RIP, Mr. Reubens. I leave you with the best all-time cover of the Pee-Wee Herman theme, by the Scofflaws:
I wrote on Friday about the brake part I’d gotten from the Scout Connection last week, and called them today to see about getting a replacement. I’d emailed them a picture of the fitting I had ahead of time, pointing out that the banjo on the end of min was 24 pitch threads while the one he sent wasn’t a banjo and was 20 pitch. Dave helpfully told me to look at my fitting again, clamp it in a vise, and carefully unscrew the banjo fitting off the hose portion with a 6-point socket; that would be the part that screwed on to the new brake hose and completed the unit. I apologized profusely for being so stupid, and when the 5 o’clock bell rang, I went outside and got to work taking it apart. With a cheater bar helping, it popped off the hose. I pulled the old metal brake line off the master cylinder and bent up a new one, then pulled the wheel off and reattached the whole thing. Tomorrow if I get some time I’m going to go get some more brake fluid, bleed the lines over again, and see if I can get the brakes to function correctly once and for all.
I’m very much enjoying a modern computer running modern software which allows me to take advantage of all of the new bells and whistles. Regular readers will recall that I’m a master of nursing out-of-date equipment along way past its expiration date. What I’ve got now is a laptop with a day’s worth of solid battery life that will recognize my Apple Watch when I’m wearing it, and wake itself up without me needing to log in. For that matter, when I don’t have the watch, I’ve now got fingerprint unlock—something I’ve had on my work machines for several years but never at home. My AirPods are smart enough to know when I’m close to it, and if I start watching a video or sitting on a call, it’ll ask me politely if I want to connect them instead of just taking over. Finally, something I haven’t messed with too much is Sidecar, where I can hook my iPad up to the laptop and use it as a second monitor. I haven’t really been getting my money’s worth out of the iPad, but that’s something I need to double down on, because it is a super-useful tool for illustration.
Sunday broke cool and sunny, and Jen was headed down to her father’s place for the day, so I thought I’d take advantage of the opportunity and try out a welding project to get my feet wet. Revisiting the truck, there’s a section on the base of the back step that’s rusted through from where water got into the truck and was trapped between the steel and the wood platform put in decades ago. It’s not a terrible amount, but just enough that I wanted to cut it out and weld fresh steel in place.
Saturday evening, I hit the Harbor Freight for some new sheetmetal tools, including a pneumatic metal nibbler, a third angle grinder, a smaller 3″ cutter, and a bunch of consumables. The angle grinder was on deep discount and it’s always good to have several of these so I’m not constantly swapping one disc for another. Now I’ve got a dedicated wire, cutter, and grinding wheel on standby.
At the truck, I jacked it up and took off the rear wheel for better access. I found it was easy to cut three sides of the rectangle but I had to use a grinder to shape the far side straight, as there was no easy way to get the cutoff wheel in there. I also realized the corded 3″ cutter isn’t very good for anything: the body of the tool is so big and bulky it doesn’t allow for any access to small or hard-to-reach locations, so I’m going to return that and buy a 3″ pneumatic extended cutter instead.
Then I used the nibbler to cut down some 20 gauge steel, realized it wasn’t the same thickness as the body on the truck, so I used a cutoff wheel to form a piece of 16 gauge that worked much better. I bought a simple Harbor Freight metal brake from the estate sale a few months ago but I realize I still need three things that it didn’t come with to make it work: a 3″ by 14″ piece of flat bar for the brake fence and a set of clamps for fastening the subject metal in place. I’ll have to buy the bar somewhere and use C-clamps when it’s time to really start bending metal. So instead I went with the tried and true method of clamping the metal tightly in a bench vise and pounding the shit out of it with a hammer.
Then it was a lot of fitting and grinding and fitting until I had the metal in the right size and shape, with a 90˚ bend at the bottom to match up with the underside of the body. I dialed the Eastwood welder in for 16 gauge steel and tacked a few sections in. Once I had it in place, I went around and filled in the gaps, then ground everything flat and smoothed it out with a flap wheel.
When that was done everything got coated with Eastwood Rust Encapsulator for insurance. Note the dust from grinding other surfaces on the interior of the truck; there was about a pound of metal dust to vacuum out when I was done.
I also put a copper backer on the holes the PO drilled in the floor, filled them in, and ground them down. Nice to have those closed up—there are a ton of small holes on the rear doors from the half-assed upholstery install that need the same treatment.
The other side didn’t look as bad as the driver’s, but when I started doing some exploratory cuts I realized it’s in about the same shape. Some more careful cutting and hammering and shaping of some flat steel produced a good patch, which I tacked in place. It’s going to take more work on this side, as the vertical part of the step folds under the floorpan, so I’ll cut and fit another section of steel and weld that flat on the floor. But overall I’m really really happy with the results so far.
I really like this welder and I’ve found it very easy to use now that I’ve dialed it in properly. I’m feeling much better about tackling the cowl vent project—that’s going to be a week or more of cutting and welding and shaping; far beyond this in terms of complexity. But at least I know I can melt metal together after I’ve cut it apart.
We drove over to the other side of Baltimore to see a double-feature of Legally Blonde and Barbie last night at the only remaining drive-in theater in the area. Apart from watching most of the first movie through windshield wipers as a giant thunderstorm swept through the area.
Barbie was surprising and bright and thoughtful and everything you don’t expect it to be; we all enjoyed it immensely. I hope it wins awards for best original screenplay and acting—for the leads and supporting roles alike.
I get infrequent updates from the Maryland 529 Plan about Finn’s college fund, usually in the form of an email that contains a link to a “secure” PDF I have to download to read. I’m still puzzling over this farkakte security strategy; the school district does the same thing. It’s sort of like hitching a team of oxen up to your car to drive out to the store. Anyway, there has been a bunch of controversy over the earnings rate of Prepaid Trust accounts, which is what we set up for Finn. Somehow the administration of the accounts got all fucked up and they’re in the middle of sorting that mess out, and have predictably been doing an abysmal job of communicating about it, going so far as to re-hiring the guy who oversaw the train wreck to continue overseeing it. The message I got yesterday from the state treasurer was attached to a 40-page document outlining the beginnings of the program, a timeline of issues, decisions, and events that led up to the current situation, and a not-so-intuitive explanation of what they’re doing moving forward. I’m still processing all the information to try and make an informed decision as to what we’ll do with Finn’s account (keep it in the Prepaid plan, or roll it over into a standard 529 plan), and I requested a manual calculation of our current balance with interest based on this new number.
I’m giving my new MacBook Air a test spin now that I’ve got the basics up and running, and so far I like it. It’s light, it’s fast, the keyboard is much improved over the old butterfly design, and I love having Touch ID on the keyboard. It took a little time to integrate into my Apple ecosystem, as initially my passwords didn’t sync properly as they should have. The solution was to log out of iCloud on my iPad and the Air, and then log back in to each one, which solved the problem. I’ve got a copy of the Microsoft suite installed, Dropbox is humming away syncing my files, and I just have to sort out one email address to get the Adobe suite up and running. Beyond that everything else is working as advertised, which is great. It’s amazing to have more than an hour of battery time again; I’m going to have to buy a spare USB-C to Magsafe 3 connector to have a spare on hand.
Meanwhile I bought and installed a tiny wireless repeater and installed it in the den, where it should be widening the range of our wifi out to the driveway and beyond. One of the most annoying things about setting off on a trip in the car has been having to drive out the driveway and down the street to pull over and then get directions from Google; the signal out there was just strong enough to stay connected but weak enough that it never loaded. It took a couple of minutes to set up but now that it’s in there, there’s much better coverage on that side of the house, as well as upstairs.
I drove up to Hunt Valley on Saturday morning with a box containing my Powerbook 160, tools, and new parts. I bought all the components needed to repair the LCD screen and get it back up and running, and talked to the guy who handles Mac repairs for the Computer Museum housed in the building I used to work in. Walking in the door, everything looked the same up until I got to the big open area in back which used to be filled with cube squares from one side to the other. Now, the front half is an extremely impressive museum filled with computers of all shapes and sizes, and the middle section was lined with worktables covered in electronic gear of all shapes and sizes, and men milling around with tools and puzzled expressions.
Where my old cube had been now stands a display wall with the entire line of colored iMacs, under which a huge assortment of other models sat: a 20th Anniversary Mac, lampshades, portables, and original 128k Macs. Funny to think that back then I was the only guy in the building who insisted on using a Mac to build websites, surrounded by men selling PCs over the phone.
In front of that display sat an original Lisa, and next to that is an original Apple I, hardwired by Woz and probably worth more than my house. The rest of the museum is amazing, with everything from closet-sized UNIVAC units to tiny calculators and everything in between. I ran into my old boss Bob, who runs the place, and we caught up briefly.
Then I found the fellow I’d talked to and he showed me how to replace the bad capacitors on the LCD board, deftly removing them with a precision soldering iron and replacing them just as quickly. He had to repair one contact pad with a jumper, but within about a half an hour he’d put all of the new components in and handed me back the board. I found an empty table and reassembled the unit, then plugged it in to hear the happy Mac startup chime. After a moment I saw the screen come up but then saw that the backlight looks like it’s faulty, as I could see the display when I adjusted the contrast but it wasn’t as bright as it should have been.
So I’ll have to do some research on what could cause that problem, and chase down a fix. Then the next step will be to swap out the ancient spinning hard drive with a solid state CompactFlash card, and possibly a hand-wired battery. Next time they have a workshop, I’m going to bring my Powerbook 1400 up to see what he thinks about the display on that one.
I had to make some space in the garage on Sunday after we got back, and took the opportunity to break out the wire wheel and clean off both seat bases.
After a coat of Rust Encapsulator I brushed on some black chassis coating and let them cure.
Monday we dropped the Scout off at a mechanic for them to replace the manifold and gasket.
Out in the garage I looked over the two seat bases and test fit them in the truck. The rear base will need some bracing but it’s definitely usable. Then, looking for someplace to store parts, I hauled the rear bench out and put it in the truck. It’s really not in bad shape at all, and it looks right at home in there.
The new door cards, behind all of the grease and rust, were originally the same gray as the ones in the truck. I test fit the drivers side to test a hunch, and I was right: there are two holes present to mount an armrest behind the door handle which line up with the door cards. So I’ll have to keep an eye out for those in the future.
I started cataloging parts and identifying what they are. Two of the door assemblies are clearly from a later truck, and they’re both for the right side, so I’ll see if I can resell them at some point. The rear door hinges are in good shape, and I started soaking them in PBblaster to remove various bolts from the assemblies. The glass went up into the attic. I’ve got to pick up a third bin for spare parts and keep working on storage solutions. One thing for sure is that the two PT cruiser seats left over from the Scout are going to the dump instead of taking up space.
Thursday after work I went right outside and decided it was time to lose the platform and old seats. I don’t have a ton of free space in the garage, and what better location to put it all than in the truck. Plus, I wanted to see what the floor looked like underneath.
First the seats came out; they were held in by eight bolts each, and the four rear inboard bolts on both seats were inaccessible underneath, so I had to use the grinder to cut them off. With those gone it took a little while to free up the platform and pull that out; underneath I found decades of dirt, one mouse nest, and some garbage.
After donning a mask and cleaning all that out I disassembled the rear platform base and the extender on the back step.
The floors are all in fantastic shape. The worst part is on the driver’s rear step by the door: water was probably getting in through the door seal and pooling between the wood and the metal. I should be able to cut that part out and weld new metal in. Under the driver’s seat there’s mainly surface rust which can be ground out pretty easily, and a few other small areas that can be cleaned up.
And when those seats are gone, I’ve got to figure out how to get a 4×8′ sheet of 18 gauge steel home from the supplier in Elkridge next week. I purchased it over the phone Thursday afternoon for pickup, and hopefully I’ll have the Scout back by the end of the week. With that and a $30 pneumatic metal nibbler I should be able to start welding things back together on the truck.
Vulture reminds us the Venture Brothers movie will be released in
a month tomorrow, which is something I will be looking forward to intently. They ranked the 15 best episodes, and while I agree with some of their picks there are a bunch that should have ranked higher and others that aren’t represented at all. I realize they were trying to spread the list out among the seasons, but the first and second seasons are so strong, it’s hard to choose among them. That being said, Showdown at Cremation Creek (Pt. II) is strangely missing, and Escape to the House of Mummies should be in there just for the addition of Edgar Allen Poe. I’m glad 20 Years to Midnight is included. IGNORE ME!