Monday, April 9, 2012

The Art of Wheelbuilding

[A guest post by Andy]

Since moving to Nashville my primary hobby had been pushed to the back burner for a variety of reasons. Moving into our new house here in East Nashville provided me with a perfect place to create a bike workshop. Back in college my apartments were graveyards of bike parts, inadequately sized toolboxes full of bike tools, and a trail of bike grease and crud that would make any landlord cry.  Nothing was better than helping my fellow low income college students feel completely fulfilled by their transportation choice, the bicycle. They had clever names like Sammy Davis Sr., Bill Paxton, Gertrude Stein, Patrick Michael Collins, and many more. We loved them enough to give them names, and it was my self imposed duty to keep them running as best I could. (Unfortunately we lost Gertrude Stein in an unfortunate bike polo accident.)

So I’ve decided to recapture this love of the bicycle, and to help our adopted city of Nashville become the Bike Capitol of the South... Starting One Bicycle at a Time. I decided that my life's passion, my vocation is to get as many people as possible on this, the most efficient modes of human transportation. In pursuit of this goal I decided the first project was to build a new wheel for Amanda's bike named Patrick Michael Collins. This was something I had long wanted to attempt but now with new fervor I took up the project.  

Stopping at a local bike shop here in Nashville I inquired into the availability of wheel building classes. This prominent shop went on to say that machine built wheels work just fine and hand built wheels are just too expensive for them to employ a wheel builder and thusly did not have the capabilities to build a wheel.  However according to several sources including my primary guide through this wheel building quest, The Art of Wheel Building, this is just not true. The machines that build wheels tend to build low quality wheels, there are several components of including the spoke washer (which I will talk about later) that machines simply cannot use and they are not as capable as a discerning human at tightening spokes to the degree necessary to make a wheel last. I have experienced this poor wheel building over the years and have gone through somewhere around 10 rear wheels and a couple of front wheels. During that time I have mostly ridden my dad’s old 10 speed which is a 27” frame (referring to the height of the wheels). However it seems for whatever reason bicycles and therefore most shops have switched over to the 700c tire size which is slightly smaller than these 27” classic wheels but are sold as 'better' quality (better parts but not assembled properly). Also they never carry high quality wheels in this size as they are usually for older bikes. I decided to see what I could do to build a high quality 27” wheel.

And while I was at it I had always wanted to see what a generator hub could do. A generator hub is just that the middle of the bicycle wheel is converted to a small electrical generator that operates simply from the spinning of your wheel. They offer a very small amount of resistance, and can provide electricity for a wide variety of low voltage applications including but not limited to phone chargers, iPod chargers, and the application I was going for, a very bright headlight. Usually bike headlights operate not so much for you to see where you are going, but for cars to see that you are there. Lights to see the road generally cost hundreds of dollars and take battery packs the size of water bottles.  

So I resolved for my first wheel to be a quality 27” rim with a generator hub so Amanda could actually see the road at night. The specs of the rim and hub had to be calculated to find out the length of spokes required for the wheel.
After 3 times relacing the spokes I finally got the lacing pattern right. After the first attempt I thought I had ordered the wrong size spokes, but things gradually got better. At one point I had the spokes laced and thought I had destroyed the wheel. The rim was bent to such a degree by the spoke tension that I thought if I went to grab the camera the whole thing would just collapse. But it all worked out, and after several rounds of truing I have a wheel fit for a queen (Amanda).
Next Guest Post from me: Tour of the Bike Shop at Bailey Hall

From Left to Right, 294mm Wheelsmith spokes, DT Swiss Spoke Washers, Brass 2.0mm  Wheelsmith Nipples
CR-18 Sun Rim Double Walled Eyeleted 27" Rim - you will not find these in a shop near you
Shimano 3N-30 Generator Hub 36 Hole beefy for a front wheel

Washering the spokes over some evening pancakes
After the second disassemble trying to get the lacing pattern right
finally figured it out... I need a rim
Buster scoffs at my incompetence
Wheel ready for the ridin'

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins


I struggled a bit with this month’s muffin recipe. Originally I was planning on making a new recipe with seasonal ingredients and being all “green” like that. Since I’m from Minnesota I associate January with a complete dearth of living things, so the spice cupboard is where I went to for this month’s “seasonal ingredient:” cinnamon.
I believe I have built up a tolerance for cinnamon, as I thoroughly love the spice. Andy thinks I over-use cinnamon on pancakes, in granola, french toast, apple sauce and oatmeal. He is just silly. Cinnamon is always welcome in those foods and more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Happy 2012 everyone!

This past year has been a good one for me.  I feel like I've gotten better at cooking and knitting.  Despite my horrible slippers I made for myself, I've now made 2 successful projects!  I'd like to make more things in the future.  One project I have for the new year is to get our oldest sewing machine tuned up so that I don't tear my hair out when I use it.  I've got some projects planned to sew, such as a tablecloth, napkins and possibly curtains for a new house (we're looking to buy one!).  For knitting I plan on making socks for Andy, then from there I'm not sure what I want to do, so if any one has ideas or suggestions I want to hear them!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Canning Applesauce

Finished rose applesauce, awaiting entrance into my belly.

I’ve already professed my love for applesauce and let it be known how easy it is to make.  For happiness, everyone should try to make applesauce at least once.  If it’s for your happiness, why not do it?

Prepping the Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples.  It's best to core and quarter your apples.  Don't be lazy like me.
Something that I admire in others is the ability to eat seasonally.  I have not mastered this and one of the best ways to be able to eat seasonally, or at least not go to the grocery store as often, is to can.  I love applesauce so much that it is a main priority to save when apples are in season.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Felted Slippers

My favorite part of felting was shaving the slippers.  This picture was taken before they were shorn.

For about a year now Andy has been complaining that his feet are cold and pointedly showing me the layers of socks he applies to his feet.  Since it’s getting to be winter, and even in Tennessee it gets a bit chilly, Andy has been back at it and not so discretely letting me know that it was time that I got started on making his slippers.  He threatened to buy slippers if I didn’t get going, so a couple months back I bought yarn and a pattern.  I’m not sure why Andy felt confident in my ability to make him a pair of slippers, especially after seeing these.  It may have been my insistence that he not buy slippers, after all, why should I have a skill (I use that word loosely) if we’re not going to use it?
The dog is everywhere.

I’ve knit lovely things before, hats and socks, but those horrible slippers just threw off my confidence.  My biggest problem is not knowing what yarn to use, what size yarn and needle.  The solution to this was to go to the yarn store with a pattern that specified yarn weight and needle size and stick to the plan, I would not improvise.  No winging it!  I asked the lady who runs the yarn store where “worsted weight” wool was located and when I made my selection and got up to the register she said, “Oh, looks like you decided on the chunky weight instead.”  Chunky weight?!  I had no idea there was even a category called chunky!  The worsted weight yarns looked pretty chunky to me and I liked this so-called “chunky” color better.  Ugh.

That’s when my plan went out the door and the owner introduced me to a pattern for felted clogs (this pattern was written by someone whose first language is English), showed me correctly weighted wool that was on sale and helped me pick out the correct needles.  She ensured me that this was a simple pattern and that felting was easy (you’ve done it accidentally to a sweater before, right? ...of course).  I left the store with a brand new plan and a daunting skill ahead of me, felting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Flock of Cupcakes

I received a request from my brother for cupcakes when he came down to visit.  He specified these cupcakes, which are indeed the most adorable and edible thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I actually just like to look at the picture to swoon about how adorable those little sheep are.  Adorable and perfect.

In reality I think my brother was joking about actually wanting the cupcakes, but he knows that I think sheep are wonderful and sent me the picture as a way to combine my love of food and my love of sheep.  He may have been joking but I interpreted it as a challenge.

And I am crazy.  I have no cake decorating experience and I had no idea how to even start on these amazing creations.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Stewart just supplies pictures of the cupcakes and no direction on how to make them.  The only advice given is that the “wool” is made of mini-marshmallows.  As my mom would say, “No shit Sherlock.”
If you look closely, you can tell the wool of these "sheep" is made of mini-marshmallows.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Ode to my Great Grandma and Applesauce

As a kid whenever my family visited my great grandma Murphy's house in Indiana she always made a feast.  It didn't matter when we visited, there would always be a spread on the table and everyone remotely related to us gathered around.  One dish that she would make that I adored can't really be thought of as a "dish".  It was homemade applesauce.  It was incredible.

I remember eating it hot.  It was sweet and chunky and I never had anything like it before.  Sometimes I wish really hard that I could remember those days better, visiting with my great grandma in her kitchen.  But I was young and more concerned with playing hide-and-seek with my cousins and exploring the edges of her yard that opened up to a field.