Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Garage Attic Retracting Stairway

We just finished building our garage. Probably the most interesting feature is the attic stairway.
Most people with attics have used those weak and narrow pull down folding or telescoping stairways. They are narrow and steep and not very strong. I wanted to be able to easily use the attic storage area so I wanted a really good stairway.

It is important to understand that attics need to be designed properly to support the weight. From the beginning of the garage design this stairway has been planned for. I discussed it with the truss engineer and we made sure to design for the truss spacing, the weight and the point loads. Additionally, the whole system has been designed to account for the various loads and weights on all of the components.

I did lots of drawing to design and build the stairway and components but this one sketch illustrates the basic function:

And here is a video of the stairway in action!

The counterweight:

The pivot:

The cane bolt:

The pulley system:

The stair to cable attachment:

My thanks to Jorge Tafoya of Tafoya Construction in San Diego for his help with this project. I couldn't have done it without him:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pirelli Cinturato for my 1966 Alfa Romeo GTV

The original tires on my 1966 Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Veloce were sized 155 x 15 on relatively narrow steel wheels. When I restored my GTV, I made certain "period style" modifications. One modification I chose was that I put on aluminum Alfaholics GTA 14" wheels with 6" width. (Note that the original wheels on the GTA were magnesium and were this same size: 6.00 J x 14. The original tires on the GTA were Pirelli Cinturato 165 HR 14 or Dunlop 165 HR 14-SP. These had a diameter of about 624mm or 24.6 inches.

Originally (about 10 years ago) I installed Bridgestone Potenza RE950 195/65HR14 tires (OD=24.0” tread width=6.2” sect width: 7.8 “ on 6”). The early GTV's like mine have lower rear wheel arches, and it is a tight fit to put tires like that on. But the Potenza's had a very good performance reputation and I enjoyed them.
However, after 10 years the Potenza's were old rubber and due for replacement.
And there has been a development...
The original Pirelli Cinturato CA67 165 x 14 tires are available again!

The Cinturato is a particularly cool tire, as it was the first radial tire made and was fitted to all sorts of cool and exotic cars in addition to the Alfa.
The Cinturato design (first called the Cinturata)

So, for me the choice was obvious, I had to have the Cinturato.
I ended up ordering them from Longstone Tire in the UK. Strangely, they were cheaper to buy from the UK and have them delivered to California than to buy them locally. And they arrived in about a week; Amazing. The ones I purchased appear to have been manufactured in the 33rd week of 2016, just 10 weeks ago, so they are very fresh.
The Pirelli Cinturato CA67 165HR14 tires are H rated and are specified to have a diameter of  627mm and a section width of 165mm.

Here are a couple pictures of the mounted tires.

As you can see, while they are obviously narrower than many tires, they definitely are not "too" narrow. And I think they look great under the wheel arches with the Alfaholics fast road suspension height. I also really appreciate the subtle sidewall graphics compared to modern tires.

As far as performance goes... well I always laugh at people who give reviews of their brand new tires versus their old worn out tires. And I haven't pushed the performance envelope of these at all yet. But I will say, these tires are significantly easier to turn at low speeds (as one might expect because they are significantly narrower).  The car might be wandering slightly more at highway speeds (like 80 mph), but if it exists, it is a subtle difference. Ride comfort is a least as good as the the old Potenzas.
See you on the road!

And the best advertisement for a tire EVER:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Nail Hound

The Nail Hound
CORVA sticker has nothing to do with the Nail Hound, it is just a great organization, and the sticker looked good on the device.

I first saw one of these about 6 months ago, one of my contractors brought it to a job at my house. The contractor's guys were really sloppy and scattered nails everywhere. They used this thing to pick up.
The Nail Hound is a giant magnet on a handle. The actual magnet (magnets?) are inside the aluminum box on the bottom. When you pull the T handle the magnet inside is pulled away from the bottom of the bottom of the box and the attached items are released.

Short demonstration of the tool picking up debris.

And here is a video of a pickup and how the items can be released easily.

I had bought a smaller "magnet on a stick" gizmo, and since it would only pick up items directly under the small magnet, it just wasn't big enough to "sweep" an area with. 

Apparently, these Nail Hounds are sold at the local roofing supply company and they are not cheap. But I have some more construction happening and I just had to have one to help clean up. I also think it will come in really handy for picking up dropped bits in the garage.

I have seen versions of this with wheels, but for my use they are not as versatile. I like that I can easily swing this just where I need it, and get it in around plants and things. There are also other similar devices on Amazon (search for: Load Release Nail Sweep), but I had seen this brand in action and I found it locally.

In case someone is interested, here is the company and model information:

Obviously, this tool is a giant magnet, so it is important to keep it away from your wallet (credit cards) and you computer and anything else it might affect adversely!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Calculating driveway to Garage Breakover Clearance

Clearance = Clearance required in center of wheelbase in inches
Rise = slope of driveway ramp in inches per foot
Wheelbase = distance between wheel centers in feet
Note: Assumes level garage floor.

By my calculations:

Clearance = 1/4 x Wheelbase x Rise

Monday, February 15, 2016

Cooler is too hot?

We bought this cool Coleman 54 Qt. Stainless Steel Cooler a couple of years ago for a big road trip.
This cooler was in the bed of the pickup truck all the way from San Diego to Bozeman Montana and back and it did a fine job. But... there was one problem.
Sitting in the summer sun all day, the steel top would get really hot, too hot to touch. And the inside of the top would be warm. There is space for a shelf or a rack in the cooler, and we had put a baking sheet there, so we could store stuff above the ice that we didn't want to get wet. The problem was that shelf would stay too warm because of the heat radiating from the top of the cooler. Additionally, the baking sheet blocked cool air flow from the cool ice below.
So, what to do?
First I considered painting the top of the cooler white or putting some kind of insulating sheet on the top of the cooler.
But then I read about radiant barriers and how they worked and I decided that was exactly what I needed.
I used special GE Silicone Sealant for plastic sheets and other plastics to glue 3 layers of InfraStop Double Bubble Reflective Foil Insulation to the inside of the cooler lid. (I first tried regular sealant and it didn't stick, be sure to use the special stuff for plastic sheets.) Also, I was very careful to completely seal the edges of the sheets so that nothing can get in there and the cooler remains easy to hose out and clean. We will have to use a little care to not cut or tear the insulation on the inside of the lid.
Note that it took a long time for the sealant to completely dry and stop smelling. I put sealant under the insulating sheets and between each sheet and I suspect it is pretty air tight in there... so even after a week if the cooler was closed for a while you could smell sealant when you opened it. But after a couple weeks of leaving the cooler open that went away.

Then I got two small baker's sheets to use as a shelf inside the cooler, instead of one big sheet. We will try to use just one so there is plenty of room for the hot air to sink and the cool air to circulate above the shelf. But just in case we want to use both sheets, I put six 1 1/4" holes in each sheet. Maybe that will help.

It's not to hot yet here in San Diego, but on a recent sunny trip to the desert with mid 80 degree F temperatures the inside of the cooler lid did stay cool. We will see how it really works this summer.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Review of SK and Williams Sockets

Williams MSB-20HRC Socket Set

I decided that I needed a new set of sockets for Christmas. I have used a great set of Craftsman sockets for more than 20 years. They have been good to me, but they are 12 point sockets and I always wanted a 6 point set. So I decided it was time to upgrade.

I'm not a full time mechanic who really stresses and bangs up his tools.  I'm a solid hobbyist level mechanic. I don't use my tools every day but I work my on own modern motorcycles, I occasionally restore vintage motorcycles and I work on my own vintage car: so I do require solid quality tools. For tools that I frequently use, I am willing to get top quality stuff. I am a careful tool user. If I don't have the right tool, I will buy it. I tend to clean my vehicles before working on them, I read the manual and I use a torque wrench on everything that I can find a torque specification for. And if my wrenches are dirty or greasy at the end of a project I wipe them off. So that's some perspective on this reviewer.

It is important to note that I have no way to evaluate one of the most important factors of a socket: how it applies torque to the bolt. The shape and hardness of the interfacing surfaces are not easy to measure. Standards like these cover those factors:

Metric socket internal opening design: SAE MA 4534A
Metric socket opening tolerances: ISO 691:2005
Sockets and handles: ANSI B107.5
Minimum hardness and torsional strength : ISO 1711-1:2015

I haven't seen any tools that claim compliance with all these standards in their catalogs, I'm just pointing out that standards like this exist. If someone wanted to test the interfacing surfaces of a socket, I would start by reading those standards.

My evaluation is is a simple visual review of the socket's fit and finish and of how it attaches to the ratchet handle.

I looked at some reviews on the web, I searched the Garage Journal Forum, I read Amazon reviews and asked some knowledgable friends.

I wanted something at least a step up from my old Sears Craftsman sockets. First I looked at Snap-on. And while they are probably great, the price stopped me in my tracks. While I respect Snap-on tools, I personally don't think they are always worth the price for a hobbyist.

So after eliminating Snap-on I decided to try SK. Many guys on the garage Journal Forum liked them and my friends really liked them. But I research indicated that SK has gone through a couple phases. Supposedly the old stuff made when when my friends bought theirs, was really good quality. But sometime around 2010 they went bankrupt and there were quality problems. But I read that the quality went back up after they were bought out of bankruptcy and that things were good now.

SK Socket Review

For Christmas I asked my wife to order a set of SK sockets from a reliable internet tool vendor that I specified. I asked her to order the SK 3919 19 piece metric 3/8" drive 6 point set. While the SK catalog touts that they test their 'SuperKrome" for corrosion with ASTM Salt Fog procedures, they do not cite a specific standard nor do they actually claim they pass the testing. There is no mention of these sockets meeting any dimensional standard in the SK catalog. The set includes all the sockets from 6mm to 24mm. It was $105 plus tax.

Christmas arrived and I was excited when I opened the heavy package.
The SK set came in a plastic bag and seemed not to have any oil or other coating on them.
The inside of the sockets were randomly finished: Some were chrome inside and some had a matt silver finish.

So whats up with that? Maybe chrome or matt silver inside doesn't make any difference... but the randomness of this didn't give me confidence the tolerances will be right or the heat treatment, etc.

I'll also note the flashing inside by the square drive receptacle was also ugly on some of the sockets. And the detents in the square receptacle that hold the socket to the ratchet handle seemed cut unevenly.

Frankly, I didn't consider it at all. I put the sockets on my gravel driveway, snapped a few pictures with my phone for reference and packed them up to be returned to the vendor.

Interestingly, when I posted about this experience on the Garage Journal forum, a few people agreed with me, but a vocal group complained that the sockets were fine and that I was overly concerned about the random finish inside the sockets. Some claimed that the random finish was the result of a change in the production a couple years ago, and newer sockets with the matt interior finish are mixed with the older ones. It was said that the matt silver finish was silver paint to protect the sockets interior from corrosion.

So... I considered a bit and decided to give the SK Tool company another try. I ordered an other identical set from a different online vendor for $109. And...
The new set was just as crappy as the first. Now, these all did have the matt interior finish, so at least that was consistant. But the other flaws were present again on this set: Here are some of them:

Note the square drive receptacle on the left socket is poorly formed.

 Here is a closeup. Horrible.

Check out the different heights on the detents on these two sockets. Also check out the poor chrome finish. These are fresh out of the plastic bag SK packed them in.

And compare the detents on these two sockets. Would the left one even hold the socket on the ratchet?

 If the details I can see on the SK sockets are this bad, what should I expect of the details I cannot see? Needless to say, I returned this set.

So, my review of the SK sockets? Both sets I bought were poorly made. Don't buy them, because there are better options. Frankly, I wouldn't buy them at any price.

Williams Socket Review

Williams is the "Industrial" brand from Snap-on. The sockets are very similar to the Snap-on ones. Note the set I chose is "Made in the USA". Some Williams sockets are domestically made and there are others that are made outside the USA.

I chose the Williams MSB-20HRC 20 piece metric 3/8" drive 6 point set and ordered it from a large online vendor for $96. Interestingly, Williams cites the ANSI B107.5 standard for the sockets on the catalog page for this set.  They do not cite any corrosion testing standard. The set includes a 5.5mm socket and then all the sockets from 6mm to 24mm. The set came in a simple cardboard box and was well oiled.

The exterior finish is very nice. In some light look they look to have a tint of nickel coloring. Generally everything was very crisp. Some of the edges, like around the square drive receptacle might be a bit sharp. Nice interior finish. The most notable imperfection is a light ring around the circumference of single socket, probably from rolling during manufacturing or storage or something. I did note the "Williams" script on a few of the sockets was done in a different style on a few of the sockets. They must be phasing in a new logo.

There are no signs of surface imperfections or rust. The inside of the sockets look smooth and nice and clean. (No sign of any SK style paint inside.)

A Close up of the inside of the Williams sockets. Nice and crisp. You can see the oil coating in the pictures.

Interestingly every socket has a different exterior circumference. This implies that Williams uses separate tooling for each socket size (the SK sockets had a least two that were the same external diameter).

The sockets have clean and sharp square drive receptacles. Every detent is the same and nicely cut. Chrome is good and has a light coat of oil.

So, my review of the Williams sockets? Very nice. They are the step up from my old sockets. They are what I expected for the price.

More information from the Garage Journal Forum:

Interesting comparison between Snap-on and Williams sockets

Another review of that includes SK sockets and sees some of the same quality problems

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Concrete Garage Floor: Tiles, Epoxy, or Sealing? Densifier and Penetrating Sealer.

The floor after densifier and penetrating sealer.

My garage floor is new 3000 PSI concrete and it is 4 months old.

I spent a lot of time trying to decide how to finish it and was helped by many people on the Garage Journal forum. I also got 3 quotes from respected local vendors.

Originally I had intended to merely spray the concrete with a densifier and to declare it done. But the garage remodel ended up being more extensive than I expected and the workers got overspray and drywall mud on the floor that needed to be at least cleaned off somehow for me to be happy.

Things I considered: Plastic tile (Racedeck), epoxy (various products, polyaspartic (HP Sparta-Flex), polishing and sealing (local vendor), densifier only, densifier and coating, densifier and penetrating sealer.

My requirements:
I want a coating to protect and seal the floor. Easy cleanup is desired. Non-slip is desired. maximum durability is desired. I like how cement looks, but am ok with coatings too. No special appearance is desired. No color or color chips.

I’m a motorcyclist and vintage car fan. I have a bunch of motorcycles and a motorcycle lift. Some of the bikes have worn, rusted and sharped edged center stands. I am not going to use pads to protect the floor from the stands or lift.

I am open to doing the work myself it is easy. I would much prefer to have a professional do the work if I can be confident of the quality of the results. But I would be upset if I paid a good amount to have the floor professionally coated and then to have it chip, crack, bubble, scrape off or otherwise fail.

Plastic tile:
I got a sample of RaceDeck and parked my 150cc vespa scooter on it. It scuffed the first time I parked on it. I continued to use it for 3 months and it looks like battle zone. Rejected.

Epoxy / Polyaspartic:
I really wanted this to work and I have good friends who swear by it. But I was really concerned it would scrape up. When the cement was 30 days old I called 3 epoxy vendors. One of the three seemed very knowledgable, did polyaspartic coating, had excellent yelp reviews, and said I should wait much longer before coating the floor. I waited 3 months and called him back. He said it was still early but he would come take a look. He put a meter on the floor and said it was still pretty wet: he said he could do it, but he would need to use a special primer. But then when he bid the job, next to the 15 year warrantee he hand wrote: “5 years for moisture”. Hmm, not encouraging. He also had a nice sample tile with the finish on it, and when I went to put the scooter on it, he said, “Oh, that will scratch it!” And it did immediately scrape the clear coat off the chips on the sample.

Then my buddy sent me some pictures of his 6 month old epoxy floor that he loves… and I saw a crack in the epoxy running all the way across the floor. I said, what’s that? Apparently he hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t realize that cracks might propagate through the epoxy. And given the floor is new, who knows how it will settle. There are some small cracks in it already. So, between the moisture concerns, center stand scraping and cracks: I rejected the epoxy / polyaspartic option.

(Note: If I was doing the epoxy myself for a modest price, I might be ok with some scraping and cracks. But for a $1800 pro installation on a 300 square foot floor, and concerns about moisture… ah... No.)

Polishing and Sealing:
I had a well known professional come and quote polishing and sealing the floor. This firm does many of the local restaurants and bars. I was concerned about this from the beginning, as a polish is really just a cosmetic process and it is fairly easy to mar polished concrete. So again, this ended up being about the top coating. I ended up having many of the same concerns about the clear top coating as I did about the epoxy coatings, as discussed above. I saw many beautiful surfaces in local restaurants with polished concrete floors, but I also saw many that were peeling and a mess. Additionally, the cost was high, at least from this vendor. But these discussions pushed me toward doing the floor myself.

Sealers and Coatings:
When I looked at sealers and coatings, I quickly learned that many sealers would not hold up to chemicals that I commonly spill in the garage. I want a sealer or coating to protect the floor. I definitely do not want to have to protect the sealer or coating from spills. So I learned to find the “chemical resistance” data sheet for the various products. Some coatings are great for resisting various chemicals, others are not. For me, resistance to gas, oil, alcohol, brake fluid and acetone were very important.

My Choice: Sanding, Densifier and Penetrating Sealer
At this point I decided I wanted to do the job myself, and I wanted to end up with a plain cement surface that would continue to breath and dry over the coming years. I still had the paint and drywall stains to deal with. Scotty of Legacy Industrial suggested renting a floor polisher and “screening” the floor. I decided I could try that.

I knew I would use a densifier after sanding as that would result is a stronger more dust free surface. But should I add a penetrating sealer top of that? Most of the penetrating sealers I found didn’t have a “chemical resistance” specification. I was very interested in Ghostshield Siloxa-Tek 8505, but that company could not provide any real chemical resistance test data.

I looked around and found that I could get the Prosoco Consolideck products locally and so I checked them out. Their tech support was excellent, and they have a product called “Concrete Protector” that is a penetrating sealer, allows vapor transmission (breathability). And the Consolideck Concrete Protector comes with this chemical resistance spec that looks very good to me. The one concern is that a penetrating sealer like this could make putting a future coating on the concrete more work (or perhaps even a problem) as they might impede the coating from adhering. But since I like the appearance of cement, I don’t think this will ever be a problem for me.

How I did it:
  • I bought a respirator mask. 
  • I rented a floor sander at home depot and bought a supply of 100 grit and 150 grit screens. (I tested the screens by hand earlier in the week with a drywall hand held sanding pad. On my steel troweled concrete they worked well.) 
  • I bought a new powerful wet dry/vacuum cleaner, a microfiber mop with several pads, a few 1 gal concrete/masonry pump spray jug. I heard the jugs were unreliable so I bought a couple with plans to return the extras. 
  • For my 300 square foot floor I bought 2 gallons of Consolideck LS (densifier) and 2 gallons of Consolideck Concrete Protector from a local distributer. (I ended up only needing less than a gallon of the Concrete Protector.)
Before Sanding:
Note the overspray and marks.

Day 1: Sanding
Note: I wore the respirator mask and safety glasses whenever sanding or vacuuming. There is a lot of dust generated in this process. Less gets in the air than you would expect, but you do need a good mask.

My floor is about 300 square feet and is divided into 4 quadrants of about 75 square feet each by the control joints. I went one quadrant at a time with the floor sander. For each quadrant I used a fresh screen. First I made 10 passes with a 100 screen. I’d stop and vacuum occasionally to see how it was going and I used a hand sander to to get tough spots of paint or drywall mud. I also changed direction by 90 degrees occasionally. Then I made 5 passes on each quadrant with a 150 screen (with a new screen for each quadrant). And finally I made two passes over the entire floor with the 150 screen.

After the sanding I vacuumed repeatedly and then my wife mopped with a dry microfiber mop and I vacuumed the dust she pushed up. It took quite an effort to get the floor mostly free of dust.

The result was a clean and nicely smooth, but not “polished floor”.
I’d guess this took me about 4 hours of cautious sanding and vacuuming.

Day 2: Apply Prosoco Consolideck LS Densifier
It was a hot day planned in San Diego so my wife and I got up early, watched some densifier application videos and got to it. It is important that it isn’t too hot as you don’t want the densifier to dry too quickly, you want it to have some time to be absorbed into the concrete. I sprayed and she mopped. We put on one fairly heavy coat of Prosoco Consolideck LS. This was absorbed fairly quickly (minutes) so when we finished we immediately started over and applied a second coat. This time the densifier covered better so we used less. It took longer to dry, the desired 5 to 10 minutes. There were a couple spots that seemed to pool a little bit and I lightly blotted them with a microfiber cloth to prevent too much of the chemical from puddling.
This took about an hour of spraying and mopping. The two coats used about 1.5 gallons of the Consolideck LS densifier.

Some pictures after the densifier dried:

Day 3: A day off and extra time for the densifier to completely dry

Day 4: Apply Consolideck Concrete Protector
Again, a hot day was forecast for San Diego, so we started early. I sprayed the Consolideck Concrete Protector and my wife mopped. We found the concrete to be less porous after the densifier and so we didn’t need too much, I’d call it a “medium light” coat. The Concrete protector needs to dry for an hour before putting on a second coat. After about an hour and 15 minutes the concrete was dry and we applied a second coat. The second coat really didn’t need much of the Concrete Protector and we applied it very lightly. A couple hours later the surface was dry, but the directions say the the concrete needs to be protected from water for 12 hours and that it takes 48 hours for the Concrete Protector to gain it’s oil resistant properties.
Not counting the drying time between coats, this took less than an hour to spray and mop. We only needed about 0.5 gallon of the Consolideck Concrete Protector and I was able to return the extra gallon that I had purchased.

Some pictures of the finished floor:

Things I learned:
  • The chemicals and stuff costs real money. I probably spent $300-400 on the chemicals, sander rental, sanding screens, mops, sprayer and other stuff. 
  • Sanding was easier than expected, but the floor sander was darn heavy (about 120 pounds) to load in my truck) 
  • I like the smooth floor that sanding created. All the little ridges and ripples from the steel troweling are gone. The floor is smooth but still high traction, it is *not* polished. 
  • Spraying and mopping was straight forward, but was best done with two people.