Friday, March 25, 2011

Since I posted last, there hasn't been a whole bunch going on. I'm hoping I won't have to summer in Florida again this year; there is no place I'd rather spend the summer than in the southern Appalachians, and this year I might get to do just that.

My wife bought herself a new (to us) 1996 Volvo 940 turbo. It has been a good car so far and has proven to be easy to work on. The Mrs. was still in Florida, and I drove up to the NC to buy the car. I was enjoying the good gas mileage and get up and go compared to my truck for about three days when I went to have it inspected. At thisparticular inspection station you pull up to a stop sign in the front and a service tech drives it around back to commence the inspection process. The guy drove the car around the back and I went inside to read magazines and cavort with the other patrons. About five minutes later the service tech that had driven my wife's car around back comes into the office and asked me if I had ever had trouble with this Volvo starting. I told him he was probably holding his mouth wrong which got a chuckle. Turns out the in-tank fuel pump had gone out. I had it towed to a spot where I could work on it and after six hours and a $277 Bosch fuel pump the Volvo started right up.

I drove the "new" Volvo down to Florida to pick up the Mrs., my daughter and the 1976 Winnebago.
We drove both vehicles up to North Carolina for some camping and R&R without a hitch (unless you count money spent on fuel; that was a pretty huge hitch) and all was well in the vehicle world for a couple of months. We drove the Volvo back down to Florida in time to spend Christmas with my in-laws and the car was sort of surging while cruising. Not during acceleration, just when at speed. Turns out it was the oxygen sensor and after replacing that and cleaning the mass air flow sensor (MAF sensor) she's been running like a champ. This car gets 31 mpg at 60 mph over long distances. Nice little car.

As far as carpentry work goes, I've had very little, but I've enjoyed the few small projects I've done. I built some floral display cabinets for a store that needed to show fake floral stems in an upright position instead of hanging them upside down on hooks. Here's what I came up with. I painted them gloss white and they look nice for what they are. They hold a heck of a lot of floral stem inventory, considering that the metal fence is 1"x1" square. The entire storage area is 24"x79". I was happy with the results. So was the store manager.

Alright, that's all I have for now... good to see ya!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Springtime events in the Florida Panhandle...

It's been an eventful few months in my life here in the panhandle of Florida. My wife has given birth to our first daughter and she's a wonder beyond imagination. What a gift. Everybody is happy and healthy. My vehicle has been a thorn in my side, however.

I was in Apalachicola, Florida ( headed to a friend's house when my clutch started a horrendous squealing noise. I couldn't believe it, as I had compiled a list of items that needed replacement on my truck and the clutch wasn't on it; the dealer I bought it from 4 years ago put a new one in before I bought it. (I know he did because they didn't tighten the bell housing bolts all the way and the terrible shuddering that ensued was corrected by tightening said bolts) I proceeded to Advance Auto Parts in Port St. Joe and bought a new clutch. It took my friend and I seven hours to remove the 4x4 trans axle and transmission, which entails removing the exhaust, both front and rear drive shafts, and a supporting strut under the transmission itself. Bunches of fun, I tell ya. My buddy jumped in and began removing the exhaust connections to the manifold and proceeded to break two bolts before I suggested we let them soak with Kroil ( a while before trying the other side. A little patience in situations like these help one maintain one's sanity. We had to remove the starboard manifold to drill out the broken studs and in doing so I noticed that the manifold gasket had started to deteriorate, which turns out to be the reason I had a tapping on that side from not enough back pressure on the valves. Yay! We got the clutch, pressure plate, throwout bearing and CLUTCH FORK, of all things, reinstalled and the transmission slid back in place and splined up nicely with relatively little effort. The little things that make my heart rejoice. As a side note, the clutch fork should be good for the life of a vehicle. It broke (and was the cause of the clutch problem) because of the shuddering resulting from the last mechanic failing to tighten bell housing bolts. That's why we double check behind ourselves. If you look at the clutch plate in the image, there's a lot of life left in the plate surface. The problem is the fact that the center bearing and spring plate are detached from their mounting surfaces. It should have been good for another four years. Oh, well, I know it's done right this time.

I felt I was able to breathe a sigh of relief at this point. I drove the truck home that night and everything operated normally. I was happy that I was going to be able to take the wife to the hospital to have a baby, you know. I was working on a roof in Apalach with the same buddy that helped me with the transmission, feeling that after three days of helping with my truck I should probably throw some work his way. We went back to his house for lunch and after it cooled off enough to get back on the roof we got in the truck and the starter did nothing. Ugh. Said buddy climbed under the truck to tap it with a hammer (which works when they're first starting to go bad) and that didn't help. As a side note, in March the starter went bad and I took it apart and replaced the brushes. I had to modify the brushes (drill the holes bigger and shave the sides a little) so I didn't expect them to last as long as a new starter, but it was a $6 fix instead of a $40 fix at the time. Ok, so the process of removing a starter and installing a new one is a matter of two nuts and two bolts. No big deal. That went as smoothly as I expected. And was on the aforementioned truck repair list.

Then the wife had our daughter. Yay! The truck made it back and forth for that monumental event for a week. The baby had a slightly elevated white blood cell count so they had to keep her and my wife seven days for observation and antibiotics, which I abhor, but that's another rant. She weighed 6 lbs 15 oz and had ten fingers, ten toes, two arms and two legs. What a beautiful gift. She likes Mama better because she has on-demand nourishment. She just hasn't realized I have tools, yet. I've decided that I want to be called Shrek. My wife isn't wild about the idea, but I think it's meant to be. I can already hear her as a nine year old: "Let me go ask Mom and Shrek..." It'll grow on my wife. The baby's name is Naomi. She already seems like a Naomi to me. It's strange what having a child does to a man; I hear gentle squeaking emanating from a paint roller and I think of my daughter. It makes me want to be more cautious, where before I was just a tad reckless sometimes. It's an interesting, involuntary evolution. I didn't think I had a soft side.

I was commuting the 65+ miles from Apalachicola to the hospital in Panama City and one evening the truck overheated in Mexico Beach. I just happened to look down at the gauges and noticed that the temperature gauge was red lined. 260 degrees plus. In doing everything else I hadn't noticed that the water pump had started to leak water, indicating that the impeller seal was going bad. I ran her out of water big time. Ouch. for a fraction of a second I debated whether or not to stop the motor, and decided I needed to, as I didn't know how long it would take for me find water. Fortunately, across the street there was a house with a long, black hose full of hot water which I promptly transferred into my five gallon jug (that I'm glad I tote around) and was able to pour hot water into the hot motor. I didn't crack the block, thank the Gods of mechanics. Water pump. Ugh. I didn't really want to deal with this bugger. I went over to Apalach by seven in the morning and by the time my buddy came out to see what I was doing, I had the fan shroud out, the fan off, belts and bracket bolts off and she was ready to come out. I got the rebuilt pump installed and bolted up and filled the system with water. I noticed a leak and saw that I'd kinked the gasket on the passenger side. Out comes the water pump AGAIN. I remedied that problem and reinstalled the whole thing, all the way through the fan. I gave the fan a spin to make sure all was well, and all was not well. The shaft coming out of the water pump was bent. The fan wobbled horribly and that is not good for anything attached to the belts that the water pump drives. Back to Port St. Joe. Had to buy the only one they had left in stock which was a more expensive brand new pump. Ugh. With the core charge on the rebuilt pump it was 32 bucks or something like that. The new pump was roughly ten dollars more with no core charge. I had to pay 96 cents to get the new one which means they cut me a five dollar break. That was pretty cool of the Advance guys. The "new" new pump went in smoothly and all the gaskets seated properly. After installing everything up to the fan I gave it a spin and it was normal.

My truck is running well. She runs cool, starts without a hiccup and has a strong clutch that catches the right distance off the floor. It doesn't, however, run better than it did in its earlier days. It doesn't run faster, stronger or more elaborately. The problem I have with working on vehicles is the fact that everything is NORMAL when I'm finished. Nothing is better. Just normal. That's why I'm a carpenter.

To be fair to the gods of mechanics, the power steering pump, which was on the list I mentioned towards the beginning of this post, seemed to like the temporary upheaval. The power steering has been less than brutish for a few weeks. It's been kind of weak, especially around turns at lower RPMs (where I happen to need it most). They didn't have one in stock at Advance, so I just left it hooked up to the hoses and it got banged around, knocked over, fluid leaking out of the cap... well, it LOVED the abuse. I actually have *normal* power steering. What a luxury!

That's the news... I hope everyone that happens to read this is well!

The last photo was actually taken with the truck running! (and notice that the one in this picture is a black one and the one in the above picture is a defective silver one)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Florida work

I'm currently in Apalachicola, Florida working on the old homes around here. I've built an arbor, shed roof to shelter a fish cleaning station, painted a house and now am replacing rotten siding on a house built in 1843 that was moved here from Port St. Joe.

Whoever I'm working behind at the moment must have either had no idea silicone is not paintable, or had a whole bunch to use up. It's everywhere. I've been picking silicone out of cracks all morning. There is an abundance of bad carpentry all over the house, and I'll be trying to correct as much as I can and stay within the home owner's budget.

I've been slack in posting, as my wife and I have our first child on the way; it's a girl and her name will be Naomi. We're really excited, but I'm burning the candle at both ends and haven't found much time to post on here. She's due around the end of May, or the first of June. =-)

More later!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Project in Brooklyn

I'll be meeting a woman who is rennovating a Brownstone townhouse in Brooklyn this evening. Should be fun. She wants some built in shelving, some painting and I don't remember what else, but it should carry me for a week or so. I'm excited, as it's been really slow. I removed some old window a/c units in Manhattan last week and installed two new ones. Took about an hour and the lady paid me better than I asked. I'm really looking forward to some viable work. I think they're not living in this upcoming Brownstone (which is very close to the apartment, by the way) and that means I can leave my tools out and not have to reload them every evening. Yay! I'll try to post some pictures of this project...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shelf Installation in Manhattan

Being alive is very expensive in NYC. I'm really looking forward to leaving this God-forsaken place. In all honesty, I realize I'm responsible for all but two of the seven parking tickets I've received here, but I still get really annoyed when I get one. For the record, the two tickets I'm not responsible for were given by mistake. I paid them anyway (actually, my Sweetheart paid the last two) just because it would be a full day to go contest them.

The day before yesterday I had a small job that I found on Craigslist that entailed finding studs, installing brackets and mounting shelves. I charge a $50 minimum, and good thing I did, because the job only took about half an hour and the ticket I got before I left for work was $45. Ok, I'm spinning my wheels here and so ready to be somewhere where parking is a right, not a privilege. (sigh) I'll write more when I'm not in a negative state of mind. My apologies.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Next time I'm sure I'll regale y'all with tales of Amish parking lots in Pennsylvania...

Painting stripes in Upstate NY...

Well, seeing as I try to get out of Brooklyn during the week as to avoid parking tickets, I landed in my friend Don's yard in Springfield Center, NY. The closest "real" town is Cooperstown (of Baseball Hall of Fame fame). I decided I was going to come upstate to try my hand at painting Yankee parking lots.

I managed to sell a stripe job to a fellow who shall remain nameless, because I think he might just be "connected" (in a Sicilian way). Nice guy, though, and at the moment we're waiting for everything to dry out. I found traffic marking paint for $25 a gallon, which isn't bad, considering everything else up here is out of control expensive.

Hopefully I'll paint Mr. X's lot tomorrow morning and be able to head back into NYC by early afternoon at the latest. That way I'll be able to retrieve and cash a check for a job I did last week in Brooklyn. I'll probably stay until Monday and maybe hit Pennsylvania to try my luck with Amish parking lot stripes. We'll see...

Sunday, July 05, 2009


The other day I needed to find a Wachovia in order to cash a check, so my Sweetheart and I went to Manhattan. We got caught in the rain, and decided to grab a bite and a beer and wait it out. It was a nice little place where we split a bleu cheese burger with bacon and had a pint each. Uh, oh. That got the siphon going. After we found a Wachovia and I made my transaction, we did a slow bar crawl to the place where we were going to meet one of her co-workers for more drinks. Things got a little fuzzy after that. I do remember being asked to leave the NYC mounted police stables.

Once again, yesterday turned into a similar fiasco. We went to a party near Jersey City and once again, over imbibed a bit. As we were leaving the party, we poured our remaining beers into solo cups and proceeded towards the train station to head back to Manhattan. While walking down the street of a pretty suburban neighborhood a cop pulled up and we immediately poured out beers out. That didn't help. The cop wrote us tickets anyway and, to add insult to injury, checked the box requiring us to appear in court. So, on the 20th, we have to go back to New Jersey to pay the piper. Dang.

With that behind us, we proceeded to the train station, on time, mind you, and successfully made it back to Penn Station in Manhattan. I don't remember exactly what we were bickering about, but somehow I upset the little woman and she was walking quickly up the stairs as I called out her name. Evidently a nearby cop thought things were worse than they were, and detained me for a bit until I convinced him that I was, indeed, her boyfriend. He let me go and I managed to catch up to the woman of my dreams before she got too far, which is a good thing, considering the fact that I would have been completely lost without her marvelous sense of direction. I love that woman.

Anyway, I've decided that the NYC police presence is enough to leave me inclined to moderate. Or abstain...