Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Garage: Weekend Two

Day 3:
The threat of cold temps and snow loomed in the forecast for Monday, and we knew we had to make some headway before the white stuff hit the ground. I had taken 2 hours off work Friday afternoon and tried to get ahead on any small work that could be done, which primarily consisted of installing the grade board after finding slab height, then marking the posts for the new header height.

8AM, I got up to the site and measured for the small sections of grade board that would go between the doors. I got those cut as Ben rolled up and we set about installing the headers across the front.

The day’s primary objective was to get the trusses up, and hopefully make some major headway on the purlins. After marking and blocking the east end for the proper truss height, Ben, Cara, myself and the parents lifted one end up onto the captured block, then hoisted the other end up onto the truss. After some adjustments with a BFH, we ran screws and spax through it, committing it into place. In a matter of a few minutes, it was up and fastened. We did the same thing on the west end, then pulled out the string lines to see how straight the end walls were and adjusted as appropriate.

The next truss would be a little harder. This time, there’d be no lateral posts to help keep it in place while lifting. To give it a little stability, I screwed a 20’ long 2x4 to it from the point on down and the girls used this to keep the truss upright while Ben, my dad and I lifted from each end. Again, in just a few minutes it was up, but Ben and I had just about spent ourselves for the day lifting and fighting it and nobody wanted to go through that again. In the interest of working smarter and not harder, we backed the picker into one of the ‘stalls’, removed the header so we could raise and rotate the boom so it was in the center of the building, and decided to use it to do the heavy lifting. The next truss was a breeze, but truss number 5 fought us…and then the rope broke! The very definition of “not good”, it dropped in a controlled way and luckily nobody was in the fall-path.

While the trusses were going up, we began to run lateral braces across the bottom chords to give them some stability as the wind was really whipping. We finished with truss #6 using a heavy duty tow strap which would easily carry the weight. Then maneuvered the picker out and restored the header section. It was early afternoon and the parents’ took off while we finished up additional bracing. Ben and I then put up the second row of headers as a combine and tractor pulling a wagon came blasting in and headed for the field. We worked while they got the combine header on, then started to wrap things up. There was still some evening light but we were exhausted. A little Seafoam action in the DeVille capped off the evening. We were now ready for purlins.

Day 4:
It was 8:30AM on Saturday when I crested the hill with the 40’ extension ladder which had already toppled off the truck once, and spotted Ben turning off the main road. We dragged out the tools and radio, and while the thermometer said high 40’s, the wind and overcast sky made it feel about 10 degrees cooler...that is, until you started working. Sunday would teach us a very good lesson on hard labor. Before anyone else showed up, we attempted to install the overhang jacks on the rear. Things went from bad to worse- the jacks needed trimming to fit right, the east truss wasn’t where it was supposed to be on the rear post, bits were stripping, and the parents arrived along with Cara and they had nothing to do but watch us try to fix the situation.

With geometry corrected, we proceeded to install the purlins. Purlins are 2x4s that run on their edge to support the weight of the steel. They get nailed to the trusses with, get this, 6” long nails! With me scaling the building, and Ben on the extension ladder, we toiled our way across the rear and up to the peak running these 2x4’s, hammering in these spikes with the biggest hammer we could find, and swinging both arms to get them to go in. By lunch we were exhausted, but we had the rear roof section done.

The McDonalds did not hit the spot, and I felt sick to my stomach the rest of the day. By mid-afternoon, my feet were burning, every muscle ached from balancing precariously from the roof structure, and Ben looked like he might drop at any minute. Somehow we persevered, completing all but the top row which would require careful cutting before installation. Installing these isn’t a very good use of people’s time. It’s essentially two people, one at each end of a board, nailing these things in, and a third to pass up tools and materials. That said, I know I appreciated the help.

Before we called it a day, we cut/installed the jacks for the front overhang and pulled down some braces. Victorious, but flattened, we all drove to the Wild Hare in our construction garb to drown our aches and pains in cold beer and boneless wings. A skilled crew would probably have trusses and purlins set in a day if not sooner, but accomplishing it all in a weekend isn’t bad for a ragtag crew like us. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Poncho Check-In

Now that we've got snow on the ground, it's time for a Catalina report. The good news is she's running well. The original carb is back on after fighting a stuck check-ball. Fighting isn't the right word. Turns out there are two check balls in these 2GC's and whoever rebuilt it last accidentally swapped them. The end result? Having to drill out the accelerator pump passage from below to force the ball out with a stiff wire. No other method would work. Baking in the oven, forcing with an air nozzle, trying a syringe of oil, nothing. Heavy Duty JB Weld epoxy was put into service to reseal things and so far, no leaks. 

There was that encounter with a very squeaky ball joint- and zerks that refused to take any grease. A combination of physically removing the stubborn zerks, and forcing a liquid lubricating penetrant into the joints first, then letting the grease gun force this more viscous fluid into the old, unreachable grease, did the trick. Eventually they all took grease and the suspension quieted down.

Running with a smooth trans, quiet exhaust and new tires has made all the difference and she now has around 2 months of daily driving on her (mid-Sep to mid-Nov). Now the salt is out so she probably will get stored until the spring. Just a few small things to keep me busy, but overall, mission accomplished! 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Garage: Weekend One

With a ¾ mile long driveway, Iowa winters, dusty summers and muddy springs can make getting in and out difficult, or at the very least, a dirty affair. One could gravel the entire run (a multi-year commitment at this point), but this is still no guarantee for winter access, and car washing would still be pointless. For roughly the same price, a building could be constructed up near the blacktop to act as a winter depot, to provide year round storage, and to provide summer parking for the cars I’d rather not see destroyed by sinkholes, mud, and other suspension-battering obstacles.

Initial Design:
A post-frame building of size 30x45 was ultimately decided upon to allow for 4 cars to be parked side by side, plus 2 across the rear. Or substitute a long truck with plow and some rear storage, or even a utility tractor. With 9’ truss spacing vs. 8’, the only cost-up from going to 45’ from 40’ is the price of some sheet steel and 2x4 lengths. No additional posts were needed; seemed like a no-brainer.

After running the estimate on several variations, I settled on a full 2’ overhang (not cheap, but aesthetics is important given the location), a solid color side wall and contrasting trim. Four 9’ wide doors span the front, and a 9’ wide, high clearance door, will be mounted on the west side. I upgraded for laminated posts to take some of the difficulty out of plumbing twisted 4x6's, and a no-rot composite gradeboard which provides a ledge for the side steel which should make sheathing the building easier. The trigger was then pulled and the whole BOM went out on order with a 2-3 week expected delivery date.

Meanwhile, the site would need to be prepared. The farmer harvested a couple acres of corn in the general vicinity, Cara and I pulled the old steel fence posts and wire, then set locating stakes for the corners. A week later a local construction firm had leveled the area and brought in rock to build up a firm base. 48 hours later we were putting up posts.

Here we go:
Friday after work, I picked up the rental skidloader with a 20” auger. 14” diameter concrete discs drop into the 48” deep holes and I wasn’t sure if this would be the right size. Any smaller and the enevitable cave-in would be a big problem. Any larger and you have a lot more material to clear out…and to shovel back.  In retrospect, this was the perfect size. Got it home and unloaded, hauled the cherry picker to the site, and talked to Menards on the phone. “Could the delivery be postponed until 7:30AM Saturday?,” asked the driver. “Yeah, that’s fine.”

Saturday, 7:30AM. Kickoff. I loaded the truck up with 2x4 braces, steel pins, ladders, tools, etc. It was 20-some degrees but the wind wasn’t bad and the sun was just coming up. Ben pulled up in his ’61 DeVille and he, Cara and I set about positioning flags for the holes into the jagged gravel. I had interpolated the plans’ locations into ‘post-centers’ the night before to make things go faster since the plans measured distances based off girt boards that didn’t yet exist. It wasn’t long before all was set, and copious cross-checking for squareness was complete using the 3-4-5 rule. Ben ran the auger while Cara and I shoveled away the black soil and thick clay the blade brought up. About this time the delivery semi had arrived, and it was Keystone Kops as they tried to unload the trailer. Poor planning on our part, we assumed they would stage the material where we could access the posts first, rather than stacking the last-needed items on top. But we were too busy making progress with the skidloader to notice. After a couple holes, and after hitting my head twice on the steel support boom and nearly knocking myself out, we had got our rhythm. Cara and Ben then took over as my parents arrived and did a cracker-jack job of drilling all 18 holes. 

Now, the plan specified 21 posts, with 2 between each overhead door…this put the spacing of the siamesed  posts on the order of less than 2’ center-to-center. How the heck would we drill that? Ultimately, we abandoned this approach for the intermediate supports between the doors, drilled a single hole with single post between each, and I’ll frame out the area between the doors with conventional lumber. For stability, we attempted the siamese operation on the front corners, but this required some ‘cleaning up’ by hand.

After breaking for lunch, we had all our holes ready, poles being prepped with uplift blocks and going into position and all our cement discs in place, despite taking on some water and backfilling with gravel. By the time we stopped for the day, we had every post in a hole and our corners set and plumbed. This included an hour for returning the skidloader by 4PM. Aching from the heavy lifting, we called it a day and hit the Wild Hare for dinner and pitchers of cold beer.

One side activity on Saturday was trying to figure out the connection of the composite grade board pieces. We couldn’t install them because we couldn’t find the connectors. This would prove to be a blessing in disguise later.

Suffering at the hand of Daylight Saving Time the night before, we started the day at 8, but knew it’d be dark just after 4PM. Sunday would be a lot less labor and a lot more measuring, marking and hammering. The next move was getting the perimeter posts plumb and sited. Ben and I used a mason’s string and 1.5” standoff blocks for alignment and after bracing each post, Cara and my parents would follow behind, filling each hole. By lunch we had the posts plumb, straight and backfilled.

The next order of business was determining ‘level’ around the building. A 50 clear hose served as our water level and made quick work of marking the corners. Ben and I then snapped chalk lines around the perimeter to mark the posts. Measuring from this point, we could determine girt locations and spacing. Cara and my Mom ran off to Menards to try to find the whereabouts of the missing skirt board connectors while the men cut and installed the girts. Towards the end of the afternoon the girls showed up empty handed, but a Menards pickup truck was close behind. Video had showed the box of parts had left on the semi, but it sure wasn’t here, and the parts were special order- not something they had on hand that day. Not that we cared at that point…but we’d need them soon. The cement slab could be poured anytime after skirt board installation, and the forecast for the following week was none-too promising.

With sun going down, and girts complete, but headers too short due to the decision to eliminate 3 posts, Ben and I put up 2x4 spacers to pull the front columns into plumb and make header install later much easier. We were about 95% ready for truss install.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Workin’ for the Weekend

It’s been a while since I’ve had a full-tilt, keep it coming, weekend. But with 70F+ weather in late September, you make hay while the sun shines.

I eased into things Friday after work with some extensive grocery shopping at HyVee. Spend $90, save $0.03 per gallon, woohoo! While I specifically went for some sales, I’m reminded why I stick to Fareway. In and out in 20 minutes. With a boatload of groceries, I navigated the ’59 over to the parents and replaced the heating element in their Maytag dryer. This, just after replacing the motor due to a bad switch only recently. Frankly, the teardown and jostling probably fatigued part of the old element and after a load it gave up the ghost. OK, with that done, I could head home and start my work.

With some decent evening light, I crawled under the Pontiac to confirm the rear axle leak (yes, pinion seal). Installed a replacement wiper motor in the Olds wagon and adjusted the arms (works great!). Tightened up the front brakes on the 59 (no real change). Put in a Rockauto order for a replacement brake booster and the pinion seal in question. Then pulled the agitator in the Frigidaire which had been squawking as of late, to discover broken ears on part of the jet cone. Glued those and put it back together. Then it was time to relax!

I won’t bore you with excruciating details of the rest of the weekend, but I put this list together to remind me how thankful I should be when it’s 10 below zero in just a couple of months.

Folded up picker and took truck over to annex with stuff to store.
Cleaned out the Pontiac trunk and Wagon storage area.
Installed replacement alternator on the Blazer.
Pulled the battery and took it over to the lodge to charge.
Got tractor and moved picker to east side of lodge and set up outriggers.
Scrubbed east Lodge fascias with hot water.
Cleaned up the Annex while fascias dried (now you can actually walk through).
Drained cooling system on the Pontiac (running 100% water).
Hauled old tires and misc over to the Pole Building to store.
Winterized the boat motor and stored in the Annex.
Re-installed the battery in Blazer and attempted jump-start (no go).
Installed new radio silverbox while battery was charging (appears to work).
Unloaded THM-425 trans from truck (ugh)
Painted red beltline on east side of lodge (two coats)
Painted fascias white (much better shape than the west side).
Removed Blazer battery (again) and hauled to lodge (again)
Charged 1st bank of picker batteries after folding up.
Filled, circulated and tested antifreeze (3gal) in Pontiac.
Cleaned and installed dog leg and front pillar L&R trim on Pontiac.
Charged 2nd bank of picker batteries.
Checked for leaks and replaced ceiling tile in kitchen
Put Blazer batt on charger overnight.
Time to grill out!

Attempted to move picker to behind CS3…tractor quit halfway due to low fuel (known leak somewhere in tank seam). What a way to start the day.
Grabbed Blazer batt off charger and installed (again) Success!
Took Blazer to pole bldg and filled up a small gas can to run back to the tractor (and exercised the Blazer a bit).
Got tractor running, continued transport. Put picker in a very tight spot behind CS3 where the boom stands a chance of reaching the back wall without striking it.
Ran tractor back to lodge and tore apart. 
Drained/pulled fuel tank, tightened other loose bolts.
Washed, dried, and cleaned inside/outside of tank. Cleaned all fittings, etc in mineral spirits.
Still lots of rust particles present, I put a chain inside and shook it up to break the loose stuff free, followed by vacuuming and force-air drying. Then placed in sun to bake. 
With Cara’s help, opened new skid of siding and painted 30 boards (two coats) for CS3 (which I’ll have to put up very soon).
Coated inside of fuel tank with Red Kote fuel tank liner and drained (interesting stuff).
Currently curing inside the lodge (24 hr min).
Time to collapse!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Where has the time gone?

Here we are at the end of September, but I have some good news. The car is now officially road-worthy and I'm attempting to press it into daily-driver service, per the plan.

But first, there were two orders of business that had to be settled.

First was bleeding the brake system. Pretty straightforward, if not for the difficulty of getting to the bleeder screws. It's just about impossible on this car while still having a hose attached to the bleeder. With that complete, we now had a firm pedal.

The second order of business was the carb. The car would start up, run great, but then stumble and stall when warm. This was attributed to copious amounts of fuel being dumped into the intake. Clearly, a rebuild of the 2GC was in order. The original kit I ordered from RockAuto turned out to be for a marine application despite the listing. But there was a bigger problem. As Ben discovered once he got into it, the checkball for the accelerator pump was lodged firmly in its recess. No amount of compressed air, solvents, oven baking, rawhide hammering nor even hydraulic action from the port behind it would free it from its frozen cove. Luckily, Ben had enough parts on hand to cobble together something that would work. In the interim a new kit was on order from 'Chicago Corvette' (chicagocorvette.net) which was the right kit, with a great price and fast shipping.

It was Thursday night and we had a deadline to get this car going before sundown. Ben did his best carb reassembly while my friend Geoff and I worked, scrubbing the door panels, wiping down the interior, putting the rear upholstery back together and generally getting things ready. Magic Erasers to the rescue (again)!

After some difficulty getting the fuel line threaded to the carb, and locating a nut for the air cleaner (you'll recall it was missing one), the Pontiac was actually drivable. The trans appeared to work, though very low on fluid. The brakes left something to be desired- essentially a power booster without any power assist. Hmm. We loaded into the car, turned on the headlights, and made a bee-line for the nearest gas station with high octane (and made it!).

However there was one small complaint- with no exhaust system and a fairly rich mixture, fresh air was at a premium! But that's another story...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sum 41

Here we are at the end of August, the heat finally upon us, and thoughts of winter’s duties beginning to clutter the frame. I must admit I haven’t done much in the way of writing nor blogging this year. That may account for my feeling of unsatisfied wheel-spinning the last several months. I can take stock of the new experiences, far-flung trips, and groundwork laid for the year ahead, but I can’t help but feel there’s an elephant in the room, silently staring me down.

To start with the most recent, my grandma has now officially moved to CF from northern MN. The movers made quick work of it when I stopped by yesterday, and the lake home has officially been sold. The weight of this should feel particularly heavy, but a) it won’t really hit me until July of next year, and b) it’s been a long-time coming. In fact, several years ago when my grandpa was still alive, they put the house on the market. When you see the for-sale sign out front for the first time, the gravity of it really hits you. And so I did what any normal person would do and snap photos, visit the haunts, consider each trip ‘the last one’. But then the market fell out, and the interest fell off and the price was reduced. And years went by. While the summer visits were still fun, the soul of the experience had moved on.  This last July I arrived and the decorative plates had been pulled down and packed, boxes were accumulating in the basement, drawers were being emptied. And I took my last spin around the lake on the aging pontoon boat. Tensions were high, minds were focused on moving forward. We pulled the boat from the lake on an untried trailer I had bought several years ago for just this purpose. Things had changed, and it was easier this way, I suppose. The remains of my childhood had long since flown, now it was only a matter of saying goodbye.

10 days ago I rode up with the parents on a Friday night with the goal of making roadworthy both the pontoon and Suburban for a solo-journey back to CF. I stayed with my grandma, the house now mostly packed up, and spent that Saturday drilling, winching and loading the pontoon and trailer. The humidity was terrible in the woods, but by afternoon the job was done. A trip into town was quick and purposeful. The dock was lonely, and the water still. I snapped some pictures, I said my goodbyes and around 9AM the next morning, set out for home.

Much had changed in those years on the lake, but the grandparents were a constant. I recall the Browns and the Kleens coming over for cards and coffee. They all moved back to the cities years ago when it got to be too much work. Snyder drug is no longer a one story 1970’s pharmacy with a fountain out front that will send your Kodak film out to be developed and sell you an ice cream cone. No, it was razed to make way for a shiny new Walgreens. The wide, 50’s style movie theater was divided into two screens, then remuddled beyond recognition into three screens in the same footprint. Dish TV has made sure that everyone on the lake has 300 channels instead of the 3 there used to be. The resort down the way was sold, and with it came a vinyl doublewide and a wide-scale repaint. No more penny candy or bike rides on the sandy roads.

My mind was on pulling the load behind a truck with 20 year old tires that saw use roughly twice a year, not thinking about the first time I got to pilot the mighty Suburban to town with the 6 of us all those years ago. And she made it home, just fine. I suppose there’s a message in that. Just remind me next July.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

P-59: Discharged

One of the more surprising things that occurred when I first looked at the car on that cold, snowy day, was that the interior light came on when I opened the door and the radio came on after flipping the key to Run. Mind you, the car hadn’t been on the road since at least ’78. Yes, the Motorcraft battery was in good shape and held a charge, and while maybe only a decade or two old, it had no trouble turning the engine over during our attempts at getting the points functional. Unfortunately, while the chemistry was in good shape, one of the internal links to the battery posts wasn’t and it went open during cranking recently. So much for that battery.

The modern replacement is a Group 24, which is what I bought. Clearly, the lower height Motorcraft wasn’t legit. With the 24 installed, I now worried about terminal height and shorting to the hood, my ground cable (recently replaced) was now too tight for comfort, and fastening the battery down to keep from bouncing into the hood, or off the battery shelf and into the belts, was now a real concern.  A universal battery hold down kit for $6 uses the factory T-holes to capture new hold down rods. Another ground cable (4 ga) but slightly longer did the trick. Despite the hood having a special stamped area to accommodate the positive terminal, I don’t plan on taking any chances. Rubber terminal covers are en-route and are cheap insurance. Likely available locally, but equally cheap and with free shipping off that e-place.

A stroke of Pontiac genius, the battery distribution point is up on the driver’s side fender with the horn relay, rather than off the main terminal of the starter. This keeps the wiring short, clean, and out of harm’s way. It also makes troubleshooting a breeze. With terminals clean and tight, the engine should spin with ease.