I got a big box from IH Parts America this week with two key items: a new windshield gasket and a turn signal switch assembly. I’ll have to drag one of the spare windshield frames into the basement and practice putting it in with the lesser of the three spare windshields I’ve got. It’s definitely a warm weather project but I’m excited to finally upgrade from my rock-tumbled ghetto glass.

At first glance the turn signal part is exactly the same as the one in my spare steering column, so I got back to rebuilding the spare column.

When last we left my steering wheel teardown, I’d been able to get the steering wheel off, then pull the jam nut (M14/1.5) off the spindle and expose the plate that covers up the guts of the column.

In order to get this plate out, you have to use another tool to depress it and expose a lock ring around the column, which took me several minutes with a pair of screwdrivers to get off.

With that plate out of the way, the next step is to take the turn signal disc out (the blue cylinder at the top). Jimmy it out with a screwdriver (GENTLY) and it should pop out.

And this is what I was faced with (on the spare column). I was hoping this one would be intact because I would be able to swap it into the column on Peer Pressure, but sadly one of the horns on the bottom half of the assembly broke off along with a twisted metal contact that mounted to something somewhere. That muddy, rusty mess at the 5’oclock position is all that remains of the metal contacts that help the switching mechanism sit in place. The mechanism itself was twisted into pieces and had fallen down underneath the main assembly.

I had to order an entirely new assembly and drop it into place—I went with a Light Line vendor, but the part is available on RockAuto for less: GM 1997985, which is the turn signal cam assembly for Scouts from mid 1977 and above (This spare column came from the 1978 I parted out in Flintstone).

The new part popped right onto place; you feed the wires back down through the column the same way they came out. The only thing I had to do was use an X-Acto blade to trim some extra plastic away from the divot where the turn lever bolts into place.

Now, the tricky part. The blue ring goes back in place, and what I found was that I had to align the divot on the top half with the one unsplined section of the shaft. You’ll notice on the retaining ring that there’s one tooth missing, so it only goes on the shaft one way. When it’s lined up properly the spring cup on the blue ring goes on just as it came out in my picture.

Then I use my ghetto depressing tool to push the retaining ring down in order to put the snap ring in place. This is where I’m stopping right now, as I’d like to use the new part in Peer Pressure, which means I have to pull it back out of this spare column and button everything up. And I’m not going to tear the column in my working truck until the temperature gets back up over 60˚, so I’m stalled for the time being.

Meanwhile, Mike at ScoutCo posted a handy little video on Instagram about how to pull the old lock out of a traveltop latch:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Scoutco Products (@scoutcollc)

Which is great, because I didn’t know about the little retaining clip until I watched this. I’ve got my spare latch on the workbench soaking in PBblaster, and I’m waiting to go down and follow his directions. It would be cool to have a locking latch on my Scout for the first time ever…

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: January 30, 2022 | Filed under Purchasing, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on New Parts

So 12+ years after we first broke ground on the new bathroom, and 2 years after the actual cabinetry and countertops went in, we’ve got a mirror on the wall. The story of how it finally got here is long and winding, and there have been many detours and delays along the way, but it’s up and permanently affixed to the wall.

To fit the odd dimensions of our room, I had to custom order the mirror. We didn’t want to just stick a mirror on the wall, so I built a frame to fit the mirror—I actually built two frames, the first using a router, back in early December. The cuts on that didn’t come out clean enough, so then I cut the second one the way I should have from the start, with the table saw. There was some experimentation with how it would be joined securely (the mirror itself is something like 40 lbs.) but once I had that figured out it went together quickly. I then assembled the whole thing and hung it on the wall and then realized that we could see unpainted wood reflected in the mirror because I hadn’t painted the backside of the channel the mirror sat in.

So I took it apart, sprayed the inside, reassembled it, and hung it back on the wall. Screwed it to the wall, actually; I don’t trust simple hangers to hold it so I put six exterior screws through the wood into the 1/2″ sheathing behind the drywall and covered the holes with wood putty. The whole thing got taped off, sanded, and repainted. That fucker ain’t going anywhere.

Then I touched up the paint around the whole thing, hung a towel rack to the left, and glued and screwed both thresholds down for good. It’s really coming together! Now we need to settle on some lights for over the mirror.

Date posted: January 29, 2022 | Filed under bathroom, house | Leave a Comment »

File this under Awesome Shit I Did Not Know Until Today: Blood and Thunder, one of my all-time favorite metal songs, features guest vocals from Neil Fallon of local heroes Clutch. One of my favorite podcasts breaks down the song and some of the things that make it so good.

Working on the bus this summer I binged about thirty episodes of Strong Songs; even if you’re not a musician there’s a ton of great stuff to learn about great music.

Date posted: January 27, 2022 | Filed under entertainment, music | Leave a Comment »

Hank Hill, everlasting.

Date posted: January 27, 2022 | Filed under entertainment, humor | Leave a Comment »

At a party this past Halloween, I was talking with a bunch of people in a circle, and one of the guests pointed out my watch and asked me what kind it was. I told him it was an Ollechs & Wajs, that I’d gotten it at an estate sale (an easier explanation than the reality), that it was vintage from 1970, and at the bottom tier of their catalog. He told me he’d seen it from across the room and was a watch guy himself, and we geeked out over watches for about 10 minutes while his wife knowingly rolled her eyes. He was wearing a huge TAG Heuer tuna can, but mentioned he’d slowly been collecting nice watches as his business became more successful. It was cool to talk with him, and we shook hands and parted ways.

Watches have been in the back of my mind for a while, but I’m very hesitant to buy anything when we have so many other essentials and priorities around the house these days. That’s not to say the manufacturers haven’t been trying. My Instagram feed is sprinkled with watch porn among the Scouts and #vanlife and occasional post from someone I actually know, and I admit I’ve followed some of those links and looked seriously at some of the examples until I saw the price. That’s usually enough to end the investigation in its tracks. Horology is expensive.

One of those Instagram trips led me to Vaer watches and I’ve been looking at them for the last couple of years. I was drawn to their line but never thought about buying one because of cost and size—most of their line are 41mm cases, which is too big for my wrist. And half of their stuff is assembled in Switzerland so it’s $700 beyond my price point. They specialize in modern updates of classic design patterns without being too fussy, gaudy or supersized. Their divers look really good but I’m betting they’d be sized the same as the Timex I tried last year, although it was more about the proportions on that one that soured me.

In 2021 they introduced a throwback Korean War era field watch, smaller in size and taking cues from Bulova and Waltham designs made for the Army. Those watches were used hard, and working survivors are expensive. Usually they’re inoperative and need to be rebuilt. I’ve had an alert set on Watch Patrol for months but never found the right one. I looked over the Vaer watch and considered it carefully, then bookmarked the link and let it go. But I kept on going back to the page to look at it. That’s usually never a good sign. I was strong until I got a huge sale alert from Vaer after New Years, and I figured I’d never get a better chance and ordered one.

Buying watches sight unseen is tricky and they usually are larger than I’d prefer them to be. Overall I really like the size and shape of this case; it seems larger than something advertised as 36mm, but on my wrist it looks to be just the right size.  In comparison with my other watches it’s right between the Hamilton and the LL Bean in scale. The case thickness is perfect—I don’t notice it getting caught on sleeves or bumping into things on my wrist.

The case is shiny, something I’m not as thrilled with—I’d prefer brushed metal to polished, but it doesn’t sour me on the design. The face is where the throwback design really comes in. They mimicked the big fat hand-painted tritium numbers from the 1950’s with a secondary set of hash marks around the outer edge, which I like. The numbers are colored slightly brown, which matches the tan Vaer strap I put on it. The strap looks nice but is twice as thick as it needs to be; wearing it out of the box pinched my radial artery painfully until I worked stiffness out of it like a baseball glove. It has no date feature, setting it apart from the other field watches I own, but I don’t mind that. It’s an extremely quiet movement and keeps excellent time; I’m really happy with it and haven’t taken it off my wrist since it got here. So I think I’m set for field watches.

Meanwhile, the movement in the Ollech & Wajs has gotten bound up, so I’ve got to bring it back in to the watch guy who originally fixed it to have him sort it out for me, and then I have to be more careful about how I wind it.

Date posted: January 26, 2022 | Filed under watches | Leave a Comment »

I haven’t brewed beer in at least two years. I was originally introduced to brewing by Brian, who got me hooked and then moved to the Eastern Shore, but I got a couple of my neighbors interested and we had a good time with it for about ten years. When COVID shut everything down, it became impossible to get a group of guys together for a brew day, which is half the fun of brewing beer.

Then, there’s the other half. Homebrewing was popularized partially for making small batches of powerful beer that isn’t commercially available; the vast majority of recipes available yield beer that’s 6-8% ABV on average, which is higher than I prefer at this point in my life. I’ve tried most of the session recipes (4.5% ABV) from my go-to vendors, but something in the yeast or the brew tends to leave me with a headache before I’ve finished my glass, and that’s not enjoyable. And then I’ve got 5 gallons of it left to finish.

Since December, I’ve scaled back on my intake of beer. At first it was to help my body recover from having a cold (and then COVID). But I’m also less tolerant of alcohol these days. I’ve long been favoring session IPA’s or summer lagers, but I hate waking up with a headache, and it seems like even the lighter beers I prefer have been biting back lately. I also have a kegerator full of single cans of heavier beers that I just don’t want to crack; a double IPA on a Wednesday with an ABV of 9.5 is guaranteed to make Thursday morning feel like hammers are falling on my head.

So I’ve been looking at the brewing equipment stacked in the corner of the basement and thinking more and more about selling it off, given that I haven’t touched it in over two years. I’ve got a kettle, a burner, three kegs, four carboys and a bin full of equipment that’s taking up space, and I think maybe the time has come to move it along to someone who can use it. I think I’d keep the kegerator setup if only to have a secondary fridge for beer, but if the IH fridge comes on line in the spring I may move beer into that and convert the kegerator back into a chest freezer.

* * *

I’m officially registered for the welding class mentioned earlier this month; from the second half of April to the end of May I’ll be running into Baltimore twice weekly to learn welding hands-on. Then I might actually feel like I know what I’m doing.

Date posted: January 25, 2022 | Filed under brewing, general | Leave a Comment »

Finn had the day off on Thursday due to snow that never really collected here. Part of being in the southern section of Baltimore County is that when the northern areas are hit with snow—thirty miles north of here, at the edge of the Pennsylvania border—it means we’re shut down too. It worked out for her, though, because she had a project for science class due Friday that she’d been avoiding for weeks. After some communication with the teacher via email and phone I got a clear idea of what was due (the paper assignment got lost somewhere along the way) and Finn took the day to finish it.

Friday was a half day, so when she got back home we decided we’d get out of the house as a family and hit the thrift stores for a fun, inexpensive afternoon. There are two in our area worth going to, one in Laurel and one in Columbia, run by the same company and generally a few steps above Goodwill in terms of organization and quality. The Men’s section can often be hit or miss in places like this, and yesterday was no exception. I was looking for a couple more pairs of cheap work pants, and though the Laurel store’s racks are 40 feet long and stuffed with merchandise, I couldn’t find anything there worth buying. Finn and Jen made out a little better, and when we’d checked out there we hit the one in Columbia. Here I was more successful and found two pair of work pants, a copy of Gravity on DVD and a copy of Red Dead Redemption all for about $18. RDR is a game I heard my old boss talking about 12 years ago when it came out, and it sounded like a lot of fun then—an open-ended western with a lot of territory to explore. We’ll see how it goes.

While she was in school, I did some long-delayed adulting. First I made an appointment to get my eyes checked for a new prescription. This yearly-exam shit is a racket that’s really beginning to piss me off; I’ve been thinking I should buy a couple pairs of glasses and skip the exam for the same number of years, as my distance prescription hasn’t changed in thirty years. But the next pair of glasses I get will be progressives for reading now that Warby Parker is covered under my insurance plan.

Then I made a dentist appointment. I haven’t had my teeth checked since before the ‘Rona, and it’s long overdue. I’d also like to price out the cost for getting them straightened: both my upper and lower jaw have done some serious remodeling in the last ten years and I’d like to get things back in line. I think we’re nearing the end of Finley’s braces payments, so maybe I could try Invisalign or one of the other services.

Date posted: January 22, 2022 | Filed under finn, general | Leave a Comment »

The problem is that certain kinds of stuff simply attract more stuff. The home is an obvious one: It craves sofas, sweaters, buffet cabinets, chandeliers. Computers are another; they grow USB tendrils.

I saw this being linked to a few days ago and meant to post it, but it was stuck behind WIRED’s paywall: Paul Ford writes about a Grand Unified Theory of Stuff. Having just gone through my computer collection and resisted the urge to buy things to fix them, this hits close to home. Having multiple hobbies does not help.

Date posted: January 22, 2022 | Filed under humor, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Heat has long been one of my favorite movies, for several reasons; I think it may have been the third or fourth DVD I ever bought, back when DVDs were a $40 extravagance. News has hit the wire that Michael Mann is releasing a prequel novel to Heat which will explore the lives of the characters before the movie’s timeline and after (at least, for those who are still alive). I haven’t read much this past year—I still have to get a copy of Project Hail Mary—but this one I will purchase.

Date posted: January 20, 2022 | Filed under books, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I’ve long been a fan of the Onion A/V Club, a website dedicated to pop culture and home to a ton of excellent writers from the early days of the web. Some time ago they got merged into Gawker and when that family of sites imploded they were able to hang on, most likely because of the quality of their work. G/O Media, the new corporate owners of the old Gawker sites, are now basically pushing the longest tenured writers at the A/V Club out in a pretty blatant move to bust up their union and hire cheaper workers in a race to become yet another middling entertainment site. I can only hope they follow the lead of the writers at Defector and build their own thing together.

Date posted: January 19, 2022 | Filed under entertainment, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »