New roof vent fan for the Sprinter

The roof vent fan I had installed on my Sprinter several years ago has had some issues with leaks. Finally decided it was time to resolve that and put in a new fan.

The new vent fan is a Maxxair from Maxxfan. I am very happy with the design of this fan, hope this one doesn’t leak! However…. the leaking of the old vent was more of an issue with the installer (me) than the fan. I got in a hurry when I installed the original one and didn’t use the recommended sealant. As is often the case with rush jobs they don’t turn out well!

 

Custom wrench organizer

After getting my sockets organized I moved on to the wrenches.  My regular length wrenches mounted to the lid of the cart were working great but I have some long handle wrenches as well as some ratcheting and line wrenches…. much more than would fit on the lid of course.

I found out that the laser cutter we have at the maker space does a nice job of cutting the “anti fatigue” floor mats they sell at harbor freight.  I thought this would make a good organizer for the wrenches.

Took some time to measure up each wrench an draw it in inkscape but I kept it fairly simple and am very happy with the results.

I did each set of wrenches as a different file for anybody who wants to mix and match them however they want.

 

Wrench organizer as show in video SVG

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Harbor Freight 11 piece long handle metric wrenches. SVG

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Harbor Freight 11 piece long handle SAE wrenches. SVG

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Harbor Freight 5 piece metric ratcheting wrenches. SVG

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Harbor Freight 5 piece SAE ratcheting wrenches. SVG

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Craftsman professional metric line wrenches. SVG

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Craftsman professional SAE line wrenches. SVG

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Socket Organizer

Second attempt on the socket organizer turned out great!  Hopefully this allows me to stay organized so I don’t spend way too much time looking for the right tool.

More details in this weeks video.

As promised here are the .svg files you can use with inkscape if you are interested in making something like this yourself.

 

 

Blank template for top shelf of Harbor Freight 5 Drawer cart. SVG

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All the circles with labels for use in your own layout. SVG

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Full organizer as seen in the video SVG

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Toolbox Socket Organizer (first attempt)

I am continuing with my quest to finally have an organized toolbox.  I decided the next goal would be to get my sockets organized.  I have seen a few products that look pretty helpful, I even own a couple of plastic socket holders labeled with the sizes and everything.  Things like that work OK but they are never exactly what I need, they have spots for sizes I don’t own and even more annoyingly sometimes they don’t have a spot for sockets that I do have.

Various socket organizers but nothing is exactly what I need.

If you want something exactly right you need to just make it yourself!

I am fortunate enough to be a member of a really good local makerspace which means I have access to some really cool stuff such as a laser cutter.  It does a great job of cutting and engraving acrylic.  I picked up a full 4’x8′ sheet of 3/16″ gloss black acrylic from the local plastic supplier and drew up the shape of the top shelf of the Harbor Freight tool cart in a handy drawing tool called inkscape.  For those not familiar with inkscape it is a completely free and open source vector drawing program.  I use it on Linux but works on Mac and Windows as well.  Check it out at inkscape.org.

Template outline for the top shelf of the Harbor Freight tool cart.

From there I went on to the tedious job of measuring the diameter of each socket with digital calipers and drawing a bunch of circles for the holes…. I quickly lost patience with this and decided to “work smarter, not harder”.

My day job is as a software engineer so I decided I should be able to solve this problem programatically.  I wrote a fairly simple python program that could take a list of socket sizes (including wall thickness of the socket for things like impact sockets) and output an inkscape (svg) file containing the appropriate sized circles along with text labels that could be engraved below each one.  In the end I probably spent more time on this getting it just right but the nice thing is now if I decide I want to create a new one for a different set of sockets it will go much more quickly.

From there it was just a simple matter of importing those automatically generated drawings into my template and moving things around to arrange them how I liked.

Version 1 of my socket organizer.

I am not yet too sure this is exactly how I want the layout to be but I figured it was a start so I might as well go cut it.  Being fairly thick acrylic it took a couple of passes to cut through so the entire cut job (along with the engraving of the labels which is the really slow part) took a little over an hour.

The end result looked great!  That was at least until I got home and test fit it in the top of the toolbox.  It was too small!!!!  Somehow in the process of exporting the .svg file to a .dxf it got scaled down around 5%.  None of the sockets would fit in the holes and the entire outline was significantly smaller than the space for it in the toolbox.  I had done a smaller version as a test cut the other day and it came out just right.  After some head scratching and digging I realized the one that worked OK I had done on my desktop PC and the one that was too small was on my laptop.  Both were running Ubuntu Linux and both had the same version of inkscape.  I dug in more deeply and in the settings.xml file somehow there was a dxf export parameter that converts pixels to inches that was set to 90 on one and 96 on the other…. still no clue how this happened but once I fixed this it appears they now both generate proper dxf files.

Note how the cutouts in the back do not line up, also a lot more space around it than I wanted.

So… as they say “long story sort” (yeah, I know, too late for that now).  I have a chunk of plastic that looks nice but isn’t actually useful for anything.  Going to see about cutting a new one tomorrow, once I do I will be posting a video of the whole process and will post the .svg files here for others who might want to make something like this.

 

 

Harbor Freight Tool Cart

I have been using a 4 drawer Harbor Freight tool cart for a few years to hold my commonly used tools.  The plan was I would be able to roll it up to whatever I was working on and have quick easy access to wrenches, sockets, etc.  Over the years the cart had gotten really disorganized and really didn’t have enough room for everything I was trying to put in it.

I have been looking at the larger 5 drawer carts that Harbor Freight has for a while.  Now that they come in multiple colors the blue one really caught my eye.  I was waiting for them to go on sale and they finally had a coupon deal for $169 so I had to pick one up.

Here is my quick unboxing and review video:

I hope to keep this one from getting so disorganized.  I started by mounting my wrenches to the lid to save some useful space.

 

Milwaukee M18 Fuel cordless grinder review

I have been wanting a cordless grinder for a while now.  Partly due to just not having to deal with cords when working in the shop but also I am planning on going to a salvage yard to pull some parts and it would be handy to have a grinder with a cutoff wheel that I could use on site to cut off rusty parts as needed.

I am a fan of Milwaukee tools and have been looking at the new cordless grinder.  They have a new “fuel” line of M18 cordless tools that have brushless motors that are supposed to have good power.  I while back I decided to pick up the new “M18 Fuel Cordless Grinder”.

I bought the “tool only” option that does not come with a battery since I already have a couple of 1.5 Amp/hour batteries that came with my drill/impact driver kit that I bought about 5 years ago.  I also have a newer 5.0 amp/hour “XC” battery that I use when I do a lot of work with the 1/4″ impact driver just to extend the runtime.

The big question I had with the grinder is if it is usable as a replacement to a corded grinder or is it just “reasonable” performance and really only benefit is the cordless convenience.  I put together a few somewhat scientific tests to find out.

The test didn’t go as smoothly as I expected…. to no fault of the tool!  The thing I didn’t consider was the battery performance.  I did most of the testing with the 1.5 amp/hour batteries.  After running through all of my tests and being a little bit disappointed with the performance I realized I should try again with the newer “XC” battery.

I have to say with the better battery I am very impressed with the performance of the tool.  Check out the video for details.

This has me thinking I need to do an “M18 battery shootout” test.  There are some aftermarket companies who make compatible batteries for the Milwaukee tools.  I have ordered a few of them, as long as a new 2.0 amp/hour genuine Milwaukee battery (to see if my old batteries have lost any performance) and plan on doing a full test of all to see how the 3rd party manufacturers stand up to the real thing.

Stay tuned for that video in a week or two!

 

Bendpak lift update – caster wheels and ramp modification

I have had a lot of interest and feedback on my lift install video from a few months ago.  When I shot the video I figured a few people would find it interesting but I am happy to hear several people have actually made use of the video and do an install themselves!  Great to hear I could be of use!

I have had some questions that led me to shoot a couple more videos.  One was about the caster wheels.  Somebody wanted to see the design more closely since he was considering building his own wheels.  While the caster wheels are pretty good as-is the design certainly could be improved so I figured it would be good to do a detailed video showing how they work and how they could be improved (basically by making them a bit longer).

The other questions were about the ramps.  Specifically about if they are removable and how much they stick out when the lift is up…. basically the issue was someone wants to install a lift but is tight on space and needs to know how much “extra” room to leave for the ramps.

While the ramps technically are not removable I have been thinking they are often in my way and I have been considering modifying them to make it easy to pull them off.

This video shows the ramps in more detail and my modification to make them removable.

 

I got my lift!

This is something that has been very high on my list for many years.  My old garage didn’t have the ceiling height for it but the new barn is more than high enough.  I have now had it for just over a month and it is making the brake work I am doing on the old International 1000A much nicer.

I of course filmed the whole installation process to share the experience.  To be honest I was a little concerned about doing this on my own but I found that it is a doable project for one man (as long as you have a tractor to move the heavy bits!).  Please remember that I am NOT an expert and this is CERTAINLY NOT a replacement for reading and fully understanding the manual if you are going to do this yourself!!!  I don’t want to be blamed for you dropping a car on your head!

But, hopefully people will find this useful as I show a few things I learned while I installed mine.

I have 2 versions of the video, the full detailed version where I explain lots of detail:

And a quick 2 minute “short attention span” version if you just want to see an EXTREMELY condensed version (set to music of course).

 

I broke my sprinter van!

The check engine light has been lit up on the sprinter van for a few weeks now.  Since in New Hampshire this will cause it to fail the state inspection, and that inspection is due on the van at the end of the month I figured it was time to get that taken care of.

The code reader showed a code P0546 which was something about an exhaust temperature sensor.  I did a little research and found out about 4 different sensors on the Sprinter van.  I had heard that occasionally they get covered in carbon and just need a little cleaning.  So, I attempted to pull out the first one to give it a cleaning….  and of course I SNAPPED THE DARN THING OFF!!!!!

So I had to fix that with a little JB weld (will see how successful that is) and then did some more investigation.  Of course I found out that the problem wasn’t with any of these 4 that I had found out about but there is a 5th sensor which is MUCH harder to get to.  This one is on the turbo which is on the back of the engine.

Anyway, managed to get it out, new sensor has been ordered and should be here in a couple days.  Fingers crossed that this actually fixes the problem and I can get the van through the yearly inspection.