Thursday, September 03, 2009

My Mag Lite Doesn’t Work Right!

How to operate and handle your trusty Maglite.
My wife has a thing about having a good flashlight around the house.  So, for Christmas one year she bought me a big old heavy black 3 cell Maglite®.  It felt solid and great when you held it.  It seemed to work well, but the beam seemed weak and diffused.  I tried different batteries and even bought a new krypton bulb, but it didn’t get any stronger.  I thought maybe it was made that way so security guards wouldn’t be blinded by the beam.  My wife said it was broken.

I got new batteries again last night and when I turned it on there was a sharp, well defined and bright beam.  I thought, hey great, maybe you just need new batteries.  Then later when I was walking the dog, I flipped it on so an approaching car would see us and the beam was diffuse again.  Then, I realized what had happened.  I reached down and twirled the front hood part of the light around the light bulb and reflector and discovered it changed the size and intensity of the light beam.  How cool is that?
Another trick you need to learn is how to hold a Maglite.  Security guards who want to shine a light on someone always flip the light up to shoulder height with the tube reversed as shown in the picture below.  There’s a good reason for this.

In this picture you can see how the hand grasps the shaft of the flashlight just below the light housing with the thumb toward the butt of the flashlight tube.

In this picture you can see where the index finger rests on the switch to turn it on and off.  A smart security guard or camp director carries the flashlight this way and turned off to preserve his night vision.  That way, if he surprises something, he can hit it quickly with the light by bringing it up to his shoulder and hitting the button as the light comes up.

When the light is not in use, you carry it like a club and let me tell you, whatever you hit hard with the butt end of a Maglite isn’t like to get back up again anytime soon.  This carrying position lets you switch quickly from the club position to the flashlight position.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Lakeside Kayak/Canoe Rack

If you’re like most canoeing enthusiasts, your starting to collect a pile of them in the yard.  If you live by the lake, you’ve probably got your canoes and those of several friends.  Instead of leaving them piled up against the garage where snakes can nest in them, check out this easy to build canoe rack.  This requires a few basic tools and some concrete, lumber, bolts and screws and a couple of hours.

Materials List:

Two 9 foot telephone poles or 4x4 posts
Six 6 foot pressure treated 2x6’s (2x4’s will work)
Six 6 inch long ½ inch carriage bolts with washers
Eighteen small 2 inch lag screws
Nine screw in eye bolts
Four bags of pre-mix concrete
Twelve 18 inch long metal straps with holes in the ends.

Setting the posts:

Find a nice spot with plenty of room around it.  You’ll need lots of space to maneuver canoes onto the rack without stumbling over things or bumping into garage walls.  Dig two 3 foot deep post holes eight feet apart.  Set your posts in them so they stick up about 6 feet above the ground.  Mix up your concrete in a wheelbarrow and pour it into each of the holes around the base of the posts. 

While the concrete is still wet, prop the posts up so they are vertical.  You can do that by propping them up with boards and temporarily nailing them in place.  Don’t drive the nails all the way in, because you’re going to want to pull them out when the concrete sets.

Once the posts are set, mark them at 2 foot intervals from the ground to the top of the post.  This will mark the top of the crossmembers you’re going to bolt into place.  The lowest member will be two foot from the ground.  The highest will be even with the top of the post.

Drill holes in the center of each six foot 2x6.  I used 8 foot 2x4’s for mine, but I’ve never really needed the extra width.  If I had it to do again, I’d use 6 foot 2x6’s for the firmer support.  Mine rocks a bit when loading and unloading. 

Clamp the cross member in place, drill a hole to match into the post.  Unclamp the cross member and finish drilling the hole through the post.  Reclamp the cross member and bolt it to the post.  Once you’ve got all the cross members in place, set them horizontal with a T-square and then add a couple of long galvanized screws to hold them firmly in place.

This still won’t be enough to keep the crossmembers from wobbling when you plop a heavy canoe on them.  On the side of the post where the cross member is bolted, lag screw the ends of two of the metal straps  into the post about 14 or 15 inches below the top of the cross member.  Next bolt the other ends of the metal straps to the back of the cross member on both sides to form a “V”.  This will give you good support without taking up so much space it scrapes against the hulls of your boats.

Now screw eye bolts into the ends of each cross member on the horizontal face.  Don’t stick them up or out from the ends as they will catch on the gunwhales of your canoe.  I know from bitter personal experience.  Put one eye bolt at the center of the crossmember or into the vertical post itself if you don’t want to drill any more holes in the cross members.  These eye bolts provide handy tie-down points.

When you put the canoes on the rack, always, at the very least, drop a bungee cord over the top to hold them down.  You’d be surprised what sort of lift a stiff breeze gives to a canoe hull.  You don’t want to wake up the morning after a thunderstorm and find canoes on the garage roof.  The eye bolts make it easy to keep your boats tied down.

This design is compact and versatile.  I’ve got kayaks, canoes, sail boards and the mast for my catamaran stored on mine.  It took me about 2 hours total to put it all together not counting the time it took the concrete to set. 

(c) 2009 by Tom King - All rights reserved
All images copyright 2009 by Tom King

Homemade Kayak Rack

If you need a quick rack for kayaks or canoes, here's a simple homemade “A” frame Yak Rack that you can screw together in a couple of hours with some simple tools and a few bucks worth of lumber, screws, bolts and hinges.

  1. Four 2x4 inch studs
  2. Three 10 foot 2x4’s
  3. 2 door hinges
  4. Box of 3 inch wood screws for attaching the hinges
  5. Eight 4 x 1/2 inch carriage bolts, washers and nuts.  
  6. Two six foot 2x4’s
  7.   6 3/8 or 1/2 inch screw-in eye bolts
  8. A bucket of paint
  1. Skil saw
  2. Crescent wrench
  3. Drill with bits.

Lay two 2x4 studs end to end and attach them with a door hinge.  Repeat with the other pair of 2x4’s.  Turn the hinges down and lift the legs from the center and stand them legs up in an upside down V.

Step 2
Drill a ½ inch hole in either end of one of the legs of each hinged leg support.  Drill a matching hole in the 10 foot 2x4 and bolt it to the same side legs of each “V”.  Do the same thing with the other two 10 foot long 2x4’s.  Attach them about 2 or 3 feet above the ground.

Step 3
Attach the two six foot cross members across the A-frame on top of the lower lengthwise supports.  Attach half inch screw in eye bolts to each end of the cross members.  Eye bolts are handy for strapping down the boats with bungee cords.  Attach another pair of screw in eye bolts to the ends of the top lengthwise cross member.

Step 4
Paint the frame something earthy and let it dry.  Strap the kayak or canoe in place as shown in the picture. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Building a Home Made Canoe Trailer

Got a youth group you'd like to take down river? Dreaming of float parties on the Mighty Mississippi (or the Not-So-Mighty Brushy Creek)? Maybe you'd just like to paddle the little darlin's out into the swamp and lose 'em. All you need to get them there is a bunch of canoes. The best way to carry a bunch of canoes is on a canoe trailer. Canoe trailers can be kind of expensive, but if you've got an old boat trailer (and who in the South doesn't), then a solid knowledge of welding, some steel, plywood and some imagination can help you build a very nice, easy-to-use trailer upon which to carry your canoe and kayak collection to the river.

First thing you need to do is wash down the old trailer, check the brakes, running lights and generally make sure it meets legal requirements. To register it, you may have to get what's called a builder's title. The county tax assessor's office will be glad to help you with that and charge you a nice registration fee to boot.

Check the tires for wear and proper inflation. Old boat trailers are easy to find around lakeside communities. You can sometimes get them for a song. If you're doing this for your youth group, ask them to donate it. Never hurts to ask. Look for one with as wide a wheelbase as possible. Just make sure the trailer is roadworthy before you start welding things together. Strip off any unnecessary parts like hull rollers and winches that will get in the way of construction.

Next you're going to build two canoe supports with cross trees upon which to strap down your boats. You'll need two measurements.

First, measure the depth of your canoe from gunwhale to keel. Allow 3-4 inches more for maneuver room for each canoe. If you're doing a 6 boat trailer, then it will be 3 boats high. Figure the depth of two boats plus 6-8 inches, plus however far the upright will stick down to where it will be welded to the frame.

Next, measure all your boats to determine how wide and how long they are. Compare the measurements to the trailer to determine how wide to make your crosstrees. Be sure, if you've got 3 foot wide canoes that not only do you make the cross trees 6 feet wide, but add another 6 inches for the upright support and a couple of tie down eyebolts on the end of the cross tree.

Once you know how long your uprights and cross trees are, you can buy the steel - 2/4's for uprights and 2x2's for cross trees. Have them cut to the length you want. You'll need 2 uprights and the same number of cross trees as you have boats. A six canoe trailer will need 6 cross trees.

Next, measure the distance between the front and rear vertical 2 x 4 tube steel supports. mark a piece of 2 x 2 tube steel to form the lengthwise cross-member (or members if you elect to add a second lower one as shown).

Cut the steel once it is all marked. If you don't have the equipment, you can get everything cut at a local welding shop. Tell the steel cutter what you're doing with it. Sometimes a second pair of eyes can spot trouble before it gets made into a permanent mistake. You can't uncut steel. Lay out the cross trees and clamp them in place on the two uprights. Mark where the two angle braces (if you use them) and the lengthwise cross-members attach. Test fit the pieces in the places they go. Make sure everything lines up before you weld it together. Correct any problems, measurements or alignments. Don't forget the gusset plates. Carry the trailer and clamped pieces to the welder or weld them up yourself if you have the skill. Because the trailer is made of steel, it will be heavier than an aluminum or factory-made trailer. A good recommendation is limiting it to six places. An eight-place trailer may be a little top heavy when fully loaded and could strain the boat trailer.

Weld the two uprights in position as shown in the picture. The uprights should divide each canoe into approximately thirds. Get a good welder to do the job if you aren't one. The welds have to be very very solid. Next weld the cross trees to the uprights. The top one can be welded on top of the upright. Weld gusset plates to the joints between the cross trees and uprights to provide extra support. Measure twice, cut once. Have your welder check your work to make sure everything lines up properly.

Have the welder attach eye-bolts to the ends of each cross member to provide handy tie-down points.

Measure the distance between the front cross member and the trailer hitch. Allow at least 1/3 the length of your longest canoe (6 feet for an 18-foot canoe) plus another couple of feet to allow the vehicle to turn without the canoes digging into the back of the vehicle. If your trailer hitch is too short, you'll have to cut it off and extend it to an adequate length. Your welder can do that easily when he's welding the pieces together.

If you welded well, you shouldn't need any angle braces, but use your own judgment. Now measure and cut two marine-grade plywood sheets to construct a box bottom, sides and lid that will fit into the space over the wheels within the frame. Drill 4 1/2-inch holes in the frame, two on each end, to bolt the box in place. Screw the pieces of the bottom of the box and sides together and fit the box into the space in the trailer frame.

Screw the lid to it's hinges and hasp as shown in the picture. You'll probably want to lock the box while the trailer is left unattended. Some people make the box vertical because you don't have to unload a canoe to open it if you put the door on the end. The problem with that is that when you're driving on narrow roads or it's windy, the wind blows sideways against the broad expanse of plywood and against the big light canoes and can make your trailer dance around dangerously. For safety, lay the box flat. It's not that hard to unload the bottom canoe to get to paddles and life jackets.

When the uprights and cross trees are welded in place, paint the trailer with primer, then a good paint for metal in whatever color you choose. Brighter colors help people to see you when approaching from the rear.

Materials List: 
  1. Used boat trailer
  2. Six tube steel cross-members - 6 to 8 foot, 2 x 2 inch (consult with your steel supplier to recommend the proper thickness of the pipe walls)
  3. Two tube steel uprights - 6 to 8 foot, 2 x 4 inch
  4. Two tube steel lengthwise cross-members - 8 to 10 feet long (depends on trailer length)
  5. 1/8-inch steel plate large enough to cut six 5-inch sided triangles
  6. Four steel strips - 1.5 feet long 1/2 inch wide x 1/4 inch thick (optional) Two marine-grade 1/2 inch 4 x 8 plywood sheets >
  7. Welding machine and supplies
  8. Grinder and disk assortment
  9. Clamps
  10. Two or three large hinges and hasp
  11. 1/2" bolts with nuts and washers, 3 to 4 inches long