Category Archives: General

What To Check If Your Trane XR80 Is Blowing Cold Air Instead of Hot

If there’s one thing I have learned about Michigan, it’s that the weather does whatever it wants. This past Spring we were warming up in the 80s and 90s and then had a cold snap down into the 30s at night.

I’m usually the first one up in the morning and when I went downstairs it felt cooler than it should have been. A quick glance at the thermostat told me it was 63 when it should have been 68. The thermostat showed me it was set to heat and the fan was running. Putting my hand over a nearby vent told me my morning wasn’t going to go as planned – the air blowing out was cold when it should have felt warm.

Ok, so we have a Trane XR80 furnace and it’s honestly served us well for a number of years. We had this happen one other time quite a few years ago and it was due to my not changing the air filter soon enough, it was filthy, not enough air was flowing through and a high limit switch had tripped. While I recalled it, I really didn’t think that could be the case because I had changed the air filter with a new one a few weeks earlier.

One thing I like about the XR80 is that Trane put a small peep hole with a clear plastic lens over it so you can look straight in and see the error code that the control board flahes when something is wrong. So your’s truly who is fatter and stiffer than he should be got down in the crawl space, went over, looked and it was flashing its red diagnostic LED four rapid times, paused, and then repeated that code over and over.

Inside that really fancy had drawn reddish circle is the sight window that I am talking about.

So, I extracted myself and went to look up what four flashes meant on the Internet – well it signifies that the high limit switch had tripped. The high limit switches are located on the heat exchanger and are important safety devices to not allow the gas furnace to fire up, or keep burning, because things are too hot. Instead, the control board keeps running the fan trying to cool things down. If you didn’t have them, things could get too hot and a fire could start – they are definitely important.

On the XR80, you remove the lower door, take out the retaining screw holding the panel above the door in place and then remove the access panel to get to the switches. Sure enough, the left high limit switch was tripped – it pops out and to reset it you push it back in.

With the top access panel off, you can see the two limit switches. They are on each side of the heat exchanger and have the tyellow wires attached. They trip if they get too hot.
Here’s a close up of the limiter on the left side of the heat exchanger. The center part pops out waiting to be reset if it gets too hot. You press it in to reset it.

The usual cause of a high limit switch tripping this is a dirty filter – but my Filtrete MERV 15 filter was brand new and these things are huge – 16x25x4 – you’d think air could flow pretty easily. When we moved in the original filter to the old long-gone furnace was one of those electrostatic filters that zapped the dust … into smaller dust … in theory. I was never impressed and I think that is why they are gone. You can pull the whole old electrical plate cartridge out and replace it with a huge 16x25x4 pleated filter, which is what we did.

So, my best guess at that point was that the high limit switch had tripped before I changed the filter and we just didn’t notice it. Sounds good, right? Well, it sounded good at the time too but the next morning I came down and it had tripped again — with the brand new filter installed. It wasn’t due to the old filter.

Ok, something was fishy. Yes, the limit switches can fail but I had my doubts – they usually last a long time. Before you go crazy ripping things apart, always, always, always ask yourself “what changed?” I can’t stress this enough – this question can be worth its weight in gold.

As best as I could recall, the old filter was dirty but it was not filthy. I change my filters three times a year now. What changed was the filter. I had replaced an old Filtrete filter with a new Filtrete filter of the same model rated to MERV 12. That’s what changed – I had changed the filter so decided to investigate further because I wasn’t really sure.

I called up one of my best friends, John, who is an amazing car mechanic and picks up all kinds of knowledge through his own experience and talking to others. I told him what I just experienced.

John asked me “Do you have a high efficiency furnace designed for those allergen grade filters?” No – I had a normal furnce but I had been using Filtretes instead of Honeywell’s own brand of 16x25x4 filters for a few years but the Filtrete was a finer filter that claimed to even remove viruses and was hospital grade. I even remember thinking “finer is better” when I put them in. Finer is not always better as it turns out.

What John had learned from a fellow in the trades is that these super-fine filters sometimes restrict air flow too much in a furnace not built for them and could cause the high limit switches to trip because not enough air was flowing across the heat exchanger to cool it within it’s specifications.

To be honest, that made perfect sense to me. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something a tad different about this one filter so I replaced it with a new one – yes, I replaced a new filter with a new filter. I just happened to have a spare MERV12 filter there.

Guess what? It worked. For rest of the cold spell, no more problems. All I can guess is that MERV12 is just a hair too fine for my furnace and that the one particular filter just happened to restrict the air too much – new or not it went in the trash after a few days.

With the next change iterval that also coincides with cold air coming in Michigan, I am changing to a slightly less restrictive Filtrete filter that has a MERV 11 rating that still is supposed to stop allergens. It ought to work with fewer surprises – time will tell and I know what to look for next time.

So, I thought I would pass this along in case someone needs to reset a limit switch in a XR80 and/or rethink running a really restrictive filter in a furnace not designed for it. I hope this helps you out.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Recharging The R134A Refrigerant In A Glacer Bay VWD5446BLS-2 Water Cooler

Years ago we invested in a water filter unit that sits on top of a regular water cooler. This lets us have clean good tasting cold water – at least it did until about a year ago. My wife was the first to notice that the water wasn’t getting as cold and finally it got to the point where it was only just a tad cool first thing in the morning. Because this thing was older, my first thought was that it was low on refrigerant because we’d had this happen before with old fridges.

Refrigeration systems are sealed but over time the seals age and slowly the refrigerant leaks out. At some point, there isn’t enough left to effectively cool whatever it is in questions – a fridge, freezer or a water cooler.

So, step one was to pull the cooler out and look at the manufacturer’s sticker on the back. Glacier Bay is a Home Depot house brand – no surprise there. The refrigerant used was R134A – definitely needed to know that, which was nice because I keep R134A around for use on cars. The sticker also told me the unit was made back in September of 2014 — yeah, this thing was just over six years old and we bought it new way back when.

This is the manufacturer’s sticker off the back of the unit.

Note: If you need R134A refrigerant, go to your local discount car parts store. Odds are you can get a can cheaper there than mail ordering one.

Now there’s one thing I have learned – do some research on things that need to be repaired before you make the wrong assumptions and really screw things up. Boy, I’m glad I did that in this case because these small refrigeration units work at way, way lower pressures than a car or truck.

Watch this great video

What helped me out the most was an amazing video that a fellow put together about how to recharge small fridges. It was exactly what I needed to know and I only made a few small adjustments to his recommendations:

What I did

The first thing I had to figure out was how to get to the low pressure line to attach the bullet valve. While you may think to come at it from the back, which was my first thought, it will be a nightmare. It turns out that you remove the water tray by pulling it straight out and you are then looking at the one screw you need to remove to then pull off the front lower cover – voila – you are looking right at the lines.

Pull the water drip tray straight out and you will see that single philips screw in the middle. Remove it and then the front metal cover pulls off. You are then looking right at the low pressure line – it will be the one that is cool and/or wrapped in insulation.

I got my bullet valves off Amazon and you definitely need to back off the valve or it will pierce the line when you clamp it on. The gentleman mentions it in the video and I just want to reinforce you better make sure it is backed off.

This is the way the tap looks when I first disassembled it for installation. You can see the hardened steel point is extended. If you don’t first use the supplied hex wrench to back the valve out, this point will pierce your copper line while you are trying to install the valve and you don’t want that.
Seriously, this is a wickedly simple elegant valve. Everything you need to tap into the line is there with the exception of using sand paper or a brillo pad to clean any oxidation off the copper line where the piercing tap and the green rubber o-ring seal will go.

The line you need to attach the valve to has the insulation on it. I slid the insulation out the way, installed the valve assembly so it was just barely snug and then did the final positioning so I had easy access to the valve hex screw and could also attach the refrigerant line.

I moved the valve around until I found a good spot for it where I would have easy access to the valve screw where the hex head wrench is in the photo and also be able to easily get to the refrigerant line. Make sure your copper line is clean. I’d recommend using very fine sandpaper to make sure there’s no oxidation that will interfere with the seal.

The compressor was drawing a vacuum and it appeared to be working and holding the vacuum so I did not use a vaccum pump to draw down the whole system. For me, this worked.

The fellow mentioned these things run at 1-3 PSI on the suction side so I opted to slowly fill it until it was at 2 PSI. Note, I did purge my manifold line before I opened the valve so as to get rid of any air first.

Now when I say slowly fill, I would add a bit with the cooler’s compressor running and then wait a few minutes to see what happened. I did this over and over for almost 30 minutes until the pressure gauge read 2 PSI. Don’t try to do it all in one step.

This is the Master Cool model 66661 air conditioning manifold gauge set that I use on cars and the low-pressure blue side started with a low enough marked increments on pressure and vacuum to work. You can definitely use what the fellow has in the video – I just used what I had. The red hose was not needed in this case.
The blue gauge shows vacuum in inches of mercury (In Hg) colored green down in the lower left and then it switches to pressure in PSI in black above the 0. Again, you just need 1-3 PSI and I stopped at 2.
The cooler is working great once again and it’ll be easy to add refrigerant again if needed.

In conclusion

It’s been two weeks and the water cooler is still working just great. I have a spare bullet valve should I need it but other than those, since I already had the gauge set and the R134A, the repair didn’t cost me anything. Even if I had gone with complete repair kit, it would have been cheaper than having a repair person visit.


Note, I have to buy all of my parts – nothing here was paid for by sponsors, etc. I do make a small amount if you click on an ad and buy something but that is it. You’re getting my real opinion on stuff.

If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Replacing the Crank / Lower Bracket Bearings On A Schwinn GTX-1 700C Woman’s Bike – Model S5230

In the last post, I described changing the inner tube on my daughter’s bike and then finding that the crank was grinding. It was so bad that it felt like metal on metal. When we sent brought her home last year, I noticed the crank had a ton of play in it and had a grinding feel when turning and knew that meant the bearings in the crank/lower-bracket were bad.

I’ve not worked on the crank of a bike for probably 40 years – literally. I had a vague idea of what to do but some details have changed over the years and I had to do some reading. Given that I had to digging to figure out what to do, I figured it was worth sharing this also in case someone else has “what in the heck is this?” moment with one of these Schwinns or a bike with a similar setup.

Here’s the bike upside down. I have it resting on a work table with the handbars clamped onto a wood working vise. A weird way to hold it but it worked. It just so happens the bike basket helped stabilize things.

I had to watch a bunch of videos and read some blog posts to get an idea of what to do. I thought “crank” applied to the whole assembly but it turns out the correct term for the innards is the “bottom bracket” and cranks just appear to the lever arms the pedals attach to.

Here’s the approximate sequence of what to do

I’m writing this a few weeks after doing the actual work but hope it helps if you find yourself in a similar bind:

Step 1: Remove the left and right cranks. They are pressed in place and I had to buy an actual purpose built puller to get them off. None of my generic gear pullers would work.

You remove the obvious bolt and then use a purpose-built puller that threads into the crank all the way and then tighten the center bolt to push the crank off. The Schwinn needs a puller that has 22mmx1mm threads made for a square crank.

Park makes two tools – the one I used and the one I bought for future use. I bought and used the CCP-22 crank puller but I would not recommend it. Both cranks were on so hard that I had to hit the handle with a dead blow mallet to get it to turn. At least for the bike I was working on, the integral handle wasn’t sufficient to remove the crank.

Here’s the Park CCP-22 crank puller in use. It did the job but the handle alone didn’t give me the torque I need.

After I got done with this bike, I bought a CWP-7 that they call the compact version but what is appealing is that it has a hex head that I will engage with a socket or impact wrench to do the job far easier, I wouldn’t recommend the CCP-22 unless you know the crank is going to come off easy.

Step 2: Loosen the lock ring. When you look at the bracket, you will notice it is threaded and goes into the frame. Securing it is a locking ring that is threaded and is tightened against the frame to apply pressure. You loosen the locking ring by putting a punch in one of the little “notches” and tapping the ring so it will turn counter clockwise. It will come lose and turn very easily. Just move it a few turns from the frame but leave it on the bracket – you do not need to remove it all the way.

The locking ring is the part with the little rectangular notches right against the bike frame. The first evidence of this think being whipped together is here. Look how “smashed” the notch is at about the 2pm position. Regardless, it came free quite easily.

Step 3: Remove the non-geared side of the lower-bracket. If you look at the photo above, you will notice there are splines radiating inwards on the bracket. You need to measure the diameter and count the number of splines in order to buy the correct size wrench to remove this part of the bracket. This one was about 31.5 mm inner diameter and had 22 splines. The Park BBT-22C tool fits these. There are many different sizes so you really to confirm this.

Here you can see my BBT-22 tool on the end of a big 1/2″ E-Z Red extendable wrench with a Tekton 1/2″ to 3/8″ socket adapter. I like to have plenty of torque when I need it. You can also see the dead blow hammer on the left that I had to use to beat the Park wrench to remove the cranks. You can also see the punch and hammer used to tighten and remove the bracket’s locking ring one one of the two bearing assemblies.

I used the above pictured E-Z Red wrench and BBT-22 adapter to remove the bracket, When the bracket came out of the frame, I kid you not, ball bearings fell out. What a mess.

None of the ball bearing assemblies were intact, there was no grease to speak of and the rusty sludge that I had to clear out of the frame had remnants of the ball bearings and the cages/retainers. There were literally no ball bearings supporting the crank axle/spindle. The axle was just turning directly on the ends of the lower bracket! No wonder she was complaining it was hard to pedal

Step 4: Remove the geared side of the bracket. This comes off very similar to the non-geared side with two exceptions. First, it is reverse threaded. Turn clockwise to remove the bracket on that side. Second there is no lock nut. The proper tensioning of the bracket is done from the non-geared side. By the way, if you maneuver the crank and gear assembly around a bit, you can leave the chain in the derailer.

Step 5: Thoroughly clean and grease the frame’s tube where the bracket was at. You do not want debris to get into your brand new bearings. I had a ton of crud to get out and then I liberally greased the walls.

Step 6: Reinstall the geared side of the bracket. Remember that is is reverse threaded and it goes in all the way. The final adjustment is done from the non-geared side. Note, I put a lot of grease in the dome before screwing it back into the frame.

Tip: Re-install all threaded pieces such as brackets and bolts by hand to make sure the thread is properly aligned and not cross-threaded. Use a wrench to tighten things down only once you know the threads are properly mated.

Step 7: Grease and install the bearings. I had grease everywhere at this point and didn’t want to touch my phone. Normally you would be able to see your old bearings and have an idea of what to buy. All I had were some rusty ball bearings and pieces of the retaining rings. So, I did some digging on Amazon only knowing I had a Schwinn bike and needed bearings with an inner diameter based on the axle or shaft between the cranks of about 0.72″ and an outside diameter of about 1.14″ (29mm).

Okay, I got lucky. In reading the comments of a lot of different bearings, a 1/4″ x 9 ball unit from Jaceyon popped up with people reporting they worked on Schwinn bikes. I was running out of time so I ordered them and they worked!

Tip: The Jaceyon bearings were fairly cheap and got good reviews. The fact it came with four bearing sets – meaning two pair. For some reason I busted one during installation and was very happy I had a spare. For $9.28, it was totally worth it. If you can swing it, I’d recommend getting four so you have a couple of spares just in case.

Use wheel bearing grease to pack the bearings as best you can. I apply a lot of grease to all surfaces including the bracket face, the axle/shift and the bearings. I like to use a synthetic wheel bearing grease, such as Mobil’s, because I find it doesn’t ooze oil like normal grease does. In the end, use what you have but just be sure to grease the bearings before installation.

When you install them, there is a proper orientation. Please look at the inside ends of the brackets – they are domed. This means the exposed bearings will engage with these ends. The flat part of the housing faces the inside of the tube.

This is the front or top of the bearing. It will be facing outward from the bicycle such that the bearings are engaging on the domed surfaces of each end of the bracket. Those are some remnants of the original. I don’t think any grease was applied during assembly. By the way, some will refer to the ball bearing group as a set or say that the bearings are caged. No matter how you look at it, the retainer properly positions the balls around the crank’s axle to allow it to turn freely. You can imagine that if they rust it will be game over pretty fast. The retainer is just folded sheet metal.

I slide the geared side bearing and the axle in. Again, make sure the bearings are facing outward so they will engage with the bracket. I then put a bunch of grease in the non-geared bracket end dome and hand screw it back into place.

They will go in like this with the ball bearings facing out on each end. I have not greased these yet and this set of bearings is just sitting on the end of the installed bracket for the purpose of this photo. If it were really being inserted, I would have it covered in synthetic wheel bearing grease.

Step 8: Tighten the bracket and install the lock ring. Now this part may take some tuning. By tightening the non-geared side, you are compressing the bearings into place. Tighten the bracket until the crank axle can no longer wiggle but it can still turn. I do not use a huge wrench here or rush – you can smash the bearings – I’ve done it. Tighten a little and feel the axle, over and over.

Step 9: Tighten the lock ring. Use a punch and hammer to rotate the ring clock wise and lock the bracket back in place.

Use a punch or whatever tool you want and a hammer to tighten the lock ring and secure the backet.

Step 10: Reinstall the cranks. Situate them on the shafts and use the center bolt to press them back into place on the axle as well as lock them there. Each crank arm should be 180 degrees opposite of the other. The square ends of the axle are intended to make this easier 🙂

Reinstall your chain too when you are wrapping up the gear-side if you haven’t already,

Step 11: Give it a test ride. If it makes a creaking or groaning noise when you pedal either the bracket needs more tightening or your trashed the bearings. If the sound will not go away, you will need to take it back apart because the bearing probably failed for some reason. That means you go back to step 3. Hopefully you will not have this happen. It did to me the first time and luckily the bearings I bought were four sets to a bag. I’m really not sure why it busted but I am glad I had a spare.

Videos

I didn’t find any exact videos, which is one of the reasons why I wrote this post, but there are videos that can give you a better idea of what is needed. I’m hoping that between my post above and your watching these videos, you will have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done.

Conclusion

With this done, the bike was all set for my daughter to use again. I don’t think a ton of care was taken during assembly and really wouldn’t be surprised if little to no grease was applied to the bearings.

I hope this helps you out.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Replacing The Inner Tubes On A Schwinn GTX-1 700C Woman’s Bike – Model S5230

Growing up in the 70s, Schwinn bikes were real popular as there was a dealer in town. Over the years, the brand has been bought and sold and is owned by Pacific Cycle now. The bikes are made in Chang Zhou China and are sold through places like Walmart and Sam’s Club.

With that said, my daughter needed a bike and we bought her one in 2016 from Sam’s Club. It was already assembled so I was happy I didn’t have to mess with it. Growing up in a rural area with few kids around, one of my hobbies was fiddling with my Sears Free Spirit 10-speed and often needing my dad to bail me out when I messed things up — I tend to learn a lot by screwing up 🙂

At any rate, the big went with us on a number of trips over the years and went with my daughter to college. It’s hard to beat having a bike on campus to get around and we invested in a basic rear basket for two reasons – the obvious was to let her throw stuff in it. The other was that it could block the water and mud that otherwise throws a stripe up your back when you have to bike in the rain.

Installing the basket required buying the Ibera adjustable rear rack, installing a piece of wood that I painted black to block the water (you could use any solid you want) and then the Axiom wire basket. I found them on Amazon and bought based on specs and reviews. I did have to get longer bolts from Ace Hardware to connect the basket to the rack due to the wood insert.

Here’s the exact Ibera rack I bought:

And this is the wire mesh basket:

The Call…

The bike worked great until I got a call – “Dad, I have a flat – what do I do?” Well, we live just over an hour drive away so the next time we went up, I brought the bike back.

What Size Inner Tube?

Many bike tires, such as this Schwinn, have an inner tube and eventually it cracks or a hole gets poked in it. Some folks patch their inner tubes but I just replace them – especially given the age of the bike and that I knew it was an original tube.

The info you will need to get a replacement tube is on the side of the tire (not the tube). You may see the  ETRTO (European Tire and Rim Technical Organization – or ISO) number marked as XX-YYY where XX is the tire’s inner width and YYY is the inner tire diameter. On this Schwinn, it is 40-622.

You may also see an older French sizing that is marked something like AAAxBBm. AAA is the approximate tire outer diameter and BB is the width. There will be a letter at the end “m” is the inner diameter. I ike the ERTO method better – it just makes more sense to me. At any rate, the Schwinn had this code also: 700x38C.

Okay, so armed with that info, I hopped on Amazon and started reading reviews. I didn’t want to buy a cheap tube and have it give out prematurely so I looked at Schwalbe – an old name in German inner tubes. I also used their website to confirm the size I needed – their AV17 model. which fits 700x38C, 28×15 or 40-622 tires and has a Schrader air valve. I bought two because if the one was aging, which was my suspicion, I bet the other was as well.

Tip: If you are in the US, you will want a tube with a basic Shrader Valve to inflate your tube. This is the most common type of valve and you will find it on cars, trucks, tractors, and so forth sold in America – it’s nickname you may hear in other countries is the “American Valve” for that reason. There is another type known as a “Presta Valve” and it is unique. Only buy a tube with that type of valve if you know you need it. There is a third type called the “Woods Valve” or “Dunlop Valve” but that tends to only be in the Netherlands and parts of Asia.
Schwalbe AV17 tubes are the right size.

Last comment – there are a ton of bike tubes on Amazon and at stores. There are also different types such as ones that are self-sealing, etc. The choice is up to you, your budget and whether you mind changing the tubes or not. Since my daughter is not readily available and the bike is a big help to get at school, I spent $14 per tube vs. $5-6/tube for tube-shaped objects that may or may not hold up. Read the reviews and you decide.

Replacing The Tube

There are how-to videos out there you can watch if you want. Basically if the tube is already flat, you pull the tire off the rim a side at time. You can use a blade screw drive to help get it started off the rim but I find most of the time if I push the tire away from me while lifting off the rim, I can get it started and then just work my way around. The old tube should just lift right out of the tire unless it stuck due to glue or something from a past patch.

Note, if there is no inner tube on your bike, you have a tubeless tire and the leak may well be in the tire itself.

A nice part of the design is that you can pull the rear tire without having to remove the derailer. Back in the dark ages, that was not the case so you wound up with some really dirty hands.

Before you install the new tire, look at the rim and make sure there are no spokes protruding into the area where the tube is at. Your rim should have either have something rubbery to protect the tube glued in place or at least some type of tape. They sell protective inner tube pads or you can even try putting in 2-3 layers of PVC electrical tape. If you go the tape route, you will need to cut a hole for the inflation tube to stick out.

To install the new tube, put in the tire. Yes, put it in the tire – not on the rim. It’s designed to fit the outside diameter of the tire and will not fit otherwise. So, tuck it into the tire and then push the air valve through the hole the rim. A perk of using Schwalbe tubes is that they have a lock nut you can snug down to hold the tube in hole.

You then tuck the tire into the rim. Depending on the fit, you may need to do a side at a time or be able to do both at once. Take care not to pinch or cut the tube.

A trick I learned years ago is to partially inflate the tube and then gently bounce it all the way around to try and ensure the tube is not caught between the tire and the rim. Not everyone does this so it’s up to you. I then bring it up to pressure and re-install it. I check the air pressure a few hours later to make sure it’s sealed and no punctures happened.

Again, because I suspected the age of the tires was the culprit, I did both tubes. It’s up to you.

Here’s the finished rear.

Videos

In case you have questions, here are some videos that others have created and posted on Youtube that demonstrate how to remove and install inner tubes:

Conclusion

I hope this helps you out when it comes to the tubes.

thought I was done and then I felt the cranks were grinding horribly. That bugged the heck out of me because I knew it meant to bearings were history and that will be the topic of the next blog post.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Restored An Almost 100 Year Old Samson 5263 3.5″ Machinists’ Vise For Regular Use

Growing up, my dad has this big rusty vise on his work bench and we’d use it for all kinds of stuff ranging from holding mower blades and axes during sharpening to bending metal for brackets and so forth. I knew it came from my grandfather’s farm in New Hampshire but not much else., When my parents moved near us, my dad brought the vise with him and installed it on a tool bench in their new garage.

Life can be harsh. I have a lot of good memories about my parents but nothing really prepares you for when they pass away. I was close to my dad and to this day, when I use one of his old tools, it makes me feel good – kind of like he’s still here and happy to see me using something of his – hopefully the right way.

At any rate, when we had to sell their house and clean stuff out, I snagged the big old vise and stuck it on the floor in the corner of my shop and really didn’t think much about it for almost five years. One day I started thinking about installing a second vise in my shop near another area where I do a lot of work that requires both work holding and a vise that can withstand 50-100 ft/lbs of torque. I figured I had two options – I have a 6″ Harbor Freight unit somewhere buried in my shop that I could dig out or I could go find my dad’s and take a closer look at it.

So. I dug out the old vise from under a work bench and blew off a ton of dust and dirt. The first thing that I noticed was that it weighed a ton and the second was that it was remarkably beefy and actually in really good shape other than surface rust. The action moved fairly well albeit a little gritty. Everything felt fairly tight meaning nothing seemed to be bent or broken. Last but not least, other than missing the handle on the locking nut, everything seemed to be there.

Where did Samson vises come from?

I did some searching on the web and found mention that Samson vises were sold by Sears from about 1908 to 1939 based on searching for “Samson Machinists” on ancestry.com. This page is from a 1923 Sears catalog and was copied from Vintagemachinery.org:

There it is down in the lower-left – 99N5263. A 3-1/2″ jaw width with a 5″ opening, weight was 37 pounds and cost a whopping $9.30!! Wow! Now, when my grandpa actually bought it, I have no idea. If my dad knew, he never said or I don’t recall – at this point, I’m really not sure.

By the way, in the catalog ad above, look at the weight of the 5266 5″ vise – 93 pounds! That would be a fun one to find. It must be enormous – I’ll have to keep my eye out for one 🙂

By the way, I couldn’t find a definitive answer about who made the Samson vises for Sears. Some people thought it was Reed but I haven’t confirmed that. If you search on Reed Vises, you will see some similar designs but I did not see an exact match. I emailed both Reed and Yost to see if they can share any insights. If I find out, I’ll update this post.

8/25/2020 Update: I got a very nice email from James about Samson vises based on some research he did: “Samson Vises were the Sears house brand before Craftsman took over in 1927. Samson Vises were made by Rock Island Vise Company for Sears and Roebuck out of Rock Island, Illinois.”

Restoring the old vise for regular use

Other than quite a bit of surface rust, it was really in very shape and I decided to use the old vise. The next thing I had to decide was what to do with the finish – it was rusty my whole life so I thought about just oiling the rust and sealing it. Another part wanted to fix it up. I honestly thought about it for a few days because I couldn’t do anything right away. In the end, I decided to refinish it. From what I could tell the vises were originally black and either partially or fully painted. My vise had zero paint on it anywhere.

Note: I am not doing a 100% overhaul to make it look like when it shipped from Sears. I wanted to clean it up some have it be functional. I just want to be clear in case any purists take issue with my use of the term “restoration”.

So, the first step was to disassemble the vise both to make sure it was indeed salvageable and also to clean everything. The weather wasn’t cooperating so you’ll some photos were taken indoors and some outdoors so bear with me.

Before I took the vise apart, I mocked up where I wanted it on the bench and drilled the holes. I planned to use 3/8″ bolts to secure it and they are in the photo. The bench it is on has a top made of 1-1/2″ of plywood and weighs 5-600 pounds because of the massive steel frame I built for it.
The first thing you do is to remove the sliding jaw. This is usually done by rotating the handle until the screw exits the spindle nut in the body of the vise and the sliding jaw then pulls out. Be aware that the sliding unit can be surprisingly heavy depending on the design of the vise.
The greasy looking thing is the spindle and it was in great shape. There were remnants of old grease protecting it, the screw and the ways where the sliding jaw slid (the clear tracks on the body. There were no signs of cracks – just dirt and rust in non critical areas.
To the right of the main body of the vise is the lock nut. Normally there is a small handle on it but it’s long gone. This is basically threaded onto a bolt that protrudes us from the clamp in the base. It simply unthreads. The shiny 3/8″ grade 1 bolt to the right of it will become the new handle for it.
This is the bottom of the slide. As you can see, the machined surfaces and screw are in great shape.
Somehow I always manage to miss taking a photo. The top part of the vise is secured to the base by a heavily made axle bolt. It’s the beefy chunk of steel sitting between the base and my ball pein hammer. Surprisingly, it came out very easily with a simple adjustable wrench – I just reached in perpendicular and turned the bolt not expecting it to come loose and it did. That was a very pleasant surprise. So you can also see that the bottom surface of the static jaw assembly and the top of the base are in remarkably good shape compared to the exterior.
Here’s an even closer view of the base and the locking pad bolt. You can also see the axle nut off to the back right by the back ear of the vise even better.. I think they greased it well almost a 100 years ago and that saved the inside parts. I suppose it’s possible my grandfather or dad took it apart and lubed it but I can’t ask them now.
The weather cooperated and I took the parts outside to degrease and wire brush them.
I could have punched out pins and removed the spindle nut but I figured the vise was really solid mechanically so I took a shortcut and didn’t tear the static or sliding jaws down further.
Here’s a zoomed in photo of the static jaw’s pad. I think I can barely see a screw down on the right but it would be a heck of a chore to remove them. Honestly, the jaws were in good enough shape for me.
“72C” is marked on the base. It was the only other marking I found in addition to “Samson 5263” on the side of the static jaw’s body.
After cleaning up the static jaw, the model number was clear as day – 5263.
For the really thick rust, I used my Ingersoll-Rand needle scaler to knock it off. The external surfaces on the base of the vise were the worst.
Here’s everything after degreasing with lots of brake cleaner and the paint will be Satin Black Krylon Fusion.
Here they are from another angle.
I applied four coats of paint following the directions on the can. By the way, when a paint tells you to allow two days for it to cure and you expect it to be rubbing a lot – give it the two days. I have messed up so many finishes over the years that I now follow the directions on timing between coats and how long until a full cure.
This will be my new locking nut handle. I had to grind down the nut so it would clear the body of the vise and then I abrasive blasted the surface so the black pain will stick. It was not blasted or painted yet for this photo.
From left to right – Locking nut, locking pad, and then the axle bolt.
I found it funny to set a modern cheap 4.5″ vise next to the big Samson. Look at the difference in slides! My dad always told me to be careful and not bend the slide on the Samson. Being a kid, I did what he said without knowing much. I look at the Samson’s slide now and it would take a hell of a lot of force to bend that slide!
I greased everything with Super Lube grease. I use it a lot now because it doesn’t dry out fast and has fine particles of PTFE in it to help with lubrication. I kid you not, I coated threads, surfaces, everything!
Boy did it turn smoothly on the base!
It looks and feels like new – with some character marks of course. She is around 100 years old!
The purplish tinge is the Super Lube grease. I literally coated all sliding surfaces to try and get stuff coated. I then wiped it down after this photo. Note that it also shows at the back that the vise is not perfectly concentric. It’s still tight but not perfectly centered on the base – my guess is that it never was. We’re talking being off center by about a 1/16th of an inch or less.
Here’s the locking nut with the finished 3/8″ bolt that serves as the new sliding handle. I applied blue LocTite to the nut to secure it. Note that I can turn the vise and use it from either direction on the bench. Right now it is rotated away from the side of the bench where I primarily plan to use it.
From McMaster I ordered 3.5″ copper Wilton jaw pad covers. My 4″ Wilton has original brass covers that are beefier but these copper units will work.
So you put the pads in your vise and then tap down the surfaces including the small ears on the left and right sides. The Samson is asymmetrical so I labeled the front pad so when I remove them I don’t have to fumble around figuring out which pad goes to the front and which to the back.
I also bought some Mission Automotive plastic pads that are held in place by strong magnets. These come in handy for delicate surfaces.

Conclusion

So the vise is back in use. Every time I use it, I feel good about it and hope my dad approves.


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How To Wash Your Baseball Caps Easily Without Hurting Them

Folks, as my wife will tell you, I like my baseball-style caps and seem to have accumulated a ton of them over the years. With that said, there seem to be just a handful of them that I wear all the time. The problem was that they got pretty dirty with use so what should one do?

I tried putting one in the clothes washer once and ruined my favorite hat at the time. So, since I didn’t have a way to wash my hats, I wound up having piles of “wearable in public” hats, work hats that look bad but feel good and “oh man this is filthy but I don’t want to throw it away in case I ever figure out how to clean it” hats. In the back of my head, I knew I wanted to find a way to wash them but never seemed to find the time.

How To Clean A Ball Cap

One quick comment – what I am about to tell you works on modern caps with plastic liners in the brim (the part that sticks out). Prior to 1983-ish, the liners were often cardboard and getting them wet would ruin them. If you flick the brim of an old hat and it sounds hollow, it’s probably cardboard and you should not do what I am about to outline. All of my hats are modern and have plastic liners.

One day while reading, I ran across the solution and it was so easy I was skeptical that it could work. Not only did it work, but it worked amazingly well. The near miracle fix is to hand wash your hats so they don’t get beat up. You soak your hats in a soapy solution using HE clothes washing soap. In our case, we use Tide for our clothes and that’s what I used. Note, don’t use a detergent with bleach or your hats will fade.

I took a bucket, poured in about a 1/4-1/3 cup of Tide HE and then just over a gallon of warm water. I took my dirtiest “what do I have to lose” hats and let them soak for a few hours, came in and pushed them around in the water to break things up and then let them sit another few hours – these hats were incredibly dirty folks. I was working outside and forgot about the first test batch and they probably soaked for 6-8 hours at least with no ill effects.

There are two hats in there with this load. The first time out I probably had six really dirty hats in there.

With everything wet, I really was just hoping they were done and rinsed them 2-3 times. I then hung them to drip dry in our shower. I’ve since found that even a small fan pointed at the hats speeds up drying dramatically.

Dripping dry – a small fan pointed in their direction dried these two in just a few hours.

The results were remarkable. Oil and sweat marks largely disappeared. Detergents are pretty remarkable – these days, they include enzymes to help break things down and they probably played a role on cleaning the hats so well. Tide Original, which we have, includes three enzymes – amaylase (starch based stains), mannanase (vegetable based stains) and protease (for protein based stains). Seriously, some of the hats were horribly dirty and now they are clean!!

I’ve now got all my hats back in service and they look great. This means my favorite work and shooting hats are back in business! I’m going to guess I’ve done about four batches of hats – maybe a bit over a dozen or so and 3-4 of them have been washed twice. In other words, I’ve done this a number of times and it really seems to work well.

Now that I know how easy it is, I can routinely clean my hats. I’m really happy with the results and hope this helps you out.

By the way, here are some links to what others did so you have some other perspectives to consider:


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How To Run Oil-Lubricated Air Compressors in Cold Weather & Not Trip Breakers

Folks, my shop is unheated and the space where my 60 gallon oil lubricated Ingersoll Rand (IR) 2340L5-V sits can get well below freezing – sometimes even well under 20F. That presents a challenge because the lubricating oil gets thicker as it gets colder and this puts more and more of a load on the motor to start. What usually results is a tripped breaker -I know my 30amp breaker would trip regularly until I took some corrective actions.

One option you can run with is to run variable weight thinner synthetic oil in the winter. I don’t want to run into issues with my pump so I stick with IR straight weight compressor oil so I’m not really keen on doing that. There are guys who will disagree with me and that’s why I point out the option.

The solution I put in place works great. I simply put two Kat’s 24025 25 watt heating pads that measure 1″x5″ on each side of my pump level next to the oil reservoir. These heaters were designed to warm fluid reservoirs including those with oil. I’ve used a ton of them over the years for warming pressure tanks and what have you and have not had one fail yet. My oldest units are probably 3-5 years old and no problems — I just use them during the Winter.

In terms of heating my compressor’s pump, I just run mine non-stop in the Winter but if you’d really rather only run them when it is at or below freezing, there are thermal power plug adapters that only turn on when it is that cold. Note, at 25 watts they do not heat fast. If your pump is real cold it could take it a while to get up to an acceptable temperature. That’s one reason why I just let them run and I can turn the compressor off independent of the heaters.

Along with the little 1×5 units, I use one larger 4×5 Kat’s 24100 pad at the bottom of my compressor to allow me to drain the condensate that would otherwise freeze. I do not run that non-stop as it is 100 watts. It’s on a thermally switched outlet that turns on at 35F and off at 45F. Yeah, it may run more than I need it to but I haven’t invested in a better controller yet for that part. I will list the digital controller I plan on getting some day so you can decide.

Installing is about as easy as it can get. The Kat’s units have a self-adhesive back and must be installed before you plug them in or you will ruin them. Clean the surface of oil and dust, peel the cover off the adhesive, stock the heater on and wait the prescribed time then plug it in and it warms up. Note, I have only used them on steel surfaces. They get hot and I would not be inclined to install them on plastic for example.

Kat’s products are made by Five Star Manufacturing and they have a ton of different products for different applications. Click here for their website.

This is the Kat’s 24100 4×5 heater that I have at the bottom of my compressor to keep the condensate from freezing.
This is the Farm Innovations TC-3 that governs when the 4×5 heater turns on and off. I’ve been using it two years now without any trouble,

The setup works great. No more tripping breakers due to thick oil caused by cold weather. I hope it helps you out.


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Replacing the Pressure Switch on an Ingersoll Rand 2340L5-V Air Compressor

I live in a rural area and wind up doing a lot of my own repairs. About 2-3 years ago I invested in a 60 gallon Ingersoll Rand (IR) 2340L5-V air compressor which is their entry-level “Value Line” of industrial compressors. In hindsight, had I known more about “value” meaning “we made it cheaper”, I would not have made the purchase. Yes, it’s held up way better than my consumer air compressors but a buddy’s big Quincy compressor rocks and that is another story.

At any rate, I use a ton of compressed air for pressurizing my casting tanks and running all kinds of air tools. One of the reasons I went with the 2340L5-V was that I kept burning out the little 30 gallon consumer compressors. Failure is a big deal for me because when a compressor goes down in my shop, almost all work stops.

At any rate, I knew something was going on with my compressor before it stopped running completely. At the end of the air fill cycle that brings the tank back up to pressure, the switch would shut off but then there wasn’t any bleed down to relieve the pressure on the pump. This meant that the compressor may or may not restart without tripping the 30A breaker and it got worse with time. After this got really annoying, I decided it was time to fix it.

I did some reading and it turned out there were two likely culprits – either the check valve was leaking air back or the pressure switch was failing. I had problems with the check valve on other compressors so I jumped to conclusions and replaced that first. It didn’t fix the problem. Argh.

This is the 23474653-R pressure switch. It is just the switch and does not include the gauge, blow off valve or bleed off line (unloader) that you see.

So that left the pressure switch and this is where things just went sideways and I got frustrated. In searching online and calling the parts department, IR’s own parts department sold me the wrong switch and I was down for almost a week. So you don’t go nuts, you must make sure people know if you have the 2340L5 or the 2340L5-V because their pressure switches are different. You can make the better switch from the 2340L5 work but it will take a bit of re-plumbing the lines to do so. I may actually try that some day.

Next comment, do not go with the model number on the pump housing itself. The model number you need is printed on the big silver decal on the tank – not on the pump. The pump will say “2340” but that is not your specific model.

Right there outlined in yellow is the model number you must go by. 2340L5-V in my case.

For whatever reason, IR parts sold me the wrong part even though I asked the fellow to confirm it was right. So, frustrated and with my compressor down, more discussions were held and web searches done and the correct part for the 2340L5-V’s pressure switch is a 23474653-R. Interestingly enough, Tractor and Supply Company (TSC) is an IR dealer and the local store had one of these switches on the retail shelf. This gives you an idea that they are viewed as a wear item if a retailer is going to tie up the money and shelf space to stock one. It was $79.99 and they only had one so I called and confirmed with the clerk that they had one before I drove over. I’ve had way too many situations where a website said “X” was in inventory and when I went to the store, it was not so I try and confirm now. Thankfully, I drove to the store and picked it up.

I removed the cover already but this is what comes in the box. You will need to move your gauge, blow off valve, bleed down line, rear pipe plug and electrical lines over from the old switch to the new one.

Comments On The Swap

So, when it comes to the repair, it’s a fairly easy swap. I took a few photos from different angles to make sure I didn’t forget anything plus I labeled anything that might get turned around. Gone are the days when I try to keep it all in my head. Between my age and interruptions, I find it way too easy to forget things.

Two real important safety comments. Fully drain the compressor – in other words let all of the air out and open the floor drain. Why open the floor drain? Because it’s your double check that it is empty.

Second, please make sure the power is cut. I use a heavy stove/appliance cord going to a wall outlet. I both cut the breaker and unplug the cord. Why do both? It’s your double-check. If you are in a multiperson environment, follow lock out procedures.

Note the top two poles are the hot legs coming from the wall.
Folks when you go to remove the blead-off / unloader line, it is held on by a compression nut fitting. Let me give you a piece of hard won advice – use a flare nut wrench if you can to support as many sides of the nut as you can or worst case use a proper fitting box end wrench. Don’t ever use an adjustable wrench or you will likely round the corners off the nut as the jaws of the wrench give. Now IT does give you a new nut and that is plain 1/4″ copper tube if you screw up bad but you can re-use that whole piece if you are careful with removal and re-installation.
Okay so the top two terminals are the hot legs from the wall. The middle set of terminals are the hot legs going to motor. Down on the bottom you have the neutral from the extension cord and the green/neutral going to the motor. These are thick wires in a tight space so be careful working things into position.
Here’s an odd little thing I encountered. The pipe plug that goes in one unused position of the switch is actually 10mm. Why? I have no idea. The 10mm fit best so I ran with it. Everything else was SAE. For example, the housing itself that you see just above the wrench uses a 3/4″ wrench.
Use pipe thread tape on all fittings and properly support the pipes and what not so the right things you care about are moving in the right direction. For example, I used a pipe wrench on this nipple to keep it from turning while I both removed the old pressure switch and installed a new one.
Lesson learned, stay organized. That is a small magnetic tray. I cleaned all fittings and installed new pipe thread tape before reinstalling them.

Bottom line is that I installed the new pressure switch and the compressor proper bled off the pressure from the pump after cycling. In talking to IR parts they mentioned to me that this is the most common reason for the bleed down not to happen in my series of compressor – not the check valve. I believe that now. The pressure switch seems cheep and really strikes me as a consumable part now. Lesson learned.

By the way, I found out during the actual swap that IR printed the part number on the inside of the switch cover. Why hidden inside? If they had it on the outside, then this would have all been way simpler.

Also, next time my compressor stops unloading, I am going to order one of these switches vs. waiting for failure and having to scramble. It’s my fault for putting it off but I had a ton of other things going on and eventually it bit me.

I hope this helps you out as well. Bottom line, if you have a 2340L5-V then the correct pressure switch you need to order is the 23474653-R. That way you can avoid the drama I ran into.

One last shot of the right pressure switch box with the part number on the top right 🙂

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Here are switch listings on eBay. Be careful that it is a real IR part or a quality replacement vs. an inferior knock off that will not hold up.