Posted by: silverback | 2010/04/09

self-fulfilling prophecy?

i’m a believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy. i had no idea what that was going to bring me when i named this here blog. the number of mechanical projects i’ve become engaged in since starting in January has increased exponentially; so much so that i’ve begun to get weary.

in January, i was in the midst of rebuilding my track bike, if you remember. that job actually became two, as my friend Joel’s bike needed a rebuild at the same time. it is still not done – more on that in a moment. meanwhile, i got mine back together in plenty of time with no, as in zero, hitches.

coincidentally with working on my own projects in the evenings, February marked the commencement of a major retooling and process improvement to the packaging machine i designed and built last year. we’ve run one major trial with Kraft Foods in the process of commercializing Smart Bottle technology. the intention of that initial trial was to prove out the manufacturing process on our prototype packaging machine. it was never intended for production quantities. in February of this year, it became evident that the vendor Kraft chose to build their production machinery was having problems. since i have the broadest pool of experience with Smart Bottle machines in the world (since we own the only operational one, which i built), i was tasked to pitch in and “help” Kraft’s vendor get their sealing die built.

in the first week of February, i was shipped what amounted to a large crate of parts with no assembly instructions. i was provided a set of 3D CAD files and given two weeks to finish the job and deliver back to Houston a working seal die assembly that i did not conceive or design. in the process i made a number of improvements to the vendor’s engineering so that the damn thing would actually work. goal accomplished, after more than a few twelve-hour days.

after a short break in Jennings, Florida, riding (and crashing – but only once) the freshly rebuilt track bike, i was back in front of the CAD machine. it became clear that despite my efforts, the machine builder would still not be ready to run production trials within an acceptable time window. since my company owns a working Smart Bottle machine, it was decided that we would retool to Kraft’s production bottle size and run their operator-testing samples for them. sounds simple enough, but designing radically different new parts to work correctly with old parts is challenging, and there’s always one or two seemingly insignificant aspects of the design that turn out to be grossly incompatible. i CAD-ed out the new parts and sent the files and drawings off to the machine shop on the 15th of March, with an April 1st projected start date. the parts had to be machined, hard-teflon coated, and assembled to the ready-to-run machine in two weeks. while i was doing the design work during the day, several nights a week for the first couple weeks of March, i was also building bicycles for Motion Makers‘ new Asheville location, at the rate of five or so new bikes per night.

also on about the 15th, my wife’s new-to-her Toyota 4Runner blew its head gasket. since she had traded her Ducati to a friend for it, he volunteered to “help” get the repair done. we brought it in and started tearing it down. i was already working ten-hour days, why not add a few more hours at the end of the day? Joel’s R6 had also been languishing in the corner, a victim of neglect, so he and i decided that since i was going to be there anyway, we might as well get it put back together.

are you keeping count?

for the last two weeks of March, i was engaged in at least three major mechanical projects at any given time. i would work on assembly/disassembly/modification/reassembly of the bottle machine during the day, then simultaneously work on assembly of the machine, assembly of Joel’s motorcycle, and disassembly/repair of the 4Runner after normal working hours.

there’s good news and bad news. i was able to get the bottle machine operational by the deadline. of course, we were assembling late into the evening of March 31st, but the machine fired off and all the improvements were actually improvements – because sometimes, you know, “improvements” aren’t. we had a nice long Easter weekend, then a largely-successful production run on our prototype machine. we only trashed 30% of the finished product – a 50% improvement from our initial 2009 sample run, on a machine that was never intended for production.

the R6 wouldn’t start. still hasn’t started. it’s baffling. we tore it all the way back down to the cams and timing chain to double check that we assembled it correctly. it has strong spark and fuel to the carbs. it’s theoretically “back together,” and there’s no reason why it should still be sitting there, but it is. i’ve never experienced so much self-doubt about my own abilities to make things work as i have with this stupid motorcycle. i put my Suzuki back together from the same state of complete disassembly and it fired off as if it had never been apart. this Yamaha is thwarting me.

the 4Runner started right up after its “repair,” but alas, we neglected to throw a straightedge on the heads and double-check them for warpage. that’ll teach me to cavalierly assume everything is fine. it is still blowing steam once warm, indicating a head gasket leak remains. fuck. the job will go much faster the second time around.

in the midst of the madness, Laura’s other car blew its voltage regulator, stranding her at the grocery store on the very day she had picked it up from the Mercedes mechanic servicing its transmission. three or four days later, my otherwise stalwart Ford Powerstroke Excursion (and our only running vehicle at the moment) finally dropped its fuel pump. this i had honestly been expecting – just not this week. replacing the fuel pump on my truck in the parking lot at work on a cool windy spring day is less than a good time.

a life mechanical indeed – some days moreso than others.

perhaps i should rename this blog “an uneventful evening,” or “sweet singletrack adventures,” or “filthy rich with little or no effort?” i’m just not sure how much more i can take.

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Responses

  1. No one I have ever met would have been able to handle HALF of these mechanical projects in such a timeframe. PROPS.

  2. wow


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