Mad Max and the Zen of Exterior Decorating


What started as a simple paint job has taken on a life of its own. Each day I see something that can be added or improved upon. Each day brings more WTF looks, WHY? comments, and COOL! compliments. In addition to the appearance enhancements, I have been treating Rambette to many badly needed structural upgrades and powerplant maintenance services. These last two have me at around $1,500 which isn’t as bad as it initially sounds. I’ve saved massive amounts of money by changing the oil every 30,000 miles (instead of 3,000 miles as recommended by big oil and their whores at the motor oil companies) and neglected nearly every other maintenance procedure. You know the old saw about not fixing what’s not broke… Rambette is at 108,000 miles and still going strong.
Recent maintenance points:
New engine oil, differential & transfer case gear oil, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and engine coolant & thermostat
New spark plugs and wires
New shocks, coil springs, and sway bar end links
New mass air flow & throttle position sensors
New parking brake shoes
New PCV valve and hose
New driver’s side power mirror
New serpentine belt and idler pulley
New front CV halfshafts (axles)

All of these I have done myself and saved a couple thousand dollars in the process. Most of these things YOU, dear reader, can do for yourself. All it takes is a manual, a little bit of time, and suspension of disbelief in yourself. You may have to buy some tools but the cost of these is inconsequential in the big picture. You will still save money, lots of it, and have some pretty cool tools to mystify your friends with.

Recent appearance upgrades include:
Tail light blackouts
Hood, body, and trim details
Lift points on the hood
More paint…

Enough words, more pictures!

To get to the spark plugs, remove this…

And these…

And you’ll end up with this:

 

Installing the new axles. Foxfur loves him some big and sexy tools. The ratchet drive handles pictured are 3/8, 1/2, and 3/4 inch. The 3/4 inch drive handle is not absolutely necessary but sure is handy. The set I have (Proto) will cost you around $600 unless you can find a used set. Mine were free. Right time & place and all that.

New at the top, old at the bottom. The old rubber boots were torn and letting in dirt and crap. It took less than 1 hour per side. To put that in perspective, the spark plugs took 3 hours. It would have been faster but me & Mr. PBR took our time…

Struts, coil springs (and new tool: spring compressor!), cabin filter, MAF, TPS, PCV, etc.

On to the appearance upgrades.

The tail lights were so bright as compared to the paint job that I decided it was time to balance them out. I initially used a tinting spray:

It’s from VHT. I wasn’t very impressed. It’d be ok for building a normal rice racer but looked a bit too glossy for Rambette. I remasked the lights and shot them with flat black.

I came up with the design on the fly and ended up with this. Now it looks like this:

They are nice and bright at night but look cool as hell 24 hours a day.

A friend posted this pic of a Hyundai Elantra on my Facebook page:

Find the entire story here.

It gave me the idea for my next project.

I had a box of 500 3/8 x 1 inch long stainless steel bolts lying around just waiting for that special project. In just 24 hours it went from this:

To this:

The lift points are simple 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch U-bolts from the hardware store.

I also got my veterans license plates! $34 to the state. If you’re a vet please look into getting yours. It will increase public awareness of just how many of us are out there and will allow vets to identify each other.

One night last week I was out in the front yard testing out Grizelda MK VI, my fire poofer, after upgrading the accumulator with an old 5 gallon propane tank. The accumulator allows more on demand volume for poofier flames.

What once looked like this:

Now looks like this:

And just for poops and guffaws, I decided to see how it would look atop Rambette:

Seriously.
Get off my lawn.

Another recent project having to do with Burning Man (besides Rambette and Grizelda MK VI) has been stencils. You saw the BURN SHIT one above. The other one is “KEEP BURNING MAN POTENTIALLY FATAL” which is a plea to the organizers to not try too hard on the whole safety thing. Not that they’re going to, but, with 60,000 people there and an estimated 70,000 in coming years, it represents a real threat to my enjoyment of dangerous good times in the desert.

One more Burning Man related score. I found some hot short shorts that match my orange unsafety vest!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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Pyro School: Special FX Fireworks & Mobile Flamethrowers


I attended another pyrotechnics course at the same place as I took my general operator’s courses. The class was focused on proximate fireworks: fireworks designed to be used quite close to audiences and performers in theater, movie, television, concert, and sporting venues.

Flashpots, strobes, comets, crossettes, mines, gerbs, lances, airbursts, etc. Lotsa stuff to choose from. I’ve made and used many of these over the years and had a great time with them. You’d be amazed to see how close you can be to a properly designed and constructed pyrotechnic device…

The special FX pyrotechnics demo set up outside the classroom.

Comets and crossettes.

A concussion mortar. Loaded with an ounce of flash powder and ignited by an electric match, it sounds like a cannon…

Here’s my video of the live fire demonstration given today:

Also demonstrated was a commercial flame projector. Though nothing like the ones that I build, it’s still impressive for the simplicity of the device.

A commercial flame projector (“poofer”).

A view of the projector’s gas orifice and hot surface ignitor.

A video of Ken explaining and demonstrating:

Another highlight at today’s class was my friend Espressodude whom I build stuff with and camp with at Burning man. He has built “The God of Hellfire”, a motorized flame effect platform that traverses a full 360 degrees and elevates from 0 to 90 degrees (horizontal to vertical). With twin “flamethrowers” and an all electric firing system, it is quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen anyone build in their garage. He brought the flamethrowers out to my property a few weeks back for testing after the fire department asked him not to do it at his house anymore… Today was the first full system test. He had a custom trailer built to carry the self mobile platform that allows operation without unloading.

GoH in action.

His “Field Artillery Tractor” which is the tow vehicle. He built this during the winter of 2010.

Rear view of GoH.

A video of the God of Hellfire in action today:

I’ll share more on this particular project in weeks to come…

Fire Toys


Here’s some photos of propane burning fire toys I have built. While I’d love to make a step by step tutorial, the nature of these systems prevents me from doing so. They aren’t inherently dangerous, quite the opposite actually. Rather, the construction and operation of them by individuals unfamiliar with building systems like these may lead to accidents that can be prevented by a little bit of knowledge. I built this “fire poofer” based on seeing photos and diagrams elsewhere on the net. The first two photos show the construction details of poofers. These are from The Department Of Spontaneous Combustion. The concept is simple. The poofer consists of an accumulator tank that also serves as a base. Rising from the accumulator is a manifold consisting of an inlet for the propane gas, a safety valve to shut off flow to the solenoid valve (or hand operated whistle valve), a solenoid valve (or whistle valve – a quick opening and closing valve typically used on steam whistles and air horns), a vertical ‘stack’ or pipe leading upwards, and a pilot light to ignite the released propane as it emerges from the top of the stack. My manifold is truly overbuilt. It is made up of stainless steel and 5,000 PSI hydraulic fittings (propane gas pressures seldom exceed 150-160 PSI). It’s what I had laying about in my workshop. It can easily be built from plumbing fittings available at most home improvement stores for less that $100.

Poofer fired by electric solenoid valve. It allows multiple poofers to be fired individually or simultaneously by remote control or programmable controllers. Of course, it can run a single fire poofer using a button like I do with mine.

A manually operated poofer. I’d recommend stepping up to a whistle valve for smoother operation.

The rest of the pictures are of my fire poofer.

Yes, yes I can!

Overall view

A closeup shot of the manifold

The pilot light

A wide open blast. It sounds like a jet engine. Has a deep throaty whistle / roar.

At Burning Man. Running it with short bursts or ‘poofs’

Controlling the solenoid valve with a signal generator

My “Auto-Fire” control

A finished view of the “Auto-Fire” controller box. The 10-turn pot allows fine control of the firing rate. It ranges from around 1 shot per second to 17 per second. On and off periods are identical, i.e. 1 second open, one second closed. Future iterations will allow adjustable periods independent of each other.
The timer circuit is based on a 555 timer IC and a solid state relay. It’s a 4 channel relay so it has expansion possibilities.

A video of the poofer running in Auto-Fire mode:

In manual burst operation it will produce fire rings in still air

I don’t know what this one came from but it’s from something of ours and looks cool

One of our propane flamethrowers (modified Manchester Power Jet commercial weed / brush burner)…

The Manchester Power Jet hand burner puts out 750,000 BTUs. See details at Manchester’s website. They’re not cheap. Expect to spend around $200. Here’s one for $130. That’s just the burner, no hose or regulator. They have a package deal including them which costs $220. I don’t use a regulator with mine, never have, not needed. I want wide open, right now, burn it all kind of flames. You can get a 10 foot hose online or at a propane dealer. The valve that it uses is what’s referred to as a whistle valve. It allows nearly instant full opening as well as infinitely variable flame adjustment.

A whistle valve available online from McMaster-Carr.

Here I’m running two Power Jets and the fire poofer at the same time. I’m using a foot switch to run the solenoid valve on the poofer.

 

A manually operated poofer:

The manually operated poofers can use a whistle valve (best due to the speed of operation) or a ball valve (less expensive). Electrically operated (using a solenoid valve) poofers cost the most to build and require a power source to operate the valve. I like them due to their adaptability to automation and remote operation. Manual ones are quite safe to operate but you are so close that you can’t appreciate the look of the fireballs and flares.

Be careful and have fun. Wear all cotton, wool, denim or aramid clothing when operating any fire toy. Synthetic fabrics melted onto skin are decidedly un-fun…

Update, May 5th, 2017. Nick Poole, another flame effects and electronics enthusiast, has a poofer build at Sparkfun you should check out. He listed this page as reference used in his research, AND, he’s still alive! If you’d like to improve your chances of survival and integrate a microcontroller into your project, go and learn how here.

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