B&D 3/8″ Impact

I found an old 3/8″ Black & Decker pneumatic impact for $5 and decided to pick it up.  Its pretty old and, sure enough, when I looked it up online there’s practically no record of its existence. I brought it home, hooked it up, and it works pretty well.  There are a few issues though.  The first is that the retaining ball has gone missing and it won’t hold a socket on.  The second issue is that it is very dirty with lots of old grease packed into the tight spots.  Time to fix it.  Here’s what I started off with.

I started by removing the air inlet piece.  There’s a filter in this piece that was pretty well clogged.  Once the threaded part was removed a couple plastic air diverter pieces came out.

Removing the four screws on the front nose allowed the hammer and anvil to be removed.  This gives me access to the rotor assembly.

The rotor assembly has a slight interference fit with the body of the gun.  I found the easiest way to remove it is to hold the body by the handle and strike the front face of the body with a plastic faced hammer.  Similar to seating an axe head, the rotor housing doesn’t move as much as the body and slowly comes out.

Once I removed the rotor housing, I started to disassemble it.  I flipped it over and ran into a humorous bit.  The rotor is held in the bearing by a pan head Phillips screw.  Obviously, it works but its funny to run into a cheap screw here.

Anyways, getting the rotor out was the hardest part.  After that it comes apart pretty easily.  I did run into a couple brittle gaskets.  It’s a good idea to put the vanes back in the rotor in the way they came out from what I’ve read online.  I don’t know that it matters and mine fell out accidentally anyways.

I recently replaced the pump in my cheap parts washer and used it to clean everything.  It’s nice to be able to throw everything in there for a little bit and then wash them off later.  Everything was scrubbed, cleaned, dried, and oiled before reassembly.  The bearings also go fresh grease.

I noted before that I had some gaskets that needed replacing.  Parts aren’t available for it and if they were might not be worth it.  So, I grabbed some gasket paper and proceeded to make some replacement gaskets.

To fix the retainer ball, I fished around through some old ratchet parts kits I had and found some pieces that would fit.   The ball is the correct diameter and I slowly trimmed a spring down to a good size.

I pressed the ball in to the hole and found that it stayed in.  The ball works to retain a socket but is a little stiff.  So, it’s not a perfect fix but it’s functional.  Besides the square drive is pretty worn and lets the socket wobble around a lot.

I tried it out and found that it broke a nut loose pretty easily that was torqued to 125 ft lb.  So, it has some strength to it.  I’ll try to use it next time I’m working on my vehicle to see how it does. It’s be nice to have an impact thats smaller and lighter than my 1/2″ one.  If I find it to be great I may have to purchase a new 3/8″ impact.


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Truck Battery Cable

I had some starting issues with my truck recently.  After looking into it some I discovered that my battery cables weren’t in good shape.  My truck has a dual batteries and it seems the corrosion was so bad that one battery wasn’t contributing when starting.  I decided to make my own battery cable as opposed to buying one.  I believe the setup I used will result in a better cable than the stock one or replacement available.

Here’s the old cable off the truck.  Starting at the bottom black cover is the terminal for the driver’s side battery.  Next, is the terminal for the passenger’s side battery and the feed wire from the post on the solenoid which carries current from the alternator.  Continuing along the wire, there’s a bracket and then the end which connects to the starter.

Here’s a close up on one of the terminals.  As you can see, the insulation has become brittle with age and heat which has started to crack.  The wire has also grown fat in spots due to internal corrosion.  Also, the terminal is a little worse for wear.

Here’s a better look at the corrosion.  In the pic below, the red wire is brand new and the middle wire is an old wire that’s still in good shape.   On the left is a wire full of corrosion which causes the internal resistance of the wire to go up decreasing the current through it.

To start with I needed some new red 2/0 gauge wire for the positive.  I chose to go with welding lead wire which is more flexible and has a more durable insulation.  The negative wire on the truck looked good except near to the terminals.  Fortunately, there was enough slack on the negative cables to allow me to trim the bad sections off and reuse them.

For terminals I decided to go with so called “military style” terminals.  I like these terminals because the cables are attached via bolts allowing replacement of pieces if necessary.   I also ordered some lugs to attach to the wire to connect the pieces (not pictured).

The lugs I purchased need to be crimped on and to do that I picked up a cheap hydraulic crimper from Amazon.  You can tell it’s a cheap model but it worked well.  The crimper has different dies that can be used for different gauge wires which make it pretty versatile and useful for other projects.  You can solder on lugs as well but I think a good crimp gives a better connection.

I took measurements off the old cable and cut my new wire in to segments a little longer.  Next, I slipped on a piece of adhesive heat shrink tubing and removed the insulation from the end of the wire for the lug.

Then comes the fun part…crimping the lug.  You almost need three hands to do this part.  I found it easier to lightly squeeze the lug with the crimper and then insert the wire for the crimp.  Once you’re absolutely certain the wire is where you want it, start pumping.  After multiple pumps the lug and the wire have become one.  Then, for this lug, you move a bit down, and crimp it again.  Yup, that’s never coming off.  In retrospect, I may have overcrimped a bit but seems to have worked ok.

After crimping, I dabbed a little dielectric grease around the exposed wire and then sealed it with the heat shrink tubing.  This heat shrink tubing has an adhesive inside of it that oozes out around the ends to hopefully make a more durable seal.

After that was more crimping until finally I had two large cables and a small cable with lugs on the ends.  The lug for the starter has a 90 degree like the original cable.  The original cable had a rubber elbow molded onto it where it was held by a bracket.  To replace the elbow I used a piece of 3/4″ heater hose.  Later on, plastic wire looms were put on the cable similar to the stock one.

I crimped lugs on to the negative battery cables using the same process for the positive cables.  Now it’s time to install.  I attached all the terminals and put the cables into position.  After that all the wires were attached to the terminals.  In these pics I’m using the hardware that came with the terminals but soon after I switched over to nylock nuts to keep the nuts from loosening.

Above is the drives side battery and below is the passenger side battery.

I’d pulled the old starter off while I waited for all the supplies for the battery cable to arrive.  It looked worn and I decided to take a peak inside to check the condition.  One of the bearings was very stiff and one of the brush leads was partially broken.  There was also bit of scoring on the commutator and toasty electrical smell.  All this lead me to purchase a rebuilt one from the store.

With the new battery cable and starter in place the truck turns over and starts much quicker.  Startlingly so.  Clearly, things are working better.


I little bit afterwards, I ran across these battery terminal covers and picked them up.  I also converted the terminal nuts over to nylock nuts.  I had to trim the opening on the passenger’s side cover a bit to get all the wires to fit.

Should be good for a few more miles down the road!


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Starrett Level Clean-Up

I found a Starrett level in an antique store the other day.  All of the vials were intact but the paint was starting to come off in spots.  I decided to take it apart to fix the paint….and break it.

The vials in this level are held in place by Plaster of Paris from what others have said on line.  This makes sense as it hardens quickly but not so quick that you can’t adjust the vials to read correctly.

I soaked the level in water to soften the Plaster of Paris and was able to pick bits of it out with some dental tools.

The big vial on top came out pretty easily as it was the most accessible.  The two smaller vials had plaster on top and bottom of them.  I removed the plaster on top of them and then gently turned them back and forth to remove them figuring the plaster on bottom had softened.  Unknown to me at the time, I also broke the small viles open.  It turns out that the fragile end that was pinched together to seal the vial was on the bottom and I broke the tip of it off.  Yay.  I didn’t realize this until later when I looked at one of the small vials and thought “Hmm, it used to have a smaller bubble.”  In the pic below you can see the broken tips.

Oblivious to what I’d done, I worked on removing the paint with some spray on Jesco paint remover.  It’s fast and effective. 

Here’s what I ended up with after stripping the paint.  Most of it is gone.

I taped the ground edges off and painted it. 

Once the paint was dry, I moved on to reinstalling the vials.  I needed a level surface to set the level on to set the vials.  To do this, I pulled out my small granite block and machinist level which is more sensitive than the one I’m working on.  I grabbed three bolts and nuts to use as adjusting feet for the block by putting a nut on each bolt.   Then I laid them out in a triangle and set the block on them.  The feet were adjusted until the block was level in both directions.

I installed the top vial pretty easily and was able to get it to read accurately.  I ended up using some drywall hole patch in a squeeze tube which made it easy to apply.

About this time I had my “Ah ha” moment when I realized I’d broken the two smaller vials.  I looked around online but couldn’t find any replacement vials that were the same size.  I’m sure Starrett would sell me some but the vials would probably cost more than the level.  I started to think about how I could fix the vials.  Some searching around online said than light petroleum spirits are usually used to fill vials.  Mineral Spirits would work then.  That left me with a couple more problems: how to fill it and how to seal it.

At the factory it appears they sealed the ends by pinching the glass.  I can see myself screwing that up and decided try to find an adhesive to seal it.  The substance would have to be impervious to mineral spirits.  A little searching lead me to JB Weld.  I tried that out and ran into another problem.  As the JB Weld was drying a little hole would appear in it.  It seems that the mineral spirits were evaporating and pushing through the JB Weld.  I knew the mineral spirits would evaporate, I just figured the JB Weld would be thick enough to not let it through.  Lesson learned.  Now I need something impervious to mineral spirits that sets up really quick.  I settled on 1 minute epoxy…which according to the instructions takes 5 minutes to harden.  Why?  I don’t know.  Anyways, epoxy seems to have done the trick and sealed the vials.  I’d place a drop on the end and then move it around slightly if I thought I saw a hole.  Shortly, it had hardened enough not to be a problem.

The other problem I had was how to fill the vials through the tiny holes in them.  Surface tension would keep the mineral spirits from flowing in.  So, I decided to suck it in instead.  I made a fancy vacuum chamber seen below.  Onto the hose I hooked one of those small hand vacuums and proceeded to pull enough air out to fill the vial.

Once the vial was full, I removed some of the mineral spirits by tapping the open end on some cardboard.  Each tap left a small drop and eventually I got the bubble to the appropriate size.  After that I quickly sealed the ends with epoxy.

The vials are slightly curved which means the hole they sit in allows the vial to move some.  I  put some drywall patch on the end of the vial inserted it and then squeezed more patch on top of the vial.  I used this sophisticated mechanism to hold the vial in place while the patch setup.

After that I reinstalled the smalls screws that cover the small vials and was done. 

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Automotive Tool Tray

I ran across a portable automotive tool tray while looking around online.  What is it you ask?  It’s an adjustable height, rolling, tray that is used to put mechanic’s tools on while working on a vehicle.  I thought one would be nice because I have a tendency to place tools around the engine bay while working.  Later on I have to gather them all up which can lead to a small mystery if I’ve missed one.  I read some reviews on it and there were some bad ones.  Some reviews said that it was flimsy and the welds were poor.  I said to myself, “I can do better.  I can made a sturdy tool tray with bad welds!”  And I did.

Since I was making the tool tray myself I wanted it to have a height range that accommodated both my car and truck.  Originally, I wanted to make the tray portion fold down but as I was designing it I found it wasn’t possible with the height range I needed.  Here’s a picture of what I made.  It adjusts between 34.5″ to 52.5″ and can be set at 3″ intervals between.


I started by working on the tray.  It’s constructed out of 1″ x 1/8″ thick angle and measures 21″ x 14.5″ which allowed me to get all of the pieces out of a 72″ long stick.  The 1″ height will allow me to put a board inside for the tools to rest on.  I mitered the corners and welded it together.  I recommend welding on the bottom of the tray so that the board will rest on the frame instead of rocking on the welds.  Alternatively, you can weld on the inside and grind them down.


Most of the rest of the moble tool tray is made out of 1″ square tubing that I got from Gill.  I used my overgrown hacksaw to cut it down to size.


The bottom of the mobile tool tray has the center section offset so that more of the tray overhangs the engine bay.  I didn’t want to to move it all the way to the edge so that I could put some bracing on it.  Here I’ve got the base of it clamped down and ready to weld.


After welding the base I started on the vertical piece that the top part slides in.  It’s made out of 1-1/4″ square tubing.  To position the top part I thought about using a pin but decided it would be easier to weld a nut to one side.  A through pin or bolt is preferable to using a bolt that would just press against the sliding tube as it greatly reduces the chance of the top sliding down under weight.


After finishing with the 1-1/4″ tubing it was back to the little welding table to attach it.  I welded it on and then braced it with additional scrap material.

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To support the top I used another piece of 1″ square tubing that would slide inside of the 1-1/4″ piece.  I positioned the first hole at 6″ from one end and then drilled additional holes every 3″.

tt8The inside of the 1-1/4″ tubing was a larger than the outside of 1″ tubing.  To compensate for this, I welded a small plate on the bottom back side of the 1″ tubing.  This is the location that presses against the inside of the larger tubing and will keep the top assembly from rattling around.

tt8aWith that done, it was back to the tray to start welding  the bracing that would connect it to the vertical 1″ square tubing.  I cut the bracing a little shorter than the dimensions of the top and welded it into place.


Finally, I could put the pieces together and test it.  Here it is at the lowest height.


Now it is raise to the max height holding my jack to prove to myself that it won’t fall apart with some weight on it.  I’d planned to weld some casters to the tool tray but instead decided to use some stem casters.  It would have been easier to drill the holes for the stems before assembly but I was able to get them drilled with my drill press after this pic.


Next up was painting in my custom fresh air paint booth.  I sanded it all with a flap disk and put on a coat of primer from a spray can.  After the primer had dried, I put on a top coat and watched the bugs jump into the paint.  Yay…I guess they like red.


I mentioned above about welding a nut on for a bolt to keep the top half of the tool tray in place. While I was waiting for the paint to dry I turned a piece to use instead of a bolt.  Other than my knurling not being deep enough it works as expected.


Once the paint had dried a couple days, I installed the casters and put it back together.


I grabbed a scrap piece of 1/2″ plywood to use as my work surface.  It is held in there by its own weight and can be replaced in the future if needed.


If you’d like to make a copy of the mobile tool tray, here’s a small drawing that lists the basic dimensions.  I don’t have any of the sheet metal bracing or lower 1-1/4″ tube support pictured here but their size isn’t critical.  You can use whatever size suits you.


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Swapping Drawers on the 44″ Harbor Freight Tool Cabinet

Thanks to some Christmas money, I was able to pick up a new tool cabinet.  This is one of Harbor Freight’s well regarded tool cabinets.  I like the cabinet a lot but wasn’t a fan of the drawer arrangement.  I ran across a post on Garage Journal that detailed how to swap the drawers.  So, I decided to do the same.

The tool cabinet is sold in several pieces.  I have the top and bottom pieces.  I’m not a fan of the deep drawers on the top and would prefer to have shallow ones.  The plan is to take four shallow drawers from the bottom and swap them with the two deep drawers on the top.

Before starting I’d like to point out that swapping the drawers, as I’ll show, will result in losing the ability to lock the swapped drawers.  There’s a way around this but I never lock my drawers anyways.

Anyways, here’s what I started with.


tb1The first step is to remove the drawers that you’ll be swapping.  This is done by rotating the plastic lever on the drawer slides shown below.  This disconnects the two pieces of the slides and allows the drawer to be removed.


The deep drawers on the bottom have two sets of slides (four total) per drawer.  The deep drawers on top only have one set of slides (2 slides) per drawer with the sides located at the top of the drawers.  So, we’ll need to remove the slide halves that are third up from the bottom on the bottom cabinet to be placed in the top cabinet.  The slide halves have tabs that fit into slots that bear the weight and use a single rivet to keep the slides in place.  This rivet must be drilled out to remove the slide half.  Once the rivet has been removed, the slide half will rotate up and can then be pulled out.


Part of what makes this swap possible is that the holes for the slides have already been cut into the top box as shown below.  This allows the slide halves from below to be easily dropped into the top box.


The rivet holes are a hair under 3/16″ and will need to be drilled to accept a 3/16″ diameter 1/8″ rivet.


With the enlarged hole, the slide halves can be riveted into place.   The rest of the slide halves are moved in the same way.  Using only the available drawer slides will result in the deep drawers being moved only having one set of slides.  This means that the top deep drawers will have a lower weight capacity than the bottom deep drawers.  This isn’t a problem for me as am storing lighter objects in the top deep drawers.  I’ve heard that replacement drawer slides can be ordered from Harbor Freight from the larger tool cabinets if you want double slides for the top deep drawers.tb6   Before the bottom drawers can be put into the top, the locking mechanisms must be removed from them.  As shown below, the bottom drawers have a silver piece riveted in while the top drawers have a small section punched out.  The silver locking piece can be removed by drilling out the rivets which hold it into place.  The drawers from the top, with the punched out locking section, will go into the lower cabinet with no modifications required.

tb7Finally, with all of the slide halves moved and locking mechanisms removed, the drawers can be put into their new spots.  This results in a drawer configuration that I find more useful.


If someone wants to swap the drawers and retain the locking mechanisms it can be done.  This would require modifying the drawers permanently unlike what I’ve done.

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Estate Sale Air Ratchet

I picked up a Blue-Point air ratchet from an estate sale a couple weekends ago for $5.  I knew it had some kind of issue because the throttle lever laid flat against the body as opposed to sitting away from it like normal.  For $5 I decided to pick it up.


Once I got home, I hooked the air ratchet up to my compressor and the ratchet immediately started spinning. It spun up but didn’t really go that fast.  I put a socket on it and used it to drive a nut down.  The air ratchet got the nut pretty tight which told me it was in good condition.  I looked over the air ratchet to try to find a part number but couldn’t. Odd. Reviewing it again, I noticed a small hole and stud on the “neck” of the air ratchet where a tag may have once gone.  I also found a Snap On date code on the end of the air ratchet in the shape of a “M” missing a leg.  You can see it in the picture above.  With all the info, I headed in to look around online.

I headed to Snap-On’s website, as they’re the owners of Blue-Point, and discovered that Blue-Point still makes an air ratchet that looks very similar to mine.  The current model is the AT700F.  They also had a parts diagram which would be useful soon.  I looked up the date code and it showed my air ratchet was made in 1985.

I decided to disassemble the air ratchet to clean and figure out what was wrong.  It came apart pretty easily.  There’s a large nut in the middle that separates the air ratchet into two pieces: head and body.  The body was disassembled by removing the planetary gear assembly, threaded ring, and drive assembly.  The ring was very tight and required the use of some large Channellocks with some rubber to keep from damaging the threads.  I also disassembled the trigger mechanism and immediately found the problem.  The valve was missing.  The lever pushes down a pin which should push the valve down allowing air to flow.  On the other side of the valve is a spring that pushes the valve back closed as the lever is released.


The part I’m calling the drive assembly contains the rotor and vanes.  I separated the rotor from the top bearing and found it to be pretty clean inside as can be seen below. The rotor has vanes which loosely fit in the rotor allowing them to slide in and out.  The rotor fits inside the cylinder which has a hole in it that is off center.  As a result, at one point around the cylinder the vane is pushed completely into the rotor and 180 degrees away a vane is fully out.  Thus, as air comes in it presses against the vanes spinning the rotor and driving the tool.

I cleaned the drive assembly with some degreaser and oiled it before reassembly.  The rest of the parts were looked over, cleaned, and oiled or greased as was appropriate.  I don’t have any pictures of it but I also disassembled the head.  There’s a snap ring on the bottom around the ratchet assembly that can be removed to take it apart.


I looked around further online and found a description of the missing piece.  It was described as a T shaped part.  That makes sense.  Snap On, as always, has parts you can buy to repair their tools.  My valve was available from them for $4.95 which would almost double the cost of my air ratchet.  Can’t have that.  So, I did some measuring and came up with a design for a replacement valve.  I whipped it out on the lathe pretty quickly.  The metal stock I had which was closest to the max diameter of the part didn’t turn that well and left a bit of a rough finish.  I had a small peg from parting the piece off and ended up leaving it on.  It doesn’t interfere with the valve functioning correctly and simplifies installing and removing the valve.


Below is the throttle assembly.  The pin can be seen inside the hole in the bottom of the air ratchet.


I put it all back together and now have an air ratchet that doesn’t run all the time.  Yay.  I tested the air ratchet tightening and loosening some nuts and bolts.  It seems to operate as expected and has good power.  I also found out from the specs online that the air ratchet’s free speed is 165 rpm which explains why it seemed to run so slowly.  The next day it was great to have the air ratchet while removing the numerous bolts holding on my transmission pan.


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Tap Wrench Clean Up

Here’s a quick tool restoration.  I found a tap wrench at a pawn shop the other day for $3.  It was pretty rusty and wouldn’t move.  This isn’t a bad thing when it comes to price.  It’s a Morse No. 15 and about 19″ long.  Good quality tap wrenches are worth cleaning up.  New good quality tap wrenches are expensive and cheap ones are pieces of junk with soft jaws.

Here’s what I started out with.


It turned out that with a little bit more force the movable handle popped loose. To disassemble it I first removed the set screw which allows the stationary jaw to be removed.  Next, the movable handle was rotated to remove the other jaw.  Finally, the movable handle was unscrewed out of the body of the wrench.  Not much to these.


I decided to use some Evaprorust to clean the tap wrench up.  It works well and can be reused several times.  The only downside is the relatively high price of it though it is pretty much effortless.  The parts soaked for about 4 hours and after washing looked rust free.


I buffed it a small amount with the buffer and then oiled it.

tw4 tw5

This was a super easy clean up and goes to show that an old rusty tool can be given a second life without much effort.

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