Archive for June, 2011

Well I am not sure I have much to show for this past week’s worth of garage time, at least nothing all that interesting. I had spent the week in assembly line production mode working to get the gazebo railings fabricated. Once I had the first prototype figured out I then tackled the remaining 4 all at the same time.

 I am pleased to say that all 5 railings, 27 feet worth, are assembled and tack welded. I was keeping an eye on both the argon gas, for the TIG, and the BlueShield gas, for the MIG. I knew I was getting low but I was hoping that I would have enough gas to last until everything was tacked. Lucky for me I made it. Since I can’t get welding gas on the weekends I would be stuck until the business week. Since I was able to get all 5 railing assembled I decided to work at all the finishing welds until I ran both my gas bottles dry. I was able to get a 1/3 way through the railings until the well was dry. Oh well…at least I knew it was going to happen.

 After I finished my 5th railing I reflect back to see what I could have done to make the build go smoother or better. I think I did ok. The jig I built to clamp the horizontals was the way to go. It made things go so smooth and quick. I find that the more projects I do the more time I spend in prep mode. Sometimes the preparation work is not all that exciting to do but it certainly pays off in the end. A job well planned is a job ½ done. With the horizontals clamped I was able to use a scrap piece of 4” x 3/8” flat bar to space all my circles and spindles center for welding onto the horizontals.

 I thought I would play around a bit with the video camera so I decided to take a video of one complete railing mock up. I had already done the prep work which included fabricating all the railing horizontals and fitting them into the railing jig. All the circles had been previously cut and all the spindles were trimmed up. The video was simply the assembly of 1 railing. The actual time it took to shoot was 40 minutes. I then sped it up 8 times which brought the viewing time down to 5 minutes. The video quality is not great and I will explain why. I spend most of my free time in the garage and not sitting on the computer. I do not have good video editing software or knowledge. I have the basic editing software but nothing that does a great job. Anyways…were I am going with this is that in order to speed the video up the software I had would start to remove frames. The problem with removing frames from the video is that it makes the feature film really choppy. I was not thrilled. After downloading some trial versions of higher end editing software I still had no success. So…I ended up setting the video camera up in front of my computer monitor. I decided to play the video on my computer in fast forward mode while video taping. Basically the video that I have posted is a video of a video. So this is why the quality is low but I think it still worked out ok. Again…I did this purely out of boredom, once you have seen the first 30 seconds you have pretty much seen it all. If you have nothing better to do you can watch the high speed welding action.


 So next week I will pick up some more welding gas and spend a couple of evenings completing all the final welds. Next on the list will be drilling holes for securing the wooden railing caps and then fabricating some planter box holders on 2 of the railings. I want to get the railings shipped off the the powder coaters ASAP.


In keeping with the theme of acknowledging those individuals who have made a significant contribution to my garage projects, today would be a good day to stop and recognize Mr. Nikolai Nikolaevich Benardos. This particular Russian was born today in the year 1842 in the village of Benardosovka. It is worth giving Nick credit for a number of fine qualities he possessed. First he was an inventor and for me that makes you number one in my books, nothing is cooler then creating something new with some lateral thinking. Second this guy was diverse. While many individuals concentrate their efforts in one specific area Mr. Benardos was all over the map. Within his life time this guy patented more then 100 inventions ranging in the areas of electrical, agriculture, and transportation. Makes me wonder what this remarkable Russian would have been capable of if exposed to the technology we have today. The third thing that makes dude the coolest is that he was the originator of carbon arc welding. In 1881 this was the first practical arc welding method. You would be a fool to think this isn’t worth celebrating. So Nick today is your day and so instead of lighting a candle in your honor I will in choose to go out to the garage, light up the TIG torch, and strike an arc in memory of you. Thanks for making my metal molten. Happy Birthday.

I thought I would add to a previous post regarding CCM bicycle serial numbers. I am amazed at how many searches are made on older CCM bicycles from people looking for information. I do not regard my 1935 CCM Marshall Wells Zenith bicycle as a collector’s item nor do I suspect it is worth much however I still really like it. It’s vintage and so it is worth something to me.

I had previously posted a list of early CCM serial numbers ranging from the years 1921 to 1960. As I was hunting around looking for some unrelated information I happen to stumble upon a slightly more comprehensive list of serial numbers ranging from 1921 up to 1975. I thought I would throw them into a table and post the new found information. Of course this information comes with no guarantee that it is correct so use it as you would use anything found on the internet. You can click the image to enlarge it for easier reading.

No time to waste, the summer is ticking by and I need to keep the project flow going. Back onto the gazebo railings this week. First order of business was coming up with some way to make sure I could accurately align the railing while I welded it up in the shop. I decided to build a railing jig out of some 1” square tubing. The jig was constructed in a way that it would allow me to clamp all three of my horizontal supports to it and therefore maintain the railing alignment throughout the rest of the fabrication.

 I have five sections to build. Whenever I “mass” produce anything I always start by building 1 complete unit first. This way I can work through all the glitches on the first one and then mass produce the rest.

 The railings are getting attached to the side of the 6 posts that support the gazebo roof. All the posts are set at a 30 degree angle to one another therefore in order to ensure that the railing lines up with the center of the posts the horizontal sections need to be cut to exact length. I started with building the top horizontal section to the exact length required and then temporarily tacked it into place. I was then able to hang, and clamp, my jig onto the top support. Now the middle and lower horizontals could be cut to length and clamped in place. Once the 3 horizontals were secured to the jig the complete assembly was then taken off of the gazebo and moved into the shop for welding.

 I started by welding in all the 4 inch circles that I had previously prepped. I was not completely sure how to run the beads. I had been talking with a couple of local powder coating companies and they highly advise me to weld all the joints completely shut and not just tack weld it all. The reason was that the powder coating would obviously not coat in between where the circles touch the horizontals and because this space would remain unfinished rust may eventually occur. I totally understand why they advise me to do this but…these guys aren’t welders (actually neither am I) and I’m not sure they have a real clear understanding of what they are suggesting. In order for me to produce a completely sealed weld around each one of the circles where they meet the horizontals I would have to MIG weld it. TIG welding was not an option for me. In my opinion the gaps are too tight and I can’t fit the TIG torch in the tight space. MIG welding did not sit right with me simply because the volume of weld would destroy the clean look. I went against my better judgement and welded a couple of circles on using the MIG. Forget that!!!!! Ugly, chunky, embarrassing, and there was no possible way I could cope with the results. No way am I MIG welding them. I cut the 2 test circles off and started over with the TIG. Much better! However they are only getting tacked. I decided that the risk of rust over the hideous look of the MIG weld was the lesser of the 2 evils.

 So I got on a role and buzzed in all the circles. I was very mindful throughout the welding of the possibility of warpage. I made sure I did not concentrate on one specific area for too long. I just worked my way back and forth from one end of the railing to the other tacking in the circles to try and eliminate any potential warping. With all the circles tacked in I checked it for straightness. Perfect! No signs of any deflection.

 Onto the spindles. I trimmed up a scrap piece of ½ inch plywood on the table saw to act as an accurate spacer for between the spindles. This time the spindles were going to get MIG welded in and they would get sealed completely to both the upper and lower horizontal members. I wanted them sealed for a couple reasons. One because of the powder coating and two because I do not want to risk the chance of getting any moisture or water inside the ½ inch spindles. If rain works its way in from the top and settles inside the bottom of the spindle come winter it’ll freeze and expand all my spindles at the bottom. Don’t ask me how I know this, let’s just say I have learned a thing or two from my past projects and more specifically what not to do. I had thought about drilling drain holes but I decided to rely on my welds and ensure that they all seal. With the wooden jig set in place the spindles took no time to secure into place.

 Once all the guts had been welded into the horizontals I did some finishing welds on the circles and decided to join them all to each other. I think it really cleaned up the look of the top row of rounds. I was a bit nervous about unclamping the complete railing section from the jig in fear that I would be met with warpage. The railing practically fell out of the jig and once it was eyeballed everything looked 100%.

 The true test came when I checked it’s alignment to that of the gazebo posts. I am happy to say that all the predrilled holes lined up perfectly and the railing sat straight, square and in the center of all the posts. It looks like the first mock up and fabrication of the primary railing section worked out according to plan. The up coming week will be spent mass producing the other 4 sections. I’ll see how far I can get in a week.

Well now I am stuck between 2 started projects. I had initially started my gazebo railings however I ran into a robin situation and so I needed to put the railings on hold. So in order to stay productive I started to build my outdoor fireplace surround while I waited for my bird situation to rectify itself. Well I am pleased to say that the world is now home to 4 more baby robins. For me this is good news since I can now feel better about working inside the gazebo without fear of disturbing the mom. However…I am on a role with the fireplace so I am going to get myself to a comfortable stopping place before I move back onto the railings.

 With the steel base welded up last week it was time to start pounding nails. The install manual for the Heat N GloMontana fireplace specifies what building material can and can not be used. The basic frame for the structure can be built from lumber so I figured why not? I had contemplated welding up the frame however in the end it did not make any sense. It would be hard to attach sheathing and lath to steel frames, it would weigh a lot, the cost would far exceed that of lumber, and it would take me 4 times longer to fabricate it. A trip to the lumber store got me 34 eight foot 2 x 4s for 80 bucks. Cheap!

 The basic frame is divided into 2 parts. The lower square section which will house the actual fireplace and then a second upper section which will encase the chimney. The skeleton was designed using basic stud framing. The only concern I had was the strength of the 2 x 4 construction. As previously mentioned last week I am concerned with wind load and since the foot print of the structure is small compared to the height I want to ensure that I have done everything I can to build a sound structure. With the sheathing eventually applied to the wood frame it will provide a lot of rigidity however air nailing and gluing the stud frame together will just add to the strength of the entire structure.

 I purchased a few tubes of the best construction adhesive I could find. When I say the best what I actually mean it the most expensive. Since I don’t know that much about construction adhesive I let price guide my decision. I settled on Lepage LP Advanced Premium which, according to the instructions, should suit my needs just fine. So between gluing every stud joint and then air nailing it with a Bostitch framing coil air nailer I am tempted to say the structure is just as solid without the sheathing as it would be with it.

The base section of the structure was placed on top of the previously welded steel frame. The assembly was levelled and then lag bolted into the pressure treated 6 x 6 lumber base that was previously built into the stone patio using 8 inch bolts. At this point I was thrilled to be able to slide the fireplace into the framed structure. Thrilled because it finally freed up a section of my garage that it had been occupying for the last 2 and a half years.  The fireplace is basically secured by its own weight in the lumber frame. The only thing that somewhat holds it in place is 4 tabs that get face nailed to the 2 x 4s that straddle the face of the fireplace.

 With the fireplace now started I am starting to feel better about the whole project. I have come up with some steel accents that will need fabricating which I am looking forward to doing. For this reason I am leaving the chimney section off as I will need it in the garage for some of the metal work. For now the fireplace is put on pause as I plan to jump back onto the gazebo railings.

So I have had to put my gazebo railing project on the back burner for at least a week. My robin friend continues to remain nestled into her nest waiting for her eggs to hatch. I am guessing there is still between 5 and 7 days remaining before the baby robins arrive. I did as much pre-work in the garage as I could on the railings. The rings have all been cut, all the balusters have been cut to length, and the end plates that are going to support all the horizontal sections have been cut and drilled. I now need to get into the gazebo to start custom fitting all my horizontals. So now I wait for nature to take its course.

 Since I have no shortage of projects to complete I thought this would be a good opportunity to get my head wrapped around a job that I have been procrastinating. I have spent the last 4 years landscaping my own place. I had a solid game plan from the get go and have managed to stick to it. Each year I continue to complete bits of pieces of the master plan. One of the items that still needed some attention is an outdoor fireplace. The landscape plan included a free standing outdoor fireplace situated on the stone patio. I had purchased a Heat N Glo Montana 36” fireplace almost 3 years ago and it has remained in its shipping wrap in the corner of my garage since then. The purchased fireplace still needs to have a structure built to house it. I have been dreading this job for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I am not familiar with building code when it comes to HVAC installations. Second reason is that the project includes masonry work which is something that I struggle with. I decided to take a deep breath and just suck it up and start the dreaded job.

 The overview is this; the fireplace is a stainless steel insert. Building code requires a chimney height of 6 feet 4 inches minimum which means that this freestanding unit will reach the 10 foot tall mark by the time it is done. The actual footprint of the unit is 60” x 30”. The main construction material will be lumber with a few steel fabricated parts added. The finish will be architectural stone, stucco, and some metal highlights. Over the past couple of years I must have read the install manual no less then 15 times so that I could get all the code and clearance requirements correct. I finally almost, kinda, sorta, feel like I know what I am doing. I am going to refrain from going into too much detail on the pre-build; you’ll see it come together as I go. So let’s get on with it and start at the beginning.

 The foundation comes first. My concerns? No shifting of the structure and it needs to be able to handle wind loads. The footprint is fairly small compared to the height therefore I am concerned with the forces that the structure will be subjected to under high winds. I took this into consideration 2 years ago when I built the stone patio. The patio was built on a slope therefore I needed to haul in a lot of road crush in order to build level. I laid down about 10 inches of road crush and tamped it in. Then I constructed a 30” x 60” foundation, for the fireplace, out of pressure treated 6 x 6 inch rough lumber. The base was all lag bolted together and then placed on top of the 10” road crush base. I then drove 36” long sections of rebar through the lumber base into the ground. Once the base was pinned in place it got filled and surrounded with 6 more inches of road crush and then received a final tamping. Is this good enough? I don’t know but I hope Mother Nature thinks so.

 So where the project actual begins, 2 years later, is getting the base for the fireplace fabbed, that is the base that will sit on the patio base. I want to be able to bolt the fireplace solid into my pressure treated lumber so I opted to weld up the foundation. After calculating all my heights I settled on using 3” x 3” x .125” square tubing. The fabricating of the base is nothing complicated as you can see from the pictures. All the pieces got cut with the band saw and then they were all joined with the TIG welder. A coat of Tremclad will give it some rust protection. The idea for using a steel base was to try and avoid the rotting factor of a wooden base. I figured rust moves slower then rot.

So although it may appear that I do not have much to show for my efforts I feel as though a ton of progress has been made behind the scenes. I spent most of my time planning and calculating. Someone once said to me that a job well planned is a job half done so the way I see it I’ve got about 40% complete. For now the welder needs to placed aside and the woodworking tools will be coming off the shelves.