Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Harbor Freight Tax

Family obligations are keeping me and Papa more or less grounded for the entire weekend, but I'm on vacation all week so I think we'll get a trip in soon. I might even get a short hop today in support of distracting a neighbor while the arrangements for is surprise birthday party are finalized. It should be quite a surprise to land at Bolton after his ride and find his 40th birthday being celebrated at JP's BBQ, right there on the airport. Well, it will be a surprise if he doesn't suddenly discover this blog in the next hour.

Later: It was a nice ride, but hot (96F), bumpy, and windy (11G18, 270 degrees) enough to make the landings look ham-fisted and clumsy. Even the takeoff from Bolton had a little moment when we were just off the runway and the gusting wind... stopped gusting. The instant loss of airspeed caused a little dip that almost took us back to the runway. Nothing dangerous - it's more of a point of pride to only touch the ground with the airplane when you're actually trying to. Anything else is simply bad form.

The passenger wasn't expected at his surprise party until 1:30, so we had an hour to kill. As I mentioned, it was hot and bumpy, so I didn't want to spend the full hour futilely burning gas and getting him ever more queasy, so I mentioned to him that I hope to take a trip this week and ought to stop at MadCo to gas up before the prices could get any higher. Dragging my feet through the refueling which for once (untimely, that) didn't include waiting behind a bunch of other planes. Nope, when you want to kill time, everything invariably goes quickly. Commits suicide of its own volition, it does. Damned inconvenient. But I was able to fuddle around reading the directions on the self serve pump, and lamenting just how slow the gas pumps are.

In any event, we hit the pattern back at Bolton at 1:25, bounced our way into a poorer-than-average landing, and pulled up on the ramp. Which, of course, was not where we had departed from. I explained it off as my being out of beer in the hangar and thus having the need to get something to drink from JP's. And that he'd be hot waiting in the plane, so he ought go with. And what with his girlfriend and kids having promised to meet him upon his return anyway, JP's was the most accessible place on the field, and although they weren't in sight, they were bound to show up soon. And being this hot, maybe they're waiting over in the shade of the party barn, and no search would be complete without looking there. Which, well, he fell for like the proverbial 2000 lbs. of brick. "Surprise!!" shouted the crowd.

I turned back to him, and completely deadpan said, "Oh, here they are."

Mission complete.

With that done, it was back to the porch swing project:

Not that it upsets me all that much, but it never fails that any new project will eventually be the direct cause of a trip to Harbor Freight for to procure some exotic new tool for which I had never before felt ample need to buy. In the case of the porch swing, the tool in question was a right angle drill guide. A princely sum of $17.99 for it, thus moving me incrementally closer to the ever-increasing the risk that is incumbent with any type of project: it will end up costing more to build than to simply buy.

'Tis a nifty tool, though, and of the type that foreshadows those inevitable "Wow, I'm glad I had that!" moments that will arise in projects still well over the horizon:

The need for a tool whose entire reason d'etre is to ensure the drilling of a completely straight hole is, in this case, the holes that will be drilled vertically through the 2x6 seat sides in to pass the supporting swing ropes through. Drilling a 5/8" diameter hole the long way through a 2x6 is hard enough to do in and of itself, but keeping it vertically aligned the whole way adds even further complexity to the task. One would not want the drill to pierce the side of the board, after all. Out the bottom and out of sight is the goal here.

It worked pretty well, although the narrowness of the board combined with the flexibility inherent in a cheap plastic tool bit cause it to wander around a bit. Get it? A "bit?" Drill bit? Get it?? Hmm, tough room. Better keep my day job!

It worked almost perfectly, but there was one little problem: I need to drill a 5 1/2" hole, but the guide (and the bit, for that matter) reached their limits at about 5 3/8". I had to disassemble the entire apparatus and flip the woodwork over to finish the holes from the opposite side. Fortunately, the bit had just enough length to at least poke a guide hole in the bottom for me to follow.

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