Monday, January 21, 2013

Harbor Freight

Like many people I have shopped Harbor Freight to buy small things like tie downs, rags, or other things where I didn't expect much and didn't need longevity. I appreciate their low prices but always considered them a low end store with cheap and not very good tools. But increasingly there are some nuggets there and I think we stumbled upon a very good one.

If you like to wrench or have a shop you have probably at one time or another wished for a rolling tool chest. Ever since I was a teen I have coveted a Snap-On chest but could never justify the 3K and up price tag and for the last few decades I have been making do with a cheap Stack-On unit that is under sized and frankly not very useful. So when I heard about the rave reviews of the Harbor Freight 44" roller I was interested if skeptical. I can now confirm that I am very impressed and purchased a US General (Pro) 44" rolling tool chest and couldn't be happier with the quality of this product.

I was aware of a coupon for these out there for $359.00 but couldn't find one so I got this for $389.00 on sale. Two days later I of course found the $359.00 coupon in the magazine "Classic Trucks"....such is my luck but I am pleased none the less.
This thing is heavy, about 265 lbs, and its well built and has a really nice red powder coat paint job that to me looks great.
The larger drawers have double ball bearing slides and they operate smoothly and with no side to side movement or flex. The unit came with drawer liners and a heavy rubber mat for the top.
It has 14 ball bearings top and bottom on each slide and as you can see in the background, it has full double wall construction of heavy steel. No pushing on the outside and being able to dimple it on this thing.
It came with 4 ball bearing casters with two of them that swivel and have locking arms on them. They seem to be functional and have Zerk grease fittings on the bearing swivels and the axles but I may replace them with more robust casters...just because.
The weight load chart shows how heavy duty this thing is and it should more than meet my needs.
Each side of the roller has built in bolt pockets to attach side cabinets or lockers and I will probably but a 7 drawer side cabinet or two in the future. I am not claiming this is the quality of a Snap-On or Mac but its a high quality unit that is a lifetime legacy purchase and its well worth the price. I don't see how they sell these things so cheap but if your interested in a roller I found the Harbor Freight unit far exceeds what you can get with Craftsman, Kobalt, and lesser brands. Just call me a satisfied customer.
Another company I have been pleased with is who make molded carpet, vinyl flooring, headliners, dash pads, etc for a wide variety of older vehicles. I sent for some vinyl flooring and a headliner sample for the 1990 Dodge D-150 project and the top piece in this picture will be what I install for the headliner (its foam backed) and the bottom three pieces are heavy vinyl flooring in blue, grey, and black respectively. The flooring comes moulded to the contours of your particular vehicle and completely covers the interior floor in one piece. I am leaning towards doing the truck in black but Holly likes blue so we shall see. It also has sound deadening properties so I may not have to put Dynamat under it but that still remains to be seen.
The winter continues to be mild but we had an ice storm the other day and everything was covered in a coat of solid ice. No damage was done but it was literally covering everything outside.

And finally on a very sad note from us, our beloved Arctic cat Boo Boo had to be put down. He came into our lives in the winter of 1998 when he appeared on our doorstep in Alaska half frozen and we took him in. He had peculiar clipped ears that we later found out meant he was a feral cat who had been captured and neutered (the clipped ears help identify those already neutered) and he was fierce. He growled like a tiger and at first wouldn't let us anywhere near him but over the years he became a much loved member of the family.

Boo Boo had a rich personality and he followed us around the farm like a dog, he ruled over the other animals (dogs and cats) but was extremely gentle towards kittens and children. He could be a pill at times and he liked to scratch at the furniture and when you yelled at him he had this particular look he would give you, then he would run around the house and come back to you for a petting. He was also prone to getting on the headboard and jumping on your stomach in the morning when he wanted let out but he was an extremely affectionate cat who left a great big hole in our hearts.

He declined physically over the last few months to the point where he was just skin and bones and he was in constant pain so we know the choice to have him put to sleep was the humane thing (he had cancer) but it was very hard. We buried him wrapped in a hand knitted baby blanket in the oak grove behind the barn where he liked to hang out. There are bird feeders there and we pass by him and say hi daily on our way to get hay for the cattle and somehow I think he would be pleased.
He will never be forgotten.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ready for Spring

The holidays are over and its time for spring as far as I am concerned. We have been getting teased a bit by mother nature around here because its been a fairly mild winter so far and yesterday it was its cold and rainy and blech!!

Like many, January is also our "short" month financially because our property taxes are due (not much but still...), our personal property taxes are due (in Missouri you have to pay a certain amount for each vehicle, trailer, 4 wheeler, piece of livestock etc), and it seems like all of our periodic bills come due in January like our quarterly garbage bill, semi annual car insurance etc. We go on a cash basis thankfully and we don't like dipping into savings for routine bills so we just tighten our belts and make due.

But in light of all the craziness and misfortune we see on the news its hard to complain much. The flu season has hit our area and we had the first rescue call on an elderly lady the other night that was burning up with fever and was so sick she just wanted to die. We made the choice years ago to all get the flu shot early each year and I look at it as part of being prepared but most folks around here don't get the vaccine and it spreads quickly. The flu shots are far from a sure thing and we take all the precautions about washing hands frequently etc but with so many sick people around you just want to avoid going out in public...glad I don't have to work in an office building or something!

If we had the cash this month we would be turning our attention to working on the inside of the house again and next month we plan on putting up bead board on one wall of the living room, the entire spare bedroom and then our master bedroom. For the living room we have picked a taupe with bright white trim, the spare bedroom will be a light green and we are still debating about the master bedroom. We don't have (or want) a TV in the master bedroom since we both like to relax and read in bed at night so we are looking for something soothing and I suspect we will go with something in the green spectrum. Future plans include wood flooring in the master, refinishing the oak floor in the spare bedroom, replacing the last two interior doors with raised panel wood doors, and a grand bathroom redo that will take us back to the look of 1930s farm house.

Anyway, this month we are just finishing some previously neglected projects and enjoying making those stews and soups that are so enjoyable on a wintry day.
We did have an unexpected opportunity the other day. The State Trooper who covers this area called us on Wednesday morning and said a deer had been hit on the highway and that MoDot was on scene and couldn't leave because it was still alive and a traffic danger. He asked if I could go out and take care of it. Sooo, off we went. I chose to use the Model 94 Winchester 30-30 since it was near the highway and it turns out the deer had its two rear legs broken clean in two at the hocks but otherwise it was undamaged. The poor thing was beyond help so a quick round to the head was a humane thing to do and not only put it out of its misery it kept it from causing an accident. It had already dragged itself across the highway from one side to another and it was foggy outside so it was clearly a danger to motorists. 

This doe was huge and had a 1.5 inch fat cap on it unlike the deer we got during the hunting season.
This is only some of the meat we harvested. Big thick tenderloins and backstraps, roasts, and a bunch of stew meat.
One of the other rainy day projects I decided to tackle was the replacement of the shocks on the 90 Dodge D-150, (the $1200 special that started life as a parts truck for the 86 Dodge and has ended up my daily driver). I have checked the truck out and thought I knew what needed to be done but when I took off the front wheels to change the shocks I noticed the drivers side wheel was a little loose so I popped off the bearing dust cap and found that the bearings were new but the axle nut was loose. As you can see the cotter pin was way too short (didn't even stick out of the bottom of the nut) and the head of the cotter pin was way under sized. On the other side I found a piece of what looked like a coat hanger instead of a cotter pin though the castle nut hadn't worked loose. Things like this drive me crazy, a new cotter pin of the proper size should always be used and they are $.14 a piece so its not a money thing and it doesn't take long and your wheel can come off. Luckily I adjusted the bearings, put new cotter pins on and no harm was done.

The rear shocks were completely shot and had no compression at all and I had been driving on just the rear leaf springs..surprisingly it actually didn't ride too bad even though there were no rear shocks.
These were the front shocks I replaced and though they look newer, one was shot and they were about half the diameter of the shocks I replaced them with; I almost think they were not the correct shocks.
Since I am on the subject of the 90 Dodge pickup, I originally bought this as a parts truck as I said and then since it was in such good shape I decided to just use it as a daily runner and do the minimal to it but the darned thing runs like its new, everything works on it including the AC, and I have now decided to fix it up a bit. It came from the factory with these upgraded aluminum wheels and all of them are in great shape but I am missing one center cap and it bugs me. A new one is about $150 (its just a flat plate that covers the studs) and I cant find one in any junk yard so I will probably have to bite the bullet and pay such a ridiculous price.

The old guy (not an insult, I'm an old guy too) that owned it was the original owner who never used it for farm work or anything but he had a run in with a post that took off the lower side molding on the passenger door - another $150 or so to replace it and I will pull the dent and Bondo it myself.

This is the only dent in the body and I am torn between just buying a replacement body panel or pulling the dent and doing a Bondo job. Replacement body panels don't have the tabs for the lower body molding and that would be a problem so I will probably just do some body work here.

The only body rot is a small amount above both rear wheel wells and the only way to get it fixed right is to weld in some new patch another $150 for a couple of patch panels. The chrome wheel opening trim is all in great shape and not rusty or dented which saves a few bucks.

The front bumper has to go and it will be replaced with the un-marred front bumper from the 86 Dodge hot rod. I was going to put a new bumper on the 86 because the chrome isn't perfect (just a few pits, no rust) and they are the same bumper so that saves some money. The bumper brackets under this bumper are not damaged so it will be a simple swap and I need to take the bumpers off anyway when I paint this truck. 

These are the tabs I was referring to for the lower body trim that would not be on the replacement body panel. They are welded on and the trim has plastic clips that attach to them so it would be more bother than it was worth to try and match everything up on a new panel.

The interior is fairly pristine with no issues (even the seat and carpet are in great shape) but the headliner as you can see is shot like so many from that era. They just used a type of fiber board with cloth glued to is as the headliner which was then just screwed to various attachment points under the interior plastic molding trim. The base models didn't even have a headliner (the 86 Dodge doesn't) and it looks pretty good in just bare metal but I may get creative. First generation Dodge trucks have always had sloppy steering due to a badly designed rag joint on the steering shaft but a company by the name of Borgeson makes a replacement shaft that is very high quality and solves the issue. This truck actually has pretty tight steering for a 23 year old truck but it will get a Borgeson at about $180. Then I need to put new tires on it and I found Goodyear Wranglers of the correct size at Walmart (I know but its just a daily driver) for $82 each, it needs new front rotors and I will probably put in some higher end calipers and pads at about $400 for the set, and I will prep the body and paint it midnight blue. And oh yea, it needs a new oxygen sensor ($53.00) and I will install a new stock exhaust (I like it quiet) from the catalytic converter back.
As part of our daily routine we give the cattle a little grain and a bale of hay and this time of year its usually cold and rainy and the mud is sticky. But it has to be done regardless.
We think that Louise is pregnant (not in this picture) but Thelma (the black heifer) we aren't sure of. Old Caesar has been doing his thing but we wont know how many heifers are with calf for another month or so.

We make several piles of hay so they each get their own which cuts down on problems but they still think the other cows got the good stuff and its funny watching them move from pile to pile as if they are missing out of some special morsel.

We also got our last load of wood for the year unloaded and after we split this I think we will be good. I have surgery on my shoulder coming up in a couple weeks and it feels like everything I do is in slow motion right now. I like getting things done and working hard until a project is finished but its been slow going of late and its frustrating.

We have found that the chickens laying proficiency is directly related to the amount of light they get and with shorter days their production went way down. So we installed a heat lamp to help keep them warm and as a result we now get the same egg production we get during the summer.

And at the end of this day, when all of the animals have been taken care of, and our projects have been taken as far as they can for the day...we get to relax and enjoy the satisfaction of our labors.