In a recent post I gave the basics of planning a shop floor.  Progress!

Concrete poured!


… with anchor pots from here!


and now it’s getting some walls!


Of course, winter happened…it was cold enough to sweep the snow off the 2nd story floor…


It cleaned up for a bit… a lot got done…


It was a big day when the roof sheathing went on


and…. roof tar paper and with siding… viewed from the house.


It all starts from a plan.  I looked at HDPE (basically PEX for air… it has AL wedged between plastic layers), old school black iron pipe, and copper.  I first worked on paper, and then walked down to the house and tore the paper up.


My next shot was closer.


Once the heating duct work got in place (which I hadn’t been thinking about when working on paper) the world changed again.  Here you can see on the far side of the main support steel I-beam there is some shiny duct work.  Yup, limited some of my options, and opened up other stuff.  At the hole in the floor there will be a vertical steel beam (pic later) that goes down to a pillar of concrete that’s down there for support.


With the framing mostly finished, they got the steel posts in the garage and I knew it was time for in-wall air lines. Here’s where they welded the steel post to the I-beam:


After researching everything I could find and talking with some folks that have put air in their shops… I went an expensive but pretty bullet-proof route: copper.  I plumbed the garage with 3 main air access points and one source point with all 3/4″ copper pipe.  I got it to the point where all the pipe will be behind drywall/wallboard of some sort.

It takes a few plans

WARNING: If you are frightened of bad sweat jobs, don’t look at the following pictures.  They may be disturbing to certain folks with no tolerance for bad sweat jobs.

Unlike many folks who are scared to take this kind of thing on… I am not really scared of sweating pipes.  I’ve seen it done, asked question and then went on to make some of the ugliest sweat jobs ever.  The real key is to understand that you’re working in a wood-built building with an open flame and you have no source of water… so keep an fire extinguisher nearby and be very aware of where you point the hot bit.

Of course… I couldn’t find my striker… because … of course … my shop is all in storage.  So, I did the first bits with strike-anywhere matches.  After a match head flew into a pile of paper as it lit, I decided to go buy a striker.  It’s well worth the investment.

Here you can see the main junction.  to the left it drops down at the back side of the garage where the air source will be.  It comes out to the junction (and through to near the welded post in the middle) and drops down below the level of the joists.  Since that area beside the duct work is going to get framed in and drywalled, it was a convenient straight run of pipe to the ends of the shop! At the far (East) end of the shop you can see the drop for top-of-standing-bench air access.  The cool thing is that I can add a manifold there for a variety of low flow bench top tools. easily.  Only a couple of bends.

Some details: You want the highest point in the air system is right above the compressor input feed pipe.  At any low points you want to have an opportunity to drain any condensation that might happen to settle in that place with valves.  I’ll need to add one at the point where it exits the wall there.  Yes, it’s mostly flat running east to west, but at the East end you can see the drop where water will go.


Here is the drop (to the left in the pic above) that will be fed from the compressor:


Here is the West end.  It’s inside a utility closet (yet to be framed) that includes the furnace (duh… you can see that) for the apartment up top and a water heater (not there yet).  Note that since the pipe lifts up into the joists space to go to the south, I also put in a drop that will trap water that’s pushed that direction. It’s got a male 3/4 pipe thread end to prepare for a value to vent the condensation.  There is also a drain in the utility closet… terribly convenient.


Here’s a better pic of the pipe lifting into the joist space.


Here is the run that goes to the center steel post.  It isn’t in it’s final position, but you can see how it runs down the joist void.  I later added some copper coated strapping to suspend it above where the drywall will go.

I plan to put in a high quality retracting spool with a beefy rubber hose on it.  I’ll also include a water trap with valve.


I didn’t capture a picture of the final access point.  It’s near the Southwest garage door inside the garage.  It’s at about knee level.  we’ll see the access point next but not the plumbing to it.  This one is for bicycle tire filling and anything outside.


I put plugs and caps on all the other point except for the one near the garage entrance.  then I tapered down to 1/4″ npt, added a Tee with a pressure gauge, then a ball valve and an air quick disconnect.  I pulled my Jeep “Bob” up and charged it with pressurized air from the Jeep, then closed the valve… here’s most of the setup.


The Jeep currently turns off at about almost 80 PSI.  I really want to test at 120, but if it doesn’t leak at 80 it will likely not leak at 120 PSI.  I wait a few minutes and come back…


UH OH!  I look around … and I hear a hiss…here:


So, I crank that plug down a little more and recharge the system… then wait several  minutes:


crap crap crap…. and then I hear another hiss… here:


WHEW!  I’m hoping that’s it.  I probably just didn’t get one of the 8 or so joints here tight.  I snug them down.  Hopefully it’s just these plugs and such that I’ve added to test.

I ran out of daylight … will continue this tomorrow… but really it took quite a while for it to drop this time.  I’m encouraged that maybe ugly doesn’t mean “doesn’t seal”…

Next time I’m taking a little bottle of soap bubbles with me.  I had a little help… and found bubbles around one of the plugs…


And after 2 hours…. ARGH!  Still a little leakage somewhere.


Ok, we have 2 more places to test with the bubbles…

Both were leaking… ok… last time… pressurized to 80:


I’ll check back in 2-3 hours… and see how  it went.

The good news is that along the way we’ve been checking my sweating…. and I sweat ok!  Maybe overkill on the solder, but they appear to be holding up.

Well…here I went back, checked… it had leaked a few psi… but that’s not terrible.  I figure it’s the tape somewhere.

I hook up to do a final test before I pull all the testing stuff off…

So…then the plumber shows up to plumb the upstairs apt.  After day 1, it looked good.  lined up nicely… but he forgot the shower… so when he went back to fix the shower…




AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!…. re-soldering is so much harder than clean copper.  … and now I have to do it all surrounded by PVC… what could possibly go wrong there in an OSB house with no water hooked up as a novice 2nd pass sweats pipe in between IBeams…

Even more fun… he cut the pipe… he didn’t unsweat the (say) vertical lift and just lift the pipe out of the way… he (a professional pipe fitter) didn’t do the customer a kindness by just cutting a piece of copper (that was right at his feet) and re-sweating with it up higher.  No … he cut it… right at the T going left to right… so I now he leaves me a !@#$@# mess.

After much cursing and gritting of teeth and yet another Saturday morning… I’m ready to test again.

No, this is not kid bubbles… it’s professional gear to leak testing…


…. and below you can see what happens if you have a leak…it foams up…


So, of course… I have to resweat that joint… but of course, typical for me, I left the pressure captured… so as soon as something melted it made an even bigger mess as the air blew out the molten solder… ugh…

More cursing and the dog starts blushing… and a resweat later…

Of course…. it leaks on the OTHER side…because now I’m into like the 5th time sweating the same pipe. :sigh: it was tiny enough that I had to take the pic while the professional leak detection system fluid was flowing over the seam.


<dad joke> One more pass…and it seamed better….  </dad joke>

…let that sink in…

Yup, totally worth it.

So… overnight… and it did bleed down to about 10psi… so I re-pressurize and go back with the bubbles and find this…meh, yeah, it’s got some tiny bubbles by the bloody tape seal.  That’s it…I’m done.


Next up… adjusting the electrical plan.



It turns out that sometimes daughters don’t take care of their Jeeps.  Yeah, it’s a sad state of affairs.  I drove it for 2 days and had to take matters into my own hands.  The 2002 Jeep Wrangler comes back to dad limping, leaking and with sore feet.

  • Tires were bald
  • Cam position sensor was wonky
  • One speaker works
  • Radiator leaks
  • Steering box leaks
  • Transmission leaks (maybe? hard to tell with all the other leaks going on)
  • Some weird transmission engage when it’s cold and you’re at a stop light.
  • There is a mystery electrical ghost that prefers right turns
  • There’s a problem with the door handle on exterior passenger side

I think the blinker fluid may be low too.  Good thing we helped her get a new car so I can have some quality curbside time (no shop at the moment!) to fix the conditions under which we’re operating…

I’m still confused, but this was her dream of a car to buy.  It makes her happy… which makes me happy-ish.  Something something about loving daughters.


A couple of weeks later I’m getting a burger at this place…. I wince a little at the name of the place… maybe it’s karma?  Surely they don’t mean me?!  At least I had a Moab Jeeping t-shirt on.


Unfortunately, the 2002 Wrangler issues isn’t the end of the woes…

Bob also has some issues:

  • Old tires
  • Door problems, and more door problems (driver’s interior handle, passenger window crank)
  • Gotta pass smog in a new state
  • Windshield wiper was splitting itself in half just a little more with every swipe across the windshield.  It was kind of like having a piece of string under the wiper blade for a while…only that was part of the wiper.
  • Not enough trail time

And… due to the lack of use, I should get all the gas out of the Blue Pig so that it doesn’t turn to turpentine.  With house construction entering full swing now I’m pretty sure it’s mothballs for the Blue Pig for another 4-5 months.   I also noticed the bead lock wheel on the right front isn’t holding air for very long at all any more.

OMG my shop can’t come soon enough!

To know how bad the ’02 Wrangler was… I actually took it to a shop for the cam position sensor.  A shop!  I actually paid someone to do labor.  *cry*  They told me there were a few other leaks and it was hard to tell if those other issues might also be causing some of the symptoms… yeah… no kidding.  I may have already known about the leaks.  They fixed the cam position sensor.

I also quickly ordered and replaced the radiator.  Really Jeep… plastic and __________ (whatever that metal-ish stuff is)… that’s the best design you can get?  I ordered a 100% aluminum soup cooler from Griffin Radiators.  That stopped the immediate drooling but the steering box still needed attention.  It was more of a “tablespoon a week” kind of leak.  It looks bad on the pavement but really the volume is a slow drip when it is hot.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that I got the steering box replaced.  Broken seals and power steering don’t go together.  Thanks Bill for allowing me to borrow your garage to do that job…and sorry for the mess!

New tires were just a trip to the tire store and $.  I did take the pull-offs and put them on Bob so that I could smog Bob.  Long story short — CO requires 33″ tires or less height tires to smog your 4×4.  You can sometimes borrow from a tire store for the cost of unmount, mount, unmount, mount… pricy.  Since I was buying new tires for the ’02, Bob got the downside of the upgrade… bald but the right size.  They did the extra unmounts+mounts for free since it was pretty clear I’m going to be a frequent tire purchaser.

Sorry for no pictures… really, I was slipping this stuff in between house planning, working and occasionally finding a trail this summer … and I did find a few: Red Cone (my fingers are almost thawed out after a month, it was sleet and hail for about 1/2 the day), Slaughterhouse (perfect weather and timing) were fun, and also took a newbie out to a local fire road near Boulder.

Somehow I’ve worked in a fuel pump replacement for a friend.  That job is less fun but can make all the difference.

Funny enough… the one speaker working in the Jeep… apparently the balance just got turned all the way to the right… :snicker:  fixt!

I think all that’s left in the ’02 Wranger is the weird phantom light issue, the right door handle that’s wonked up, and the odd urge it gets when cold to engage 1st gear when at a complete stop at a red light.  I’m sure that’s safe, right?

Today I made it out to drain the gas from the Blue Pig.  I couldn’t resist spending the only offroad time it will get this year faux climbing the big dirt pile from the great-dig which is going to be my house’s basement.

Still more to do but I think at least I can survive the winter now… if only I had a heated garage ready to finish the jobs…

BTW, I did hike a few 14ers this Summer.  The views are breathtaking.

The fish was THIS BIG!


I hope to do a few more of these next year.  I think you can see forever… it’s just right over that last ridge.



Designing your shop floor

Posted: November 7, 2017 in Shop or Drop


BEFORE you pour concrete for your garage, take a few minutes to figure out if there’s anything you need to cast in.  It’s ALWAYS better to cast things in than cut and place them afterwards.  Each cut is going to add some fractures here and there.

One thing I’ve wanted a few times was the ability to pin a vehicle down to the shop and pull on it a bit.  It could be something as “easy” as straightening a body ding or as difficult as removing a slight bend to a frame or bumper.  Also, it would be handy to have some solid points you could winch to either using a portable winch or a snatchblock and a real winch on a Jeep…that I might just happen to have already.

It turns out that the specific problem of anchoring a vehicle to the shop floor has been solved!

These anchors wedge into a carefully formed hole in the concrete.  They have a short length of chain that slides into a slot in a wedge at the bottom which pulls up into the cup from the bottom (and expands the bottom of the cup) which converts the pull into outward compression (which concrete handles extraordinarily well).  You’re seeing it here with the top lid on.  The are placed in concrete such that the tops are flush with the surface.


Here’s a pic of the chain on the inside:


…and below you can see the cross-slot where the chain binds (you pass one link through and pull it up crossways through the long slot shown below:


Below is a closer look at the expansion wedge that has the chain slot in it. Note the slots in the main cup that will allow expansion so that the cup wedges up tight against the concrete.


The Champ folks have it figured out so that you can install these in an existing floor by boring a hole in the floor.  For my application, I also ordered some steel plates which will cast into the concrete and further strengthen the pull.

To install the plates, you tap (a.k.a. pound) the sleeve closed slightly and then tap the plate down to within about 1/2″ of the bottom of the cut slots down the side.  here’s a view of one with the plate wedged on:


Yes.  I cheated.  I read the directions.

Once you have the plates in place, you pound the wedge into the bottom until it’s within 1/4″ of flush.  This will start wedging the sleve out against the plate.


Here are some completed.  They are upside down (the caps would go on the surface pointed down).



Here is how the chain grabs the bottom wedge:


Per instructions from Champ, tape all this up so nothing leaks and get the concrete guys to keep them flush with the surface whenever it’s poured.  You also want a void UNDER the sleeve so the chain can be removed/replaced and (according to them) you could remove and relocate the wedge… I don’t see me doing that but sure… let’s go with their ideas.

Here is one all taped up and ready for the concrete guys to set.  It’s upside down here and standing on it’s cap.  the top “bulb” is to build in the void to be able to manipulate the chain.


They are rated for a 10,000 pound pull.   The jury is out on how much I’ll use them, but I think that if you might someday use them it’s a smart investment before the concrete goes in.  You can install them in an existing slab, but you won’t get the plates and you have to bore holes through the concrete which I would think would weaken it.

So, where do I want them?

The manufacturer recommended 14 of them in a pretty nice pattern…so that you don’t have to re-position the car every pull.  I don’t plan to do enough body bending for that to make sense.  also… holy crap.  Every step I’d be jingling a cap.  So, I compromised and decided on 6.  in a 16′ x 8′ rectangle.  One in each corner, one 1/2 way down one side and one centered.

Here is the electrical layout to scale without them in it:


I roughly sketched where I wanted them.  The 4 corners will likely be centered under cars most of the time (other than when I’m doing bendy things).  By putting them in the center of the bigger stall that will give me lots of room around them if it’s needed when working.

I also wanted them some distance from other concrete load points (like the support column and the sides).

The top left corner of the drawing below is the top left corner of the usable space in the plan above.  There is a measured reference to the area between the garage doors.


With this spread I should have no trouble winching a dead pull into the garage (pull a jeep into the other bay and snatch block to the right-most pair).  For something like a bumper I can chain down 2 or 3 points and pull the other direction.  If I actually end up doing this on a frequent basis I can always drill cores out and add more anchors.  I don’t see it happening… but it’s possible.

I looked into putting air and/or electricity under the slab.  I think there are going to be better ways to handle that in this shop.  Keeping water out of the air line would be a nightmare if it’s physically lower than the rest of the shop and I think for electricity it’s better to go over than under.

The pour is coming soon!  We’ll see how it works out.

Space invaders

Posted: November 5, 2017 in Shop or Drop

Space (in your garage).  The final frontier (for wrenching).  These are the chronicles of … some guy trying to fit all his garage crap into limited garage space.  In a prior post, I identified that I have some crap for a garage.  This is when things are still “in the air” enough that you can try a lot of things on paper.  Paper is cheap.  Moving things later is costly.

Sketch, draft, review, redraw, new draft, rinse and repeat

After a few iterations with the draftsman and the city, here is the space for the garage.  It’s not all I wanted… but as the saying goes, “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”:


It’s a 3 car garage with an attached carport.  We are putting in an apartment above the garage.  The stairs to the right of the carport are for access to the apartment upstairs.

So, here’s what we’re working with:

This gives a grand total garage/shop space of 24′ x 31′ (744 sq ft) minus walls, utilities for the apartment, door swings, etc. With the apartment over the garage there won’t be any rafter storage.  Instead of rafters I can use the exterior (right side) porch area for storage… as long as I can make it neat as that will be visible from the house and secure as it will be seen from the street.  I’ll cover that in another post.

The silver lining regarding the apartment is that I have to keep the garage above freezing to keep pipes from freezing.  To ensure that’s the case, I am putting in a 45,000 BTU heater!  Something like this one:


There will need to be a support post in the garage (bummer!) to support the apartment.  Although that restricts movement of large sheets/body panels and long tube I’m making lemonade.  I’ll use it as a handy centralized drop for 220V power, 110V power, and compressed air.  I upgraded from 4″ of concrete to 6″ of concrete as well.  That should help with vibration/settling/hammering on the concrete.

Here is the laundry list of things to place (in no particular order as my memory apparently randomly walks around):

  • Welder
  • Plasma cutter
  • 60 gal compressor
  • A bunch of hand tools
  • Table saw
  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • Free standing lathe (I got permission for an upgrade from my bench lathe!)
  • Sanding station
  • Grinding station
  • Vice station
  • Metal fab station
  • Woodworking assembly area
  • Heater! (woot!)
  • Beer fridge
  • Dust collection system (** Newly approved by my better half!)

The toughest things to place:

  • Air compressor (noisy)
  • Free standing lathe (big footprint, but can be against a wall)
  • Dust collection (central located is best… shortest distance to everything)
  • Table saw (broad access)
  • Planer (long linear access)

Stuff that needs decent access (against the wall is less desirable):

  • Table Saw
  • Drill press (anchored)
  • Planer
  • Band saw

Putting welding and plasma cutting between the garage doors has worked well from experience in the past (good access to weld/cut on vehicles).

Most everything else moves to the work to some extent.  For the electrician, I needed to lay all that out.  After about 10-15 different sketches, here is the basic layout with power supply needs.  This is enough to get the plans moving.  There will likely be some additional outlets here and there.  The main aspects I was shooting for was getting enough 220-240V power to do everything I want to do.

Power plan


The stations not identified in the power plan will either be mobile (on wheels) or will be against or near walls.  Grinding, small lathe, chop saw, etc are mostly bench top and I’m thinking they will land along the bottom wall.  I think the light plan is pretty good with 16 overhead florescent (or maybe LED?) work lights.

We tried to get an RV hookup in place.  That wasn’t allowed by the city.  Also not shown (and clearly not related) is a 220V power station outside for an electric car recharge station.  It happens to be near the RV parking just past the carport.  Unrelated but also close happens to be a sewer cleanout.

I’ll also add some accommodation for a security system.  I’ll leave it to your imagination why I may not post the details on the internet.

Things that will still need my attention in later posts:

  • Do I need to do anything before the concrete goes in? (YES!)
  • Benches, stations, special lighting
  • Air compressor and compressed air routing plan
  • Dust collection… do I want some hard channels or all flex tubing?

Later, when I’m cursing the prior owner for terrible placement I’ll try to remember that there wasn’t a previous owner.

Feel free to add a comment with suggestions.  I have limited wiggle room but some adjustments can be made.

I’ve been wrenching for many years.  I’ve moved a few times so I’ve had a few “opportunities” to set up a shop inside of a garage.  I’m not quite in the elite group that can afford to have a complete separate shop space that doesn’t get regular car use.

My kids are out of the house and on their own.  With my latest change of location (hooray I get to keep a job I enjoy!) is closer to my kids.  The bad news is that the local ordinances in most of the local neighborhoods are crazy restrictive.  The good news is that there are a few other options.  I called them “country mouse” or “city mouse”.  Suburb mouse is too restrictive.

By “country mouse” I mean that I could move WAAAAAY out and commute in… and get a place to do what I want for a shop.  I’ve commuted before and I don’t really want that much of a commute.

By “city mouse” I mean move into an “old part of town” that likely doesn’t have as many restrictions on building/operating a shop in your garage.   This might have other tricky things about it, but it comes with the advantage of being able to walk to a couple of brew pubs and restaurants.

After a frantic search earlier this year we found a derelict property in an old “down town” area.   When I say downtown I don’t mean “developed”… I mean there’s a main street and a couple of cross streets that have small independent commercial places on it.

The property was old, tiny, and not in good repair.  It had no meaningful foundation, no garage, no carport, no driveway, and very little else.  Where one person sees an impossible-to-fix I saw an opportunity.  There is exactly one mistake to fix.  The house.  I don’t have to “live with” whatever garage/carport someone else thought was “good enough.”

Lafayette house

I’ll spare you most of the madness about the local city ordinances that stalled me from building for 4.5 months and will not really talk about costs.  No, you can’t ignore costs when building a house but this blog isn’t about house building.  It’s about wrenching, offroading, and such things which come with puttin’ rubber on trails and wrenches on bolts.

That being said, here’s my new garage… site … covered in the one of the 3 dirt piles which will be used to backfill behind the basement walls on the house.  I’ve added the blue pig for scale.  (see my pages on the Buggy Build to learn about the Blue Pig.)


Before they dig and pour concrete for the garage I have a few things to do.  Planning my very own shop from the ground up is exciting!

The first thing?  Get “the boss” to sign off.  I married the right woman.  She gave me enough leash to build whatever I want.  The bad news… the city had some restrictions.  Not enough restrictions that it’s not doable at all.  Just enough to be annoying.  What started out as 1100 sq ft garage is now narrowed down to a +/-750 sq ft  3-car garage.  It’s larger than what I’ve had in a long time and I get to plan it… so I want to make the most of it.

The second thing?  What all do you want to be able to do in your garage?

  • Some wrenching
  • Some woodworking
  • Park cars
  • Man cave

What all equipment am I putting in there?

  • Welder
  • Plasma cutter
  • 60 gal compressor
  • A bunch of hand tools
  • Table saw
  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • Free standing lathe (I got permission for an upgrade from my bench lathe!)
  • Sanding station
  • Grinding station
  • vice station
  • metal fab station
  • Woodworking assembly area
  • Heater! (woot!)
  • Beer fridge

As I’ll be doing some wrenching and potentially some body work, I also want some fixed points to pull from.  That is something I have to plan BEFORE the concrete gets poured…so I need to get on it!

Doesn’t this look like fun!  Get out and get some dirt on your tires!  I have been!

I made it out wheeling a few times this summer in “Bob” … but this is probably all the wheeling I’ll get in the pig this year.  I am looking forward to next year though!


After way too much 70s musi, a lot of rust grinding, and some enjoyment… I’ve sold The Dawg.  The bitter sweet photo above is before-finished-sold … There were a few things that I haven’t mentioned that are worth mentioning for those that might think about doing a restoration.  Take a read before you get into it.  Maybe you’ll learn something and get it right.

The Gas Tank

When it was off and sitting for months I should have spent a day filling it with water and seeing if it leaked.  The tank had 2 weep holes in it.  They weren’t very big and didn’t drip… they were just enough to empty a few gallons over 3-4 days into the air… which was annoying and made the garage smell like gas.  Gas vapor isn’t dangerous is it?  I used a tank liner and it appeared to have fixed any issues.  It was annoying and delayed getting to drive it on a regular basis by about a month by the time I got back to it and dealt with it.


Get a single-owner-signed and valid title or knock $1,000 off what you would pay otherwise.  An untitled vehicle is more of a pain than it’s worth.  It is worth noting that this is different state-to-state.  When I moved to CA from out of state they don’t have a “bonded title” status so the DMV gave me a clean title.  *shrug* I knew it was clean anyway.

The Exhaust:

I was less pleased with my exhaust guys. It’s growing on me because it does sound meaty on that small block Ford.

Sourcing parts:

Some of the simplest parts are the hardest to source.  Take these:

A simple little nylon loop to hold wiring in a nylon sling and the pointy bit flares the petals after they are inserted in a hold that hold it up.  Simple enough.  They were a pain in the rear to source.  You would think a basic wiring holding clip needing a 1/4″ hole and able to deal with 1/8″ thick mounting surface would be easy to find… HA!  When you get them it’ll be in a lot of “50” when you need 10.  Suck it up puffball and get 50 of them.  Better yet, contact me and I’ll sell you 10 for the price of 50 and charge you shipping.

I found mine here.

Media Blasting: (not the interwebinator kind… I mean sand, soda, walnut shells…)

I was not impressed with the guy that did my soda/sand blasting.  I specifically mentioned using less sand and more soda.  Maybe he was smarter than me by using more sand than soda but I’m not entirely sure.  Soda won’t get all the caked on rust off.  I get that.  I also get that sand is cheaper.  I would have appreciated a call that said, “Did you want to come take a look before I spend all this soda or did you want to trust me that sand is going to be more heavily needed?”  It would have been 20 mins of driving and I might have just said “go ahead.”  As it was, I didn’t get the question, so didn’t get the choice.  I also found a few spots where the primer wasn’t fully covering.  If he didn’t have enough primer he should have told me…instead I got some etching primer in a rattle can and just did that.  My body guy was happy with the end result so it doesn’t really matter.  It was just one more annoyance.  On the upside they didn’t overhead the metal and warp it any more than it was already.  That can be the case with a newb at the wheel.

I don’t think my media blasting guy was stunningly better or worse than anyone else out there.  It’s a tough world and he worked at a reasonable price.  Just make sure you fully understand what you’re getting.


Less is better.  Patching is more work than you might think.  Bondo will not fix your problems.  At best it will fill very (micrometer) shallow low spots to get the finish super-smooth.

Don’t expect rust free, but if the rust is causing some sort of sagging then it’s not a keeper… it will be expensive to get things to line up.

IMO, here are some no-goes:

  • Door pillars: If the rust goes up to a hinge forget it.  Your doors will never line up.
  • Engine Bay, if the top of the inner fender well is not continuous all the way from front to the dash then the front may sag.  If so it will take a ton of luck to get it straight enough and matching on both sides.
  • Cut or uncut is up to you on the rear fender wells.  If doing a restoration uncut is preferred and is worth a premium.

Hard Tops:

Good hard tops for broncos are hard to find.  They are all rusted somewhere.  There are replacement top panels (pans?) for them, but I can’t imagine how tough it is to cut the rusted tops out and replace them and get it all straight.  The sides would be bendy and wobbly and really tough to get back together.  It’s possible you could do that while it’s mounted on the bronco(?)… that’s about the only way it might work.


Rust is the killer of doing this on a budget.  Every panel you have to touch is going to cost.  I don’t see how someone can make money on a project like this.  If you want to break even, make sure all parts are original.  Scratch it down to paint color to make sure all body panels are original.  Also, now that I’m smarter by making the mistakes, I know to make sure the motor is original.

Finally on the money thing: all the little bits will cost you.  The more that are in good shape when you get it the better off you are.  I still had all the knobs and levers and buttons and stuff.  I kept them, buffed them and they cleaned up nicely.  All that hardware would eat your lunch if you had to re-buy them all.

Can you go the distance?

There are a lot of not-finished projects out there.  Either the money was too much or the time was too much or both.  Just do it or sell it.  Someone else out there would love to finish it up.  If you don’t finish it be prepared to take a bath on it.  Unfinished projects aren’t worth the parts value.  Most finished projects aren’t worth the parts value.  I bought this one unfinished and disassembled.  Together it would have fetched more.  That helped my budget.  In the end I’m down about $1k not counting any of my time.

Selling your project:

Don’t rush selling your project.  Do your homework.  I did try a few channels to sell the Bronco.  First, I put a high price on it and listed it on Craigslist.  I got some folks calling who were interested, but didn’t bite.  After that, I tried the Bring-a-Trailer Auction.  I put the lowest price a little under what I was comfortable with as the reserve.  The auction came to $1,500 under my reserve.  I did not pull the reserve off.  2 weeks later I sold it on  Craigslist for about $1,500 more than my reserve in the auction.  It cost me $250 to do so.  Had it been on the auction at a different moment maybe that would have worked… I also think that 4x4s don’t do as well as exotics on that particular site (which I think is super-cool and I go there to drool from time to time)…  If I was selling an Astin-Martin maybe that would have gone better.  In the end it worked out.  My best advice: Shoot straight about what you have (and don’t have)… then it will sell itself.

Was it worth it?  

Absolutely.  Will I do it again?  That’s harder to decide.  I’m not sure who gave the advice, but I recall someone talking about restoring loved cars versus exotics.  The gist of it was that paint and finish is about 1/2 the cost of a restoration.  The paint and finish cost is about the same regardless of what the car is worth…$10k – $20k. If original husks are about the same price, <~$5k, and at the end of the build a domestic may fetch $20-30k for common cars where exotics / super-cars might bring in $50k – $100k+.  It makes more financial sense to do exotics.  You’ll spend more in time and parts on an exotic and therefore take on more risk.  The expectations are higher for the end product as well.

At the moment I have plenty of ponies in the stable… but one of my daughters is about to retire her Jeep TJ… hmmmm…

Go out and get your tires on some dirt!



Yup, it’s time to interrupt some great fun to do some wrenching.

Any offroader who has been wheeling for more than 6 months will tell you that it isn’t the last moment before you broke that really causes the break.  It’s usually all the things you did leading to that point.

So… keeping that in mind, I’ve had the Blue Pig out a few times…

Oceano Dunes, CA


BLM land in NV


Byrds (in Arkansas)



Fordyce Trail in CA


Hollister Hills, CA


Rush springs Ranch, MO


Hollister Hills, CA




Moab, UT


So yeah… it was time for something else to give.

We headed up to Niagara Rim, CA for a weekend of wheeling.  About 90% through the trail a buddy noticed something dripping from the back…derp!

Yeah, it was less fun for a little bit.  I can hear almost all the teenagers and slightly-older-than-teen folks going “I know, right?!”

Fuel cell leak on aisle 5!  Fortunately it wasn’t a gusher, more of a drippy bit.

I’ve made several trips this year with 1 more to go.  Pismo/Oceano dunes is coming up soon!

Rewinding to the build blog… here  describes how I mounted the fuel cell.

Here is a shot before it had all the body on, paint, etc.


It’s held by 2 straps.  They are wider than the “kit” that is sold with most tanks, so I figured that was good.  The bolts by the tank nearest the bottom of the picture and on the straps cinch the tank up tight to the angle iron frame around it at the top.

In the pic below, right at the tip of my index finger (on the right) is pointing at a little bur on the edge of the tank.  That would be where the leak came from.  Being cheap and on the trail, I tried to patch it with “gum”.  That’s the old wives tale… gum is supposed to get rock hard when in contact with gas.  As you can see by the smudge above my finger, it didn’t work so well.  Apparently Trident is NOT the right variety.  An internet search tells me hubba bubba or bazooka would work… who knew?!  Consider it purchased and in my pack for the next trip.


My middle finger (on the left) is pointing to where the strap was.  The straps were tight… if you look very close you can see that there was a little friction wear that the strap caused.  It didn’t wander over and cause the leak… which means generally the welds are likely weakening.  Ugh.

I have a few options:

  • Fix this tank
  • Get another like it (and get a sump welded in)
  • Do something different

Fixing this tank… yeah… Aluminum has a few bad properties once it starts cracking.  Unlike steel it likes to crack rather than bend.  Shock loads are particularly bad.  MAYBE I created a few shock loads… ha!

Once the exposed metal is in the weather for a while (mine for 3 years) the aluminum also surface oxydizes.  It doesn’t degrade like steel because it kind of makes a skin of oxydized aluminum and doesn’t continue deeper … but it does mean you have to grind under it for welding… all of that just weakens the tank generally.

I also noticed this…which looks like witness marks to a weeping leak.  *sigh*  Regardless of what I use for a replacement this one has to come out.


Disassembly!  Get out the ziplocks and use them…


A little siphon action to empty the tank …


Below you can see that:

1- I had some pretty good plastic spacers that have a nub on the back that fit into holes in the strap to space the tank bottom off of the straps…

2- At the bottom corners I had some rubber slipped over the strap to also help with abraision.


Well, it worked for 3 years of wheeling!

After removing the tank, I gave it a look-see to see if there were other non-obvious issues.  It turns out that it had worn a bit where it contacted the steel at the top:


I think we go with one of the replace options:

  • Replace with same same
  • Replace with different

So… replacement…I started shopping.  Same-same would cost $210 + welding cost for Aluminum (I ain’t got the gear to smooge Aluminum).

I had a few different ideas and hit a fellow engineer and we started thinking about economical options.

Of course, being engineers, our attention naturally turned to beer related things.

It turns out I can buy a 15.5 gal beer keg (new!) for about 1/2 the cost of an aluminum fuel cell.  Further, they are made to take some pretty high abuse. They come with two handy mounting surfaces (a.k.a. top and bottom rings) to bolt to.  It’s made from 304 Stainless… food grade!  I think we’re going to get the buggy tanked!

The infinite interwebs tells me you can also run into cracks in the welds with stainless… but at least I’ll have a cheaper replacement next time… ha!

There is plenty of unused space in the trunk for fitment:


So that’s the plan.

Time to order some parts and get a brown santa visit or 5!

Details of the tankage:

  • In-tank fuel pump
  • 2 wires have to get some current in and ground out
  • 2 hoses (one in, one out) for circulation of fuel to the fun-power generator
  • One hose from the pump to port to get out
  • One vent tube with a roll-over valve

I can reuse my filler cap if I can get it to mate nicely with the top of the keg.

I will likely have to lengthen the legs on the tripod that holds the fuel pump.

After a short delay, parts arrive… and I get to work.


Here is the new tank and old tank …$132 delivered to my front doorstep by brown santa.  I had to pull the hard fuel lines.  New tank = new bends = new hard lines.


It felt like sacrilege, but I did it anyway… I used a hole saw to cut the hole in the top so that I could get other tools in there close to get it cut near the final shape.


After some clever use of the press to get the fill cap into a roughly conical shape (highly paid professional hiding back by the press… he’s a little camera shy and kind of like waldo, but now he’ll be famous)…let’s just say his name rhymes with Bob…


Here is the tank after further grinding, coping, drilling, …rinse repeat


Yes, that’s a ton of grinding dust down in the bottom.  I did find that stainless is pretty hard. The drill bits noticed.  The grinding wheel didn’t really notice.  Cutoff wheels definitely noticed.


Now time to prep the cap for the extra roles.  I got some weld-in bungs for in/out ports for fuel and one for a vent with rollover valve.


Also, I needed to remove the structure from the old tank mounts…


First mock in:


After trying about 5 different ways…. we decided that angled back by the rear tubes looked best and might behave best.  Here you can see the basic setup.


For mounts, we bent some tube mount points… 14 cranks on the press after touching appears to be the right angle.


We also put a strap around it for that extra huggy feeling.


The wiring went well.  I had a a few issues with the plumbing.  I had a little leak here:


I thought the leak at the fitting so I tightened it… a little too much.  Then I figured out it was UNDER the bung… so my welding missed a channel.  So.. as you see here I welded it on the top.  Then I tightened back down… it got tight, then looser…. oops.  screwed up the flare and/or fitting.


The result?  The AN 6 nut might be ok, but the sleeve is crushed inside and won’t come out.  the steel line looks like the flare was pressed out.  there was also a welding booger on the far side that didn’t see when I put it on.  sheesh… pain in the neck.  Ordered some nuts and sleeves from Speedway motors.

The other plumbing issue I ran into… I ordered the new 3/8 fuel line from Jegs. That stuff was so hard to bend I kinked it when bending it over a mandrel… sheesh!  I would understand if I was trying to hand bend it but not when doing it over a mandrel.  I ordered some similar to the previous line I’ve used to see if it works better…we’ll see if I feel motivated enough to bend another fuel line.  It’s pretty much a pain to do and there is always a chance of introducing steel flecks into the line from the flares.

Even if I have to replace the lines I can go ahead and finish out the first fitting since I know where it’s all going to fall. Time for some paint.  We’ll see if this holds up to gasoline:


A couple of days later, I get the fittings, cut/reflare, fire her up!  Blargh… my welds still leaked.  Grind off old bungs, more bungs welded on, grinding, and welding later… try #8: Worked like a charm!

(Grinding and paint makes me look like the welder I ain’t?!)

Here’s the finished product (after the Oceano dunes trip).  It turns out that the paint I used on the outside isn’t particularly safe for gasoline… but… I don’t think it’ll matter as long as it doesn’t leak!  The dribbles going away from the cap I think are due to the huge sloshing against the cap while running in the dunes.


…. and from the side…


Test drives @ Pismo Beach / Oceano Dunes!


Four days in the sand and the surf…. what a great way to end a wheeling season!

A couple of suggestions I’ll keep in mind… and probably do over time:

  • Put a beer keg tap spigot and hollow it out and use it on the end of the vent hose
  • Attach a button off a keg tap pump to the fill tube cap


Get out and get your tires dirty!  It’s almost wrenching season!