DIY Antibiotic Ointment Packets

I just saw this on a backpacking blog and, well I liked the idea so much I though I would pass it along.This is my kind of idea. Just a little way of “sticking it to the man” if you will. No more need to pay over-inflated prices for single use antibiotic ointment packets for the camper, first aid kit of glove box. MAKE YOUR OWN!

The only thing I would see as a complication to doing this is that you will likely need to have a way of cutting the packet open to use it. Just be careful; don’t cut yourself! But then again, if you do…. you’ll have some antibiotic ointment handy!

As someone in the post has suggested I imagine you could try this with just about anything including toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, etc. I just wouldn’t suggest trying to carry them i n your carry on if you fly. The TSA tends to be a little testy about that kind of thing.


By the way, there are lots of other good articles over on that blog about outdoor adventuring. Take a look if you have time.


Camping! An American pasttime

As the weather warms (it is supposed to be 75 degrees today) our minds start to look toward the summer and its leisure time activities. One of the favorite leisure activities of our family is camping. I grew up spending our family vacations in the summer time camping out and our family has continued the tradition. Camping is an inexpensive, and (for us) very enjoyable way to spend some quality family time together. The majority of our trips are filled with food, fun and friends. Many a summer’s evening is enjoyed by our family sitting and cooking around an open campfire. Camp cuisine for us includes the traditional camp classics like pie iron pizzas and dessert pies, s’mores, and hot dogs as well as some less conventional family traditions like home made ice cream, Skyline Chili, and “walking tacos”.

Regardless of your budget, there are lots of degrees to which you can get into camping. Many families enjoy camping out of the trunk of a car with a dome tent, others prefer the ease and comfort of a full size travel trailer. But for us, our family of 5 is comfortable in our pop up camper. It is about the largest pop-up (some call them tent trailers) that is available and the model we have now has a slide-out dinette that serves to enlarge the space inside the camper. This is especially nice when you are faced with spending some time inside the camper due to inclement weather. A trip to a camping expo is all that is required to see the width and breadth of the camping trailer designs available on today’s market. There are literally hundreds of options ranging from the bare bones basic “You want me to sleep WHERE!? tent camping approach to the plush and comfortable “That’s not REALLY camping” Approach taken by the inhabitants of a class A motor home.

One of the benefits of camping that our family enjoys is that it provides a useful outlet for purchasing some pieces of gear that are really helpful in the event of an emergency. Anyone who has read more than a couple of my posts knows that I am always scanning the horizon trying to forecast what may be to come and to be prepared for it when it gets here. Call it paranoia, call it a “prepper” mentality, but I like to be prepared. I might even say that I enjoy being prepared. Battery powered lanterns, a small propane powered stove, water jugs, sleeping bags, and the like are useful not only when you’re out for a weekend at the campground, but also if the power goes out and remains out for an extended time. One piece of gear in particular that I got recently is an ingenious little item called a “Kelly Kettle“.

English: Storm kettle in operation (this one i...

Kelly Kettle

It is a device that allows you to heat water to boiling in a matter of minutes using anything that will burn. Whether camping or in an emergency, boiling water is a real asset and it is what this device was designed for. It can boil water literally in minutes, taking only  3-5 minutes to bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil — our stove at home can’t even do that! The kit that I got (thanks to my family) as a birthday present includes attachments that will allow you to cook over the unit at the same time. I won’t go into greater detail right now as I may spend the time to do an in depth review some time soon. Suffice to say it is an ingenious little device.

But by far the biggest asset that is found by camping is that of the time and memories spent with family and friends. The memories that are made sitting around a crackling fire are etched forever into our memories. (Would it be too cliche to say that they’re “burned” into our minds?) The first time the kids were old enough to remember going camping as a family they pretended they were camping for weeks after we had returned home.

So fuel up the truck, check the trailer lights and load up the food. Camping season is just around the corner. I for one can hardly wait!

Project Powerstroke

As I have stated before I drive a big ugly (for now) diesel pickup. My truck is a crew cab 1996 Ford F-350 with almost 400,000 miles on it. When I got the truck it was not intended to be my daily driver, but a change of occupation has left we without the company service vehicle that I drove home for the previous 11 years. So with that many miles on the truck and the new need to drive it daily I was faced with the decision to either improve the current vehicle or replace it with something else. Living on one income, being just down right stubborn, and possessing the compulsion to tinker, the decision was made to keep the current vehicle for now and make the most out of it.

The truck was starting to smoke a lot and the worn out stock fuel injectors were to blame. I guess 400k miles is about all those cheap injectors are good for (kidding). So with this in mind it appeared as though it needed fuel injectors, which on these trucks is an expensive proposition. I ended up stumbling onto a Craig’s List ad for a complete and running truck for about the same price as the injectors that I needed, and as I was fairly confident that I would be able to sell the rest of the parts off the truck for the purchase price of the whole vehicle, and the deal showed the promise of giving me a bunch of free parts for my big bad (ugly) ride. A little lobbying to my loving wife, a trip to look at the truck, a trip to the bank, and I drove the truck home. The decision was made then and there to swap the (relatively) lower mileage engine (260,000) into my truck. I say low l=mileage because these engines have been known to survive 500,000 miles plus without an overhaul when they are well maintained.

Heart transplant donor in the foreground, recipient in the background.

The very same day as it arrived at my shop, I pulled it into the shop and started the process of tearing it down.

Then about a week later, out came the engine.

This was the goal of the entire project:

Behold the mighty International Navistar T444E Diesel V-8 (aka Powerstroke 7.3)

This engine weighs about half a ton (literally around 1,000 pounds by itself). Once the engine was out of the truck, I scrapped out a few more items from the rolling chassis and then the truck was pushed out of the shop and parked outside. At this point, some time elapsed while I sold a variety of parts off the truck to fund the next stage of the swap. A new fuel pump was installed onto the engine, all the o-ring seals in the fuel system were replaced, the oil pan was removed, refinished and then re-sealed and installed. A modification to the turbo system was performed and some other repairs and modifications were performed while the engine was out of the truck and everything was easy to reach.

This is where the story get’s a little ridiculous by most people’s opinon. I had some vacation time to use up so I took time off work to perform the swap. Yes, that’s right I took a “stay-cation” so I could do an engine swap on my 16 year old truck. My truck is my daily driver so without it, our family was down to one vehicle making it difficult to coordinate schedules. I enjoy this type of work and it is my only practical hobby, so I felt good about taking the time off. I ended up having 5 days off in a row to get everything done. Plenty of time right? We shall see…

So into the shop goes my truck which we have affectionately named “Bullwinkle” and off comes the hood and front end.

This rusty front section is called the core support because it supports the radiator core. Pretty much the whole front end of the truck is built off this piece. I knew that the core support on my truck was rusted badly and was in need of repair or replacement, so in advance of the swap I had repaired the one from the donor truck and prepped it for installation. Eventually out came the engine and the engine bay, repaired core support and frame were coated with a rustproofing agent called POR15.

More work was needed as at this point it was Saturday night and I was to return to work on Monday. Finally, late Sunday night it cam to life!

Pay no attention to the tribal blessing of the truck that is happening inside the bed and in the back of the truck during that video. It is a complex ritual of celebration that involves the use of an ice scraper, interpretive dance, and three young arbiters of automotive goodwill.

The deadline was pretty narrow, but before bedtime on Sunday night I had the truck back together and had road tested the “new” engine.

As of the writing of this post, it has been almost exactly 4 months since this swap. Since then I have sold enough parts off the donor truck to pay for its purchase price, buy all the parts and supplies for the swap, and buy some parts for the continuing “restoration” of my truck. I will likely sell a few more parts off the truck and then scrap what ever is left.

I just thought you all might like to see a small success story of what can be done when you lay out a plan, have the tools and resources to do the job and aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty. I wouldn’t say that I knew what exactly I was going to get myself into on this project, even though I have done similar projects before, but as a result of having done this, I know now EXACTLY what to expect if I ever attempt this type of thing again. As was said by Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”. Don’t miss the opportunity to do something yourself and gain the experience and knowledge that comes by experience. At the very least, being able to DIY makes you a more rounded individual.

Next up on the agenda is body work which is something else I have dabbled at but never mastered.

“I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.”
Vincent Willem van Gogh

Top 10 Tools for the Automotive DIY’er

Socket Set Deep and shallow well, 6 pt.

Time for another “Top 10 tools” list. This list is the top 10 tools for the automotive DIY’er. I have been wrenching on cars most of my life and I seldom (okay, never) take my car to a shop to have someone else perform service or repairs to it. I would rather spend the money on tools! While I know a lot of people aren’t willing to perform an engine overhaul, or change a transmission, I bet there are a lot of people who wouldn’t mind changing their own oil or doing a simple brake job and having the tools to allow you to do the job is the first step toward empowering you to do so.

My approach to automotive hand tools has been to buy from reputable tool manufacturers. While a cheap hammer will still pound nails, a cheap ratchet or a bad wrench will cause headaches that you just don’t need when you’re dealing with an automotive repair. I tend to buy the best hand tools I can afford for automotive repair. Right now, at this stage of life, that  means I can not afford Snap-On, MAC, Cornwell or any of the other high end, professional quality tool manufacturers. What I usually end up with is Craftsman tools because decent prices + respectable quality = a good value. I have mentioned it before that I like buying from Craftsman because they have an unconditional lifetime guarantee on many of their hand tools, and I have had the opportunity to hold them to that guarantee on more than one occasion. This is not to say that they are the only place to get decent tools, since there are other high quality hand tools available as well from Kobalt, Stanley and others. The best word of caution is to look at where the tools are made; nothing against China, but  they don’t make good hand tools, Taiwan is in the same boat. If you get a tool made in the USA or even Mexico, you’re likely holding a fairly decent piece of gear.

Furthermore, I fully recognize that there are literally hundreds of variations of specialty tools for automotive purposes. Professional automotive technicians spend thousands of dollars on their tools and have some very specific specialty tools for individual applications. I’m not going to get into those tools in detail. What we’re going for here is a quick top 10 of the most versatile and useful tools for general use in repairing your auto. Also, I am going to assume that if you’re interested in repairing your auto, you’re interested in repairing your home as well, so in the interest of simplicity I will not be including any of the tools that were on my previous lists of Top 10 Hand tools and Top 10 Power tools for the homeowner.

Okay, enough with the tool drivel, on to the Top 10 list! Here in no particular order are my top 10 recommendations for getting your automotive tool collection started (witty, yet somewhat dry pun intended, yeah you probably had to read it again didn’t you?).

  • Combination Wrench Set – One of the most useful things you will buy in working on your own auto is a good set of combination wrenches. Whereas many applications in the home will allow for the clearance to use a crescent (adjustable) wrench, when you’re working on your car, clearance is almost always at a premium. Having a wrench that will fit into the tight spots on your car is of tantamount importance. The first wrenches that I reach for in my collection are from the manufacturer GearWrench. These wrenches are a typical combination wrench with an open end and a closed (box) end, but they have the added feature of having a ratchet mechanism built into the box end of the wrench. Placing the box end over a fastener allows you to operate the handle in a back and forth motion without removing the wrench from the fastener. The ratchet mechanism loosens or tightens the fastener depending on the direction you have the tool set to operate. Some wrenches have a lever that you flip to reverse the direction of operation (Mine are like this) and some, you simply flip the tool over. These things are really handy! I have tried other gimmicky wrenches, but these are in a class of unparallelled usefulness all by themselves. These are truly a great tool. Of consideration is whether the auto you’re most likely to work on uses Metric or Standard (SAE). If your car is an import it likely uses Metric sizes on the fasteners, if it is a domestic car, well then it’s a crap shoot. Many Domestic cars are a strange hybrid of metric and SAE fasteners as some of the parts are made overseas. My projects (even on domestic cars and trucks) are using metric tools with increasing frequency. Long story made short, it is a headache but you may need both. If you have to choose one, I would suggest that you buy the metric sizes and make sure that the set includes all the sizes. Many cheaper sets don’t include all the metric sizes and they are likely to skip sizes that you may need. Typically automotive applications use 10,12,13,14,15,17 and 18 mm sizes. Spend a good amount on these tools and you won’t regret it. A set of gearwrenches goes for around $80 while a set of standard combination wrenches is considerably less. Buy cheap wrenches and you will be calling down curses upon your own head as you try to extract rounded off fasteners than no wrench on earth will fit.
  • Screwdriver Set – Unlike my home owner list where a 6 or 10 in one screwdriver was the best tool for the application, in automotive work, you often need screwdrivers of varying sizes and lengths so buying a set of decent quality screwdrivers is a good investment. Philips and Slotted head are both needed.
  • Floor Jack and Jack Stands – If you have ever tried to use the poor excuse for a jack that is sold with most cars these days, you will understand this one. A hydraulic floor jack is a must for doing your own auto work. A 2 ton unit is typically sufficient for a regular sized car or minivan, but you should look for something a bit larger or a “SUV” model if you have an SUV or truck. Typically weight rating is not so much an issue as the maximum lift height can be. A smaller, less expensive jack will in most cases be more than powerful enough to lift your vehicle but may not lift high enough to get the wheel off the ground. Jack stands are also a must. If you are working on your car (or under it) with it supported by a hydraulic jack, you are entrusting your life to the fluid and seals within that jack. I don’t know about you but I don’t feel all that comfortable trusting life and limb to a $.05 o-ring. Having the rigid support of a jack stand is a much safer approach to supporting the vehicle for repairs to be performed. I list these together since many retailers offer them together as a kit.
  • Work Light –  I know I included work lights in my previous list, and I said I wouldn’t duplicate items in this list, but this is a more specialized type of light than you may be purchasing for another application. An automotive work light is small enough to be hung in a wheel opening while you’re doing a brake job, but needs to be powerful enough to provide enough light so you can see easily. There are lots of options here, so just find one that works for you. One thing to remember, however is that a unit that uses an incandescent light bulb will get HOT. The last thing you need when working on your car is one more way to hurt yourself, so try to stay with something that uses a fluorescent or LED lamp.
  • Oil Filter wrench – While there are a lot of different types of filter wrenches out there and each one has its strengths, the one I use the most is a Craftsman wrench similar to the model below. It is adjustable for size and fits into the tight spaces that I need to get into and does a good job loosening a filter for removal. If you’re worried about chewing up the filter while installing it, don’t be. For installation of a new filter, you don’t typically need a wrench. Most filter manufacturers will tell you that the only tension necessary is to tighten the filter until the rubber seal on the bottom of the filter is contacting the filter base, and then an additional 3/4 a turn or so. IN other words hand tight. Any tighter than that and you’re just making more work for yourself when you have to strain to remove the filter next time.
  • Socket Set – Again this is an area where you can spend from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, it just depends how serious you are. In my opinion this is something that you can buy just once in your lifetime and have to pass on to your kids, so I would tend to spend a bit more on this area. I generally prefer to have 6 point sockets as opposed to 12 point since they are less likely to strip out a rusted or stuck fastener than a 12 point socket would be. There are different size drives (1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″) that will include ratchets of different sizes, but if you’re just buying one, I would suggest a 3/8″ drive as a good starting place. A 1/4″ Drive set typically also contains smaller size sockets that will be very useful for removing fasteners on the body and interior of your car. This picture shows both 6 and 12 point varieties.
  • Pliers Set – There are a lot of different types of pliers on the market, but a set of at least 5 or 6 pliers is a great way to ensure that you have the tool you need for the job at hand. The most commonly used pliers in my tool chest are a pair of bent nose needle nose pliers similar to the ones shown in the picture above (4th set in from the left). These are really good for getting into awkward spaces to release spring clips and the like. Again, most of these in my personal collection are Craftsman, but anything from Channellock, or Klein Tools will be of equal or greater quality than what I have.
  • Vise Grips – This one is almost too cliche to mention, but it really is an irreplaceable tool in terms of the function that it fills. Having a good set or two of Vice Grips in your tool box is insurance against being stonewalled by a rounded, broken or stuck fastener. This is one tool that if you don’t buy a good set, don’t bother buying any at all. A cheap set will cause more problems than it solves. In this case the Vice Grip name is a prerequisite for a good pair of locking pliers, although I have a set built by Proto and they seem to be of equal quality. The Vice Grip company was sold to Irwin tools a number of years ago and, unfortunately, since then their quality has been on the decline. Yard sales and eBay are still good places to source the genuine “Vice Grip” brand tools. Look for the distinctive logo as can be seen on the pair in the picture above. I have had other types of locking pliers and different gimmicky tools similar, and they just don’t hold a candle to the original.
  • Oxy/Acetylene torch – Okay, practical for most people – maybe not; dangerous – definitely, but this one is really the be all end all for auto work in the “rust belt” where I live. Rust, road salt and water combine to seize fasteners into place and in many cases a little heat is the only way to free them up. Enter the “Red Wrench” or “Fire Wrench” as some call it. Heating the seized nut or bolt up to cherry red will allow the metal to expand, and it will burn off the rust that is holding the fastener in place allowing you to remove it with a wrench or socket. Add to this the ability to use the torch to “cut” off a bad exhaust or fastener and with the proper technique and safety tools in place, the fire wrench can get you out of a bind in a hurry. It can also get you INTO a bind in a hurry too. It is useful for setting ablaze just about any combustible item in the vicinity so don’t use it without a fire extinguisher, wet rags, a bucket of water or all of them handy. Draping soaking rags over delicate items around the work space is helpful in safeguarding your project, but you really need to be careful. For all the dangers inherent to this tool, it is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal and knowing when and how to use it can be a huge asset. Smaller, portable units like the one pictured above can be had for around $200, take up less space than their full size brethren, and are more than capable of doing the job for smaller projects. There are some new products on the market that perform the same function by a magnetic induction process and without the fire. While these should be safer and faster alternatives, I haven’t had opportunity to see any of them work, so I can’t comment on their function.
  • Computer with an internet connection – This one may be a bit obvious but it bears to be restated. The WWW is your friend in your forays into automotive repair. There is an online forum devoted to about every car manufacturer and model under the sun and it is, no doubt populated by people that specialize in the DIY approach to caring for the car of your choice. Belonging to one of these forums is typically free and opens you up to a world of resources and experience that is truly priceless. Countless hours of frustration can be spared by the experience of the men (and women) on these sites. This is by far one of the most valuable tools you can have access to. Even without the benefit of being able to ask your questions directly, you can search past discussions, and generally find the answer you were seeking. There are YouTube videos on how to perform basic services to your car and even services where for a nominal fee you can register as ask your questions directly to a professional mechanic. The internet is possibly the best resource you have in learning how to do this work yourself.

Honorable Mention:

  • Impact Wrench – This is one tool that while not practical for everyone, if you have an air compressor you will really appreciate the convenience of having this tool at your disposal. It is the ideal tool for removing lug nuts on your wheels. There are electric models available as well for those who don’t have an air compressor at their disposal. This really makes short work of rotating your own tires.

That’s a lot of tools, I know but there are lots of options when purchasing your tools collection. The method that I have taken was to buy (or receive as gifts) a few tools at a time and accumulate this array of tools over a period of time. Others may prefer to buy a large tool set all at once. Buying the tools as a large set, is no doubt a cheaper way to get the tools. It might be a good way to use part of a tax return or bonus, and many tool sets will come with some type of tool box or organizer to store them in. As I have said before, I tend to ask for tools as gifts around the holidays or for gift cards to stores that sell tools. Having a list to work off of is a good way to start watching for those items to go on sale and stretch your dollars as well. Used tools can occasionally be bought at yard sales, auctions and online auction sites like eBay for less than new as well. Regardless of how you choose to go about it, it is money well spent in my opinion.

Well I think that is more than enough for now, Happy wrenching!


Alternatives to pump diesel

One of the many things that I like about diesel engines is that they can be run on a number of different fuels. I know that gasoline engines can too (namely alcohol) but diesels can be run on a pretty wide variety of fuels with little or no modifications. In fact when Rudolf Diesel designed and tested his engine design he designed it to run first on coal dust, then on peanut oil, and it wasn’t until later on in the development process that he considered petroleum distillates as potential fuel sources for his design. That being said, some modern designs of diesel engines are better suited for operation on alternative fuels than others, but pretty much all diesel engines can be run on fuel types other than pump diesel with varying degrees of success.

First of all, lets talk about the commercially available kits for WMO/WVO use. These systems are generally two tank systems (a separate tank for the WMO or WVO) that introduce a very important ingredient to the equation — HEAT. Waste vegetable oil has probably gotten the most attention for use in automotive applications and at temperatures below 50 degrees or so many types of wast veggie oil congeal and turn to a semi solid mass of gelatinous goo. To use this stuff as fuel, you have to keep it liquid, and to achieve a good atomization you have to have it pretty hot (typically around 140-170 degrees Fahrenheit). This works great for every day use, but in the event of an emergency, unless you have all the parts on hand to assemble your own conversion kit, you need to use what you have. That is what I want to discuss. Also, for the purposes of this discussion, I do not plan to cover the use of Biodiesel, as I don’t feel it is an especially practical fuel for emergency use due to the need for processing equipment, a substantial supply of waste vegetable oil, and special chemicals necessary for the process.

Aside from commercially available kits to convert your diesel engine for running alternative fuels like waste vegetable oil (WVO), Waste Motor Oil (WMO), Waste Automatic Transmission Fluid (WATF) for everyday use, and the Biodiesel mentioned above let’s take a moment and consider the options available as alternative fuels in the case of an emergency situation as well as some of the downfalls of each.

Waste Motor Oil (WMO) – This is the black gold that you typically drain from the crankcase of your car every 3,000 miles or so (you do change your own oil right?). Methods for using WMO vary from running it in a heated tank like you would WVO, to running it straight in warmer months. One method that is gaining popularity in some circles is the process known as blending. This involves adding a set percentage of a solvent of some sort (typically pump diesel, unleaded gasoline, or even paint thinners can be used) and then allowing the mixture to settle in a tank to let the impurities settle to the bottom of the tank. This type of fuel is known by the generic name W85 in many instances because it is 85% (approximately) waste oil. The “cleaned” fuel is then pumped, siphoned, or drained off the top of the tank and used in the vehicle. I have done a fair amount of “tinkering” with different mixtures and concentrations as well as different solvents and I have burned a decent amount of this type of fuel in my truck with varying degrees of success. Chronicling these experiments is probably reserved for another blog post, but be aware that waste motor and hydraulic oil, as well as automatic transmission fluid can be used as fuel with some filtering and the use of a solvent.

Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) – WVO can obviously be used as a motor fuel, but as stated above in cooler weather the fuel gels at a relatively warm temperature. In warmer months, however WVO can be used as a motor fuel in warmer months as long as you keep a couple things in mind. First of all, it must be cleaned sufficiently. Most WVO has lots of grit in it; think french fry fragments, chicken breading, and worst of all water. Removing these contaminants takes some filtering and work, but it is doable. Second, starting the engine on another fuel is best. If you can start the engine of pump diesel and warm it up on that before switching to WVO it will considerably reduce coking (which is a process of the ash created by burning the fuel building up inside your engine. One major downfall of using WVO is that WVO and mineral oil (WMO or the oil in your engine) create a black sticky, polymerized goo when they are combined. Even mixing some of them together in a container and allowing it to sit for a while will reveal the results of this process. Having this happen inside your engine is a disaster that can ruin the engine. So much for running on alternative fuels, huh? Be careful with WVO. Its best use in my opinion is for being processed into biodiesel, which as I have said is not the best alternative fuel for emergency use because of the relatively complex process required to produce it.

Home heating oil (HHO) – Fuel oil is very Very close in its composition to diesel fuel and they can be used almost interchangeably. Kerosene is similar in composition as well, although it has been further refined to remove additional impurities to improve the cleanliness of the burn. Both HHO and Kerosene can be used as a motor fuel. Diesel fuel, can by the same token be used for home heating purposes, but it does not burn as clean and produces a bit more smoke, so care should be taken when using it as a home heating fuel. I would not recommend either one for use in a ventless design Kerosene heater as the diesel fuel almost certainly produces more carbon monoxide than relatively clean burning kerosene would. This is one reason why diesel engines are a preference for me as we typically have at least a hundred gallons of fuel oil on hand for home heating purposes. Having this safety net in case of a medium term emergency is a nice reassurance against running out of fuel for the generator and or truck especially since we can heat our home entirely off wood should we so desire.

As I stated above there are a number of different ways to approach the use of alternative fuel in the case of an emergency, but almost all the alt fuels will require some sort of filtering. Commercially available filter vessels and filters are, of course, available for this purpose, but regular residential water filter housings can be used in conjunction with filter media of varying compositions to filter the oil down to a size of about 5 microns. This is a process that I have been using under gravity pressure with pretty good success. Allowing the oil to pass through the filter at no more than gravity pressure prevents the oil from passing through the filter too rapidly to filter properly.  It isn’t a quick process, but I am in no hurry anyway (at least when it comes to this process).

At some point in the future I may go into more detail about the specifics of these processes but for now, a brief overview of the alternatives is what I was hoping to achieve.

Just another reason why the diesel is a viable and some may argue, superior motor fuel.

‘Til we meet again,


You are what you — Drive!?

Alright I confess, I am a people watcher. I enjoy watching people in public places and inferring into their lives my imagined lifestyle for them based upon what I see. One of my favorite games is one that I play while waiting in the car outside the store. (Aren’t I a dedicated husband to drive my wife and kids to and from the store, and then to wait ever so patiently as they fend off the mobs of bargain crazed lunatics inside?!) It goes something like this. After scanning the parking lot for a while and acclimating myself with the cars in the surrounding area, I will turn my attention to the store’s exits. As the unassuming patrons make their egress, I pick them out by their defining characteristics and try to match them to their cars before they get there. This little game of connect the dots can silently amuse me for hours on end (okay, at least for a half an hour).

So how is it that we as American have become so preoccupied with the statement that our mode of transport makes about us? Why is it that driving a diesel pickup truck somehow makes you a hick? How is it that you’re expected to listen to Aerosmith if you drive a Camaro? Why is your sexual preference assumed if you are a guy and drive a VW Beetle? It’s a curious thing, but these stereotypes tend to be somewhat accurate. Why is that?

Add to that the fact that it seems each decade has its iconic “ride”. The 80’s had the pony cars (Mustangs, Camaros and Firebirds). The status symbol of the 90’s was, oddly enough, the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The new millennium saw the rise of the Honda Civic, and it seems that the most recent decade will be remembered as the age of the Prius. It’s a curious thing, but somehow we as Americans have matched out personalities to a certain type of automobile and the relationship has been thriving ever since.

Think about it, you can make these associations too. I will name a car and you and I can both likely imagine the same stereotype as a driver. Let’s try it.

  • Mazda Miata – (alright who is seeing Chris Kattan singing at the top of his lungs in Corky Ramano?) That pretty well defines the stereotype, I think.
  • VW Bus – Hippie love anyone?

Think these examples are a bit too extreme? How about these?

  • Full size van – (Okay, not the molester van, just a regular conversion van.)
  • How about a dually pickup? (Why does everyone assume you have to be grossly overweight to drive a dually?)
  • Buick Park Avenue (Yeah my grandparents have one of these too! Wow, what a coincidence. I didn’t even have to utter the words “Olds ’98” or “Chrysler New Yorker”).
  • Driving a Chevy typically means that you also might be wearing a NASCAR jacket. (Sorry guys, it’s true you know it is).

It’s strange but true. Whether by the making of Hollywood or by personal experience, the stereotypes have been set.

Does our choice of transportation define us as a person?

My daily mode of transport is a Crew Cab, 4×4, diesel powered, 16 year old pickup. But I also drive a minivan. What does that make me? Add to that the fact that I used to own an ’80’s ponycar and I must be one confusing and conflicted personality!

Is it a truth or just a stereotype that we have accepted? Am I, in reality, that much a hodgepodge of seemingly conflicting interests? Yes, I grew up deer hunting, but I also have taken up Blogging (obviously). I do heat my house with wood and live across the road from a corn field, but I also have an office job at a local food service company. Yes, my truck can frequently be seen parked in the lot in front of a big box store, but it is just as likely to be parked in front of my church. Hmm, maybe there is more truth to that stereotype than I thought.

I wonder what I must look like leaving my white(ish) collar job wearing my dress slacks, oxford shirt, Poindexter glasses, carrying a messenger bag and leaving the lot in a Crew Cab, 4×4, 16 year old diesel truck? Mixed signals? You bet! If they were looking very closely, a studious gamer would have noticed my singular giveaway. That would be the work boots under my dress slacks. Yeah, they’re Dr. Martens but that probably reinforces another era’s stereotype.Still, you would have gotten that one right if you had been paying attention.

Here is some reading from Forbes Magazine if you need some help reinforcing your automotive narcissism for next time.

Forbes Magazine

‘Til next time.


Top 10 Power tools for the Home Owner / DIY’er

Time for another “Top 10” list!

It has been said that half the difference between  the pros and the amateurs is having the right tools for the job. I tend to think it is more than half the difference, but one thing is for sure. Having the right tools for the job makes the project easier, faster and a lot more enjoyable.

In keeping with the homeowner / DIY theme from the last list, this list is the top 10 Power tools for the home owner or DIY enthusiast. Again, this is from my personal experience and these appear in no particular order.

  • Cordless Drill/ Driver – This is easily the most frequently reached for power tool in my collection. There are literally dozens of different companies manufacturing battery tools these days and in general, the more you pay for the tool, the better the quality. There are, however some pretty good values on the market for the home owner who does not intend to use the tool for your livelihood all day every day. I have had or used tools from Craftsman, Dewalt, Milwaukee, Hilti, Porter Cable, Makita, Bosch, and Skil. There have been complete articles written on the merits and strengths of different brands and offerings, so I won’t spend a lot of time in talking about the individual brands or models, but one thing is for sure, it will be one of the most used tools in your arsenal.
  • Circular Saw (Skilsaw) – For rough framing projects, cutting sheet goods like plywood, and just general cutting use, it is hard to beat a corded circular saw. The one I have been using for the last 10 years was a bottom of the line model from Skil. It appears to me that there is a reason why many people refer to this tool by that manufacturer’s name. Try as I may to burn that saw up, I haven’t been able to kill it. It is lacking some of the more advanced features of some models, but for a bare bones basic saw, it just keeps cutting.
  • Compound Miter Saw – This one is one that sneaked up on me. For years I didn’t have a power miter saw. I cut or coped moldings by hand and used the circular saw for cutting dimensional lumber to length. I never would have though I would use this tool as much as I do. For cutting moldings to length it can’t be beat, but I use it more for cutting 2×4’s and dimensional lumber to length for framing projects than anything. It makes a nice square, clean cut every time and it does it much more quickly than by any other means. The model I have, is once again an inexpensive, basic model from Delta, but it serves its purpose without having the lasers and more advanced features of some other models. If one thing should be kept in mind, I would suggest that a 10″ blade be a minimum size for general use. Smaller models, just don’t have the capacity to cut larger framing materials.
  • Reciprocating saw – I am not talking about a handheld jigsaw, but a larger tool such as is known by Milwaukee’s model name “Sawzall”. This is another one of those tools that is a true jack of all trades. For demolition, remodeling, cutting metal stock, even the occasional automotive project this tool is versatile and has proven an invaluable addition to my tool collection. The model I have is in fact a Milwaukee corded model and it sees a fair amount of usage. With a little practice and a steady hand, clean straight cuts are achievable with this tool. I would stick with a corded model for general use as the battery powered models typically don’t last long enough for more difficult tasks. The battery models are handy for a quick cut here and there, but for extended use, the power and durability of a corded model cannot be paralleled by a battery powered tool.
  • Table Saw – This one is an area in which there are near limitless ways to spend your hard earned cash, but even an inexpensive model will prove to be extremely useful. The model of saw that I have is, once again an inexpensive model from Delta. It is a portable model that many refer to as a “contractor’s saw”. It has an attached stand, but it’s light and small enough to be somewhat easily transported from site to site. Larger “Cabinet Saw” style saws typically have a larger table and offer a better degree of precision and quality, but unless you’re building cabinets or doors (actually I have done both of these with my saw too) or performing some other kind of precision carpentry, a portable model is sufficient for most jobs.
  • Lights – This one is a bit on the obvious side, but you have to have light to see to work. I am a bit of a flashlight addict, but the most useful lights in my collection are my Maglight LED flashlight, the battery powered spot light that came with my Milwaukee cordless tool kit, and my dual head 500W painter’s light. The flashlight I use a lot for brief tasks where concentrated light is needed, and the LED 2D cell model that I have is bright enough to blind you. The battery light that came with my Milwaukee tool kit is useful for temporarily lighting a job since it has an adjustable head that can be pointed to a project as it sits on it battery base. The painters light is for those occasions where an all-out solution is needed and the project will be of slightly longer duration. A word of caution about the painter’s lights is that they could easily double as portable heaters. Those dual 500 watt halogen lamps get HOT! Be careful when you are using these things.
  • Corded Drill – I don’t use my corded drill an awful lot, but it is one of those tools that when you need it, there is no replacement for it. Battery drills are very handy for most jobs but there are some jobs that require more power than can be dished out by a battery drill. For drilling large holes or holes in masonry, mixing paint, or boring a lot of holes at once, a corded drill is faster and just plain does the job better. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to pick up a used Milwaukee 1/2″ corded hammer drill for $20 at a yard sale. This tool is yet another example of how the right tool for the job cannot be beat.
  • Belt Sander – These tools are designed for sanding long stretches of straight material, but I have found dozens of “unintended” uses for my belt sander. A 80 grit belt and the sander turned upside down is great for sharpening cutting tools like an axe or hatchet. The same technique and a 120 grit belt makes the sander a handy way to shape small wooden parts. This is another one of those tools that with a little creativity can be used for a lot more than its intended uses. Mine is a cheap Black and Decker model, but it serves its purpose well and didn’t cost me a lot. For occasional use, it works well.
  • 4″ Angle Grinder – Another jack of all trades is a 4″ angle grinder. Most people are familiar with the most well known job of this tool which is grinding on metal, but a thin kerf blade can be affixed making this tool very handy for cutting metal parts as well. A cup wire wheel can be attached for stripping paint off metallic items, a flap disc can be affixed for sanding wood, metal or stripping finishes. I even have a diamond blade for mine that will allow you to cut tile, brick, concrete and masonry. I enjoy doing a fair amount of metal work and I have collected several of these tools, a pair of different models from Milwaukee, and an inexpensive Clark model. This allows me to work with metal, leaving a different wheel in each tool, cutting down on time when going between tasks. It may surprise you how many uses you can find for an angle grinder.
  • Air Compressor – This one is the granddaddy of all versatile tools. From inflating a tire on a bicycle or wheelbarrow to powering a nail gun or impact wrench this is one of the most versatile tools you can buy. For most DIY’ers a small compressor is all that is needed. I have a larger model that stays in the shop and a smaller pancake style compressor that is a lot more portable for those jobs away from the shop, but I use these things all the time. Blowing dust and dirt off projects with an air chuck (blow gun), inflating tires, powering an impact wrench, air ratchet, die grinder, cutoff tool, air chisel, paint sprayer or even a sandblaster – the air compressor is the heart of the system. Another thing to keep in mind is that air tools tend to be less expensive, smaller and more lightweight that electric tools. Keep the tools oiled and a small compressor will work for most small projects. Larger projects like operating a paint sprayer will require more air than a small unit can produce, so if you intend to do a lot of uninterrupted work without allowing the compressor time to catch up, you need to match the air consumption of the tools (rated in CFM) to the capacity of the compressor.

Well that should really get you started spending your discretionary income for a while. Just think of it this way, the money you’re saving on doing the projects yourself can be invested in the tools, and you’re still way ahead of what you would have paid if you had contracted the work out. My approach to buying these tools has been to buy a tool at a time when I have money or the projects to justify it. In this way, you won’t break the bank and you can collect quite an impressive cache of tools. Do It Yourself and you have the satisfaction, the experience and the tools to do it again next time. After all, home improvement projects are just excuses to buy tools anyway, right?