Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And Now For My Next Recreation...

As many of you know, I spent a little time in our Country's armed forces a couple of years back doing a variety of different jobs. One of those jobs included a stint as a track and wheeled vehicle mechanic (63H10/63W10). It was during this time that I was introduced to the M109A3 and that is the topic for this blog post!

The M109A3 is nothing more than the oldest workhorse in the US armed forces arsenal (i.e., the beloved Deuce-and-a-half general purpose truck) with a box trailer on the back. This deuce-and-a-half variant is used for one of three purposes:
1) An electronics repair truck
2) An armorer's repair truck
3) A mechanic's repair / part truck

One of the best things about being a 63H/W10 in the field is that you might get assigned to one of these vehicles and as such, you basically have a movable apartment with electricity, built-in lighting and a dry place to sleep while in the field. It was my privilege to be assigned to one of these vehicles for a number of years and it was during one of those times in the field when I decided I wanted to have one of the M109A3s for my own personal use. At the time it was a pipe-dream but it was one that has stuck with me through the years.

Fast-forward to three weeks ago; the religious holiday known in Arkansas as modern gun season for deer was just about to open and religious zealots (read as deer hunters) were out in force. It was one of these zealots that reminded me of my desire to own an M109A3.

Toni and Madison were running into one of our two local mega-merchant stores that are based out of Bentonville, AR and I was waiting in the parking lot for their speedy return when a privately owned deuce-and-a-half pulled into the parking lot loaded down for the deer woods! In that moment, I decided I knew why I wanted to own the M109A3 and that if this guy had a deuce-and-a-half that surely I could find a M109A3 for my own!

I whipped out my trusty iPad and started a quick internet search. Within minutes I had located several government auction sites and I had found two M109A series trucks for sale! I bookmarked their auction pages and started watching the auction site like a hawk looking for field mice. In the following days I plotted and planned exactly what I wanted to do with the M109A3 once I acquired it. I researched my vision and found several others who had gone before me and created very similar creations with their own M109A3s.

What had I envisioned so long ago and what did I want to do with an M109A3 should I acquire it?

Simple: create the ultimate hunting/camping RV!

Think about it; it is six wheel drive, runs on everything from used motor oil all the way up to turbine engine fuel (thanks to it multi-fuel system) and is next to impossible to get stuck! Couple all of that with the fact that you can pick one up for just shy of $5k and parts can be had from Memphis Truck Supply for next to nothing and you have yourself the ultimate off-road RV!!!

Still not convinced? Think of it this way, a Polaris Razor (a soupped up four-wheeler with seats) runs about $10K. It seats two people, cannot be driven on the road and is only good for driving around in the woods. Now, knowing that, wouldn't you rather invest in the ultimate off-road RV? Yeah, me too!

I let the first two M109A auctions expire without bidding on them to see how high they would sell for. I was hoping to see them sell for about $1,500 but one sold for $4,800 (it for sure ran and needed no mechanical work) and the other sold for $2,800 (based on the pictures I would have been surprised if it needed any mechanical work). Now I know what I will have to spend for one and after the first of the year I will be once again closely monitoring the government auction sites for a good M109A3 to go up for auction.

Keep checking back to find out how I fair in turning my pipe-dream into a reality!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Pencil iPad Stand Reloaded

So, many of you know that I am a huge technology geek and recently I received an iPad to do some testing with for my company. I absolutely love it but I have a big problem; no way to stand it up for viewing!

I did a lot of searching on the web and found a number of very nice stands for the iPad made from a variety of materials but I had no luck finding any of them in Central Arkansas!!!

During one of my late night searches I ran across this article at Geeky Gadgets:

In it the author talks about building a stand for his iPad using six (6) standard #2 pencils and four rubber bands. After reading it and reviewing the pictures I decided I could replicate his efforts, so... I staged a midnight raid of my youngest's art box and acquired six unused pencils. Next I went to the junk drawer (don't act like you don't have one) and retrieved four rubber bands and then went back to my office to try my hand at immolating what the author of the article had done.

In about six minutes I had the following stand created!

Now, I will tell you that I was very pleased with myself but that wore off in about 15 seconds when I realized that the stand was:
(a) Made of left over Halloween pencils, and
(2) did not aesthetically complement my beautiful iPad.

So as most of you can figure out, my OCD immediately kicked in and I began deciding how I could improve on this design and create something what would more closely resemble the design of the iPad. My thoughts turned to the things that make the iPad, well ... the iPad: Aluminum, glass and black plastic / rubber.

Obviously I could not use glass in my improved stand but the remaining two items I could. I decided that the legs or arms of the stand (depending on you preferred appendage) would have to be made out of aluminum and that the ends of the aluminum would have to be covered with black plastic or rubber for three reasons:
1) It would provide friction so the stand would not slide on the surface it was placed on.
2) It would provide friction so that the iPad would not slip off the stand.
3) It would protect the aluminum case of the iPad.

So I made a quick list of materials that I would need:
- Aluminum for the legs and arms
- rubber end-caps for the legs
- rubber around the resting surface of the arms for iPad.

Since I was not sure what size aluminum rod I would need I took some quick measurements of a standard pencil and used them at a guide. The pencils I was working with were 1/4" in diameter and 7-1/2" in length. I decided that the arms and legs of the pencil stand were a little short and needed to be a bit longer so I decided to make my aluminum ones 8" long (this would also make it easier to measure).

Deciding on the rubber coating to use for the iPad rest was easy; heat shrink splice covering. It is simple to put on, shrinks down to the right size when it is heated and can be found at most hardware and automotive stores.

The piece that had me stumped was the rubber end-caps. I was not sure what I would use for that but I was confident that I would find inspiration at the hardware or crafts store.

Armed with my materials list I set off to my local, big orange home improvement store during my lunch break the next business day. Immediately I ran into a road block; no 1/4" aluminum rods!

I asked a sales associate about it and he said they only carried zinc, threaded rods. I assured him that I had see on their website that they carried aluminum rods in the size I was looking for and he agreed to have the inventory checked. While he was doing that I started poking around the threaded rod display and low-and-behold I found two aluminum rods! However, they were not 1/4", they were 3/8" in diameter...

When the sales associate returned he informed me that they quit carrying the aluminum rods because they did not sell enough of them but he did show that they had two, 3/8" aluminum rods still in stock somewhere. I pull the two from the display and explained that I had already found them and then I headed on my merry way.

My next stop was in electrical for the heat shrink. Problem #2; no heat shrink in the right size! No problem, I decided I would just get it from another store so I moved on to tackling the rubber end-caps for the legs.

Again, no joy! They had end-caps in white (but none in black) and the smallest size they had was 1/2"! In the immortal words of Ralphie from "A Christmas Story"; Skunked again!

Feeling like Alfalfa after being turned down by Darla (yes, a Little Rascals reference) I decided to do what any man in my situation would do and go look at the power tools (yes, power tools are the cure-all for men)! While standing there looking at the new Dremel 360 I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that caught my attention. It was a hand tool with a rubber handle... Let me say that again: a RUBBER handle!

That one tool reminded me about a product I had seen in the paint aisle a few weeks earlier that was for repairing the rubber handles on tools & truck bed liners! I quickly rushed over to the paint department and when I picked up the can I heard Angels sing and a heavenly light shown down on the can! It was called "Plasti Dip"!!!

The whole purpose of this product is to allow you to take basically anything you have and put a rubber coating on it! This one product solved my two previous problems in one fail swoop! I could use the Plasti Dip to create the rubber resting surface for the iPad AND I could use it to create feet on the legs as well!

The next four hours at work were excruciating! All I could think of was getting home and getting to work on my master piece! When I finally got home I frantically pulled my tools out of the garage so that I could immediately begin working. I used the following tools:
- A tape measure
- A retractable Sharpie
- A hack saw
- A pair of wood clamps
- A small metal file

First I marked off four (4), 8" sections on one of the aluminum rods and an additional two (2), 8" sections on the other. This would give me the six (6) total rods I would need for my stand. I clamped the rod down and used the hack saw to cut it up. Once I had all the sections cut, I used the metal file to smooth the ends and remove any burs or spurs I had created when I cut the rod down.

Next I washed the soon-to-be arms and legs of the stand off with soap and water to remove any aluminum dust or shavings that might be on it and would interfere with the adhesion of the Plasti Dip.

My next challenge was to figure out how to consistently dip each leg to the same depth in the Plasti Dip. The answer was simple - disposable drinking cups. I used two for this: One I filled with 1" of Plasti Dip and the other I filled with 3" of Plasti Dip. The former was for the feet of the legs, the later was for the resting surface on the arms of the stand.

I did a test run with a scrap piece of aluminum rod to try and work out the kinks in the process. Once I was satisfied I would get the results I was looking for, I began dipping each part of the stand. Once I had all the parts dipped and dried I decided to put it togeth... CRAP! How was I going to secure the arms & legs together?

I know what many of you are thinking, "just use the same green rubber bands I used on the pencil stand". That was NOT an option for me. My solution: braces rubber bands!!!

My nephew had a few hundred left over from when he had braces and willingly gave me all the UNUSED ones I wanted. I took a handful of them (because I was not sure how they would grip or if they would break or how many I would need) and headed back to my house to begin experimenting with them. Unfortunately, those turned out to be too small and too weak for my purposes. Then my brilliant wife gave me an idea; hair rubber bands!

We ran to our locale all-in-one retailer that is based out of Bentonville, Arkansas and found exactly what I was looking for: Goodies Assorted Black Rubber Bands.

After about fifteen minutes I got it all working and this is what it looks like:

Sleek, shiny and perfectly matched to my iPad!

Finally, here is a shot with both the prototype stand and my completed stand.

Let me know what you think of my creation!