Friday, 2 August 2019

A few weeks ago, I bought a bike...

I had always said that I was going to buy a bike once we moved out of London. The bike I purchased was a cheap one and is excellent for just getting about, but it has a few issues. Not least of all, the tyres. Although they looked alright when I bought it, once they were inflated to the recommended pressure, they showed visible signs of being perished. I also knew it had been standing for a while, outside, by the look of it, but for what I paid for it, I was happy.

So now came the quest to tidy it up and check it out. The first thing I noticed was the lack of traditional old nuts and bolts. Although this bike is by no means new, it is getting on for, if not already, twenty years old, it is totally devoid of familiar fixings. My old dog-bone shaped 'universal' cycle spanner is now far from universal, in fact, I don't think there is anything I can use it for. Mind you, the last time I used it was getting on for fifty years ago. Things have moved on a bit since then.

Deep breath, time to spend some money. I bought some new tools. Having committed myself to do a fair bit of peddling around, I needed something that I understood and could fix if it went wrong. A bit of an investment on new tools is not something I needed to think about for too long, after all, for me, part of the fun of owning an old bike is restoring and improving it. A bit of a clean up and adjustment resulted in a nice tidy, non-descript bike.

That'll do, at least for now...
While looking for some new tyres for my bike, I came across a listing, on a local social media selling site, for a couple of bikes that had been stripped, with the intention of combining parts from the two, to make a single hybrid bike. This plan had caused the owner more problems than he could solve and so, decided to sell the lot and move on. After some negotiation, I bought the whole lot for fifty quid. Now the fun begins...

What a lot of bits!
What have we here? The answer to that is akin to a jigsaw, or rather two jigsaws, mixed up in the same box with a few bits missing. The bike at the back is an aluminium-framed hybrid that was being stripped for parts to fit on the blue frame. The blue frame is entirely devoid of any marks or maker's name. One wheel had been fitted with a new road tyre, the other tyre had not been fitted. The other bits were supplied in bags. This was going to be a bit of a challenge.

As I said earlier, this is my first delve into this new world of bike fettling. Last time I worked on a bike, I was still at school. Measurements were in inches and bikes had nuts - not hex-head bolts, holding them together.

For some reason, both bikes had their front wheel attached. My first job was to refit the rear wheels, temporarily, so the bikes would be easier to move about. Simple task, or so I thought. It was at this point, the reality that my cycle engineering was fifty years out of date. Words like 'Skewer' were just not part of my vocabulary back then, at least not related to my bike. For those of you who don't know either, the 'skewer' is the name of the rod that passes through the hollow axle when a quick-release system is employed to hold the wheels in the frame.

The grey bike has the aforementioned quick-release wheel fixing. Once I had worked this out and discovered most of the bits were missing, I managed to buy a set of new skewers, complete with fittings, and refit the wheel, albeit without the chain and derailer. The blue bike wheel had no nuts, so another trip to the local bike shop produced a couple of second-hand nuts. Now I could refit the wheel, once I fitted the tyre.

Another new discovery is that these bike tyres are directional. They need to be fitted the correct way around. I now need to remove the rear tyre and refit it. I thought I had it the correct way around, I must have turned it while struggling to fit it. I am getting better at it and some of the old 'tricks' are coming back to me.

The blue bike is getting there - slowly
The strange folding mountain bike is coming on. The road tyres have been fitted, although I have yet to turn that rear one around. I have been trying to work out where the cables go and I think I am almost there I just need to get to grips with the brakes and derailers.

As for the grey hybrid bike, I need to use some percussive maintenance on the handlebar stem. It seems that it has corroded and jammed itself in the fork tube. I may have to cut/drill it out. This is no sacrifice as the front clamping plate is also missing. I might as well replace the whole thing as getting a clamping plate will probably be nigh-on impossible.

More on the bikes to come...


Saturday, 27 July 2019

A few weeks on...

The move to the coast has been an experience, to say the least. Just don't ask me to do it again. Since we have been here, all sorts of things have happened to slow us down. Finally today, four weeks after the official completion, we are starting to see the light, literally.

I was looking for a comfortable life. I had all sorts of illusions of moving in, unpacking a few boxes and getting on with living our new life. That turned out to be a fantasy that was just not going to become a reality. Apart from the fact we were moving from a large Victorian terrace in London to a smaller Victorian house that has been modernised, it is also a fair bit smaller than we are used to. Cupboard space is at a premium as the kitchen has far fewer units than we had, and we are a whole utility room short. This we knew about, but it has been much harder to fit it all in.

Logistics aside, there are all the niggly little things that need attending to. Our London home had been two flats when we bought it in the 1970s. Over the years we completely re-plumbed and re-wired it. We also installed the central heating system. If anything went wrong, I knew where the problem was likely to be. There was not a pipe or wire that I had not had a hand to over the years. Consequently, I knew where everything was, and if something stopped working, I could locate the source/cause quickly. Not so here.

A bit of a shaggy dog story...

Over the first few days, we were getting used to where the light switches are, and there was a light over the stairwell that was out, and we could not work out what switch was supposed to turn it on and off. We eventually worked out which switches were supposed to operate it and decided the lamps must have blown, one at a time, and as it is in an awkward position, over the stairwell, the previous owners had not got around to changing them. Removing the bulbs proved this to be wrong as all the lamps were in good condition. At this point, I decided to remove the fitting and fit a temporary pendant fitting and a new lamp. I could see nothing wrong with the original fitting, and it proved positive for all continuity checks.

By this time, a day had passed, and no satisfactory conclusion was within sight. The switches were the next suspect. At first glance, nothing untoward there. The next port of call is the wiring. One of the things I liked about this house when we viewed it, was the fully boarded loft. Standing in the attic looking at the tongue and grove flooring panels, I was now not so keen. To get to the wiring of this light, I was going to have to lift half a dozen boards. An hour later, I was looking at the wire coming through the ceiling from the light fitting. The wiring meandered all over the place with long loops of wire here and there, apparently intended for other fittings, put in by the first-fix electricians before all the ceilings had been boarded during the renovation. Following the wire around the loft, it eventually disappeared into the void over the back-extension, of which there is no access to.

Now, hot and somewhat bothered that such a trivial thing was causing so much grief, I retired to the kitchen for a cuppa and a think. Not wanting to get involved in cutting holes in the ceiling in the first week of occupancy, I was searching for another course of action. It was then I realised that the upstairs switch to this two-way circuit was in fact not wired as a two way, but it is a double-pole switch, wired as a crossover. For those not so versed in lighting circuits, that means it is not two way, but three. The search was on for the third switch.
Outside the bathroom is a downlighter that did not work either along with a dimmer switch on the wall. I had just assumed this was only a single light and switch. As this is in the back extension, maybe this is where the wires are running, and this downlighter is not independent, but on the same circuit as the fitting over the stairwell. Removing the switch-plate confirmed my suspicion. The switch and downlighter was indeed part of the circuit I was investigating.
What's more, there was a wire off in the back. Replacing the wire in its correct position still did not rectify the position. Before I committed myself to install a new loft hatch into the ceiling of the back extension. The dimmer switch was reading continuity on both positions when it should read open in one position.  I swapped out the dimmer for a conventional two-way switch-plate.

Not believing this would sort the problem, it could not be that easy, I closed the breaker in the consumer unit, and then there was light! It was the switch all along. Thirty-six plus hours after starting to tackle this problem, It was sorted, and all for the cost of a cheap switch-plate (45p on special offer from Homebase - two-pack for 90p). All I had to do then was to relay the loft floor!

Cooking - or not!

The saga of the light is just one example of how silly little things can escalate into significant upheaval, especially when the layout of the house is unfamiliar. The more irritating things are those that directly impact on our day-to-day living. The cooker in the kitchen looked cheap and nasty, but we assumed perfectly serviceable. Nothing was mentioned on either of our two visits to the house. If there is a cooker there, I expected it to at least work.

On the first day, I tried to light one of the hob burners. It lit, but as soon as the igniter was released, it went out. Even prolonged ignition did not allow the burner to stay alight. It was apparent to me that the thermocouple needed replacing.  Had it have been just the one at fault I might have considered having it replaced, for the time being. We had always intended to replace the cooker at some point, just not straight away. As it turned out only two of the five burners actually lit. One of those was the wok-burner, and the other was the fast-boil burner.

After a few days of sticking everything to the bottom of the pan, we decided to call it a day on the cooker and order a new one straight away. Two weeks later it arrived, that was Friday of last week. I know from experience, the cooker we bought was going to be heavy as I had fitted the older model twenty years ago to our kitchen in London, with the help of a qualified gas engineer. There is no way I could have done it these days, especially as I have pulled a muscle in my right arm while moving a steel plate that is part of a lathe I have just bought.

Now we can eat!
Now the cooker is in, we can start cooking again. We love cooking and having to eat out most of the time for the past few weeks has been a chore, aside from being expensive, even if it has only been lunchtime at the local cafe.

I could go on about all the unexpected niggles in and around the house, but that would probably give the wrong impression. I am really pleased, we did it. Moving out of London to the coast is something I though I would never do, that's for old people... Wait a minute, maybe I am old!

Due to all the things that have had to be fixed and the odd acquisition, work on the new workshop has been delayed. That is no bad thing as it has given us time to reflect on how we actually achieve our goal. Since moving here, we have had the opportunity to purchase a new (to us) lathe that came with a vast selection of tools and a vast selection of wood in the form of blanks and seasoned rough turnings.

Part of the plan was to buy a bigger lathe, I was thinking along the lines of a Record CL4. A nice lathe with electronic speed control, capable of handling larger pieces than the lathes we have at the moment.  That all went out of the window a couple of weeks ago, when I noticed a post on Facebook's Market Place for a "Complete woodturning setup" curious to find out more, I contacted the seller, who turned out to be an ex demonstrator/instructor who was now moving on to peruse art as health problems meant he did not want all the heavy work his type of turning and wood collecting entailed. To cut a long story short, we did a deal and I bought the lot, lock, stock and turned blanks.

As we drove away, Sue and I realised that this was going to change everything. The lathe is an Apollo Pro. This is a monster of a lathe with a huge bed and stand built from 4 x 2 inch, box-section steel.


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Somthing new...

Finally the move has happened. Here we are, residents of Herne Bay. The workshop is now a pile of timber awaiting reconstruction, in it's new even larger form. Yes, I will be able to build an even bigger workshop in our new garden... But that is another story and will start in earnest, next week.

For now I have another new project. One of the things I wanted to do was to get a bike. Nothing fancy, you understand, just a bike to get me from A to B. I intend to use it to go fishing on and for trips to other local places along the coast. While sitting chatting with my brother, while out fishing the local estate lake, the other day, he was banging on about Shpock, - a social media based buy and sell portal. He said they sold all sorts of things and it was all local. Asking me if there was anything I was after, I said "Yes, a bike" within seconds he was showing me a bike for sale just a couple of miles from where we were sitting. "Buy it" I said and we did, collecting it on the way home.

The 'new' wheels...
The bike is a good, sound cheap example that needs a spot of TLC. It Is a Raleigh Max, 30-inch wheel, mountain bike. The last time I messed about with a bike must have been fifty years ago, it was all a bit different then. Now I need a whole selection of new tools and a different set of skills. First job is an inspection and a really good clean up. That chain and those sprockets look as if they need a bit of a clean up and some de-rust treatment.

To be continued... More in a few days.


Friday, 21 June 2019


...and then it was no more
 It has gone! All but the floor that is. This was first thing this morning, after a quick dash to Sheppey with yet another load of timber. I have spent the rest of the day de-nailing the wood from the frame and starting on the floor. I hate de-nailing. There is no pleasure to be had from being destructive, although the act of de-nailing does mean the pile of sticks is transformed into reclaimed timber ready for the next project, the new workshop.

The floor this morning
 The frame has now been de-nailed, and I started on the floor, but sore hands and old age stopped getting that done tonight. Tomorrow will see it finished.


Wednesday, 19 June 2019


Meet Watney. This little fellow seems to like watching what's going on
Today, it was supposed to rain all day, so we were going to take a van-load of stuff down to Sheppey. On waking, this morning, it was dry. I took advantage of the dry weather and got cracking on the rest of the workshop dismantle. The first job was to deal with the last of the rafters and get de-nailing. Once done, it was on to the cladding. Within a couple of hours, the back was stripped and Sue, and I go to the de-nailing, all this while dodging the showers. All this was being watched by our resident fox. One of many, he seems to be the bravest of all of them. None of the other will let us get this close.

The cladding is being stripped off
After rain forced an early lunch, we managed to get the front stripped and de-nailed. While Sue was finishing off the last of that, I attacked the window lining and sills. Lots of hidden screws and copious amounts of construction adhesive made this job a lot harder than it looked. A bit of sawing and the use of a 36 inch Gorilla-bar soon sorted out the stubborn frames.

Just the frame to go and it will be no more
All in all, a good day's work and a long way forward. With luck, the rest should be down and de-nailed by tomorrow evening. That is, weather permitting.


Friday, 14 June 2019

It is getting easier...

The roof is coming off and the plants are getting in!
A trip to our storage with a van load of 'stuff' including all the wall covering MDF, meant the morning was written off today. That along with some paperwork and a long conversation with BT regarding the telephone and broadband move, resulted in me not getting out to the shed until late afternoon.

With the rain seeming gone for the foreseeable future, I was keen to get on with it. Out with the ladder and up onto the roof, claw hammer in hand, I started to remove the roofing felt from the back of the roof. This is the side adjacent to the neighbour's garden. Not wanting to disturb her to gain access from her side, I was pleased that removing the felt was easier than I had suspected, fighting with the overhanging vegetation aside.

The old felt rolled up easier than I was expecting
Disposing of the used felt is a bit of a pain, so, for now, it is being rolled up and will be transported to our storage until on the Isle of Sheppey after the move, when I can take it to the tip. With only a week or so left until the move, that is one job that can wait.

With the roof covering removed, the plywood sheets are pried up and dragged over the roof to be slid down into the path alongside the workshop. These are a bit tatty around the edges and full of nail holes. Today in this world of up-cycling and reclamation, they can be described as having 'character'. As such, they will be saved and have a new life in the future. For now, they too will be transported to 'The Island'.  It will be stored for disposal later. That is, unless I can think of a way of recycling it. Any ideas? Maybe the roofs of a few bird tables, perhaps? Either way. It is something that can wait for now.

Not too much achieved today, but at least it is starting to look as if something is happening. Once the last of the roof covering is off, the bet will be the windows and door, and then the rafters, ridge and collar-ties. That will probably be Sunday as tomorrow we have our goodbye drinks, so I assume not much will happen above maybe getting some more sheets off the roof. 

The double glazed units will be recovered for use in the new workshop

Thursday, 13 June 2019


Letting the light in - And the rain!
It has been raining for the past couple of days, but before it set in, I did manage to get some more of the felt off the roof and get another sheet of ply removed. I am so pleased I had only used 12mm ply on this roof. When I built the workshop, some fifteen years ago, I had not envisaged I would be taking it apart. The plan was to convert it into a home office for the new owners, whenever that might be. As it turned out, I have ended up dismantling it and taking the component parts with us, as the people we have sold the house to were going to demolish it. By offering to do it for them, I get to keep all the material to build a new workshop at our new house.

Now all I have to do is dismantle it and move it. Sounds simple if you say it quickly!

While it has been raining, I don't fancy clambering about on the roof so I have been lifting the floor so the rain can go straight through. I have also been cleaning up and de-nailing any timber that has been laying around. Hopefully, the weather will be dryer for the next few days, and some rapid progress will be the subject of my next post.