Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Part Numbers

The horrible mix of units on tyre sizes has always bothered me. Your tyres have three numbers on them, and unless you're driving a racing car or a mini metro, one of them is in mm, one is scalar and one is in inches.

I've recently been dealing with spark plugs and they're even worse. The motor mower that I curate last had a new spark plug about 30 years ago. By pretending that it was for an old British outboard motor I was able to buy a spark plug that fits. By correlating the box that it came in with the NGK charts I have been able to identify a plug which is still manufactured, will fit, and should run at the right temperature.

This damned plug has a 18mm by 1.5mm thread on it AND a 13/16 Imperial hex!

A spark plug that is running too cool doesn't burn off the carbon from the insulator. A spark plug that is running too hot cracks the porcelain. Different plugs absorb more or less heat from the combustion gasses and throw away more or less heat to the cylinder head. The nomenclature and numbering system for these thermal properties is ridiculous:

A "hot" plug doesn't have much cooling, is in a "low" heat range and has a low number in the NGK system.
A "cold" plug has lots of cooling, is in a "high" heat range and has a high number.

To clarify:
Lawnmower - hot - 1,2,3
Racecar - cold - 9,10,11

Richard "simplicity itself" B

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Storm Damage

"Plumbing's just Lego innit? Water Lego" – Super Hans. If that's true then guttering must be Water Duplo, and it was still nearly beyond me.

We had violent storms at the weekend and the guttering downpipe on the front of my house was damaged. The pipe comes down the front of the house vertically and there's about a 150mm horizontal offset to where it enters the drain (vertically) made out of two 120 degree elbows. On Saturday morning the downpipe was still screwed to the house but various elbows and joiners were in a pile. I tried many times but I couldn't make the pile of parts back into something that connected the downpipe to the drain. It eventually dawned on me that one piece must have blown away. It would seem to have been about 30mm of downpipe to make the two elbows fit together.

Downpipe is sold in length of 2500mm, so I now have around 2470mm in stock ready for the next 82 times this happens.

Richard "I'll put that back in the garage for the next 20 years" B

Monday, 5 August 2019


I have been judged and I have been found wanting.

Wedding invitations come in different grades. Are you there all day or only in the evening? Are you allowed to bring an arbitrary plus one? One specific guest? Nobody?

Years ago I got a very low grade of wedding invite: My girlfriend and I were expected to turn up at a church at coffee time and watch the couple get married, then bugger off for the afternoon while the high grade guests ate, drank and listened to speeches, and then we were expected to make our own way to the other venue for the evening do (at which we had to buy our own drinks).

I was at another wedding recently, and my invitation didn't include a plus one. I'm single so I can only assume that the bride and groom have taken a dislike to my hypothetical girlfriend.

I'm going to a wedding next spring and while I haven't received the invite in the post yet, I'm told that "attendance is mandatory".

At the weekend my character was judged even more harshly. I bought breakfast and two cups of tea in a café and while we ate in, the tea was served in paper cups. Other diners were drinking from china mugs. My friend went back by himself and bought a second cup of tea and the woman behind the counter stared into his soul for a few seconds and said "If I give you a mug YOU WILL bring it back, won't you?" and served his tea in china. I clearly look like I'm not to be trusted with the good crockery.

The embarrassing part is that she was right. Later in the same weekend I was at a different café where you pay a 20p deposit on the mug that your drink is served in, and I still forgot to take them back to the counter.

Richard "Church Wadding" B

Tuesday, 23 July 2019


I have come across some great phrases recently. One of my friends teaches at a primary school in a nice part of Surrey. Her class were generally five year olds when the parents of the next year's intake visited the school. The children are nosy and craned their next to observe the strangers. "Miss, Miss" one of them said to the teacher "my cleaner's here". The child is five, and it's not even his mum's cleaner, by my cleaner! Of course that means it's a shit school if you have to share it with the children of the help.

A large piece of graffiti on a motorway bridge that my brother saw: "Boris is a coked up pervert."

All the emojis have a name as well as a Unicode value. One of my friends has a habit of including emojis in his contact names. At the weekend he said to his telephone "Hey Siri, call Richard Bo---------ke". His phone replied "Calling Richard Bo-------ke man-vampire with a light skin tone".

Driving on a race circuit is a daunting experience, doubly so if you are in an unfamiliar car, and even worse if it's a car you can't afford to crash. A friend of a friend was in exactly that position, sitting in my car, crash helmet on, engine running and about to make his way to the assembly area. He's quite pale, and he's not a physically intimidating man. He took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself and said "I am a strong independent black woman. I can do this".

Richard "and so is James Bond" B

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Wax for Car Wheels

I'm not one of those car washing enthusiasts, but I thought it might be instructive to share my experiences here.

My wheels get absolutely filthy with brake dust and they're quite hard to clean. After some research I bought a bottle of "Wonder Wheels Colour Active" and a bottle of "Collinite 845 insulator wax" and I'm very impressed with both.

Wonder Wheels is for cleaning. It comes in a spray bottle, it smells disgusting, it clings to the wheels and it washes off with water. It turns the iron from the brake discs into something bright red and water soluble (don't look at me if you've got carbon ceramic discs or sintered aluminium), it removes the pad dust too. It doesn't remove anything greasy so you might still need to get the shampoo out too.

Before (right) and During (left):

You can buy Wonder Wheels at Halfords, but if you can tolerate the indignity of going to Wilkinsons you can but it at half the price.

The Collinite on the other hand really costs, with delivery it was £30 for an American pint of the stuff (almost half a litre). It supposedly leaves a hard glossy layer which can withstand high temperatures. I found it easy to use and it leaves a very high gloss finish. My other set of wheels that aren't covered in stone chips and weight adhesive gleam like fine jewellery.

I've been to a track day since so the brakes have been smoking hot several times and the wheels are covered in dust. It pains me to admit it but the wax really works, you can just wipe the grime away with a cloth. Look at the finger marks in this photo!

Richard "14 inch minilite" B

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Diggerland Devon Review

At the weekend I went to Diggerland and I thoroughly enjoyed it, although I suspect it would have been less fun if the weather was bad or the queues were long. I drove a skid-steer loader and a little dumper truck, both were severely speed limited and had the bucket controls locked off. I drove a full-sized wheeled excavator (but wasn't allowed to change out of first gear). I failed a dexterity challenge in a small excavator (which had the track controls locked off). I moved large buckets of earth around in another excavator that had the track controls locked off. I tried to stack some old tires using a tele-handler. I was lifted towards the sky in a large cherry picker and spun around in the bucket of another excavator until I felt quite sick.

The speed and throw limiters were so harsh than none of it felt quite dangerous enough, but the training I was given in each machine was so cursory and the supervision so light that it also didn't feel safe enough.

The weirdest bit of the park was the post-apocalyptic dodgems. I've seen old fairground rides before, but this was like something out of a horror film. The floor and the ceiling were heavily corroded, the entire structure (which clearly used to be mobile) looked dangerously unsound and whatever the floor stands on has collapsed in places. The façade which should have been shiny and illuminated was dirty, broken and covered with cobwebs. Half of the cars were broken and they were being used to fence off the large dead spots where cars couldn't run. One of the cars was retired while we were using it, it was producing large smoky arcs and showers of white-hot metal.

It was great!

Richard "buckets of fun" B