Metal Lathes are The Bees Knees.

Over the weekend, I got to be a part of something extremely awesome that every gearhead needs to check out at some point in life.  I brought a 66 pound round cut of 4130 steel to my brother-in-law so that he could machine it for me.  Hey, that doesn’t sound that cool! I know, relax. Let me explain.

When you think of a metal lathe built in 1942, the first thing that comes to mind is “heavy”, and that is for good reason.  It weighs around 4200 lbs and looks like an absolute man eater, but it has a gentler side as well.  If it were an animal, it would be an agreeable triceratops with a luxurious fur coat.  To give you a little perspective on what 4200 lbs feels like; just imagine the heaviest thing in the world.  This particular lathe is at least 46 times heavier than the heaviest object that you just imagined. Yes, it is that heavy.  The strange thing is that when it is in motion, it looks like smooth rotating perfection.  Everything spins with surgical precision, and all the rotating parts intermingle with each other to create a beautiful symphony of metal cutting goodness.  At the risk of sounding like a wimp (too late?), I found it to be quite soothing to watch.  Then again, I love metal.

Let’s back up the story a bit, because you don’t even know why I’m doing all this work.   I am making (really my brother in law is… :) ) an upper wheel for my English wheel.  I wanted to have the greatest upper wheel in history, but I didn’t want to pay for it because I’m cheap. Thus, I am dead set on making it “myself”.  We started with a round cut of 4130 steel that was about 3.5 inches thick by 9 inches in diameter, and weighed 66 lbs.  The wheel will end up being as big as my English wheel can handle, which is totally awesome.  By the time I am done, I will probably have a few hundred dollars into a really nice set of upper and lower wheels (called anvils).  This sounds like a lot of cash money, but when compared to buying a nice set already built, I am saving hundreds.

In any case, we stuffed the giant hulk of steel into the lathe and got it spinning.  The first thing to do was to face it, because it was apparently last cut with dull rock, an axe, a sledge hammer, or a maybe a grenade.  “Rough” was the nicest way to describe it.  Several hours pass and the face of the metal was like a mirror, absolutely flawless.  Then we began on the outside of the wheel, which was apparently cut with the same prehistoric tools.  Shortly into this cut, the cutting insert that we were using became dull, and we had run out of spares.   So, we wrapped things up and made a game plan for Metal Day 2, which will take place in a few weeks.

If you’re a gearhead and ever have the opportunity to hang out in a machine shop, be sure to jump at the chance, because you may enjoy it more than you think.  There is something oddly intriguing about giant machinery that effortlessly rips metal apart.  Maybe I am alone here, but this stuff gets the adrenaline going for me.  Just remember that if you don’t respect the agreeable & furry triceratops, he will gobble you up before you can say “Cool Lathe!”.

eBay Daily Deal: The Greatest Tool Ever Invented

Saturday, February 27th is a big day, because 1AAuto.com has a product up on eBay Motors Daily Deal.  It is a beautiful mechanic’s tray with dual rubber coated magnets.  Although it looks like a museum piece, it is rugged to the core.  We have used these ourselves in environments that make the average magnetic bolt tray cry for mercy, while the 1AAuto tray kept asking for more!  With paint and construction this nice, the 1AAuto magnetic tray makes all other trays look inadequate.  It could win a beauty contest while completely covered in grease, rust and mud.  The magnets on the bottom are stronger than average and have no trouble holding piles of leftover bolts from any project.  It is a great addition to any tool box, and will likely make your friends and coworkers jealous.  For this price, it’s a no brainer, everyone needs one.

EBay Item number 230441637235

Seriously. Just Throw Your Clothes Away.

A long day of wrenching....

Once in a while at the end of the day, instead of washing my clothes, I just throw them right in the trash….because there is just no saving them….

Let’s slow it down and start at the beginning. You have a big day planned with your project car, and you will finally make some long awaited progress on it. You buy all the supplies you will need and come up with a game plan for a full day of activities. After much anticipation, the day finally arrives and it is now “go time”. You wake up before the sun rises, and you throw on some “work clothes”. Your “work clothes” were your good clothes last week, but you ruined them “just checking something real quick” under the car. You forget to eat breakfast because you are on an automotive mission and can’t be bothered. There is definitely no time for food, drinks, or banter of any kind, because it is Saturday and it is going to be intense. » Continue reading more of this post…

Your Car Tires Are How Old??

Did you know that your car’s tires have the week and year that they were made stamped right into the side of them?  Pretty cool right?  On the side of every tire made after the year 2000, there is an oval with 4 digits in it (as pictured above).  The first two digits are the week of the year, and the second two digits are the year itself.  On this 2005 Mazda Rx8 tire, you can see “1009″, which means it was built during the 10th week of 2009.  Not too shabby.

Now, if your tires were made before the year 2000, things were a little more wild and crazy.  They still told you the week and the year that they were built, but they did it with three digits instead of four. (What?!)  Tire manufactures assumed that nobody would have tires more than 10 years, so the numbers could potentially repeat themselves once each decade.  Let’s have an example, shall we?  Pretend you have a super rare, silver 1992 Dodge Spirit R/T 2.2L Turbo.  It’s all original right down to the tires, and with over 220 horsepower on tap, you are looking to burn the meats off in grand fashion before replacing them with M/T ET Drag Radials.  Dangit! You’re shoelace is untied again.  You bend down and catch a quick glance of the oval on the tire with “211″ stamped into it.  You’re a clever cat, so you obviously know that the first two digits mean that the tire was made during the 21st week, and the “1″ is the 1st year of that decade, which was 1991.  You quickly lace up your high-tops, hop in the Spirit, pop your MC Hammer tape in, rip the e-brake, and proceed to shmammer the tires as your friends cheer you on in fits of joy.

…annnnnd back to reality for a quick moment – This tire dating knowledge is not just a great way to impress the ladies, but it is a good piece of info to have when buying new (or used) tires.  Naturally you want the latest and greatest rubber between you and the asphalt.  Whether you can see it or not, old tires just don’t grip like a new set does.

Embarrassment: Your High School Vehicle

In high school, my friends and I drove some really, really crappy cars.  We knew that they were crap, yet we invested fist fulls of money and months of time into them as if they were going to have a huge payout someday.  Apparently foresight was not taught in school.   Somehow putting $1500 of stereo system in a $30 car made a lot of sense at that point in our lives.  On the bright side, the cars were so crappy that it allowed our creativity to really shine.  We could do any ridiculous modification that we wanted because the car was worthless to begin with.  If we messed up, it was still a worthless car.   Racing stripes? Sure! Painted windows? You Bet! Backwards seats? ummm, yes?  We learned many valuable life lessons on these cars, and we wouldn’t have be the same without them.  Pictures above is a friend / coworker’s high school driven 1983 Olds Delta 88 in the prime of it’s life.  It was a car that we were proud to cruise in for obvious reasons. Thank goodness for high school cars.

Have You Ever Found a Turkey Sitting on Your Truck?

I awoke one warm morning last fall and meandered my half asleep body outdoors heading in the direction of my truck.  My cell phone clicked as I hung up with a friend.  He had just asked me if he had left something in my truck the previous day.  With each lackadaisical step down the driveway, my eyes reluctantly opened slightly further.  That’s when it happened.  About 10 feet from the truck I stopped abruptly, because something was not quite right.  A giant gobbling beast emerged from its dormancy and we immediately locked eyes.  He was perched atop the roof of my truck, and stood tall, spreading his wings as if to challenge me to a duel.  With fear in my heart and a rush of Thankgiving thoughts flowing through my mind, I knew that this was not going to be a normal day.

High RPM BMW S1000RR Valves in Motion Video

I had to sneak this video onto the blog last minute today because it is truly spectacular on so many levels.  It shows the valves of a BMW S1000RR engine opening and closing at an obscene RPM.  After seeing this, I want to go home and take the valve covers off my engines to see how they compare.  There is really not a whole lot more to say.

Ultimate win for the week!

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