Tag Archives: tools

Way To Go, Stud

I thought this evening I’d grab my slingshot and spool of fishing line and rig a 73′ ham radio wire antenna when we returned to our trailer this afternoon. We’d been at a wonderful luncheon with our local unit of the Wally Byam Airstream Club and I told them what I wanted to do when we got back. I’d love to have that great antenna working in the morning between 7am and 9am for the daily 40 meter net session. But something more appealing came up after the luncheon before we even left Winston-Salem.

Yesterday morning one of the two gas struts supporting my truck’s tonneau cover broke. The gas strut’s fine but the attachment at one end broke from the tonneau cover’s supporting arm. Hatch doors on SUVs and SAVs and some vans have two gas struts to lift and hold that hatch door. One won’t do the job. It’s the same with my tonneau cover – two gas struts, working properly and together, just barely get the job done. One strut alone leaves you with a truck bed cover that you’re going to need a prop stick for, if you can even get the tonneau cover open.

Pretty much anything with gas struts has ball studs. The ball studs are the attachment point for the ends of the gas strut. The ball studs are under a tremendous force and may break off. Mine did over a week ago (after a mere eleven years daily service). I sort of fixed it but the repair didn’t hold and yesterday I realized I needed to find the right parts to really fix this.

8mm ball studs

A good friend suggested I might find at an AutoZone auto parts store the gas strut ball stud I needed for my tonneau cover. I’ve never bought one before. I didn’t even know how they’re packaged or who would sell them. Last night I searched on line and found it’s sort of a specialty item despite tens of thousands (way more?) cars and trucks use this. But Randy is right (by the way, he says Camping World also sells these). AutoZone on Country Club Drive in Winston-Salem had one package of 8mm ball studs. A pair of them set me back less than $4 with tax. Thanks Randy for the spot on referral.

I didn’t realize what the 8mm or 10mm label on ball stud packaging referred to or I might have worried I wouldn’t have the tools I wanted. Turns out, the measurement refers to the threaded portion. Not realizing this, I pulled out my grab bag of threading taps and found one to match the threads on the ball stud. Guess what, it’s an 8mm tap. The correct drill bit size is embossed on the side of the tap. I was delighted to find the requisite 17/64″ drill bit (very slightly larger than 1/4″). I have a drill, bit, and tap. Okay, what I didn’t know or plan hasn’t hurt me so far.

One of the gas strut’s ball stud had yanked clean out of the tonneau cover’s hinged support arm. The hole was too small for the 8mm shank of the new ball stud. I could have drilled out the hole to 5/16″, slid the new shank in and secured it with the included nut. But I decided it would be stronger (and a little bit of fun) to drill and tap the support arm for the 8mm shank to thread into plus put a nut on the extra length of shank on the other side. It looks like this:

ball stud threaded through support arm and secured with nut

The gas strut snaps onto the ball after I pry the spring release open. I made a mistake and pried too far. The spring popped off and landed in the truck’s pretty messy bed. Once I found it I realized what a mistake it was to pop it off. Much harder to put this spring on than to open and close it. I’ll be more careful in the future to only pry it open enough to release from the ball. Here’s a picture of the gas strut snapped properly onto the new ball.

gas strut snapped onto new ball

I’m no mechanic. I’m just lucky enough to have some tools I’ve collected over time and a tiny bit of mechanical aptitude. I’ll admit I have no idea if this installation method, tapping threads in the support arm, is better than making a larger hole and slipping the threaded shank through. But it was fun to do this and, like a puzzle completed, it’s satisfying to have the pieces fit together. This took me 15 minutes to complete once I had the tools out and the drill plugged into the power receptacle. Here’s a picture of the not so many tools I needed and used today for this quick and easy project to keep my tonneau cover easy to lift and hold open.

all the tools needed for this job

The oddest thing is to figure why I have an 8mm threading tap. I guess it’s from 1978-79 when I was keeping my Toyota Hi-Lux truck going. I never thought the tap took up space I needed for something else. It’s approx 5/16″ diameter by 2.5″ long. Of course, this is one of how many threading taps I have in the toolbox? Debbie doesn’t worry too much about what’s in the truck or under the trailer as long as I find things to do outside when she wants inside space. And you wondered how two of us live full-time more than ten years in this small Airstream trailer?

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But we have all the tools instead

We don’t have a blender. We did, back in our last days of house-owning. And sometimes we would make smoothies or some frozen concoctions. There was a time, before, when I eschewed electrical appliances.

First, it was a long time ago. We were starry-eyed and idealistic. Communes were hip, May Day was still a happening thing on campus, and we felt mega-business was bad. We believed apocalypse was entirely possible or even likely in our young lifetimes. My first fiance and I decided we wouldn’t be contributing any more than necessary to the coffers of big business and the energy companies.

We requested, for our wedding presents, to have no appliances. Someone still gifted us a lovely little toaster and the local department store graciously took it from us for store credit. We probably bought sheets and towels with the credit. But no appliances, save our decades old waffle iron, would decorate our kitchen.

Toolbox picture

Toolbox picture

Now decades and a happier marriage later, we are again eschewing appliances. Who needs ’em, anyway? I’d rather have cool tools to improve, maintain, and repair our truck and trailer. Appliances take up space, mostly won’t operate on our home’s 12vdc system, and provide little improvement to our lives. Well, for the most part anyway.

Last week we enjoyed co-hosting a daiquiri party. Jennifer and Brad at Minnesota Airstream Park offered their wonderful gazebo, ringed with happy face string lights. We brought mixers and a bottle of Cruzan dark rum, cask aged 2 years and we aged it 8 more years in the bottle. This bottle was our last of six or seven from our honeymoon in St Thomas, V.I.

Robert, their good friend, scavenged up an electric blender. This party would NOT have been the same without a powered blender. The blender made frozen daiquiris, a real treat, without any fuss. Without the blender we would have daiquiris on ice. Just not the same.

Let me be perfectly clear. We can have appliances without 110vac electrical power. Just to quickly name a few, there is the Daiquiri Whacker, and the passive solar ovens, and most important of all, the Food Saver. Whoops! The last one does require 110v power (just a little).

Okay, where’s this post going? After the daiquiri party last week I feel compelled to reconsider my stance on needed appliances. You already know we are full-timing in a pretty compact platform. Our Airstream trailer is called a International CCD 25. Our big red truck is a Chevy Silverado 2500HD. So the trailer has nice places to store things but only 558 pounds net carrying capacity (excluding propane and water). The truck can handle all the weight we want to throw at it, but a short (6.5 ft) bed. So we cannot carry very many things, much less bulky single-purpose appliances.

We carry an electric blender. Deb uses it for an occasional coffee cake, so it’s worth whatever space it takes. We have a little ceramic heater. We have a Toaststation, a sort of combo toaster and munsey toaster oven. We have a Foodsaver. You may know Foodsaver it by other names. It vacuums and seals plastic bags with leftovers or other fresh things.

Far and away we use the Foodsaver more then the others. Our bulk green tea goes into vacuum sealed bags. Fresh or frozen chicken or fish we put into a plastic freezer bag with 1/4 cup of marinade and vacuum seal it before refreezing it until ready to thaw before grilling. And some seeds, nuts, and grains do really well with vacuum sealing.

Ahh, I’ve strayed. I was talking about daiquiris and Robert turning up a blender and our party at Jenn’s and Brad’s. We thought it would be a really good idea to reduce our on-board stash of spirits before we approach the Canadian border. Gosh, had we looked up the limits for entry to Canada we would have either had a really bigger party or would have partied successive nights. Our party with Robert, Brad, and Jen and their friends was a lot of fun, though. And we enjoyed our entire stay at Minnesota Airstream Park.

Now, a few days later, we have consulted the website for Canada border entry. We are allowed 1.15 litres of spirits, or a couple of fifths of wine, or a case of beer. Any more and we are required to declare and pay duty upon the extra. We are pretty straight arrows and don’t want to raise suspicions of any kind. But they’ve never even asked us about on-board alcohol in our previous crossings.

Still, it’s fun getting ready. We’re reducing our tequila bottle volume tonight. Last night we went through some Johnny Walker Black, to reduce by one the number of bottles we’ll have when we arrive at the border. I have a couple of beers, but am running out of time. I want to save them anyway, their pretty nice. And I don’t buy this stuff to rush through it. Heck, that’s why I had six different bottles. It’s not like I had it in my car trunk — it is my entire liquor cabinet. Their limits don’t seem to account for people pulling their home (and wet bar) through the border.

Back to appliances, though. The mixer seems like a good idea — it makes desserts and doesn’t take any space in the RV. It lives in a nice box in the truck bed. The FoodSaver is singularly the most used equipment item and happens to fit snugly under the kitchen sink in a four inch tall shelf. The toaster is lately appearing to be toast — a has been. We have started toasting bread on the skillet with olive oil or butter. You can’t beat this as a complement to a great dinner or breakfast. Who needs a toaster anyway?

But maybe we could find a place for a good blender? Maybe someone has designed one to be driven by our mixer? Nah. Besides, the rum is gone. It was a lot of fun making a couple of batches of daiquiris in Robert’s scrounged blender in Brad and Jen’s really cool Airstream and sharing them with whomever cruised in for the party.

Besides, we can always scrounge a blender from someone in a big fifth wheel or an Airstream 34 foot trailer. They have so much space they probably have all the appliances. We could have had the appliances, but we have a bunch of tools instead. And that is another story entirely.

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