Motorcycles, tools, and garages! A little bit of everything mechanical and technical.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Popcan engines

So my Dad emailed me a link to a video showing a stirling engine made out of popcans. Stirling engines are pretty slick- basically operates on a temperature difference. Warm air expands, cold air contracts. One side of the engine is warm(er than the other side) and the other side is cold(er than the other side). I say it like that because theoretically, you could run one of these on ice instead of fire!

Heres a link to the instructable I followed: http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-a-Coke-Can-Stirling-Engine

Basically, you take two popcans, cut the lid off both of them and the bottom off of one of them. The one that still has the bottom on it becomes the "cylinder". It has a displacer inside made out of steel wool. Its only job is to circulate air from the top to the bottom. When the displacer is UP, there is a pocket of air at the bottom, or hot end of the engine. The air in this pocket get hot, expands, and causes the crank to spin, which drops the displacer and pushes all the hot air in the pocket up to the top or cold side of the engine. Now the pocket of air at the bottom is gone, because the displacer is in it, but it created a pocket of air at the top. That air cools, which means it shrinks, spinning the crank and moving the displacer UP, pushing the cold air back down and starting the process over.

Gads... Thats about as clear as mud. Dont take my word for it- look here: http://www.animatedengines.com/stirling.html

Pics of mine:

First attempt amid the rubble:

It didnt work. I think it was because the steel wool displacer was too loose and it didnt move the air around enough. That or my crankshaft throws were to big. Either way, I got it too hot trying to get it to work and ended up melting the bottom can.


Second attempt worked GREAT!

Next step was to build a base for it so I didnt have to hold it up. Even built a cooling jacket for the cold side out of a tuna fish can.

For heat, I'm using one of my popcan stoves...

Which, as it turns out, also puts out too much heat, cause I melted the bottom popcan AGAIN...

I got a lot better at makin these things... First one took me about 4 hours. Second one took about an hour, but I re-used a few parts. The "third" one took about 15 minutes to cut out a new can and transfer all the parts over.

Even have a video clip of it running! Sorry that its the wrong way and really poor quality... Gotta work with the tools I have.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Keepin busy.

Well, I made it through the first Trimester. Sure flew by- adapting my courses from a semester to a trimester was tough- we didnt get to cover nearly as much as I had hoped, but we did turn out some pretty nifty projects. New tri starts on Monday, so I will be going in tomorrow to get things ready and digest a little more turkey.

Here are a few of the projects my metals classes turned out. Keep in mind, these are 7th and 8th graders.

Lock boxes. Turned out several of these- really simple (well, relatively compared to some of the other projects) and most of them turned out great. A few "useable" and 2 or 3 "DNF'S".


A fin for a go cart. He was quite proud of this, with good reason. It turned out great. Easily the biggest thing we've made yet with my little 24" brake and shears.

Shields. Several different designs, pretty simple project.

I even had one student make SHEET METAL HIGH HEELS. Yes, you read that right! Under construction:

And her finished product:

She designed them completely by herself.

Monday I get to start all over again from scratch with a mostly fresh batch of kids. I've been talking to a few people about the possibility of changing my schedule and doing all of the Tech classes one tri, the metals in another, and including a "new" Metals & Engines 2 class in the last tri. Thinkin it would be fun to try and build a high-mileage go cart. Dont think they do this on the High school level anymore, let alone a middle school, but it would be fun to give them the rules / regulations and see what they come up with. Anyways, hope y'all enjoyed your Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Do something dangerous.

Here's an interesting video related to kids and learning.

Have to say I agree with a lot of that... Reminds me of a time when I was in the Philippines watching a couple of 5 year-olds using a rusty knife with no handle to cut up green mangoes.

Also like the part about anything sharper than a golf ball needing a safety warning. Still pretty annoyed that my totally awesome truck that theoretically can get 50 mpg is not "street legal" because the gov't says it aint. Thank goodness for loopholes.

As for doing dangerous things- In my 2 1/3 years as a teacher, the worst injury I've had in my shop (knock on wood) was a concussion. Course, the kid had already had two concussions the week before at football practices, which caused him to faint in my shop, fall over backwards, and whack his head AGAIN on the concrete. Lots of little cuts, some smashed fingers, and a burn or two, but so far thats it. (again... knock on wood.)

Set some simple rule, explain the consequences, and they do a pretty good job of governing themselves. If they dont, the learn the consequences firsthand and are extremely unlikely to make the same mistake again. Like the fellow in the video said, they're young, they heal fast. (hopefully, he was being a little sarcastic!!!)

Friday, August 19, 2011

And so it begins.

Back to school. First two days have come and gone, have two more days to work around the shop and get things set up before, in the words of the immortal Jerry Heath, I "pound facts like nails into their ivory skulls".

Looking forward to this year. There are a bunch of changes- new principal AGAIN (so far I'm 3 for 3- 3 new principles in 3 years), switching to a trimester, new grading and attendance software, list goes on and on. Thats okay. The only thing that never changes is the fact that change is inevitable.

Only one regret- I dont think summer should be over because I havent finished my summer projects! Summer was good though, made lots of progress on my truck and even made my business "official". Watch for a few posts to come about what kept me busy this summer, and of course, keep an eye on my website to see what the kids are working on this year!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just one of those things.

Sometimes someone says something just to be funny, but it sticks in your head. Someone made a remark about flood irrigating and snowmobiles, and it kinda stuck. Well, today was irrigating day... and the sleds were sitting right there... and, well...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Well shoot.

Havent gotten around to introducing my BIG project yet... but here's an update anyways. I'm working on a '76 Ford F150, the idea being that it will be my "office" (see the "My Office" post a few weeks ago). I've got the motor out, completely torn apart, and at the engine rebuilders for cleaning and inspection.

I also have the truck halfway sanded and primered. The problems here are twofold: One, I'm having trouble find a good, CHEAP, useable bed. Two, the engine rebuilders called and told me my block is wasted. SO... anyone got an early Ford 300 inline six (ford 4.9) engine block or engine they want me to either haul off or sell? As one fellow put it, Pandora's box is opened... Hey, I'm having fun. Right?!

I can only dream of a 300 with the dual carb intake...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Thinking can be hazardous to your health.

Was sittin there in the shop thinking (I know, dangerous thing to do...) and I realized something I thought I'd share.

When I was 14 or so, I had a motorcycle. This was a pretty big deal, since my parents had specifically forbidden any motorized two-wheeled vehicles for anyone who lived under their roof. Long story on how this all came to pass, but I had a motorcycle! It was a fairly decent looking '76 KE175 that someone had grafted a suzuki DR front end to and painted it white and some terrible shade of light blue (you can see pics of it a few posts back under "Blast from the past"). It had major engine issues, mostly stemming from my attempts to patch a broken piston land with JB weld. Ah, the joys of being young and stupid. It actually worked for about 40 feet, at which point the jb weld burnt up and chunks of it tore up the cylinder even worse, finally filtering down and destroying the rod bearing...

I'd worked on a few bikes by that point in my life, but I'd never split the cases on one. Decided to give it a go. Beg/borrowed tools from a nieghbor, took me forever, but I finally got all of the stinkin bolts found and out, the flywheel and clutch basket off, and the cases split! Felt like I was king of the world, having accomplished that impossible task!

I did NOT have the know how or tools, however, to press the pin out of the crank and install the new bearing, press the pin back in, and then true the crank. The crank was also stuck in one side of the crank case and wouldnt come out. I figured it was best to leave this job to the professionals, so I called around and discovered that the local Kawasaki shop could press the crank out of the crank case, seperate the crankshaft, and put the new bearing back in for me, all for $50. That was a fair bit of money to me at the time, but I had no other option, so I took the two crankcase halves in and dropped them off.

About 2 weeks later they FINALLY called back and told me it was done. We headed in to pick it up, and they bring out my crankcase, FULLY ASSEMBLED. What the heck? I didnt tell them to do that, and I didnt even leave all of the nuts/bolts/parts to put it back together!?!

"That'll be $375".

"Um,... WHAT?!"

"$375. Cost a little more 'cuze you didnt bring in all your parts."

"Your kidding me, right? I didnt bring in the parts because you werent supposed to put it back together!"

He was pretty upset, and I told him to just go ahead and take it back apart, because alls I had was $50 and it even said on the work order what I had requested and how much it was going to cost. He finally threw up his hands and said just take it the way it is, and give me my $50.

Thought I made the deal of a lifetime, right!? Wrong. That mechanic cause me more headaches than you could POSSIBLY believe. Generally, each headache involved removing the engine from the bike, COMPLETELY stripping it back down, splitting the cases, and fixing something else he either screwed up or forgot to do. I could literally have the engine out and dismantled in under 30 minutes. I think I took it apart 7 times before we got all of the broken / stripped bolts, MUSHROOMED CRANKSHAFT END (why bother pressing the crank out of the crankcase when you can beat it out with a sledgehammer...) improperly installed countersunk screws, the list goes on and on....

Finally did get to ride it some, wasnt a bad bike, but I could never trust it. Sold it a year later for less than the amount I had paid in parts and don't miss it one bit.

Moral of the story? The life lesson I learned from it? If you want something done right, do it yourself. Buy the tools if you have to. I think this experience has had a great effect on making me who I am today, so I guess it was a good thing... Right?

Anyways, I'm dreading the call from the motor shop, saying that my truck engine is done, its complete, rebuilt, all put together, and ready to drop in your truck. Oh and the totall comes to $3,589. Aint going to happen, right? RIGHT?!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

It has come to my attention...

That people actually read my blog. Sorry for the lack of anything new and for the haphazard posting of oversize pictures. I have been busy with lots of little projects and a few big ones. Most of these are being recorded in other various locations on the interwebs, so I will do a few brief write-ups and post links to the "rest" of the story (man, Paul Harvey was great, eh?)

Out for now, stay tuned for new posts of projects that have been going on in and around the dorkPunch garage!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rescue mission part 2

The other lucky survivors. Might not look like much, but I dumped gas in the little blue one and it ran. The three wheeler is a different story- Hoping I can use parts off of the motor in my '78 CR250 to make it street legal. For some reason lights seem to be a requirement. Other than that, if it has a motor and makes noise, the loverly State of Idaho is happy to take your money in exchange for a plate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rescue Mission

Rescued two homeless bikes today. One that I'll sell to cover the cost of the other, and the other to... I guess I dont know yet. Hopefully fix and ride, maybe part out.

As Found:


I'll post pics of the others later.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Featured Photos.

A while back I read in Dirt Rider magazine that they were going to have a reader-submitted photo contest. I have lots of pics I really enjoy so I sent in a few. Guess what? Not one, but TWO of my pics made it in! Ironically, one on the first page and one on the last. I think the one on the first page might have been nominated for another award, but I lost the original BIG file. Who knows. The other funny part is the picture of POJ that one an award was nominated for "Best cell phone pic". It was taken with a Canon 5D. ??? I aint going to complain!

First pic- lower left hand corner. The GREEN (?) picture. Taken on Big Southern Butte oustide of Blackfoot, Idaho.


Second pic- lower left hand again. ITS POJ!


Sunday, April 17, 2011

My "Office"

This is what I'm thinking for my mobile "office". I like it... But it might be a little over the top? Yes? No? Probably be pretty spendy to get all these logos made too...

Monday, April 11, 2011



My website is up. If you read my blog... which I'm pretty sure you dont, please comment! I'd like to know what I can do to make the site better.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Playing Fetch.

Why is running back and forth chasing a ball while sweating buckets and crashing into other sweaty guys and getting the ball smashed into your face while wearing glasses so much fun?

Wish I'da discovered basketball about 20 years ago.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Politicians and Educators...

Rough draft of my thoughts on the current situation in education here in Idaho. As a teacher, I'm disgusted- mainly with the fact that a politician that has never set foot in a classroom is ramming idiotic laws into place and driving excellent teachers away from the state.

The students come first? Has anyone asked the students what they want? I did. At the end of last semester, I included this question in my final exam- “If you could change one thing about Mr. T’s class, what would it be and why?”
Since I teach Tech and Design, Metals, and Small Engine Repair, I expected the answers to be things like cooler projects, more time in the shop, less writing, nicer computers, or something along the lines of more variety of topics or more time spent on a topic the student enjoyed. I was amazed at their answers. My assumptions were totally false.

Most of the students said that if they could change something it would be: a Teachers Aide while working in the shop, more one-on-one time with the teacher, a longer class period to work on projects, more room in the classroom, more space in the shop, or less crowded lines around the tools. I did also have one student ask if we could convert the drinking fountain in my classroom to dispense chocolate milk. Still looking in to that one.

Obviously, for this question there was no wrong answer but I still felt bad going over the test with them. I had to explain to them what was being proposed at the time. The amount of teachers in Idaho was going to be reduced by 770. We did some simple math- if each of those teachers taught 20 students, how many students are now teacher-less? The answer is 15,400. Those students aren’t magically going to disappear, which means that class sizes are going to increase. I have been told that my classroom was designed to hold 18 students. Already my class has 4 extra chairs in it. Add to that the fact that I don’t teach just one class, but FOUR different classes, I have a lot of stuff crammed into a fairly small space. Where am I going to put extra students and how am I going to pay for the added tools and supplies needed so they have something to work on?

My wife is currently finishing her degree in Elementary Education. One of the classes she has this semester studies the history of education. If there is one thing that has been proven already- it is that larger classes don’t work. I believe that each student deserves one-on-one time with the teacher. Every one of them is unique, individual, and different. They learn in their own ways and have different problems with different things. If I can’t spend that one-on-one time with a student, they are going to struggle more. If I don’t understand something and have no one to ask for help, it is easy for me to get frustrated and just give up. Students shouldn’t have to experience that. Teachers should be able to reach everyone individually and meet their needs.

On-line classes? Talk about impersonal! Give each student a laptop, expect them to take care of it for 4 years (I’m not really sure how useful a 4 year old laptop will be to a new college student), and tell them to get to work. Even for the most motivated person, this is an extreme challenge. On-line classes are hard. To succeed in taking a class like this, you have to be very well organized. You have to have the time to do it. You have to be prepared to find answers on your own when something is unclear. You have to be prepared for problems with the equipment, misunderstandings because of poor communication, and you have to be prepared to do it all by yourself. That’s right. All by yourself. Occasionally, there is a teacher you will get to “talk” to. If you’re lucky, your teacher will respond to you within 24 hours. Not real helpful when you have a really simple question that has a really simple answer but puts you at a stand-still on an assignment. Students simply can’t get that one-on-one attention they need to succeed.

One last thing I really don’t understand about the on-line classes. Someone has to teach them, right? Where are these teachers coming from? If the State of Idaho cuts 770 teachers next year to fund laptop purchases and implement internet classes, who is going to teach them? Even if the program and curriculum is already developed, someone is going to have to direct, answer questions, give assignments, grade assignments, follow up with missing assignments, adjust schedules, the list goes on and on. An on-line class won’t run itself. So who’s going to run them? The money to pay these online teachers is generated by getting rid of teachers we already have, in the classroom, that give your student immediate guidance. We’re just shifting jobs from teachers to where, exactly?

The students know what they want. Research has shown what students need. Their wants and needs are aligned, yet those in charge continue to push their will. They feel they know what’s best- based on what experience? I don’t claim to have any answers, but I do know that eliminating teachers is going in the wrong direction. If the students come first, they should be getting the help that they need to succeed. They won’t find that help in a computer or from an over worked teacher. They will find that support as they work with and come to know their teachers. I am an Idaho Educator, and I want your student to succeed!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chapter 4: Live to fight another day.

Having triumphed over the biggest problem and getting the bike to run, there really wasn’t much left to do. As all good things seem to do, the story came to an end not to much later.

I did manage to score some parts from a motorcycle nut and get POJ on the road. This guy makes me look like an amateur. He had probably more than 100 bikes in various states of decompose. Waterbuffalos, Suzuki ram airs, Honda scramblers, dirt bikes, dual sports, street bikes, you name it, he had it! In his pile were two or three old Yamaha 100’s. Unfortunatley, most of them were Twinjets and built more for street. The twinjet is one sweet looking maching. Looks just like POJ but they had a TWO CLINDER 100cc oil injected engine sits under the tank! He “lent” me a back wheel that turned out to be too small but still worked and a few other little bits and pieces.

Armed now with the major missing piece and enough bicycle parts that I thought I could get it “on the road”, I set to work. The end result was a ratty old bike with a teeny back wheel, a rats nest of wiring hanging out from under the seat, a CAR BATTERY tied on to the rear rack with an old bicycle inner tube, bicycle cables cut / bent / tied on to get working throttle and brakes, and positively no silencer. Quite the opposite, in fact… It had a pipe in the shape of a megaphone, and when I say POJ was loud, POJ was LOUD.

The maiden voyage… I don’t recall exactly how well it went, but if my memory serves me correctly it was something like this: Dump just enough gas in for it to run for about 3 minutes. There was no fuel petcock, so we had just jammed a rubber stopper in the hole and ran a line from the special crossover bungs on the underside of the tank directly to the carb. The needle in the carb didn work worth a hoot so as soon as you put gas in it, it started spraying gas all over the place out the overflow. Once the gas was in and leaking (pre-mix, of course, cause the oil lines were long gone even though the tank was still there), hook the piece of extension cord we cut up over the positive terminal on the car battery tied to the back. Wiggle said connection until the dash lights came on, and then kick the starter! It started relatively well- usually first or second kick. Drat. Forgot earplugs. Shut bike off by removing extension cord from battery. Find helmet / ear plugs or roll the bike outside so the echo in the shed wouldn’t cause my head to implode. Re-attach cable. Kick. Kick. Kick. Kick. Dump in more gas cause it all leaked out. Kick. Hey, its running! Click it into first, slowly let out the clutch, annnnnnddddd we’re moving!!! Give it a little gas and shift into second. What?! Neutral? Where’s second? Oh. Who the heck does the shift pattern ALL DOWN!?

At this point, POJ’s story gets a little blurry. Life, as it is said, is what happens while you are busy making other plans. I had grand dreams for POJ. Like a dying fire, they cooled and eventually went out with the onset of winter. It was a running bike, true, but it was ancient, heavy, loud, and unreliable. Turns out a fellow student at school was looking for something ancient, heavy, and loud. Well, he was really just looking for something that ran and he could actually ride. We eventually struck a deal- I gave him POJ in return for a ’76 Kawasaki KE175 that someone had taken great time to polish, shine, and update, then promptly blew the motor. I do remember taking POJ for one last spin on a VERY cold February evening.

The next evening I was pushing the Kawasaki into POJ’s special parking place on the dark side of the garage- the side where my Dad piled all of his really REALLY useless stuff. That’s sayin something.

I was getting pretty good with wrenches. My parents had sent me to live with a friend of theirs in the summers that had a lawnmower repair shop and I had a learned a thing or 3 about engines. Mostly 4 stroke lawnmowers, true, but a thing none the less! I was confident I could figure this bike out in no time. Heck, it was practically brand new!

Little did I know. I never did come up with a good name for the KE, but if I had, it would have been something like Money Pitt, Pushmehome, Purgatory, or something along those lines. I should have just doused it in gasoline, lit a match, and walked away.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Blast from the past!

In my continuing search for POJ pictures, my parents turned up a couple of semi-related bike pics. This is the bike I ended up with after POJ- a 1976 Kawasaki KE175. We had a love hate relationship that I may explain someday in my POJ story. The other bike is a '70's Honda XR100 ridden either by my little bro or a friend. It was a different friends bike, the helmet belonged to someone else, and I just cant tell. Sad, eh? We had a lot of fun on this bike. Clint would race CR250's around the track and WIN. That is until he snapped the rear shock IN HALF and ripped the muffler off a lap later. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Takes a 'Lickin and keeps on tickin

Update on my John Deere Liquifire project... Went and road the first sled for about 5 hours / 35 miles! The good: it ran great the entire time- started, worked great, didnt die, made it all the way in and all the way out. Did okay in the deeper snow too, but sure sucked on the hills and doesnt go to fast unless you're on the harder stuff. On hard packed roads it went like stink, 'round 80 mph!

The bad- headlight quit workin, seems like the head gasket might be leakin into the cylinder and it was real hard to start after I got it home. Think thats because the cylinder filled up with coolant. Going to have to check that out. Anyways, PICS!