Slowdive, a shoegaze band from Back In The Day, broke up after releasing a clasic album in the mid 90’s and reformed themselves about ten years ago. They’ve just released some singles off a forthcoming album, called Everything Is Alive, and I really dig a couple of them. They’re both similar to and different that what came before—alife has all the sonic chemistry that drew me to the band.
And I really like the groove of a tune called the slab, which sounds nothing like their previous work.
Jen and I were talking about something completely unrelated a couple of days ago and she pointed out the sobering fact that we’ve now been in this house for 20 years. We bought it at the middle point of the housing boom that led to the 2008 collapse, and paid a premium for the location (and, frankly, too much for the house). I have my issues with it—probably more than I’ve mentioned here, but we’ve put a ton of blood and sweat equity into this place, and have made it our home.
Since last week I’ve had most of Van Halen’s Fair Warning stuck in my head. In high school during marching band trips, one of the drumline captains had a mixtape of the best VH songs that he’d play en route to competitions, and Dirty Movies! was a standout. Having fallen down the rabbit hole, I found an isolated guitar track which showcases how technical and complex Eddie’s songwriting was—the secret ingredient that stood him far above his peers at the time, beyond the complex solos. Now I’ve got One Foot Out The Door stuck on repeat.
Having spent seven full days on a serious sheet metal project, here are my takeaways:
You can never have too many angle grinders. I’ve got three, and I ran a cutoff, grinding, and wire wheel primarily. If I had to do it over again, I’d have a fourth with a flap disc. The brand is unimportant; two of mine are the cheapest Harbor Freight models sold, and that’s what I’ll buy for the fourth. A splitter block for the extension cord is also key. Making sure the grinding wheel isn’t dull saves a ton of time.
Conversely, Harbor Freight sells a long pneumatic 3″ cutoff wheel which I found to be absolutely useless. It wasn’t strong enough to cut through anything and spent most of the time in the box. However their 2″ pneumatic orbital sander came in super-handy for tight areas.
My Eastwood 140 MIG was absolutely outstanding. It’s an inverter type so it’s easy to carry and move around, and the controls were dialed in perfectly. I’d bought an extra spool of wire but found I didn’t need it, which was a shock given how much wire I was using to fill things. I would recommend this welder to anyone.
My garage is small, uneven, and filled with stuff, so I worked out in the driveway for the majority of the project. I have a plastic folding table which became my workbench, and with an assortment of clamps and cardboard it worked out perfectly.
Having a fridge out in the garage was also key. Cold drinks throughout the day were essential for keeping cool and hydrated.
If I’d had more time, I would have taken the entire dashboard and heating unit out of the truck. I did try to remove the heater, but wound up spilling coolant all over the fucking place, and I still couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to come out, which put me behind schedule. So I re-connected it all and worked around it. It can be done, but I wish I could have done it better.
I don’t have a planishing hammer or beanbags (proper metal-beating tools) but I made do with an old Plomb hammer, a rubber mallet, a deadblow hammer, and Dad’s old green vise. I also screwed a Harbor Freight metal brake I got at a yard sale to the floor of the garage and used that for the larger bends, once I sourced a fat piece of aluminum bar for the backing plate. With those simple tools I was able to bend all of the metal exactly how I needed to. I’m going to have to figure something out for when I need to bend metal to replace the floorboards, as they’re wider than the 32″ brake, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Patience is key. I got carried away with my tack welds when I burned in the main vent sections, and they warped. I slowed down when I did the outer cowl repairs, and had better results. When I do repairs to the outer sheet metal I’m going to have to force myself to slow way down and take my time. This will be especially true when I put the cowl back on—I’m going to have to walk back and forth from one side to the other until it’s all done.
I’ve hung the front fenders on the truck with a single bolt for the last several months, and it makes things much, much easier to pull them off when I’ve got to get close to the engine. I have no idea when they’ll go back on semi-permanently (both of them will be replaced when I can source better ones) but for now they’ll remain temporarily tacked in place until I’m ready to button everything up for a while.
After all of this, I’m not afraid of sheet metal repairs at all—unless they involve compound curves I can’t replicate. There’s a section of rust behind the driver’s rear wheel that I can’t wait to dig into once the cowl is complete. But I would love to fool around with an english wheel and a bender…
I desperately want a larger garage, with a cement floor and a long, well lit workbench.
This project was exhausting. I was gifted with the most reasonable weather I could have hoped for—averaging 80˚ and sunny, with a constant breeze blowing through the yard. If this had been a normal August in Maryland, I’d only be halfway done and in the hospital with heat exhaustion. Even so, I came inside each evening and pretty much collapsed; my watch tells me I averaged about 4 miles of walking and ~8,000 steps a day. I would start immediately after walking Hazel and work until it got too dark to see. Big huge thanks to Jen and Finn for giving me the space to focus on this exclusively.
This was the most fun I’ve had on a project in a long, long time, and I’m very satisfied with how it turned out.
I’ve been away from my computer for most of this week; as mentioned elsewhere I’ve been outside until dark every day putting serious restoration time in on the Travelall. I’m always plugged in to podcasts when I’m working outside, but by Monday morning I was current with all of my subscriptions. Luckily, I’d checked a bunch of books out of the library when we went to Puerto Rico and put them on my iPad for the plane ride and poolside. I checked out the audiobook of Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley, which is the follow-up to The Rook, a book I thoroughly enjoyed on a couple of train rides to DC back in 2014. I’m enjoying it so far, even though the author has doubled down on his world building at the cost of pacing. He wrote a third book last year that I’m going to check out next.
While we were waiting in the TSA screening line in Puerto Rico, I noticed a sign that mentioned fliers could use a digital ID on their phone in place of a physical card, and remembered that Apple was offering this service through the Wallet app. I’d tried to set it up months ago but got stuck in a loop, so I made a note to set it up when we returned home.
The process was pretty simple; you shoot a photo of the front and back of your ID and send it through their system for verification, and a few days later get an email that notifies you of approval. Apparently you can bring the ID up and tap it on a smart device to verify your identity. I’d imagine the number of these smart devices is small, but my guess is that this is another look into the future.
On a somewhat related subject, I used my Apple Card to pay for all of the charges for the trip and this new laptop, and through the cash back feature of that account, I’m seeing the balance in my savings account there slowly creep upwards. I’m going to experiment with adding some additional cash into that savings account, as it’s the highest yield account I have (fuck off, Bank of America) and see how things go.
I was away for most of the last week and a half, but I did get some time before we left to rough in the new brake line I was sent by the Scout Connection a few weeks ago. Saturday afternoon after we returned, I got tired of laying around the house and decided to go out and finish welding up the patch I’d started two weeks ago. Overall it went pretty well; I think I would have done it completely differently in hindsight, and I bet I’ll have to go back and cut it out at some point, but for now it’ll hold.
On Sunday I wanted to tackle the biggest hurdle the project has thrown at me so far: bleeding the brakes. I bled the master cylinder and hooked it up to the main lines, then had Finley come out and pump the brakes for me while I opened the line on the rear wheel. When nothing happened where I was, I looked underneath and realized the system was leaking at the distribution block: I hadn’t gotten it connected correctly. So I jacked the whole front end up and got underneath to really diagnose the situation, and after staring at it for a while I sorted out what was going on: I hadn’t tightened the soft line down enough to the block. So I disconnected it at the master cylinder and spun the whole hose to really tighten it down. With that done I hooked everything back up and had Finn pump the brakes on all four corners while I bled dirty brake fluid out of the lines. When I’d gotten that done, I put the wheels back on and lowered it to the ground. Then we did the clutch system and got that bled out. With that, the brakes should be 90% done. I’ll have to re-bleed them at some point in the near future to get the last bubbles out, but it’s enough to stop the truck once I get the clutch issue sorted out. It’s been a long learning process, but I sure hope I don’t have to deal with brakes again for a while.
While I had two wheels off the ground, I took the opportunity to swap the fourth rim to the driver’s front and put one of the original three on the back rear. What I found kind of shocked me: the original rim sits the same distance away from the inner edge of the wheel tub as the new rim did. The only difference between the new rim and the others is that the holes for the wheel studs are thicker and the studs don’t extend through as far as the others, which means there isn’t as much of the lug nut on the stud. I think I’m going to invest in a set of ET (extra thread) lug nuts for the whole truck—I just need to find someone who has 5 left-turn nuts in the size I need.