Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hydraulic Bottle Jack Filling and Release Valve 'Repair'

The jack pictured below was a roadside find.

It appeared to be in pretty good condition -- no signs of having been abused, or even of having ever seen much use. Its ram would raise a bit, but it wouldn't support any load. I set it aside and it languished for months on a shelf, until I finally picked up a bottle of jack oil at Canadian Tire. I figured that even if it's full, once I start looking into its works it'll likely lose some oil, so no point in proceeding without oil on hand.

When I returned to the jack, its ram wouldn't raise at all anymore.

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These jacks all have a fill plug on the side of the reservoir jacket somewhere. Here's a close-up of this one's.

It's just a resilient plug that can be pried out with a screwdriver. Here's the jack again with the plug removed, and the oil I bought for it. The jack appears to be completely empty. They're supposed to be filled up to the bottom of the fill hole.

On the oil bottle, note the red stripe at about the middle where it says "ISO AW32"[1]. It seems that "ISO AW32" is the key specification for hydraulic jack oil. Whatever brand you get from wherever you get it, if it complies with ISO AW32, it's the right stuff.

It looked to me like this could get messy, so I arranged to do the filling on my oil change drain pan. The only funnel I had that was near small enough was my Coleman camp stove fuel funnel. I took out the funnel's filter element for this.

That almost worked. But the funnel's spout proved to be too snug a fit in the fill opening, so the spout was unable to vent[2]. I solved that with a one-inch length of 1/4' diameter thin-walled brass tubing. The tubing was a nice fit in the end of the spout.

I filled the jack full, then set it upright and let the excess empty. I tried the jack and I was back to where I'd started -- the ram would raise, but it wouldn't support a load.

I tried a procedure known as 'priming'[3]. To 'prime' a jack, you close the release valve, manually raise the ram to its full height, open the release valve and push the ram back down. That had no effect.

The jack was behaving exactly as if its release valve weren't closing fully. I unscrewed the valve stem completely and took a peek inside -- there was no check ball in there, and it sure looked as though there ought to be one. Here's a shot of the valve stem, along with a 1/4" diameter ball bearing I got from my stash of bicycle parts.

Note the dimple in the end of the valve stem. That's a pretty certain clue that it had been operating with a ball under it at one time.

I reassembled the valve with the ball inside and the jack worked.

Here it is under a Ford Ranger behaving like a jack.

So, for the price of a bottle of oil and one ball bearing from the bike shop, I've got a working jack. Not a bad outcome at all.

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Storing a Jack

An idle jack should be put away with its ram fully collapsed, so it's protected from rusting, and its release valve closed, so it can't leak.

The 'seal' around this jack's release valve stem is only as effective as it needs to be, which is to say 'not very'. If left unclosed, the release valve will leak oil. That's no doubt how this jack came to be empty -- with the release valve's check ball missing, oil had a slow leakage path out past the marginal seal.

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[1] 'ISO' stands for 'International Organization for Standardization', which has a rather Orwellian ring to it, don't you think? (And they seem to be a bit 'letter-order' challenged.) I'm led to believe that the 'AW' stands for 'All Weather'. The '32' is an ISO viscosity number.

[2] Nothing is ever as simple as it looks like it ought to be.

When a funnel's spout is a snug fit in a vessel's only opening, the air inside the vessel can't escape as liquid is poured in. Liquid fills the funnel's spout and backs up into the funnel.

Some funnels have a self-venting feature.

Note the ribs on the smaller funnel at the left in the above photo. The ribs prevent the spout from 'seating' in an opening, and so maintain a venting path. The smooth spout on the larger funnel will happily seat snugly and provide no vent.

A solution is to drape a little piece of telephone cabling wire over the neck of the jug, or whatever, that is being filled, so the spout doesn't seat.

Just about anything will serve -- a bit of plant stem or leaf, anything that will displace the spout a little so there's an air path out to the atmosphere.

[3] What priming allegedly does is it draws oil from the reservoir through two check valves and their passageways, presumably purging any air that might be interfering with the hydraulics' works. I'm not sure I understand that, but that's what priming allegedly does. Anyway, there's a pretty good animation of a jack's operation here.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011


Stickler that I am for precise word usage, I thought I'd treat you all to another one of my 'lexicon' posts. The previous (and first) one dealt with the homophones 'vice/vise'.

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My wristwatch had lost some time when I went to put it on the other morning -- it needs a new 'battery'.


I know it's come to be common usage, but it's incorrect. What goes in a watch is a 'cell', not a 'battery'.

Pictured below is the little bubble-packed item I got from Staples.

In the lower left corner of the card it says "battery". The package does not contain a battery. It contains a cell.

This is a cell.

This is a battery.

A battery consists of more than one cell. The cells might be assembled in a single casing, as they are in a car battery.

Or they might slide into a tubular housing, as they do in a flashlight battery.

But a 'battery' always consists of more than one cell. A single cell is not a battery.

I would have thought that Duracell, of all people, would keep that straight.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Flour Sifter Repair

Kitchen gadgets can present you with some remarkably challenging repair work. The unfortunate flour sifter pictured below is a good example.

The leaf spring that gave the sifter blade's lever its self-return action fell to pieces, and re-creating that looks to be beyond me; I can't even picture how the spring might have been configured when it was whole.

Also, note the upper end of the lever -- it used to just perch on its pivot rod, held there by spring tension. It doesn't encircle the pivot rod. There's another complication.

And one more problem with the sifter that the photo doesn't reveal is that the sifter blade is loose on its spindle. This is truly an inoperative sifter.

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The Sifter Blade

I'll start with the loose sifter blade; that should be a fairly straightforward thing to correct. Here is out of the sifter. A little cotter pin was holding it to the crank mechanism in the bottom.

That's a view of its underside. That flatted spindle is free to turn to no effect.

Here it is right side up in the vise.

The factory did a nice-looking but quite ineffectual peening job on it. Here it is after a proper bit of peening with a light hammer.

That takes care of that; no more loose sifter blade. Now I have to deal with the lever's pivot.

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The Pivot

I've made a pivot sleeve and pin for it.

The sleeve was made by boring a 4mm diameter steel rod in the lathe with a 3mm drill. The pin is 3mm diameter steel rod that I've threaded at both ends. The nut that's on the pin was installed permanently with CA adhesive and a bit of peening.

Here's a photo of my method for die-threading rod. It works a lot better than the orthodox method.

The die is held stationary while the work is turned. It's much easier to keep the work presented squarely to the die this way.

Here's the lever with its new pivot sleeve soldered in place.

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The Spring

The broken leaf spring really had me racking my brain over how to restore its function. Then a light went on and I thought, "torsion spring"!

I went for a rummage in my salvaged torsion springs bin and came up with this.

One Last Detail

That's just about everything, but there was one remaining flaw that was bothering me. At the left side of the handle, the hole for the pivot rod was 3mm diameter; that's what led me to use 3mm diameter rod for a pivot pin. But at the right side of the handle, the hole for the pivot rod was oversize -- almost 4mm diameter -- to accommodate the factory's purpose-made pivot pin, I suppose. That made for a pretty sloppy fit for the pivot pin at the right side.

When I was boring the 4mm diameter rod to make the sleeve, I had bored it deeper than I needed to, so I had left the makings of a tiny bushing. With a bit of careful setting up with the aid of a dial indicator, I was able to cut a 0.024" long piece off the end of the bored rod, and I had a bushing. Here it is perched on the sifter's handle just below where it goes.

I drilled out the oversize hole a bit to a full 4mm, and the bushing goes in place and does exactly what it's supposed to do -- take up the slop so the lever pivots as it should.

So, it's done.

At final assembly, I'll put the hex nut on with blue Loctite, and oil the pivot a little with light mineral oil.

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For what it's worth, here's a view of the underside of the sifter.

Squeezing the handle lever results in that crank moving through an arc of about ninety degrees, then returning when the lever is released.

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I tried it out filled with flour, and it pretty much works ok. The torsion spring could stand to be a little bit more forceful, though. The flour piled up on the sifter blade imposes a load such that the first couple of lever strokes don't want to return all the way. After that it works fine.

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Aside from the poor peening job the factory did on the sifter blade's spindle, and the leaf spring that broke, this is a beautifully made tool. To just throw it away would be a shame. But the landfills are no doubt piled high with such things because of the difficulty of repairing them effectively. And I have no illusions about the 'economics' of what I've been up to here with this little item. Many would consider it outrageous the amount of resources I've brought to bear on repairing something that can be replaced for a few dollars, and I wouldn't try to argue the point.

Then there are those who maintain that 'business as usual' is about to get dumped in a jar and given a good shaking, and such work as I've given an account of here will be the new 'normal'.

We'll see.

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Addendum -- SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2013

A reader pointed out to me that there's a way to sift flour without using a purpose-made flour sifter -- you put flour in a strainer and tap the strainer. (It seems that many TV chefs use the method.)

The reader had a flour sifter similar to mine fall apart on her; that got me thinking about the style of flour sifter that my mom always used. My mom's sifter was the type that you cranked, something like this one.

It takes both hands to operate it, but a sifter like the one pictured above will probably last forever. (Something to keep in mind when shopping for a flour sifter.)

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Copper Pipe Trial Assembly Coupling

I have a plumbing improvement to do in my home that I've put off for far too long. Finally, today, I went and bought all the material I'll need, and set about seriously thinking how to go about it.

The improvement to be done is to reroute the hot water supply to the kitchen sink. As it stands now, the run of copper pipe feeding the kitchen sink's faucet seems to go via the longest possible route, and a good part of it is concealed by the laundry room's finished ceiling, so I can't get at it to insulate it. It takes way too long to get hot water at the faucet, and that's both a nuisance and a waste.

Some years ago, I installed a dishwasher. While I was at it, I added a stub of capped-off pipe as a convenient point from which to begin the rerouting I had in mind. Here's a photograph of it.

The new installation will couple to the point where that cap currently resides, at the end of that pipe stub going off to the left.

I'm not looking forward to this. It's going to be an intricate job, with ductwork here and there to be manoeuvred around -- not a straightforward run of pipe at all. And I'm not a speedy plumber; this will take hours.

Add to that that I dislike having the house's water supply shut off for long periods, and I got motivated to come up with a means of temporarily creating a secure trial pipe 'connection' that would let me do a great deal of the new installation without having to have the water supply shut off and the system drained. Here's what I came up with.

That's a two-inch length of hardwood broomstick with a 29/32" diameter. I bored it 3/4" diameter for 5/8" to fit over a 1/2" cap[1], then bored it 5/8" diameter the rest of the way through to fit 1/2" pipe. With a slot cut down its length and three hose clamps added, it's an effective enough clamp for what I have in mind. This 'coupling' will give me a dry, secure and accurate starting point from which to commence assembling my hot water reroute, like this:

I can take my own sweet time working out all the zigs and zags, and solder up almost all of it without having the house's water supply shut off. When all is ready, then I'll drain the system and make the final connections. It should make for a much less irritating, disruptive job.

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1. Half-inch copper pipe is exactly 5/8" outside diameter, so that's easy to accurately bore for. Half-inch caps are another story. Their outside diameter is about 1/32" less than 3/4". So, a cap needs to have a few turns of masking or electrical tape wrapped around it for this 'coupling' to fit snugly.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Fine Mechanic's Wire

From the "desperate men employ desperate measures" department, comes this little tip.

Strip off the cladding from a paper-clad, big garbage bag tie and you get a useful length of fine steel wire, like so.

(The plastic-clad ties yield much the same thing, but they're a devil of a thing to strip. The ties pictured strip quite easily; lacquer thinner takes care of the black adhesive muck that's left on the wire.)

That wire is about 0.018" in diameter (between 26AWG and 24 AWG).

In a pinch, it can do things like take the place of a tiny e-clip, or serve as a sub-miniature hose clamp on small-diameter tubing.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lexicon -- Vice/Vise

I was looking over my blog's statistics, and I clicked on "Search Keywords". I came across this -- "crimp ferrules with vice". [!?]

Please keep this straight, people:

'Vice' is what the cops go after you for indulging/trafficking in.

A 'vise' is the clamping/work-holding apparatus that's typically bolted to a workbench.

I think it's a not unimportant distinction. I'd rather that the authorities, in their relentless efforts to seek out and bring to justice evil-doers and miscreants, not stumble upon my blog's statistics, and find cause to suspect my blog of being a hotbed of sin and debauchery.

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By way of making myself perfectly clear here, permit me to append a couple of illustrations:

Here's VICE:

And here's a VISE:

Get it? Is English not a wonder?

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Addendum -- MONDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2014

It's been brought to my attention that 'vise' is the American spelling of the subject word here. That presents me with a small dilemma.

While I try not to be a knee-jerk anti-American sort, I do consider most American spellings to be graceless tinkering. However, in this case I'm inclined to go along with the Yanks -- it makes more sense to me to differentiate the spellings as I've outlined above. Let 'vise' stand for the work-holding apparatus, and 'vice' stand for the 'up-to-no-good' aspect of the homonym.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Coleman Stove Lid Latch Solution

Pictured below is the front of a two-burner Coleman propane camp stove.

To open the lid, you push on that red, rectangular button. Or, just carry the stove by its handle as you normally would, and the lid will randomly pop open on its own, spilling the grate and regulator, like this.

What a piece of engineering. Corporations may have personhood in the eyes of the law, but they have no shame.

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As luck would have it, I happen to have on hand just the thing to fix this for good -- these neat little clamp fasteners[1] from Spaenaur. (The previous owner of my house left thirty of them behind when he moved out. Needless to say, I have no idea what he might have had in mind for so many.)

I'll install two of them at the upper corners, three inches down from the ends of the handle, and that should be the end of lid-popping surprises.

The two strikes will go on the lid with 1/8" 'Pop' rivets. The curvature of the lid is a bit of a complication, but not too much. A bit of careful bending in the vise with a light hammer got the strikes to where they conform well to the curvature. And here's a shot of one of the two strikes in place.

I won't try to tell you that that was a breeze to do; it wasn't. At least it turned out well.

Next up, of course, is to install the catches. For that, I'll want to have access to the interior of the stove's chassis pan, because I'll have to use a screw and nut at the upper mounting hole; there isn't clearance for the nose of a riveting tool there.

To get inside one of these stoves, you start by unscrewing the two burner heads. That reveals two external snap-rings that have to come off.

Then remove eight M3x6mm truss head screws (No. 2 Phillips recess) from around the perimeter of the stove's deck, and the deck is free to be lifted off. The deck's fit around the burner stems where the snap-rings were is very close and precise -- the deck tends to snag the snap-rings' grooves. Wiggle things A/R.

But before I take the screws out to unfasten the deck, I'll want to establish the mounting hole locations for the catches; that's where things get a bit delicate.

The vertical position of the catches relative to the strikes is fairly critical -- too high and they won't close securely; too low and they'll close too tightly if they can close at all.

I've done a trial fitting and marked the position of the bottom of the catches' mounting plates, like so.

Now if I get the catches positioned just a tiny bit lower, I should end up with a snug, properly tensioned closed position for the catches.

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And here's the done deal -- both of them installed and working correctly.

The one on the right came out perfectly. The one on the left came out with a bit of a loose closed position. I cheated and reshaped its wire bail a little so it would close more snugly; not a pleasant, easy or recommended thing to do, but it did work. If I ever make use of these catches again, I'll see if I can come up with a more 'formulaic' method for locating the catches' mounting holes.

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Anyway, there ya' go, Coleman. It can be done. A stove lid can be made to latch securely. Amazing, eh?

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Addendum -- Back to the Future, or Forward to the Past; Whatever

I came across an elderly Coleman propane camp stove recently. It's in very fine condition. It was made in the days when Coleman was still manufacturing in Canada, which was probably quite some time ago. Here's how Coleman used to latch their stove lids back then.

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[1] Spaenaur's part number for a catch and strike together is 096-651. The manufacturer is Nielsen Hardware.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Speed Key for a Lathe Chuck

I hate tedium, so when I found it tedious to make large changes to a lathe chuck's jaw positions with the regular key, I came up with this.

And it really shines when you need to change jaws altogether -- it's quick.

I got that 8mm square rod stock from a scrapped dot matrix printer's tractor drive. 'Installed a file handle, pinned it and done.

I still have to use the regular key for final tightening and initial loosening, but this speed key saves a lot of cranking.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Coupling Nuts

Pictured below are the four sizes[1] of common plated steel coupling nuts that my local Home Depot routinely stocks. (I think they may have at least one larger size as well, but I'm not certain of that.)

These things are useful. They're normally intended for joining lengths of threaded rod end-to-end, but I'm always finding other uses, and would never be without several of these on hand in the shop. Many more sizes can be had, along with metric and stainless steel versions, but you'd likely have to go to an industrial supply house like Spaenaur for them.

Here's one example of an unorthodox application. (Scroll way down.) I quite like that one.

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I have noticed a little quirk about them that can complicate things a bit at times, though. I'll try to explain it clearly here.

Looking at a coupling nut, one would be inclined to assume that the axis of the nut's threaded bore will be perfectly coaxial with the axis of the nut's hexagonal body. I've found that it ain't necessarily so, especially with the small size pictured (1/4"-20).

Where that can cause you some trouble is when you need to bore through the thread for some purpose with a nut chucked in the lathe. The nut's threaded bore may not present perfectly coaxially to the drill chucked in the tailstock, and some undesirable results may attend.

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I had occasion recently to put two 1/4"-20 coupling nuts to use as joining sleeves for two different sizes of steel rod; 9/32" diameter and 8mm diameter. I first bored completely through the two nuts with a 9/32" drill. Then I bored half way through each nut with an 8mm drill.

The 9/32" portion of the bores was fine. The 8mm portions turned out to be oversize. The way I had gone about it was fallacious. It had assumed the nuts' two axes to be perfectly coaxial, and they weren't.

What I should have done was this:

1) Chuck a nut and bore through it 9/32". LEAVE IT IN THE CHUCK.

2) Bore half way though 8mm, then take it out of the chuck.

3) Repeat for the second nut/sleeve.

By not unchucking each nut between the two different drill sizes, I would have greatly improved the likelihood of a good outcome. Unchucking and rechucking each nut between drill sizes had the effect of reorienting each nut's bore axis slightly differently for the 8mm drill, from what it had been for the 9/32" drill. That led to an oversize result from the 8mm drill. That's a great example of the sort of subtle consideration that can arise in even the simplest of machine shop work. Next time I'll know better.

Anyway, here's the whole story surrounding the aforementioned joining sleeves. They turned out ok, but the oversize 8mm bores did complicate things a little bit.

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[1] For whatever it's worth, following are the specs for the four sizes of coupling nuts shown in the photograph:
  • 1/4"-20; 7/16" A/F; 7/8" long.
  • 5/16"-18; 1/2" A/F; 1 3/4" long.
  • 3/8"-16; 9/16" A/F; 1 3/4" long.
  • 1/2"-13; 3/4" A/F; 1 3/4" long.
Note: The length dimensions are nominal. These are not gauge-precision items.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

An Outdoor Thermometer Bracket

Pictured below is an old thermometer that has no mounting bracket. I'd like to install the thermometer outside my workshop's window, so I'll have to fabricate a bracket. That 1/2" wide strip of 0.060" thick aluminum pictured with the thermometer should do nicely.

Metal bending is an art and a science that I'm by no means a master of, or properly equipped for. In the interest of guaranteeing a good outcome, I'll start by making a hardwood rectangle of the correct length to serve as a rudimentary form around which to make the two bends I'll need.

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And here it is set up for bending.

This way, I'll have the surface of the workbench to act as a reference to help me keep the bends straight and true.

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And here it is with the bends made.

I used another block of wood as a 'punch', and coaxed each bend around little by little. That's as far as a bend will go around a ninety-degree corner. I'll still have to tweak the bends a bit after the work is off the form.

Next up will be to trim the bent ends to length, and spot and drill the holes for the thermometer's mounting studs.

(My way of going about this may seem a bit odd to you, but there's a reason for it. I'm much more comfortable with this approach than I would be making the bends after having established bracket arm length and hole locations. The possibility of an error creeping into bends referenced to pre-existing bracket arm end points is greater than I care to risk. While this approach is a bit clumsy in some ways, it's much more likely to turn out well.)

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And here's the finished item ready to install.

That turned out well -- perfectly symmetrical. It's a good example of how one can take measures to ensure a good outcome by thinking through an entire job beforehand, and finding ways to eliminate potential sources of error.


Addendum -- Waste Not Want Not

I hadn't planned it this way, but once I'd cut the bracket's arms to length, I was left with two small pieces of material; just enough for me to make two little sub-brackets for the mounting location I had in mind. Here's the thermometer installed.

Serendipity is welcome here anytime.

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Friday, July 1, 2011

Lengthening a Sign Holder's Stakes

From the, "What were they thinking?" department comes this item. Pictured below is the staked base of a sign holder, along with some bits I'll be putting to use to improve it.

Those stakes are only six inches long from the crossbar on down. That doesn't strike me as long enough to securely hold up much of anything, especially a cantilevered load as will be the case with this sign holder.

The stakes are a bit of an odd diameter -- 9/32". The best nearest thing I have for lengthening material is that length of 8mm diameter rod salvaged from a laser printer. The two 1/4"-20 coupling nuts will serve as joining sleeves. (It would be nice if there were an easy way to do this 'seamlessly', without introducing the bulges that the joining sleeves will create, but that's really not on.) While I'm at it, I'll put pointy ends on the lengthened stakes; stakes are supposed to have pointy ends on them, surely.

I'll start with making two pointy-ended extensions from that length of 8mm rod.

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And here they are. Those will give stakes that are seven inches longer. That should be more like it.

(The camera angle really distorts things. Those rods are exactly the same length.)

Next up is the two joining sleeves. I'll bore through the coupling nuts 9/32" all the way, then 8mm half way and they should do the job nicely.

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Here's everything ready for initial assembly.

While I was at the coupling nuts, I chamfered their ends somewhat. I evened up and squared off and chamfered the ends of the original stakes.

What I have in mind now is to glue this up with CA adhesive. Once that has cured sufficiently, I'll drill through at four places for interference-fit steel pins and I'll have this thing together for good.

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Slight Problem

My 8mm bores turned out a bit oversize, so there was too much clearance for CA adhesive to work effectively. (Although I'm on record as having said that CA adhesive can be made to 'build' and be of some use as a filler, and that's true, for successful adhesion the parts to be adhered together must be very close-fitting.) I had to use five-minute epoxy to glue the 8mm diameter rods in their bores. I suspect the bores turned out oversize because of a little quirk in common mass-produced coupling nuts, and the way I went about the job. See this post for more on that.

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Interference Fit Pins

I happen to have a supply of 5/8" long hard steel dowel pins that should do nicely for this, but may be a bit problematic to install.

The pins are 0.092" in diameter, (That's just shy of 3/32".) The nearest smaller drill size that I have is No. 43 (0.089" diameter). That's a difference of 0.003", and that's a lot for parts this small to start with. (A difference of 0.001" would be what's wanted.) So, I'll be pushing my luck here, but let's see how it goes.

And here it is pinned. A qualified success -- not a complete botch, but certainly not something I'm proud of.

Note the mushrooming and folding over. A proper job would not exhibit any of that. Also, a couple of pins didn't quite make it all the way through so, as I said, I'm not at all proud of this outcome. Anyway, it'll have to do. I'll trim off the excess lengths and it will serve for what's needed.

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That went fine, and CA adhesive performed admirably as a filler for the spots where the pins didn't go far enough through and left little recesses. Here's a close-up shot of two filled and sanded spots.

The adhesive has outstanding characteristics for use as a filler for tiny flaws. Just apply it where needed as needed. Surface tension effects allow it 'build' somewhat even in its wet, runny state. Leave it alone for awhile and it'll harden. Repeat if need be. (It's humid around here today and that has helped it to cure quickly just sitting on a surface.) Once hardened, it sands and 'feathers' beautifully. I doubt there'll be even a trace of those flaws to 'telegraph' through paint.

So, the sign holder now has 13" long stakes that should anchor the thing reliably.

There are two other pieces to this sign holder, and all three pieces need a new paint job. I'll update this post as I make progress, and photograph the finished complete item.

[And the next time I do an interference fit, I'll think it through more carefully and get it right.]

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Addendum -- Paint Job Done and an Installation Tool Made

The CA adhesive worked perfectly as a filler to conceal the flaws in my joining sleeves; there's no evidence of the pins' installation whatsoever.

And I've made an installation tool for it from a piece of hardwood.

Now I can hammer on it without directly hammering on it.

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