Saturday, June 13, 2009

What's the Secret?

In addition to the Comments attached to to the tail-end of every Blog entry, a lot of folks contact me directly via email ( ) In response to my last Blog entry ('Good News!' ) I received several email messages. One of them sounded a bit forlorn... and failed to provide a valid email address, making it impossible to answer them directly. What they wanted to know was the 'secret' of receiving good medical care.

I don't think there is a secret. But I think a lot of people have failed to understand the realities of modern medical treatment and a good way to prove that is to take a look at medical treatment in the past. You know the ones I mean.... where the Hero gets sick and ends up in the hospital attended to by the modern-day version of Florence Nightingale, where the All-Knowing physician apparently lived in a room just down the hall. The Hero's medical record -- magically reduced to a single sheet of paper attached to a clip-board hanging on the foot of the bed -- contained everything doctor might want to know.

You can get a good laugh out of some present-day hospitals, the ones where the nurses don't even speak English and the physician might only come around one day per week. My case will give you a nice example of modern-day medical treatment, where the patient becomes their own hospital.

As most of you know, I have Multiple Myeloma, a form of blood cancer for which there is no cure, although it can be treated. The fellow who wrote me is apparently dealing with medical problems of his own, wondering what's the secret to getting a bit of good news.

Although I don't believe there is any secret, the difference between my treatment and his could very well be the quality of the hospital he uses, which is a play upon words since, as I've said above, in the modern day we often become our own hospital.

See that clip-board hanging on the foot of the patient's bed? Back in the Good Ol' Days... whenever that was, that was the patient's 'Vitals Chart' and listed the patient's pulse-rate and temperature, recorded however often the doctor requested it, with every four hours being typical. Nowadays your vitals usually present more data, such as blood pressure and the oxygen content of your blood. Being my own hospital, I collect & record my own vitals, generally using modern electronic instruments. As a pilot I already had a Nonin (brand name) blood-oxygen instrument, and the electronic thermometer seemed to arrive along with the kids. But I had to buy an electronic blood pressure device (less than $20).

I usually take my vitals every day. The data is recorded in a notebook and again into a computer file. The notebook makes the data portable, allowing the physician to see it, should they ask. But most doctor's offices prefer to record your vitals themselves.

I also record my weight, usually after my shower.

My pills follow a four-times-per-day schedule. There is a listing that shows what medications I take, how much, and when they are taken. There is also an 'Origination List' showing which physician prescribed which pills, what they are for and when they were prescribed. Making sure this list up to date is a basic chore each time we visit any of the five doctors. Since my ailment is being treated by a team of physicians, it's up to me to ensure that all are made aware of any change to my mediations, especially when there is the possibility of any drug interaction.

Many cancer patients say the cure is often worse than the disease. I've got a hunch they need to spend more time talking to their physician because a slight change in dosage or frequency can eliminate many of the side-effects which give rise to such claims. (In my case there isn't any cure, but that doesn't mean it has to be fatal.) Working with the physicians over the past year has resulted in a nice balance of medications which has reduced the side-effects to little more than a nuisance. That doesn't mean a full recovery -- the tumor has caused too much damage for that. But neither does it have me puttering about in a wheel chair. In either case, each of us is the master of our fate. For someone to feel that good medical care involves some secret is more likely to cause others to doubt the person's perceptions than the quality of their physician. On the other hand, over the last few years there has been enormous strides in medicine and some physicians have failed to keep pace. If the cure is indeed so terrible it would seem logical to seek a second opinion.

Personally, if there is any secret it probably has to do with the cooperation between the physicians and the patients, with the patient playing the major cooperative role. Physicians simply have too many depands upon their time. From the outset of my treatment Dr. Bessudo, my oncologist, insisted upon a team approach, calling upon other physicians as needed. He also said that I would be a part of the team but I didn't realize what that role entailed. Looking back on the past year it is now obvious that much of my progress was due entirely to the roles played by my wife and myself. While that may sound self-serving I can swear it is not.

In effect, my hospital covers about 200 square miles (!). In the past year my wife has never failed to deliver me to the proper physician, on time and suitably attired. (Indeed, she uses a check-off list to ensure I have wallet, cell-phone and so forth -- ten items, all tolled.) Nor has she failed to procure my medications, and to dole them out in the proper frequency, from once a day to once per week. I suspect support of this nature is not considered much of a secret when in fact it forms the very foundation of my treatment.

A recommended change to my medication appears automatically on the other physician's computers, supported by an often cryptic email. Often times a recommended change will produce a flurry of emails before the matter is resolved, often based on economic factors. (You won't believe what some drugs cost!) New drugs come on the market every day and if your ailment matches the intended purpose of the drug you're liable to be used as something of a lab-rat. Before trying something new, if you are being treated by more than one physician, it's a good idea to make sure they are all aware of the new drug and any possible side effects. This kind of information is available in the Physician's Desk Reference (PDR) and from the company offering the new drug. The key point here is that you... YOU need to devote some time to your treatment. As I've said, physicians are busy people. Your treatment must be a cooperative effort.

Baffled by all those medical terms? Then write them down. Now go look them up on your computer. Learn how to pronounce them properly. Write down any questions you may have. Rehearse your visit to the doctor. Be concise! Don't waste her time. (Nor his.)

Are these things secrets? I don't think so. Indeed, I've a hunch your physician will appreciate your enlightened interest.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Great Day!

Just back from the Doctor Shop. This was the internist, Dr. Kipper. Turns out, he has not been getting copies of my blood-work from the lab. (The lab's computer zips the copies out to whoever is on the list. For some reason it has not been zipping. Now it is.)

He does his thing; stethoscope, poke'm here, poke'm there... "DEEP breath... no, a really deep breath..." and I'm breathing so hard the wallpaper is starting to blister. Doesn't believe the girls figures perhaps.

Hems & haws and finally tells me: 'Get outta here. Come see me in three or four months."

So the physicians are all in agreement: I'm pregnant. Or mebbe not :-) But I'm certainly not suffering from a cancerous tumor. Oh, it's there. And it has already done its dirty work. But except for the back pain I am not suffering from it. It has not spread; it is not eating me alive.
This is GOOD NEWS . And I am happy to share it with you.

There is still the pain, of course, kept in check by a careful balance of pain-killers. If I try to do too much -- and I have, a time or two. I have a Magic Elixer called 'No Pain' that I can rub on the spot which does a nice job if the pain is not too large. But keep pushing the envelop and the pain will eventually break through. By the time it does, it's no laughing matter -- the magnitude is 'way out there and nothing works except a shot or more pain pills... which knocks me out. And if I'm not near a bed when that happens, it can be a major inconvenience.

But today was a good day. One I wanted to share with you.


I'm still working on the Portable/Table Saw project. I wasted a week tracking down some sanding disks. Then we had a spate of rain (!!). Unheard of this late in the year. Then there were house chores... yada, yada, yada.

And the worry. Which is kinda funny.

I've got cancer. But I feel pretty good and find myself worrying about that. Think about it for a minute. The main problem is that I've not yet gotten to the point where I can shrug my shoulders and get on with my life. After all, Cancer is Bad. So I shouldn't be feeling Good.

Crazy, eh?


Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Engines

In response to one of Rocky's messages I mentioned a number of things
that can effect compression ratio. Sunday I go to check the mail and
there's this buncha guys peering in my window all saying pretty much the
same thing:

I don't see how ... (you fill in the blank) can have any effect on CR.

A minor variation on the theme was:

(Your favorite expert's name goes here)... sez to do it like ( whatever)
and never mentions (...various unmentionables...).

Please accept the following as a general answer for all.


The four holes in the crankcase that accept the cylinder barrels are called
spigot bores. The area around each bore is called the deck and serves to
support the cylinder. The deck of the spigot bores must all be the same
distance from the center-line of the crankshaft. This is something you
check before you start building any VW engine even when using a new
crankcase because sometimes the axis of the crankshaft is machined
slightly eccentric, meaning the main bearing bores are a little bit deeper in
one half of the crankcase than the other. Or more rarely, machined at a
slight angle, with the clutch-end being more to the left, the pulley-end to
the right (or visa-versa). Not often but it happens. So you check it.

With any USED crankcase the spigot bore decks will have been re-faced
-- re-machined to get rid of the shuffle marks. Good shops with the right
equipment always machine the case decks to match but if you buy a used
crankcase from a shade-tree mechanic or a shop that caters to the kiddie
trade you're liable to find almost anything. I've seen cases with as much
as sixty thou variation in the spigot deck height from one side to the
other... and almost that much on the same side of some cases, which tells
you the case came from a drill-press operation (ie, a shop that doesn't
have a milling machine).

Your jugs sit on the deck around the spigot bores. If there is any
difference in their height it will be reflected in the height of the cylinders.
And since the con-rod extension is relative to the center-line of the
crankcase, any variation in the height of the cylinders will show up as a
difference in the deck-height of the piston at TDC.

If that's not clear, make a drawing and work it out but the message here
is that you have to KNOW. You can't guess. You need to blueprint the
case and record your findings, whatever they are, because you're about to
build on that foundation and by the time you get out to the heads you will
have stacked up half a dozen components and even the smallest
variations will have become significant because of the stack-up.

Major point here is that there is always some amount of variation. With
an army of inspectors to insure the quality of every step in the
manufacturing process, for original Volkswagen parts the variations
would tend to cancel each other out rather than stack up. That's not true
with after-market parts. The only way to know what you have is to
measure what you got. Some guys call this 'blueprinting' and make a big
deal out of it but it's mostly common sense.


Set the crank up in vee blocks or with fitted bearings in a known-true
case half and check the length of the throws, even if it's a good crank
you've just sent out for a polish. Sometimes the grinder will have a bad
day and you'll end up with a crank having a slightly different stroke on
one (or more!) of the journals. So you check it to within the accuracy of
your tooling and record the results. Usually, cranks are pretty good.
Some of those cranks coming in from China are as good as any I've seen.
But some are trash. Ditto for a LOT of welded strokers aimed at the
Kiddie Trade, with examples of every problem you can name being
woefully common. You have to check and record what you find even
when any variation falls within acceptable limits because that variation,
whatever it is, will add to or subtract from the finished dimensions of the


To 'rebuild' a rod you re-bush the little end, hone the bush to spec then
pull apart the big end, use a surface grinder to remove a little metal from
the parting line, torque it back together and machine the big-end back to
a true circle relative to the little end. That is, you try to keep the distance
between the center of the big end to the center of the little end the same
as for a new rod fresh from the factory.

Sunnen honer properly maintained, skilled machinist... you can produce a
pretty good rod. Shops that cater to the kiddie trade... wetback labor...
worn-out or poorly maintained machine tools... Forget about it.

So what's the spec for a stock length rod? I donno... 137mm?
Something like that.

Doesn't really matter. (!!) What matters is that all four of your rods
must be of IDENTICAL length. That's what matters. Long or short,
you can deal with that but only if they are all the SAME.

But they won't be. There will be some variation in their center-to-center
length, center of mass and over-all mass. You'll take care of the weigh
differences during balancing but right now you need to know the
variation in their center-to-center length, which is pretty easy to measure
even with simple tools if you use one journal of a crankcase as your
center on the big end and a well fitted wrist pin on the other.

Con-rods are numbered. Use their number in your records when you
record the difference in their lengths. SOP is to identify the shortest rod
then simply record the differences of the other three. Good rods, you'll
be working in tenths.

What's a well fitted wrist pin? Oiled and at room temperature, you
should be able to slide the pin into the little-end with your hands. Once
in, it should fit well enough so that the pin takes at least two or three
seconds to slide OUT when the rod is held horizontally (and the pin is
installed flush). Slower is better. At running temps the forged mild steel
rod will expand more than the polished cast iron pin so a good fit is one
that is damned tight at room temperature. There should never be a
problem with the fit between the pin and the piston because the
coefficient of thermal expansion for aluminum is MUCH greater than for
cast iron; at operating temps the piston will always be an easy fit on the
pin even if they are locked together at room temperature. (You generally
heat the pistons to install/remove the pin.)

A lot of rods aimed at the kiddie trade or used by lo-buck rebuilders
aren't even overhauled. They just knurl the bushing and hone it back to
size and merely hit the big-end with a hammer before honing if they
bother to hone it at all. Shop by price, you'll end up buying junk. Good
shops are proud of the quality of their work, offer no objection if you
want to mike a part now & then. Ditto for good dealers. The other kind
don't want anything to do with real mechanics. And get their wish :-)


Pistons & cylinders are manufactured individually then sorted according
to their finished diameter (for jugs) and weight (for pistons). The
different sizes and weights are identified by dots of colored paint on the

In manufacturing a cylinder barrel the raw casting is first machined then
the machined barrel is honed to remove the tool marks. In the process of
machining a given number of cylinders, the finished bore will become
gradually smaller as the tool-bit wears down. When it gets to a certain
minimum size they stop the machine and set it back up with a new boring
tool. The point here is that the inside diameter of the jugs being
produced will fall across a certain range of diameters. This is normal.

The honed jugs are measured and divided into groups according to some
standard deviation in their diameter, typically about a thousandth of an
inch. But even with that small a standard, with four jugs from the same
size-group you can expect to find a variation in their diameter. It won't
be much but you need check it.

Volkswagen used cast aluminum pistons from permanent molds. The
density of cast aluminum varies slightly according to how much metal is
in the smelting pot, its temperature and how long its been there. The
castings are then machined to a given diameter, for the grooves where
piston rings, for the wrist pin and for the top of the piston. All other
surfaces are usually left as-cast. As with all machining operations, the
finished dimensions will fall across a range of sizes.

The combination of differing density in the aluminum alloy and variations
in the as-cast dimensions causes VW pistons to vary in weight by as
much as an ounce (!) Even by 1930's standards that's a bit much so the
pistons get sorted into three weight groups with each group having a
maximum variation of ten grams.

The nominal dimension of the piston (i.e., its size group) is stamped on
the top and a dot of colored paint is used to indicate which direction its
actual dimension deviates from the stamped figure. A dot of colored
paint is used to indicate the piston's weight group and a plus or minus
symbol is stamped into the top of the piston to indicate if the piston's
weight is above or below the nominal weight for that group.

The pistons are divided into groups according to their weight and within
each weight group, are divided into groups according to their diameter,
allowing them to be matched with suitable jugs, fitted with rings and
packaged for shipment. Stock jugs used to be available individually;
nowadays all you'll see are sets of four.

But your carton of new pistons & cylinders may arrive as a grossly mis-
matched set of junk. Here's why: Some after-market retails -- or the
clerks who work for them -- tear open the boxes and shuffle sets around
to make up sets having the largest bore diameter and identical weight
markings. Some dealers even brag about this in their advertising,
referring to such sets as the 'pick of the litter' that need no further
balancing. And sell such sets at inflated prices.

It's all bullshit of course. With a weight group encompassing ten grams,
with two divisions and a mark for high or low the best you can hope for
is a spread of 2.5g... about 25x worse than a real balancing job. (Using
an inexpensive electronic scale for measuring and a Dremel tool for
removing metal, the average novice has no trouble matching four pistons
to within a gram or two.)

But the most interesting point of all this is what happens AFTER those
sets of pistons have been pawed over by the clerks. They get tossed back
into the boxes willy-nilly and sold to unsuspecting suckers, including
other retailers.

The tricky bit here is that you can't balance a set of pistons if they span
TWO weight groups. Pistons are provided with extra metal in the form
of 'balancing pads,' areas from which you may remove metal without
effecting the strength of the piston. But the maximum amount you can
remove is only a few grams. That isn't a problem when all of the pistons
are from the same weight group. But with MIXED weight groups you're
liable to see as much as 20 GRAMS difference across your four brand
new jugs. Not only does that violate the factory spec of 10g, the
difference is too large to be balanced out - - there simply isn't enough
metal that can be safely removed.

You just paid good money for a set of new jugs that are junk.

But this is about compression ratio so let's get back to that.

First thing you gotta do is examine your new set of P&C's to make sure
they are of the same size group (ie, the variation of diameter) and within
the same weight group. That is, all four of the jugs in the box should
have the same color code for dimension and the same color basic color
code for weight group. The code for plus & minus doesn't matter
because you're going to have them re-balanced to a finer standard of
precision (i.e., typically +/- 0.1g across a set of 4).

You should do all that before you buy them. And yes, you can get
royally screwed when buying through the mail. No, I won't recommend
anyone -- I've been sued both ways on that one, once because a guy was
unhappy with someone I recommended and another time by a dealer
because I DIDN'T recommend him. So go fish. And good luck.
Because getting a set of P&C's that hasn't been tampered with is just the
start of the story.

Once you have a set of P&C you'll need to put identifying marks on the
jugs and record the marks and the dimensions in your notes. I file
notches in the flat area of the upper-most fin. When you have more than
one engine in the shop at a time, keeping their parts separate can be a
problem. I use a series of adjoining notches to identify the set then one
to four additional notches, spaced apart, to identify a particular jug within
a set. The notches are cut with die-grinder as soon as I open the box.
The pistons have to stay with their particular jug so you need to put a
matching mark or number on the underside of that piston. I use a
vibrating scriber.

Begin your measurements with the distance between the deck lip and the
top of the cylinder barrel. The easy way to do this is to just stand the
thing on its head and use a surface gauge to find the tallest barrel then
record any difference in the other three. Here again, you can expect
some small variation.

Barrel length is an especially critical dimension in an horizontally
opposed engine since it is the foundation of the valve train geometry.
This dimension is even more important in horizontally opposed engines
like the Volkswagen which depend upon head studs (or stays) to
maintain the seal between the cylinder and the head since any difference
in the length of the barrels will impose an asymmetric load on the sealing
surface leading to compression leaks.

After measuring the length of the barrels the pistons are removed and the
pin height is measured. Follow the same general procedure; put the
piston, head down, on a surface plate, use a gauge to find the tallest then
record the difference between it and the other. (As a point of interest, in
most cases there's nothing to record - - the dimensions match to within
less than a thousandth of an inch and an amount that small is generally
not significant. What I'm really looking for here is any radical departure
from the norm.)

The rings get removed and a lot of other work gets done but we're only
talking CR here so I won't go into the other stuff.


As with the jugs, when measuring the heads you must first identify them.
Through the course of assembling an engine the heads get a lot of work
done to them and you need to keep good records. I stamp numbers on
them, over by the right-hand exhaust stack (right-hand looking into the
chambers, push-rods down). Doesn't really matter how you identify them
just so you do. I use stamped numbers because in prepping a set of
heads I usually replace some of the guides, run them through the blasting
cabinet to roughen up certain areas then open up the chambers, unshroud
the valves and do a few other things, most of which will destroy any kind
of temporary markings.

On the chamber-side of the head casting you will find either a fully
machined flat area surrounding the chambers (old style heads) or six
machined bosses, three to each chamber. The horizontal plane defined by
the machined surface is the base-line for all of your head dimensions.

You need to know the distance from that horizontal plane to the sealing
surface of the combustion chamber. More specifically, you want that
distance to be as close to identical as possible for both heads and, within
a head, for both chambers.

This dimension can be all over the map if the heads have been opened up
by a schlock shop. Good shop, any variation should only be a few tenths
(ie, ten-thousandths of an inch) up to a max of half a thou (ie, fifty
ten-thousandths). Shlock shop, using a cutter in a drill press, you won't
believe the crap they turn out.

This dimension is especially critical in the fabrication of a good VW
engine. If this distance varies by more than two thou between the
chambers of the same head, or by five thou between a pair of heads,
have the heads fly-cut by the minimum amount needed to arrive at a
uniform figure for all four chambers.

With measurements for the case deck height, barrel length, rod length
and piston head height, and knowing the compression ratio you are
planning to use, measuring your chamber volumes tells you how much
you will have to open them up to achieve the desired compression ratio.
Indeed, once you've nailed down a few dimensions, setting up the correct
compression ratio becomes something of a no-brainer.

And somewhere about now you'll realize this message wasn't about
compression ratio at all :-)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There are two main reasons for doing the work described above. The
first is to be able to identify good parts from bad parts. You can't make
this determination by price nor the fact the part is new, rebuilt or
whatever. Nowadays there is so much junk out there the wiser course is
to assume you're dealing with shoddy goods until its specs prove

As you progress through the measurement of the parts you begin to see
ways in which you can combine those parts so as to arrive at the most
dimensionally-uniform result. For example, a slightly short throw on the
crank can be combined with a slightly long rod. The same is true for the
jugs and the heads in that some combinations may be used to cancel out
dimensional variations.

A nice point to keep in mind here is that the 'assembly' of a 'paper'
engine is an arm-chair activity. You may take as long you wish, shuffling
the numbers about in every possible combination until you arrive the one
that makes the best possible use of that particular set of parts.


Did the light-bulb come on over your head? You see, the typical engine-
builder can only afford ONE set of parts. And as much as I hate to say it,
if you simply bolt them together the odds of getting a good engine are
vanishingly small. Oh, it'll run. Veedubs are robust little buggers...
ANYTHING will run. But if you simply throw the thing together it will
not run as well as it should nor last as long as it could. And you won't
know the difference.

But I'm not a machinist... (I heard someone shout).

Neither was W. Edwards Deming. He was a statistician with the Bureau
of the Census. (Never heard of him? Your loss.)

The truth is, you don't need to be a machinist to build a better engine.
You can do that by simply taking a few measurements and keeping good
notes. That's enough to keep you from building a total piece of shit.
When you subtract the POS Probability Factor from the engine building
equation you AUTOMATICALLY end up with a better engine. How
much better? On average, about twice as good. Yeah, I know... nobody
else believes it either. Except for the guys who have done it. (Didja read
my article on dialing in your cam? Ditto.)

Up to you. It's your engine.


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.