Opening up a motor


I recently had to open up a motor to clean up the commutator. I didn’t have a real gear puller so I put one together with the following parts I had lying around:

  • Some perforated steel strapping
  • a long 3/8″ threaded rod with nuts
  • two 1/2 pipe flanges
  • four small bolts with nuts and washers.
  • Four larger bolts with modified wingnuts.

The photo pretty much show how I did it. I used the strapping to make “legs” which were attached to the end of the motor that I had to pull off using the longer bolts and wingnuts with one wing cut off. I did this so I could tighten the bolts without having to hold the nuts with a wrench.

The other end of the straps are bolted to a pipe flange. The threaded rod goes through the flange and then through another one so that the nut is easy to reach with a wrench. (The wire wire ties, by the way, are holding the spring-loaded brushes out of the way.)

The end of the threaded rod is bearing on the end of the motor shaft.

A few turns of the lower nut, holding the threaded rod with pliers and the end of the motor came right off.

An ad-hoc socket extension

Faced with having to turn a 1/4″ socket without an extension for the ratchet handle I improvised. It turns out that a tap has a 1/4″ square drive end. So that, plus a pair of Vise-Grips allowed me to get the job done.

Be sharp!’ screwdriver.

In order to work well without slipping or stripping the head of a slotted screw, the screwdriver blade should be sharp. Not like a knife, but not rounded. Here are some pictures of good screwdriver blades and bad:

Showing a nice sharp screwdriver tip.
A nice sharp screwdriver tip.

Showing a dull screwdriverA  dull  screwdriver  tip
Show a screwdriver which is too small for the screw.This screwdriver is too small
Showing a screwdriver which fits the screw head well.This screwdriver is just right.

A Shingle Elevator

Faced with the need to get a roof-full of asphalt shingles up to the roof of a three story house I decided to build an elevator or lift. The roofing job was being done by a local roofer with the provision that I get the shingles up to him.

At front of house

Here’s a video of the Shingle Elevator in action.

After studying some videos on the Web I designed a trolley-based elevator that rides up an inclined extension ladder. I had all the bits and pieces in my fairly extensive collection of “junk” so the cost was minimal.

The first thing I had to do was to make a track for the lower section of the ladder to match the width of the upper section which, of course, is narrower than the lower section. Also, the upper section of an extension ladder projects out from the lower section on which it slides up and down. The track is simply made from 2x4s which have lengthwise rabbets to position them on the ladder rails. The tracks are held together with a 2×6 at each end which also supports the track by resting on the rungs of the ladder. Because my extension ladder is a 32 footer, the bottom track is actually two tracks, one on top of the other. These photos only show the lower section of the bottom track.


Bottom Track




Bottom of Bottom Track


Top of Bottom Track

In the “Bottom Track” photo you are looking at the lower half of the bottom track at the side which rests on the ladder. The “Bottom of Bottom Track” shows and edge-wise view of the left side and the front front of the track. You can see how the 2×6 extends past the back of the track to rest on a run of the ladder.

Next I needed to devise a car to carry the shingles up the ladder on the tracks. Again I scrounged some plywood, two-bys, wheels and other bits and built the car shown in the following photos.

Car side

Side view of car

Car top

Top of car

car bottom

Bottom of car

Car wheel

Wheel Detail

The car is a simple two-part shelf upon which the shingles are laid on the top. It’s got wheels at the back where most of the weight is and some nylon furniture leg glides on the front which ride along the rails.

Now all I needed was a way to raise the loaded car to the top of the ladder. I mounted a boat-trailer winch on a board and replaced the rope with steel cable. The cable runs from the winch, down to an anchor pulley (from a sailboat) under the bottom rung of the ladder then up to a strong pulley at the top of the ladder and back down to the top of the car. I left plenty of cable so I could adjust its length according to how high the ladder was extended.


Here are  a couple of other videos of the elevator in action. Notice that I’m using an electric drill to wind the winch and using a gloved hand to guide the wire onto the drum when Raising the elevator/ . When letting the elevator down I can control the descent using a gloved hand as a brake on the winch.

All about Electra (sold)

Electra has been sold to an enterprising individual who plans to rehabilitate her and put her into service as a tour boat in the Carolinas.object014

Electra’s hull is based on the Truscott Boat Manufacturing Company’s Compromise 47, built circa 1909. The 1905 Truscott catalog pointed out serious defects of the fantail and torpedo stern launches of the day and that a cure had already been sought and achieved by the Truscott Compromise hulls. Compromisehulls move throughout the water with significantly less power requirements than all other launch hull designs.

The original 1909 hull reportedly had a 10hp steam engine turning a 26×48 prop at 200-259 RPM and making 9mph. At a later date the boat achieved 21 mph with a gas flathead Chrysler inboard of 115hp. Operating on Lake Winnepessaukee as a tour boat it was able to accommodate 49 passengers.

Basic dimensions:

  1. LOA – 47’
  2. LWL – 44’
  3. Beam – 10’3”
  4. Draft – 3’
  5. Displ.- 11,000#
  6. Hull Weight – 1,800#

The propulsion system on Electra is twin 4.15hp, 36VDC motors each driving 30% disc area  10×28 prop with 3 scimitar-shaped blades designed for slow turning steam engines through a 5.6:1 gear box. Electric power is provided by 24-6volt batteries of 220 amp hour capacity arranged in 3 banks (48V, 660 amp hours.) The batteries are flooded lead acid golf-cart type. Speed control is by Curtis pulse-width modulators. Cruising at 5mph requires about 2hp and at 7mph around 6hp. The batteries can be charged with the on-board diesel genset, or from shore power. The fuel cost to recharge the batteries when the boat is operated at an economical speed (5mph) is about 10 cents per mile and is much less when recharged from shore power. Two high output 240VAC/48VDC power supplies are connected to the Mase IS 4500 generator. This will allow for extended cruising periods without running out of battery power. For short trips the batteries alone will suffice.

Electra was commissioned by Charles Chapin (an area artist) as Rachel from the Beckman Boatyard of Slocum, RI. The original hull (found in Moutonboro, NH) was used as a male mold to produce Electra from fiberglass with plastic honeycomb core. Electra is thought to be the “world’s largest electric powered pleasure boat today and the largest made in 90 years.” Electric yachts were popular with the well-to-do around the turn of the last century (1900) and the ELCO company of New York made them in even larger sizes then. Electric boats were used on the waterways around Paris in the early and mid 1880’s.

Electra has a fully-equipped galley with sink, stove, refrigerator with freezer and dinette which converts to a double bed. The head includes a shower and the aft cabin can sleep three, making the total berths 5. The pilothouse is raised affording 360° visibility at the helm.

She is impatiently waiting at Shell Point, Crawfordville, FL for the next owner to add solar panels on the expansive roof and turn her into a solar powered sightseeing or ferry boat. The owner will be happy to assist with the conversion.

A Better BBEdit Syntax Colorer for Bash Scripts

BBEdit has been one of my favorite applications since I begin using it in the early nineties, or was it the late 80’s? At any rate, it just keeps getting better and if you do any kind of serious text editing on the Mac, be it HTML, CSS, Java, etc you really should be using BBEdit. Now at version 11 it still doesn’t suck and in fact is still insanely great. It does have one small limitation that I was hoping version 11 would address and that is handling bash scripts better than just “unix shell scripts”. The unix shell scripts language module does an OK job of coloring certain things like comments, strings and keywords, but it doesn’t recognize functions and therefore doesn’t offer code-folding or listing of your functions in the Navigation bar. So, I set out to fix this.

The first thing I had to learn was the extra power, and complexity, of PCRE (Perl Compatible Regular Expressions.) Power users of BBEdit already know that the find and replace function can use grep. But what I didn’t realize is that it doesn’t just use grep, but PCRE, which has some really powerful additions to grep.

At any rate, I won’t bore you with the details. I did create a Codeless Language Module (CLM) which can be dropped into ~/Library/Application Support/Language Modules/ and will do the following for your bash scripts.

  • Color code keywords (like “echo”)
  • Color code comments including block comments (what? how do you do a block comment in bash? — read on)
  • Color coding strings in double or single quotes
  • And BEST OF ALL, code folding and inclusion in the navigation menu of your script’s functions.

Block Quotes in Bash Scripts.

I discovered a neat way to create block quotes while developing my CLM posted by sunny256 on (Block Comments in a Shell Script – Stack Overflow) There are probably similar ways invented by equally talented coders, but this is the first that popped up. For my CLM a block quote must look like this:

: <<"EOC"
this is a block
comment that bash
will ignore

I used the string “EOC” to stand for End Of Comment. If you want to use a different string, then you’ll have to edit the CLM bash.plist.

Long, Multi-line Strings

BBEdit does have a bothersome limitation in color coding long (multi-line) strings. I ran into this trying to get my script’s help text identified as a string. The long bash string looks something like this:

echo "Here is a long
string that utilizes the bash feature of
not ending a string at a newline character
but only at the closing quotation mark.
here's the end of the long string"

If your long string contains too many (how many???) characters the color coding encounters a stack overflow and stops recognizing strings.

Functions and Code Folding

This is really what I wanted, and finally achieved. Take a function like:

doit ()
#this function doesn't do much.
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
echo "$1"
# some more code after the function.

When folded this will look like this:

1|doit ()
14| # some more code after the function

Here’s copy of the plist embedded in a Word doc file… I can’t include .txt or .plist files in a WordPress post.


Making a shiplap joint

A shiplap jointShiplap joints are made by mating two rabbets. Not the furry kind, but the kind that is cut out of the edge of a board.

CAUTION: To make a rabbet on a board with a table saw requires removing the blade guard and kick-back preventer. This is because you won’t be cutting through the board, but just into it. BE VERY CAREFUL!


Making a rabbet is relatively easy with a table saw. The trick is to adjust the rip fence and cutting depth so that the depth of the first cut, with the edge of the board guided by the fence, is the same as its distance from the edge of the board. Make trial cuts on some scrap of the same thickness as your workpiece until you get the adjustments just right.

Once you’ve got the saw adjusted, make the first cut in the normal way with the board’s wide surface on the table.

The second cut is a bit trickier, especially with a long board. For this cut you need to run the board through the saw on its edge. Cut slowly and pay close attention to make sure the edge of the board stays in full contact with the table and the wide face of the board stays in contact with the fence.

Chances are you’ll have to clean up your rabbet a bit with a sharp chisel or utility knife. As a bonus you also wind up with a bunch of long square sticks about the size of fat pencils. I haven’t found a good use for them, but they’re too cute to throw out!

Why this site?

My dad taught me many things. With his recent passing I feel even more motivated to pass these things on to you. Some are simple, like tying a real bow tie (his trademark.) Some are more complex, like never giving up.

Some of the things I’ll be talking about on these pages are;
• Tools
• Problem solving
• Keeping sharp
• Remaining positive

I welcome suggestions send to my email.

Rebuilding the cabin corner

Aft cabin rotThe first sign of trouble was a discoloration of the mahogany rail inside the aft cabin. Further inspection reveals dry rot had pretty much claimed the corner of the cabin.

After some poking around I realized that I’d have to replace a couple of entire side boards at the corner of the cabin. Fortunately the boards do not support the roof, corner and side pillars do. The side boards are attached with screws and glue at the top and bottom to horizontal beam. The are joined along their edges with a glued shiplap joint.

I started by removing the horizontal trim strip running along the base of the side boards on top of the side deck. This required prying it out and making a scarf joint cut so that I wouldn’t have to remove the entire strip. I used a type of Japanese saw that cuts a very thin kerf.

Sawing a scarf jointSome of the short side boards under the windows were rotten at the bottom. I decided that instead of replacing the entire boards I would just cut off the rotten ends. This wouldn’t show when the job was done because the trim board would cover the joint between the old side boards and the new wood below. This was my first big mistake, as I would only discover four years later.

Getting an automobile bulb out

Getting the bulb out

A loop of string is all it takes.

Here’s a little trick I came up with to get one of those bulbous bulbs that are often found in automobile light out of its socket.

Just loop a string around it and then twist the string drawing the loop tight around the base of the bulb.

Now you have something you can pull on without fear of crushing the bulb in your grip.