Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Knees in the Breeze

 Mother Nature has been peeing on us this week but last week it was dry enough to get out and do some fertilizing. This meant I got to try out our new gizmo, the TurfEx RS7200e spreader/sprayer.  It's as close to riding a motorcycle as I'm gonna get while at work. Kinda like standing up on a dirt bike. I'm currently training co-worker James in this business so we took turns running it over five days. I managed to keep it on all four wheels the whole time. I can't say the same for James.
 If you remember from past posts, I started building something like this when the boss decided to buy new. No regrets, this machine is pretty cool. I can spread fertilizer and spray chemical at the same time. This is nothing new in the world of pesticide application, just new to me and it will take a little getting used to.

 Initial calibration was a bit messy as pointed out by fellow shop employees. I had fertilizer everywhere. I suppose if I would have read the owners manual first I could have made less mess but what fun is that? I plan to calibrate the sprayer tomorrow. That won't be messy at all as I can easily catch liquid as it comes out of the nozzles. Yep.

 The other big advantage of this machine is the potential of hauling it and my old spray rig on one trailer. This will allow me to handle any spraying or fertilizing situation plus help with training James. Much of my route includes single stops with multiple accounts. Two machines will be ideal.
 Now I just have to figure out how to get both these machines, a 400 gallon tank, a 200 gallon tote, pumps and a pallet of fertilizer plus assorted jugs of chemicals and bac pac sprayers all on my truck and trailer. I think its gonna be like one big jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit tightly together in just a certain way.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Back To Business

 Now that my shop is done I can get back to working on the sportster. I wanted to get the 1250cc big bore kit bolted in before I continued on anything else. Guess what I found when I pulled the front head.

 If you look close in the middle of the pic, right next to that rusty locating dowel, you'll see the throttle cable ferrule I thought was swallowed up by my shag carpeting. No matter, it gives me a little peace of mind knowing what happened to it.

 Its disappearance was also what triggered remodeling the shop and that has turned out to be a good thing. I really enjoy working in here now.

 The kit from Hammer Performance is simple enough to install. I had them fit the pistons and rings in the cylinders. All I had to do was drop the pistons low enough to get the new wrist pins in, install the circlip, then slide the cylinders down to the base. Simple. I borrowed a digital torque wrench from my boss to make sure everything was tightened to proper specs.
 Mother nature has been cruel to us lately so even though April is almost over, I don't feel like I'm behind with this project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Random stuff I built at work

  I've been pretty busy fertilizing lawns lately so theres nothing exciting to talk about at work.
 When I'm not out on the yards I'm in the shop. I like my job. It's varied enough that I stay interested.
 We do light fab work at the shop and these are a few examples of crap I built that were taking up space in my phone. 
I built this bed and the boss sprayed a nice coat of gloss black on it.

4 x 8 work bench on retractable wheels. One lever operation raises or lowers all four wheels at once.

A new welder deserves a new cart.

My first attempt at a drawer slides from scratch. It works pretty good and supports my body weight. Thanks Uncle Tommy for the bearings.

This side plate was easy to build and adds a lot of strength to the snow blower. The sides no longer curl in when the operator slides into a curb.

A salt spreader on the back of a small tractor. The blue pieces were made from a plastic drum. The idea is to keep salt off the back of the tractor and only on the sidewalk, not the grass. As it turns out the blue pieces I made worked pretty good but the salter itself was always jamming up. We ditched the whole thing in favor of a drop spreader.

A truck blade before it was cut down to fit this tractor. This little machine gets a lot of work done when James keeps all four wheels on the ground.

I was a grunt on this hand rail project. I only did some grinding and painting. Bill laid it out and did the welding.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cleaned up shop

 So here's the scoop on my workshop...Its done! The green paint is all covered up with a fresh coat of white. The part thieving shag carpet is gone and I also tore down the nasty old curtains and hung some simple window blinds. The door was replaced with a wider one. It will make moving bikes in and out much easier while also keeping the polar vortex out of the shop.
 I'd like to get better organized and clean up some of the crap I had in here. Because everything was removed it will be easy to only bring back in the things I need and trash the rest. I added a few shelves up high for those things I just can't do without but are kept out of the way.
 One new addition to the room is a wall hanging shop vac. I have it hanging in a spot that will reach all corners of the room plus reach out the door for cleaning my wifes car. You see, this room is one bay of a three car garage. All the real messy work like grinding and welding happen out in the garage but having a vac in the shop will ensure a clean area for working on bikes.
 I still want to add some track lighting spot lights or something similar. I also might plumb an air line from my compressor into the room. There's a couple other little details I need to handle but the important part is that I can get back to working on the sportster.

  All the essentials in this pic. Tools, bike, tunes and mini fridge for beer. It was suggested that those shelves would make a nice shoe rack and that big red box would be nice for jewelry. NOT! This is a man cave.

 This desk is where I'm sitting now. Its where all the Greasy Shop Rag magic happens. I'm happy with the way it turned out. Oh sure if you're a carpenter you could come in here and pick out all the things I could have done different but this isn't a high dollar nascar garage. Its just a clean space where I can work on bikes.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-A New Age

 Well it seems we're getting closer to the day when the average joe won't be able to do any work on his small engine equipment. At work we sell the complete line of Husqvarna small engine equipment and lately we've been seeing a lot of hi tech offerings from the big H. One of them is the "smart switch".

 This is a keyless ignition switch/info center in one. You can enter a security code to keep the kids from accidentally starting the machine. It also tells you if the pto is engaged or if the park brake is on. These things have to be in the right position before it will start. Other features include a battery state of charge indicator, reverse safety switch and headlight switch. Hell, this machine has LED headlights.
 The Briggs engine has an auto choke so all you do is press the start button and the machine will crank up to 5 seconds attempting to start. If its really cold out you can hold the button for 3 seconds and the machine will then make a 10 second cranking attempt to start. A single press of the button shuts it down. All the pretty colors make it kinda cool. I'm a sucker for this gadgety kind of crap.

Another hi tech advance in small engines is Husqvarna's "Auto Tune".

 Now when a chainsaw comes in  we can hook it to a laptop and see all kinds of info about the saw and do some tests on things like throttle position sensor, temp sensor and such. We can see things like the serial number of the saw, total run time, highest rpm (which is over 14,000 on some of these saws) and carb temperature. We can see warmest start attempts, coldest start attempts and total starts. We also get to see a bar graph of how much time is spent at different rpm levels. There is another set of numbers on there that represent fuel quality. Don't lie to me and tell me you're running premium gas when the computer is telling me you have crap gas in there.
 Auto tune seems to work pretty well. It adjusts the fuel  mixture by attempting to lean out the mix, then reading rpm and adjusting the mix accordingly. This process happens continually. There are no hi or lo speed screws to mess with. Not even an idle adjust screw. Beam me up Scotty.
 We've got a big log out back. When a customers first tries one of these saws the reaction has always been positive.

 Now if they would only come up with a way for me to find my misplaced tools. Is there an app for that?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Tanker

 Back in 1999 for our 11th wedding anniversary my wonderful wife bought me a new motorcycle. Thanks Honey!  This would be the first bike I ever did an iron butt ride on. (1000 miles in 24 hours)

 I started getting into these long distance rides and decided I needed more range. The bike already had a 6.1 gallon tank under the seat but that was not gonna be enough. I've seen guys hang tanks off the back or place them on the passenger seat. I didn't want that. I wanted a permanent, hidden fuel tank.

 After a bit of head scratching I realized there was room to add a tank out back and keep the stock look of the bike. The first step was to put some hinges on the trunk so it would tilt back.

 The next step was to remove the rear fender and a few other bits. Then a cardboard template was made and carefully fitted and trimmed. The sheet metal used to form the tank is actually the sides of an old refrigerator. The tank itself is only two pieces of sheet metal. One piece is the outer sides and rear bent in a U shape. The other piece is the top, then bends down the inside above the wheel, then bends in and forms the bottom. I figured the less welding I had to do would lower my chances of a leak. A trip to the junk yard provided a filler neck and cap. I don't have a pic of the raw tank but it is marked here in yellow.

 This is a pic of a stock Voyager just for comparison. I got a little grief from some people about the possibility of getting hit from behind and puncturing the tank. Well first, I don't remember what gauge the steel was but try puncturing your refrigerator. Not easy. Second, there is an outer skin on the sides and back with a 3/4" gap left on the rear section. That gap is foam filled. Possible overkill but thats just the way I roll sometimes.
 You'll also notice that skin was dropped down a bit to conceal the trailer hitch and provide a spot for the trailer wiring connector.

 It looks almost like it was made that way but true Voyager fans can spot it quite easily.

To fill the tank the trunk must be lifted. The fill cap can be seen in the center of the tank. I also added a feature that got the bike the nickname "tanker". Because I was using an electric fuel pump to transfer fuel to the main tank, I could also use the pump to move fuel through a valve, down a hose and to another bikes tank.

This hose and brass fitting is the location where I drilled and tapped the 6.1 gallon main tank to allow transfer of fuel from auxiliary tank. Note the main tank is under the drivers seat.

This pic shows where I tee'd a vent line from the aux tank to the factory vent system.

 The yellow switch on the left dash controls the rear tank pump. When the low fuel light comes on for the main tank I would just flip the switch and pump the 2.9 gallons from the auxiliary tank to the main tank.
 I put 72,000 miles on this rig before selling it. I never heard back from the new owner so I have no idea how its holding up.
 I have a bike in the stable that needs more range. Stay tuned for another fuel tank feature.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Propane Mowers

 I've been involved with lawn mowing and landscaping all my life. My first job out of high school was working for a local contractor fixing lawn mowers. Eventually I ended up on a crew, and then running a crew. He sold the business and I trained the new owners to cut grass. Ya I know its just cutting grass but like anything else you need to be efficient if you want to make money. They sold to someone else that I had to train and when they had enough and wanted to sell, I got out. That was eleven years or so and I wasn't interested in training another owner. Its kinda awkward actually. The next guy I went to work for was starting a new landscaping business and was looking for someone to handle the cutting, fertilizing and spraying. I ended up with enough accounts to create two cutting crews and a spraying crew. That ran for 17 years. I did a year for another contractor and now three years for my current employer.
 My point is, I'm no stranger to lawn and landscape equipment.

Husqvarna ztr on propane. This is a similar setup to what we run today. No, I don't wear a riding jacket when I mow grass. I rode the bike to the event. I can't believe I had to clear that up :-)
 One day many years ago, a local LP gas company was sponsoring a field day to show the benefits of running propane in a lawn mower. Obviously they were doing it to sell LP, but it was also an excellent chance to demo the latest equipment from most major manufacturers.
 When I decided to try out the Dixie Chopper zero turn mower I ran into a little problem. The mower deck raises and lowers with a single foot pedal. I couldn't get the deck to lower. Even though I wasn't familiar with this machine it was obvious to me the damn thing was broke.
 I continued to fight with the pedal but couldn't get anything to happen. The DC rep came over and started trying to explain to me how it worked. I showed him I was doing it like he said but it was broken or jammed.
 I should paint the picture a little better. Here we have reps from many major manufacturers who all claim their machines are better than the competition. These machines are lined up side by side in front of a field of long grass. They all wanted to prove their product was better than the next. The Dixie Chopper guys were bragging how fast their machines can go. They may even hold some kind of record, I don't know or care because it has nothing to do with real world lawn maintenance. Most people don't want to see you hauling ass across their yard. These Dixie Chopper guys showed up in the biggest, shiniest truck and thought their crap didn't stink so when I made the claim that their precious machine was broken, they started freaking out. "just do it like this" "do that" "you're not doing it right". By now they had three reps belittling me. One guy explained to me that I wasn't mechanically inclined enough to figure it out.
 I calmly explained to him that I fix lawn mowers for a living, run a crew and build some of my own equipment. I work with equipment every day. If you guys designed it in such a way that I can't figure it out then Joe Homeowner will never figure it out.
 That pissed him off and I was asked to dismount the machine. When this gentleman who claimed to have designed the deck lift couldn't make it work either I heard a few laughs from the competition. I stood there long enough to give them the opportunity to apologize but that never happened.
 They were still dickin around with it a half hour later.

 Dixie Chopper may or may not be a good machine...I don't know because I never got to take that test mow. I'll never know because after those three reps treated me like shit I decided they weren't an option, ever.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Under Construction

 You may remember an earlier post when I had a small meltdown trying to find a part that fell into my shag carpeting. The carpet is gone and I still didn't find the part. No biggy as I've ordered and received a new one already. The problem is that I now have a bunch of parts including a big bore kit for the sportster but can't install them yet.

 My little workshop is under construction. I'm giving it some fresh white paint on the walls and gray epoxy on the floor. I'll post some pics when its done...maybe next weekend but probably not because I have to do the floor in sections. I'm excited about making it clean and organized in here before I tear back into the sporty.

 Its only 37 degrees right now but its supposed to get up to 60 today. I'm gonna head out for a destination about an hour away in this cold and enjoy the warmth on the flip side.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Workshop Wednesday-Shitty Tools

  At work we get all the tool vendors stopping in. They roll up in their big trucks full of goodies and temp us to buy their wares. Every once in a while I'll get in the truck and check things out. I'm more of a looker than a buyer but hey you never know when a deal will pop up on something I need.
 The other day one of these tool jockeys shows up and I thought I would check pricing on a set of flex head ratchet wrenches. Bill, a co-worker wanted to sniff around on the truck too so we step up into the truck and are immediately greeted by three small dogs. They are friendly and harmless and had some wet food in front of them they were enjoying. We walked to the back of the truck where the wrenches are and started discussing the pros and cons of certain tools.
 It wasn't long and I noticed it started smelling kinda ripe in there. I'm thinking "Really Bill. We were just outside but you decide to drop ass in the truck?!" Hey, maybe it wasn't Bill. Maybe it was the tool jockey. I don't know but its getting thick in here.
 I didn't know it at the time but Bill was thinking that I was the one to foul the air in those close quarters.
 We turn around and started looking at the tools on that side of the truck. One of those sweet puppies was just wandering away and then I noticed it. There was a fresh dog log neatly laid out on top of an air hammer. Another one on top of a case of something or other. A pretty good sized deuce given the small size of the dog. The embarrassed tool jockey cleaned up the mess and we went out to get some fresh air. We didn't buy any shitty tools that day.
 This incident really has no bearing on whether or not I ever buy anything from this vendor although I'll probably stay away from anything on the bottom shelf.   
 As you can imagine, a shop full of guys can get a lot of mileage out of something like this, and we did. Hey, shit happens.