Archive for August, 2011

The soapbox car has reached a state of completion. It isn’t pretty but it is fun and functional. I feel as though I need to reiterate that this was a quick, dirty, and unplanned project made from scrap. In the end it all worked out and with about 2 months left until the snow flies it will still give us some enjoyment this season.

 Previously the rolling chassis was complete and the skeleton was in need of a body. Disclaimer; I am not a body man. I admit it but have not accepted it. Someday I would like to learn some basic skills. I spend some time on the forum and read, in amazement, what some of the members are capable of. Shrinking, stretching, bending, and cutting are 4 components whose intertwined relationships I have not figured out yet. So the gravity racer got outfitted with a 20 gauge sheet metal skin. Nothing fancy. All the metal was plasma cut to fit. The nose and tail bends were done on a 2 inch piece of pipe therefore all I had to do was weld 2 seams on the left and right sides. The top was plasma cut out and I guessed at the cockpit opening. I think it was cut a bit on the big size but oh well…quick and dirty.

 I knew that the metal was going to warp when it all got welded together. I was prepared to accept any warpage that would occur before I began running beads. In the end the body wave was not as bad as I thought it would be but it was still significant. The hood has got a huge wave through it, the sides turned out not bad. It is what it is and it’s not getting fixed.

 Next came the high quality paint job. No sense in spraying it when a brush works just as well :). The paint theme was created by the 5 year old designer which consisted of a red base coat with yellow lightening bolts on the sides topped with a couple of stripes on the hood. The red Tremcald was laid down in 2 coats. Lightening bolt templates were created and the yellow highlights were taped off. Next 3 coats of Tremclad gloss yellow were applied. The exterior visible steering and axle components were brushed with semi-gloss black. The interior was left completely unfinished, too much work at this stage.

 With the paint job complete and dry it was time for reassembly. The steering knuckles were installed and an alignment was performed. Zero degrees of camber, approximately 10 degrees of positive caster and toe was set straight ahead. The rear brake was installed and adjusted as well as the rear wheels.

 The cockpit had sharp edges on it from the 20 gauge sheet metal. I wanted to ensure there would be no injuries upon entry and exit so the hole was ringed with a chunk of flock lined automotive weather-stripping I had laying around. I had made a trip down to a local automotive parts store to pick up some hardware when I stumbled upon a set of plastic fake exhaust pipes for $2.99, smoking deal! The pipes were backed with adhesive and just stuck on, they were the perfect addition to the racer. The nose got decaled up NASCAR style advertising everything that the car is not equipped with.

 Since this is not an anti-gravity racer I needed to come up with a tow system. I have no problem towing the car and driver up hills behind my hardtail. I decided to use another seatbelt from the seat project and custom build it into a tow rope. I built a couple of metal tabs that allowed me to rivet a loop into the belt in order for it to slide onto my seat post. The other end was outfitted with a quick clip to allow for easy hook up to the vehicles tow hook.

 With on the finishing touches in place it was time for a few test runs. Other then a minor brake rotor adjustment the car ran flawless. The steering is responsive, the straight line stability is great and the braking performance is fantastic with great modulation. The designer appears to be quite pleased with the build. Although this car will never run a soapbox race nor will it win any competitions it has managed to fulfill its original intent. It gave my 5 year old daughter some joy. Time for me to get back on schedule with completing some half finished projects.

So I got a bit carried away with the gate hinges or perhaps it was a simple case of just “going with the flow”. Going out and purchasing prefabricated hinges just didn’t sit right with me; I had put good effort into the main frame of the gate and I wanted to carry the custom fabrication throughout the whole design. I wanted to come up with a unique design that revolved around functionality (pun intended). The criteria? The swing needed to be smooth and once that was achieved then it needed to look unique.

 Obviously there is only one way to go when dealing with smooth and that way involves bearings. The swinging gate will inflict both axial and radial loads therefore I decided to go with a cheap, yet effective, tapered roller bearing set up. I got my hands on 2 sets of L-44610/L-44643 one inch trailer axle bearings. The idea was to machine up bearing guides that would allow me to adjust out both endplay and preload. I new the size of the hinge was going to get beefy but I think the look was going to work in the end.

 I began by designing the function portion of the hinge first. Using 2” round 6061 aluminum stock I spun up 4 guides that would fit inside the 1” bore of the bearing. The guides had center holes drilled out to .500” to accept a threaded hinge pin. The bearing races needed a spacer placed below them to allow for some clearance so I enlarged the inside diameter of some 2 inch washers to allow them to fit perfectly under all the races.

 With the bearing assemblies supported it was on to the brackets that would allow the bearings to do their job. The brackets, that would eventually get welded to the hinge plate and gate frame, were all cut from 2.5” x .250” flat bar. For the set up to work I really only needed 2 brackets on the hinge plate, an upper one and a lower one; but I decided to cut 2 more extra to not only maintain a clean, symmetrical look but also provide some weather shielding for the bearings. The brackets were all sliced out with the plasma and then cleaned up on the belt sander.

 I was able to mock up the hinge assembly using a short length of .500” threaded rod. By double nutting all the bearing adjustments I was able to set the bearings so they had no endplay and no preload. Although the hinge brackets hadn’t been welded yet to the frame or hinge plate I was still able to confirm the smooth movement. It looks like functional design of the hinge is going to work, well at least work in the horizontal position with no load on it.

 It was time to move on and pretty things up. I did not want to leave the bearings exposed to the weather nor did I think the visual side of things looked that great. I made a trip down to the local metal supplier and picked up some small sections of 6061 aluminum rod stock. I was able to machine up some covers for everything. The bearings are now hidden by some 2.5” aluminum tube sections that just float in between the hinge brackets. The upper and lower nuts on the hinge pin are now aluminum capped. And the hinge pin which is a 5 foot section of .500” threaded rod is hidden by a section of .500” copper tube and finished off on the ends with some tapered aluminum caps. The caps were all cross drilled and tapped to accept set screws for locking down. The copper tube will eventually get painted black to match.

I held off welding the hinge brackets on until the rest of the gate fabrication is complete. I wanted to be able to place the gate flat in order to work on the latch system. So for now the hinge gets set aside and it’s onto designing and building a latch. I have some ideas floating around my head but haven’t settles on anything yet. I do know that I would like to achieve a unique design. I’ll see what interesting concpets will trigger the imagination over the next few days.

So with the main frame of the gate fabricated I was able to coerce the wife into the garage to discuss some design options for the remaining sections. My original plan was to fill the upper section with the same style balusters as the gazebo railing however I was open to changes and ideas. Between the two of us we decided to incorporate a welcoming symbol into the gate which would hopefully set the theme for the back yard. Since the wife is an active yogi she thought it would be fitting to fabricate an Om sign for the gate. If an Om is what she wants then an Om is what she gets.

 If you had tuned into an earlier posting titled Slicing Up Some Pi you would have witnessed the building of a plasma circle cutter used to trim out a 12” diameter circle out of 1/8” steel. The circle was specifically cut for the Om symbol project. So with the base circle constructed an Om symbol template was scaled to size and printed off from the PC. The symbol was then traced onto the steel to act as a guide. The cutting of the symbol was all done freehand except for the inner circumference which was accomplished using the circle cutter. With the rough cuts done the detail was cleaned up with a carbide bit and die grinder.

 I wanted to try and build as many visual dimensions into the gate as possible. As with any project I think it creates visually pleasing lines if multiple dimensions and materials are made to work in unison. In the case of the gate the main frame is built from 1.5” square tubing. The upper balusters are getting stepped up from the ½” used on the gazebo to ¾”. I figured framing the Om symbol with some 1” flat bar would add another dimension. So out came the ring roller and a 38” circle was squeezed out. I love that ring roller; although its capacity is limited the thing works fantastic. The circle was welded shut and the symbol was TIG’d into its frame.

 Next up was mounting the framed Om into the upper gate section. As mentioned earlier the balusters were beefed up to ¾” square steel. The symbol got suspended into the center of the opening. The build was straight forward however a bit time consuming. I have performed similar operations in the past when it came to creating a visually straight line through an object. I have learnt in the past that the flow through lines of the balusters through the symbol needs to be precise. If the balusters do not visually look in line with one another it throws the visuals way off and things look terrible. I spent the time it took to make sure everything was lined up so that the symbol was mounted centered and the balusters had an unbroken appearance.

In the end I think the plan all came together. The dimensions that where decided upon all work well with one another and the lines look good. Next task will be the hinges and latch. The hinges are going to get machined, I’ve got some bearings that I will incorporate into the gate to help get things swinging. I’ve also got some funky ideas swimming throughout my grey matter in regards to the latch. I’ll yet decide if I will do something unique or if I will crumble and fall into line with the general latch population.

Over the last few months of celebrating individuals that have made a significant contribution to my garage projects I have recognized inventors, artists, physicists, shoemakers,  mathematicians, and some great minds. Well this month, I would like to stop and take a moment to recognize an individual who has probably contributed more to my projects than any other person.

This particular contributor is not known for the same type of skill sets that individuals previously featured  possess (or possessed). By trade, this person is actually an accountant (it’s my blog so I can call it a trade if I want to) and did not spend his working years making a living using his hands. But if you think about it, accountants and building trades have one very important thing in common; they both use numbers to accomplish an end goal. With all the calculations involved in building something, you would want your virtual “balance sheet” to come out to zero. If you end up with too much or too little you’re screwed. However, it might be easier for an accountant to hide the unwanted numbers.

So you’re probably wondering how an accountant has helped me in my garage projects. Well this accountant also happens to be my dad. And although I grew up trying to learn the valuable lesson of budgeting, I was also exposed to garage projects by my dad. My dad was one who would typically tackle a problem or project on his own first. Very seldom was a “Pro”  called in to accomplish a task whether it was fixing cars, building a garage, wrenching on motorcycles, or woodworking. The guy taught me that with some forethought and planning, anyone can make something happen. As a kid, I may have been delusional thinking that my dad could do it all and there probably were times that a professional should have been called in.  But I would have never known because my dad always got through it.

My dad is the guy that taught me how to change oil, take apart 2 stroke lawn mowers, fix motorcycles, as well as implement good work habits like wiping down tools and keeping the tool box organized. Many years later I continue to practice those work habits learned from my dad.

So today I would like to say Happy Birhtday to my dad. Thanks dad for helping me get to where I am today. There is a bit of you in each of my projects.

When I have a couple hours to spare I try and hack (and I do mean hack) my way through the soap box car build. As mentioned previously this project was not actually meant to be in the grand scheme of my plans however I was suckered into it by a 5 year old and I’m pleased to do it. The main frame, front steering, and front axle have been fabricated. It was time to get a rear end into this thing. However I have to make a side note here. I always find it fascinating that my wife will apologize for things that don’t meet a certain standard. For example when she cooks something new and it doesn’t turn out just right she feels the need to constantly apologize for it. I happen to think everything turns out fantastic and feel that absolutely no apologizing should be made. By her constantly apologizing for it kind of brings things “down”. I have learned that it is in certain people’s nature to let others know that something has not met their own standard. I can relate to that therefore…I apologize for the quality of this soap box car. It is being built with a “quick and dirty” mentality. Unfortunately I do not have the time to commit to a design that I would be proud of. The car does not meet my standards.

 It’s onto the rear axle. The criteria? It needs to support the frame, roll, and brake. No problem. I have looked at typical soap box car brakes; they are usually nothing more then a chunk of wood that gets dragged on the pavement. No good! We need dependable performance with good wear characteristics. I had an extra Shimano rear disc brake set up off one of my mountain bikes so I decided to donate it to the project. It’s a hydraulic set up featuring a 160mm rotor. Since I was only going to run a single disc on the rear axle this meant that I was going to have to incorporate a live axle. This way both rear wheels and the disc brake rotor would all be connected solid to a rotating axle.

 So the axle build was started by punching out the wheel bearings that came with the purchased 10 inch wheels. Next a ½” keyed axle, a couple of flange bearings, and three ½” hubs were purchased. 2 of the hubs were machined down in order to fit the 10 inch wheels. The hubs were machined to ensure a slight press fit into the hole where the wheel bearings were punched out from. The wheels then got spun up on the lathe at 900 rpm to ensure there was no excessive lateral run out. Once true, the hubs were then TIG welded into place. The 3rd purchased hub was then machined down to fit the 160 mm Shimano rotor. 6 holes were drilled and tapped and the rotor was bolt on. It too was inspected for lateral run out and was tested to be 100%.

 So with the wheels reworked and the rotor set up fabricated I moved onto the axle housing. The housing material used was the same as the front axle, a chunk of ¾” gas pipe. I built, and welded on, a couple of axle flanges in order to support the flange bearings and the brake caliper. The axle support mounts were welded to the frame and the axle was bolted in using 1.5” muffler clamps. I was able to mock up the rear axle in order to check the caliper to rotor clearances. I needed to machine a couple of aluminum spacers in order to space the caliper out to allow for proper clearance.

 With the rear axle complete it was time to move onto the pedal box and master cylinder set up. First a floor board was built in order to establish proper spacing. The driver was test fit in the cock pit and dimensions were measured. With the bracing welded in place the next step was to fab the brake pedal. I machined a section of aluminum the same dimension as a handlebar in order to clamp the bicycle master cylinder to it. Some vertical support brackets were cut up and welded in place to allow for mounting of the aluminum master cylinder mount. Next a very simple pedal pivot was made out of 3/8” cold rolled round bar. I had aluminum checker plate left over from the lathe stand project so I plasma cut a good sized brake pedal out and riveted it to the pivot assembly. The floor board was also cut from the checker plate as was a dead pedal for the right side.

 So as things presently sit I have myself a rolling chassis with steering, brakes, and the works. Next everything needs to get tightened, adjusted and mounted solid and it will be ready for some trial runs before getting enclosed. I am not planning to make this car serviceable. The body is going to get welded on. My only access for service or repairs will be from the open undercarriage or what I can access though the cockpit.



…is what has been going on for years now so it’s onto the gate project. Hopefully this project won’t drag out too long. Let’s face it…it is just a gate but then again why make it simple when it works just as well complicated?

 The criteria? Easy, some sort of vertically hung blockage that can be opened and closed by any living thing that posses opposable thumbs. It needs to keep out anything that has fur, is bigger then a ½” impact wrench, possess a gestation period of between 28 – 31 days, and eats anything and everything, in the form of plant, that grows on my property.

 The design was made to keep the lines and looks in harmony with the rest of the property. The main frame will be built from 1.5 x 1.5 x .065” square tubing to help keep things light. I have some leftover pipe from the gazebo railing project so I think I will toss in some rings to keep the theme consistent. The main filler will be 1 x 6 rough lumber fence boards painted to the same color as the fence. The top will get an arch to help pretty it up. Once the main section is welded I will then be able to stand back and try to envision the remaining requirements.

 All the metal was cut and prepped before an arc got struck. The top arch section was a 1.5`x .250`section of flat bar that got run through the metal bender until the arc visually looked good. The rings were cut on the band saw to a thickness of .750”. The rings were a bit thicker then the gazebo railing rings however I thought a slightly beefier look would suit the structure.

 The bottom horizontal section of the gate (the piece that runs adjacent to the ground) got set at a 3 degree angle instead of square to the verticals. I wanted to hug the gate as close as I could to the ground in order to minimize any entry points for Peter Cottontail. So the bottom horizontal now runs at the same angle as the property grading.

 The fence boards all got a free ride through the table saw so as to trim their widths down from 6” wide to 5.25”. This way I was able to fit 6 boards, with equal widths, inside the frame.

 So with the main frame welded up I will now be able to set up a meeting with the wife in order to discuss further design ideas. I am unsure what I will do about hinges and a latch. The easy thing would be to purchase some pre-made hardware. That does not sound like a whole lot of fun to me. Perhaps some custom, one of a kind, hardware is in order. I will see what the “sleepless night design department” can come up with.