Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shoveling Snow and Burning Bronze

That about sums up my weekend.

The cleaning up after the snowstorm ate up half my weekend and continuing my fruitless efforts to reviving a bronze shift lever killed the remainder. (that and laundry of course)

After four years I should be used to the lack of progress in the winter. Even with scheduling work at home things just don't get done as fast as during the summer. December, January and February are basically lost months- for me at least.

A friend of mine was gracious enough to donate this shifter off of his project boat. He wasn't planning on re-using it so he grabbed his sawz-all one day and hacked it right out of the cockpit well for me. I will forever appreciate the gesture.

The problem is I can't get the two halves to separate. The shaft has 'swollen' enough to where it won't disengage from the shift lever. If I can't separate the two I can't install in through the shaft hole (or rather future shaft hole) in my own cockpit well. With a lot of oil and a blowtorch I was able to get it loose. The set screw is out and the shaft is clean. Its just wider at one end than the other. I even measured it with my precision calipers. I probably didn't help it when I started beating the end to get it out.

Today, I stuck it in the kitchen oven for an hour at 350 degrees. I was hoping the metal would expand enough to slip out the shaft. After an hour in the oven I detected a peculiar odor coming from the kitchen. Hot bronze smells funny.

By heating it all up and then dipping the shaft in water to cool the center quickly I was able to get the shaft to move about a quarter of an inch further in. Then my hand started to catch fire and I dropped the whole thing in the bucket of water causing it all to cool down, shrink and seize the two parts tightly together. So much for plan 'B'.

Because of the storm I didn't make it to the only store nearby where I could have purchased the hardware to finish up the engine electrical panel. I was going to order the hardware online but I balked at paying $8 in shipping for $2 worth of hardware. Next week. Or next month when I break down and order the stuff I need.

The wire and supplies I ordered came in. That was $150. Today I ordered a cable and end connectors for the transmission shifter (I am having second thoughts about a direct connection) that was $150. Less than two weeks into the month and I am on target for another $600 dollar month. That doesn't count the $1000 winter storage bill that came in January first. Happy New Year. I only say this as a reminder than even the little things cost big money.

The only really productive thing that happened this week was that I milled out some teak from my toerail leftovers for a frame that will surround the engine instrument panel at the rear of the cockpit. I don't have a good tool for making precise 45 degree cuts so I guess I will have to add that to this months expenses.

I noticed I had a length of teak that would be just perfect as a handle for a boathook. My current ash boathook that I made a few years ago developed a crack and was really only a crude first attempt anyway. I wonder if it would be too extravagant to have a teak boathook handle?

Now I am off to check on the boat and shovel it out as necessary. Winter is a terrible time to work on boats...


Tim said...

You wrote, "Winter is a terrible time to work on boats".

Not if it's somewhere like this. ;<)

(You had your chance...)

brushfiremedia said...

Oh, Tim, that was just cruel!

Tim said...

You're right: it was. Sadly, I have no defense for my actions.

Anonymous said...

An ash boathook handle can have the bouyancy to float the metal fitting without being overly long. A teak handle might need to be much longer to have such bouyancy.

-you can guess.

Britton said...

hmmm... my current ash handle doesn't float the hook but that might be a nice feature.

Good point.

Zach said...

Hey Britton...

If you can get the shaft back apart, take a strip of fine emory paper and wrap it around the shaft. Then take a string and take a round turn, around the paper. Toss on a little motor oil, and dunk the emory cloth occasionally to keep it from clogging.

Grab the ends of the string and work it back and forth and it'll go pretty fast. Don't pull on the string so it grabs the shaft, so much as rotate the paper, and you won't put any low spots in the surface.

You may also want to file a bevel around the end (just free hand with a mill file) so that it won't hang up.

If the shaft wasn't precision machined from the start, you can match it to the lever by painting it with a sharpie pen and pushing it together. Just depends if you thing the set screw can handle the torque alone... (Grin)

The high spots show up by taking the sharpie off. Putting an index line on both parts makes it faster for assembly, but rotating around a 1/4 turn between test fits will get you a precision slip fit.

Good luck!


Britton said...

The problem is that the shaft DOESN'T come out. It has swelled or otherwise deformed.

It occured to me after I wrote the blog that this lever was in a boat that was seriously damaged with a gasoline fire in its belly. That could certainly have been hot enough to soften the bronze and allow it to change shape.

I am exploring other options at the moment.

Zach said...

Ah, I see.

Have access to a hydraulic H beam press?

There's not much you can't take apart with one of those... grin.


Britton said...

You know I do actually. That is a good idea.