Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Christmas. . .

That's right, Merry Christmas!

Not "Happy Holidays" or have a "Great Holiday Season"... It is Christmas after all!

Oh... a belated Happy Hanukah to all of my Jewish readers as well!

I really don’t like the trend towards removing the symbolism from the holiday and attempting to make it a ‘generic’ holiday… maybe it’s because I grew up with all of the symbols, Christmas trees, manger scenes and so on, that without them it just doesn’t ‘feel’ the same to me.

No, I’m not going off on a holiday rant, just stating my position on it all. I think that the meaning, and symbols, of a holiday are an integral component of the celebration. The next thing you know Easter will be up for grabs.

Anyway… I know I’ve been absent, missing in action… the truth is, I’ve just not been inspired to write much lately… a lot going on here, not the least of which is the end of my current contract without an extension, or a finalized employment offer.

Yeas, I’ll still be working, but now it’s a ‘day-to-day’ thing, with no timeline in place. Normally, I would have had a new contract in place back in November. I should have pushed the issue, but, with so much to deal with on the personal front, I just let it slide.

I know I shouldn’t have, but, the truth is, I’m not worried, and I don’t really care. I’m more focused on my wife, and helping her get through what ever she has to go through, that every thing else is pretty much secondary.

That said, we had a wonderful Christmas… we spent it relaxing, and cooked a prime rib roast for dinner, man was that good!! Tonight Nina is stopping in for a visit as she’s home for the holiday and we’re looking forward to seeing her and catching up on everything that’s happened since she moved to Charleston, SC.

So, for those of you who’re still stopping in, thanks!! Please accept my wish that you, and your families have had a very Merry Christmas, and enjoy a Happy, safe, and prosperous New Year!!

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Welding Project. . .

Ok.. so I know I've continued to be a very bad blogger... long absences... but honestly I've been very busy.

Work has been absolutely crazy busy. We're deploying the second phase of a year long development effort next Tuesday. This is an application used across the rail industry to not only track but to also aid in maintaining the health of all of the 1.8 million (that's right *million*) pieces of active railroad equipment on the tracks today.

Testing this application, identifying issues, suggesting improvements and writing the user guides has pretty much occupied my every waking moment for the month of November.

I'm doing web casts next week to demonstarte all of the new features to our customers as well as running internal demonstrations and training for our customer service folks. So I had to develop all of thos scripts this month as well.

Now I could have started earlier, but the application didn't exit development until the 9th and I wanted to include only the most current screen images in the documentation.

So that's my excuse for not blogging... but, I did take about a day and a half out to build myself an 'extension' for my welding cart. (Hence the title of this post)

Anyway... when I got my new MIG welder a couple of years ago, it came with a small cart. It was nice that they included it in the 'package', but a couple of things have always bugged me about that cart.

First, while it rolls quite easily, there was no handle so it was always an adventure navigating it to where I wanted to use it in the garage.

Second, there were no built in 'hooks' to hang the various cable and cords, or the welding helmet from.

So, when I recently acquired a used Plasma cutter (I traded a woodsplitter I had for it) I decided that instead of getting a separate cart for the cutter, I'd build an extension for the existing cart, and, while I was at it fix the two things that always bugged me.

Before I started in on this project the cart looked like this...

The first thing I did was to build the outside frame rails. The trick here was to make them exactly the same size, with perfectly square corners and such that the top edges were level to the rest of the cart.

Once that was done, I added two cross braces. One in the front, and one in back. The only real trick here was keeping the outsides aligned and making sure I had room to open the side access panel on the welder so I'd be able to change the wire without removing the welder from the cart.

In the second picture below you can also see the difference in the length of the front and rear 'legs' of the frame rails. While having these unequal sides made aligning everything a bit more difficult it allowed me to better balance the additional load of the plasma cutter on the cart.

Then I added a handle. I angled it forward about 30 degrees, to ease access to the front panel of the plasma cutter, and just to lower the handle height a bit.

After I had everthing tack welded and lined up, I attached the 'legs' to the existing cart and finished welding all of the seams. Securing the legs to the cart helped keep everything aligned during this final welding as one of the problems in welding up a 3D object like this is the tendancy for the tubing to warp as it's heated and cooled.

I also added the 'pan' that the plasma cutter will sit on.

Once everything had cooled, I removed the new frame from the cart, ground the welds, cleaned and sanded all the steel and painted it a satin black to match the rest of the cart.

In these next two pictures you can see the four 'hooks' I added to allow me to hang the cables and cords when they're not in use.

Once the paint had dried overnight, I reassembled the frame to the cart and began storing the cable and cords on the 'hooks' I'd installed.

So there you have it... one customized welding cart...

Interestingly enough though, I hardly had it all put away before I started thinking about a couple of other 'enhancements' I should have made!!

Oh, and lest you think I'm so talented that this all went together without a hitch... the truth is it took me two tries, the first try warped during the final welding as I'd forgotten how steel will do that if it's not prevented from doing so byt being held in place!!

I've missed you all and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! With any luck, starting towards the end of next week I'll have time to blog on a more regular basis.

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