Things Get Complicated Sometimes

This is not a complaint. It’s just a fact, though, that sometimes projects get complicated. Things don’t work quite as simply as they ought to.

One thing that – pretty much basically never – works simply is rural truck delivery. Or maybe it’s just me.

The other day, the bench-top for my welding bench arrived (in a full-sized semi!) and that was “only” 250lb or so to get into the back of my Tahoe. But the “pièce de résistance” arrived yesterday, in the form of a bubblegum pink 16-ton forging press made for me by Coal Iron Works. It weighs in at a cool 700 or so pounds.

The trucking company calls (as they do) “We’re delivering it tomorrow. Uh, OK?” So I explain that it’s a bit hard to get to my facility and I hope they have a truck with a lift-gate, as was clearly specified on the bill of lading. “Yes! The driver’ll text you a half hour before he’s in the area.” So, yesterday afternoon, I get a text “I am about 10 minutes out. Where are you?”

It being frozen hell over at the shop, I am sitting at home, 10 miles away, wrapped in my fleece bathrobe, drinking coffee and pondering the disaster that is the American Political System. Run! Run!

I get there as the full-sized semi is pulling up. I had told the dispatcher that it’s hard to get back to my shop and they should send a shorty. Naturally, the driver heard nothing of this; he takes one look at the driveway and its steep ditches on either side and says, “not backing down that.” The best he can do is either take it back and I can come get it with my own semi (not happening) or: he can deliver it to the side of the road and it’s my problem. That’s when things start getting complicated.

The driveways at my studio are on a 25 degree slope, with riprap-filled ditches about 3′ deep. It’s pretty icy and it’s snowing. I have a 700lb forging press sitting on a pallet by the side of the road; motorists whipping by slow down to stare. Perhaps they think I am taking it out for a walk?

Why do they call it “jury rigged”?

So, that’s how I got the forging press up to the door. It worked surprisingly well, other than a bit of slipping tires; my truck didn’t slide side-to-side much because I had this great big land-anchor attached to the back. The upper guylines turned out not to be necessary but seemed like a good idea anyway: I could imagine the whole thing flipping over backwards and winding up in the ditch.

one inch at a time (look at that 1 1/2″ pipe just bending…)

Then, it was 2 hours of winching the pallet across the parking lot, until it was up against the step leading to the door. At that point, I was numb, stupid, and hungry, and called it a day.

All night my subconscious cranked obsessively about how to a) get it up that single 8″ step and b) get it in the door (which is too small for the pallet, and too short for the palletized press.

This morning I got up bright and early, drank too much coffee, and headed over, with a plan. My plan was that I was going to take my hammer drill and a concrete bit, and drill holes in the floor as necessary so I could stage the come-along further up the hallway. I also took a car floor-jack that was going to go under the leading edge of the pallet so I could tip it back enough to crunch it forward up the step. So, I had a complete, though laborious, messy, and potentially disastrous plan.

As I went around the side of the driveway, I noticed that the next door neighbor had a bobcat.

So, I rang the doorbell; we talked, he said he’d be perfectly happy to help but he needed help getting the tire on the ‘cat inflated because it was off the rim, so I ran into town and got a 5-gal jerrican of diesel (my “thank you”) and some starting fluid (to blow the wheel back onto the rim) and in about a half an hour the ‘cat was operational and he drove over and scooped the darned thing right up onto the step in about 15 seconds. That is what hydraulics are for! Yes, I wasted my time with the come-along yesterday.

The press came off the pallet pretty easily and we slid it onto my shop dolly, and puffed and pushed the thing down the hall and off the dolly and unwrapped it.

When I ordered the press, the nice people at Coal Iron Works said they could powder-coat it whatever color I wanted, so naturally I said “bright pink.”

I’m going to make sure I keep my fingers clear of the bitey end of that thing.

All that’s left to do now is to assemble the grinder bench (I have all the parts ready now) and bolt the grinders and vices and bandsaw to it, top the welding bench, finish the electrics hookups, and get the propane hookup. The propane company’s sending an engineer out the 17th to take a look at the forge – apparently they are concerned about just hooking stuff up and seeing how it works – they like to send someone who theoretically knows what they are doing, before they entrust a large steel bomb to random people off the street. I approve. That was a fun conversation:
Lady on the phone: “a 2-burner what?”
Me: “blacksmithing forge.”
Lady on the phone: “how much propane does it use?”
Me: “I have no idea. Lots, probably.”
Lady on the phone: (rolls her eyes so hard I can hear it)

My experience with projects is that each step of the project unlocks more steps. Sometimes it’s one step forward after 5 steps back. Helping the neighbor get his ‘cat operational was more effective, faster, and easier than drilling and winching along the floor – but at the time it felt a lot like I was dealing with side-quests in an adventure game. You know, you’re in the middle of preparing your armor for the final battle between light and darkness and before you can get the piece of leather you need for your armor, you have to rescue the old leather-worker lady’s cat from the tree. But the tree is guarded by an imp and the imp wants a can of baked beans that can only be found in a castle half a map away…

------ divider ------So that’s why I’ve been a bit quiet the last couple days.

I’m aware that Badger forge is excessively well-geared. Basically, I have all the nice stuff. This entire project is neatly funded within a limited budget based on selling my old Harley Sportster, which I hadn’t ridden in a couple years. Sure, it’s all still a bunch of money but I am convincing myself it’s “re-allocation” not “outlay” so much. Since I’m doing all the construction work and assembly myself, the costs are lower. I know I’m fooling myself; this is what I want to do when I retire, instead of traveling around the world staying in hotels and stuff – I’ve already done enough of that. So I’m preparing to stay home, get a couple dogs, and become a game-playing blog-posting metal-squishing hermit.


  1. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    If you ever find yourself in Beautiful Downtown Scranton Pennsylvania(TM), go to Steamtown (now with no entrance fee) and go on the Locomotive Shop Tour (also free). Our machines ain’t pink, but they are really cool.

  2. says

    Dogs! You’re going to get dogs again? Good for you. I don’t know what it is, but ever since the diagnosis, obnoxious pink is showing up everywhere, intertwining with my life on all manner of odd levels. I’ll assume it’s good. When it comes to tools though, obnoxious pink is the best option – you’d be amazed at just how many men will not borrow or steal tools that are pink.

  3. kestrel says

    The Luck of Marcus strikes again! Everywhere you look, you find bobcats etc. to help move stuff. That is some pretty serious luck!

    I love hydraulics myself – was so thrilled when we got the tractor and could use hydraulics to solve many problems including digging fence post holes. It’s quite wonderful to see those hydraulics hard at work, doing something a human would not be able to do well by hand.

    This forge is going to be amazing. When do you plan to be able to fire her up, and start making stuff? What will be your first project? That’s very exciting, I congratulate you on your new pink press!

  4. sillybill says

    Project – you’ve mentioned guillotines a few times recently.
    But the old fashioned version is not very portable and we’re going to need portable. And they are a bit slow as well, perhaps some automation is in order.

    Yer gonna need a fork lift. Get a propane one and you can fill it up from the big tank.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    I had thought “jury-rigged” derived from “jerry-rigged” – i.e., the improvisational engineering used by Germans in WWII as their supply chains broke down.

    But my little dictionary app disagrees:

    (of a ship) having temporary makeshift rigging. … ORIGIN late 18th cent.: jury perhaps based on Old French ajurie ‘aid.’

    So much for intuitive etymology, and my backup guess involving work done by a committee. The same dictionary observes –

    jury 2 adjective [ attrib. ] Nautical (of a mast or other fitting) improvised or temporary: we need to get that jury rudder fixed.

    ORIGIN early 19th cent.: independent usage of the first element of early 17th-cent. jury-mast [temporary mast,] of uncertain origin (compare with jury-rigged ).

    Insert a few bars from The Pirates of Penzance here.

  6. StonedRanger says

    Aside from youre going to need a forklift, youre also going to need a door big enough to get your forklift in and out of so you don’t have to do all the muscle work by hand. Youre going to need some way to move all that steel around.

  7. says

    I’m mostly going to be doing small stuff and minor assembly. Now that The Pink Presser is in position I can keep things in the 50-lb range.

    One problem with the building is narrow doors. The side door is the closest thing to a loading dock but the door frame has a central bar.

  8. says

    I plan to be making some test pieces by this time next month.

    My first project will be an experiment to see if I can laminate vintage wrought iron with Hitachi White Paper #2 steel and make a small paring knife or utility knife. Project #2 will be the same except wire rope damascus. Then I want to experiment with powdered metal and stainless.

  9. says

    A friend of mine, who was having some nasty medical problems once said “pink is good, green is bad” so maybe that’s what is going on there?

    Yeah, my neighbor saved the day. I’m lucky and I am glad that I was the-opposite-of-stiff-necked enough to ask for help when I hit a problem I couldn’t handle.

    I could have handled it, but ugh it would have been a horrible ordeal.

  10. Ice Swimmer says

    Cool and hot! I wonder if any of the motorists starting questioning themselves if they should cut down on booze.

    The Guild of Mechanical Engineers (Koneinsinöörikilta, KIK) in Aalto University (the biggest university of technology, business school and school of industrial design in Finland) has used pink student overalls* since the 1980s. Pink Panther and the colour being so outlandish are the stated reasons for the choice.

    So there is a sort of pre-existing connection between forging and pink.
    * = Basically custom overalls, similar to those used by mechanics and factory workers, which are used in informal student festivities, sponsored by various businesses and decorated with all kinds of patches and bagdes.

  11. says

    Ice Swimmer@#16:
    Pink Panther and the colour being so outlandish are the stated reasons for the choice.

    I wonder if the idea was to make them less steal-able. In which case it may have backfired.

  12. says

    I am once again left drooling and filled with an urge to go visit you just to help build stuff.

    If I can nail down the processes tight enough, I may have some forge-ins in the fall. If so, you’re welcome as long as you keep your tongue off the yellow-hot steel.

  13. says

    Ah yes the “this should be finished this afternoon” projects. I know them. That’s basically what every minor thing in our house boils down to.

    I think it may be life.

    I had a really epic one back in ’03. Someone smashed our mailbox. So, I thought I’d replace it. But the stand-post was bad. And the neighbors’ shared my post. So I decided to replace the post with a double-post and some hidden steel bars and stuff. Clearly, a job for a PhD ( <- Post Hole Digger!) So I saddled up my massive Soviet-made tractor and hooked up the PhD and went up and made holes. One hole. Then the tractor's uniquely Soviet-made centrifugal oil pump blew. Now, I had a nearly 2 story high tractor parked across my driveway. Where it sat for 2 weeks until I could get a new pump journal and rebuild the darned thing and get the SECOND hole made. In that time, the welders completed the 10-ga steel mailbox, though, so that was pretty good. Total time for a 5 minute project: nearly 3 weeks. During the 2 weeks the tractor was stuck there, my mailbox was on the front end bucket with a big clamp.

  14. says

    Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?!@#2:
    If you ever find yourself in Beautiful Downtown Scranton Pennsylvania(TM), go to Steamtown

    I actually have a plan to be in Allentown in the spring, which is kind of in that direction! Maybe I can do it!

  15. Ice Swimmer says

    Marcus @ 17

    The student overalls (most student organizations have their own nowadays here) tend to be quite personalized with patches (sewn on or glued on by those less skilled in sewing)*, badges, traded pockets and sleeve or leg parts and sometimes bearing the (nick)name of the owner, so stealing them is (AFAIK) somewhat unheard of.

    However, one could argue that the idea of using pink in the overalls is rarely stolen. The pink colour is fairly unique, apart from the mechanical engineering students in Aalto U, I only know some textile and clothing tech students using pink overalls. There may be a few others, but mostly the overalls are in other colours, from white (EE in Aalto U) to red (mechanical engineering in Tampere University of Technology) to green (Dollar green for business students in Aalto U) to blue (electric blue for EE in TUT, dark blue for civil engineering students in Aalto U) to black (many IT student organizations, land surveying in Aalto U, Chemical Engineering in Lappeenranta University of Technology).

    Now, pink, black and white could be the colours of Badger forge, right? A black-and-white striped welder’s cap, black leather apron and other clothes suitably black and pink. I think i should stop now, before I get more crazy ideas.
    * = Embroidered patches are sold by many student organizations and when a party or an event is held, they often sell patches commemorating them. I think demand for fabric glue may peak when big student parties are held…