Archive for November, 2009

A few more pranks.

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Like I said before: I don’t approve of pranks but do find myself laughing at them. Here are more vicarious reminiscences:

I once worked in a fleet where a relief driver convinced all of the customers on his route that the regular driver he was covering for suffered from gender dysphoria and was taking a medical leave for gender re-assignment.

This isn’t a prank, but another time these two same drivers started a contest to see who could last the longest wearing shorts to work every day; they were both determined men and it was a rough winter for them both, I’m sure

One of the nastier pranks I’ve heard of was somebody spreading chalk powder on a sheet of paper, sliding it under an office door and using a shop air gun to blow the dust all around inside. Some jokes can get you in trouble, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that prankster was found floating in the harbour.

With automobiles:

-I knew a fellow who would run a jumper from his victim’s high beam headlight terminal to their horn. You wouldn’t find out you were pranked until you were out at night; a less than ideal situation to figure out what’s up.

-Once a coworker poured a bunch of antifreeze under a another co worker’s new car. The victim wasn’t mechanically inclined and paid to have it towed to a garage. That was an especially nasty prank but was done without actually touching the vehicle.

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Another stroll down amnesia lane.

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

I was recently talking about the findings of a statistical analysis of fuel consumption in a trucking fleet but said not to ask for a citation as the paper, if I still had it, was hopelessly lost in a mess that I’ve put off dealing with. This sent me on a stroll down amnesia lane:

When I was looking for a place to stay in Haarlem, I was having in interview of sorts over coffee with a prospective landlord, Priscilla, in her kitchen. At one point she waved her hand around in a sweeping gesture and said that she hoped I liked the house but was sorry that her windows were dirty; I told her it was a lovely house and I hadn’t noticed the windows.

She leaned in close and with a goofy grin said that she believed in living each day like it was her last, and that there was no way in Hell she was going to spend her last day cleaning windows.

I’ve heard the remark that a messy workshop is one in which work is being done. To some degree I can agree that cleaning, when it becomes excessive, is just busy-work but too often this attitude is the mark of an unrepentant slob trying to defend their poor housekeeping.

Now just for today I’m going to be a little irresponsible and follow Priscilla’s advice, but tomorow I’ll get to the bottom of that pile, honest.

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My 170 horsepower heater….or…My 5 liter heater.

November 28, 2009 3 comments

The weather lately, where I am, has been mostly rain, and I’ve been outside welding in it. Welding in the rain is miserable for a few reasons, but take my word, you don’t want to weld with wet gloves. Every time you touch the electrode, whether by accident or to change it, you get a little zap.

So how does one keep their gloves dry while welding in the rain? Basically, unless you build a shelter to work in, you don’t.

What I’ve been doing is keeping several pairs of gloves in rotation. I wear one pair while the others are drying out on the dashboard of my idling truck; the 170 horsepower heater. This is a common practice but it’s a horribly expensive way to dry gloves so I’ll probably make something that’s a little cheaper to run.

I’m speaking generally, but let’s say that half of the engine’s rejected heat goes out the exhaust, and the other half is radiated by the engine itself or carried away by the cooling system; I see no reason not to put these two waste heat sources to work.

The welder I’m using is powered by an air cooled engine that has a cooling fan on the crankshaft and a shroud to direct air over the engine. The end result is a beautiful warm breeze blowing off the outlet end of the shroud. When the welder is under cover, or the rain is light, I sometimes hang wet gloves or clothes in front of the outlet.

I started with ambitious plans to install a fancy enclosure with drying racks and maybe a little spot to keep my coffee warm but there are so many other things I’d rather do that it’s probably going to end up being a wire rack with a little tin roof that I can hang on the side of the welder.

Another thought was to build a metal box around part of my welder’s exhaust to scavenge a little heat. I think an adequate electrode holding oven could be made this way….or at least a little rack to hold that coffee of mine.

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More workplace pranks.

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Let me start by saying again that I don’t approve of pranks in the workplace, and I’ve explained why here. As I said earlier, these are vicarious reminiscences.


Grease seems to be a common ingredient in shop pranks. Smears find their way onto the underside of door knobs, drawer pulls, or anything that might get grabbed in the course of a day. I worked in one shop where the regular employees were an insular bunch who took a while to warm up to new employees. They would prank each other using grease and you could interpret finding a glob in your glove as being accepted. It would be nice if they could socialize without wasting grease, gloves, and time.

I heard a story from a retired electrician from Southwest England: He worked in a plant where all the operators were women and the tradesmen were all men. The women had a ritual known as greasing. If a tradesman was caught alone, they would mob him, pull down his pants, and put a big glob of grease on his crotch. Apparently the worst incident involved an apprentice being tied up in a wheelbarrow, and left outside with a ribbon tied around his penis. The tradesmen had their revenge when they smeared engineer’s blue on the black toilet seats of womens’ washroom.

I’ve heard stories of grease being put in the toolboxes or boots of disliked coworkers, but a unique one was an old mechanic I knew who would take the cartridge out of his grease gun and drop it down the exhaust stack of any trucker who offended him; you could see the guy coming from a mile away.

Animals; every last one of them.

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November 25, 2009 1 comment

I see people get caught up in the trappings of being in a position of authority at work but seldom hear about the responsibilities; being the boss means more than having the nice office and truck.

When you go to work as an employee, it’s to meet the financial needs of your family. When you’re the boss you’re responsible for the financial needs of your family, those of your company, and those of you’re employees. This is the flip-side of being chieftain of your own little crew.

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Workplace pranks.

November 19, 2009 1 comment

I don’t generally approve of pranks in the workplace because we’re supposed to be there to work. A good laugh never hurt anybody that I’m aware of, but it always seems to escalate; wasted time, damaged equipment and employee safety can become concerns.

There are such things as good pranks, though. Here are a couple that I see as harmless:

When I drive a large truck I’ll sometimes see somebody on the side of the road pump their arm; giving that “blow your horn” signal. I’ll reach up and pretend to blow my air horn while actually honking my normal electric horn (meep, meep). They usually look puzzled or amused. No wasted time, no reckless behaviour; a good prank.

One of my favourites was done by a coworker in Canada’s Ministry of Defence:

If you were looking a little scruffy he’d leave a memo on your desk saying something like, “Call Joe at ### regarding this Friday’s parade.” You’d call the number and discover that Joe was a local barber.

I’ve been witness to a few pranks and lived vicariously through the stories of others. I’ll share some later….

Next: The many uses of grease in workplace pranks.

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To prefill oil filters or not?

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

There was a comment about oil changes in a forum on

If you’re interested in compact tractors then the forums on are a great resource.


A fellow’s tractor has a horizontally mounted, spin-on oil filter in a tight spot so he is unable to prefill it.

The question was what harm there was in having no oil pressure for a few seconds while the filter filled up and I wanted to re-post and add to the comment I made there:

Regarding the pre-filling of oil filters:

I guess it depends on what you’re taught. The first mechanic I ever worked for insisted that all filters be pre-filled without exception; I never ran into a horizontal one while working for him.

While I didn’t think that a few seconds without proper oil pressure at idle with no load was a big deal(considering there’s still a film of oil on the bearings anyway), he was the boss and it became a habit

Most mechanics I know don’t and one good friend says I’m wasting my time. He’s an automotive mechanic and I’m inclined to agree with him when it comes to smaller filters he deals with but most of ones in our shop held 3-4 litres of oil.

By the way: I don’t recall running into a horizontally mounted filter larger than a demitasse.

As for the real damage that may or may not be done by not pre-filling filters:

I’m sure if you invested some time in doing some digging, you might find a paper on the subject; maybe the SAE, the other SAE, in maintenance engineering journals or the ASME Tribology Division. It might make for interesting reading but I’ll bet what you find has as much practical value as knowing how many angels can sit on the head of a pin.


Can you trust that the engineers who designed your engine considered the issue of being unable to pre-fill the oil filter and decided that it wasn’t going to be a problem? If not, then ask your local dealer what they do.

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