Monday, August 9, 2010

Cricket problem solved

Ever since I've been working on the plane out in the hangar, I've been plagued by two things: recalcitrant longerons that have to date proven impervious to every manner of force I've been able to apply in trying to get the angle to open to an apparently unattainable 5.4 degrees, and even more annoying, a cricket in the back corner, hidden behind some piles of detritus that somehow landed in my hangar on moving day seven years ago. I figured the longeron problem was solvable (others have, after all, managed to get it done) but the cricket problem seemed hopeless. He'd go quiet as soon as I got near enough to pinpoint his location, and even had I been able to lay my eyes on him, they're nimble little critters and very hard to catch. Well, let's not dance around the issue; I didn't want to catch him, I wanted to flatten him under the bottom of my shoe.

I stopped by Lowe's after work to look into some of the options available for working on the longerons. I ended up buying a 4 lb. engineer's hammer, thinking someone as smart as an engineer could surely craft a more suitable pounding device than the ridiculous orange monstrosity I had picked up at Harbor Freight. Then I realized that they probably meant a train engineer's hammer, but it didn't matter. It felt much heftier than the orange one. Both are ostensibly 4 lbs. and even given that all sizes and weights of Harbor Freight tools are approximate, the metal engineer's hammer felt much, much heavier. To hedge my bets, I also found a 3/8" steel pipe coupling to use in case the new hammer failed as spectacularly as every hammer that has preceded it has. I even remembered to pick up a length of poly rope to practice tying sailing knots with.

I only forgot one thing: cricket poison.

Back at the hangar, I pounded futilely on the longeron piece which was snuggled under the protective umbrella of the scrap piece that I had cut off earlier. This was a healthy dose of "fail," and it certainly didn't help my mood that the noise of the pounding didn't even cover the mocking chirps of the dratted cricket. Fail, fail, FAIL! I'm started to believe that the problem is not with the hammer; I think it is the resilience of the wooden top of the workbench. It was absorbing all of the energy.

Humbled by my inability to make even the least bit of progress on the longeron and getting pretty close to going absolutely homicidal on that accursed cricket, I decided to try the vise/pipe coupling method. If that didn't work, well, I'd just go home and mow the yard. Here's the set-up:

The coupling. Naturally since it was Lowe's, it was nowhere near where it should have been on the shelf if they were using any numbering system familiar to an inhabitant of planet Earth, but at least it was in a bag with a bar code on it so they'd know the price of it at the checkout. The odds against that are so high that I can't fathom them. Someone must have snuck it in from Home Depot.

Being a bit shy about experimenting with the long longeron piece, I tried the short sacrificial piece first. With everything in place, I cranked and cranked and cranked on the vise until I could crank no more.  I took the part out, measured it against the angle measuring doohickey, and found that with my extreme efforts I had managed to successfully preserve a pristine 90 degree angle.

That was it. The big guns were coming out. One. More. Try. I put the coupling and the scrap back in the vise, cranked and cranked and cranked until I could crank no more. Then I took the bright neon orange mallet and whacked the hell out of the vise cranky thingy. Again. And again. And again. Then I took the scrap out and measured it against the 95.4 angle on the angle measuring doohickey:


As I was patting myself on the back (figuratively) and enjoying (somewhat) the enthusiastic cheering of the cricket, I noticed that I had an audience. I had almost stepped on a robin. She was completely unafraid of me and hopped around behind me, watching what I was doing. I tried shooing her out a few times, but she'd just go sit under a workbench or the big toolbox until I stopped, then come out again. I decided to ignore her and deal with evicting her later.

Back to work, I loaded up the longeron for the angle-opening process.

I went through the same cranking, cranking, cranking, pounding, whacking, beating process again. It was hard to see if I was making progress without having to remove the longeron from the vise, so I just measured with the piece of scrap to see how much progress I had made.

I finished up the longeron and decided to call it quits for the night. Emotionally drained and a little tired of the longeron bending, I did some work on the fuel system that I had discussed with loyal reader Joe from Utah.  That wasn't much fun either and when I finally got it done and realized that I was drenched in sweat, I decided to finish up and head home. All that was left to do was round up the robin and herd her out of the hangar.

She was nowhere to be found. And as I was looking for her behind boxes and under tables and failing to find her anywhere, I realized something.

The chirping of the cricket had stopped.

I hope she enjoyed the meal.

1 comment:

Bill H. said...

Love your blog! I am about to order an RV-12 and get started, so keep posting. I live a mile out in the country in northern Arkansas and have a workshop / garage. On a couple of occasions, birds have come in and behaved as you say - no fear of the human. The reason? A hawk circling outside!

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