Friday, May 29, 2009


When you live in an old house you can expect to do lots of minor repairs. Such as plumbing. In the time I've been ill a surprising number of chores have piled up. Family and friends have pitched in but some are major tasks, such as keeping our property trimmed down so as to prevent less of a fire hazard. Unable to do the trimming and tilling myself, the local fire department is threatening us with having the work done by their selected crew and simply sending us the bill, always a bit fatter than when we hire someone ourselves -- and when we do a lot of the work ourselves.

This year I can't do that so we've budgeted for what we can do.

One aspect of fire prevention was plumbing the property with a 2-1/2" water line when I bought the place back in '65. I have 1" and 1-1/2" pipe completely around the house, with heavy hoses for each faucet.

One of the faucets developed a leak.

Fixing faucets, including chucking them in the lathe and turning a new valve seat, is another of those chores you have to keep up with. This post shows what you need to do to repair a particular type of faucet.

In the exploded view you can see that the faucet consists of a shaft, a shaft seal & packing, a washer and a valve seat. The valve seat is what connects to the water pipe. In this case, the pipe is one-inch, stepped down to accept the 3/4" faucet. Two other faucets on this line are only 1/2", their size reflecting the area they have to cover should we need to wet-down the property so as to suppress embers.

To maintain the faucet you may have to replace the packing around the shft, a task that thakes only a few minutes. Usually, the job calls for replacing the neoprene washer. Rarest of all is having the re-machine the seat where the washer forms a seal.

All of my plumbing stuff was kept in a plumber's bag, a white canvas thing with leather re-enforcing the corners. During my illness the bag has vanished. I assume it was simply moved from one place to another but I haven't time to search for it. After going to the lab for my blood-work, we stop by the local Home Depot to pick up the needed gasket. (See above)

Wanna guess what the store no longer carries? Right. But they still have the valve, of course, at about nine dollars.

Vista used to have two well-stocked plumbing stores. They've been forced out of business by Home Depot and Wal-Mart.

When I'm feeling better I'll use a razor to cut out a supply of gaskets for our various valves. And track down the missing plumber's bag.

The photos show what the valve looks like when dismantled. The washer goes in easily, secured by a single Phillips Head screw. Phillips screw drivers come in a variety of sizes. This one calls for a #1. I think the largest we'll see is a #4 but just for insurance I'll make up a few extras in that size.

Finally, back home with the nine dollar valve instead of the five-cent gasket, everything is back together again, making our home that much safer when the fires come roaring down from the hills.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009


This will give you some idea of the size of the table saw. The portable circular saw is fastened to the underside of the top and controlled by a switch attached to the forward edge of the table. The switch and the saw can be removed, giving you a table roughly 2 x 4 feet. Or the table may be placed across saw-horses and used as a regular table saw.

If you wish to have a pedestal -- I recommend it -- you will need to make something similar to what is shown in the following illustration. The pedestal is designed to fit into recesses left in the under-side of the table. Shelves in the pedestal are meant to be stacked with bricks so as to increase the mass of the table, which may be fitted with rubber feet to give it a better grip on a smooth-surfaced floor. An upper shelf is designed to catch saw dust and expel it to the rear.

I made the pedistal (and the table-top) out of the cheapest material I could find -- 1/4" plywood for the pedistal and 1/2" plywood for the top. The thickness of the table-top edge was built-up to 3/4" by gluing on 1-1/2" x 1/4" plaster lath. The pedestal was stiffened by adding 1x2" furring strips.

Although the design looks a bit much, once the principle is understood it goes together rather quickly. Glue was TiteBond III, Weldwood 'Plastic Resin' and Gorilla Glue urethane. Although I tried to keep things square & accurate, I was more interested in knocking the thing together in a hurry. That meant I would need to adjust the squareness of the saw-blade to the table. To accommodate that task I left things a bit loose with regar to the saw so that once everything was assembled I could bed the saw in Bondo or even glue (after waxing the shoe), tap it into alignment with the fence & miter groove then tighten down the saw. Or whatever.

The principle here is quite simple: we've merely attached a portable saw to a table-top surface so as to increase the accuracy and utility of the saw, which will allow us to make the long rip-cuts needed to produce longerons, spar booms and rib sticks. With that in mind, the saw goes together using deck screws making it easily dismantled and stored when not in use.

However, anything worth building is worth doing well, hence the varnish and so forth.

I'll show more of the details in another posting, as well as some samples of the cuts it can make.

Show & Tell

Wow! I barely got this article loaded before you were knocking on the door ( Yes, there will be drawings but it really is a fairly simple project. And yes, it's definitely over-kill if for most Americans, who can probably buy a used table saw for about what it would cost to build this one. But that overlooks two advantages of this project:
1. -- The saw can be assembled or disassembled in a matter of minutes and may be stored under a bed or hung from a sturdy peg on a wall.
2. -- This article with its drawings and photos provides a concept that may be new to you if you haven't grown up with tools and with using them as an every-day part of your life.

(Dear Raj, I assume you are living in an apartment house. ) The fact this table saw can be dismantled and stowed away, is a feature of interest even to those who can afford a small table saw.



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mid-day Pills

Some pills -- the white capsule with the black stripe -- make you want to puke. Sort that one out, take it by itself, sipping my way through half a pint of water. Wait, as my mouth floods with saliva and cramps ripple through my abdomen. It will fade away in about fifteen minutes. I use the time to take my vitals.

I'm doing pretty good today:
95% @ 58
96.8 degrees F.
158 lb (nude)

After sipping the glass of water I pour another, toss the remaining five pills down the hatch, followed by more water. Lotsa water... at least 7 glasses per day. One of those 'unimportant' details that turns out to be of critical importance as to how your body takes-up the chemicals.

Dressing for the Vampire Shop. Cell phone on my left hip. Pocket knife in right pocket. (Don't ask... call it a Guy Thing. Or a life-long habit.) Bucks-worth of change. My 'doctor' wallet is a little bill-fold that fits in my left shirt pocket. For company it gets one of those slip-on dark glasses things, the kind they give you after an eye examine. I've got prescription sunglasses but they're too bulky. Ball point pin also goes into Left-front.

Right shirt pocket gets an Albuterol inhaler and a bottle of 'emergency' pain pills. The drive is only about twenty minutes but some streets are rougher than a cob.

The paper-work is in 7x9 'record' book that gets filled up rather quickly. Data of any importance will be transcribed into the computer, on one of two files; a basic spread-sheet that also triggers reminders of appointments in my incoming mail, and a program specific to multiple myeloma. This is another spreadsheet but one that has been standardized and distributed by the International Myeloma Foundation -- the IMF. Periodic compilations will be transferred to the IMF's files.

First page of the 'record' book is a check-off sheet, to make sure I have what is needed for whatever type of visit I'm down for. Today is the basic Blood Work. Since it is a Standing Order there is nothing I have to bring with me other than an accessible vein or two. In the back of the book is a computer-generated list of my medications. New people at the various offices usually want to know what I'm taking, when I'm taking it, and how much. So we keep things up to date.

Pills all taken, vitals recorded, we're ready to fly.

-Bob Hoover

Addendum: Someone wrote to ask, "Why 'nude'?" Because I had just bathed, an event worthy of an entire posting of its own because it was a shower-bath, meaning I had to remain standing whilst bending and scrubbing an doing all manner of things that generate whole symphonies of pain. Risky, too. An earlier effort brought on a series of spasms that caused me to fall. I had to crawl out of he shower -- it's the little one in the bathroom off the kitchen that I have homesteaded since the Cancer arrived -- to crawl out of the shower backwards then use the toilet to help me get back to a sitting position, in which the spasm slowly released its grip and I was able to dry myself. I tried it again, after the epidural procedure, with my wife standing guard. At the first shivering ripple of pain I poked my head past the curtain and she fed me a pain killer like an African bird sealed up in it's nest.

This time was different. I took my morning pills, which includes a pain killer, later than usual, then took another just before taking my shower, which I was able to complete, as well as the tooth-scrubbing and neck-shaving which followed, either one of which calls for a posture that forces me to complete the task while seated; pesky little details I would normally not share with you.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Here I am! (Waving)

No, over here!

And there I am, suddenly back from Google's mysterious glitch. No explanation of course. But I poke my screen-name & password into the hole in the hollow tree, just the way I've been doing it for however long it has been. And suddenly there I am! The magic mirror is working again. Captain Midnight's De-Coder Ring whirls into action and all your Secret Messages come tumbling from the chute. Yes, you may use rocker arms of different lengths in the same engine. Then a pile of questions for which I don't know the answer... and tell them so. And another pile of airplane questions, most of which will take some time to answer correctly because I no longer trust my personal Memory Bank since my stroke and flying is one hobby that can get you killed.

Kinda like being knocked off the Internet.

Which produced a new email address for me:

Yeah, it costs money. But the money buys you names and telephone numbers of people you can call when the system goes suddenly klunk! in the night and leaves you with nothing but a blinking cursor and a beige box that blows warm air on your shoe.


I have a new hole in my back. It was put there on purpose by a Jason M. Miller, a physician who specializes in Pain Management. That is, in reducing it if you've got some, of which I do.

The hole was made by a tool the size of a knitting needle into my Epidural Space, which I understand is a fluid-filled void around the spinal column. The purpose of the hole was to inject Narcotics and Steroids into that space, causing the nerves which run through it to stop carrying their Pain Signals.

So howz it working out? Eh... sorta same-old same-old. But better, I think. The Killer Spasms haven't shown themselves but they are so painful that I'm afraid to risk their ire by saying they are gone for good.

There is still a limit to how long I can stand up and walk around. But the pain engendered by that activity is definitely less. It is still too painful to push it; when the Pain arrives I've got to sit down or I will soon find myself on my hand & knees. But the pain occurs lower down than before. And its intensity is definitely less. So I think it's fair to say that some Progress has been made.

Is this topic of any interest? It is to me, since the Pain is like a prison sentence. Were it not for the Pain I would be doing more things in the shop. But it may be of no interest to you. As it now stands the Pain is my excuse and explanation for not doing a lot of things I was doing before; things I shared with many of you and which I know you were interested in.


Have you read 'The Ugliest Toolbox'?

It is the first article I uploaded when I created this blog. Somewhere in this blog are the illustrations showing how to cut & drill the pieces of metal which, when riveted together, become a clunky but serviceable toolbox, large enough to hold a tin-benders basic kit of tools. The late Jim Holland and I are guilty of showing local Boy Scouts how to make the toolbox, which was a bit of a scam since what we wanted to teach them was basic sheet-metal work, including riveting. And we did, for a couple of years back when I was still in the Navy.

I mention it here because there were two groups of guys making toolboxes when Google pulled my plug. I eventually got re-connected but a strange thing happened to one of the groups. They decided the toolbox was too basic and stopped working on them, which kinda reminded me of the Ugliest Toolbox.

I suppose there are such things that are too simple to justify our attention but the most valuable lesson contained in the Ugliest Toolbox is how to build an airplane, a house or anything else. And if that sounds impossible, it's not.

Wanna know the best kept secret of the ages? Wanna know how you can build your own airplane? Well... okay, I'll tell ya. But you got to promise to keep it a secret.

Here it is: Do something every day. That is, something leading toward the completion of whatever it is you're trying to do, such as building a house, overhauling an antique car, building an airplane from scratch... It doesn't matter what you're building. Or rather, trying to build. The secret of success is to do something every single day. It doesn't matter what it is... drilling a single hole, setting a single rivet or whatever, what matters is that you Do It! Every day. No exceptions nor excuses.

Here's why it works: Every project has a finite number of steps. If you do even one of those steps every day you will eventually run out of things to do; the project will be finished.

No, you can't make bargains with yourself, such as promising to do five things next Saturday instead of one thing every night for the coming week. That's not allowed. You have to do something every single day.

What you're doing here is developing the habit of doing something every day.

Yeah, it sounds kinda wacky. But it works.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


To All:

That's meant to be a kind of joke, see... because I have cancer I'm never too sure I'll wake up in the morning so I thought labeling a post as 'Live' would be something of a play on words.

But the title also emphasizes an on-going problem I'm having with Google and my memory, in that I often forget my User Name and Password, making it impossible for me to either SEND or RECEIVE messages. This morning for example, Google says my current User Names and Passwords will no longer be valid; that I will have to jump through various Google-hoops to make things right. But when you try to do that you get an ERROR MESSAGE saying to try again in a few minutes. The Mystery Time is not defined. Five minutes? No, that's not enough. Ten minutes? Ditto. Indeed, it appears that Google's error-handling procedure may well have an error of its own, in that, while it SAYS to do this and go there, it doesn't actually work. If the problem persists you're told to contact yet another address. Which of course does not work either.

But I am still alive! Honest! And people still send me email asking questions about their VW engines, converted for flight or otherwise. And I keep trying to respond because I assume you would like to receive an answer. But given the amount of errors, trying to stay in touch becomes horribly frustrating.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Chugger

The above is a sketch of 'Chugger,' a minimum cost design meant to be fabricated using wood from the typical lumber yard. The engine is a Volkswagen, converted to put the propeller on the flywheel end of the crankshaft, where it will be immediately adjacent to the thrust bearing.

In American slang a 'chugger' is a person or machine that isn't very sophisticated yet manages to get the job done.

The minimum cost aspect of the design is achieved by using lumber that is locally available. This point keeps popping up, despite the fact the Government has not been in the business of grading wood since the 1950's. What you get when you buy 'aviation-grade' lumber is a piece of wood that has been graded by someone at the saw-mill. Or at the retailers. It will be nice, clear lumber, graded according to those standards of long ago but you won't find a government stamp on it. Most of it will be Sitka Spruce unless you have asked for something different, such as Douglas Fir or perhaps Northern White Pine. (The government inspection criteria covered more than two-dozen species of softwoods commonly used in the structure of lightplanes.)

I continue to receive more messages on this aspect of Chugger's construction than all others combined. I've nothing against the use of certified materials. For example, I still want you to use aviation-grade plywood, although not very much of it.

In recent weeks several prospective builders have swished past the earlier version of the drawings, some are even willing to fly it to the various fly-ins... if I'll give them a flyable copy of Chugger to keep as their own. I take that to mean they've found nothing fatally flawed in the design.

Except for the use of Blog Store lumber.

I think everyone is wrong in that regard and I believe I can prove it.

If you will click on the opening drawing it will expand to fill your screen. The firewall is 24" in height which should allow you to get a rough estimation of the length of the remaining sticks(*).

I will agree that it is difficult to find aviation-grade lumber long enough for spar caps or longerons but the drawing makes it clear that most of the required pieces are quite short. You will have no trouble finding sticks of that size by simply ripping a 2x4 or even a furring strip. Indeed, here in Southern California the decline of our economy has left the lumber department of most blog stores as empty as the Kalahari.. This aspect of wood-quality is equally true for the wing. The point here is that aviation-quality wood is available from local lumber yards. The only tricky part is that you must spend some time grading it.

The common myth that wooden airplanes are made entirely of wood is simply not true. Indeed, many potential builders prefer aluminum or rag & tube because such airframes require fewer tools and far fewer skills.

The second drawing, which should be wandering about near this paragraph is meant to serve two purposes, the first of which is to give the reader some idea as to the number and location of the metal fittings. The idea here is build this much of the fuselage as mock-up for the fitting & welding of the metal fixtures for such things as the landing gear, the wing-strut attach points, and the cabanes. Not shown are the Cub-type landing gear Vee, the control stick and the rudder pedals. These were not shown partly because I forgot to put them in but also because they are so simple they are easy to forget.

As the Chugger's drawngs are developed they are being posted in the Chuggers-alt Group. But nothing is in its final form. As I've said in the Introduction, the Files represent a series of experiments, conducted for the purpose of proving or disproving the practicality of building an airplane that draws most of its materials from local sources.

If you find the Chugger of interest please have the courtesy to read the Introduction.


(*) The lumber carried by the Box Stores usually has too many knots to pass the old government standards in lengths of twelve feet or more. But it's not uncommon to find a knotty 2x6 that passes -- or even surpasses -- the old certification specs. Unfortunaely, the longest peice without a knot is only six feet or so.

If you find a stick like that, grab it! After you have re-sawn the stick into 3/4" by 1" sticks, even though it is liable to break at the knot you are still left with two perfectly good pieces! Indeed, if you'll examine the top drawing you will see that the longerons are quite short. While it may be necessary to scarf some pieces together to obtain the needed length, by building the splice right in to the design I should be able to find pieces of the required length without having to re-saw very many pieces.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Harvesting Data

Most guys call it blueprinting. You measure the part then check the measurement against the 'blueprint.' Which hasn't been a real blueprint since the 1930's. Nowadays it's just a file of dimensions and tolerances provided by the manufacturer, usually in their Factory Service Manual. Alas, the task isn't as simple as it seems. In many cases the factory manual cites only metric dimensions, leaving the conversion up to you. In other cases they cite both Metric and English units of measurement... and sometimes gets them wrong, requiring you to keep on your toes when they say one millimeter equals 0.3937" ...when they should have said 0.03937".

An even trickier bit is what happens when you depart from those stock dimensions. When you build a big-bore stroker you are literally designing a new engine. Cutting the heads to accept larger jugs requires you to measure the diameter of your new jugs and then add the anticipated thermal expansion to that dimension, and finally to add some small amount for your tooling wear.

This sort of thing -- the designing of a new engine -- is largely a desk job. No greasy fingernails. And yes, your computer comes in very handy. Not so much for the computation of things but simply for storing them, ideally with drawings.

So where do you come up with those figures that are not listed? Standard engineering manuals, such as Machinery's Handbook will give you the accepted standards for the thermal expansion of your parts but the particular alloy plays a role I'll mention in a moment.

Thermal expansion takes place in all three dimensions. The engineering manuals say that the intra-molecular space will INCREASE as the temperature of the part increases. Some call these dimensions -- the ones not listed for our particular engine -- the experience factor when in fact we've simply memorized the values of interest from tables found in various manuals. Pratt-Whitney and Machinery's Handbook sez 0.003" per inch for cast iron and .007" for cast aluminum... which works well enough for the alloys used by VW in their heads and barrels.

But if you don't know what alloy is being used, you'll be safer if you put the part(s) in an oven and raise them to their anticipated normal temperature. And learn to measure them quick like a bunny, before they can cool off and before they can heat-up your micrometer. That's enough to give you some idea of the problem, which is the fact your heads and barrels will expand at different rates.

Not everyone does it that way. In fact, a lot of 'experts' don't blueprint anything. Their engines usually end up in dune buggies but there's a few who build engines for airplanes. In doing so they follow the same procedures -- and use the same tolerances -- they have used for dune buggies. This entails considerable risk because there are significant differences between the VW engine in a vehicle and one that has been converted for flight. The most evident of these differences is the higher temperatures experienced in engines converted for flight. This higher temperature reflects the fact that a flying Volkswagen is operating at a continuous level of output at least fifty percent greater than that found in any vehicular engine.

The builders of dune insist there is no difference between their engines and those used for flight and that is substantially correct. But there is a profound difference in how the engine is USED and that is easily illustrated by the fact an airplane must sustain itself in the air. To do so demands a higher level of output on a continuous basis.