Monday, May 29, 2023

This is who I am!

So sorry to bore you with family stuff, but if you want to appreciate me better, I think you'll get a kick out of this. 

There is no denying that my curiosity or the desire to make things did NOT just happen. That was something in my genes. And it didn't happen from just one parent -- it came from both. My Mom has done many crafts over the years, and even at 87, she just finished crocheting an afghan, and I'm going to help her lay out the blocks to determine color, so she can put it together. She did gardening (OK -- so I failed in that area, as well as cooking), but she loves to write and make journals - so I got that from her. 

My Dad, who got the tinkering gene from his Dad, as well as the social side of things, can make ANYTHING. That gene got passed to the entire family.

As I sit and listen to the stories, I'm amazed at how much trouble my younger brother got into - a motorcycle accident and bent his bike (Dad straightened it to make it good as new) and other things. Actually, I'm surprised Glen is still alive! 

Currently, my Dad volunteers at the local Museum, where they have a well-equipped machine shop, and without that Museum to keep him occupied, he would be dead, as his own shop on the farm has been completely dismantled and sold. A HUGE thank you to Wally (big brother), who is doing a great job clearing stuff out. 

The mentality here differs from the big city, where most people (sorry) do not know how to fix a single thing. Here -- they can fix and do ANYTHING! Case in point, years ago, one of the neighbors lost both arms in a farm accident. He visited my Dad to ask if he could modify his vehicle so he could drive. My Dad took it upon himself as a challenge (and AFTER calling the appropriate authorities to cover him for liability), he modified the vehicle so the guy could control the car with his legs. Now seriously? I wouldn't even know where to start on that. 

Yesterday, Glen (younger brother) and I went to the Museum to check out what Dad is working on. He loves to restore old engines, while others work on other things like steam engines. 

That was a couple of inspiring hours as I watched Glen (notice how white his hair is, and he's YOUNGER than I am!) and Dad chatted about things. How to open the hood of an older vehicle where the cable to open the hood has seized. A problem to solve! They tinkered around, and I think they figured it out. Or at least they got some ideas of what to try. 

Discussing the hood opening mechanism

This is one of the steam engines in the shop, but my Dad doesn't work on them. But very cool to see this technology from years ago! Now tractors have GPS, comfortable cabs, and an instant-on button! 

Discussing the merits of steam

We went from BIG to SMALL - it's a rather LARGE shop. And all the things that Dad has helped the staff and other volunteers make. This small tractor was made to replicate one of the large Rumley tractors but on a small scale. He fixed the seat and added fenders and some safety features. My other brother has helped in fixing some of these old tractors as well. Wally's mindset is that if you're going to restore it -- restore it to the original, not just halfway there. 

Discussing the model Rumley tractor

And then, they discussed the ins and outs of small model engines. Oh -- I wasn't just listening -- I asked loads of questions because I find the entire thing fascinating! And listening to the explanations and how their minds work blows my mind. 

The ins and outs of model engines

What's amazing is that NONE of my family has formal training in any of this stuff. No electrical degree, no engineering degree, but they just learned it. One of the issues today is acquiring some of the old bits to restore these engines. Well, if you can't find it, you MAKE it! Here are a couple of pieces that my Dad made. Now that is very cool! But he always had the right tools to make that happen. 

"Homemade" engine parts

This is an old engine (1912) that my Dad restored. What's neat about this is that Glen's father-in-law acquired the engine years ago. He had no intention of restoring it -- he didn't have the technical know-how. But knowing my Dad was interested, the engine changed hands. It has sat for many years, but everyone is happy to know that the engine now works! They started it up, and what fun to watch their faces as they listened to it pop (hit and miss engine -- whatever that means), and both were like little boys with a new toy! 

Dad and Glen with the Stickney stationary engine

I told Glen that he had to take his video of the engine running to Doug's graveside to let him see it in action! 

Nothing goes to waste, everything can be fixed, and the whole process blows my mind! 

There is a metal lathe in the shop, and only Dad has the ability (and the authority) to use it. So how do you stop others from using it? Well, you get a lock. 

Locking mechanism

No, WAIT --- you MAKE a locking mechanism that covers the electrical plug so no one else can use it. Brilliant!!! 

Then we went to have a look at his CNC (Computer Numeric Control), which runs MANY things today. He is trying to build a plasma cutter to cut metal. Now if you think about it -- my long arm, embroidery machine, and digital cutter all work on the same CNC base. 3-D printers -- CNC -- so much today is based on that. 

So instead of buying one, he's building one. Of course, he is!!!! So this box of wires is the guts that run the motor. He also built the table. 

The guts to run the CNC

There is one small problem with the wiring, so Glen steps in and looks at the wires, and gets in there to try and fix it. Hmm -- changed a few wires around -- didn't quite solve the problem, so they will troubleshoot that. But absolutely fascinating to see their brains work! 

Let's fix these wires!

And there's my Dad, who I helped with computers at the beginning and even brought him one from Ontario many years ago. He has now learned THREE programs in order to create the file that generates the cut file for the plasma cutter. I am going to bring that to the attention of my digital cutter group. My Dad is 90!!! 

Sending the files to the plasma cutter

What's hilarious about the process is that the first software he uses is Inkscape. Hmm - I can generate SVG files with that, which can be used on the digital cutter! Go figure! It's all the same technology. Then he uses a program that converts the files to code so the plasma cutters can understand the file. Then there's the actual program that runs the CNC machine. Yep --- he learned them all by watching Youtube, trial and error, and getting a bit of help from a friend. 

He has the patience of a saint when it comes to learning, and I can only imagine what he would have done had he been lucky enough to attend engineering school. Maybe he wouldn't have learned anything, but he can and does make or repair pretty much anything in the electronic or mechanical world. 

And we saw a photo from 1949 in which his Dad (they lived in Saskatchewan) wanted to visit some relatives in BC. So he bought a 1949 truck and made a camper for the truck box. The windows came from the barn. So the family of four drove out through the mountains in this truck/camper. The ingenuity to do that just doesn't fall off a tree. Somewhere along the line, our family got some serious tinkering genes. 

And not to be outdone, but my older brother also has no issues with making anything. You want a cart to put your plasma cutter on -- well, you don't go shopping for one. You make one. Notice the matching color? And you can't tell that this is a "homemade" cart. 

A cart for the plasma cutter

There are many times when I wished I was closer so I could take advantage of all the resources! 

All in all, it was a fascinating day, and I wouldn't have traded that for the world. As I said the other day, it's rare that we all get together, and there are loads of memories being made. 

I didn't even get onto the Virtual Retreat this past weekend other than to fix a problem. I was on my phone and managed to let them in, then I left. Hopefully, all went well with the retreat, and I'll have to catch up. 

So despite one "little" incident, I think this is going to be a very successful family visit. We should be able to get all the questions answered, decisions made, and hopefully, a timeline to make it all happen. 

And it sucks to get old. There is a dog loose in this area - I think I mentioned it the other day. The city came and got the dog to take to the shelter. Then we saw the dog on Saturday -- the next day. Now how the heck did the dog get from a locked facility across the river back in this area. It appears that an elderly neighbor saw them take the dog away. She has "claimed" the dog as her own, so she went and picked up the dog. 

Yes, she knows the dog has ticks, but lets it in her house. She won't put a leash on it because the dog doesn't like it, so she lets it roam. She has named the dog (twice) but can't remember either name! Oh boy! Apparently, the dog is going to the vet today. He is a wonderful dog, but I don't think she is responsible enough to own the dog. She shouldn't even be living by herself, it sounds like! And there isn't a healthy enough family member around to help out. So sad!!!

Anyway --- we're off on another adventure today, so I can hardly wait to see what that's all about. I did get one geocache in last night, and I need FOUR more to get my points for this month. 

Have a super day! 



  1. What a fantastic story! Really enjoyed it.. missed a few before this one will catch up! Enjoy your visit! You come from great genes! Best wishes to you and your family!

  2. A glorious day of observation and learning indeed. Hubster and my oldest nephew have that gene. Nephew has tried to teach his now 20yo son. He doesn't have the gene-can't seem to learn a thing. Total bummer. I can't wait to read the rest of the stories! (I'm catching up while waiting for a plane.)