An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Friday, May 24, 2019

A form of discipline

My daughter began Tae Kwon Do classes at a local dojang (place where one trains for TKD, aka "house of discipline"), Pinnacle Martial Arts, about 6 weeks ago. When we went in to get her started, the instructor asked us what we were looking to gain from the lessons.

My younger daughter is what most would consider “high energy”. At five years old (“five and a half!”), that’s not an abnormal thing. My older daughter (graduating from high school next month), by comparison, left me completely unprepared for this young lady. High energy, plus the constant seeking of attention… We say that her favorite toy is “people”. And it doesn’t really matter how familiar she is with the people involved. She was old enough, and actually had the preschool results last fall, to enter kindergarten, but we chose to give it another year for her to develop a little more emotional maturity.

Page 2, the test scores
Page 1, what you'd
expect on a form
So anyway, our answer to the instructor was that we were looking for her to develop some better focus and discipline, be more “teachable”, given that she would be entering kindergarten this fall.

The results, just a few weeks in, have been amazing. Sonsaeng-nim (“instructor” in Korean) Hubbard’s class with the young children is eye-opening. He teaches respect – for the class, for parents, for fellow students, for the dojang -- how to act properly, but in a gentle manner that draws out the best in them. Watching my young daughter flourish in this environment has been such a great joy. And I’ve really enjoyed practicing with her at home – don’t worry, I’ve already talked with her about how she will quickly progress beyond my ability to help her.

Already she is looking forward to taking her first test for her yellow-stripe belt next month.

There’s a four-page form that goes along with this test. And I find this form to be a refreshing surprise.

Page 3, the parents
have their say
The first page is what one would expect – the typical name/address/phone number information.
The second page is the evaluation from the test itself.

The next two pages are what got my attention, and my respect. Page three is an evaluation from parents on various aspects of home life, each point answered on a 5-point scale. Things like “abides by parents decisions”, and “helps with chores without being asked”. And page four is a similar evaluation from school teachers, how they are doing in their classes.

I like the fact that aspects of the student’s life outside the dojang are considered for the belt evaluation. I’ve told my daughter that this supports an idea that I’ve tried to live up to (with varying levels of success and failure) ever since I read an article around 1990:

How you do anything is how you do everything.
Page 4, School evaluation!

It speaks to how one lives their life, with a unifying discipline that says there is nothing that doesn’t matter. There is nothing that doesn’t count. EVERYTHING counts in your life, and they should all be approached with the same focus, the same set of ethics. Compromising in one aspect affects the others.

We’ve already seen a difference at home with her discipline. We’re hoping it continues to spread. Results that will reap rewards for generations.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I can’t get no…. Satisfaction

When I'm ridin' round the world
And I'm doin' this and I'm signin' that
 -- Mick Jagger

They say that beauty is only skin deep (whoever “they” is). And when it comes to framebuilding, the skin is truly what strikes the customer first. No matter how good the workmanship, how tight the miters are, how smooth the joints, if the skin (the finish) is ugly, it doesn’t resonate with the customer.

I have chosen to have my standard offered frame finish for Mjolnir Cycles to be a one-color powder coat, which is included in the base price for my work. It’s durable, not too costly (more on this later), and complements a fillet brazed joint well. While a wet paint application can offer a lot of options for multiple colors, it’s expensive.

Over the last five years I’ve had one local powder coat company do all my customer work*, outside of the few customers who wanted a specific multi-color scheme (and paid the difference for the more expensive finish). The first job I had them do was the frame I made for my wife. It came out nice, but it took three times as long as they originally said, and the end cost was more than the verbal quote they gave me before I handed over the frame to be coated. But the price was right for this job.

Since that first job with them, their price has nearly tripled, with the continued trend of final cost being higher than the verbal quote. Yeah, yeah, get it in writing before hand. But should I really have to?

This led me, on my most recent build, to seek out another powder coating operation.

Their over-the-phone quote was half of the first coater, and they came recommended by loads of reviews, so I decided to give them a try.

As with most powder coaters that operate on any large scale, they were located in an industrial warehouse mall-type complex. When talking with them, I shared why I had sought them out, and they agreed that my previous vendor was known for some shady dealings. I selected the color from the wall of samples, left the frame and a copy of my reseller permit (so that I don’t pay them the sales tax – I collect that at the time of my sale), with the agreement that they would have the frame ready within 10 business days.

I got a call four days later saying it was ready. Okay, nice. That was on a Friday, and I couldn’t pick up the frame until the following Monday.

So I picked the frame up, gave it a cursory look – it’s powder coat, after all, it should be uniform and smooth. Paid the man, put it in my car and drove home.

Bringing the frame into my shop, I took a closer look at it in the full light of day. I noticed a wavy area on one joint, apparent with the brighter light and high gloss of the finish. Then I saw a gap in another area. Then some pits. Then some thin spots. Then some more waves…

So instead of being a week ahead, I’ll need to do some sanding and touch-ups, which will likely be another week behind. The saving grace on this is that I was going to be adding a fade color to the powder coat base anyway, and these areas fell at least close to the addition, so I can include them and not really affect the end product. But still…

With these frustrations, and the issues I’ve had with rattle cans on my own frames, I had started to explore adding frame finishing to my quiver of skills. I looked at air brushes and the requirements surrounding building a finish booth for wet paint application at home. The guns themselves were quite reasonable – just a low few hundred dollars. But the paints, ventilation systems, fume reclamation, air filters, clean-room needs, curing oven… It all added up to several THOUSAND dollars before I even shot my first job. And I would have essentially had to build another shed on my property, which would have meant a building permit – a long process by itself, and I have a visceral aversion to government oversight of what I can and can’t do on my own property like that.

So I turned my eye towards what it would take to do my own powder coating. The cost of the paint (powder) applicators is actually lower than for the wet paint guns, with fewer headaches and clean up. The cost of the powder is lower than wet paint. There are no environmental impacts – no harmful fumes or chemicals, and clean up entails sweeping up any errant material off the floor. That clean up can be minimized by a low-draft filter system utilizing things like a PVC and cardboard, duct tape, a regular furnace filter, and a shop vac. But the big cost of the powder coating operation is the oven.

No getting around it, in order to do powder coating, you need an over than can reach and maintain 400F. That’s what activates the powder to become a uniform plastic coating (not really plastic, but you get the idea). And your regular old kitchen oven is a little on the small side for fitting a bike frame.

Purchasing an oven of the appropriate size would run several (and several more) thousand dollars. But… I can make my own, to exactly the size I need, using a scuttled double convection oven with the controls, and metal sheet and studs with rock wool insulation. A G and a half, at the outside. Hey, I saw it on Youtube, so how hard can it be?

Please don’t think I’m really taking a cavalier an attitude towards this project as the last sentence implies. It’s a big undertaking. But it will pay for itself in short time. And might even grow into its own revenue stream outside frame building.

Maybe I can get some satisfaction.

*For my personal frames I’ve done regular old Rustoleum rattle can paint jobs. With some care and a lot of work and a lot of coats, they’ve come out looking decent, but not very durable. But I’ve grown very frustrated with the can tips clogging and losing pressure over time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Vise squad

My framebuilding tools generally tend toward the manual variety -- for power tools I have a bench grinder, belt sander, and drill press. Beyond that it's all done by hand. Okay, the torch uses an electric oxygen concentrator, but otherwise the tubes are cut and mitered by hand, and I often have to clamp tubes in V-blocks when the frame jig doesn't quite do the job.

My bench vise gets a lot of action. 

One tool that has become vital is the cross-slide vise used on the work table of the drill press. Holding tubes in place for drilling, and in a few cases cutting a miter. This weekend it became unusable.
Slide vise. Not mine.

This is what the main carriage looks
like from the bottom.

I've had this item for several years, and it's always been a little problematic. Harbor Freight has been a miss/hit/miss place to purchase tools. When I bought the cross-slide vise at this establishment, my wife asked me if I'd bought the least expensive model. I hadn't, but I had bought the least expensive model that I thought would meet my needs. Fool that I was.

The vise was made to hit a price point, and not be anything near sufficient for any kind of precision work. Issues developed immediately. The carriages were neither smooth nor secure. I tightened up some hardware, which took care of most of the slop. The handles would often come loose. Any vibration during use would cause the upper carriage to slowly move. And the main carriage had almost a half-turn of the handle before it would move in either direction.

And this last item is what became worse over time. Drilling small holes wasn't so much of a problem, as the low torque against the tube didn't cause undo shaking. But trying to use a hole saw to make a hole of any appreciable size cause the entire drill press to shake. Yesterday it was enough to walk the tube right out of the vise, gouging it beyond use. 

I disassembled the lower carriage to see what was the cause -- the threaded rod for adjusting the lower carriage went through a plastic fitting that had a peg protruding into the upper slider. PLASTIC. With no means to tighten the piece, and no way to lock the carriage, every bit of vibration worked against that plastic, causing increasingly more slop as time wore (see what I did there) on.
The offending plastic piece.
And the hole into which it fits.

So I'm on the search for a new cross slide vise. I'm extremely gun shy of low priced models, especially anything made in China. I won't be going back to Harbor Freight, that's for sure. And shopping online when I can't verify things like materials and construction makes it even more difficult. I may be replacing it with an X-Y table and stationary vise.

Until then I'll be drilling holes by hand undersize and using a file (by hand again) to bring them up to spec.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Full Circle

In a follow-up to my post from last August, I’ve been following Matt Broshat’s journey around the perimeter of the United States with interest. 

We had hosted him at our house on his second night, and he put in over 100 miles that day to our place just a couple miles off his planned route between Portland and Seattle. He kept getting further ahead of schedule with the passing days…
And so it was that late last week we were estimating his arrival back in Portland, some 11,000 miles after his start, making his way clockwise around the borders and coasts.

We thought early on that it would be fun to meet up with him at the finish, but the logistics of scheduling were… well, impossible. It just had to happen whenever it did. We had him join our Life360 family group just a few days from the finish so we could see where he was, and get close estimates of his arrival. My plan was to find him in Portland, take him out to dinner, maybe have some of the local cycling community meet up with us.
The day arrived, sunny and bright, and a bit cold. It is winter, after all. Matt had already started off with just a little over 40 miles to go. I imagine he was savoring the day a bit. We drove down to Portland, did a little shopping, and then contacted Matt. He said he had an interview at 2, but was free after that.

An interview? We wondered if he was applying for local work…

We traced him down to the riverside and drove out. When we were close, my wife said, “There he is. With a news camera.”

Ah, not a job interview…

Turns out it was the local news doing a spot for their evening broadcast.

We parked and walked back, then met up with him. The smile was as wide as day two, and we were greeted with hugs. A short talk there, then Matt headed to the airport for the full circle – where he assembled his bike and started the journey. We met up again near the airport, then went to the Hopworks Bike Bar for dinner.

There were so many stories of the adventure, talk of the future, his involvement with Young Life Capernaum… Just a fun evening.

After that, we drove him out to where he was spending the night. Dropping him off, we wished him well, though we knew that life will be no boring thing for Matt. 

It was special to be able to share in such a feat. In many ways we felt like we were a part of it, though it was some one else turning the pedals.

What’s next? He says the next adventure will likely be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with his brother.

(NOTE: All photos except the group dinner photo are Matt's.)