Friday, March 28, 2008

Wrenching complete!

That last bolt was stubborn. So I cut it off using a Dremel and cutting wheels. First I had to wait for the battery to charge, then I went through 3 cutting wheels. With that the draw bar came right off the trailer hitch. I cleaned it up a little and took it to the welder. I thought I would be dropping it off and picking it up next week, but he took it right away and about 10 minutes later the new receiver tube was welded nicely to the draw bar...only cost $20.

Back at home I used a wire wheel to clean up the draw bar and welds, then primed and painted with a couple of coats of black RustOleum ($4). Before I could remount the drawbar I cleaned up all the bolts and nuts with a wire wheel and lubricated the nuts with PB Blaster. When they were sufficiently clean I could run them most of the way up the bolts just by hand. Then, I had to remove the remainder of the bolt that I had cut off. It required more cutting to make it shorter, then it slipped out of the hole.

I decided that 3 bolts out of 4 will be sufficient for the time being. So I remounted the draw bar with the 3 bolts. Some time in the future I will probably get 4 new bolts. It was amazing how many tools were needed to use to get this job done. I cleaned them all up and put them away.

The hitch looks and works great now. I can mount anything without the spare tire interfering. And my back feels perfectly fine now too! Total cost was about $45, compared to buying a new hitch for about $170 plus shipping.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wrenching update.

Two more of the stubborn bolts are now free, thanks to PB Blaster, a blow torch, and some more wrenching. Thankfully not enough to hurt my back.

That makes 3 out of 4. Hopefully that last one will let go soon.


Last week I did a little back yard cleanup. There were some logs to cut up into firewood length, then split for firewood. That went fine. I have a nice gas powered logsplitter which I rolled down to the backyard using a trailer dolly placed under the coupler. But I couldn't get it back uphill to the garage...too heavy. Luckily, a neighbor with a pickup truck came by and he pulled it up for me.

See, last year I had two vehicles, with trailer hitches...both died. One went to a junk yard and the other was donated to the Kidney Foundation. That left me with a minivan with no trailer hitch, and the other Jeep that HAS a trailer hitch that can't be used. Why can't it be used? Because the spare tire mounted on the back of the Jeep renders the hitch ball inaccessible. Weird, but true!

I have a need to pull the logsplitter or a trailer from time to time, so it would be nice to have a useable trailer hitch. The one on the Jeep has a FIXED ball mount. I really like "receiver" type hitches so you can easily slide in a "mount" that has the hitch ball of a desired size. I still have 3 mounts with 3 different size balls...just no receiver hitch.

A new receiver hitch for that old Jeep would cost upwards of $170. But I found a receiver TUBE ($20) that is designed to be welded to farm equipment. It looks like it could easily be welded to the draw bar of the current hitch, so I bought that. In order to get it welded (hopefully only about $50) I need to take either the hitch or the drawbar to a welder. I carefully measured and clamped the receiver tube in place on the draw bar so that the spare tire would not interfere. Then I decided to remove the draw bar to take it to the welder (ligher and not as unwieldy as the entire hitch).

The nuts and bolts are rusty and are holding very well. To remove the fixed ball so that I could clamp the tube in place, I had to use a torch to heat the nut. Then with a pipe wrench and an adjustable wrench I was able to take that off. It took a lot of wrenching. Then there are 4 bolts holding the drawbar on. With heat and persuasion I got one off. Moved to the next one and instead of wrenching IT off I ended up wrenching my BACK. I was in pain, but luckily had some Doan's pills. Took those and rested for a few hours and am much better now.

So now it's chemical persuasion time. I spray the remaining bolts with "PB Blaster" and tap them in the hope that rust adhesion breaks free. This needs to be repeated a couple times a day. Sooner or later the bolts should come off. Since I'm not in a hurry I can do this at a leisurely pace. Don't want to get hurt again.

Monday, March 03, 2008

MAME control

On Saturday I was sitting around thinking, well, the biggest thing left is to make the pretty control panel. I wish it were done already so we could play games nicely with joysticks and buttons, rather than just a keyboard.

Then it hit me. Why not make a TEMPORARY control panel, so we can experience the real thing, and use that UNTIL the real control panel is done.

So we whipped up a control panel.

First, we cut a piece of 3/4 inch plywood to fit between the cabinet sides...basically the exact same size as the "mockup" panel. Then thought about the games to play. I wanted something that would play a lot of games, but didn't need to play every single one. So I came up with a layout of 8 controls. I marked these and showed my son how to drill them. He did all of the drilling except for 1 hole.

Then we attached the controls.
1 joystick, 2 buttons for actions (red and orange), a 1 and 2 player start, an "escape" (blue) to get out of a game back to the menu, a "pause" (black), and a "coin added" button (green...for money). This is just temporary, mind you.

I attached the wires after consulting a diagram that came with the wiring harness. The only tricky thing is the joystick. When you move a joystick UP, it actually presses a switch in the DOWN everything wired on the bottom is reversed. I knew this ahead of time and had no problem.

Then I simply used 4 L-shaped corner braces to screw it in place. Hooked it up to the computer and keyboard and it all worked great!

With a little more reading, I found that the "Escape" and "Pause" functions had no corresponding switch...but they are accomodated by pressing and holding the "Player 1 start" button in combination with another button or joystick movement. So, to that end I put some blue tape in place OVER the top of those buttons (could have removed them) and a couple of strips of tape with writing that reminds us how to activate those 2 functions.

It couldn't work any better. We played the rest of the weekend and had a LOT of fun. A joystick and regular arcade buttons make a HUGE difference, and it eliminates the possibility of mishit keys on a keyboard.

I could live with it like this for a long time, but it would be nice to have the real control panel equipped with trackball, spinner, and controls for 2 players simultaneously. So I'll start to work on that right away.