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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Porch: There is no Substitute

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Hola, Amigos

I am back in the land of joy, better known as Miami. I returned from Ocala today, and I am already basking in the rudeness and stupidity. As soon as I hit Palm Beach County, other drivers got nastier and less able.

We closed on the new house today. It’s a done deal. The sellers will stay on for two weeks, and then we take possession. It’s still not entirely real to me.

The property is far nicer than anything I thought possible. It’s secluded, it’s large, it has woods, it has pasture, it has a big ol’ shop building, and it even has a huge sand berm which will be a fine rifle backstop. Sonny’s BBQ is five minutes away, as is Cracker Barrel. Tractor Supply is close. The nearest neighbor is a guy who built a gun ROOM in his garage. Not a safe. A room with a thick steel door. Think he’ll complain about me shooting? I don’t.

The sellers kept giving me stuff. Today they gave us the rockers on the front porch. The house has a huge collection of porches. There’s a front porch with a gazebo on one end. There’s a back porch. The shop has a porch. The pool has a patio, which is sort of a porch. Rockers are a necessity. I’m not sure what rockers cost, but today at Cracker Barrel, I saw they were charging between one and two hundred bucks for one.

My only serious whine right now is that my dad doesn’t share my enthusiasm. He truly hates Miami and can’t wait to move, and he likes Ocala and the house, but he’s not excited about it. He doesn’t have that Charlie-getting-the-keys-to-the-chocolate-factory feeling I have. So I pester my friends via text.

Two years ago he thought Miami was just fine. What happened? God happened. That’s all I can tell you. My dad has changed. He complains about the people. He complains about the traffic. He sounds just like me, only without the joy over the impending move.

It seems like he has slipped a notch over the last week or two. That’s the way these things work. I’m glad we finally got the house bought, because it might have been a very strange process further down the line. I don’t know what his capabilities will be in six months. I’m certainly glad he has been able to participate in the house hunt and get involved with decisions. I wanted a place where he would be happy.

I’m fairly sure I can get us out of here in three weeks. I don’t know how often I’ll have to come back. “Never” would be my choice.

I can’t figure out why the sellers are so nice. I could sell the machinery they sold me for twice what I paid, and they didn’t expect me to pay as much as I did. They came down a lot on the price of the house. The appraiser felt it was underpriced already. Maybe they’re just tired and ready to move.

I hope I got a good deal, but I was not trying to gouge anyone. I just wanted a fair price. Maybe I did better than that. There is no way to be sure.

Next time I go up I’ll try to take pictures and post them.

I’m beat. Time for pizza. I’m so tired I’m willing to eat Papa John’s.

I look forward to blogging from one of the many porches.

Buying the Farm

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

The End is Near!

I can’t put all my business on the World Wide Web, but I can say that the day of reckoning is nearly here. My dad is about to close on a farm in northern Florida. Very shortly, my well-deserved captivity in Miami will come to an end.

The other day a friend asked if “the reality of the move” was sinking in. She was talking about my dad, but it made me think. I have not fully absorbed it, myself.

Physical captivity ends quickly. When they release a man from prison, it takes less than a day to put him on the street. The passage through the prison gate takes an instant. The time it takes for him to feel free inside is longer.

It sounds dramatic, comparing a move between a reasonably affluent American city and a pleasant rural home to being released from prison, and of course, I am not suggesting my time here has been anything like what prisoners go through. I’m just talking about the principle. I felt trapped in this place. It seemed like all my efforts to break free were hindered or cut off. I felt (feel) claustrophobic. I look forward to seeing the horizon once in a while. I look forward to getting away from these rude, coarse people.

In a text message yesterday, I referred to the new place as “the farm,” as if I already owned it. I crossed a little threshold there. I don’t have to call it “the house we’re buying” or “the place we made an offer on.” It’s “the farm” now.

What will I do up there? I only have one friend in the whole county. I’ll be fine. These days, I only have one friend in Dade County. It won’t be much different. I have friends in Orlando and Kissimmee, and I know they’ll visit. Once I start attending a church, I’ll make friends. I don’t need a lot of people to be happy. I tend to pick up parasites and abusers, and a small crowd is easier to vet.

For the first month, I’ll be busy settling in, and I’ll also be taking care of problems in Dade County. I know I’ll have to come back here several times. I was dreading it, but then I thought about it, and I realized it’s much better to visit this place than to live here. When I visit Marion County, I leave an unpleasant place, relax in a nice place, and drive back to an unpleasant place for a long stay. When I visit Miami, it will be a photographic negative of that experience. The pain of Miami will be fleeting, and when I leave, it will be for longer and longer periods, soon to become permanent.

I wish I didn’t have to come back. It would be fine with me if this county sank into the earth. But I can cope with visiting. The pain will be mingled with triumph.

Moving is like settling down into a bath that kills ticks, fleas, lice, and leeches. One by one, I will feel the little mouths and claws let go, and the slime of their presence will be washed away.

We live surrounded by spirits. Miami is a cesspool of demon worship, so I believe things are worse here. The county is full of Hispanics and Haitians who actively pursue demons and pledge their lives to them. It makes me wonder…will I feel better up north simply because I’m no longer living in a demonic hub? I’ll bet I do. I’ll bet things go better up there, simply because Satan has fewer personnel available to torment me, and because God has more people to fight them.

The money for the house will have to be wired. Most people buy homes with loans, so they don’t go through what I’m going through. I have to take a sizeable part of a person’s net worth and send it off in what amounts to a bank-to-bank email. There are all sorts of ways for that to go wrong.

While I was suffering with my continuing legal education [sic], I learned a lot about the ways criminals steal money in cyberspace. Here’s one of the smarter ways: a wire recipient sends you his banking info. A crook intercepts it, substitutes his own info, and sends it on to you. You use it, and your money ends up in Botswana.

When I first received wiring instructions, everyone kept telling me to call the escrow people and read the information back to them. The realtor told me. The escrow people told me. I didn’t know why until I found out about the substitution scam. I guess there are horror stories.

I will be a very happy guy when I get confirmation that the money has been received. I confirmed the information twice and printed out a hardcopy just to be sure. I figure it will be hard for people in Botswana to hack a piece of paper in the USA.

I suppose this will all seem real when I walk onto the land and see the movers carrying boxes in. I may start the tractor and zoom around the yard in circles to celebrate. Is it legal to drink and drive a tractor? We may well find out. I’m entitled. Noah knocked back a few when he got his new property.

That didn’t work out too well, though. Maybe I’ll just have a root beer.

A few days back, I realized I had the same mindset about heaven. I know that’s where I’m headed, but it’s still hard to believe it with my whole heart. Some day I’ll wake up in a place where everything is right. It will be a place where the arrogant, fatuous, transparently false slogans of Apple and Google could be applied without snickering: everything just works, and those who live there are not evil. It’s real. Northern Florida is real, and heaven is real. It’s going to happen.

Hope it won’t be long before I’m blogging via laptop from the north pasture.

A. Mack Moofing

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

John Deere Gear and Lukewarm Decaf

It’s raining, so that means I don’t have to install my dad’s pool pump today. Some people might claim it’s possible to install a pool pump on a rainy day, especially in a shed with a roof. Those people are clearly fools. I am goofing off on the Internet, digesting Egg McMuffins (or as they are called in Miami, “A. Mack Moofings”), and hoping the chicas at McDonald’s gave me decaf instead of the real thing.

I’m still very excited about being a near-tractor-owner. I’m even excited about working on them. My current shop is so jammed, working on anything large is like cleaning the Augean stables (Look how my classical education is paying off), but with the room I’ll have in Marion County, I’ll be able to walk around a tractor without stepping over anything.

My grandmother had a funny expression for small rooms. She said they were “too small to whip a kitten,” and by “whip,” I believe she meant “swing.” As in “too small to swing a cat.” I’m going to have cat-swinging room.

I probably won’t get to work on them a lot. They’re both in good condition, and they’re quality machines. I could always buy a $750 1965 Massey-Ferguson just to have a patient.

I’ve done what every responsible tractor owner does. I went online and ordered a John Deere T-shirt. I also looked at Kubota shirts. They only have a couple of designs that aren’t way too orange or full of heinous polyester. They need to fix that. John Deere has too many green shirts (I don’t wear green), but at least they have cotton.

Someone told me I was not allowed to wear a John Deere hat. Because the garden tractor is small, I’m limited to ball caps. I don’t care. I’ll tell people it’s a big tractor. I’m going to take a fuzzy photo of it, and I’ll hire a midget to sit in the seat to make it look bigger. Either that, or I’ll get the mother of my 3-year-old godson to let me put a fake beard on him.

I found one Kubota shirt that wasn’t too bad. It’s black, with “Kubota” written on the front in Japanese characters. At least it’s SUPPOSED to say “Kubota.” In reality, it may say “Sucker” or even just “Shirt.”

I need to find me a tractor umbrella. The last thing I want is to fry in the sun while running my machines. I wish there were some way to grow grass indoors. Actual grass, I mean.

Time to go look out the window and thank God for the rain.

Asteroid B-612 is Getting Crowded

Friday, July 28th, 2017

The Past Never Completely Dies

The day gets weirder and weirder.

God granted my tractor wishes, and then I realized I had to think about insurance. I didn’t know how to do it. Are tractors vehicles? Do you need vehicle insurance? I wondered. Based on my Googling, I decided they were probably items covered by homeowner’s insurance.

I already had a couple of quotes, but I decided to get some more. I tried to get online quotes, and I got the runaround. I finally called a company. I started talking to an agent.

We started talking about the fact that I was moving from Miami to northern Florida. Gradually, he let me know that he and his wife had lived here. His opinion of Miami was about like mine. He hated it. They left after Hurricane Andrew.

He talked about the horrible schools his wife had attended in Miami. Ghetto nightmares where white kids were not safe. He didn’t mention the racist violence; that’s all me. He said she went to Miami Edison for high school, and Horace Mann for junior high. Those are the wretched schools I would have had to attend, had my mother not battled my dad to get him to send me to private school.

He started talking about her elementary school. Sure enough, it was Miami Shores Elementary. My old school. I told him so. I said I probably went to school with his wife. He asked me what year I was born, and I told him. Same year as the wife. He told me her last name! “Elaina!”, I said. I didn’t know her well, but I knew who she was. Too funny.

The school had seven grades and a thousand students, so I pretty much had to know her. It comes out to around 140 students per grade.

When we got done with the call, I told him to tell his wife I congratulated her on surviving Edison, and I congratulated them both on escaping Miami.

It would be funny if I got insurance through him.

It was an interesting experience, but I was also a bit disturbed. I don’t like remembering the old days. I want to feel disconnected from them. I want them to not exist. Actually, moving to Marion County has its disturbing side, because the worst parts of my childhood took place in Tampa, which is more like Marion County than Miami. Tampa and Marion County smell similar. The plants are similar. Some of the home construction is similar. There were a lot of Marion County homes I refused to consider because they reminded me of those times.

It’s way better than Miami. No doubt about that. And I don’t think I’ll be running into anyone from my past there, except for one law school friend who lives in the area. She’s okay, though, and when I think of the darker times of my past, law school is not what I think of. I had a great time in law school.

Hey, here’s another small world item: Reince Priebus just got canned. A guy from my original college class was president for 8 miserable years, while another guy from that class (Stephanopoulos) covered him for NBC, and then a guy from my law school was chief of staff for the next president.

I wondered how Reince got the job. I don’t mean to pick on anyone, and I don’t really know him, but he seemed very unremarkable when we were in law school together. He was a mover and shaker in student government, but I always thought those people were silly. Student government, I thought, was for people who didn’t have the talent to make it without crass, aggressive self-promotion, and I thought it was undignified for adults to run for student offices. When he made it big, my impression was that he was in way over his head. It may be that I was right. In an office like chief of staff, you want a Rumsfeld or a Cheney. Someone sharp and strong. Reince always looked worried and unsure.

Time to unwind. I may go nuts and have an entire beer.

Next Purchase: a Spit Cup

Friday, July 28th, 2017


I’m a tractor owner! In fact, I own TWO tractors! I’m the happiest man alive. I feel like my wife just had twins.

I’m exaggerating. I don’t own tractors yet, but I have a deal in place. The seller of the house I’m moving to made me an insane offer on his tractors, plus a bush hog and golf cart, and I just found out he has been made aware of my acceptance. He’s going to get the papers ready.

“Why are you buying tractors if you don’t own the house?” Good question. Without boring you with details, there are good financial reasons for me to buy them instead of letting my dad do it.

This is incredible. In February, I was on my knees thanking God for the opportunity to move one county north and sit on 2 little acres. I’d have pretty much the same bad weather we have here, and the people would be about 30% as annoying. The traffic would be much more bearable, but it would not be as light as it is in northern Florida. Here it is July, and I’m on the verge of closing on a bigger property three hundred miles away. With tractors. Tractors, baby. Not riding mowers. Don’t tell me God isn’t good.

What next? Maybe a Sofia Vergara clone will descend from the sky and tell me she needs a good Christian husband to pray with.

Here’s a bad photo of the new babies.

When I get up there, I’m going to fire them up and ride them in circles. Just so I can say I’ve been out on my tractor all day.

The golf cart is not as cool as a tractor, but it’s still pretty neat. I guess I’ll wear it out. I’ll put a rifle rack on it and patrol the grounds. I would be tempted to put a Confederate flag on it, just to annoy snowflakes who might see it on Google Earth, except I gave up my stars and bars some years before it became mandatory.

Dang. Now I need tractor insurance. I didn’t think of that.

Okay, now I’m a tractor insurance expert. Apparently, you can cram tractors into your homeowner’s policy. Hope that information is correct.

It appears that my vehicle insurance will cost almost a third less up north. Won’t that be nice? Not as low as I had hoped. I guess just being in the same state with Miami has an effect. A Miami idiot might run into you while driving between Miami and New York.

Things are generally cheaper in northern Florida. Down here, you pay extra for the immense privilege of being in Miami. It’s like having a cover charge in hell.

In other news, I managed to fix the problems with my dad’s boat with very little effort. Thank God. With boats, you never know whether jobs will take five minutes or five hours. Here’s hoping no more bad things happen before we move.

If it weren’t so late, I’d go outside and install his new pool pump. I figure it’s a twenty-minute job, so I assume it will take three hours. Ever the optimist.

That’s all I got. But it’s enough.

Still Chewing Through the Straps

Friday, July 28th, 2017

Out of my Way, You Pillars of Salt

Today is a better day than most. I am waiting for a mechanic to give me a report on the farm machinery I intend to buy. For a hundred bucks, a trained diesel mechanic is looking at a farm tractor, a garden tractor, and a gas-powered golf cart for me. If God smiles on me, soon I will receive his report, and I will be cleared for takeoff.

It’s wonderful to know that when I move, I won’t have to begin my northern Florida experience with a month of tractor-shopping. Buying vehicles is like dating. It’s full of pitfalls and the potential for bitter regret. If I get the machines the mechanic is looking at, I’ll be covering all the bases at once, and I’ll be getting a very good price.

I still have a lot to do here. My dad has rental properties, and one is vacant right now. Yesterday I toured it with the realtor who looks after our properties. It was very depressing. The tenants were slobs, even by tenant standards. They painted the dining room walls a dark rust color, in semi-gloss instead of flat. They painted other areas a sickly baby blue, and of course, they got paint on the white popcorn ceiling. They destroyed the vertical blinds. They were told to patch all of their nail and screw holes when the left, so they jammed spackling compound into them, but they didn’t sand them.

Here’s one of their more impressive stunts: they drove a doorknob through a wall and left a patch you wouldn’t believe. Someone slammed the door and drove the doorstop through it, and after that, I guess they figured it was okay to use the wall as a doorstop.

I knew the place needed new kitchen cabinets, but now it looks like it will need to have the bathrooms done. A contractor had the gall to submit a $30,000+ estimate. Dude. It’s a rental. Granite is for people who take care of things. It’s not for tenants.

I would sell it right now, as is, but then I would have to think about capital gains tax. To avoid paying, I have to have a new rental property in mind, and I have to buy it within a few months. Tall order.

Never buy residential rentals. You have to be out of your mind to get into it. Residential tenants have the same respect for your property that convicts have for prisons. They expect homes to be perfect when they move in, and then they live like animals. Commercial tenants are completely different. They expect nothing except walls, and they don’t ask for much. More often than not, they make improvements which they leave behind. And you can evict them FAST. Try that with a home. Even a squatter who came in through a window can hold you off for months.

Here’s another fun item on my list. My dad’s pool pump died. Couldn’t it wait another year? Guess not. I had one delivered, and now I have to install it. In the hottest weather of the year. That will be a joy.

It gets better. The starboard battery bank on my dad’s boat is dead. Somehow, we discharged it so much it laughs at the battery charger. I have to try to charge it with the port engine, using jumper cables. Won’t that be fun? If I don’t get on it today or tomorrow, the boat could sink because the bilge pumps won’t run.

Guess I should make that my top priority. I’ve gotten used to the lovely emerald shade the pool has turned.

On the up side, the mechanic just called, and he thinks the machinery is worth twice what the seller is asking, so there’s some good news. There are a couple of hydraulic leaks, but they’re easy fixes, and the bush hog has a deck tear I should be able to weld up. Hooray for me.

Time to head for the boat, to erase all the good I did with my morning shower. Pray I get it running, and that I can resist the urge to scuttle it.

New Pets for New Home

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Guess I Should Also Think About Furniture

I feel like providing an update on the diesel front.

I finally got some details on the golf cart, tractor, and garden tractor the seller of my new home wants to sell me. The tractor has 1100 hours, and it has a small hydraulic leak the seller can’t find. The garden tractor has 783 hours (Yanmar diesel), and it has a small leak around the PTO shaft. The cart has 308 hours.

The seller says he adds fluid to the tractors after every fourth use.

I looked into hydraulic leaks, and it sounds like I’m not in much danger. When the mechanic looks the machines over, he should be able to tell if there’s a serious problem. Some hydraulic leaks are a big deal, and others are just annoying. The PTO leak on the John Deere sounds trivial. You can buy a new seal for $9.50. The people who sell the seal say it’s easy to install. Which is what you would expect them to say, I grant you.

I told the realtor (our messenger) I would be comfortable at $10K, but if the seller comes back and sticks at $11K, I’ll buy the machines anyway, because that was already a great price.

If what I’ve read is correct, 1100 hours is around 25% of the time a typical tractor will run before needing major work. Given that the tractor is around 17 years old, and assuming I work as much as the seller did, I should be fine for the next 51 years.

The garden tractor is supposedly immortal, except for the mower part, which is called a “deck.” Even that can be repaired, as long as the really big parts aren’t destroyed. I have read about people running them for upwards of 4000 hours. Also, I’m a machinist and welder. Surely I should be able to fix a few of the things that wear out.

According to the small amount of information I’ve been able to find, gas-powered golf carts are good for 5000 hours before they need to be totally redone or scrapped. I figure 308 hours is an acceptable total for a used machine. Even if it blows up, it’s a cheesy 350-cc motor which can’t cost much to fix or replace.

This is exciting. I’m going to have a tractor. Not thrilled at the prospect of mowing, I admit, but…tractor. You can do a lot with a tractor. It’s a tool. And I love buying tools.

The cart will need a radio. I can’t be out there touring the grounds with no tunes. Forget that.

I’m having a hard time finding a mechanic in Marion County who will go look at the machines. Angie’s List and Yelp don’t work all that well in the sticks.

I look forward to posting photos of my farm adventures.

Rise of the Machines

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

You Can’t Have too Many Diesels

Every day I start my prayers with two things. I ask God to do whatever can be done to bring him success in me and in everything I own, and I ask him to separate me from people and spirits that are against him and put me in his presence and the presence of his people. I want God himself to have success. I want him to have a return on his huge investment in me. If you look at the Bible, this is what he has been trying to get all along. He creates people and tells them exactly what to do in order to succeed, and we listen to loser spirits instead. God is a parent who wants his kids to take his helpful advice so he can make their lives work out, so I ask him to help me cooperate.

This is another way of asking him to put his kingdom and his righteousness first in my life. Jesus told us God would take care of our external needs if we put his desires first. It sure seems to work. I can give examples of the ways God is making my life easier.

I was concerned that my dad would not have enough ready cash to buy a house while managing his business. Looks like that’s not going to be an issue. One way and another, money shook loose. I doubt I’ll have to lend him a cent.

I was concerned that my dad might flip out when I started throwing out his awful furniture. He doesn’t even mention it. He walks into rooms where his stuff used to be, and he acts like nothing happened. That’s a good thing, because it’s stupid to move furniture which is worth absolutely nothing. The cost of the move is a total loss.

The seller of the property has some farm machinery I’ll need. He was talking to the realtor about selling it to me, but he took a long time to give me a price. Today, I got the number. It’s excellent. For $11K, he’ll sell me a Kubota tractor with loader, several implements including a bush hog, an E-Z-GO gas-powered cart with a dump bed, and a top-of-the-line John Deere diesel tractor/mower with a cart. That’s so low, I’m embarrassed to counter. I think a reasonable price would be more like $17K. As long as this stuff checks out, I should give him what he wants. He has done a ton of stuff to get the place into shape, free of charge.

This may not be the perfect machinery for my needs, but it will keep me going for a long time, and I’ll be able to get my money out of it if I upgrade.

I’ll need a nitrous system for that cart. I’ll just put that on my list.

I can’t get used to being blessed. It is a strange way of life. When I was living on a kibbutz, there was a death camp survivor who worked in the dining hall. Every time he ended a shift, someone had to go behind him and look for food he had hidden. He would take loaves of bread and hide them in various locations. He couldn’t help it. He had been starved in the past. I feel a little bit like that. So many things have gone wrong in my life; things that had every reason to go right. Now things seem to go right regardless of what I do. How can that be?

I’m getting insurance quotes for the property. They’re asking me whether we’ll have livestock. What kind of livestock? Will we be raising them for profit? Those are nice questions to get, when you’re used to little lots in suburbs.

Here’s my plan for the “farm”: I plan to raise nothing. If I need a couple of steers to cut the property tax, I’ll get them, but the land is for me, not for animals. I want to be able to walk outside without having my neighbors in my face.

In a very short time, we’ll close on the property, and then two weeks later, we get possession. After that, I don’t care what happens to me. Whatever life brings, I will go lie on my face in the grass and feel like the richest person alive.

More developments as they occur.

Where is Mr. Haney When You Need Him?

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Tractor Dilemma

I am still trying to figure out what to do about farm machinery.

As I wrote earlier, the seller of the house I’m moving to wants to sell me his Kubota L3710 tractor and some other stuff. In order to avoid getting hosed, I’ve been studying the Internet to find out what I should do.

Today it occurred to me I might be able to get a bigger machine for less money. My lathe weighs about 4000 pounds, and the Kubota can only lift 1500. I’m not sure what my mill weighs. It would be nice to be able to move these tools myself, without using pry bars for the whole job. A bigger tractor would lift more.

To get a bigger machine, I would have to pick up something older. Is that a smart idea? I don’t know. My grandfather’s old Massey-Fergusons were abused and left outdoors, but they always did what he wanted, and a lot of people on the web say they’ve spend under $5,000 for good machines.

While I was looking into all this, I decided to get people’s opinions on old machinery brands like Ford, Massey-Ferguson, International Harvester, and so on. I learned something very interesting: there are no American tractors now.

That’s not quite true. If you buy a giant machine for tending 10,000 acres of wheat, it may be American. That’s not what I want. I need a typical farm tractor. Those aren’t made here any more.

John Deere sells Japanese tractors, and it’s my understanding that a lot of their stuff is Mexican. Massey-Ferguson sells Indian machinery. Indian! The scariest country of product origin in the machine tool world. The Indians still make line-shaft lathes because their electrical grid is so primitive.

If what I’ve read is right, the American tractor has been dead for a long time. Maybe thirty years. Where was I? Not buying tractors, I guess.

There go my concerns about not buying American. Unless I go antique-shopping, American isn’t an option.

The more I think about it, the more I think I should buy the seller’s tractor, IF I get a good price. If I know I can get my money out of it, no harm done. I can upgrade or downgrade later. If he wants too much, forget it. I won’t need a tractor for weeks after I move, so I don’t have to rush.

Someone on a forum wrote a great tip for buyers: check the reputation of the local dealer when you buy a used tractor, because this is the outfit you will depend on for help. I checked the reputation of the Kubota dealer in Ocala, and I did not find any good news. One buyer who has a Yelp account said the seller refuses to send people out to look at machines, so I suppose you would have to pay to have your broken tractor towed. The buyer said the dealer’s people were irresponsible, extremely slow, and dishonest, more or less.

The dealer responded. You would think they would have begged forgiveness and done their best to fix the problems, or that they would have at least argued. No, they posted what looked like a cut and paste from the boilerplate on their website. “XXX Tractors is dedicated to providing customers with the best possible service and the lowest prices anywhere, with a highly trained staff and a spacious, modern repair facility.” Something of that sort. No denials.

The message I got was, “Maybe this guy is right about us. We don’t give a crap.”

Maybe it’s the greatest tractor dealership on earth, but I have no way of knowing that, based on what I’ve seen so far. And here I am, thinking of buying a tractor they probably sold.

I shouldn’t criticize India without saying people seem to love their tractors. Mahindra tractors get fine reviews. The Koreans are also in the game now. There is a Korean brand named Kioti, and people like it.

I feel like I should try to buy the seller’s machines, and if the price is bad, I should tell him I’m not interested. Good enough.

It would be neat to have an old Ford or something, for a few grand. It would be a hassle, though. Right now I have a tractor in a convenient location where I can look at it and maybe send a mechanic. If I Craigslist an antique, I’ll probably be expected to do business beside a tractor in someone’s side yard, without much opportunity to check it out.

This reminds me of buying my machine tools. Today, I would not hesitate to check out an old mill or lathe. I know what goes wrong with them. Before I had machine tools, I didn’t have that kind of confidence. I couldn’t tell whether the machines were any good or not. Once I’ve used a tractor for a while, I’ll know what to look for when I buy a used tractor. But I’ll have to buy a used tractor in order to get that knowledge.

That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

The answer, of course, is to buy more tools. The more tools I have, the less I will need creepy tractor dealers. And the more tools I have, the more tools I have.

In a completely irrelevant vein, I talked to the realtor today. He talked to the seller and confirmed: I WILL BE ABLE TO SHOOT ON MY PROPERTY! The seller does it all the time. This has to be a dream.

On top of that, I just showed the Miami house I’m trying to sell to a young couple with affluent parents. The couple came alone yesterday, and today the parents came with them. In a Maserati. In expensive clothes. With questions about expanding the house. Could they borrow the plans? Of course they could. Maybe these people are serious. Finally, someone with money.

I don’t know if I can stand any more good news.

More updates as they unfold.

All the Other Kings Said it was Daft to Build a Castle in a Swamp

Saturday, July 15th, 2017


The house in northern Florida came through inspection okay. There are a couple of water-intrusion spots that have to be looked at, but all the other problems are BS. Example: leaky sprinkler heads. These things cost seven dollars each and can be installed without tools. I am relieved. The house is only 17 years old, and it was not built by Miami Home-Depot-Parking-Lot commandos, so I had every reason to expect it to be sound. I’m glad to know I was right.

In other news, the seller wants me to buy his tractor. He has a Kubota L3710 with a front end loader. It might be a good idea. I need one anyway, and based on the way this guy maintained the house, the tractor is probably two wipes of a rag short of tractor-show-ready. Kubota is Japanese, and they have a good reputation. The Japanese make tractors for John Deere. I’m going to try to get up to speed on prices.

Diesel tractors are not quite like cars. Like other diesel products, tractors have lifespans measured in engine hours. I have been trying to find out how many hours I should be willing to accept. People say all sorts of stupid things on the web “At 100,000 hours, International Harvesters are just getting broken in!”), so it was hard to get a good answer, but it looks like you should expect a major overhaul at 4000 hours, so I figure 2000 is a reasonable cap.

Why do I need a tractor? Because I am an idiot. Along with my dad, I chose a pretty big property. Dozens of acres. I like to think I’ll be able to sit back and do nothing, but I know there will be times when I’ll have to cut the weeds or move fallen trees or pull stumps. Things will need to be lifted. Dirt will have to be moved. When jobs like that come up, you can pay other people to do them and look like a sissy, or you can get on your tractor with your Yeti cup and get ‘er done.

The tractor has a front end loader and a bush hog. The front end loader would be fun for playing Truckasaurus on slow days. Unfortunately, it will not lift my milling machine or lathe, but I could move “little” stuff like my band saw, compressor, drill press, and table saw.

Do I want a bush hog? Maybe, but I am tempted to get a couple of goats instead. A bush hog won’t eat poison ivy while you sit in your cool bonus room watching reruns of Breaking Bad.

The seller also wants to get rid of a John Deere lawn tractor, which sounds fine, but it’s 20 years old. I didn’t know a lawn tractor could survive that long. Big diesel tractors can be rebuilt over and over. Little diesel lawn tractors…I dunno. And the stinging implication of a lawn tractor purchase is that I would be mowing the lawn.

Maybe there is still time to back out and get a condo.

The final offering: an E-Z-GO ST-350 gas-powered golf cart. This is the tool the seller used to entice us to buy the place. He had the realtor turn us loose on it, and we toured the property. His ploy worked, but the cart is not my cup of tea. It barely moves. I want to feel a little breeze when I drive. I’m pretty sure I can outrun the E-Z-GO.

The “350” in the model number refers to the size of the engine, in cc’s. Here, we see the problem. My Moto Guzzi motorcycle has 1064 cc’s and weighs a third as much. This is why it does 70 in second gear.

I hate to turn down anything that makes the place turn-key, but that cart is not going to get it. Not the way it is. Maybe it needs some work? I do not know. There’s always nitrous.

While I ponder my machinery options, I am busy throwing out and giving away bad furniture. There are some things I know the Salvation Army will not accept, so I don’t try. It would be insulting. When you give them something really nasty, you’re essentially asking them to be your unpaid garbage men. Today I broke up my dad’s office credenza. I didn’t just put it outside. I took off the doors and broke the drawers. I don’t want him to think there is any possibility that it can be saved.

My dad got his office furniture about 25 years ago. My grandfather had a car dealership, and the manager, who had been fired, got GM to terminate it. The property was then leased to a Western Auto, and they went Tango Uniform, leaving their junk behind. My dad scooped up their cardboard (okay, particle board) furniture, which had stickers with lot numbers on it, indicating it had already been sold at auction once. My dad was at least the third owner of these atrocities. No way was I paying to move this crap 300 miles.

I worked for a patent attorney who grossed 850K per year (1999 dollars) from a crappy desk. You don’t have to have great furniture to run a business. But paying maybe $300 to move junk? No. That’s not smart. They have junk where we’re going. We can pick up someone else’s trash and save money on shipping. Not that this is my plan.

If you have a parent who holds onto useless junk, you will understand how thrilling it was to see that credenza sitting by the road with no drawers. Bliss.

Time to relax and gather my energy for another day. Hope your weekend is as rewarding as mine.


Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Moving Strategy Gradually Takes Shape

Plans for my move are progressing. Today’s big step: joining a dementia caregiver forum.

The new house has a crazy-big upstairs, and that’s where I plan to establish my headquarters. The downstairs will be arranged to suit my dad and his needs and pleasures. That means new living room furniture and the largest TV currently known to man.

Because the furniture will be new, I will want it to have the best possible shot at staying clean and undamaged. I don’t want to name the types of contaminants that can get on furniture in situations like this; you can probably figure that out. I realized there were millions of other people dealing with this problem, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I should reach out, via forum, and see what has worked for others.

I am fine with the fact that the downstairs will be maybe…not a prime example of the Martha Stewart ethos. That’s okay. I’m a man, and I am fine in a house with no indoor plants and no wall decorations. I think the best wallpaper is tile. But I want the furniture to be something better than Ikea, and I don’t want people to smell anything when they walk in the front door.

I’m amazed at how God has provided for me. I looked at a ton of properties, so they tend to blend together in my head. I no longer have distinct memories of every room in every house. I have the plans for the new house, and I see that it’s almost as if it were designed for me.

The house has a huge master suite on the ground floor, and it’s beside the kitchen. Problem, right? No. The bedroom is between the kitchen and bathroom, so if anything unfortunate happens in the bathroom, there will be three doors between it and the air of the kitchen. Yes, three. The bathroom has a toilet room with its own door. You walk in the bathroom, close the door, walk into the toilet closet, close the door, and get down to business. That’s civilized compartmentalization.

No matter what happens in that little room, I should be able to kill it by mopping it with bleach two or three times a week. If it damages the walls, so be it. That can be fixed in the future.

The upstairs has a “bonus room” which is…get this…thirty-four feet long. I thought it was more like fifteen by twenty. Big TV which also serves as a monitor, couch, two chairs, exercise bikes, stereo…paradise. And the top of the stairs serves as a choke point for killing zombies as they approach.

Oh, yeah. Are you kidding? Bring that on.

Even with my disgusting packrat habits, clutter should be a thing of the past. I should have ample room for my 93 tons of books. In addition to the bonus room, the downstairs has a study.

I am getting clarity on the workshop dilemma. I have two garages to choose from (attached and detached). I have learned that the attached garage isn’t all that big, so instead of dividing my power tools between buildings, I think the best course is to jam everything in the detached garage. It sort of makes sense. You don’t want to have to walk back and forth between two shops all day, and I don’t want to have to buy a second big compressor.

This would leave the house’s garage empty. What do you put in a garage, if not giant machine tools? Surely not vehicles. That would be asinine.

I can put a second set of house-only tools together and put them in the attached garage, so I don’t have to walk outside every time I need a screwdriver. Then, of course, I’ll need a third set for the upstairs, so I don’t have to walk down the staircase, and then I’ll need a fourth set for my bedroom.

Too much?

I was thinking the bonus room, soon to be known as the Oberbunker, needed a convertible couch, but there will be a couple of vacant bedrooms, so maybe it’s a stupid idea. Convertible couches are heavy and uncomfortable anyway.

Maybe a better name is “Masada West.” How about “The Fortress of Rectitude”?

“Rapture Staging Area.” “Base Camp.”

I know what can go in the garage. The nasty, awful lawnmower. Which probably won’t even have A/C. It really looks like I will have to learn lawn-mowing. Maybe Udacity has a course.

With any luck, I’ll have the hygiene problems solved today or tomorrow. I hope other caregivers can help me with my questions. It will be wonderful to have something resembling a plan.

Guess I’ll pack more books today. More than ever, I regret learning to read.

The Turn of the Screw

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Over the last week or two I have been learning about screwdrivers. I blogged about it on June 28. You would think that after a couple of days of Googling and asking questions, I would have learned everything there was to know. Not so. I’m starting to think universities should offer master’s programs in screwdriver studies.

I thought I’d put up a photo of some of the drivers I’ve used, so you can look at them as I complain and ramble.

The driver on the right (orange plastic) probably came from Harbor Freight. Somehow, my dad ended up with a set. Guess what? They work great. The tips are hard, the handles are reasonably comfortable, and I’m sure they were cheap as dirt. I would not hesitate to buy new ones to carry in my vehicle. If you think your tools will probably get stolen, these are a good choice.

I don’t understand how Harbor Freight pulled this off, but the facts are undeniable.

To the left of the orange screwdriver, you will see a crooked wooden-handled screwdriver. It came from China. My lathe or milling machine (can’t recall) came with two screwdrivers, and this is one of them. It has a long, graceful bend in the shank, and I can assure you, that bend was not created intentionally. Here’s the funny part: it works. The tip hasn’t stripped. The handle hasn’t peeled. It’s a very useful tool.

Seems like the Chinese (some of them) have learned an important lesson Americans can’t seem to absorb: when you make cheap tools, you put the quality where it needs to be. These Chinese screwdrivers have plenty of shortcomings, but the tips are very good, and that’s 95% of what makes the tool work. Americans don’t do it that way. When we make cheap things, we spend the money on making the whole tool look nice, and we don’t invest in the parts that count.

The two screwdrivers to the left of the Chinese no-name are Stanleys. I believe I bought a red-handled set some time ago, and the other one came from a set that belonged to my dad. I’m not going to complain about these. They worked fine, and they weren’t expensive. I wouldn’t call them good screwdrivers, but they didn’t fall apart when I really needed them.

Speaking of falling apart, the next screwdriver is a Craftsman I bought in about 1995, as part of a set. I have very few left, and I don’t lose them, so you can guess what happened. The tips on the Phillips screwdrivers didn’t last. I don’t recall, but I’m sure I threw them out. Yes, Craftsmans are guaranteed for life, buy why would you replace a tool with another tool which will also fail? It’s not worth the drive to Sears.

My Craftsmans looked very nice. Unlike Harbor Freight, Sears put the money in the appearance. Now I avoid Craftsman screwdrivers, but I heartily endorse Harbor Freight. This is what Sears should have expected.

Next comes a Klein with a rubber handle. The screwdrivers are more expensive than Craftsmans. The tip on the screwdriver is a little chewy, and I don’t abuse it, so what does that tell you? For the most part, my Kleins have held up fine, but this one is dubious.

People buy Klein because they expect something that will work better than a cheaper tool, so Klein should use very good steel and add useful features. The steel in this screwdriver seems questionable, and the tool has other problems. The shank is round, so you can’t put a wrench on it. It has no hex bolster. A hex bolster is another feature that will allow you to use a wrench. The rubber handle reacts badly to oils and solvents. The butt of the driver is plastic, so you can’t hit it with a hammer. Also, the tool is not insulated, even though Klein is known for electrical tools.

I have read that Klein had a temporary steel issue which has been fixed, but I don’t want to get caught up in a company’s confused voyage of self-discovery and recovery. I’m not Dr. Phil. I have more hair.

Add all that up, and you have to ask: why Klein?

“Well, you have to cut corners if you want to compete.” Really? Let’s look at the next screwdriver.

The yellow Phillips head next to the Klein is a Wera Kraftform 900 Chiseldriver. It doesn’t have a rubber handle that hates gasoline. It has a full-length shank which goes to a steel cap on the butt, so you can use a hammer to drive it into dirty screws. The shank is hex-shaped so you can use a wrench. The shank has a big hex bolster so you can use a bigger wrench. The handle itself is hex-shaped at the shank end. What more could you ask?

You can get a set of 13 of these for $85, shipped. And they’re made in China. No, they’re not! Don’t be so gullible! They’re made in Germany. Real Caucasian quality tools. Yes, they cost a lot more than Craftsman. If Craftsman made this set, it would be about $20. But you don’t have to throw the Weras out the third time you use them. To get 14 Kleins, you have to pay about $112. So you spend around 40% more, for something that isn’t nearly as good.

I haven’t looked at every screwdriver made, but I’ve looked at a few, and it appears that if you want something good, you have to spend $25 per screwdriver for Snap-On, or you can buy German.

That’s not completely true, and that brings me to my latest screwdriver lesson. After ordering Wera drivers, I was told that they’re not right for use on guns. Guns are among the highest quality things we own, and the screws are made very well. Ordinary screws have slots that are V-shaped when viewed from the sides. Gun screw slots have parallel sides. Most screwdrivers have tapered tips. Gun screws require drivers that have flat tips. If you jam a tapered tip into a really good screw, you open it up on the near side and deface the weapon.

Like life wasn’t complicated enough.

I found a relatively cheap solution. For about $30, you can get a set of US-made Grace screwdrivers made for guns. They have square wooden handles that don’t slip when you get oil on them. They don’t have hex bolsters, but they do have flats on the shanks.

Here’s how I see it now, and I am aware that this could change in ten minutes:

1. If you want screwdrivers that work, cheap, get Harbor Freight and check the tips to make sure they’re okay. For all I know, the screwdrivers they sell now are crap.

2. If you want quality screwdrivers that won’t put you in the poorhouse, get a German brand like Wera, Wiha, or Fela.

3. If you want to work on guns, get Grace.

4. If you want screwdrivers for electrical work, get Wera or Wiha and forget about Klein. Get insulated shafts.

5. Never, ever buy a Craftsman screwdriver, and forget about the stupid warranty. Sears is disappearing. Where are you going to go every time your mushy Phillips head fails? And how many companies DON’T have a warranty? Let me check Wera. Yes, they have a lifetime warranty. Same deal.

I don’t know what to tell you about the Stanleys. They seem to work, but they are low on features.

It’s sad that the topic of screwdrivers has to be so complex. Part of the problem is my upbringing in a culture where people don’t know anything about tools, but the bigger part is the ineptitude of an entire industry. When you go to Home Depot to get a saw or an axe, you shouldn’t have to ask (axe?) things like, “Does it work?”

Is it unfair for me to plug German tools without testing them? In short, nein. The Internet is full of people who will confirm their excellence. Besides, I have Wiha precision screwdrivers and Allen keys, and they’re very good.

If the Weras crumble like Craftsmans, you better believe I’ll blog it.

I feel like I made the best choices I could, with the information I have.

I’m going to sit here for a while and run my hands over my Weras.

Happy driving.

Bullish on Northern Florida

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

My Beef With Miami Coming to an End

Good news on the housing front. I am putting in an offer on a second house in northern Florida. I can’t steal Internet photos of it and put them up, because nuts would be able to search for the photos and find the address, but I can use some shots they can’t track down.

That’s the workshop. Here is what I like about that, apart from the fact that it’s a big honking workshop: it has a porch. A SHADED porch. Okay, so you spend your morning breaking things, failing to use tools correctly, making a mess, and sustaining minor injuries. All the things guys like to do in their shops. Then in the afternoon, you open the side door, lift the lid on your cooler, grab a Sierra Nevada, and sit in your swing, staring at the confused steers that ground your agricultural tax exemption.

That, my friends, is living.

Here’s another interesting shot.

That is the “wet weather pond.” The listing agent claims it’s a feature. I would think of it as more as a pedestrian hazard/snake and mosquito breeding pit, but then I am a suburb person. There is a big berm right near it, and I’m guessing the berm came from the pond, so that would mean someone actually built this hole deliberately. I don’t know about that, but I know what a berm means: no gun range fees.

Here is a partial view of the cleared side of the property. Here is what it contains, that I like: distance. I can be on this lot, a minimum of say 120 yards from anyone who is a) yammering in Spanish and angry with me for not speaking a foreign language in my own country, or b) just generally being rude to me. In practice, that distance would typically be more like 175 miles, but 120 yards is about as small as it could get in a worst-case scenario.

Here’s another great shot.

That’s one of my driveways. Notice that it does not go anywhere. That’s the beauty part. Aggravating people will make it 15 feet down the driveway and then find themselves in dirt and leaves, behind a gate which I will probably have welded shut. There is a gate that works, up by the house. I may weld that one shut, too.

Now I know what to call the place. “GET THE HELL OFF MY LAWN FARMS.” If not that, then “GRAN TORINO ACRES.”

“No. I don’t believe Steve is interested in buying any Girl Scout Cookies.”

Why do people name their farms “farms”? If you have one farm, it’s not “Sunny Hill Farms.” It’s “Sunny Hill FARM.”

I am hoping I may be able to retain the farm’s staff. Here they are on a break.

Actually, they may be working in that photo.

The lady who showed us the property called those creatures “bulls,” but I suspect they have had some minor surgery, along the lines of what Bruce Jenner recently had. It would be a little odd to put two bulls together on one lot, even in 2017. I have spent most of my life in the suburbs, but I am pretty sure bulls hate each other.

My grandfather had two in one herd, though. I guess I don’t know everything.

This ought to work out. The appraisal came in close to the asking price, so the owners aren’t living in a fantasy world. I want a little money off, because the place has been on the market for 400 days, but I don’t expect them to give it away. With God’s help, we will have a contract next week.

How do you get a property inspected from 300 miles away? I guess the owner will deal with the inspector. They always miss things, anyway. Inspectors make you feel good, and then they leave you holding the bag. A lot of the money we pay to professional people is mainly intended to make us feel good.

Getting out of South Florida is like being released from hell. By that I mean I felt like I was trapped here. My dad agreed to get out four years ago (when I started looking to move and leave him here), and then reasons to delay kept coming up. Then he forgot our agreement. Now he’s all about leaving. He hates Miami. It’s like it was his idea to leave.

I’m going to sell every last thing we have here, as soon as tax considerations permit, and I will cut every remaining tie. After that, forget this place. Let global warming come and drown it. I’ll be safe and secure, at a lofty elevation of nearly 80 feet. Like the Grinch on Mount Crumpet.


If, for some reason, this place doesn’t fall into my hands, I have another one lined up, and it’s even more rural. I’m talking Deliverance without the perversion and inbreeding (I assume). That place will suit me just as well. It has a workshop you could build a space shuttle in.

I’m thinking of getting a remailing service. The Florida Bar requires me to maintain a mailing address, but I don’t practice, and I don’t want spammers and idiots bothering me. For $15 per month, you can have your mail sent to a service, and they scan it and send you pictures. Then you tell them to throw it out.

Hannibal Lecter used remailing services. How could I ask for a better referral? I’ll see if I can have my mail sent to “Get Lost, Florida.”

It’s an exciting day. God really comes through when you start getting with the program. Unfortunately, most people can’t do that, because no one is telling them what the program is. Preachers just beg for money and drive people into bankruptcy.

I hope soon I can post a photo of me enjoying a beer with my staff, either on the hoof or medium-rare with Bearnaise sauce. Pray for me.

Driven to Excellence

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

Nothing is Ever Simple

Some topics are so complicated, you can never be truly sure you understand them. A man could spend two lifetimes studying such a topic and never reach a solid conclusion. Of course, I am thinking of this principle mainly in connection with buying screwdrivers.

There is a Youtube guy who calls himself AvE, and he is a good resource for tool info. He seems to be brilliant and highly informed. I don’t know what his qualifications are. He doesn’t build much of anything (suspicious), but he does evaluate tools a lot. His big problem is that he has the mind of an 8-year-old boy. I don’t mean an ordinary 8-year-old boy. I mean the one who used to come to school with pornography and cigarettes. The one who pinched the good-looking teachers.

AvE cannot stop gushing filthy, juvenile remarks. When I watch his videos, I grit my teeth and wait for them to end. It’s a hailstorm of infantile filth. I’m embarrassed for him, and I’m just plain grossed out. That’s really something, considering what a filthy sense of humor I used to have. I could watch vintage Andrew Dice Clay without cringing, but AvE is on his own level.

I don’t know what “AvE” means. Maybe it’s his initials. “Augustus von Ehrmantraut.”

Anyhow, he put up a very informative video (to which I will not link) about screwdrivers, and I learned a lot from watching it. Then I took two showers and sprayed my TV with Febreze.

When I first bought tools for myself, I bought Craftsman. The best, right? Everyone loves Craftsman. Wow, was I wrong. Some of their stuff is good, and some is not. The screwdrivers are easy to round off. But that’s okay, because they have a lifetime warranty, right? No; it is not okay. Do you really want to drive back and forth to Sears for the rest of your life, especially when it’s going out of business? Do you want to live with the knowledge that your screwdrivers WILL fail over and over? It’s not that hard to buy screwdrivers that will not fail during your lifetime or even your grandson’s lifetime.

Also, what if you get your crap replaced? Say you have a screw that won’t turn, it eats your screwdriver, and you get a new screwdriver. What’s going to happen when you try again? It will eat the second screwdriver. Not only will you have to replace tools; you’ll have to work around tough (or not so tough) jobs in order to avoid boogering the replacements. I gave up on Craftsman.

Later on, I built a nice collection of Klein Tools drivers. Klein makes tools for electricians. The drivers I got had plastic handles with rubber covers. Problem: when you get certain solvents on them (gasoline, at least), the covers seem to start to melt. It’s like using a screwdriver with uncured silicone sealant on it. And guess what? They’re not insulated. So Klein makes screwdrivers people think will work well for electrical jobs…without insulating them. Their insulated line costs more.

Kleins are nice and hard, and they have thoughtful features, but those dissolving handles are not good, and I once came very close to touching a 240V wire with one. It might not have protected me. What am I paying for, then? Electrical tools that don’t work for electrical jobs, which also don’t work for automotive jobs where gasoline may be present.

Incidentally, real insulated screwdrivers have insulated shanks. People often touch the shanks of their screwdrivers while using them, and shanks are conductive. Think about that when you play with electricity.

I watched AvE’s tawdry, sleazy video (filth commencement within 3 seconds of the start) while I was searching for information, and like a lot of people, he heartily endorsed Snap-On. Thing is, Snap-On tools are a giant ripoff, even if they ARE good. You have to be a sucker to buy a substantial number of them at anything close to retail prices. Amazon has a set of 8 screwdrivers for $200. That’s incredibly stupid; I don’t care if they get up and sing and dance for you. Snap-On tools are like Chanel purses for men. The quality is there, but we buy them to feed our egos and feel validated. For many Snap-On customers, these tools are not to be used. They are to be cleaned and sorted and stored in overpriced Snap-On boxes. Then they sit and look at them, while they use Craftsman tools. The Snap-On box is like the second living room with plastic on the furniture.

I continued looking around and asking questions, and I came up with a few things that seemed to get good recommendations pretty consistently.

1. Felo wood handle screwdrivers. Don’t laugh. Wood screwdrivers may look old-fashioned, but think of all the high-end woodworking tools that have wood handles. These drivers have shanks that go all the way to the ends of the handles. The steel is exposed so you can hit them with hammers and drive them into dirty screws. They have weird leather inserts around the steel. They have hex bolsters on the shanks, so you can turn them with wrenches. And they’re German. The Germans love good tools. You can get the basic 5-driver set for about $28. That’s a steal.

Snap-On has a special program where you’re allowed to smell a screwdriver for $28.

They also have a new service where you get to stand behind the truck and watch the salesman sit behind a pane of glass and slowly turn a stubborn panhead screw. Then the blind starts coming down, and you have to insert a $5 bill for three more minutes.

I’m sorry, but you have to be a real dupe to fall for Snap-On. Even if you’re a billionaire, there should be some limitations to your willingness to let people cheat you. I will gladly pay $12,000 for a good lathe, and I have paid $200 for really nice pants, but I won’t pay $25 for an incredible screwdriver even if it cures warts, repels vampires, and predicts the future.

2. Wera Chiseldrivers. German again. These have synthetic handles. They are very heavily built. Like the Felos, they have full-length shanks, and you can turn them with wrenches. The name “Chiseldriver” tells you how upset the company will be if you hit one of these with a hammer. These screwdrivers are really ugly, but hey, your hand covers the handle. A set of six runs $43, and it comes with a rack, which is a typically subtle Teutonic hint. You WILL pick up your tools. Schweinhund.

3. Wiha insulated [German] screwdrivers. Wiha makes a lot of neat things. I love their precision screwdrivers. I have heard their hex keys (which I have) will deform before Bondhus hex keys will, but the screwdrivers have been well received by most people. Their insulated drivers are certified to 1000VAC/1500VDC. That ought to keep me alive a while longer. And they’re not too expensive. You can get a set for about $7/driver.

I feel like picking up some Felos for motorcycle work. Kleins are flat unacceptable for these jobs. Wiha insulated drivers sound like a must, because Kleins are not fit for electrical work either. For Fifty bucks, I can stop risking my life unnecessarily.

I’m starting to wonder what the Kleins are good for. Guess I can stop buying them.

Getting into tools is a funny process. You start in order to get your questions answered and your problems solved, and then you end up with more questions and problems. But at least they’re not doofus questions and problems. Instead of striving from a position of failure and ignorance, you strive from a position of some authority and success. I’m not trying to figure out which crappy Craftsman screwdriver is best. I’m trying to figure out which fantastic German screwdriver is best, and all of the choices are good.

If you don’t care about tools, go get some Huskys from Home Depot. They will let you down a few times during your life, but you will get over it. If you care, get German and never worry about buying new drivers again. If you give your tools names like “HELLDRIVER” and stage make-believe plays where they have tool adventures and you do all the voices for them, buy Snap-On and maybe some Thorazine. That’s how I see it. I don’t know a whole lot, so I may be wrong, but taking my advice is probably marginally better than guessing.

I am glad I was alive to write this. Those Kleins nearly got me.

Hammer Time

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017


I am tired.

I just got done assembling my new planishing hammer, which is a tool I did not need until Harbor Freight put it on sale. After that, I needed it. Real bad.

I shelled out about $68 for a stand, a planishing hammer frame, a control pedal, several anvils, and an air hammer. Put it all together, and you get a thing that can turn a flat piece of metal into a dog dish in 10 or 15 minutes. Can’t touch it anywhere else for under $185.

For a long time, I’ve wanted an English wheel and a planishing hammer. I can weld stuff, sort of, and I can cut stuff, but making flat stuff into curved stuff…can’t do that. I am also unable to turn flat stuff into stuff with neat corners, such as boxes. I need a finger brake.

Harbor Freight sells a lot of real junk, but here and there, they score. Their 20-ton press is okay, so I got one. I’ve seen excellent Harbor Freight screwdrivers that were a lot tougher than Craftsmans. The planishing hammer gets mixed reviews, but most people agree it does function. Some complain about the air hammer wearing out in a hurry. My private suspicion: no one told them to oil it.

Just a guess.

I don’t have much interest in using a planishing hammer right now. I would have preferred to leave it in the box and take it out after the move to northern Florida. The problem with that is that Harbor Freight tools have to be assembled and operated before you can be sure you want to keep them. That’s true of any tool, but it’s really, seriously true of Harbor Freight tools. You never know which parts will be missing or which vital component won’t fit even after you hit it with a big hammer.

Harbor Freight does not provide the bolts to attach the planishing hammer to the stand. That seems petty of them. I dug out some bolts of my own, and in doing so, I saw one of the great truths of the tool hobby in action.

A while back I dismantled a treadmill to get free steel and a motor. I had to take out some sturdy bolts with nice black locknuts. They have been lying around the garage for several months. The other day, I threw one of the four bolts out. Guess what I needed today? Four matching bolts.

As soon as you throw a piece of junk out, it will become vital to your survival. It never fails. If you have a piece of junk in your garage, and you can’t remember why you kept it, throw it out. Tomorrow, you will remember, and you’ll have to spend at least fifty bucks to replace it.

The planishing hammer is attached to the stand with three bolts.

I think tomorrow I’ll fire it up. I have some crappy aluminum sheet. I just want to see if the hammer functions and hits the work where it’s supposed to. If the air hammer isn’t aligned with the anvil, you get half-moons instead of round hammer dents.

Once I know it works, I’ll probably put it back in the boxes.

Then the next day I’ll need to use it.

The planishing hammer looks very nice. I was shocked. Everything lines up. The steel is heavy. I don’t think American manufacturing is ever coming back, except in my garage. The Chinese are getting too good.

I was hoping I could eventually make a motorcycle fender or two with the planishing hammer, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I believe the English wheel is more appropriate. But Harbor Freight hasn’t put those on sale.

I looked around on the web to find out where I could get a cheap English wheel. For some reason, you never see used ones on Ebay any more. I feel so stupid for passing them by in years past.

Guess what I found out? Harbor Freight’s English wheel gets fantastic reviews. Who’d have thunk it? As I understand it, they used to make a crappy one, and then a couple of years back they modified it, and now everyone loves it. I checked the usual list of Chinese suspects. Grizzly. Eastwood. Harbor Freight came out on top. Big surprise.

Real men shape metal with mallets and hammers, using high-tech accessories like stumps and bags of sand. I am not interested in that. I’ve seen people using the planishing hammer and English wheel, and their experience looked a lot more appealing than pounding a stump.

It would be nice to have an anvil, though. A lot of sheet metal doodads get dented, and it would be convenient to be able to tap dents out on an anvil. It’s not the same as wearing yourself out, planishing flat metal and turning it into ashtrays and hubcaps. It’s quick.

I just saw a video of a guy using an air hammer to beat a bend out of 1/8″ metal with an air hammer. His name is Kevin Caron. He makes a lot of welding videos. He had a sculpture component that needed to be beaten into line, and he got out the air hammer and went to the anvil. Whacked it right out. Neat.

Getting an anvil should be easy, right? I mean, they’re cheap. They’re just lumps of steel.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. How wrong you are. A good anvil costs hundreds of dollars. Don’t ask me why.

I read that some anvils are made of cast iron. You couldn’t get me near one of those. Cast iron breaks, and when you break a metal object with a hammer, little bits of it can fly off like bullets. I saw one go through my cousin’s jeans, into his skin, and a couple of inches upward after it hit his shin bone. Well, I didn’t actually see it. I saw him fall on the ground for no apparent reason, complaining about the pain in his leg.

Real anvils have hardened steel tops.

In other news, I’m about to make a strop. This is a sort of leather whetstone. You take a piece of cowhide, glue it to a board, and impregnate it with an abrasive such as chromium oxide. I got the leather and the abrasive, and I’m about to make the wood part.

You can make a plain old rectangle for the base of your strop, but I wanted to put a handle on mine, so I am thinking I’ll carve one out. Problem: I would have to make convex curves with radiused corners. I can do that with a coping saw and a rasp, but that’s the caveman way. I would rather use a spokeshave. This is a weird little plane that whittles wood. You can take a square object like a two-by-two and turn it into a rounded object like a club or an axe handle.

Naturally, I ordered a couple of spokeshaves. This is what I do. I am waiting for them now. I got a flat-bottomed one (Stanley 151) for relatively straight things, and I got one with a round bottom (Stanley 51R) for concave curves. The 51R is what I’ll need for the strop. I’ll still need the coping saw, but I’ll be finishing the strop off by cutting, not by filing.

I could have just made a rectangular base, but if you’re going to be a tool guy, be a tool guy. That’s what I say.

Just don’t get bogged down with stumps and sand bags.

I learned interesting things about chromium oxide. You can get it cheap from China and Russia, but you don’t want to do that. The particles are too big. you want sub-micron particles. I got a product made by Formax, a company I already knew of because I had bought its abrasive belt grease. It would have been cool to get a pound for under ten bucks from overseas, but the particles would have been huge, and big particles mean big scratches.

I’m sorry if my life is too cool for you. I wish everyone could have a planishing hammer.

I feel my strength coming back. Time to talk to Marvin and Maynard. Maybe I’ll post a photo if I planish anything.