Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie

There is an urban legend that a customer asked for the recipe for these cookies and was told she could have it for “Two-Fifty”.  When she was charged $250 she got her revenge by sharing it with everyone.  While this story is not true and there are several other versions with different store names, the cookies are still very good.

Print Recipe
Neiman-Marcus $250 Cookie
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Cookies
Cook Time 10 minutes
  1. Cream Butter and both Sugars
  2. Add Eggs and Vanilla
  3. Mix Flour, Oatmeal, Salt, Baking Powder, Baking Soda
  4. Add Chocolate and Nuts
  5. Scoop out onto parchment lined baking sheet
  6. Bake at 375° for 10 Minutes
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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.

Review of Socket Saver Plumbing Tool

Update – FAIL Don’t Buy – This did not ream out a big enough hole for a pipe to go in, so it is basically useless.

While trying to replace the pump and motor on my hot tub I broke the PVC pipe at the valve.  The big problem is the male part of the valve pipe was still inside the 2″ pipe that contains the safety suction sensor.  A replacement is not available locally and if I figured it out correctly ordering it online was in the $75 range.  This part of the plumbing was still good except for the broke off pipe glued in it.  I asked Google for a way to salvage this coupling and came up with something called the Socket Saver.  It basically cuts out the pipe in the socket so you can re-use it.

Normally I would just buy a replacement pipe fitting, but in some cases a replacement isn’t easily available or would require cutting out a lot of other plumbing.  In those cases the Socket Saver may be just what you need.  You do need a different one for each size pipe and the 2″ one I’m using does require a 1/2″ drill.  It appears to have worked, but I will have to reserve my final judgement until after it has been glued up in the hot tub for a while.  My only concern is the inside is a bit rough, but since PVC pipe is joined using a solvent that chemically melts the pipe together I think it will be OK.