Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bad engineering, bad designers, or both

I got the doors put up on the shed today, after a fair amount of cursing and threats. Big problem is the sliders the doors hang from. They're nylon pieces that fit inside the track. There is a pin and a hole on each; the hole accepts the screw that holds the door in place and the pin fits into a hole in the door right next to where the screw goes.


In fact, a: the pin is so short that if you tighten the screw down enough to pull it into place, the door won't move. Loosen it enough to move, and the pin falls out and the slider turns and jams the door.


I had to drill a hole in the center of each pin and put in a screw to hold the damn sliders in alignment. This led to the next discovery. There are screws holding the track/front frame assembly together, on the top & bottom. The sliders have slots in them to slide over these.


I'm going to have to put a grinding point in the Dremel and cut the screws down very close to the steel so they'll clear. And I'll take an old toothbrush and some paste wax and coat the inside of the track. Between them, the damn things should slide fairly smoothly.

It would have been a lot easier if they had a: made the sliders rectangular and a closer fit to the track, they could have cut the slots to clear the screws wider AND it would be more stable; b: made the bleepin' pins long enough to fit. Oh, I know why they didn't. They'd have to make two left and two right pieces, instead of four identical pieces that you turn to fit. Cheap bastards.

But the damn thing's up now.

I shall now pontificate on Safety

Yes, the with-a-capital-S Safety. That concept that is being taken to an extent that may do us all in eventually.

I realized I didn't know the actual dictionary definition of the word, so I looked it up and found
"the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss"
followed by
"a device (as on a weapon or a machine) designed to prevent inadvertent or hazardous operation".

Let's take the first one. It's a good idea to keep people 'safe'; the problem is with the extent it's being taken to. All too often it's not good enough to put a safety feature on a piece of machinery. You have to try to foresee every single thing, including the stupid and unthinking, that someone might possibly do that would allow someone to get hurt. Which is both damn near impossible, and can make it hard to actually use the equipment. This is related to the idiot warnings you find on just about everything. Some morons decide to pick up a running lawn mower and use it to trim the hedge; they slip and take various injuries and sue the lawnmower company for not having a sticker on the mower telling them that this is a bad idea. They can't figure out this is a bad idea on their own?!? But it doesn't matter that they got hurt by doing something self-evidently stupid; the company should have foreseen that they would and put a warning on the mower! Never mind that these idiots would have done it anyway, "You should have put a sticker on the mower deck" says the court while awarding the morons a pile of money. We've gotten away from the idea of "I will make a machine that will efficiently do a job, and I will use good materials and design; using it in a safe manner is in your hands". Instead, thanks to lawyers, idiots and judges we have "It doesn't matter how well it is designed and made, if someone does something dumb with it it's your fault for not somehow magically preventing harm from occurring. Which drives up the price- insurance and legal costs, you know- and leads to machinery being made in ways that either makes it a pain to use, or makes it harder to use. All in the name of 'Safety'.

Let's take that 'keep people safe' idea further. How 'safe'? and what exactly do you mean by that? I've seen proposals to ban or restrict ownership of or greatly modify everything from motor vehicles to bicycles to knives to guns to... the list goes on and on. All by people who care about 'safety'(and supposedly crime control in some cases; with some things they seem to go together in some minds) and have little concern for actually getting things done. Many tools are inherently dangerous: a knife of any kind without a sharp edge and/or point is useless; a saw made so 'safe' that you cannot cut yourself on it may not be useable, and so forth. Up until fairly recently it's been accepted that use of many things carries risk, and it's up to you to take care with it, but over the last while far too many people expect someone else to think for them and keep them 'safe'. This has basically resulted in people standing up in court and saying "I don't have any working brain cells and cannot think, so it was up to the X company to think for me and keep me from getting hurt". I personally would be too damn embarrassed to stand up in court and say "How was I to know that if I picked up a running mower, I might get hurt?", but get a lawyer and dollar signs in someone's mind, and lots of people do it. And it raises costs for everyone.

This hooks into the 'prevention principle' that's a big thing with the European Union; that you should prove something is completely safe before it can be sold/used. That is, without doubt, one of the most idiot ideas to come down the road. Everything has dangers. Every chemical, every tool, every method of conveyance. All of it. Chemicals that keep bugs out of our food, and help cure diseases, that help aches and pains; tools that build civilization; ideas themselves; ALL of them have dangers. Make yourself 'safe' from them, and you'll be back in a hovel with wolves prowling the edges of the fields, wondering if there isn't a better way to live. But there are a bunch of people, some simply well-meaning but some actively using this as a way of controlling people, who are pushing it. Hard.

How about the second part, "a device (as on a weapon or a machine) designed to prevent inadvertent or hazardous operation"? This has led to things like the 'safety button' on my circular saw that has to be depressed to turn it on. It used to be that you could, once you had it on, push a button that would lock it 'on' so you could move your hand around as needed, but that wasn't 'safe' enough. So if you shift your hand around the damn thing may turn off. Pain in the ass at times.

It's also leading the 'safe gun' concept that a bunch of people are pushing. I'll say this right off: I will not cooperate with this crap. I have no intention of being restricted to a firearm that will only operate for me, or only if I'm wearing my magic bracelet or whatever. Besides the idiocy of having a weapon that will not operate unless you go through a proper 'safe operating' sequence or wear the right devices, it's a direct threat to ownership of arms. If you are only allowed to have a gun that only you can fire, you can't take your kids to the range with it, because they can't fire it. At best, it would mean having some government minion 'approve' you adding your kid's information into the database on the firearm; at worst it means said minion says 'no', and you're screwed. And if you work around it, you've violated the law and they'll take your arms away if they find out, because you cannot be trusted to 'safely' use said arms- in their opinion. And since they control the law, their's is the opinion that counts, isn't it?

I'll point out a further thing I read somewhere: a gun with 'smart' tech built in needs a battery. So the government, for 'safety' and crime control, dictates what battery will be used. Which means they can control the supply, and if you can't get the battery, for whatever reason, you are screwed.

Not to mention that the simple fact that if you need a gun, it will often be under the worst circumstances, when you may not have your magic bracelet available. Or may have crud on your hand that would prevent the sensors from confirming you are the authorized user for the firearm, and so forth. Which is why all of the 'smart gun' legislation I've heard of exempts law enforcement from complying. It's not good enough for the minions of the state, but quite good enough to force on the peasants.

It all boils down to people being held responsible for their own actions, which is why I don't know if it'll get better or not. There's a lot of momentum toward people not being responsible for themselves, and halting or reversing it- even a little bit- is iffy. If it continues the way it has, we'll all be so damn safe that we can't do anything.

Crime and guns in Britain and Europe

Over at Smallest Minority(I know, I go there a lot; he has a lot to read) there's this about British crime figures. Basically, a retired cop talked about how many gun-related crimes are not officially reported so they're not listed in crime figures, so the situation is worse than the official number say. And the 'professional standards' unit sends people to talk to you. Because they want to know who talked to you. Screw the facts, we need to know who's not toeing the line and making us look bad. Just wonderful.

He also has this, on a man beaten to death in his business. An attack that took fifteen minutes, in an area that supposedly had a 'heightened police presence' in the time prior to the attack.

No Quarters has this on the theft of 'up to 150 Glock pistols' from a high security air base in the Netherlands. It took place over the weekend, and wasn't discovered 'till Monday. Sheesh. Maybe they need better 'safe storage' laws over there, huh? This reminds me of something from about ten years ago, I believe also in the Netherlands. A guy on guard duty was robbed- of his Uzi- by two guys with a crossbow, who held him until his relief came, and took his subgun too. Ain't it just wonderful over there?

I'm curious. Does anyone know anything about firearms laws in the 'new Europe' countries? I'm wondering if the citazens there have some right to arms, or if they're still going by the 'we will tell you peasants what you will be allowed to own' attitude.

By the way, No Quarters has some other good stuff, take a look around.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Carnival of Cordite is up

over at Gullyborg.

Right now it's cloudy, cold and threatening rain, and I've got to be at work very late tonight. Or very early tomorrow, or whatever.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

The shed is up!

And I'm done. In more ways than one.

All but the trim on the edges and the doors is complete, and I'll finish that tomorrow. I need another piece of plywood for the flooring, but that's no big deal.

Then I can move some stuff out of the garage and into it, which will free up some space. And get the mower out of the weather. The dog won't set foot in it so far, we'll see if that holds. And I may have to put some screening around the base to keep the squirrels and such out come fall, we'll have to see.

Damn, I'm glad this part is done.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Tool & material sources

Note: I started this the other night, and ran out of time. I'm too worn out tonight to dig around for more sources, so I'm going to post this and add to it later.

After some of the earlier posts, I thought I'd list a few of the places I get stuff from.

Enco Power tools, hand tools, sanding/grinding belts, steel & brass bar stock.

BrownellsPrimarily a gunsmith supply company, some steel stock. The big items here are polishing/finishing supplies such as buffing wheels, buffing compounds, blueing & browning compounds, etc. They also have some books called Gunsmith Kinks, tips on all kinds of stuff from customers. Some of it can be applied quite well to knives, etc. They also have some heavy-duty epoxy that will stick just about anything together. It ain't cheap, and you have to mix it properly, but it works.

Centaur Forge Blacksmith & farrier supply house, just about everything from forges and hand tools to machine tools, bar stock, books, etc. Can also order custom punches for marking pieces.

Harbor Freight Import company with lots of hand tools, sanding belts/cloth/paper, buffers, grinders, etc. Bad thing is a lot of their stuff is imported from the PRC, so I try to pick stuff made elsewhere.

Salvage yards Mostly mild steel bar & sheet, you can also find rebar(tent stakes, stands for bird feeders) and other stuff. Leaf and coil springs make good blades and punches and chisels, and can be found here. Don't think just car/truck springs, either; I've used overhead garage door springs of different sizes for all kinds of things.

Don't discount local hardware places, and check the phone book for industrial supply houses. They'll often have some buffing wheels and compounds, and may have buffers, or a grinder you can convert. And of course they'll have drill bits, files and so forth. Note: in drill bits, buy the best you can. They'll last longer, especially drilling high-carbon steel. Even if it is annealed, that stuff is hard. On the subject of drilling, use a cutting oil; the drilling will be easier and the bits will last longer. Brownells has a stuff called Do-Drill that works quite well, and the nice thing is that unless you do a LOT of drilling or machining, one can will last for years.

Various thoughts & information from others

on gun ownership, GFW's, and crime.

First, over at Smallest Minority, Kevin goes into the differences between 'good' and 'bad' gun cultures, and how the Good was destroyed in England.

Then, he goes over the crap out of the Violence Policy Center over the 'Assault Weapons Ban' and why a: they don't think it was a ban and b: why they pushed it anyway, and want it back. Lying little bastards.

Then over to Rivrdog, for this roundup of the wonders of gun control(more properly 'citazen disarmament') in various places. Including what's happening with the crime rates in Australia. As you might expect, following Britain's lead in making the ownership of arms and the right of self-defense crimes, their crime rates are shooting up. Literally.

I repeat what I said before, the only reason for the government to want to ban/restrict the ownership of arms is because a: the Lords of the Country don't think the peasants are trustworthy enough to own them, and/or b: they plan on doing things they know you won't like, and they don't want you to have the ultimate means of saying "no". I'll add that the only reasons some people want them banned are the two above and mental illness; as in 'I cannot be trusted with arms, so no one else can be, either'. Jeff Cooper calls in 'hoplophobia', for fear of weapons and the ownership of them. Anymore, I just call it being full of shit.

As an aside, this stuff is making my language go downhill. Sorry 'bout that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Steel, back when

I mentioned before how much easier it is to get steel today. Click the mouse a few times or pick up the phone and place an order, or drive to a supply house or salvage yard and pick it up. But not that long ago...

Iron, after it was discovered how to refine it from ore, wasn't always rare but it was not something you wasted. Bits trimmed off a piece were saved, worn-out horseshoes went into the scrap pile for use later, any piece of iron was saved and re-used. Steel, on the other hand, was a whole 'nother matter.

In its' most basic form, steel is pure iron with a little carbon added. As little as 1/10 of one percent carbon changes the iron, makes it stronger. 1/2 of one percent makes a steel that can be hardened by quenching and is much more wear-resistant. More carbon adds more resistance to wear, and- generally- more use as a cutting tool. Back when, this was the steel available, when it was available, which in some areas wasn't often.

This, by the way, was one of the reasons the sword became the tool of a gentleman and other people higher up on the social scale. An axe can be made of iron with a small piece of steel for the cutting edge, a usable spear point can be made of iron; but a sword requires steel in large amounts and the knowledge, materials and time to work it.

For the smith in a village or many small cities, they might well have to make their own steel. They did this by a process called case-hardening. Basically, take a bar of iron, coat it with a paste made of charcoal and maybe bone meal and other stuff, coat it with clay to seal it and put it in the fire. They didn't know how it worked, but they knew it changed the iron to steel. What happens is that when you hit the magic temperature/critical temperature/ the structure of the metal opens up; when the piece is sealed in with carbon-bearing materials, the carbon can migrate into the metal, changing it from iron to steel. The longer you keep it at heat, the further it can migrate into the piece. If you had the resources you could make a clay chest, fill it with iron rods and the carbon source material, seal it and make a bunch of steel rods at once.

Now, this is a very uneven process. A bar can come out mostly steel on one end, far more iron core with a skin of steel on the other. So someone figured out that if you fold the bar over and weld it a few times, it evens out the quality and makes a superior product. And so it went for a long time in much of the world. You could also take a steel bar, laminate it with an iron bar, and weld & fold them for the same effect.

Done right, this can produce marvelous steel and tools, but it is time & resource intensive, so- of course- shortcuts were taken. An axe or spearpoint could be made of iron & case-hardened, producing a steel skin that could be hardened & tempered, for instance. Of course, if you sharpened the edge from both sides, you quickly wore through the skin and had a soft iron edge. Often the two materials were combined in truly wonderful ways(the Sutton Hoo sword, for instance). Japanese swords were made by a laminating process, and built up of separate pieces with different numbers of folds and welds. The number of folds influenced both the carbon content of the piece, and the hammerwork involved adds something to the pieces itself.

Note: some years back I read where some people sacrificed an old Japanese blade by cutting it up so the different sections could be analyzed as to content. Everyone had thought the edge would be a super-high carbon content, but it wasn't; it was only about .5 percent. It's cutting ability came from the refining hammerwork and very careful temperature control in the hardening process, the great strength from the softer pieces reinforcing it. Also noted was that this would explain the fact that there were definate no-no's involved in using one, as a powerful strike with the blade hitting at a bad angle could bend the blade; there wasn't enough carbon involved in the entire blade to make it more springy.

The laminating and welding process(pattern-welded steel) was often known in the west as Damascus. Not because any came from there, but because of a truly incredible steel that came through there on the trade routes from India(primarily) and a couple of other places. Pattern-welded blades, if washed with acid after polishing, show a pattern from the different layers; this stuff from the east had a pattern but it was in the steel itself, which was a single homogenous piece. More properly known as Wootz, it had(and has) an incredibly high carbon content for a steel, and would cut and hold an edge like nothing else on earth. Sometime in the 80's a smith named Al Pendray got together with a metallurgist and decided to make some. Lots of experimenting later, using only materials available back when, they succeeded. Pendray reported that it was a cast-iron bitch to forge(my words, he was quite a bit more polite); it was very hard to move under the hammer, and if a wind blew across it as you were working and cooled it just a bit too much, the next blow might crack it. But the end result was worth it: blades with a watered patterning on the surface, that would take an extremely fine edge and hold it in use.

Centuries later, an English clockmaker had a problem. He needed very precise springs for his work, but the best steel available wasn't quite good enough; some if it was a LOT not good enough. And he had an idea. He case-hardened some rods to make them into steel, broke them into pieces, sealed them in a crucible and melted them in a furnace. When cooled, he worked the steel out and wonderful! Steel of even quality throughout, that could be made into the springs he needed. This stayed his trade secret for years, and then it got out. I've heard that in years to come one of the ways this would be worked was to case-harden large bars, quench them, break off the steel skin and melt it to produce the superior product.

Starting in the late 1800's, they figured out how to use a blast furnace to purify iron and then add the alloying elements in to make steel, and now you can get all kinds. Water, oil and air hardening, shock-resistant, stainless, etc. For literally pennies a pound for stuff people a few centuries ago might have killed for.

Bill Mauldin

If you haven't heard of him, you've missed something. He travelled around Europe with U.S. forces writing for Stars and Stripes, and created Willie and Joe: two GI's in all their muddy, unshaven, hit-the-dirt glory. After the war he did political cartoons and several books.

During the first Gulf War, he went to Saudi to meet a lot of the troops and look around at how they were doing things. I've always regretted he didn't do a book about it; the cartoons would have been wonderful.

He died last year, after a long & bad illness. If you're not familiar with him, check out this: it has a few of his cartoons from the war.

Note: in Oklahoma City is the 45th Infantry Division Museum, and it has a lot of his original drawings, well worth seeing if you're in the area.

If you're interested in a Martini

you might check here in the rifle section. It's where I got mine, and he seems to have gotten a bunch in recently.

If you find one, and you don't have a FFL, you'll have to have it shipped to a license holder of course, but it's one of the few places you'll find these rifles.

Damn birds

Unlike Steve, I have none inside the house. I'm referring to the featherbrains outside. The channel I added to the carport to take care of a problem last year? At least one has built a nest in it, and since there may be eggs in it, I don't want to just rip it out. And in another section, I can hear baby birds cheeping, which means there's a nest built into that corner. Where it's at, they may survive the first real hard rain, but the ones in the channel I added probably won't. 'Probably' being the operative word, so I'll leave it there. It may still drain well enough that they'll be ok, in either case I'll clean it out in a month or so.

Good part? Also unlike Steve, they're not sitting behind me making comments, or crapping on me. Points for my side!

Monday, April 25, 2005

What makes a favorite?

A favorite anything. Gun, knife, guitar, bike, car, whatever. What is that often indefinable something that makes it your favorite? And how would you describe it?

You know what I'm talking about. You pick something up and, wow. It's like it was made to fit you, or knows what you're going to do and helps. A gun that seems to steady itself as you aim; a knife that slips into your hand and cuts like it had its' own guidance system. A guitar that lets your hands slip along without effort. A car that makes it seem you can feel the road and what's going to happen as you drive.

And what makes that one different? You can pick up two of the same thing: same model, same everything, and while one feels like it was meant for you the other feels like junk. Maybe not junk, maybe just not as good in some way you cannot describe.

I've got a Tacoma guitar that I thought about for nearly a month, and then drove a hundred miles to buy. I just couldn't forget how it felt to play it, the sound it produced, and I wanted it. Still have it. Unless something happens that I just cannot play it anymore and I give it to one of my kids, I'll have it 'till I die.

Any ideas?

Ok, even if she IS a cartoon,

I want Sam. Especially after seeing

Speaking of Luddites...

Sondrak had this posted. Two empty-headed acrtresses speaking in glowing tones of the wonders of no electricity, walls of dung, etc.

Of course, they get to leave and return to power, and computers and clean water and central heat & air. The 'lucky people' they so envy will still be living with no medicine other than herbal, and no power and no clean water and no sanitation. And will die sooner than they should because of it, and lose their teeth early and so forth.

If these two idiots think it's so wonderful, why don't they stay? They wouldn't be missed here.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

More on Best Buy, and other general stuff

Remember the guy who got arrested for trying to pay a bill at Best Buy with $2 bills? Well, Geek with a .45 just had them refuse to sell him a radio-on one of their own gift cards- unless he gave them his phone number and address. I don't normally shop there, simply because I can usually find what I'm looking for at a better price elsewhere. But this goes far beyond that; they have no business demanding your personal information before they'll sell you something. Oh, they can demand it, and people can put down the merchandise, put up their money and walk out the door. After this last couple of pieces about them, I won't go there again. Ever.

Smallest Minority linked to a nice piece on how to build a tactical sling, for a lot less than you'd pay for one pre-made. Very nice.

The BBC has been a general pain in the ass for a long time, with even many of their defenders admitting that they slant the news(to say the least). Now they do this, and claim that it's a study of 'heckling'. You have to pay a fee in Britain to own a tv, even if you don't watch it, and they fine people for watching without their permit, and the money goes largely into funding the BBC. They ain't getting their moneys worth.

I really overdid it the day I got the shed kit. I'm still sore in the back & legs, mostly I think from the concrete blocks. I've got about 15 of them still to set in place for floor support, then that's done. Then all I'll need is someone with a day to spare helping, and a day without the wind trying to blow us away. But first, I get over the soreness.

I need a day at the range. I've got a good selection of slugs to try in the Benelli, and a sandbag to put between the butt and my shoulder. 12 guage slugs from a benchrest are not a lot of fun. And I want to see if I can shoot well enough to get into Og's postal match for May. My last practice wasn't so hot, but I think lack of sleep had something to do with it, so we'll see.

The first spring after I moved into the house, I planted a pecan tree. You're supposed to plant trees in the fall, so they have the fall & winter to set roots, but you cannot find trees to plant in the fall, at least not around here. So I planted this one in the spring. It grew a little over a foot between planting and winter, and it's leafed out nicely now with new branches growing. I planted a couple of mini-rose bushes in the area around it, and found a third yesterday. I think it'll look nice. And the Mr. Lincoln roses I built a bed for and planted last year? They're a good three feet high and have buds and blossoms all over them. I love the scent of these, and the roses are truly lovely. And the blackberry I planted in the back is growing nicely, too.

And so it goes.