Saturday, January 8, 2011

I Made a Shark (his name's Nibbles)

With the house being at a pretty stable place and having a space between the holidays and school/more house work starting back up I figured it'd be a good opportunity to make something new. I went and saw my friend Barbara after Christmas and among a bunch of other stuff she gave me there was a few chunks of a rusty old sawmill bandsaw blade which was screaming to be made into some teeth. We'd watched some of "Inside Nature's Giants" too, including an episode with a Great White, so when I grabbed a couple bits of blade that bowed into a D shape easily I knew a shark would be really nice to do with those blades.

I cleared out a spot in the carport to lay out some scraps and see what might fit where. A couple of old ladie's bike frames seemed to have a good shape for a tail, a leftover hunk of motorcycle highway bar would make a fine dorsal fin, a conduit spine, and a couple chunky bits of motorcycle and scooter frame would make a good base for the chest and head.

Cut, bend, bang, clamp, and weld and the basic structure came outpretty easily. Also after I cut the bike frames to make the tail I realized how nice and similar the leftover frame chunks were to the shape and size I needed for pectoral fins. I only managed to hit my foot with a hammer twice in shaping them the rest of the way to where I needed them too.

Before going much farther I wanted to get the whole thing up in the air at the level you'd be looking at it from so I didn't wind up attaching something in a way that'd look fine on the ground and awkward at eye-level, so I went about making a square peg fit in a round hole. The scooter frame chunk was in about the center of the body and had a nice reinforced chunk of tubing that used to support the handlebars and floorboard on a scooter in a previous life, and I figured it'd work well as a sturdy pivot in it's current life. I also found out that this hole was just about the same size as a small hitch receiver which I no longer had any use for since I traded my trusty CR-V for a Tacoma a while back. I've never seen a square peg go in a round hole so well.

Now with the whole thing lifted in the air I put all the big fins in place and welded the top jaw up too. It was starting to look like a shark, but only from the side. Long-ways it only looked like a shark if you squinted and turned your head sideways, so I needed something to fatten up his cartilaginous bones. Rust-locked rims from a kid's bike looked just about right, but I didn't have enough to fill in everywhere I wanted to. I tried a local bike shop near my house to see if they had any similar wheels, but they only had aluminum ones. Then I tried the trusty rusty cycle shop near my dad's house since I needed to get a few things straight on my bike too and sure enough they had my bike right and a mess of small rims waiting for me before the evening was out.

The next morning dad brought over a bunch of lumber and plywood for the new roof, so I had to retreat to the back yard to work on the shark. The rims worked out great to fill in the body and give him some shape, but I was still worried about how I'd make the nose and head work out. My scrap pile is already on the skimpy side since the move, but it always seems to have something tasty and just right for what I need if I kick it just right. Turns out football helmet face guard + motorcycle chain guard = shark nose.

After that it was pretty close to done, so I added the last bit of highway bar as a back fin, another row of teeth, and a few other little bits to complete it. Since the archer looked so much better and felt so much more done once I wire-wheeled and clear coated him, I did the same for Nibbles. I made sure to go thick on the teeth, and that bandsaw blade feels nice and slick now. Can't wait to do some more stuff and see when I can go hopefully clog up the art walk again.

I've Been Making a House (with lots of help)

That's right folks, I'm not dead, but I haven't posted in a long while. The biggest reason for that aside from the holidays was that in October I moved into a house and started renovating it. I'll have to get some before and after photos up, but it started out looking like a pack of wild dogs lived here with holes in the wall, nasty smells and trash all over the place, and a patchwork of half-assed and jury-rigged repairs spanning back at least a decade.

Started out by gutting the place out: carpet, old heaters, nasty linoleum and congolium tile, trash, filthy counters and cabinets, etc... and about $200 worth of scrap metal behind the house which paid for a new front door since the old one had a hole rotted in the bottom almost big enough for a cat to get through. Then it was on to drywall, cleaning, and since my old house's lease was up: sleeping in the gutted shell of the new place. Waking up every morning with a nose full of drywall dust and no heat turns out to be a good motivator for getting to work.

My dad, me, roommate Justin, several of my friends, and some of my dad's friends and associates helped straighten out wiring, replaced every receptical and switch in the house, added a bigger circuit breaker panel, dropped the ceiling in the kitchen and hall to make room for central AC among other things, replaced ratty and chilly old windows (though there's still one left right now), and painted just about every surface in the house but the slab.

We also cut down and hauled out two big sycamore trees and a really big oak that had roots sticking several inches above most of the front yard, had ruined the driveway, and were threatening to do the same to the slab of the house though luckily it hadn't already. We also put up a privacy fence on the side of the house where the neighbors are a little too rowdy to want much to do with.

I also got two sets of 45 watt solar panel kits from Harbor Freight during the holiday sales and snagged a couple of nice big batteries from work as a storage bank, it's just sitting on the roof mounted to a pair of 2x4s. It's been working quite nicely and I've had my laptop and phone running on solar power ever since without running the batteries down even when it was cloudy several days.

And to top it all off the next and hopefully last big projects now that the house is starting to feel more like a home are to put a new roof on (and increase the pitch as well as change some other stuff about it), enclose the carport as a garage/workshop so I can finally stop working on things out in the weather and not have to worry about my tools walking off or getting wet, and turn the back porch into a master bath with attached laundry closet. Oh yeah, and we have to paint the outside once that's done. Still lots more to come, but holy hell it's come a long way already. Once I've got my workshop done up I should be able to more comfortably work on stuff, so stay tuned!