Tuesday, May 23, 2006

House Industries

Not often that Hooptyrides posts about new blogs, but there is only one House Industries. You can spend hours and hours looking for cheap fonts, cheaper fonts and free fonts and you will find precisely what you deserve. Little League baseball jerseys deserve better. House owns cool. Not the cool of the 'lad magazines' but the cool that comes from diving for pennies in a 70's swimming pool, of hot rods, skateboards, thrift store records, punk rock, boomboxes, schlock science fiction and custom vans. If House had a garage band, it would be named Tequila Harvest Gold.

Wanna see real live magic? Click here and select Ed Benguiat Fonts, Ed Interlock. Type a long word. Now, change a few letters and reset. Repeat 20 times. Read about ligatures and then complain about how hard you work. House does the heavy lifting so the rest of us look cool.

Quartersawn Oak Lathes in Hooptyrides Inc. Basement

Before - 40 Years of Unmentionable Grime

Eventually Hooptyrides, Inc. will reach the density of Hooptyrides, Orig. In the meantime, I am having a fantastic time of clear worksurfaces and an overabundance of storage. It is an odd dichotomy for Hooptyrides as the blank shelves look ridiculous when they are Ikea empty. It's like a Marie Calendars restaurant with half filled shelves of dubious artifacts like Clabber Girl Baking Powder cans, unused Tibet Almond Stick and Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

After - Newspapers Practically Read Themselves

Admittedly, the loss of a lathe can hardly be marked as progress but it went with the original owner and there was nothing I could do about that. As to be expected, the machine shop has gone through the Buck-Ninety-Eight remodel that Hooptyrides is known for. The floor was scrubbed, patched, primed and painted with epoxy floor paint. The desk was found at a garage sale and was loose to the point of spontaneous disassembly. After the Hooptyrides 4-Step-Process for wood renewal, the desk was brought to the basement in several pieces then glued and clamped back together. Now that it is whole, it will not be leaving the basement unless it goes in splinters. The chair is from the trash. The chocolate studs and red shelves were painted with cans of leftover paint from the leftover paint shelf. The tongue and groove knotty pine was purchased from a used building supply yard for 40 cents a linear foot . The shelves were found at a garage sale and cut to fit. The shelf supports are made from a cut up window screen frame. Existing lighting was not functional so ballasts and bulbs were replaced all around.

Eventually, a lathe will find me and I will be flinging machine oil without reservation. In the meantime, I will be reading newspapers at my newly refurbulated desk.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sweet Terror

To select the most obviously dangerous race car in race car history would seem to be the sort of conversation that would cause an argument. No digger, turbine or jet engine flying missle of death can compare with the Smokey Yunick 'Sidecar'. Just keep this photo in your wallet and all bar room arguments will grind to a halt. Plus, if the discussion turns to stupidest bumper in the history of automobile racing, you just won another beer.

Four cylinder, dual overhead cam, hemispherical head what-have-you but the powerplant doesn't really matter. This scares me to just look at it. This is like the Exorcist of race cars.

Thanks to Glenn for the fantastic link.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Road to Maker Faire

The Catastrophe

There are four types of people in the world:
- Those that will never remove an exhaust manifold bolt AKA the Lucky Few

- Those that have broken an exhaust manifold bolt

- Those that will break an exhaust manifold bolt

- Those that lie about whether or not they have broken an exhaust manifold bolt
I have broken and will continue to break exhaust manifold bolts for the remainder of my life. The only other choice is to stop working on cars. But despite application of heat, days of penetrating oil, engines at operating temperature, makeshift heatsinks and all the Vise Grips in the world, sometimes it is just time for the bolt to break.

When I am lucky and righteous, I remove all exhaust manifold bolts without issue or concern. When I am unlucky and on the crooked path, I break one. If I am on my way to Maker Faire in 2 days, I break 2 bolts.
Two days before leaving for Maker Faire

Proper and Improper Ways to Remove Broken Exhaust Manifold Bolts

Option 1: Remove the hood, carb, distributor, intake manifold, power steering pump, exhaust manifold, a scary looking valvetrain assembly, pushrods and then the entire cast iron head. Once, the head is on the bench, remove the broken bolt with an EZ Out. The EZ Out works great IF you have straight access to the broken bolt.

Option 2: Pull the engine. I almost did this. Then I would have had straight ahead access to the bolts and, ostensibly, could have removed the broken bolts.

Option 3: Drill out the old broken bolt. Then, instead of the bolt threading into the head, pass a new bolt clean through and cap it with a nut and lock washer.

Option 1 and option 2 are scary as who knows what other problems you are going to come across when you are up to your ears in engine disassembly and removal. Option 3 is far from ideal as who knows if it will work. If it doesn't, you just destroyed the head. And I could find no Google evidence of anybody ever trying.

100 People will tell you this won't work,
but I have 750 exhaust leak-free miles under my belt that suggest otherwise

I chose option 3. Just drill out the old bolt - but how with no access for a drill? Bolts are hard! And the broken stub presents a less than ideal surface to be drilling.

I tried my right angle drill, a regular drill with a right angle attachment, a cordless drill with an offset adapter and a Dremel with a flex shaft. None of those worked as there was either not adequate space or not enough leverage to drill out the old bolt. Mind you, this is all happening on Wednesday and I have to leave for Maker Faire (360 miles north) on Friday morning.

In dire project times, I have been known to wander around the hardware store just looking for an answer. Generally, this is the 9th ring of desperation and you are ready to empty your bank accounts and pawn your watch if you can just get out from under the project with all 10 fingers and a fading sense of humor.

The Dremel Right Angle adapter! I didn't even know there was such a thing! Besides having no room for tools, there was no room for the drill bit. Dremel resolved this issue as you could use a comparatively stubby tungsten carbide bit to 'carve' out the old bolt. This filthy and imperfect procedure is not for the faint of heart as it is time consuming, generates considerable glove piercing metal filings and has a very high risk of ruining the head on your car.
Tuesday Night, I think. With WSJ as date reference.

But it worked. And by the second hole, I had refined my technique such that most of the threads were still intact and I was able to clean up the threaded hole with the appropriate tap. Even though the new bolt was pretty tight, I still added a lock nut and washer to the backside. This novel and ridiculous solution still required an awful lot of work but not as much as pulling the engine. I ended up dropping the exhaust, draining the power steering system, dropping the power steering box (HEAVY for one person), replacing a leaking power steering hose, disconnecting the AC hoses, removing a valve cover and who can even remember what else.

The Road Trip

I haven't been bored since July 4th, 1976. For the bicentennial, one of the TV networks presented 5 back-to-back parades from across the USA and I hunkered down for the long haul. It was difficult to reconcile my love for parades with the crippling boredom of five awful parades. I wouldn't be surprised if the BBC played the same parades so the Brits could smuggly declare that we got what we deserved. I was aghast by the flatbed trailers draped with bunting in the Detroit Spirit of 76 parade hosted by Loretta Swit. That was the last time I remember being bored.

No Ipod, no stereo, no air conditioning and not a smidge of boredom. Who could want for stimuli when you have time to consider custom van themes, firecracker packaging, modern farm equipment, blossoming trees, tremendously smelly stock yards, crackpot inventions, net generational impact of Mad Magazine vs. Playboy, LED voltage requirements, future Make articles, the Uniball Deluxe Micro, the merits of a brass drift, LiteBrite, telephone ringers, John Steinbeck, laminating machines and fiberglass lamp shades. Sweet luscious, generous hours spent without a paint brush in your hand. Just when you think you could possibly run out of things to think about, you can wonder about how they bronzed baby shoes. And then Harris Ranch appears on the horizon and you realize it is time for a restorative breakfast and bloody mary at the bar. The uneventful road trip is an incredibly rich gift to a busy person. The blank fields of the Central Valley are a stark contrast and unambiguous pleasure in comparison to the more subtle joys of using tweezers to pick metal filings from your hands.
Though not classically scenic, a drive through the California Central Valley is far from boring.

Road trips in old cars are different. There is never a complete relaxation. Automobile journeys used to be harrowing and they still can be when you are driving a 40 year old car. I think of cars from the '60s as being comparatively modern, but there is no denying the decay of materials over time. Old cars get old. After driving for about an hour, you can feign relaxation and even dramatically stretch your arm across the generous front bench seat but you still can't let down your guard.

Every scent, noise, shimmey, knock, ping or tug must be carefully examined and evaluated as most catastrophic automobile failures are prefaced with a scent, noise, shimmey, knock, ping or tug. The attention that an old car requires becomes a sixth sense as you are able to track issues faster than you can think. It means there are a lot of false alarms. When you hear a crow or smell carne asada tacos, before you are even able process what you are smelling or hearing, you leap to immediate terror mode.

'What's that! What's that smell!? Tacos! Is that my car? Are tacos a car smell?! Do cars make a cawww like a crow before the trans goes up in smoke?!'

Luckily, car failures don't smell like fresh cut grass, diesel smoke, the ocean or any of the myriad of other smells found on the road or you'd never get anywhere. Unless somebody else had Mickey Mouse'd an exhaust bolt repair a day before and then drove 360 miles, I would bet nobody was more grateful for arriving at the Maker Faire than myself.

The Maker Faire

Toast and Jillian made that World's Biggest Ipod sign for me

I brought the World's Biggest Ipod, the 80's boombox with tv screen, the Ford Country Squire, the close-up photography rig, the battery powered red velvet pagoda lanterns and more tin snips than you would think one person could own.

One of the four sheet metal classes I taught

When I was in high school, I found a world of modern day mad scientists in the pages of Byte magazine. Technology was discussed conversationally with humor and personal anecdotes. These guys were up to their hip waders in machine code and I was merely learning shape tables in Applesoft BASIC but I felt like we were all in it together. We were poking at the edges of what was possible.

In the early 1980's, lightening hit a power pole near Byte columnist Steve Ciarcia's house and knocked out a few of his computers. He opened a number of commercial surge protectors and found they lacked adequate protection, so he detailed building his own from a Radio Shack power strip and adding a few metal oxide varistors. The Circuit Cellar surge protector was the first thing I built other than an 8 foot long skateboard.

I opened something and changed it.

I built something that was better than what was commercially available.

I understood the technology behind it.

I knew what I had as it was not a mysterious black box.

If it was good enough for Steve Ciarcia, it was good enough for me.

It had a profound effect on me.

Since I was in my booth for the duration, I can't really tell you about the Maker Faire as others can report it. I saw the Maker Faire as it came to me. I asked lots of people what they thought of the whole shebang and everybody loved it. Organizational snafus were sometimes mentioned, but folks were mighty impressed. I asked if they were subscribers to Make and lots of folks had not heard about Make before the Faire was in the local newspaper. People said, 'It is inspiring my kids.'

"Make whatever!" and they did

I am not an expert in sheet metal. I am not an expert in anything. But it doesn't keep me from doing it anyway. When you have a broad base of mediocre skills, you twist and fit your projects to your materials and abilities. I taught four sheet metal classes and in each class there was somebody that knew at least as much as I did. The sterling guys at Metal Supermarkets donated a bunch of great metal stock and I brought some old tin signs and flattened coffee cans.

Another project

A few years ago, I went to see an old world craftsman in his sheet metal shop. He had learned metalworking in some eastern block country and was unbelievably skilled. Extreme talent from decades of hammering metal but he was an absolute jerk. As he was working on my project, I would ask him why this and how that. He wouldn't tell me anything except for how skilled he was and how young people don't care.

And another.

If you wait for the experts to stop and explain, you might be waiting a long time. Learn a little from everybody and show them the little bit that you know.

Toast and Jillian watched their robot so closely
that I think they were expecting it to talk.

Despite not getting out, I met some super great people. I was lucky to have the best neighbors at the Faire - Toast and Jillian of Because We Can. What would you think of a couple that saved up their pennies and bought a CNC routing robot that cuts 4x8 sheets of plywood at a rate of 600 inches per minute? Yeah. Me too.

Good clean fun from Jillian and Toast. Those jokers.

Maker's Bill of Rights for Pragmatists

I wrote an article for Make Issue 4 called the Maker's Bill of Rights. Every once in a while, somebody suggests making it actionable by building a framework that could be applied to products unilaterally. Maker Approved! A stamp of approval like the UL sticker. It's a good idea - especially if it already existed!

While talking to Dale Dougherty about a pragmatic approach to the Bill of Rights, I floated the idea of a product wiki. It would start with manufacturer provided information and then grow with individual experiences and the fruits of reverse engineering. Pin-outs and schematics, hacks and cracks. That would be superb! But, as Dale pointed out, that is a life's work.

Turns out somebody built already built it and the product wiki is waiting to be populated. And it is already loaded with current and discontinued hardware. All the metadata has been scrubbed and rationalized. And manufacturer's specs are already loaded. All thanks to a little company called Amazon. I already started adding some detail to the wiki devoted to hacker's favorite cheap LCD panel - the PS One LCD Screen.

Wired News - Making a Revolution
Newsweek Online - The Festival for Alpha-Geeks and Inventors