Tire Plug Kit – Something Everyone Should Have

In the past week I have used my tire plug kit twice, once on my riding mower and once on my car.  What would have put off mowing the lawn when I had the time or taking more than an hour to get the car fixed turned out to only take 5 minutes.

Why a plug kit

What makes putting in a plug so great is you generally do not have to take the wheel off.  You just pull out anything in the hole (nail, screw…) and put in the plug.  This not only saves you time but generally is easier.  If you look in the middle of the tire you can see a driver bit stuck in the tire.  I took a pair of needle nose pliers, pulled it out and first used the reamer and then stuck in a plug.  Less than 5 minutes including pumping the tire back up.

Consider one in each car

Since a kit is less than $10 you should consider having one in each car.  If you are on the road and catch the leak soon and are quick about plugging it you might be able to make it to a place that has a compressor.  But it would be good to have some kind of small compressor in your vehicle.  I don’t have one because for years I’ve had GM vans that had an air port on the load leveling system that could be used to pump up tires.

Only for tubeless tires

Keep in mind tire plug kits are only for tubeless tires.  If you have a leak in a tire with an inner tube to fix it you pull the tube out and put a patch on the tube.  Anyone who fixed a bike tire knows this routine.  Many tractors and wheelbarrows also have inner tubes.  If you have these kinds of tires you should probably have a patch kit as well.

The Electric Log Splitter Project

For some time now I have been considering converting a log splitter to run on an electric motor rather than a gas engine.  The splitter I have been using (red one in the background) has had starting problems since the 2nd year after my dad got it.  True a gas-powered splitter can be taken to the wood, but I think I can make a semi-permanent location work for an electric-powered log splitter.  This will require a 220V circuit to run a big enough electric motor, so that is a bit limiting, but I have the skills to put in a 220V outlet where needed.

Donor Log Splitter

I managed to get a log splitter without a gas engine from a friend that does warranty repair work for the Tractor Supply stores in my area.  He had some extra parts he was looking to get rid of.  In my case these are all new parts and I have everything I need except the power source.  It is a bit of a Frankenstein in that the hydraulic cylinder is on the bigger side of what is put in a log splitter and I think the pump is on the smaller side.  I do have to option of mounting a gas engine on it if I want to in the future, but since the family already has a gas powered log splitter, this isn’t likely to happen.

Electric Motor requirements

The next question is to figure out what size electric motor would be right for this application.  It is often said on the internet that you can get away with 1/2 the horsepower when replacing a gas engine with an electric motor.  The reason for this is as a gas motor slows down in RPM’s it generates less power.  There is a power curve related to engine RPM and you need enough power to keep the engine speed up in the range that generates the most power.  Therefore you need to “up-size” the engine to make sure that a spike in load doesn’t drop the engine RPM down too far.  Once the RPM’s start to fall, the power drops of as well, which causes further slowing of the engine and less power output.  Once this starts to happen if you do not reduce the load your engine will stall.  With a log splitter this just means just bringing the hydraulic valve back to center and giving the engine a chance to speed back up.

An electric motor is fundamentally different in that it (generally) has 100% of its torque available at 0 RPM.  This means you won’t stall it like you will with a gas engine, as the RPM’s go down you get more power available.  Of course if you have an electric motor that is simply not big enough you can stall it, but you do not have the same power drop off as RPM’s go down as you do with a gas engine.

Fortunately my son is currently going to the local Community College and some of his classes are in fluid power.  Therefore rather than guessing we will be pulling the specs from the pump and the cylinder and calculating what size electric motor we really need, and then scour the internet to source it.

You can follow this project at http://saveourskills.com/tag/electric-log-splitter/ or by signing up for e-mail updated in the upper right.

Battery Disconnect Switch

I have a 1994 F-150 truck that has some electrical problems.  Notably, there are the remnants of an alarm system in it.  This alarm system also has a kill switch function that at times disables the truck.

Since I use this truck infrequently I’ve battled this alarm and the battery draining for years.  I have tried a couple of times to have this alarm system removed, but have been unsuccessful in finding all the parts.  Therefore I’ve resorted to addressing the symptom rather than spending any more time, effort and money to remove the alarm system.  To do this I installed a battery disconnect switch.  A couple of quick turns of the green knob either connects or disconnects the battery from the electrical system of the vehicle.  Now when I want to use the truck I tighten of the knob and it starts right up.

Anyone who has vehicles or tractors that are used infrequently may find such a disconnect switch to be of value.  Of course you lose any saved settings in something like a digital radio, but to not have your battery drained is worth it.  Many newer vehicles have phantom loads that consume power, in small amounts, but never the less are there.  I have heard that the Toyota Prius has something like a parking or storage mode where the engine will start periodically to recharge the batteries.  I suspect this has a much bigger phantom load than other cars.  Older vehicles should have no phantom load.

Lead Acid batteries do have a self-discharge rate of about 5% per month so you cannot just disconnect a battery and expect it to stay good forever.  That is why there are such things as trickle chargers, to keep batteries topped up and keep the batteries from being damaged by discharge.  Take care of your batteries and they will take care of you.

 

Ultimate Knife Sharpening Guide – New e-book

Patrick Roehrman over at MT Knives has just released an e-book on Sharpening Knives.  Right now it is free if you buy his Beyond Razor Sharp video.  I got the video when he did his Kickstarter campaign to fund it.  While I have not taken full advantage of everything the video has to offer, it has helped me.  It is the kind of thing you need to watch several times and practice what was demonstrated and is definitely worth the price of the video.

 

 

Swapping A Mower Engine – Part 2

As I worked through the various alignment issues I think I finally got it ready to go.  The problem was the shaft on the new engine is not only longer but it isn’t milled down to 1″ all the way to the mower housing.  The pulleys need to line up or the belts will lose power and could be damaged.

According to a friend that is a small gas engine repairman the shafts are cut off all the time if they are too long.  The only problem is if your application gets something screwed into the end.  If you cut it off you might not have enough threads left or the hole could be too shallow.  In my case I’m using pulleys with a key-way and a set screw, so cutting the shaft was no problem.

However I did have a problem with the air supply to the cut-off tool I was using.  My air compressor just couldn’t supply volume to run the tool, so I had to pause cutting and wait for the tank to fill back up with air.  A better solution (other than a much bigger air compressor) is a cut off disk for my 4-1/2″ angle grinder.  These cut of disks are very thin, which is a good thing as that means the cut is narrower so less material is removed which means less heat is generated.  With any kind of metal-cutting heat is always a concern, if you were to just use a grinding disk it would cut a much wider slot and generate a lot more heat.  It will also take more power from the tool so if you are at the limits of what it can do you might find your tool stalling out and maybe burning up the motor.  If the piece you are working gets too how it can ruin the heat treatment.

Next step testing it out.

Start With A course Grit When Referbishing A Cutting Tool

If you are like me you keep an eye out for a good deal on used tools.  Poorly maintained cutting tools like chisels, planes or knifes can sometimes be bought at a great value because they do not cut.  After all what good is a cutting tool that does a poor job of cutting?  Many times the cutting edge is rolled and/or has nicks in it.  This requires a considerable amount of material to be removed and if you start with too fine of a grit you will find yourself spending a lot of time and still not getting it done.

If you have spent more than 5 min and you are not down to fresh metal across the whole line that you are sharpening then you need to move down to a coarser grit.  Many cutting tools have one side flat and you should always start with that side.  Resist the urge to tip that side up to shorten the amount of time needed to sharpen it, however that would be a mistake.  Tools like chisels and plane irons will not function properly if you don’t keep the back flat.

You want to use something hard and flat for an abrasive.  An affordable step many take is to use sandpaper.  However it needs to be on something flat.  A piece of marble tile that costs a couple of bucks and some spray adhesive works great.  If you have a table saw you can also the cast iron part of it to sharpen on with sandpaper.

So the moral of this story is to not be afraid to move down to a courser grit when you come across a badly damaged tool edge.  Maybe even down to 80 grit.  Look for creating an even scratch pattern across the cutting edge, once you have accomplished that you are ready to move on to finer grits.

Swapping A Mower Engine – Part 1

I have a DR Field & Brush Mower from the early 1980’s.  This is an amazing tool for clearing land and property maintenance.  However I’ve been having problems with the engine for the last two years and finally it seized up this month.  I considered trying to fix the engine, but after 35 years of use I’m not sure how worn out this engine might be.  A replacement Briggs was something over $500, however the 8HP Harbor Freight Predator brand was a bit less than $250 so I decided to give that a try.

The first step is removing the old engine and making sure the replacement is as close as possible.  In this case the old engine was an 8HP horizontal shaft engine with a 1″ keyed shaft.  I needed the pulleys from the output shaft and if I couldn’t get them off I was going to take a saw to the shaft and then drive it out.  However the puller worked easily.

You do have to be careful with the 3 jaw pullers and they can exert a tremendous force on the parts involved.  If you get to the point where you are really putting some force on the screw you have to start considering which part you might have to sacrifice.  If you need to save the shaft you can cut the pulleys of if the engine is bad anyway cut the shaft.

Another trick is to heat the parts with a torch.  if most of the heat is directed on one of the two parts stuck together you will get expansion that could be enough to break the connection between the two.  You will not be able to see it with your eyes, but the differential rate of expansion is there and you only need a small amount of movement to free up a joint or connection that is stuck.

Next mounting the new engine.