Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tiny Catapults!

For all (six) of you that read this blog and are tired of hearing about bicycles, I give you tiny catapults!

What you will need to construct your miniature siege engines:

1. A couple of nasty looking boards.
2. A 1/2" diameter dowel.
3. A short piece of a 2x2.
4. A length of thin rope.
5. Two 1" wood screws.
6. A 1/2" drill bit.
7. A 3/4" spade bit.
8. A drill or drill press.
9. A table saw or circular saw or handsaw.
10. A miter saw or miter box or motorized miter box
11. Scissors.
12. A screwdriver
13. A lighter.
14. A pencil.
15. A roll of tape.
16. A ruler.
17. A miniature enemy.

First, use your table saw to cut your nasty looking boards into two 7 1/2" x 3 1/2" rectangles. 
Once you've done this, tape the two boards together with the broad sides touching, then, with your pencil, mark the two longer edges: "top" and "bottom", and the two shorter edges "front" and "back".
Measure 1" up from the "bottom" and 2" from the "front" and draw an X. Next, measure 1" down from the "top" and 3" from the "front" and draw another X.

Next, with your boards still taped together, measure 1/2" up from the "bottom" and 1/2" from the "back" of the board and draw a V. Flip your taped boards over and draw another V in exactly the same place on the other side. 
Last, measure 3 1/2" from the "front" and 1 1/2" from the "bottom" and draw a T. Do the same on the other side.
Fit your 1/2" bit into your drill.
Drill the Xs all the way through.
Drill the Vs to a 1/4" depth.
Drive a screw into each of the Ts so about 1/4" sticks out.
Separate the two boards. 

These are your sides.
They should look like a mirror image of each other when you're finished. The sides with the screws sticking out will face inward.

Next, use your miter saw to cut your dowel into two 5 1/4" lengths and one 4 1/4" length.

Cut your 2x2 to a 7" length.                                                                  With your 3/4" bit, drill
Cut one end into a triangle shape.                 Drill a 1/2" hole.                a 1/4" deep hole.     
This is your catapult arm.

Make sure your bit is sharp so that this doesn't happen

Then use your scissors to cut a 26" piece from your length of rope. If you're using braided nylon or another synthetic like I am, you'll have to use your lighter to melt the ends so they don't fray.

Now that you have all your parts, you can start to assemble your catapult.

Start by tying a knot in each end of your 26" piece of rope. I prefer to use a knot called a double half hitch for this.
 Then attach it to the screws.

Next, pass one of your longer dowels through the smaller hole of your catapult arm.
Fit each end into the lower holes on the sides. This dowel will be a pivot for the arm.
Use the catapult arm to twist the rope around the dowel as shown. There should be a fair amount of tension.
Slip your other longer dowel into the upper holes in front of the arm to maintain the tension in the rope.

Finally, notch the shorter dowel into the shallow holes you drilled toward the back, and you're done. You now have a functioning mechanism with which to wage minuscule siege warfare!

Don't stop there though. Embellish!

 Off to battle!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Rise of Frankencycle

Last weekend I got bored with planning and decided to start actually putting some stuff together, so I went out to the bike pile and extracted a red bike frame,

and my old nemesis the gray bike frame.

I also gathered up a collection of nasty looking pipes that were laying around the shop.

I think these pipes may have been part of a fire-sprinkler system from an old building. They were all coated in some kind of thick, impermeable paint. In order to clean the paint off I first tried using a chemical paint-stripper, which did effectively nothing except make me feel a little unusual. Next I tried sand-blasting them, but the sand-blaster that I had access to turned out to be next-to-useless.

After that I tried using a wire-wheel on the bench grinder,
which only managed to smear the paint around and take up a lot of time.

Finally I was relegated to painstakingly scraping the majority of the paint off with a razor blade until I could again use the bench grinder to polish off the excess.

 Eventually I managed to get them to a relatively useable state of cleanliness.

The next thing was to cut up some bike frames.

I had no use for the rear fork of the red bike, so I cut it off,

setting myself on fire in the process.
This would be okay, except that the sweater I was wearing belongs to my friend Jesse. So Jesse, If you're reading this, I've hired a team of plain-clothes guards to monitor your whereabouts.

Next, I put on some leathers and proceeded to grind off the bits of tubing and weld that were left behind.

 This adorable pink bike probably made some little girl very happy once,

and yet I dismembered it in a shower of sparks.

Once I had prepared all the parts I needed, I laid them all out to see what would be the best configuration.

When performing metal work that has a structural function, it's important that joints fit together snugly so that the welds are in less danger of being thin. In order to get all the parts to fit the way I wanted them to, I cut each one to the size I needed, then contoured and bevelled the ends so that they would fit solidly against the curved surfaces that I had to weld to.

Next, I shimmed the pieces up using fire bricks so everything was straight and properly aligned.

I then tack-welded it together,
corrected a mistake or two,

then welded all the joints.

 Once finished, I put on some seats and handlebars, assembled the crank sets,

and put on some wheels and tires.

Then I attached the chains using my newly (and reluctantly) acquired chain breaker ($17.95 plus tax).

At which point it was time for a test ride.
I managed to convince my friend Caitlin to help me out. As if riding a home-made tandem bike wasn't scary enough, her handlebars came loose while we were moving. She's fine, but informs me that we're taking a break from the friendship while she recovers.

The test ride of the Tandem-Frankencycle was really only meant as a proof-of-concept for my gearing system, making sure that it didn't slip or rub. Ultimately, this frame will be the upper portion of the Pariahcycle. It won't have wheels, only a coaster-gear at the back with another chain leading down to the gears and rear wheel of the lower, recumbent level.

This was surprisingly successful, but the next step is the hard part.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Pre-do Re-do

After a lengthy discussion with Kai, we've had a bit of a rethink and decided that the original design for the pariahcycle is both unstable and structurally unsound. Among other problems, these are two fundamental flaws that can't be ignored for pretty obvious reasons. The outcome of this brainstorming session was this redesign:

We decided that the center of gravity of the original design was much too high and could cause balance issues. We believe that this flaw could be overcome by redesigning the bike with the riders on the lower level in a recumbent position rather than an upright position. This would solve several additional problems I had been facing with the earlier iteration. First it lowers the center of gravity of the bike, second it reduces the overall height of the bike by about two and a half feet meaning that the riders on the upper level have less of a distance to fall in the event of a crash, third it provides more space for supports and latices which will improve the bike's structural integrity. Another perk is that it prevents the riders on the lower level from being kicked in the face by the riders on the upper level. 

We will also be adding outriggers, which are basically just giant training wheels that will parallel the rear wheel. Ideally these will be retractable so they can be raised once the bike gets moving, but this may turn out to be a greater test of my ingenuity than I can handle. We shall see.

The drawback is that it's going to be a lot more complicated to construct, and therefore require a lot more planning than I generally put into things,

so I got some tools, a box of Equal Exchange Organic Chocolates, put on some Mythbusters,

and set to work turning said box of chocolates into a cardboard model.

I then went out to the shop and used some bike parts and other stuff to lay out a full-scale mockup on the floor.

This was to help give me a sense of scale so I could estimate the amount of material that I will need, and in doing so, what I've realized is that, despite the two and a half feet that the redesign eliminates from the Pariahcycle's overall height, it is still going to be about seven and a half feet tall. This is still ridiculous, but not unmanageable, and still better than the nearly ten feet that it was originally going to have to be.
Additionally, according to my measurements, and (probably incorrect) math, I am going to need about 40 feet of steel tubing and 30 feet of bike-chain, which is a lot.

Dear Readers,

I feel compelled to mention why my posts have been coming at such irregular intervals. This is mostly because this blog is something that I do in my free time for fun and as a supplement to the work that I'm doing for mostly unrelated reasons. The work often progresses at an unpredictable pace as I have to fit it in between other things that I'm involved in, and as a result, writing about the work will forever be equally erratic. I will do my very best to make the posts as frequent as possible, however, dear readers, if you are expecting them to come with any regularity, then I must inform you that you have an inadequate understanding of the nature of DIY.

DIY is impervious to all attempts to constrain it to any kind of meaningful timetable. Inspiration can come in a flood one minute and a trickle the next and the results typically go through a bunch of painstaking changes and revisions and come out the other end unrecognizably altered from their original state. Tasks that you expected to take minutes to complete often end up taking hours, then once you've spent all those hours working on them they can wind up failing anyway, and then life frequently gets in the way of all of it. 

This unpredictability is the source of the excitement and often the extreme frustration inherent to the process, and in the end, somehow it all turns out to be worth it. As a result, you learn things about the materials you're using and the personality of your tools. You find that you are capable of coming up with more elegant and creative solutions to problems than you ever expected. Eventually the result of your toil may turn out to be something amazing,

but don't ever expect to finish it on time.

A concerned blogger

Friday, February 1, 2013

Dismantling Competence

This week I began disassembling all the bicycles that I obtained from my ad in order to find out what was usable and what wasn't.

Along the way I encountered some problems.
 Like never having the right size hex key

in a box of hex keys this size.

I also discovered some typical aspects about the way bicycles are built that would not have been a problem had I possessed the proper tools.
This, for instance, would have been extremely easy to handle with a $5 chain breaker, but of course I don't own one.

I managed to solve this, however, in one of my (extremely rare) moments of brilliance, by using a hammer, a punch and a nut.

I also had to contend with my own ignorance about how certain types of hardware work.
 I struggled with this little silver thing on this green bike for much longer than I care to admit, trying to unscrew it or wiggle it out. I even tried banging on it for a little while with a ball-peen hammer to no avail

 before giving up and cutting it off with an angle grinder. 

Not long after I did this, however, Kai of Burning Beard Fabrication strolled into the shop to see what I was working on. I showed him all the bikes and explained that I was harvesting parts from them. He saw what I had done with the green bike and asked why I had decided to cut it rather than just take it apart, to which I replied that this little silver thing was some kind of permanent factory fixture made from an indestructible material of indeterminate origin, and that neither I, nor anyone else on planet earth, could possibly remove it. Kai then picked up the frame, looked at the silver thing for a second, tugged on it once and it came out in his hand while the other side fell out onto the floor.

By this point I was down to the last bike in the pile, and I was feeling pretty accomplished until I encountered this:
This nut was so badly rusted that it and the crank arm were both essentially welded to the spindle of the crankset making it impossible for me to twist it. Eventually, with a lot of WD-40, swearing and a dead-blow hammer I was able to get the nut loose, but the crank arm was still impossibly stuck. 

so I put the arm in a vice and found a piece of wood, which I used to try and pound the spindle through.
 It didn't work.

So I improvised. This also failed. 

At almost that very moment Kai came in for a second time and picked up a monkey wrench. He used this and his not-inconsiderable strength to disassemble the crank-set while his girlfriend Lisa and I held the frame steady. Once it was out, all it took was sticking it in the Hardy-Hole of the anvil and one little tap on the end with a hammer and the spindle popped right out of the crank arm accompanied by a shower of ball-bearings. And thus, after 20 minutes crawling around on the shop-floor looking for, and miraculously finding all of said ball-bearings, disassembly was finally complete.

In the end, it took me just shy of ten hours
 and this many tools

To reduce this

To this. But I succeeded. (with help)

These bikes had some sand in them,

and some rust,

but despite all this and the fact that most of them had been sitting in someone's back yard for an indefinite number of years, I was able to salvage a surprising number of usable parts from them. These parts will find new purpose as the Pariahcycle and other dangerous machines of marginal practicality soon to come.