We are marking the first full day of winter today with a grin. Yesterday was the kick-off for this year’s Winter Solstice offering over on my photography site and it was a good day (thank you everyone!).
But if you’re following via social media sites, they do a fine job of squashing certain posts that contain certain words, especially words that are a single-word representation of an offering of anything at a reduced level of currency. Why? Because they want us to pay them to increase viewership of those specific posts to normal levels. Or pay even more to increase viewership even higher.
If you are looking for a holiday present, it is too late to get it this week, but if you’re looking for a different look on your wall, now is your chance! Please click on the picture above and you’ll see the code at the top of my website.
For some that means it’s now the the beginning of a long, dreary winter. A season to dread. But not us. Winter is another great season to get outside, explore and play.
This past Friday was opening day for our local ski mountain. Goddess and I were able to get more than a few runs in on uncrowded slopes before school let out for the holidays. And the rain today.
It’s currently raining up on the mountain, on top of the minimal snow. Hopefully it doesn’t melt the snow and start another rough winter for the mountain, which never opened last winter for the first time in its 50-year history.
As is tradition here on the solstices and equinoxes, I’m offering a sale on my photography.
All products are 20% off (does not apply to shipping costs). Just enter Winter14 in the coupon field when you are ready to check out. Just click on the coupon below to start browsing.
Thank you so much for your continued support. I do appreciate you!
As I alluded to in the last post about being somewhat near the Smoky Mountains, Goddess and I spent the better part of the last two weeks in the sweltering heat and humidity of Virginia and Washington, D.C.
It really isn’t the heat, it really is the humidity.
Which is a large part of why we live out on this side of the country.
It was a great visit, full of family and friends. Plus, Goddess had never been to D.C., so we did a bit of sightseeing too.
This is my favorite angle to view the Lincoln Memorial. Long-time readers might remember this night shot from January 2011, which was a similar view, but closer.
We’re back home now. It’s till hot, pushing close to 100°F (38°C), but at only 15% humidity, it’s quit bearable.
Even in these temperatures, we were able to get in quite a few rousing games of bike polo this evening.
Something I wouldn’t even dream of doing in the humidity out east.
Last Friday we finished our brazed bicycles. If you’re confused, please read Stay & Finish.
But there was no break. First thing Saturday morning we started our Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding seminar, helping us get familiar with that style of welding.
Quickly – brazing is similar to soldering, just at a higher temperature. Both use a dissimilar material (copper, silver, brass) to join the worked material, which in our case was steel bicycle tubing. Welding uses the same material as the worked material, so in our case we were using steel wire to join steel tubes. The electrical spark is hot enough to melt the two steel tubes, plus the filler wire, for a fraction of a second, after which it “freezes” to a solid piece.
Learning the technique is a bit like learning to rub your belly while scratching your head. And doing jumping jacks.
The dominant hand keeps the tungsten electrode hovering just about 1mm above the surface. The non-dominant hand holds the steel wire, ready to feed it into the molten pool. The dominant foot controls a pedal, which modulates the amount of electricity flowing out of the electrode. All of this behind a dark glass visor that makes everything difficult to see, impossible if you don’t have a spark.
As thin as the bicycle tubing is, a mistake in any one of those areas could lead to a hole blown through the tube wall. It happens faster than you would believe. It is impressive.
I made some pretty big holes in tubes this weekend.
While the technique will take some time to master, the process is simple.
Cut and miter the tubes to make the appropriate connections:
Then weld them together:
Not too shabby for just a couple of hours of practice. But a lot of room for improvement.
These were practice pieces, so we were using cheap tubing instead of actual bicycle tubing. Quite a few impurities, which caused the pitting in the welded seam on the right. That and a lot of technique on my part, since that area gets very tight to get everything into and stay functional. That tight area was were I blew through every single one of the holes that I made this weekend.
After a day and a half of practice, we were give actual bicycle tubing to simulate the joining of the seat tube to the bottom bracket. No tricky angles, but since the bottom bracket shell is quite a bit thicker than the seat tube, it meant a shift in technique to make sure we didn’t blow a hole in the seat tube. I didn’t, but my weld was nowhere near as nice looking as the one above.
But looks didn’t matter (much) for this exercise. We were concerned about the strength of the weld. And there’s only one way to check it – break it.
It took a 4 foot long steel bar inserted into the seat tube and a lot of body weight (good thing I have that) to take it to failure. It failed exactly as we were hoping for, by the seat tube tearing on the outside edge of the heat-affected zone next to the weld. If it failed in the weld, that meant that I wasn’t doing it correctly.
It was an interesting two days, full of frustration, exasperation and successes. I’m looking forward to next month, when we’ll use the technique to build our custom titanium bicycles.
Another view of a beautiful hand-made custom race car.
Any time you really need a 5-point harness for the driver out of necessity, not just for looks, you know the car means business.
The photographs have taken a back seat this week as I’ve been spending most of my time in the garage working on my own car. Nothing special, just another Subaru Outback. But it has been neglected over the years and driven hard, so I set aside this week to replacing spark plug and valve cover gaskets, timing belts and putting completely new brakes all around. None of the work is photogenic.
Plus, I don’t want grease on my camera and lighting equipment.
But the majority of the work is quite relaxing. Almost zen-like.
And while the work is relaxing and enlightening, hopefully I’ll get the brakes done and seated properly so I can head up in the mountains and get some views of the early autumn storm that’s rolling through right now.