Wednesday, May 29, 2013

4 stoves, *snort*

I like looking through the analytics and seeing what people are reading from my blog. Apparently recently several people read my "4 stoves" post from 2009. Interesting how things can change in a couple years. Back then I listed my 4 stoves as:
#1 is the Coleman 425 I got from my grandmother
#2 is the Coleman 413 I got from Angie's grandfather
#3 is the Coleman 502 I bought on Craigslist
#4 is the Prepo I got from my grandmother

Now add to that, in no particular order:
#5 Coleman 425E my Dad bought at a charity auction, this one lives at camp now

#6 AGM KampKook I bought at the Coleman Convention auction

#7 Thermos Holiday Stove I traded a 220E for
Now undergoing restoration, I got so far as repainting the tank and burners, got stuck on the body, it really needs sandblasting but I haven't got a blaster. Need to find somebody who has experience on light metal so as not to warp it.

#8 Butterfly stove, a birthday present

#9 Coleman 520, found in my in-laws garage

#10 Thermos 3 burner, from a bundle of stuff, I still haven't worked out the NRV on the pump so I haven't played with it much.

#11. Optimus 8R bought at the Coleman Convention
Probably my favorite stove

#12. Coleman 413C, got this from Tim, it needed a new tank so I got a good deal, not sure why I bought this other than I'm a sucker for round tank stoves. Curiously I can't find a picture...

So anyway 12 stoves at this counting. I really should get rid of some of them and I tell myself "its only stuff" but then I can come up with a host of reasons I can't live without this one or that one. Its an addiction I swear. That said there have been a number of stoves I've turned down. When I bought my Sears bighat for instance. Recently I told a guy not only would I not pay for a stove I'd charge to take one...

It could be worse, I'm definitely not a stovie, my friend Steve has a shed that is packed floor to ceiling with stoves.

Firewood rack Mark 2

I like firewood. In fact I probably like producing firewood as much as I like producing wood fires. I'm not much of a carpenter or carver or sculptor but I'm a good cutter and splitter. As a good firewood producer theres nothing worse than watching your hard work go for naught as it rots or gets wet or is buried under snow. Over the years I've toyed with a few different techniques for keeping the wood off the ground and dry. Heres the mark 1 wood rack:

It doesn't look like much now but 9 years ago this was the top notch of my wood storage empire. The design is very simple, 2x 8' 2x4s laid parallel, 2x 4' 2x4s as uprights at each end and some spacers. The parallels are separated by one foot. I've since tried wider spacing but one foot is about as close to perfect as you can get. Not shown in this picture are 2 angle braces holding the backs of the uprights. I'm not sure these really add all that much but they don't cost much and are probably worth doing. Theres a rope across the top which helps to keep the tops from bowing out and helps to hold a tarp as seen in this shot of the second mark 1 rack which sits in my backyard:

This is the same basic design as mark 1 but displayed here with a tarp over the wood. This does a pretty good job keeping the wood dry but has a few problems. The first is that tarps don't really last all that well. I use leftover tarps once they're not good enough to cover other things so while they're "mostly waterproof" some water gets through. This is not a big problem, dry firewood sheds water naturally anyway. Another issue is snow which builds up on the tarp and has to be removed. This is a drag because its hard on the tarp. High winds will tug the tarp around, at best this means the wood gets uncovered at worst it means the tarp gets shredded or lost. Oh sure you could strap the tarp down tight so it doesn't move but then getting the wood out is a hassle. Any method for holding the tarp is going to end up being a compromise between weather proofing and convenience. I use hardwood blocks cut from old pallets tied to the corners. I've also used bricks with holes in them which work well but are somewhat fragile when tossed around by a tarp in the wind.

Finally a tarp covered woodpile is at a distinct disadvantage when in comes to drying. This is a drag because the basic design of this pile is great for drying. The wood is supported only by 4 inches of 2x4 and gets airflow all around. but then we trap that moist air with a plastic tarp, bad plan.

As you can see from the original rack using untreated wood for this is a bad plan, that rack has rotted badly and isn't held together by much...

Enter wood rack Mark II:

Shown here partially complete on the deck at camp. This features pressure treated 2x4s for the lower end which is actually in contact with the wood, with standard 2x4s forming a 2'x8' roof on a 6 in 12 pitch which is probably too much, before I finish it I'll probably lower that to 4 in 12 which will give better coverage over the wood. I chose 2'x8' because I can cover 2 with a single sheet of OSB or plywood but in reality 2.5'x8' would be better as again it would better cover the firewood. Before final construction is complete the upper wood will all be painted or polyurethaned for greater protection. It will be covered with a piece of 3/8" OSB which will also be painted or polyurethaned, a metal drip edge installed and then asphalt shingles for roofing.
Its hard to see but there are a pair of 2x4s halfway down to give more structure to the roof. I didn't trust an 8 foot span with snow load.

Unfortunately I got caught by rain and wasn't able to finish this wood rack on my recent trip to camp but I'm confident I can easily get it done on my next trip. This is an important addition to our camp because with recent improvement inside the camp we have the ability to go there in the winter. Assuming we can make it to camp on snowmobile we will need good, dry wood to heat the place...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


When we last left our hero his 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D was down for the count with a failed head gasket. What to do, what to do? Call out the troops of course! Saturday three of my good Mercedes friends came over and the four of us got to work.

I started before the others arrived, at about 7:30am I started by pulling the washer fluid bottle, radiator, hoses and radiator shroud plus the air cleaner and its hoses. Finally I disconnected the battery. My friend Fred arrived and we had breakfast. While we were eating Dimitri and Dwight arrived, with our team assembled we went back out and really got going. The air conditioning compressor gets moved out of the way but not removed. Mercedes recommends pulling the power steering pump out of the way but I didn't want to deal with the mess so we just pushed it out of the way, same for the oil cooler. With the front of the engine exposed the fan and its pulley get removed, all the belts are now out of the way. The thermostat housing comes off, then the injection lines, glow plug wiring.
Throttle linkage injector return lines and injectors which leaves the valve cover.

With that removed we see the cam shaft, timing chain and lifters, and Dwight's finger :)

Getting the head off and not screwing up the timing was one of our top goals so we spent a lot of time mucking about. It turns out you cannot leave the top sprocket on and remove the head, don't even bother. Fortunately as long as you maintain tension on the timing chain you can lift the head off without changing its alignment on the bottom end. A couple friends are helpful there.
So pull all the head bolts, put them in a piece of cardboard to keep them ordered.

The pull the head, its not super heavy but a helper here is a great idea, an engine lift would do the job too but is probably overkill.

Now clean the mating surfaces of the head and block real good. We scraped with razor blades to get a good clean surface, then ran a wire brush in the drill over them to be sure. We also cleaned all the headbolts good with a wire wheel. These are the hex head bolts which can be reused, unlike the later type which are torque to yield. Fred measured bend in the block, its slightly banana shaped which is normal. Mine is between 0.003 and 0.004 which is well within spec.

With everything cleaned a coating of Hylomar on the mating surfaces:

Thats some interesting stuff, it ate right through my gloves...

Re-install the head and torque it down. Theres a procedure for that of course...

Tighten, tighten some more, wait 10 minutes, tighten some more. You end up at 100Nm, a good long torque wrench is nice.

The rest is reversal of dissassembly which of course leaves out all the fun. Getting the timing chain back together was a bear, we probably wasted an hour on it. First we got the sprocket on but forgot the top guide, then we got the sprocket on backwards. FINALLY we got everything on and in the right orientation, I spun the engine over with a ratchet a couple times to prove it was all going in the right direction and nothing hit or made bad noises. Dwight and Dimitri had to head home, I can't blame them, they both drove many miles to be with me. Fred bless his soul stayed until the bitter end. Finally at 10:30pm we fired the engine up. Of course with no fuel in the injectors it was a tough start but with Fred working the primer pump and me cranking the starter it fired to life. Sounded weird which I realized later was the lack of air cleaner. I backed the car out of the garage and buttoned it down for the night.

I haven't had time to put in the radiator so I can run it up to temp and know for sure the head gasket fixed the problem but I'm pretty confident. If it weren't raining I'd be out there right now. Maybe tomorrow night...

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Diesel Jetta?

What with all the talk of my 240D dying I took some time today to visit the VW dealer. Angie announced yesterday that she might like a new VW diesel so I figured I ought to check one out. I've heard talk of difficulty with Toyota and VW dealers but this one in Keene, NH is actually quite nice. The attitude I got from him was that he didn't really give a crap if I bought a car or not as somebody else would come along but he seemed to really know his stuff and was quite willing to stand around and BS with me as long as I wanted. I'm not really familiar with car dealers and I guess acted a bit like a kid, I was rather pleased when he finally offered for me to take a new 2012 Jetta TDI holdover (black on grey, 6spd manual) for a ride. I was doubly pleased when I left alone... A couple impressions: Its bigger than I thought, even with the front seat pushed back beyond where I was comfortable I could still sit in the back seat reasonably comfortably. The trunk is a HUGE cavern, I was frankly amazed. There is a glowplug light that comes on very briefly when you first turn on the key, the salesman says it always just pops on briefly even at -20F. Its FAST, seriously fast, like my Dakota with a v8 was fast. As the salesman says the 158hp rating will fool you, diesels are all about torque. The shifter was smooth and crisp, the steering was nice and crisp, the suspension stiff enough for good handling but compliant enough for a comfortable ride. In fact it reminded me a bit of a well sorted 190D with boatloads more power and slightly heavier steering. One thing that I didn't think of until just now is that its a front drive car that behaves very much like a rear drive car which is to say there was no torque steer. It feels funny to write that because it didn't occur to me at all at the time. Overall I very much enjoyed it, if I were to point out any deficiencies it would be that the turn signal and wiper control stalks felt very cheap... One thing I was pleased with in the discussion of the car was the 12 year rust warranty. The salesman attributed that to "laser sealed seams" which when you look at the doors in particular are very neat and tidy and present no obvious places for water and thus salt to collect. If it weren't for the $23k price tag (I suspect as this one was a 2012 it could probably be had for more like $20k) I'd have jumped on it. I love my old MBs don't get me wrong but I find myself running around with my pants on fire all the time with broken down cars. My plan right now is to fix the 240D and go through the summer socking some cash away so maybe around the first of the year I can go into looking for one with a nice down payment.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Car troubles

As it stands today we have a little fleet of 3 vehicles:

1. 2003 Ford Ranger XLT: The only gasser in the fleet the Ranger provides 4wd and hauling capacity. What it lacks in size it makes up for in offroad prowess courtesy of a limited slip rear differential. Unfortunately the Ranger had sat at some point before we got it (in 2008) and suffers badly from under carriage rust. Lately rust is bubbling the paint under the passenger side rear door.

2. 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190D: I don't think I've written, or at least written much about my addiction to old diesel Mercedes. This one I scored for $250 because it had a "broken timing chain" which turned out to not be broken at all. The timing chain cover was broken and my friend Fred had a replacement. Sadly this car had been poorly maintained and has required rather a lot of work to sort out. On the plus side its still just under 200,000 miles and starts nearly like a gas car.

3. 1978 Mercedes-Benz 240D: My friend Dwight sold me this old solder when my '83 240D met an untimely end due to a ruptured oil cooler line. I've had it since 2010 and put about 35,000 miles on with relatively little trouble until just before Christmas 2012. In fact it was that incident I wanted to talk about.

We were heading to Maine to see my parents, on rt 495 heading north at about 75mph when I smelled something funny, a glance at the gauges showed the temp gauge absolutely pegged, I went from the left lane to the right and got us stopped fortunately just beyond a rest stop which we were able to roll backwards into. An inspection showed a hose clamp on the lower radiator hose had sheered and broken allowing the hose to fall off and the coolant to fall out. I was lucky enough to have a zip tie in the car along with a couple gallons of water and astonishingly we were able to drive back home...

A couple days later I played around with the car and amazingly it seemed to run pretty well. It clattered like crazy on startup but that noise went away after a minute or so. I changed the oil and kept on driving it. Fast forward 5,000 miles until last Tuesday. I was on my way to work and smelled coolant. I was in heavy traffic and the temp gauge was starting to climb. I flipped on the heat full blast and fortunately as the traffic broke up the temp went back down. At lunch I managed to get a quart of coolant into the radiator. On the way home, again in heavy traffic it heated up again. This time I got most of a gallon of coolant in. The next day the problem became clear. I can pour in all the coolant I want but something pushes it back out again. That something is exhaust gasses passing from the cylinder to the water jacket through a failed head gasket almost certainly caused by a massive overheat. I'd left the radiator cap loose as I was worried that putting pressure in the system would cause this but I guess it was just a matter of time.

Angie quickly decided it was time for a new car but has balked at what new cars cost (more on that next time) and frankly I'm not real excited about a big car payment. I put out a note on the OkieBenz email list about the issue and suggested that if my friends pushed me I'd probably do the head gasket but if I had to pay somebody to do it the cost would quickly run up to the value of the car. As I expected my friends responded that I should do it and they would help.

This my friends is a big step into mechanic-dom which I've never made before, the head gasket is under the head which is connected to the engine by not only the bolts but also the timing chain. Breaking the timing chain (which you have to do to take the head off) is a big deal and I'm scared of it. Get it back together right and everything is good, do it poorly and the valves meet the pistons and the whole engine is junk. Currently I'm tentatively planning the job for May 11, probably going to order parts tomorrow. If worse comes to worst I'll haul the car and the parts to my mechanic for installation but considering the low value of the car I'd like to be able to do it myself to hold down costs...