Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Faucet Test Fixture

I'm restoring an old Moen lavatory faucet, and I'd like to be able to pressure-test it before I sell it or give it away or find a use for it. I've put a new cartridge in the faucet, so there shouldn't be any problem, but I prefer to be certain of these things. Final installation is not the time to discover that there's a flaw to be corrected.

I'd also like to do the test prior to full, final reassembly of the faucet, so as not to risk any damage to its finish. All that led me to construct this fixture.

It will let me test the faucet I'm restoring now, and it'll work with any faucet with 1/2" MIP (Male Iron Pipe -- straight thread) fittings on it, which is pretty much what all faucets have.

The copper items, the two braid-covered hoses and the black 1/2" feed hose were salvage. The two 1/2" copper-to-3/8" compression fittings, and the stuff to get from 1/2" copper to 3/4" hose I had to buy new. I had hoped to find a 3/4" male hose fitting that would attach directly to 1/2" copper, but all I could find was a hose fitting for attachment to 1/2" NPT iron pipe -- hence the cumbersome-looking hose attachment end.

Anyway, it's ready to go. Here's a view of the Moen faucet's innards, assembled to the point of being operational.

Now I just need a faucet with a male hose thread on it's spout, and I can connect this faucet and pressure-test it. I don't have any indoor faucets like that, so I'll have to go out to the carport for this.

And here's the faucet connected and under full pressure.

And it appears that all is well -- operation is as it should be, and there's no leakage whatsoever when the faucet is closed.

So, now I can carry on with restoration of the faucet's shell, and find a place to stash my test fixture where I won't forget where I put it.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cold Weather Driveway Oil Changes


Be the weather fair or foul, doing your own oil changes can save you money to spend on worthier things -- beer and smokes, for example.

Following are some notes and hints on driveway oil change procedure.

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If you wear a wristwatch and/or a ring, take it/them off. If it's cold out and you're wearing a scarf, make sure the scarf's ends are tucked inside your buttoned jacket. No dangling draw-cords, either.

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Pictured below is almost everything you need for a driveway oil change.

I say 'almost' because I left something out. After I'd taken the picture, I had a nagging sense that I'd forgotten something. Sure enough, I'd forgotten this.

A funnel.

Ok, so now we have everything. The socket wrench is 5/8" for the 16mm hex-head drain plug on my Ford Ranger. (5/8" = 15.875mm; it fits fine.) The drain plug on your vehicle may or may not take the same size of wrench. That plier-style filter wrench is the best thing I know of for the job -- you can really 'feel' what you're doing with it. The little oiler bottle is for wetting the new filter's gasket with oil prior to installing it.

That combination drain-pan/jug is excellent, but when I first got it years ago, it had a little shortcoming; it had no vent.

With no vent, as oil would drain quickly into the pan the oil would 'pile up' at the pan's drain opening, and there'd be a series of messy little 'eruptions' as the draining oil and the air inside the jug fought with each other. There was a flat spot on the pan's moulding that looked like it had been meant to be made a vent, so I drilled there and tapped it 1/4"-20 for a screw with a gasket washer on it. The thing now has a vent, and it accepts oil smoothly with no more splashy little eruptions. Here's a close-up of the vent.

Cold Weather

The weather today is not bad for mid-October, it's about 15° C, but it's not too difficult to do an oil change outside at much lower temperatures. An oil change is just a sequence of discrete steps, no one of which takes very long at all. So, in cold weather, you can go in and warm up between each step and it's really not an ordeal. A windless, sunny day is what you want, and there are always a few of those that come by in the course of a winter. It goes like this:

1) Open hood. Pull the dipstick. Set drain pan in place. Unscrew the sump's drain plug and let the oil begin to drain. Go inside to keep warm while the oil drains completely. Take the sump's plug with you to wipe it clean.

(I didn't mention anything about jacking or ramping the vehicle. I have it easy with my Ranger because there's enough clearance that I can get at the drain plug easily. A lot of cars need to be jacked a bit or ramped.)

If I may digress here for a moment, I must point out a little detail that quite impresses me. The drain plug on the Ranger is an M14 hex washerhead bolt with a groove machined under its head to a precise depth, and an O-ring in the groove. Here's a view of it.

The O-ring is snug -- it can't fall out and get lost, and it's impossible to ruin the O-ring by over-tightening the plug; a very nice little piece of engineering, that.

Anyway, to return to the oil change sequence --

2) Reinstall the drain plug. Drag the drain pan out from under. Remove the oil filter and set it upside down on the drain pan to empty. Go inside and warm up.

3) Install the new oil filter. Go inside and warm up.

4) Pour in a jug of oil.[1] Put the dipstick back in. Start the engine and check that all is ok. Shut it down. Close the hood. Go inside and warm up.

5) Go out and gather up your gear and the old filter. You're done with the outdoor work. Emptying the drain-pan/jug into another jug for disposal can be done inside. I like to stuff the old, emptied filter with used paper towelling, so it won't drool oil in the garbage bag after I toss it.

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Driveway oil changes are a pretty good money-saver, especially if you watch out for specials on oil. This particular oil change was exceptionally inexpensive.

The oil was on for less than half price, and I had a $5.00-off coupon from the store's flyer. I got the oil and the filter for under $12.00. You can't beat that with a stick.

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[1] What I just said there might be very bad advice for owners of cars with small engines. The 3.o litre V6 in my Ranger happily takes an entire 5 litre jug of oil, even though its capacity is stated to be 4.3 litres. Smaller engines may have significantly smaller oil capacities. Consult the owner's manual; the oil capacity spec will be in there somewhere.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

An Auxiliary Bench Top for a Workmate

It's said that, "Necessity is the mother of invention.", and this item certainly bears that out.

Years ago, I had a commission to build a breakfast nook table, corner bench and two chairs for a lady. It was quite a project, and it taxed my workshop's resources to the limit. The chairs especially needed a dead flat work surface to be assembled on, that I could dedicate to each chair until it was done. That led me to come up with an auxiliary bench top for my Workmate. It's pictured below.

It did the job for me, and since then it's proven itself to be immensely useful, especially for doing glue-ups of various sorts.

It's mostly just a 30" x 39" piece of 1 3/32" thick, denser-than-average particleboard that I found at a local building supply. It's melamine-clad on both sides. I radiused the corners as something of a safety feature, and to preclude corner damage -- sharp corners of particleboard tend to be fragile and easily chipped. I thoroughly sealed and enameled the edges.

On the underside, I installed three cleats with a 'hook' feature for securing the top to the Workmate's jaws. Here's a view of the entire underside.

And here's a close-up of one of the cleats. You can see the notch that accepts the outboard edge of a Workmate's jaw.

So, the top attaches to the Workmate by having the Workmate's jaws opened until their outboard edges seat in the cleats' notches. A Workmate's jaws aren't designed to exert much force in the opening direction, but they don't need to; they just need to seat fully and firmly in the cleats. Here's an underside view of the installed top.

It's a very secure attachment scheme that's never given me any aggravation.

Light weight is not one of the top's virtues -- it weighs 33 lbs. That's not a problem for me because this thing has a dedicated spot in my shop where it's always ready for whatever comes up. When I do need the workmate sans top, it's no big deal to take the top off and set it aside for awhile.

I mentioned 'glue-ups' earlier, and just this past week I've been using it to glue up a table saw deck that I'm making from odds and ends of maple flooring. Here's a shot of that in progress.

Wood glue won't adhere to the melamine cladding, so cleaning up any squeeze-out that gets away from me is a breeze.

It's a versatile piece of gear that has served me well, and continues to do so.

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