Archive for September, 2008


Unbelievable responsibility

   Posted by: Mark    in Our children, The Church

Yesterday I started listening to the first Holy Responsibility of Christian Fathers message in Art Azurdia‘s The Holy Responsibility Of The Christian Family series. My time was limited, and I only got about 20 minutes into the message, but that 20 minutes affected me more than imaginable. His text for all six messages in this part of the “Family” series is Ephesians 6:4. The two introductory questions with which he begins this specific subtopic for fathers are:

  1. Do you realize that in fathering a son or daughter, that God in his mysterious providence has given to you the ability to bring into existence a rational soul that will exist in all of eternity in Heaven or Hell? …Though sun, moon, and stars one day cease to shine, when we gaze upon that baby we are looking into the eyes of an everlasting spark that will never be put out. There is no power under God’s throne that could ever cause that soul to cease to exist.
  2. Do you realize that not only were you just the human source of the eternal soul of your child, but that even more serious, that because of you, that soul is stained by original sin and thus guilty before God?

He continues:

Here is the point. You as a father are directly responsible for the procreation of your children. Children who possess a soul that will endure for all eternity in Heaven or Hell. And secondly, you are the one directly responsible for setting its disposition in rebellion against God, rendering it guilty before God, you have passed your sin on to them, a sinful condition that will damn them to Hell apart from the intervening grace of God.

… You see, becoming a father is easy. It happens in a moment of passion. Being a father is something altogether different. It is nothing less than a taking up of a cross in a life of self-denial.

This promises to be a challenging and humbling series.


More of JD

   Posted by: Mark    in Our children

Just before Jeremiah headed to bed, I snapped another host of pictures. These are two of the best from that set:




Scouting with APP

   Posted by: Mark    in Activities

This past weekend my sister (of Amy Pearson Photography fame) suggested that our families meet up at a potential photo shoot site. What we found was all you could ask for if grunge/industrial is your thing. I absolutely loved it, and the kids enjoyed searching for “treasure” along the tracks.








Catching up

   Posted by: Mark    in Our children

I let myself get pretty behind on some image editing. So tonight I took some time to work through my “imported” folder and moved images to my “keep” folder. I must have deleted over 300 pictures that were completely unusable (half-open eyes, 3+ stops off exposure, and out of focus). Here are a few random ones from as far back as a month ago.








Building an MG-TC pedal car: Part 3

   Posted by: Mark    in Pedal car

In Part 1, I showed pictures of the basic frame of the car, as well as the mounting of the rear wheels. In Part 2, I showed the mounting of the front wheels and the mounting of a frame reinforcement plate at the rear of the frame to provide stability. In Part 3, I’m going to show how the fenders and body were assembled. I think this was the most exciting part for me, because it resulted in the pieces that provide the defining look of the car: huge roll fenders! These are what make the kids call this their “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” car.

Before I go into that, though, I want to mention again that so far, this series of posts has been a bit of catch-up, since the work to this point has been complete for some time. But I did make a significant new accomplishment this past weekend by finally affixing a rear wheel to the drive axle! I was able to temporarily attach the drive rods to the pedals, and the kids were even able to pedal around a bit! I can’t tell you how exciting that was. I’ll get more into this in the next post, I think, but I just had to at least mention it, since this was one of the primary stalling points in the project for me years ago.

And as I look at the sub-par appearance of some of this thing, I feel it necessary to re-iterate that the foundational premise of the original plans I am following is that “anyone can build this.” So of necessity, a lot of the construction is incredibly simplistic. I have already discovered so many things that could be done better, more cleanly, even more simply. I’ve always struggled with completing projects when they don’t look perfect, or fail to meet my expectations. But this time I’m pushing through to get it done, even though so much is imperfect. Anyway, that’s my disclaimer.

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have had the project completed up to this point. Because of that, I wasn’t able to completely disassemble the body and fenders, so the pictures go from “templates” to “finished body components” without any in-between pictures.

When I started on this part of the project, I really expected to whip the whole thing together, learn a lot, and then build another one. Because of that, I created templates out of a 1/8″ hardboard material so that I could create multiple pieces all exactly the same. I have templates for the front and rear fenders, front grill, body sides (this was out of 1/4″ plywood instead of hardboard), steering wheel, and windshield mount, all pictured here:



Using these templates, I traced outlines on 1/2″ plywood for most parts, except for the tops of the fenders, which are 1/4″ plywood because the thinner ply allows the shaping to the contours of the fender sides. Bending these along the fender contour was as simple as placing screws ever inch or two to slowly form the tops to the sides. I used Gorilla Glue as I went along, since my plan was to only use the screws in lieu of clamps to hold things together while it dried. Once the glue did dry, I took the screws out to allow for shaping the edges. Here are a couple of pictures I found from initial construction of the rear fenders before I took the temporary screws out:



To shape the edges, I cut out a little 1/4 round concave shape in cardboard to check my progress, and used a heavy rasp to take away wood. The cardboard cutout allowed me to rasp the wood for a bit, check the contour, and then work off a bit more where necessary. Once the rough contour was completed with the rasp, I took a 40 or 60 grit sandpaper on a longer block to even things out and provide some smooth, even lines. The results are shown here for the front and rear fenders:






The body is comprised of two full-length sides, the hood/top , a solid-wood front, the seat and rear, and a crossbar for hanging the pedals. I found a couple of older shots of the body in one of the earlier stages of construction:




The hood is 1/2″ plywood, which made it necessary to put some relief cuts on the bottom side. Near the back of the hood (the dashboard end) there is a series of cuts half-through the thickness for about half the length of the hood, allowing the rounded shaping. At the front of the hood (the radiator end), there is a single cut on the underside right in the middle to provide the sharp peak. The result is a really cool looking transition from a rounded shape near the back to a pointed shape at the front. Using the same process as was used to round the fenders (rasp, cardboard contour template, coarse sandpaper), I rounded the transition from the hood to the sides. The result looks like this:


The front of this will be covered with a single piece of plywood cut and painted to look like a radiator, which will clean up the appearance a bit and cover the extra steering holes.

There is still a lot of filling necessary before I can paint, and I’m not sure yet the best way to seal things, but I have a few ideas. (Suggestions for sealing and sanding plywood for a very smooth, non-grained finish would be much appreciated!) I’ll be able to provide some progress photos once I start on that process.

In the next post in the series I expect to address the finalization of the drive axle and the steering controls, though I have a little more work to do before I can share that.

Here are a couple of teaser shots of the body mounted on the frame, sans fenders:



The full Flickr set contains all of the pictures included in these posts, plus even more for additional detail. They also have descriptions on them that explain a bit more than I have been addressing in the series posts.

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Building an MG-TC pedal car: Part 2

   Posted by: Mark    in Pedal car

In Part 1, I showed pictures of the basic frame of the car, as well as the mounting of the rear wheels. In Part 2, I will explain and show the mounting of the front wheels.

I should start off by saying that this is not a go-cart, is not meant for high speed or heavy drivers, and is supposed to be basic enough to not require welding. And I’m learning enough with this go-around that I would likely not do a lot of this the same way a second time.

That said, the front wheel mounting mechanism outlined in the plans is really pretty neat and creative. A kingpin assembly is built up from a galvanized pipe T, with male reducers fitting into each end of the “top” of the T, and a three-inch length of pipe screwed into the “vertical” part of the T to allow for the tie-rod. The wheels are mounted by drilling through the T pieces perpendicular to the three-inch tie-rod post (study the pictures and it should make sense):


The T’s are then mounted “sideways,” with the reducers attached through the two 3/4″ thick wood cross-members to galvanized pipe caps. The wheels spin freely on their axles using the stock bearings (and the stock axles, which happened to be just long enough), and rotate left and right on the reducer threads for a very simple but effective steering mount.

I mentioned previously that some of the supplies available today in the big-box hardware stores are not of the same quality as the supplies available 20+ years ago when these plans were written. One example of this is the tie-rod that is supposed to be used to connect the two front wheels together (not shown in any pictures yet). The plans call for a threaded rod that mounts a steering rod receiver and is bent on both ends to fit into the steering arms on the kingpins. Unfortunately threaded rods today are incredibly cheap metal, and will invariably break when bent. But in the end I discovered that this is a very limited tie-rod design anyway, and allows for absolutely no adjustments after mounting. I surely don’t expect to be able to fully align the front wheels, but there is an advantage to being able to at least rough-tune the alignment.

After stopping at Coventry Cycle Works in Portland last weekend, I came away with some really great ideas for a steering mechanism (I was thoroughly impressed with this place, and am grateful for the assistance they provided!). I learned about a connection called a heim joint that is essentially a ball-and-socket assembly that allows more freedom of motion than a straight bolt and tie-rod might. If I build another of these cars, one of the changes will be in the steering assembly, and I would really like to mount the wheels differently and make use of a pair of heim joints. This would likely coincide with a much lighter kingpin assembly, too, since the galvanized pipe, although creative and cheap, is bulky, heavy, and a “brute force” solution instead of a “finesse” solution.

The cross members are spaced to allow them to slide over the front of the frame, and the top cross member is screwed to the frame sides. The notches in the frame just in front of the front wheel assembly are for the tie-rod, and will be covered with a strip of aluminum to provide a more finished look in the completed vehicle.





At this point, the frame is complete, the rear free-wheel is mounted, the drive axle is bent and mounted, and the front wheels are mounted. I still need to finish the mounting of the rear drive wheel, but will wait to address that in Part 4 since I’m not really sure how to do it yet.

The next post, Part 3, will cover the rough building of the fenders and body, and will get the series of posts caught up to where I actually am right now with the project.



Building an MG-TC pedal car: Part 1

   Posted by: Mark    in Pedal car

As mentioned in the Introduction, I purchased the plans for this pedal car project from Stevenson Projects a few years ago. These plans are at least 20 or 25 years old, and are not professional CAD drawings, but the good news is that they don’t need to be to be effective. They are detailed and clear where necessary. They claim that there are no special skills like welding necessary to build the car, and that may be true, but I deviated enough from the plans to get stumped in a few places.

As is my habit with things like this, I read the plans over completely at least three or four times after receiving them and before making any supply purchases. I knew from the start that I would be changing them in a couple of key areas, and wanted to be sure I understood the original intent of every step.

The supply list includes a number of items that I know now were constructed of much better raw materials when the plans were written than they are now, such as angle brackets and galvanized pipe fittings. But with some creative thinking and plenty of browsing at local hardware stores, I think I’ve been able to do okay with substitutes and a bit of trial and error.

The fundamental design of the car is based on the old, common pedal car drive mechanism: drive rods and a crank axle. The pedals move back and forth to crank the drive axle instead of in an orbit as standard bicycle pedals move. These pedals are tied via drive rods to a specially-bent rear crank axle that drives one rear wheel, with the second rear wheel spinning freely (without a differential, only one rear wheel can be the drive wheel or things will lock up when you attempt to turn). The frame is made of 1″ fir and 1/2″ plywood, and the body and fenders are almost exclusively 1/2″ and 1/4″ plywood.

Each front wheel is mounted on an ingenious assembly of cast iron pipe fittings that lets them rotate easily on the threads. Short arms extend from each assembly to provide an anchor point for the tie-rod.

The primary deviation I made from the plans was to choose real spoked bicycle wheels instead of the solid wood wheels detailed in the plans. Unfortunately, this seemingly-simple change was tied to the two most complex pieces of the project: the steering and the drive mechanism. By choosing wire-spoked bicycle wheels, I made the general wheel mounting instructions from the plans completely useless, and forfeited any obvious method for connecting the drive axle to a rear wheel. This is what derailed the project after my intial progress, and only after talking with some very knowledgeable folks have I been able to get back on track.

I started this project years ago, and it has sat, unfinished, in the garage. As a result, the freshly-cut look of the wood has been dulled with dust and piles of typical garage junk. But I have disassembled as much as I could, taken pictures to show progress, and reassembled things. The following subset of pictures shows some of the frame and rear wheel mounting progress. The full set with descriptions on each image is available on Flickr: MG-TC Pedal Car.







My next post in the series will show the front wheel assembly and mounting, and then on to the body and fenders.



Mt. Adams 2008

   Posted by: Mark    in Activities

Last Wednesday morning Chad and I left for the Cold Springs campground just outside Trout Lake. Our plan was to hike to Lunch Counter and set camp by about 5:00p, then summit Mt. Adams with lighter packs and do the full descent on Thursday.

Our packs were heavy, with Chad’s at about 55 pounds and mine around 45 or 50 pounds. I had six liters of water and the tent poles and spikes, and he had seven liters of water and the tent. Oh, and he had a metal fork, while mine was plastic. The weather was much more cool than we expected, and we didn’t end up using but about half of our water. Man, I wish I’d known that before we reached Lunch Counter. The ascent was tough for me, being so out of shape, but we made it in about six hours, knowing we didn’t need to rush.

Just before we broke the treeline (8100 feet?), we ran into a couple with a teenage son who were coming back down. They told us Lunch Counter was terrible, with winds approaching 75mph, and they had decided not to attempt a summit. We continued, with the wind ever increasing as we rose and broke various ridges. Numerous times we had to quickly throw our poles out to the side to keep from falling over as wind gusts caught our packs.

We met a few other groups climbing, all of them planning to spend the night around Lunch Counter and then to summit in the morning. We crossed the only ice field in our path just below Lunch Counter, but didn’t need to use crampons since it was soft from the afternoon sun.

After starting at Cold Springs campground at 11:00a at 5600ft, we reached the very top of Lunch Counter at 5:15p and 9500ft. The wind was unbelievable, but the rock shelters were sufficient to allow us to pitch the tent. We ate some hot dinner and then turned in at about 7:30p.

The night was noisy and restless, with the wind snapping and howling non-stop. It didn’t freeze, but it was chilly, and the noise helped insure we achieved little more than catnaps for an hour or two at a time all night. By 6:00a we were tired and a bit frustrated, but were blessed with one of the most amazing sunrises either of us had ever seen.

It was pretty easy to decide not to attempt a summit, since the wind was difficult to stand in, and we couldn’t see even half way up Piker’s Peak (11,600ft). We munched down some Clif bars, packed the tent, inventoried lost items (just the tent stuff-sack, which I didn’t get pushed deep enough into my bag to hide it from the wind overnight), and headed back down the mountain.

On our way down, we encoutered at least two of the groups that we’d seen the day before, and both groups decided the summit attempt was not worth the risk. We ran into numerous other groups headed up, one of which was attempting to summit for the third time this year after having been turned back twice already because of the weather. Another group had been up two weeks prior and was unable to summit because of the weather.

While we did feel a bit better that no one was attempting to summit, we were still a bit disappointed. Compounding the disappointment was the fact that our only opportunity to glissade, just below Lunch Counter, was lost because of the incredibly painful, pants-shredding patches of ice.

Regardless, the scenery was fabulous, and the opportunity to spend time away from work and responsibility for a couple of days with a Christian brother as encouraging and uplifting as Chad was a true blessing. And thanks, Chad, for slowing up your descent enough to let me feel like I could almost keep up.

Here are some of the pictures I captured with our little Panasonic (no way I was bringing the 40d). You can view the entire set on Flickr (with captions).

Mt. Adams 1

Mt. Adams 4

Mt. Adams 11

Mt. Adams 12

Mt. Adams 13

Mt. Adams 14

Mt. Adams 16

Mt. Adams 17

Mt. Adams 22

Mt. Adams 23


Building an MG-TC pedal car: Introduction

   Posted by: Mark    in Pedal car

A while ago I purchased plans for a MG-TC pedal car from Stevenson Projects (called the Pedal-TC). They apparently no longer sell these specific plans, but they do sell plans for two other pedal cars here. I’m awaiting a response on availability of the original plans, and will post info as soon as I receive a reply from them.

I am finally finishing this project. I started a few years ago, and let myself become distracted. Since the kids are not getting any younger and the unfinished car nags at me every time I look in our garage, I decided to finish this big “to-do.” And I know that once it’s complete, I will want to build another to make use of all that I’ve learned with this one!

I currently have most of the basic body complete, but am going to disassemble enough of it to show detailed pictures of various construction steps. Much of the construction is pretty basic, but as might be expected, the most difficult aspect of the car so far has been the steering and drive mechanisms. And although there are lots of resources out there on the web for building Human Powered Vehicles (HPVs), all are focused on the construction and use of a practical commuter or race vehicle, not a toy or “for fun” project. I have yet to find any resources for anything at all that is directly pedal/drive-rod powered but not chain-driven. This is pushing me toward making a chain-driven vehicle if I do build another of these fun toys, but for this first iteration the direct-drive was supposed to be more simple.

I’m going to set up a Flickr set for all of the pictures I take of this project. My hope is that this may become a bit of a resource for anyone out there attempting to build this vehicle or a similar one. I thought it might be fun to journal the construction, too, since there things I am learning along the way that will be of benefit later if only they can be remembered.

Stay tuned for the first construction pictures in the next post!

**** UPDATE: 3/2/2009 ****

I received an email from Pete at StevProj. It sounds like they are still hoping to update these plans and make them available for sale, but the large format of the plans and the lower volume might be raising the cost more than they want. No indication as to a timeline.

**** UPDATE: 5/18/2009 ****

I received another email from Pete Stevenson at StevProj and forgot to update this post with his info. He related that they now have the plans available for the MG-TC! I haven’t seen them on the StevProj site yet, but you can email Pete at the general StevProj address:

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