Setup Stands Part 2 – Roll Out!

Roll off pads are very useful for setup, allowing a place to make alignment changes, to zero the scales, and to allow the tire to roll to undo any bind that setting changes may have introduced. They are also the thing that adds a TON of cost to the commercial setup stand options.

Since I’m fully committed at this point, might as well go big.

The pad itself will be a pieces of 1/8″ aluminum sheet, supported on both sides and in the middle.

The side supports are made of 3/16″ steel bar with 3 holes per side drilled and a nut welded to the back side on each to secure the plate. The bars are supported on 3 sides, sitting on the frame on the short sides and 1 long side. Those bars on top of the frame puts the floor just a shade lower than the scale pads, allowing space for some thin grease plates to do alignments.

The center support is a length of 1″ bar with 3 holes through it. 1/4″ on one side for the bolts, and just about 1″ on the bottom to allow a 10mm socket with an M6 nut to be inserted from the bottom.

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Once the 2 sides were done, the next challenge was fitting up the middle support tube such that it was dead level with the 2 sides so the floor is perfectly flat. To do that, I flipped the entire frame so that the side-supports were flat against the welding table, then placed the tube in to get tacked up so that the welding table top became the reference surface for the whole setup.

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With the frames completed, it was time to fab up the floor. After rough-cutting it, clamped it to the frame and drilled the 3 central holes as they can be accessed from underneath. The challenge, however, was to get the position of the 6 holes on the sides that were covered up by the angle iron.

This is where a DILYSI Dave hot tip came in incredibly handy. Long ago when I was building the new Seat Mounts, he suggested making some blind transfer punches out of some bolts. I made up a few more so I’d have a full set for this job. I threaded them into the holes, then bolted down the 3 central bolts so that the floor would be in the correct place, then gave each location a sharp whack with a rubber mallet to mark its location on the aluminum sheet for drilling.

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With the prototype nearly complete, I wanted to do some strength testing (ie: dropping the car on it vigorously a few times) to make sure there weren’t any glaring issues:

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And since I was painting the new Saw Stand, I figured I might as well hit this one with a coat of paint. This, it would turn out, would be a mistake.

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The keen eyed will notice 2 glaring omissions at this point (the point at which I thought I was done with this…). 1. There is no provision for the cable for the scales to pass through, and 2. There are no wheel stops. The commercial ones don’t usually have wheel stops, but they’re much shorter so were you to roll the car off of them, the likelyhood of them damaging the car is fairly low. These are very tall, and VERY strong. As such, should the car roll off of these, it would be ugly.  I’ll address these next.

First up is a notch for the cable. Attempt number 1 was…. well… fugly. I tried doing it with and angle grinder and the results were bad.

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It was at this point that the true value of a welder came into play. That was ugly enough that I decided to un-cut steel.

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After a rethink and some consultation, I decided to use a hole saw instead. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, however at this point, with the frame fully assembled, it was a bit late in the game. This is by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever chucked up in the drill press, but damn if it didn’t work!

(I’ve no idea why this photo shows up sidewards. Click the picture for the right-side-up image)

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Thankfully the results were most excellent. After a little cleanup of the sharp edges and corners with a flap disk, I was very happy.

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On to the tire stops. After a bit of figuring and evolutionary engineering, I ended up with an easy to fabricate, dead simple solution that will 1) stop the car rolling off the ends, and 2) still allow the stands to stack together to minimize the space they take in the shop.

Part the first is a 2″ length of 1/2″ OD tube welded in the center of each end of the frame:

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Next is a 6″ length of 3/8″ steel rod, with a bend around the 2″ mark and a bullet nose ground in on each end. The bend is so that they won’t just fall through the tube, and it leaves a ~4″ step that would take an immense amount of force to get the tires over. If you figure out a way to do that, you do your alignments far more aggressively than I.

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The short side / long side has an added advantage that I wish I could take credit for but in reality was a complete, but happy, accident. Up front, that long post interferes with the splitter when rolling the car back and forth between the scale and the roll off pad.

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With it flipped upside down, there’s still plenty of a step to stop the car (plus the taller sides are still up at the rear), and the splitter clears easily. I love it when a plan, accidental or otherwise, comes together!

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Now to just do all that 3 more times.

To be continued!

 

Part 1
Part 3

Setup Stands Part 1 – The Frame Job

Many moons ago, a buddy posted a few pictures to Facebook of his car on some setup / alignment pads. My curiosity piqued, I reached out and got a bit more info from him, as something similar would be phenomenally useful. I’d looked at commercial options for these, but they are prohibitively expensive, and John’s homebuilt pads looked pretty close to what I wanted for a lot less money.

After a great deal of figuring and bouncing ideas off of engineer friends, it became clear that a set could be made that would also incorporate setup scales, for relatively little cash (and a great deal of time….so, so much time). Initial designs were drawn up and steel ordered.

What follows is going to be a boatload of photos of various stages of the build. It was a very very long process of evolutionary engineering and problem solving, but now that I know how to build them, additional sets will be made relatively (and it is very relative, because they’re a ton of work) easily.

First step: getting a bunch of steel home. I had various pieces cut more or less to length, as I didn’t know exactly how they would go together but had a general feel for at least what the long legs needed to be. The rest were cut to fit in the back of the truckster to get it home.

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Lots of measuring (way more than twice), cutting, coping and beveling later, and the first frame was roughed out.

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The scales will sit on the side with “floor” on all 4 edges, and the rolloff pads will go opposite them.

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Cutting 45 degree miter joints would have been far easier from a fab standpoint. However coping the joints has 2 very big advantages: it leaves nice, flat areas on each end of the “long” side of the frame for the legs to sit on, and with that, there is a lot less strain on the welds and puts everything in compression, with the welds mostly holding the pieces together, and not supporting the weight of the car.

It’s not that I don’t trust my welds, but with something that needs to hold the weight of a car from crushing me to death, I will take every bit of added strength I can get.

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A quick test fit was very encouraging. My measuring a dozen times lead to a fit that allows the scale pads to rock in and out easily, but not enough that they can move around too much.

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Mocking up the legs:

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Got the rest of the gussets and the horizontal supports done.

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A design requirement was to have feet at each corner that will allow the full set to be leveled. The first step of that are these that make the bottom of the legs, with the threaded nut inside the leg. So, weld the nut to the washer, then weld that assembly to the leg.

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The rest of the parts stackup.

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This once again goes into the strength of the thing. Once the jam nut is tightened up, all of the load is on the big washers at the bottom of the legs and the bolt, and virtually none of the operating load is on the tack welds securing the nut on the inside of the legs.

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With the basic design roughed out, we’ll work on the roll off pads in Part 2.

To be continued….

 

Part 2
Part 3

Saws and Welders and Stands, oh my!

Workshop update! I’ve made a few tooling changes and upgrades 😀

The biggie is a welder upgrade. The old, tired Harbor Freight 180 amp welder has now been replaced with a Millermatic 211. It’s a massive, “the last MIG welder I’ll ever need” level upgrade, but with the projects going on in the shop (including a few that will be getting sold), it really was time to get something better and more consistent.

Miller had a rebate going on, so everything sort of lined up for it. I’m still getting used to what it likes & setting it up right, and unlearning a bunch of bad habits, but man this thing is nice. The old HF box didn’t much care how your technique was, it was going to weld the same way (mediocrely) regardless. On this one, small things make big differences and you can really tune everything in.

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Next, I really needed something that could fairly easily & effectively notch heavy angle iron to build some frames for a project or three that I’m working on. An angle grinder will do the job, but it’s slow, hot, messy and not nearly as accurate as I wanted for this. A vertical band saw is the correct answer, but is also way out of the budget. Some poking around lead me to SWAG Offroad, which sells laser-cut and pre-bent kits for converting a portable band saw into a benchtop upright bandsaw, and there are enough glowing reviews out there that it seemed worth it to try. Turns out, they were correct!

I opted for the optional foot pedal as well (so that the machine can have the trigger locked on, but you can easily control its stop and start and keep your hands free), which I highly recommend if you do pick one up.

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I put a good metal-cutting blade in it (though from what I’ve read, that’s not necessary but will last longer), and man, this thing gets the job done. It’s not crazy fast, but it’s accurate, makes clean  cuts and doesn’t get the steel scalding hot in the process.

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Finally, I got sick of picking up my miter saw and having to find a place in / around the shop to run it, and of not having a good way to support the stock on it. I pulled together a few scrap bits and bobs and threw together a rolling stand for it that can be moved out of the way / out of the shop for the messy work (since race tires and steel chips don’t really get along). I wanted something that would work as a base for the metal cutting saw, and also serve as storage for assorted grinding & cutting wheels, and my 14″ chop saw that, until now, lived on the floor in a corner.

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Grinding wheel, flap disk, cutoff & wire wheel storage, to get them out from the bottom drawer of my toolbox:

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And with it at that height, it’s not only at a super comfortable height for me, but I can put 1 or 2 of those roller stands nearby and quickly have long stock support. And, as with all of these things, it should make life a lot easier.

That is, generally speaking, the whole point of tools.

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Big-Boy Welding Table

I have a few projects coming up that really need a decently flat surface to build on. While it’s served me well, the flimsy $30 Harbor Freight welding table just wasn’t cutting it in the long run (it has since been donated to a friend’s son who’s going to school as a welder).

Enter WeldTables.com and their CertiFlat tables. After pricing material (since I don’t have that much scrap laying around), I realized I wouldn’t be able to build a table for the price of one of theirs. I went for the 2 x 4′. Big enough to do what I need, but small enough (and on wheels…) that I can stuff it in the corner of my workshop, or in the driveway, should I need the space.

It came in far quicker than their advertised 7-10 day lead time, and once it did I set about cleaning all the parts with Acetone in preparation for welding it together. It really is a man-sized erector set 😀

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We did hit a slight snag that, in retrospect is obvious from the photo above, but we didn’t catch it until we were doing the final assembly. It turns out that they sent leg stringers for a 2×3 foot table, so the short sides were fine, but the long sides were about a foot short:

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A quick call to  WeldTables.com and they shipped the correct parts out straight away. The mistake was annoying, but their Customer Service in correcting it was outstanding.

With the correct parts in hand, I completed assembly and welding. I then flipped it over, did a little grinding of the few spots where the weld went higher than the slots, cleaned up the surface with a polycarbide wheel and sprayed it down with some WD40 to prevent rust from building up.

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I also ordered a couple of their 6×6 FabSquares and broke the new table in by putting those together. These will be super useful in the future.

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What with the Atlantic separating us most of the year, I don’t get to do too many fun projects like this with my Dad. Because of that, so I put a little something together to document it.

Aero: Front Splitter V2.0

After last season, Splitter V1.0 was seriously trashed. Placed on a flat surface, there was almost 2″ of bend across its width, so at a minimum I had to replace what was there. At a maximum, it was time for a complete rethink.

It was definitely time for a complete rethink.

So, based on what I’d learned making and repairing the first one, I set about replacing every single component save the 2 quick release pins. I didn’t intend for it to be that thorough of a redesign, but during the offseason, if there’s opportunity for improvement “while I’m in there,” you might as well take advantage of that.


Part 1: The Rear Chassis
Mounts

These were the pieces I had far and away the most trouble with last season. They were not adjustable, so once I eyeballed the height the 1st time, that’s where they lived. Furthermore they were difficult from a maintenance perspective, a once you hit something hard enough to bend them, the only thing to do was attempt to beat them straight with a hammer, or completely re-build them. There had to be a better way.

This piece took a bit of evolutionary engineering, but I think the result will be up to the task. You can see V1.0 on the left, bent in a couple different directions, and very unwilling to be bent back straight (especially along the longer edge).

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Instead of having a single piece mount, I decided to make a very strong mount to the chassis, with weaker sacrificial hooks to take the brunt of any larger impacts. The hooks are very easy to remove & replace, and to manufacture. The hooks are simply a length of 3/8″ threaded rod, and a short bent piece of steel round bar.

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A quick bit of welding and I have (what I hope to be…) a season’s worth of replacement. Hopefully more.

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After a bit of time on the drill press and a coat of Machine Grey, and the chassis mounts are done.

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Part 2: The Rear Splitter Mounts

The Hooks on the splitter that held it onto the chassis mounts also took a beating last year. Also, their geometry meant that with a good bit of load on the front, the rear hooks would lift off of the mounts. Unlikely to happen under real world conditions, but also suboptimal.

Given that, I went with stronger material (1/4″ Aluminum, up from 1/8″), and a more angled hook design that keeps it located both horizontally and vertically.

After a bit of figuring, this was the design I came up with. The bottom 3 holes are 1/2″, and the top one 3/8″ to tightly hold onto the chassis mounts.

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After a bit of cleanup and fitment testing, these are complete:

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Part 3: The Front Chassis Mounts

The front chassis mount (under the front bumper) has always been a pain. It allowed for no deflection (which meant bent front splitter struts), and because they only had 1/4″ holes for the quick-release pins, they were very finicky to get everything lined up with.

Inspiration from this came from a relatively prestigious place: The Dodge Viper ACR. I noticed that it had a mount that’s basically only rigid when downward load is put on it (ie: aerodynamic load), but would allow for upward deflection (ie: for off course excursions) to prevent the struts from taking all of that strain.

Here’s what I came up with. The D-rings are completely rigid in tension (ie: aero load), but will allow for deflection (ie: bigger cone strikes or bottoming) to hopefully prevent bending the struts. As an additional bonus, the target I’ll need to hit in order to mount the quick release pins is orders of magnitude larger, which will make mounting the splitter at the track far easier.

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Part 4: The Front Splitter Mounts & Struts

The front splitter mounts did the job, but were a little small in surface area against the splitter. They were also short legs, meaning that the nuts for where it bolts to the splitter and where it bolts to the struts were practically on top of each other. I used the miter-saw I received as a Christmas gift to throw these together (shown with a spare set):

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I also found some turn-buckle rigging forks on Amazon that, with a little bit of drilling and welding, I was able to make into a pair of new front struts.

 

Part 5: The Splitter and Final Assembly

Finally, we get to the splitter itself. Using the laminated sheets of DiBond ended up being both a ton of work, and fairly ineffective. After the rigors of the season, the bottom sheet was fairly worn down (another casualty of non-adjustable rear mounts) and it never was as stiff as I would like.

After consulting with some buddies who know more about this stuff than I, I decided to go with 1/4″ Dibond. The single 1/4″ sheet is far sturdier than the laminated 1/8″ sheets.

The first step was to make cleaner (and thicker) buck for the splitter. The lines on the 1st one weren’t all that clean. This will make for fairly quick & easy replication with a router & a flush-trim router bit.

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I picked up a brand spankin’ new sheet of 1/4″ Dibond, and we managed to cut 3 splitter blanks out of it, then trimmed them down with the router. It’s a super dirty process, but it is super effective.

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Instead of using sections of the Home Depot Racing Supply paver edging for the air dam, I went ahead and used the whole one (so it would be more rigid), then we riveted the original air-dam to it to use for mock up, to then make a pattern (and buck) for a new design:

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Once all the mock-up was done, it was time to disassemble the whole thing and put the “real” parts on. All of the parts were mounted using elevator bolts.

I made a spacer to use with a nut and a washer stack to pull each elevator bolt into place:

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After a bit of sweat equity, this is what the bottom looks like. The nice thing is that they have very thick bases, which allows them to serve as something of a wear surface without sacrificing too much strucutral integrity, as opposed to using button head bolts, which have much less metal to wear down before they’re rendered useless.

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With the base complete, we used Clecos to temporarily rivet everything together…

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And then finally completed assembly and riveting, and got it mounted in place:

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It was a ton of work but now that I have a good, solid design, replicating it will be relatively straight forward. Hopefully I don’t find any crazy weaknesses with this design that’ll require another complete rethink.

Trailer Winch

I absolutely adore my 6# flywheel, but it does make getting the car over the hump onto the trailer a challenge. The last couple times I had to make course corrections part way up, I could smell that the clutch wasn’t happy. Since Harbor Freight had a sale going for their 2500# winch, I figured, for $50 and a bit of blood and sweat, why not?

This is my highly technical concept diagram on how I wanted to mount it. Given how short the legs are, I opted to keep both legs straight because…I had scrap pieces that were the right length 😉

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Here’s my starting point. I snagged a 6″ receiver tube, and since I didn’t have any 2″ tubing long enough, cut up a Harbor Freight 1 ball hitch:

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The black-on-black makes it difficult to see, but here is the trailer-side mount, along with the 2″ hitch welded up to the winch mounting plate:

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The trailer-side mount welded in place:

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It fits with the fuel jug, but it wouldn’t take much wiggle for it to rub, so I’ll likely end up hooking the…hook… to the back side of the receiver tube.

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I decided to run the winch off of the truck instead of having another battery on the trailer. It’s sort of a 6 of one, a half dozen of the other situation, but I mostly didn’t want to have another battery to buy, maintain, and maybe get stolen. Because of that, I needed a couple of small mods on the truck side. In the engine bay, the main things needed are a Circuit Breaker (just in case) to protect the truck-side wiring:

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About 50′ of 4 ga battery wire, and a pair of very large Quick-Disconnectors for the rear of the truck. This shows both the truck and trailer sides hooked up while I was hunting around for somewhere to put them, and discovered a very convenient M6 bolt hole on a metal bracket that secures the bottom of the rear bumper in place. It couldn’t be more perfect. The shiny bit on the right is one of the valves for the rear helper air-springs:

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After running most of the wiring for the truck (save the jumper from the battery to the circuit breaker, to keep the harness ‘cold’ so I could safely work on the wiring) it was time to work on the trailer side.

The winch comes with some pretty uninspired 10gauge wiring, so job one was replacing all of that. I’m also crimping *and* soldering all of the wire terminals. You can see the difference in size between the 4ga wire I’m running, and the stuff it comes with here.

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With all of the wiring in place, I could build the jumper between the circuit breaker and battery:

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And finally it was time to plug everything in and run a couple system checks. First off, everything was in fact dead with the circuit breaker tripped, which is a good sign. Next, plugging the winch into the truck didn’t let any smoke out. And last, I gave it a pull off of the 12,000 lb D-ring on the back of the trailer to make sure my welding is as extra medium as I thought it was. I still don’t have a ton of trigger time on it, and this is really the first thing I’ve fabbed up that could potentially kill or maim if it comes unmoored. So…I wanted to make DAMN sure the whole thing wouldn’t end up flying across the workshop. And it didn’t, so…win one for the good guys! Or…at least, for me.

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Chasing the Dragon Hill Climb is this weekend, so it’ll get some use loading the trailer at home and after (hopefully….) the event. Also: SO EXITED! 😀

LED Tachometer Mount

The main reason I got the bling-o-meter is as a rudimentary yard stick for reviewing video of speed in a certain part of the track (or at least, RPM). More lights = more fast. Easy.

The problem is that it’s nearly invisible in the video, because the steering wheel is between the tach and the camera. So how to fix it?

I noticed in the video that if it were directly behind the steering wheel on the column, it would show up perfectly, so I fabbed up a quick mount to get an idea of where it should go.

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I briefly considered welding to the column housing, but after consulting with a friend who generally knows much better than I (Thanks Dave!) decided that there’s too many important unknowns that could be cooked inside the column housing (plastic bushings, grease seals, etc) to risk welding directly to it. He floated the perfect solution (as usual). Inexpensive and effective: a 2-piece shaft collar.

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A little time on the wire wheel cleaned off the oxide coating on the un-threaded half, a little welding, and a coat of paint, and it should work great:

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A little time spent on the little things that would bother me if they were staring me in the face before each run:

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And now I should be able to get some use out of it. A little before & after: