Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cancer Report 04 -- Exercising -- Walking

"You might want to increase your exercising," the physician said. It was the last thing he said as he left the examining room, a parting shot aimed neatly across my bow. Before I could locate a blunt object with which to belabor him about the head, the door was swinging closed and the glow of adulation was slowly oozing away. "He's sooo nice," she oozed, about the same time I discovered the ophthalmoscope in the top drawer the door was closed, my fate decided as my wife's magic fingers did their curly-whoopty-full-stop-Do, which in short-hand would be translated onto our account of the Visit to The Doctor's Office, every neuance of which was recorded not only by Mr. Gregg's Secret Writing but recorded on a chip the size of my thumbnail, which was good for a year or more of Visits. (Why the double-down & dirty? Because I can't spell Dexamethasone any better than Lisinoprille but my wife could, although I secretly suspect she looks them up in the PDR (Physician's Desk Reference... buy one; it'll change your world).

So there I am, doomed to an increase in my exercising. So... how much? How often? What type? And on and on and in inestimablity that would succumb to the guns of my wife's attack upon the physician's hapless assistant.

Which it does. I am doomed to twenty-five laps around the patio, into which I am wearing a discernible trail. I'm serious! My poor cancer afflicted body is literally wearing a groove into our patio!

...and something terribly wrong with the blogging software.... again. Not only will it NOT turn itself on at certain times, at others it fails to turn itself OFF, leaving you to write in Italics for the remainder of your days.

Ah, well...

See the priddy pitcher at the top of the page? Note the figure '104' on the counter? (Just tap the picture. It will fill the screen and you'll be able to read the numbers.) That is the DISTANCE of one trip around the patio. One hundred and four feet. Thirty-one point two six three Meters. Five trips per day equals 156.313 meters. That's more than a kilometer per week! (1.094 Km). In a month I will have traveled 7.658 kilometers.

That's 520 feet per day. I can already feel my knees starting to crumble. Five hundred and twenty feet per day is 3,640' per week... 2.75 MILES in a month!

Like the man said, it's the side-effects that get
s you.

-R.S. Hoover


I am now spending so much time in my patio that I've decided to give each of its districts a unique name. For example, the concrete portion between the sliding glass doors to the living room and the REAL door into the kitchen has been named Metropolis. It is this section of my patio from which I occasionally see a man removing his clothing in a telephone booth. The man then LEAVES his clothing IN the telephone booth, steps out of the booth, LEAPS INTO THE AIR and vanishes. But that isn't the part which is truly fantastic (and why I know it can't be real.) You see, his pile of clothing, including his wallet and a pair of heavy, horn-rimmed spectacles, REMAINS in the phone booth and is NEVER PILFERED!!!

Having a fellow leap into the air wearing some kind of costume, did not alarm me. After all, this is Southern California. Mexico is little more than a border away. Masked and caped crusaders are a common sight in Mexico. Indeed, they have become virtually a national tradition. Having a few of them leak across the border should come as no surprise, just as having them vanish into the sky brings only a shrug. (Here, I'll put one in ) There. Now you know how to do it when you come to write your next Radio Play. Of course, no one will bother to read them. So send them to more radio stations. Get someone to play the role of your Announcer and record them yourself! Now you can offer them to the SAME radio stations which rejected them. And to Colleges, hospitals, banks and so forth. Just keep in mind that dashing adventure heros in skin-tight costumes are my particular genre!

Stay tuned as our intrepid (but Cancer-prone) Explorer leaves civilization behind as he plunges into the seamy bowels of the City.



is one section of our patio that, quite frankly has me buffaloed. After making a sharp turn around a pile of flag stones, my path -- when traveling west-ward -- takes a sudden downward dip, resulting in an abrupt and completely uncontrollable, increase in my speed. So there I am, plodding along, thinking more about getting there than in how fast I can, when I hit the downgrade and come into a maze of plants, some planted for medicinal reasons such as the bed of aloe vera when this little dork on a hot-rod bike pops out of the bushes, hits the buzzer and goes into the: "May I see your license and registration... please" with everything but an out-right giggle on the please. Busted. Doing 45 in a 35. And in my own backyard, fer crysakes!

So I pass over the documents and he writes me out the ticket and in a month 0r so I'll turn up in court but he won't. And they'll ask for a continuation and I'll say it works both ways, your honor, and if it's one of the non-political judges he/she'll say No way, Jose, slam th
e hammer down and dismiss the charges, telling me to cool it, even if it is my own backyard, what with the grand-kids and so on, and I'll say, Yessir/Ma'am/Whatever, an' I go back home just knowing that sucker is going to be waiting for me again and all because the Doctor said I might want to get a bit more exercise... MIGHT WANT, as in me having something to do with it, instead of a Fiat from On High that sez I gotta start pumping iron an' hittin' the bricks as if I was going to fall apart next Thursday at three o'clock.

Wanna see some PROOF? Huh? You wanna? Well, THERE'S your proof! Lookit that sucker all tucked up outta sight behind that boulder in all them bushes there, just WAITING for me to come down that grade, brakes a'smoking an' me digging in with both canes
an' ain't no WAY I can slow that sucker down before I hit the flats there by the patio gate!

-Monday 26 Jan 2009

PS -- Doctors! Sheez!

2 February 2009

I'm walking. It is 0750. My back hurts a little. Not much, just a little bit but it's in a place where bad things have happened. So I decide to not walk as far as I'd planned.

Coffee is good. Steaming slowly in the bright sunlight, bent to the south by a gentle north breeze. Sure enough, when I flex my back the Bad Place starts sending off rockets. It's Science Fiction Time, boys & girls. Bob Heinlein has come to play hockey on my back; down low, where the radiation was focused. I'm all flat down there, the muscles have turned to string. It is difficult to sit down and when I finally make it, I wish I hadn't because it hurts so much I want to stand up again. NEED to stand up again. But that will hurt too. I stand up. Life's little messages.


Thirteen times around the Patio Course. A quarter of a mile. Now I have other hurts to mask the back pain.

My baby sister has visited. She lives five hundred miles away. It was an expensive visit.

Baby sister. Big smiley there because she is now in her fifties. But she will always be my baby sister.

When I was a Seaman in the Navy -- a lowly E3 earning an amount so small you'd laugh -- I used to buy her little gifts, send them to her, imagining her delight. I was far away. The gifts were a link, or so I hoped. Years later I learned she had not received most of them. Even so, the memories are strong.

On this visit she returns the favor, giving me a Hot-Rod Walker. Brand name: Hugo. Model: Elite. It has brakes that lock the wheels and a padded seat, allowing me to sit down when my legs start doing that jerky-twitchy thing. There are zippered compartments and perhaps a Secret Decoder Ring. And I didn't even have to send in any box tops.

My legs are sore. They will be sorer before the day is done. And my arms, too. Pumping Iron. Joke, because the weights weigh only 5 pounds. FIVE MEASLY POUNDS! I used to press over 300 pounds, run a quick five laps, all that at lunch time; just a quick little work-out to keep myself in shape. And did. Until along comes a Tumor.

Multiple Myeloma. I'd like to exchange messages with other MM patients. Toward that end I've conducted numerous searches of the Internet. Lots of MM information out there, as well as lots of MM Organizations passing out information with one hand whilst asking for money with the other. But no MM patients. Lots of 'care-givers' but so far, nothing from the 'care-receivers.'

Hello? Is anyone there?

Friday, January 23, 2009


The image to your left will give you some idea of the direction I'm now taking in my effort to find a more thermally efficient cylinder head.

What I have done is to move the existing exhaust: ports from their traditional location on the sides of the engine to a location beneath the engine.


I've posted a bit more information on the rah GROUP but if you have questions they should probably be posted here.


Picture of my smelter is posted to the right.

If you've not done any casting it is a handy skill, well worth your time to investigate.

-Bob Hoover

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Flock of Eagles

Steve Bennett, Great Plains Aircraft Parts Company, and Robert S. Hoover, at Vista, California on Sunday, 18 January 2009, proving once again that the more you fly, the handsomer you become.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

GOOD NEWS ! ( Cancer )

Big Day at the doctor shop. No sign of Anemia at all. Should be some. Nada. Cancer is still there but... Lookit those numbers! Proteins used to track the Beast are there but... Lookit those numbers!!

Doctor is shaking my hand, looking at me, strong, right in my face. He is happy. He often isn't. Today he is. He's showing me the Numbers.

They've got computers all over the doc-shops nowadays. Paper too but not a lot. FAX, voice-mail your-computer-talking-to-my-computer sorta thing. Today he's got some paper and he's really happy about what's on it. 'No anemia at all,' and that's got him more excited than I've ever seen him. (Anemia is an excess of white blood cells. With Multiple Myeloma, the kinda cancer I've got, the physician likes to keep track of the white cells, which are usually elevated. If the count is not elevated, it's good news.) And I'm looking good, according to this physician, who I haven't seen in about a month, although I've seen a couple of his running-mates, including one who comes in just then. "Isn't he looking good?" and it stops him for an eye-blink. "Hey! You are really looking good," sez the second doctor, who I've seen just recently. The first doctor passes him the score-card from the blood-lab with a cheery: "Lookit this!" and he does the same song & dance routine. "Wow!" Now they're both shaking my hand. I mean, taking turns, but you get the idea.

My wife plays the beamish bride through all this, since my looking good is mostly her fault. She is the Commander-in-Chief of the pill bottle; she causes things to ring or blink or buzz, telling me it is time to... do something. If I need a pill, it is there, without failure or recourse. She is the one who makes the runs to the pharmacy. Her hand may rock the cradle but it also lights the lamp, leads the way and provides the accountancy that is the secret core of modern-day medicine.

Before you start ringing the bells, the cancer is still there; it's still generating the protein tags which tells the physicians it is not only there but what it is doing... getting better, getting worse, staying the same and so on.

Mine's getting better. And appears to be shrinking. And because of it, I'm looking good! (Okay, okay... but everyone else is saying it.)

Then we get into the Real Work, the four of us, adjusting the medication regime with regard not only to what I'm taking but how much. Most of this is aimed directly at the cancerous cells but there are other drugs needed to overcome my body's reaction to the anti-cancer drugs, a lot of which are toxic in the normal sense. But when you start looking good it means they can adjust the brew, leaving out Eye of Newt this week, mebbe jacking up Toe of Frog. How's my edima? Has the swelling gone down? The pain... dizziness... It's the pre-flight check-list for a 767 and they are its crew, ticking off the items one by one, stopping now and then for additional information; When did that start? How much? How long? Any of this? How are you sleeping? My weight (starting to come up), my exercises (still at it). But man, you are really looking good!

Bottom Line: I've turned a corner of some kind. There is no cure for Multiple Myeloma but they have managed to reduce it's impact on my system and the best proof of that is me, because... you guessed it: I am looking good!

Okay, so it sounds a little silly. Maybe it was. But it was a good kind of silliness. It isn't remission but neither is it the deadly stall-turn that I've been flying for the past six months. We've got it out of the spin. We are back in control.

A few small changes in the medication. New dates for future appointments, now safe to schedule them months in advance rather than days.

For the family and me the fight is still on a daily basis. There are no miracles but we are seeing real progress, the product of constant attention to a host of details.

When we are back home, the chores done, mail collected, there's a moment for reflection. Our team is working out. And I'm looking good! :-)


Monday, January 19, 2009

Casting Call!

Hello to all, including those of you who have mentioned my blog is difficult for them to read due to the small size of the print. Of course, in their next breath they admit there's nothing I can do about it because it is just as difficult for them to read everyone else's blog as well, meaning the problem is in the font and if I used a larger font, my articles would probably become too large to manage... or something.

But I appreciate the problem and while going to a LARGER FONT, as I have done here, is not much of a solution, it should serve to show you that I really do read all that mail... and that I really do try to do something about it.


This article happens to be about casting parts. That's right; melting some metal (Aluminum in this case) and using the pot of molten Alumin
um to CAST some NEW parts (cylinder heads, in this case). Which I can probably do. But I am such a klutz when it comes to this BLOG, you will be lucky if you can read the thing at ALL, regardless of the size of the print.

So here come some DRAWINGS that have been converted to ILLUSTRATIONS, which means they are virtually useless for doing anything more than giving you a very rough idea of what's involved.

Later on, as I progress through the process, you MAY get some idea of HOW it is done but right now the best I can do is to offer you some illustrations.

The first illustration is a collection of lines and circles that represent (to ME ) the head of a Volkswagen engine. This particular head was introduced about 1965 and the KEY DIMENSIONS of this head have remained the same right up to the last head Volkswagen produced... ANYWHERE and for any size of engine. That should offer you a hint with regard to the problems faced by the engine-builder when trying to produce more POWER from a VW engine.

The fact is, the HEADS are the critical factor with ANY air-cooled engine, in that so long as the heads remain unchanged with regard to certain critical dimensions, the maximum OUTPUT of an engine fitted with those heads will ALSO remain unchanged.

So what are those critical dimensions? They are the dimensions of the FINS. It is the FINS, especially those in close conjunction with the EXHAUST VALVE which dictate the maximum amount of HEAT that can be coupled to the ATMOSPHERE. It is this coupling or transfer that determines how HOT the heads can get. If you have too LITTLE fin AREA, the cast aluminum will literally start to crumble. Yes, CRUMBLE rather than MELT. That's because aluminum is what's know as a 'white-short' metal (as are most other non-ferrous metals ). With ferrous metals, such as iron or steel, as the metal gets hot, glowing red and then yellow and finally an incandescent WHITE... it still retains a good bit of its strength.

But Aluminum doesn't do that. When it enters it's 'plastic' range -- where the farrier would commence to shape the bar into a horseshoe by pounding upon the thing with a hammer -- if it is subjected to any amount of stress... such as HAMMERING, 'white-short' metals will literally CRUMBLE like a cube of sugar. This is what limits our maximum Cylinder Head Temperature to relatively low values... about 450 degrees F. for a casting and about 550 for a forging.

So where does this heat come from? It is a product of COMBUSTION. If you want the engine to produce any POWER it's going to have to produce one hell of a lot of HEAT. In fact, for every horsepower's-worth of TORQUE you'll see at the crankshaft, you will also see about THREE HORSEPOWER'S-WORTH of WASTE HEAT in the exhaust, and in the jugs, and in the oil and so on and on and on until you go a little crazy trying to deal with the waste heat.

The most elegant way to deal with WASTE-HEAT is to simply pass it on to the ATMOSPHERE -- to let your forward velocity force the AIR through the FINS on our heads and simply blow the heat away!

Which is what I'm trying to do here.

But it turns out to be a difficult task. There is a finite limit to your fins. Pump too much heat into them and they will crack or bend or do any of a dozen other things. Those are the problems I must overcome. So wish me luck, if you've got any to spare.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Big is a Millimeter


Not very.

There are 25.4mm to 1 inch. And when you're dealing with your heads you're interested in the VOLUME of those millimeters which means you're dealing with CENTImeters. So here's one way to get a feel for them. See the tape measure? See the markings? Notice that this particular tape measure give you both inches and millimeters. Very handy!

If you'll click on the image it will fill your screen, flop off the edge of the desk and run all over the floor. Honest! But the larger image will give you a chance to evaluate the size of a CENTIMETER, which what you'll be working with when you cc your heads.
__R. S. Hoover

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

VW Engine Talk -- Which is the best year for conversion?

None of them.

The alloy used in the VW crankcase has proven to be susceptible to age-hardening and the cracks which follow. It took about thirty years (!) for that fact to become evident but tests went back and confirmed that the crankcase, which is a magnesium-aluminum alloy, became more brittle with age. So in 1971 Volkswagen changed the alloy, increasing the ratio of aluminum. Which helped. But after 36 years that's the best they can say; the age-hardening is not as bad as it was with the earlier alloy. The 'new' alloy, which is at least 35 years old as I write this, still shows a propensity to become more brittle with age. As for cracking, the jury is still out.

Which isn't a problem with a professionally built engine. Because you always start with a new crankcase, which are still available from Mexico and Brazil.

The best part of the joke is that a new crankcase usually turns out to cost less in the long run than trying to re-work an old crankcase.

Why? Well, there's a lot of reasons, some people put more emphasis on one than another, which can get you into a race to see who can type the fastest :-) But most of the problems stem from the design of the VW engine, in that it only has three main bearings. There's a fourth
bearing on the crankshaft but it was only added to off-set the asymmetrical load of the dynamo & blower and should be addressed more as an accessory item than an engine item. Engine bearings are the three which support the crankshaft and have two connecting rods between each of them. The thrust bearing is located on the flanges of the #1 main bearing, immediately adjacent to the flywheel. The #2 main bearing is in the center of the crankcase and unlike most flat fours, it has the same bearing area as the other two. (Corvair or Subaru provide good examples of how flat engines are usually designed.) The #3 main is adjacent to the last pair of con-rods. Then comes the cam gear and a scroll-gear for driving the distributor, then another bearing, this one only 40mm in diameter where all of the others are 55mm.

One of the reasons a new crankcase usually costs less is because the youngest used crankcase is so old. Old crankcase, the center-main has been pounded out by the asymmetrical load of the 'boxer' design. That asymmetry appears in the bearing shells for the center-main as well as
in the web supporting the shells. Bottom line is that a used engine with 20 or more years of service is going to require an align-bore.

Align-boring is a basic chore in automotive machining and VW provides a range of over/under sized bearings, plus the thrust flanges. One rainy afternoon I worked out how many bearing-sizes they offered: 127, although not from Volkswagen. They put the limit for over-size main bearings at half a millimeter -0.50mm for the OD of the inserts. They did the same with their crankshafts, putting the limit for under-sizes at half a mil, meaning you could have a center-main that spec'd plus 50 for the OD and minus 50 for the ID, plus you could have two ranges for your thrust flange. And since you have STD-STD as your starting size you're already up to a dozen sizes and you haven't even seen what some of the after-market bearing-makers will sell you: Oversizes as large a one and a half millimeter!! And ditto for under-sizes on
your crankshafts!

No reputable builder will use that sort of stuff of course. But the kid will have no trouble finding someone who will. Of course, you gotta ask yourself if that Someone is a competent automotive machinist? Because in most cases the answer is 'no.' It's a shade-tree mechanic with some kind with a portable cutter-bar who will argue that his dune-buggies run just as good as all those other dune-buggies... mebbe even better, with his chin sticking out to about... here. So... howz they do in an airplane? you ask. And the answer(s) can keep you smiling for a while.

So let's leave the align-boring aside for a minute. In fact, lets assume your engine doesn't even an need align-bore. (Miracles have happened, you know.. :-)

So now what you need is to open up the spigot-bores for the cast iron cylinder barrels. You got four jugs so you'll need to open up four new holes. Ideally, you'll do it on a milling machine using a cutter that's been 'proofed' on earlier work to show that it cuts a true circle with square sides, meaning the sides of the hole are perpendicular to the deck of the crankcase... which may need to be re-cut due to 30 years of shuffling by the cast iron jugs. Such shuffling is normal, by the way. It's an artifact of the thermal coefficient of cast iron as compared to non-ferrous metals such as the aluminum in the heads and the magnesium in the crankcase. Every time you start the engine it under-goes a 'heat-cycle.' It is those heat cycles that cause the relative motion between the barrels and the crankcase. And between the heads and the barrels. And of course, after enough of those heat-cycles the tension in the head-stays (most kids call them 'studs') tends to relax, which is why Volkswagen tells you to re-set the torque of the head-stays periodically. And which
damn few VW owners ever do.

But there you are, wanting to over-bore the spigot-holes for a new set of jugs. First thing you want to do is to be sure the fellow doing the machining takes the trouble to measure your set of jugs, rather than the last set that came through the shop. Or the set that came through two months ago. Or whatever. Because when you shop by price for over-size jugs, you'll generally end up with a piece-rate product, imported from a country where the size of a machinist's pay-check is determined by how many sets of barrels he was able to crank out this week.

Now, checking on the machinist in this way is a bit of a trick because you should have already blueprinted your new set of jugs. What you want is a hole that's 0.005" over. No more and no less. At least, not for 92mm Kolbenschmidt barrels. Why? Well, in the first case... getting the spigot bores too big means your 'shuffle-rate' is going to go right through the roof: Your jugs are going to be doing the fandango when what you want them to do is a slow waltz. In fact, about the only thing worse that a spigot-bore that's too large is one that is too small, because that one is going to start grabbing at your piston in a process called 'scuffing.' That is, the aluminum piston inside of your cast-iron barrel is going to expand faster than the barrel... we already know that because of the difference in their coefficient of expansion. (Remember, the spigot bore is also going to be expanding.) If you didn't provide enough allowance, it's going to limit the barrel's 'growth' relative to the piston inside of it and that's going to cause the piston to rub against the wall of the cylinder. And you don't want that to happen.

So what if you've got something other than Kolbenschmidt jugs? Well, you gotta find out their recommended spigot bore allowance and use that, since they know their product best; they know the spec for their cast-iron But since there's only about nine different makers of
after-market VW jugs -- and the odds are you'll only run into two or three of them, you should be able to work it out. That means, pulling 'Machinery's Handbook' off the shelf and looking up the range of thermal coefficients for finned, cast iron barrels and coming up with a figure. Typically it will tell you use so many thousandths of an inch per inch of bore. So you run the numbers, round it up, do a few tests and there you are. For that particular jug. (In fact, your machinist should be the one doing all this. And if he knows his onions he'll already have the right figures for whatever brand of jugs you have. The thing you really want to watch for is the fellow who thinks One Size Fits All. Because it don't. Except for dune-buggies :-) (Hint: Ask to see his copy of 'Machinery's Handbook.' Most shade-tree types have never even heard of it.)

So there you are, all set to cut your new spigot bores. And while one half of the crankcase will lay flush to the table of the milling machine, the other case-half is home to a number of studs and will not lay flat. So the experienced VW machinist will have made up an Accessory Table to hold that side of the crankcase the required distance above the real table of the milling machine. The accessory table will of course be true to the milling machine, meaning it will be true to the crankcase, which means the holes will at least be perpendicular to the deck of the crankcase. As for bore diameter, we've already addressed that. But like Machinery's Handbook, most shade-tree types not only don't have a milling machine, if they do, they don't have the required accessory table for working on VW crankcases.

Now comes an interesting test of competence. After cutting you four new holes for your four new barrels the machinist will pull all or some of the plugs sealing the oil galleries in the crankcase. This is because some of those galleries have dead-ends or 90 degree 'corners' that become swarf-traps. If you don't get all of the swarf out of the castings, they'll end up in your bearings and cost you an engine. Or your life. So part of the expense is pulling those plugs so you can
get in there with your bore-brushes and what-not and clean the crankcase. The machinist's work is limited to pulling the plugs, threading the holes to accept socket-head pipe plugs, and providing you with a suitable set of plugs to match the holes. The cleaning is left up to the Customer. And if any of this comes as a surprise, you need to look at some other engines, such as those from Continental. Or General Motors. Look for the pipe plugs. Because they are a
standard feature on a properly built engine.

If your machinist is experienced with flying Volkswagen he (or she) will have drilled and threaded a couple of other holes in your crankcase. Some are to be used to lock certain components in position, others are used to improve the lubrication system and so on. Every machinist varies a bit in this regard; you'll have to work out which holes and plugs you expect to be done and those which you do not.

Now, having read the above, you've got to ask yourself exactly where you planned to realize any savings by starting with a used crankcase?


My Printer is in the Living Room

My wife has a computer upstairs, in her studio. It is a desk-top type that's a bit out of date, or so I'm told. This based on the fact it still uses kerosene instead of electricity. But it's a very reliable computer, equipped with all mod cons; it's printer is also a scanner and if you're not careful, it will take a picture of you and send it to a list of her friends. Were it not at the end of a long flight of ascending stairs her computer would surely get more work than it does.

I have a large computer in my room as well. Plus some ham radio equipment. It fills a corner of the room, immediately adjacent to a ten-foot long Grounding Rod and a coax lead to a lengthy antenna. There is a laser-type printer attached to my computer which prints out pages at a remarkable rate, or prints out masks for printed circuit boards. Next to it is a printer that spits in color, as for photos or graphs, or pie-charts or any number of other neat things, such as transparencies and envelopes and .pdf files in which illustrations are embedded within the text, as well as an HP flat-bed plotter that can read old books or whatever and, when fed to the proper software, will print you out a reasonably error-free copy of whatever was written 'Way Back Then. Drawings, too. Which is why I even have the plotter, which I've had for some time.

The computer and ham radio equipment pretty much dominates the place. In the summer it is the only room given a whiff of air conditioning, since the electronics tend to heat things up.

After being diagnosed with cancer we soon realized that a computer would be helpful. In fact, it has turned out to be a virtual necessity, keeping track of drugs, prescriptions dosages and so forth on one hand, and lab reports on the other. Since physicians don't know how to write, we've found it wise to run their prescriptions though the scanner and keep a record of that, along with a translation (provided by their office) of what the squiggles mean.

Most of what the computer does is manipulate files of data. The files are kept on rigid disks, of which I believe there are now eight attached to the machine all the time. It also keeps data files on memory chips; jobbies about three-quarters of an inch square that the computer 'sees' via USB ports, using about a dozen of them. our main-board or 'mother-board' operates at some incredible rate of speed, a necessity dictated by the more than tera-byte of memory; some oriented this way, others that way, with an occasional cat to JUMP onto the middle of the mess and send it toppling to the floor.

But the computer that is used the most often is my elderly HP laptop, which replaced a Toshiba laptob, which never should have been offered for sale, in my humble opinion. The Toshiba is little more than an accident waiting to happen. Which it does quite often. Then I have to find out what's wrong, find out where I can buy the replacement parts, then take it to pieces, replace the damaged part (or software), put it back together again and hope it works. Right now, it doesn't. But the HP does, despite having to replace the keyboard at frequent intervals; it is a very trashy machine.

For a time, the sole purpose of the lap-tops was to carry information back & forth between the other computers (there are several more out in the shop). But I recently installed a wireless network, liking all of the computers together. This has saved a remarkable amount of time, not to mention Hikes up the Golden Stairway (because that's what it costs to maintain). Now, with every computer linked on a UHF circuit, moving data from one system to another is dead simple. Of course, there's still those damn stairs... Or at least, there was. Last week I got onto Amazon and asked them to send me a wireless printer. Copier. Photo-maker. There is a picture of it at the start of this article.

I use the lap-top in the patio. And the green-house. And the kitchen. And out in this end of the shop. That's as far as the wireless signal will reach. If I need to INPUT something from the printer it has to be in the format of a memory chip, because that's what the lap-top thinks the printer is. A memory chip. You plug the memory chip into a slot on the front of the printer. Usually, the chip is from a digital camera. When you plug the chip into the printer you can then examine the pictures. If that sounds a bit wacky, it's not, because often times you want to see a BIG picture of something. Usually, you look at the big picture and decide if you need another shot or if this one is good enough. This becomes critically important when you have a broken back. Or cancer. Or both. And you're trying to explain to someone how to cc their heads, which is another of those 'unimportant' tasks, so-deemed by the Instant Experts that litter the landscape near any VW-powered airplane.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

It's the Little Things

I once watched a fellow assemble a VW engine. It took him twenty-two minutes. Then he did another. Took him about the same. Then he started on a third and shoved it across the metal-surfaced work-bench in exactly twenty minutes. He was sweating pretty good. It was a hot day in Los Angeles and he was working in a metal-roofed building, along with three other assemblers. A woman was doing the parts-pulling: making up a tray with exactly one engine's-worth of parts. She was keeping all three of them supplied. there were a couple of other guys there, tearing down junk engines, checking the parts for condition. Not by spec but by eye

The engines got a new set of jugs and a new set of bearings. Everything else was taken from the trays of parts kept filled by tearing down the junked engines. The baskets of junked parts went into the washer and a couple of guys on the other side of the shop were doing heads, which is why I was there. I needed some cheap heads. But after watching them split the valve guide boss by driving in new guides with a chatter gun, I wandered back out the door and drove home.

I don't know exactly how long it takes me to assemble an engine. Probably not very long. But then I usually take it apart again. I generally put an engine together five or six times before I'm satisfied. Of course, before arriving at the point where I can do any assembling at all, I've had to ensure the parts mate properly; that the bearings are a good match to the rods. Doing heads, I can spend all day to produce a set of heads that tells me they're ready to run.

Then too, I assemble my engines using only hand tools. The Mexicans working in the shop where all using pneumatic tools. Just installing the heads, I can spend an hour flipping the engine from one side to the other, rotating the crank with my hand each time I increased the torque, taking maybe five steps to arrive at the final value. I've got a hunch I'm no longer strong enough to turn the crankshaft by hand; I'll probably have to use a wrench.

The reason for flipping the engine from side to side -- working on first one bank then the other, is to equalize the stresses in the crankcase. Or at least, that's what I was told by the German mechanic who showed me how to do it. The engine is in a fixture, hanging off the edge of the bench. It's easy to flip it back & forth.


Up at the top of the page you'll see a picture of some valves. They're both new; never been run. The one on the right displays a small lip on the underside of the angle. The valve on the left has had the lip removed. The reason for removing the lip is because the lip can reduce the flow through the valve by as much as half.

No one ever believes that. You have to set-up a head on the flow-bench, get things air-tight and pull some numbers for that chamber. Then you do it all over again using a stock head fitted with new, stock valves, and repeat the same 'input numbers' -- that is, showing the air density & temperature hasn't changed and the 3hp electric motor is turning the same rpm. Then you watch the 'juice-tube,' and record the numbers.

If you want to see what's going on you'll have to substitute a clear glass tube for the black sewer pipe which forms the mythical 'cylinder wall' because the blower is actually a sucker, located outside of the shop. By sucking air down through a four-inch diameter hole in the top of the work bench, you can determine a 'measure of merit' for heads and manifolds and stuff like that. I've never bothered to quantify the numbers. I'm not interested in x - cubic feet vs y - cubic feet, I only want to know what's happening when I make a change. Is it better or worse? Most times it's worse :-) ...because VW had some pretty sharp engineers.

But sometimes things are better, especially when you're fiddling with valves, opening up the combustion chamber, and things like that.

Getting rid of the lip is better. Surprisingly so. In fact, it's so much better that you do it four or five times, using both inlet and exhuast valves. That is, large valves as well as small ones. And you grab a full-trick head that you know flows like Niagra and pop its valves and insert the ones you've smoothed.

With the Pyrex barrel in place of the black sewer pipe, and a metal mirror proped up, and a flashlight and a smoke wand, you get to SEE what's happening, which is pretty neat.

Ever shoot rapids? You can tell where there's rocks and ledges under the water because the water will sort of stand-up where it flows over the rock. That little-bitty lip is doing the same sort of thing. It's causing the smoke from you wand to stand up. And when it does, it causes the air above it to stand up and so on. In effect, that little-bitty lip is reducing the EFFECTIVE size of the opening by about half!

Change the rate of flow and the numbers change, so that you only see the maximum effect when you're trying to get get the maximum flow; that is, with the blower running full blast.

Then comes the fiddling around. And about the first thing you discover is that someone has already discovered this, because you can buy specially contoured valves that don't have the lip. The late Bill Fisher, in his excellent book on how to hotrod VW engines has a nice drawing of a valve showing the lip has been removed.

But now I know why they do it.

I grind off the lip. Chuck the valve into the lathe using a copper bushing, then feed a fine grind stone into it, back & forth, changing the angle after ever few passes, about five or six passes at each angle is all it takes. Then I polish them up with a hard wheel. Most of the gain will appear in the intake valves but I do it to the exhaust valves as well. Another of those 'unimportant' details that so many 'experts' insist aren't needed.

Open up the combustion chamber to accept a bigger cylinder, you should move the wall of the combustion chamber back away from the edge of the valve. You do that, your bigger chamber will fill faster and more uniformly. Anything that disrupts the in-flow of the fuel-air mix contributes to stratification of the charge because of the enourmous difference between the mass of air when compare to the mass of vaporized fuel. When you ignite the compressed mixture you want that mixture to be as homogenious as possible so it will burn at the same rate. And you want those conditions to be as perfectly matched across all four jugs as you can make it, because the homogenious mix results in a homogenious burn which results in homogenious pressure in each of your cylinders.

All unimportant, of course :-) Too much trouble or something. Schlock shops cranking out three engines per hour, making LOTS of money selling those junk engines to youngsters.

When we start using MONEY as our measure of merit, we've lost the fight.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Arnold, Clint: Meet Your Match!

I don't like showing up kids like the Gov or Make My Day Eastwood, who's actually a couple of years older than me (which probably explains why he's in such terrible shape), which is why I seldom discuss my superb physical condition -- and how it got that way. As for me, as you can see, I tipped the scales a 167 pounds this morning and decided it was time to double the number of reps in my daily series of Physical Jerks. Given the warmth of the day (Januaries in California are known for their harsh weather. The thermometer plummeted to a chilly sixty-eight degrees in the patio) I was forced to remove some of my garments to stave off heat prostration.

I was just getting into my routine
when our phone began to ring. We ignored it, since calls of any importance are placed by personal cell phones but after a time even those began to ring!

It seems that performing my usual round of physical fitness activities was causing the ladies of the neighborhood who could see into our patio, to ignore their duties in favor of bird-watching. Husbands and other members of the ladies families were calling to ask... No, to plead with me in many cases, to please take my physical fitness exercises in-doors. Barring that, to beg me to at least don a garment of some sort that would hide the sight of my powerful physique.

Apparently housekeeping and other chores had come to a halt in the homes having a view of our patio.

I felt really terrible about this and suggested that, it being a Saturday, the husbands give their wives some money and allow them to go shopping, something most women are quite willing to do.

For those who are interested, the exercise in the photos is done using cast-iron dumbells weighing a solid FIVE POUNDS (!) each. They are slowly lifted to above my head then returned to below the level of my waist. This is done FIVE TIMES, followed by a short period of REST.

I have performed this particular exercise as often as 25 times(!) without stopping even once.

10 January 2009

Friday, January 9, 2009


Okay, here ya' go, as promised: Basic VW cylinder head. The one to the left is your basic three-view. Keep in mind, you are looking at ILLUSTRATIONS rather than DRAWINGS. If these were DRAWINGS they would be in DeltaCAD's native format, file code .dc This is worth mentioning because as a DRAWING the heads are reasonably accurate, diminsion-wise, allowing you to move things around.

The last of the three will give you some idea of the 'Fat Fin' modification. The green line shows were extensions were welded to the existing fins.

As a point of interest, take a look at the DATES on the drawings. That's when the DRAWING was made. The 'Fat Fin' mod goes all the way back to the mid-1970's.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cancer Report 03

Hi, guys.

The picture on the right is a bit of a joke. It was taken today, the 7th of January 2009, in approximately the same location and pose as a similar photograph taken in September, 2008.

In the 2008 photo I weighed about 185 lbs, having dropped nearly fifty pounds (!!) from my weight before I was diagnosed with cancer. That is, I was diagnosed in June, 2008, meaning I lost about 10 pounds per month. Then things sort of settled down and I think my weight stayed about the same, although it has continued to drop but at a much slower rate.

The last visit to the physician I weighed 171 and he thought I'd dropped enough weight, telling me it was time to add a few pounds, which I've been trying to do. Just prior to taking the photo I weighed myself on a balance-type scale (ie, that is, an accurate scale) and my weight was 174. that's when I got the idea of posing in the same place as I did for the September photo, the result of which you can see above. And just for kicks, I went back into the blog and pasted the above photo onto the end of the report in which I posted the original. ( ie, 'Cancer Report 02' dtd 28 September 2008 )

I've got a major medical conference coming up in a few days and I've got a hunch it will contain a bit of good news, in that the tumor appears to be backing down; the chemotherapy is working. I know I'm feeling a bit better although I don't have much appetite. I'm doing some exercises, trying to improve my physical condition so I can spend more time in the shop.

There's no 'cure' for Multiple Myeloma -- in the long run it always wins -- but if the drugs can keep it from spreading... and if I can endure the drugs... there's a good chance that I will be able to slowly resume my usual activities, although at a slower pace than before. Then too, cancer is a very tricky little bastard when it comes to adaptation. Given enough time, the tumor will get used to the drugs, develop a resistance to them, and begin to grow anew. How long that takes is anyone's guess but it's virtually a sure-thing that it WILL happen -- that's what this brand of cancer is known for. When that happens they will begin experimenting with a mix of new drugs and increasing the dosages of the old ones. The ability of the cancer to develop a tolerance to ANY drug is a given; what they need to find out is how well I can tolerate the new drugs & higher dosages.

All in all, it isn't a very happy picture but it's a step up from a funeral notice.

What I'm hoping for is a bit more TIME. I need time to finish the projects I've started, and to get several partially assembled engines out of the shop.

-Bob Hoover

One of my physicians called this afternoon. He had just received the computerized output of my blood tests from Monday, the 6th. The results were more than he had hoped for and he was giving me a sneak preview. -- rsh

Sunday, January 4, 2009

1P = 1000W

Chill wind kicking out of the north. Low clouds scudding along. Sun is up but the temperature is only 46F. It's past 0800 on a Sunday morning and a friend has stopped by in Emergency-Mode to borrow a battery charger and a hundred-foot extension cord, both of which I've got to spare and so does he, except his is fifty one-way miles away and mine's not.

Have to dig for it, through. Extension cord is buried under a ton of crap in the breeze-way that's been accumulating ever since this cancer business has shot me down.

One of the things that has to be moved is a jig for making ribs, which my friend recognizes because he's made one too. Except his is prettier. And made on real lumber whereas mine is made on a piece of Particle Board -- which is another term for a kind of super-thick paper. Which means it's heavy as hell and warps like a bitch, unless you do something about it. And there it is, stored outside, not exactly in a mud puddle but damn near and my friend has picked it up to move it and is standing there, flipping it back & forth like he's never seen a rib jig before and the wind is finding all the holes in my pants. And my friend is STILL flipping the thing back & forth...

"So... WHAT?" I finally yell at him and he starts to hand me the rib jig and I'm backing away because the thing weighs enough to break my arm-bones, thanks to them being chewed upon by Madam Myeloma and the Cancer Quartet.

"This is Particle Board!" he says, giving me one of those... looks as if it's supposed to be something else.

"So? Didn't I tell you to use Particle Board?" I'm pretty sure I did. Particle Board is inexpensive and I use it -- and a lot of MDF -- for form-blocks... for shaping aluminum. And for jigs, like the one shown in the pictures here, and for lotsa other stuff. In fact, I got some MDF standing right there, just waiting to be used for something as soon as I think up what.

Then he turns the jig over and glares at me. I mean a real Death & Taxes, Women & Children First kinda glare, as if I'm just slipped on my wife's nighty so I could sneak into the lifeboat. "You didn't tell me about that," and he glares at me some more.

The that is a couple of pieces of 1x2 I've glued & air-nailed to the piece of particle board to keep it from warping, which is what it does. So does MDF. So you don't let it.

"You never mentioned... that," he says, sounding hurt, turning his head and looking away.

I'm about to laugh when I realize he's serious! "Gee, I'm sorry..." but I can see the pain runs deep.

We finally clear the junk off the 100 foot extension cord and he's on his way back out to the airport, a couple hours saved but a friendship slightly damaged (...and even more so when he reads this :-)

The rib jig is where it's at because I can scrape off the little blocks that make it a rib-jig, sand it down with some #80 and I've got my piece of particle-board back again, to use for a different rib-jig... or to cut up for something else. Building on the Cheap often means salvaging and re-using materials once they are no longer needed for a specific task.

Building on the Cheap also means pressing inappropriate materials into service now & then, such as making a rib-jig on a piece of MDF... or particle board. Normally, you wouldn't do that because both of those materials like to warp, with MDF being the leader of the pack. But to get a piece of wood that won't warp you're going to need 3/4" plywood... or 1-1/2" plywood... (!!) which is actually two pieces of 1 x 12 shelving glue TOGETHER center-to-center, meaning the trunks of their repective TREES are glued together. And if that didn't come across, take a couple of planks of 1 by 12 pine shelving and look at their end-grain.

Knowing how to prevent warpage is part of the package when you're building on the cheap.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Every Woman Wants (No, Seriously!)

I've got what every woman wants.

It's due to the Dexamethasone of course. ('Dexy' to the trade.) Dexy is one of those horrifically potent steroids that flat EATS cancerous tumors. Along with everything else, alas. Which is why I've managed to shed a few pounds, going from a chubbily pleasant 254 to a cadaverous 171.

I've no way of knowing how much of that 83 pounds consisted of tumorous tissue. And there at the start, following LAST New Years, I promised myself it was time to shed a few pounds and did, which got me into the 230-ish range, at which point I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and began the more serious business of chemotherapy, which whisked away the pounds, along with patches of hair (it's coming in CURLY, of all things!) and tumorous tissue.

But I now possess what every woman wants: To hear a physician say: 'It's time for you to put ON a few pounds.' And I thought of all the women I've known without being able to recall a single one of them who was not wishing just the opposite: to LOSE a few pounds, often with EXACTLY the same life and death fervor I've felt with regard to the cancerous tissue which has done such a swell job of digesting my spine that it actually BROKE... from nothing more than a sneeze or some other incidental stress. A compression fracture, so damaging that it would be unwise for me to attempt to lift the amount of weight I've now lost.

Put that all together -- the fervent ladies wish to lose as I have lost, then to fracture what I have broken, and you must admit there IS a certain element of humor... that struck me as the physician delivered the good news, and I began to laugh. And still haven't stopped. Not completely. But it certainly scared the hell out of the doctor.

"Time for you to put ON a few pounds, Chief."

"Aye-aye, sir!"

And I began to laugh. Because it struck me that, whatever else this cancer has done, it has given me what every woman longs for, as if it were a topic of polite conversation, suitable for those awkward moments when strangers are forced to spend a whisp of time together and a polite smile simply isn't enough, as in the elevator between 1 and 12, or the check-out line at the local supermarket. First, the friendly smile, then the casual: "I've got what you want," perhaps with another smile, depending on the lady's physique. Then back to listening to the elevator music or casually examining the contents of her shopping cart, my eye peeled for ice cream and Danish.

It gives you a nice boost, knowing you have what they want. Makes you want to flex your stick-like arms or show your turkey's neck to best advantage. Yup. Things are definitely looking up. Which is why I'm still laughing now & then.

-Bob Hoover

The Wire Tracker

Happy New Year to you all.

One of the more troublesome aspects of aviation electrical work is the fact our wires are usually NOT color-coded. That means you can have a bundle of twenty wires and before you can do any useful work you will need to figure out which one of the twenty at the equipment rack is the frayed one you've spotted behind the instrument panel.

How to do it? The good ol' fashioned way, which I described in an article some time ago, is to use a continuity tester. That is, a hunka wire long enough to run from here to there, a couple of flashlight batteries, and a flashlight bulb. You know you've found the correct lead when the bulb lights up. I even described a do-it- yourself tester based on an old-style Navy flashlight.

Alas, while 3 volts ain't all that much, you could be connecting those 'unimportant' three volts to a meter-circuit that blows it's top at two volts.

Whatcha REALLY want is a cable tracker.t

A cable tracker is a little oscillator that puts a warbling TONE on the wire under test, which you can then hear by waving a matching receiver at the other end of the wire.

Harbor Freight's gottem. Item #94181 about $20 US, probably less if you can find a Sale. (But Santa brought me this one :-)