Sunday, April 24, 2011

H20 Mop Take 2: The Rebellion

Ok, so I had to deal with this mop once before and showed it who is its master. But this time, when it all happened I decided that I could not let it go and take care of it once and for all. Yes, Melanie's "trusty" steam mop decided to throw another wrench in my plans to keep it around for a few more years.

I was working downstairs in the office when she called me upstairs saying that the steam mop had broken and I should bring the epoxy glue along with me. So I went upstairs and what I saw wasn't pretty.

How it works:
Essentially, the head of the steam mop is attached to the main part by a pivot, much like a u-joint on a car: an x-axis pivot and a y-axis pivot in the form of two plastic pieces held together by two screws.

Since I was not going to let this mop go to waste and give up on it, I decided to take it out in the shop, take Nathaniel along and make it stronger than ever before.

Unfortunately, because how cheaply these things are made, they don't withstand the onslaught of a fierce cleaning lady like Melanie for longer than a year or two and this day was meant to be its last. But, it did not count on my own persistence (or stubbornness as Melanie calls it).

The first thing I had to do was taking the bottom part of the steamer apart to retrieve the little piece of plastic that fell off. Then, I used my trusty 5-minute (dollar store) 2-component epoxy glue and a dental pick (they are awesome to get into little crevasses) to glue it back into place. However, since the entire (actually, half) of the mop's weight hinged on this one little knob that broke off I knew that the glue would not be strong enough to hold it in for longer than maybe one or two cleanings.
Here's a "birds-eye" view. Visible is where the piece was broken off (1), the pivot mechanism (2) and the actual piece that broke off (3)

Here's the inner workings of the mop where the piece that broke off (1) and the pivot part of the steam mop (2)

Originally I thought of putting a strip of sheet metal across the part that was broken off and screw some screws right into the plastic, but because the pivoting "ball" had such a small clearance that was not an option. Then I remembered that I had bought some fiberglass mesh a while back that people usually use for repairing boats or hot tubs or other items made with fiber glass.
Here's how little clearance between the pivot and the mop part that did not allow for a strip of metal

Here's one half of the pivot part with the broken off piece (5) glued back into place

To prepare the plastic part, I used a good old dremel to roughen up the surface so the epoxy would stick, put a layer of epoxy glue across the whole surface (including the little piece that broke off) and stuck the cut-to-size fiber glass mesh on the epoxy. After a few minutes it was hard enough not to slide/move so I whipped up another batch of epoxy and covered the entire fiber glass mesh with a good 1/16th of an inch.
The fiber glass mesh/cloth I cut up and used to reinforce the plastic pivot

Here's how I custom fit the fiber glass cloth before glue it

After the first coat of epoxy glue

After the second coat of epoxy glue

Another view of the bottom half of the reinforced pivot

A magnification of the crack through the fiber glass cloth and epoxy glue. The size of the little piece of plastic that broke off was approximately 1/2" by 5/8"

After about 10 minutes (during which Nathaniel managed to crushed his ankle by three 8' pieces of MDF that he pushed over and onto himself, but that's another story) it was all cured and ready for the final step before reassembling it again. Using an air die grinder, I smoothed/shaped the bumps in the epoxy and fiber glass layer down to a consistent 1mm layer, shaved off a bit of the plastic of the bottom part to make it fit and screwed it all back together.

The final piece. It looks dirty in this picture but I think that's because of the lighting. It is actually barely noticeable when using the mop.

Screw driver, dental pick, scissors, dremel, air die grinder


Epoxy glue, fiber glass mesh/cloth




$100.57 (again)

Rebellion is all over. Not acceptable in my household! :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Building My Car Ramp

It was brought to my attention (thanks Richard) that there were some discrepancies in my measurements. The correct steel dimensions are as follows:

Angle Iron: 2.000" by 2.000" by 0.250"
Square tubing: 1.500" by 1.500" by 0.125"

I couldn't stand squeezing into the tight space under the car when I had to do some repairs so I figured I'd build myself a nice heavy duty car ramp that stows away into a 4' x 8' x 3' work bench. The real reason that started this was that a few years back one of the brake lines of our car burst and within one week a break line on the other car burst because of rust. However, because I did not have the proper setup I ended up having to pay $180 TIMES TWO to get them fixed. That's when I decided that instead of letting this happen again, I'd invest some money into building a real car ramp, 20 feet long to fit any vehicle (an 8' up-ramp followed by a 12' horizontal ramp), 16" wide and 20" high. Needless to say aside from using it on many occasions for our own vehicles, I've even used it to replace one of my father in law's van's wheel bearings and my brother in law's truck's lower ball joint so the ramp has paid for itself probably almost (if not more than) 10 times.

The plan was to build a ramp in sections so that when it is not being used it can be stacked into a compact "box", place a sheet of MDF on top and use it as a 4' by 8' work island at a comfortable 36" height. The dimensions worked out so that I had two 8' sections, two 4' sections and four 4' up-ramp sections, each one 16" wide and 20" high



I just HAD to draw up a diagram in AutoCad even though I built the ramp over a year ago (October 2009)

The main section consists of an 8' piece and a 4' piece, the ramp consists of two 4' pieces

My guess is that the load capacity of these ramps is well over 5000 lbs.

Stacked up into a 4' by 8' by 36" high box

My goal was to end up with a 36" high table that I can simply put a 4'x8' sheet of MDF on as a work area and extension bench for my table saw

Here's a closer view of all the pieces stacked together on the 8' long pieces

The final shop island working surface

It's amazing how often I use this extra 32 square feet of work surface for my projects

Grinder, measuring tape, soap stone marker, bench grinder, clamps, welder, table saw, powder actuated fastener gun, hammer

94' of 1.500" x 1.500" x 1/8" square steel tubing
80' of 2"x2"x1/4" angle iron
67' of 1"x1"x1/8" angle iron
half a pack of welding electrodes
5 sheets of 3/8" OSB
1 sheet of 5/8" MDF
1 sheet of formica/arborite


Approximately 25 hrs

About $3200 so far (in car repairs I was able to do myself instead of having to pay someone $90 bucks/hr)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Tribute To My Dad: Fixing Our Van

This is a blog post I wrote on Melanie's blog in February 2009 but since I have my own now I thought I'd copy it over to mine.

There is always a first. And true to that saying here I am breaking into my wife's blog to finally post a thought that has been on my heart for many years.

Let me set the stage. This one particular chain of events all started last week when we bought a new van. Even though we weren’t expecting any major repairs coming up with our new van (2004 Chevy Venture) we knew there was going to be some minor upkeep.

One of the first things I noticed when taking it for a spin was that the windshield wipers would not retract completely when turning them off. Apparently (so I found out later) this was a quite common occurrence with that kind of vehicle and I gladly accepted the challenge of getting to the bottom of this.

A day later I took some time to poke my head under the hood and wanted to see what the actual cause was. My suspicion was (and a mechanic at Canadian Tire echoed my suspicions) that there was something wrong with the wiper motor. However, once I looked at it more closely I realized that it was actually the mechanism between the motor and the wipers that withdraws the wipers completely, called the wiper parking gears that was to blame.

Before I can continue I have to go into some greater detail of how Chevrolet decided to engineer the wiper mechanism. First thing you’ll see when turning on the wipers on is that they come up just about 6 inches from where they were “parked” and then continue doing their job always returning to their “un-parked” position until you turn them off when they return all the way down to their parked position. The way the mechanical aspect works is via the above mentioned wiper parking gears. This is what the mechanism looks like:

Once I removed the mechanism I noticed that on my part the little spring holding the rocker arm in its proper position had been broken off. When parking the wipers the motor actually reverses its direction and this rocker arm catches on a metal tab and activates the cam sandwiched between the metal plates. This increases the angle of the wipers and pulls them back all the way down to their parked position; pretty genius, when it works.

So back to why I’m writing this entry. Many positive things in my life I attribute to my dad and his wisdom. One particular pearl he taught me is that nothing is impossible if you set your heart to it and are persistent enough even when the situation seems hopeless.

I don’t know when I learned this particular and very valuable lesson from my dad. I don’t think he ever sat me down and taught me with those words but instead I think it came with years of observing him using his creativity to fix things, invent tools that would make his job easier and having the endurance to keep going until he found a solution to a particular challenge. Of course he taught me how to weld, cut trees, fix motorcycles, build roofs or even plant a garden, but he also taught me more subtle lessons, the most valuable ones any father could teach his son and the ones I’m most grateful for. Those are the lessons that will be passed on to the next generation and to the generations after that and become his legacy.

Anyways, I called GM to find out how much a replacement mechanism would cost and was shocked to hear that it was gonna be almost $200 bucks so I called a used parts shop and they had one for about $70 which was still a lot considering that on the part I ended up buying from them the little rocker arm and spring were heavily used and quite loose but I picked it up anyways just in case I couldn’t find any other way to fix the one that was broken.

Here is a picture of where the parking mechanism belongs: It is mounted on top of the wiper motor and then the arm which goes to the wipers attaches to that mechanism. The motor turns the parking mechanism clockwise which creates a back and forth motion via the arms that go to the wipers. These arms are called the wiper transmission (I just found that out a couple of days ago). Oh yeah, I should mention that I have never taken apart a wiper mechanism before, had no idea how it all worked so if I accidentally get some descriptions wrong that would be the reason why. But for the most part I think I figured out how it all works together to make the wipers work.

So here I was racking my brain on how to replace that little spring (see the 3rd picture). Not only was that little rocker arm less than an inch in length, but one of the first thing that happened when trying to “fix” it, the little arm came off so now I had to figure out how to re-create the spring as well as figure out how to make some sort of holding mechanism that keeps the arm and spring in its place. That was two days ago.

Today, Melanie left with our son to go for a visit with his grand parents in Halifax for a few days and I figured it would be a great opportunity to spend some quality time in my shop taking on this challenge. After having taken the part off the motor and went digging through the garbage to find the little rocker arm because I had thrown it out a couple of days ago (I wasn’t planning on fixing the broken part but rather simply replacing it). I started by welding a little angle bracket to the bottom of the wiper parking mechanism to hold the little rocker arm into place.

Now came the challenge of the spring because it had to hold the rocker arm in a very specific position so that it would catch the tab when shutting off the wipers. Here’s a picture of how the rocker arm is supposed to catch on the tab to engage the oval cam, extending the arm and parking the wipers:

But before I could get to replace the spring I ran into another problem. When welding the angle bracket, I melted a washer that held the whole mechanism together. So I figured I might as well take it apart completely and give it a good clean with a wire brush. This is what it looked like before…

…and after the cleaning:

After I put it all together I wound the spring around the rocker arm; this took a good 20 minutes or so.

I put it all together and it worked like a charm but it made a little clicking noise because of the spring in the middle picture above so I decided I wanted to clip it off but what I did not realize was that the little rocker arm was made out of aluminum and was not very strong. Because of the pressure I put on the rocker arm, just before I thought I was done for the night, it snapped in half and I was ready to throw the whole assembly into the garbage and declare the night a waste of time and or at least a partial failure. But because I did have fun so far I decided to keep going. This is what it looked like after I put it together but just before I broke the rocker arm:

I remember the many times I’d watch my dad trying to fix something just to be surprised by some other mechanical misfortune. But he always kept going when that happened and didn’t give up until he conquered that problem so I decided, since I had no other obligations, to continue as well and see what I could do about the broken rocker arm that now looked like this:

Off I went to my box of scrap metal to find a piece that was exactly 2mm thick and stronger than the cheap cast aluminum. I found a piece and traced it using the old broken rocker arm and then cut it out with the angle grinder and bench grinder.

Here was the replacement for the broken rocker arm but I still had to put it all together, re-do the spring and secure it with the washer that I had partially melted before. After it was all back together I simply had to install it on the wiper motor, put on the cover and I had successfully completed my mission.

After having spent many hours in the shop I can proudly say that I successfully fixed my old wiper parking mechanism and will be able to return the one I bought at the used car parts place. I did have to ask myself the question though: Was it worth it all just to save $70 bucks? The answer is unequoviqually "Yes, it definitely was"! Overall I probably earned/saved $15 bucks an hour for my time in the shop but it wasn’t about the money anyways, it was about the challenge and proving my dad right in that YES, anything is possible when you set your heart to it. But having saved the $70 bucks will come in handy since I can now go buy myself a tool or something else for my shop. I don’t know yet what it will be but I’m sure I will find something quite easily once I walk through the doors of Princess Auto or Canadian tire…
Dad, it is because of your persistence, patience and positive outlook on challenges like these that I dared to tackle this particular repair problem. I will always look up to you, admire you and thank God for having brought me into your family. I could go on for a lot longer, telling of all the wisdom you have taught me, but instead I will use your gentle kindness as an example to instill the same wisdom, kindness and patience into my own son so that maybe one day he will be able to look on a challenge and say: Nothing is impossible when you set your heart to and don’t give up. Dad, I love you.

After over 2 years, the mechanism is still working as it's supposed to


About 4-5 hours


Friday, April 8, 2011

Painting Our Front Door

For about two years, Melanie had wanted to add some color to the outside of our house (which she has already done quite well throughout the inside). Her vision was to paint (well, really to get ME to paint) the front door a bold, bright color. Several crazy colors were on the menu: lime green, bright blue, bold red and mustard yellow. I put my foot down and told her that if she wanted the lime green or mustard yellow she'd have to do it herself (which left a fairly small chance we'd actually end up with one of those colors).

After work one day around that time I drove home and saw this newer car driving in front of me and I just couldn't come to a conclusion as to whether it was red or orange. That was rather intriguing to me and that night I told her that I thought I had found the color that would work for both of us. The next day we decided to go to a few car dealerships to drive through the car lots until we'd find the car with the color that I had seen the previous day. We did find it after a few car lots and Melanie liked the color and so the decision was made: Inferno Orange Metallic it was.

TWO YEARS LATER (this was last weekend), Melanie went to Halifax for a few days and I decided to finally get it done. I had already picked up the paint and reducer way back when and it was sitting in my basement ready to be used.

The process was fairly simple: Take off the door, prep the door, paint the door, put the door back on. However, it was quite time consuming because of the actual work details involved. And since I do like details (I can feel Melanie rolling her eyes) I will try to be as thorough as possible.

The first thing i had to do after removing the door was give it a light sanding (150 grit) with my orbital sander to smoothen it out nicely. Then i had to wash it with a grease removing solution (TSP would work, I ended up using driveway degreaser...the good stuff). Then i washed it with clean water, dried it up and gave it a final rub-down with the reducer (similar to paint or lacquer thinner). Prep was now done.

The door once it was removed and prepped. I had to hang up some sheets and plastic so the overspray of the paint would not get on the walls and tools.

The door after it was painted. I noticed a few small runs so I laid the door down flat hoping the runs would flatten out and they did.

The finished product

Drill, orbital sander, paint brush, paint strainer, VOC compliant respirator, compressor, paint gun

Skill orbital sander. not exactly the same one i used but fairly close

I used a Divilbiss active charcoal respirator that can be used with high VOC paints. I did not want to take any chances as the paint was not exactly the best for the lungs if i breathed it in.

I bought this beauty at Princess Auto a few years ago. I can't remember how much it was but i think it was under $50 bucks. Works like a charm.

Degreaser, plastic sheets, masking tape, paint, reducer

GM Inferno Orange Metallic, fast-drying acrylic enamel auto body paint

Nason, full-base reducer to thin the paint. This had to be done in a 4:1 ratio (paint:reducer)

Paint & reducer: $88.52
Respirator: $45.19 (but i won't have to get one next time)

About 5hrs


Love it (and Melanie does, too)