fit flush against the back and sides with a slight overhang over the front. Since it was a side of a dresser, it had wood slats along the inside to keep the tongue-and-grove plywood together. I cut these down so they fit between the legs regardless of the orientation of the box. These create tension, a friction that allows the top to snug-in. I hadn't expected that. After some test fitting and some trimming down, we have a hollow cube with a removable top that can stand tall for a counter or short for a bench or drink table.

standing short
Boo and I tested it for weight and both of us could fit, sitting side-by-side without the cube wavering at all. Quite the contrary, we tried to get it to wiggle while sitting on it and it wouldn't. Since the top isn't secured with fasteners, we won't be trying that with the "tall" version.

Hapy is in storage for the winter, so I haven't yet had the pleasure of setting the cube-inet into the dead spot to confirm it fits as well as I expect it to. That expectation? I think that it will sit snug against the fridge and driver seat partition and flush with the inside edge of the fridge, but there will be a gap along the outer wall because the bus isn't square. Fortunately, I don't care about that gap. Maybe a subsequent version will have a slightly deeper counter top that will cover the gap. I should probably test fit before I start planning the next thing... Anyway, if the rest isn't perfect, I'm out around $20 for the 90* angles I had to buy. Otherwise, the materials were free from the scrap pile. I love projects like that.

Anyway, that's it for today. I have a replacement radiator on back-order, representing the one big thing I need to do so Hapy is ready for festival season. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 3)

Today's post continues the saga of upgrading the rims on the '78 MGB from the crummy chromeys to some mid-90's Honda alloys.

Clean, Clean Again
original Honda rims
After 30 years of use, and very little in terms of care, these new-to-me rims needed some love. First, they needed to be cleaned. I started with some basic car wash, a scrub brush and a hose. This worked some, but there was some stubborn brake dust and other grime on the insides. This took brake cleaner and some 150-grit sandpaper, but I was able to get down to some silver. I washed them a third time, this time with dish soap and a scrubby sponge in my kitchen sink (Boo puts up with so much). Once cleaned up, we could really get a look at what I'd bought.

Assess the Damage
Two of the rims were in fairly good condition. There wasn't much in terns of curb rash around the outer edges, and there were only a few scrapes from what looked like applying snow chains. The other two rims, however, had been in a few fights. There were some small chunks chipped out nearest the rubber, and many many gouges in that outer edge as well. Sadly, there were some deeper wedge-shaped scrapes in the face where, again, it looked like the rubber strap for tire chains had been put on possibly wrong such that the loops dug into the rim.

Plan the Work
The damage, though, was purely cosmetic. I was able to add air, and the air held in all 4 tires. Since the damage was surface, I knew I could repair it, but I felt I would need to paint rather than restore to plain aluminum. I'm sure there are others out there who can repair aluminum such that it looks like the damage was never there. That's not me.

paint concept (upper right)
To fix the chips and gouges, I thought about brazing alumi-weld into the gouges, and then polishing. Alternatively, I could use Lab Metal. I've used that stuff before, and it really does finish nicely, but I'm not convinced that it will leave the exactly right color. I suppose I could mix aluminum dust from sanding the rim into the mix for coloring if I really wanted to retain the all-aluminum look. After looking at the rim on the car, I think adding some color would look better, especially since there is a very limited amount of chrome on the car.

So, I planned to repair the chips and gouges with Lab Metal, and paint the outer lip and the mag-face, leaving an inner rim and the insides of the mags the original aluminum. This would bring out some of the chrome while not having an overwhelming amount of it. I mocked up a few options in paint so I could get a sense of how it would look and then I got started. First, you need to get down to the bare aluminum.

Take off that Clear Coat
on-car paint concept
The Interweb is a great resource, but some advice just isn't that good. While some is wrong, other advice can just be ill-suited to either your skills or project. For example, there appear to be many folks advocating removing the factory clear coat by sanding until what you're removing shifts from white to grey. Then you know you're down to the aluminum. While this does work, it takes an incredible amount of time. If you try to short-cut the time by using a lower grit (like 60 instead of the recommended 100), the car part will get deeper gouges that need to be sanded off with higher grit. In the end, I'm not sure if much time gets saved. I tried this method with one wheel. Since clear coat is not applied uniformly, you will hit grey while also still removing coating. In the end, I think this method was a bust, and don't suggest it.

For the other 3 rims (and I came back and did the sanded rim too), I used airplane stripper. C had some from when he was stripping the paint off the 280ZX, so I knew it worked and worked well. At least on paint. I knew that it didn't damage rubber when little drips got on it. I laid out the three rims, and brushed stripper on one wheel at a time. Once I got done brushing the third rim, the first was about dry, so I applied a second coat. Doing all four wheels would have timed out just about perfectly. Once the second coat was dry, I attacked the rims with steel wool. The clear coating scrubbed right off, leaving the bare rim with little flecks of clear coat left behind. To get completely cleared, I used a razorblade scraper. The airplane stripper was significantly faster and left behind a better surface. I hosed the rims off, and they were ready for the next step: fixing the damage. I'll get into that next time.

Thanks, as always, for following along. More next time-

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 2)

Today's post continues the saga of rotating the rims around the various cars in the yard so we can get rid of the donor ZX we picked up a few weeks ago. This time, I focused on the spacer to get the replacement rims for the MGB (from a mid 90's Honda Accord) to fit.

Space Case
1" spacer added
ET and backspace are kind of confusing topics. To really get it, you first need to imagine the rim and consider that the spot where the rim bolts to the hub is almost never at the centerpoint between the outer and inner edges of the rim. The ET (Einpress Tiefe) is the distance in mm between that centerpoint and the spot where it actually bolts to the hub. This measurement is interesting and important when calculating how well different rims will fit. It gets more complicated as you change the wheel width. I have spent lots of time trying to figure this out (see Wheels, Studs, Chrome and Backspace), deciphering the RAtwell page on tires, and finally building a spreadsheet to help me compare rims and tires. If you have the measurements for your wheel arches, and suspension, you can jump straight into the 1010Tires offset calculator. I've played with that thing quite a bit while trying to figure out what rims I could fit on the old bus. Of course, I didn't discover it until after I'd spent hours building and refining a spreadsheet calculator. Ha! And after all that, I just bought a set of 16" rims from a guy who had them on a Vanagon (See New Shoes), so I didn't have to test my spreadsheet or other measurements in the end.

rear view w/spacer
Anyway, I believe that the ET for the crummy chromes is lower (moving the rim further out) than the stock MGB rim and much lower than the Honda Accord rim. Or the other way: the Honda ET is higher than the MGB rim which is higher than the ZX. Even if we factor in that the Honda rim is an inch wider, the offset/ET is actually a bigger factor in the math, based on the pictures.

I didn't take pictures showing how close to the wheel arch the crummy chrome rims are, but the rubber on the wheel just barely extends out past the outer edge of the arch. In the photo in my last post, you can just make out the front tire and see how it is pretty far out towards the wheel arch. Technically, this isn't legal, but with the way big trucks are allowed to drive around with tires multiple inches out past the wheel arch, I guess the traffic cops have bigger issues to handle. I can support that.

The Honda Accord rims, on the other hand, are pretty recessed into the well when compared to the old crummys. I have at least an inch of space before I'm getting near the wheel arch, and as you could see from the picture on my last post, I couldn't even get my index finger between the rubber and the spring.

Math? Why Math?
spacer on, better fills wheel well
So, after all that figuring, thinking and prior planning I'd done before, you'd think I would use the same cautious approach to solving this need. Nope. Instead, I hit the eBarf and found a set of 1-inch thick aluminum integrated-lug wheel spacers for $85US delivered. My logic:
1) I need a good inch between the rubber and the spring.
2) I have at least an inch between the rubber and the wheel arch.
3) There is nothing in the front suspension, hub nor wheel arch that is more restrictive than the rear spring to rear wheel arch.
So, if I can get a rim into the rear wheel well with one of these spacers and it doesn't rub (and it shouldn't), then we can get all 4 mounted without issue. As you can see from the top picture, there's much more room for the tire on the inside and from the middle picture, it doesn't protrude out past the wheel arch on the outside. Barely. They look right on the car now.

Now that I have proven that they can fit, and look nice in their native state, I'll be spending the next wheel-related post walking through my steps and experiments to clean them up. That's it for today. Its a little short since it's my birthday. Have a great week and as always, thanks for following along-

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Around the Rim (Part 1)

Today's post looks at rotating tires, one set at a time and some planning / thinking around how to rotate tires from car to car, ending up in a better place than where we started when the music stops. This got really long, so I'm splitting it up into sections (again). Today, we'll focus on how this rim job got started.

The Catalyst
rusty rim
A couple months back, I pulled out the studded snow tires and my floor jack, to get Flash the Jetta ready to be our snow tank when winter turned nasty. While I swapped my 3-season tires for my studded snows, I got thinking about how we were going to finish the stripping work on the donor, and then getting the remaining shell removed. "If we pull the wheels, how will they get it out of here," I asked myself. By the time I'd gotten the winter tires on the Jetta, and the 3-season tires stored, I thought I had a plan.

My Logic
When we got the part-donor 280ZX, it was originally because C wanted the rims. I did a little research and found that most of the time when you have a yard pick up a scrap car, they give you less money if the car doesn't have wheels. I guess this is because they can't use their usual tricks to get the car, and someone has to pay for the nuisance. That someone is you. The interweb says that there are some yards that simply won't accept a junk car without wheels. I'm not fully sure that's true because sometimes the Interweb is wrong, but with that thought, I started thinking about how we could resolve a potential rim shortage.

The 280ZX and the MGB run the same size rim: 4 holes by 4.5 inches (or 114.3mm) apart. The backspace / ET is different, but they are close enough that they mostly fit each other. In fact, I'm fairly sure the rims currently on the MGB are 280Z aftermarket rims. But they're crummy fake wire-spoke rims that has the chrome flaking off, leaving large rust swathes around the lugs (see picure above). They're awful, and within a few days of getting the MGB I decided I wanted to replace them. To avoid possible junk-yard-wont-take-it issues, we're going to put them on the donor ZX. With that settled, the MGB will need rims before the donor shell gets removed. Well, the rims on the keeper 280ZX would fit, but as I described in the post about how we got the donor car (See 280ZX*2=Y), they just aren't our style. We are going to keep the smaller front rim/tires as a spare for each of our cars (one each 280ZX, MGB). This leaves us short one set after we move the donor ZX rims onto the keeper 280ZX and the crummy chromies from the MGB to the donor.

The Rims
Honda rim
I hadn't intended to keep those crummy chromy rims in the MGB anyway. I'd been looking, but original-looking aftermarket rims are, like $175US each. I'd been leaning towards getting a set from Acme Speed Shop, but I needed to corral $800US to make that happen. Knowing that simply wasn't going to happen soon, and having rims would enable us to ship the donor to the wrecker.... I went a different way. I had been trolling craigslist like I do when I stumbled upon a set of alloys that used to ride on the mid-90's Honda Accord. They looked okay in the posting, and the seller assured me they held air, so I took off to nab them. $100 later, I have a set of rims (with trash rubber) I can put on the MGB. I didn't go into this blindly. There is a great resource on the MG Experience identifying rims that fit. I figured with a savings of nearly $700US, I could clean up the Honda set, maybe apply some paint and still be ahead cost-wise. Or, I could just clean them up and sell them to fund one of those Acme sets.

Test Fit First
This sounds obvious, but so often we'll get all excited about something and tear right into the doing without first checking to see if what we're about to do makes any sense. Case-in-point, I could have started repairing on the curb-rash before even checking that the rims even fit. Again, the Interweb sometimes is just wrong. Okay, maybe I did get excited a little. But, it was no more than a few minutes of cleaning before I realized that I hadn't verified the linked resource. So, I pulled off the rear passenger (right) side wheel and slapped on one of the new-to-me Honda rims. The bolt-pattern was a perfect fit, so with very little wrestling the rim was on, nutted down and on the ground. So far so good in terms of the linked resource.

crummy chrome backspace
I took one of the other new-to-me Honda rims and set it next to and then on top of the crummy chromy rim I'd removed. The rubber (tire width) is about an inch thicker with the new rim, which aligns with what I was expecting. The new rim is 15" diameter and 6" thick. The one I removed was 14" diameter and 5" thick. The thicker rim supports a wider tire, so checking clearance both at the leaf spring and at the wheel arch is important.

As you can see from the pictures, the crummy chrome rims sat much further out towards the wheel arch than these Honda rims. There is almost 3" between the leaf spring and the tire sidewall. In contrast, the Honda rims sit quite close to the leaf springs, so close I can't even fit my index finger in-between the spring and the tire (see the lower picture). This leads me to believe that I am going to need spacers to center the rim between the leaf spring and the wheel arch. Spacers aren't nearly as expensive as I'd feared, running $10US per corner for off-the-shelf spacers. I just need to determine how much space I need and then figure out what lug nuts I need to make sure there's enough thread to hold the rims on well. To clarify... consider that the lug bolt (stud) is a fixed length and the more space you put between the hub and the backside of your rim, you are potentially taking away threads. The holes in the spacers for the lug studs are usually loose enough for you to get extension nuts that will thread between the spacer and the stud so you can still use most of the stud threading to hold on your rim. This takes care. If the extension on the nut is too long, you will bottom-out before the nut can be torqued on. If you use a nut that has too little (or no) extension, there may not be enough thread to safely hold your rim on.

Honda backspace
Or, there are slightly more expensive spacers which have lug studs integrated into them. T got a set of these when he was going to fit old (80's) Mercedes rims onto his not-quite-as-old (90's) Subaru. In fact, I used one of them to make the camping table attach to my spare on the bus (See Camping Table) after he got rid of that old Subbie. This style also lets you change the bolt pattern, if you want. You could run 5-lug rims on a 4-lug car without a whole lot of work. The upside for my application is that the spacer is nutted down onto the hub and the rim is then nutted down onto the spacer. This leaves plenty of meat on the respective lug studs to make sure your wheels are on safely. I have found 4-wheel sets delivered for under $100US, so while it's more than double the slide-on style I described first, if you add in the expense of getting the right lug nuts to be safe, the prices could nearly wash-out. Plus the added headache of time lost getting one set only to need something different, etc. Of course, the sense of security that comes from knowing that your wheel isn't going to fall off makes the decision much easier. I just need to figure out the right amount of backspace. I'll address that next.

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along-

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Year, New Tools

Over the course of the last 6 months or so, we've picked up some new skills and a couple new bigger shop tools to power them. Today's post goes over some.

Boo power washing back deck
About a year ago, Boo wanted to power-wash our concrete. You read that right: she wanted to. She was not asking me to do it nor solve for it; she wanted to be the person doing the washing. She looked at renting one, and they run around $300 per day. On a whim, she looked at the Bi-Mart mailer, and they were selling them for, get this, $295. So, she went and got it, got a 2-gallon of gasoline and power washed the rear deck, the back patio, the front side walk and some of the driveway. She has since used it on the back patio again, and I'll be washing the siding when the weather warms back up. I've thought about how I could use this tool on the cars, but figured it would probably do more damage than anything. I've read about folks using a power washer to strip paint. I may experiment with that when I re-paint the bumpers on Hapy.

Set for floor, I think
If you've been reading this blog, you know that over the Summer of 2017 (read: MGB - floor pans 1, 2, and 3), we played with a MIG. It all started when we discovered floor-rot in the MGB. To resolve, we borrowed a MIG from our good friend Travis. He is a welder by trade and has a few of them at his disposal. Truth-be-told, he'd rather have a TIG welder, but the MIG is so handy (or appropriate) for some jobs, that it will soon be back in his shop. We really had fun, and have used it on a few smaller things since the floors. While we don't expect to use it on the Z or again on the MGB, there's always a use for a welder. Once it goes back to Travis, I'll be adding it to my list of tools to add once i have space.

Soda Blaster
C wanted to get the paint off the Z. He started with a grinder. That's dirty, but dry. And loud. And slow. Then, he tried Airplane Paint Stripper. Still dirty, but wet. And nasty-stinky. But a little faster. We have watched videos and television shows on Velocity where the project car rolls in, gets taken apart and then "sent off to blasting". After the commercial, the car comes back completely stripped of paint and rust. Sometimes the body is in pretty good shape, but usually the blasting exposes all of the history: old dents which were "cave and paved", rust that ate through and interesting cheap body shop repairs. Seeing that magic, we figured we wanted to get some of that.

HF Soda Blaster
First, we looked at renting one. These run at $325US a day, and the only outfit around here is an hour across town. So, we could get up at 6:AM, pick it up at 7:AM, be home by 8:AM and then blast until 3:30 when we tear the machine down, pack it up and haul back over to the rental shop which closes promptly at 5:PM. Arriving after 5 means you pay an additional day. So for 7.5 hours, the rental runs at around $46.50 an hour, and that assumes you don't stop for lunch. AND, you need to buy your own soda (at $40US per 50# bag). Blasting an entire car would probably take 3 bags, so at this point, one fun day of soda blasting (plus 4 hours of combined travel time) is just under $450US.

When we bought the power washer, it was virtually the same thing as what we would have rented. Clearly, that was a good move. The soda blaster, however, is a little different. The fancy rental was almost 3 times what a Harbor Freight blaster cost ($135US), so we bought one, with a dead-man valve and some extra nozzles. And a 50# bag of large soda.

The nozzle on our blaster is really small, and while it does effectively remove paint or grime from metal, it is much slower than I expected. In doing research, I've learned that these are much slower than sand-blasting, and that's by design: the soda is much less harsh both on the environment and on the target material. We have decided that the soda blaster is probably best suited for sensitive areas where you can't get after the paint with a grinder. We may circle-back and try the power washer too, to see if we get better results in shorter time with that. One last concern is the need to properly treat the metal which was stripped by the soda. The soda changes the surface pH, which helps prevent rust, but also gets in the way of paint or primer adhering to it. There are a few different ways to solve for this, but first pressure wash the soda-blasted areas to get all of the residue off. Then, it is recommended to use something like HoldTight 102 to address the pH shift.

Capacity Reached
I've mentioned our limited space, and while it's a "first-world problem", it's still a problem. We are now leveraging a small garden shed for storing thing, like the power washer and the soda blaster. I think the acquisition of any new large tools will need to wait at least until we are down to one car in the garage. We may need to consider a larger shop somehow.

That's it for this week. Thanks as always for following along. I think I'll have made sufficient traction on one or more of the projects to be able to get back to posting on them.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

One of the Many Joys of Home Ownership

Taking a short and unexpected break from fixing cars, today's post is a distraction. Sorry I missed a post last week. I spent the week flat on my back fighting off one of the worst colds I've ever suffered. The story below didn't contribute to either contracting nor prolonging that cold.

If you were to break down the core requirements for a dwelling, and then prioritize them, what order would they fall into? I'd start with shelter from rain and wind: roof and walls. After that, one could argue that everything else is nice-to-have, especially in more rustic parts of the world. In the non-rural areas of the States (like most countries), things like running water and some form of temperature control are assumed. Hot water even. How about a not-dirt floor? Sure, that sounds modern.

On top of these basics, lots of folks are trying to layer in "smart" technologies so they can turn on lights or set the thermostat from their phone when they aren't home. Sounds cool, but after the whizz-bang wears off, do people actually use that stuff? I don't know. I'm pretty sure the excitement wears off in a few weeks and pretty soon you've forgotten the password.

Heat Wave without Water
Anyway, when one of these basic systems fail, you realize just how precarious and fragile your security bubble is. Last Summer, we awoke to a failed water heater. It failed in glorious fashion, leaking water all over the garage floor, trashing cardboard boxes, carpet and anything non-metal as it went. It did create an opportunity to clean the garage, of course. And we took it. More importantly, it reminded us of the fragility I mentioned. Since it was July, and one of the hottest stretches of the Summer, lacking a shower had an extra burden to it. Additionally, I couldn't figure out how to fix any of the plumbing so that there was water pressure  even just cold so we were without water for a few days. Again, it was Summer, and we had kids enjoying Summer break, so there were many trips to the corner store to bridge the gap. I installed a new water heater, and we were back to normal in a few days. Looking back through my posts, it was such a non-event, it didn't make it into even an opening or closing comment, much less garner an entire posting.

6 Inches
This brings us to our latest reminder of our fragility. It was the end of the calendar year, and my extended family had retreated to the mountains. T had gone out of town and C had to work, so we had a couple of friends minding the house (more specifically, minding the cat who was really minding the house). C had a few hours on Friday before he had to work, so he stopped over to grind some paint off the rear driver quarter panel. As I mentioned earlier (See: Z - Work that Body), we had moved the ZX project into the garage. C, expressing concern over getting dust everywhere, pushed the ZX into the driveway to grind the paint. When he was finished and had to get off to work, he tried to push the ZX back into the garage. With the slight uphill into the garage, though, he couldn't. So, he fired up the engine to move it in ... but accidentally put it in a little too far... pushing the big red rolling tool cabinet into the water heater... which pushed the water heater into the pipes behind it. It moved about 6 inches. Those 6 inches started an avalanche of trouble.

Above the water heater, the feed line burst, sending a thin stream of water over the top of the water heater and on top of the rolling tool cabinet. At the bottom of the water heater, the gas line split, venting natural gas into the garage. The couple minding the cat turned off valves and called the gas company, but before long the fire trucks arrived, cherries flashing. Fire fighters kicked everyone out of the house. The gas company closed and locked the meter. The cat-minders were let back into the house after the fumes cleared, but by then it was after 6. On Friday, December 29th and freezing temperatures were forecast. With no water. And no heat. And no one available to fix anything until the following Tuesday... if you're lucky.

Cold Snap without Water... or Gas
Fortunately, one of our cat-minders is a handyman. He was able to re-establish our cold water (so the restrooms were functioning) and repair the gas lines. With a few space heaters and a portable Coleman stove they were able to mind the cat until we got home. You see, the gas company won't turn the gas on until someone licensed performs a leak-down test on the repair, then they will inspect it. Only after that will they turn the gas back on. I understand their conservative approach, but when the temps are below freezing, the process could really use a fast lane.

Boo and I got home on Jan1, and were met by the cat-minding couple. We surveyed the damage, expressed our appreciation for keeping both the cat and the house safe... and for helping C through a rough time. Then, we started reaching out to a contractor we know to get everything back to normal again. He, like so many folks immediately after NewYears were groggily getting back to work. He was available to connect with us on Wednesday. He surveyed the work done by the handyman, thought it looked pretty good and started calling for the gas company to come take a look.

We learned that indeed the gas company won't turn on your gas until a leak down test is performed, but that was not even the half of it. Before the gas company will talk to you, you need the gas lines inspected by the city. The city won't inspect non-permitted work (even if, or maybe especially if, it's done by a home owner). So, step one: get $167 down to city hall and get a work permit. Then, schedule an inspection. We were fortunate and we got inspected on Wednesday evening. While waiting, we ran the leak-down test and pressure-tested the hot water heater (both passed). The inspector was one of those who felt the need to find things wrong, and he cited a bunch of things to be changed even though the repairs simply exchanged broken pipes with a not-broken pipes. So, Thursday was spent making all kinds of additional changes involving 2x4's so the inspector could return Friday morning, which he did. He approved the work, and switched our "red tag" on the meter to green (meaning the gas company was allowed to turn the gas back on, pending their inspection). Then, the contractor was allowed to hook up the water heater and try to get NW Natural to turn us back on. The NW Natural inspector arrived shortly before 5 on Friday, approved all of the work, making comments about the age and condition of things, and then turned everything back on. Unlike the city inspector, there is no requirement for us to do anything the gas company guy said, so we probably won't. As it stood at this point, those 6 inches cost us about $1000US with about half of it because of things the city inspector added. At least we didn't need to replace the water heater.

By Friday night, things were back to normal. T had returned from out of town and grabbed a shower. We had the heat cranking to raise the base temperatures of the no-space-heater spaces, and our little bubble was starting to reform. As we sat down to dinner, we realized that we hadn't had the TV on for almost the entire stretch we didn't have heat or hot water. It seemed as though our having to glamp in our house shifted us to a different mindset. We had access to other modern amenities, like the internet and cable television; we just didn't use them. Instead, we sat in the hot tub and talked, or focused on basics like getting clean with an electric kettle and a dishpan. As the days of suffering fade into the past, it was just as interesting to see our old use patterns return as if they had never left. It does make me wonder how much of our daily behaviors really stem from independent thought versus rote actions we've honed over time. Perhaps, if the environment changes enough, the rote behaviors don't come into play.

Well, that's all I have this week. We are back to normal. The garage was an absolute mess afterwards, so I spent the following weekend cleaning things up. The progress on the list of car projects has ground to a halt, pending the no-gas and clean-up, so there may be a short pause in postings while I get some blog-worthy things done. The missing post from last week was purely sickness related, so there could be more ahead. Sorry.

Thanks, as always, for following along. More soon-