Monday, December 24, 2012

The Fix That Wasn't

Fixing the auto levelling control arm of our chevy venture van to pass inspection

I just brought our van to the yearly MVI where it was determined that the mechanism that levels the rear of the van was broken. The component that determines whether the van's rear axle is horizontal is comprised of an electrical unit and a mechanical arm that moves up and down as the rear axle moves up and down. Somehow that arm fell off and the tech said that I had two options:

1. Fix the auto levelling sensor and arm, which he quoted me $700 bucks for, or
2. Replace the air pressure assisted rear shocks with a set of new, non-air assisted shocks and bypass the auto leveling feature altogether. He still quoted me about $200 bucks for that

Naturally, I didn't want to spend any money and figured I could probably fix the arm for free.

This is the component from every angle showing the arm(s) that were missing
First I had to calculate how long and at what angles the arms were
AutoCad to the rescue
Plus some trigonometry. Remember the rule: soh, cah, toa...
Then I made a piece out of two component epoxy putty
Close-up of the piece that links into the sensor
Then I used that epoxy putty positive as a model to make a sand mold and cast it in aluminum
I had inserted a 1" flat iron cut and bent to shape and size before I poured the aluminum so it was cast into the aluminum knob during pouring
Unfortunately, after about 4 hours of plugging away, I bumped that darn sensor onto the ground and broke the one pice off that I couldn't fix it.
I was so mad, since I had just spent several hours, was almost done and with one careless movement I broke the $500 ALS sensor!
The only option left was to go buy two cheapo shocks ($38/each) and replace the air-assisted shocks (which I had just replaced a bit over a year ago with brand new ones). Needless to say, even though I passed the inspection with these new shocks I wasn't very pleased on how it turned out...

Impact wrench, torque wrench, adjustable wrench, socket set, drill, aluminum foundry, car ramps, mig welder, drill press, angle grinder,

2 component epoxy putty, scrap aluminum, 7" piece of 1" flat iron


6 hrs

About $100 bucks

Failure at first, success (partial) at the end although not the way I wanted it to turn out!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Stable

It all started with an innocent email from my pastor's wife asking if I could build some sort of stable for the Christmas production. After thinking about it for a little while and meeting with her to find out the extent of what she was looking for I agreed.

The first step was to try to find an old barn from which I could scour some materials. I wanted to make it look old and weathered as opposed to building it with new lumber. I remember from when I used to live out in Memramcook that there were several barns that had fallen down over time and on one of my trips out there I found one that I thought could work.

After knocking on 3 different houses, I finally found someone who knew who actually owned the property and he said he'd find out whether I could use some of the wood. The next week I had to go back out to Memramcook so I stopped by his place and he said that I was allowed to take as much as I needed.

The next day I loaded up the van with some demolition tools as well as Nathaniel to go for a little "Bid and Destroy" adventure.

I envisioned the entire stable to be constructed in sections that were small enough to carry and assemble by one person as follows:

Left wall: 3'-6" wide by 5' high
Right wall: 3'-6" wide by 5' high
Back wall bottom: 9' wide by 2'-6" high
Back wall middle: 9' wide by 2'-6" high
Back wall top: 9' wide by 2' high (triangular)
Front support beam: 9'-8" wide by 2' high (6x6 lumber)
Left roof: 4' wide by 5'-6" long
Right roof: 4' wide by 5'-6" long
Hay storage part one: 3' high by 3'-6" wide
Hay storage part two: 3' high by 2' wide

All of these are held together by 37 lag bolts. I designed it in a way that nothing should be confusing and none of the lag bolts could get lost so after everything was taken apart into its sections I drilled 37 holes in the back of the main support beam to store the lag bolts for future use.

The barn in all its glory
View from the inside
Nathaniel scouting out the "woods"
Measuring and cutting up the required lumber with the chain saw
Miss Ellie and Mel came for a visit
Van full of boards and beams
View after I had cut out a bunch of lumber
Back home in my shop after the second load of lumber was just "harvested"
Building the walls first, all in sections that one person could carry and assemble
The cut-out for placing the main roof support beam onto the wall and post
Building the top module of the back wall
One roof section
It's coming together nicely
I had to remove all the cedar shakes from the wobbly section I had cut out of the barn to re-staple them on a new base for the roof
I ended up welding a piece of metal bar to my air powered mini jack hammer to pry the shingles off the old roof
This is about a quarter of all the shingles needed for both roof sections
Starting the build-up of the roof sections, one shingle at a time
Finished roof section
Almost done
After I built a little area for putting hay bales
Some of the larger left-over pieces that I drove back out to the old barn
Lag bolt storage

Lag bolt storage
The bottom two rear wall sections
Rear wall, side wall and roof sections
After it was set up at the church
Another Angle

During the production
Another angle with the wise men
A nice close-up shot


Chain saw, hammer, crow bars, 5' breaker bar, vise, chain saw sharpener, measuring tape, pencil, marker, table saw, mini-jack hammer, air stapler, air compressor, planer, jig saw, reciprocating saw, framing nailer, cordless drill, 1/2" and 5/8" socket and ratchet, chop saw, ladders, drill bits

Old wood from barn, 37 lag bolts, sun bleached wood stain to fix minor imperfections, nails




Looks good, but then again, that's just my opinion

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Door Handle

Fixing a broken door handle for a friend of mine

After taking it apart I found out that one cast aluminum part had broken off on one side. I tried to weld it but aluminum is notoriously hard to weld so I ended up fabricating a simple metal bracket to hold the broken side in place.

Right beside the left vertical "tube" at the bottom was a flat piece with a hole in it that allowed this piece to be tied down but it broke off
The fabricated piece of metal that will tie the aluminum piece to the door
The fabricated metal piece in the place where it will hold down the aluminum piece
Installed in the door
Another view, you can see the screw through the metal piece at the bottom left
The door handle after it was removed. The set screw was all mashed up so I had to drill it out, re-tap the handle and find a black screw from my bin of left-over screws
After the broken set-screw was replaced on the handle with a new one
Installed door handle. Works great now!
Outside view


Drill, screwdriver, angle grinder, bench top grinder, oxy/acetylene torch, hammer

A scrap piece of metal and a left-over screw from my bin



Depending on the cost of a replacement door handle. Maybe $150.00. Or, if the broken part is one that could be replaced, then it would be $10 bucks, maybe $15?

Success. I hope it will last.