Your worst project?

What was the most ill-conceived, unsuccessful, and worthless/expensive DIY style project that you undertook (I would say without counting any
injuries as they could outweigh everything else)?
My biggest one is a shed that I built. Not counting my shoulder sprain due to a posthole digger, the shed is way too narrow to be truly useful. It is attached to the deck along its longer side, so it is inconspicuous, but if it was 3-4 feet wider, it would have been a lot more useful. The shed stands, is dry, and functions as designed, but it was poorly designed.
i
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My worst project was buying a used Onan powered 5kw generator/welder. I got it very cheap since it turned over with virtually no compression. I figured that it would have only one major glitch, the engine was the problem. Got it home, stuck valve, freed that up, started right up. But no power output.
Spent good money buying brushes, flashing the stator, etc. No go. Tore it down, half of the windings were completely burned out. Onan wanted $1700 for the new windings. NOT! Scrapped the generator section.
Found a 5 kw generator head on a close out. Built a frame to marry the two together. Not stiff enough, doubled the steel in the frame. Additional welding caused it to warp badly. Got things aligned with a lot of grinding and shims.
Used a Lovejoy coupler to marry the engine to the generator head. Just enough misalignment left over to wipe out couplings within an hour or two.
Sold the unit for less than I had in it in parts, not to mention all the hours of messing around with it. And still didn't have either backup power or a portable welder.
ARGH!!!
Ignoramus689 wrote:

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Oh, you remind me of the pressure washer. I bought one off Ebay, and it didn't work. So, I bought another. And that didn't have the tip for the hose. Bought a hose. Finally, with about $200 invested, I find out I can get a new one from Home Depot for $98. Which I did.
Or the great deal on a big pipe wrench, only to find out I could get a set of four from Harbor Freight for the same price.
--

Christopher A. Young;
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Mine was a dredge. At the time, I was interested in gold mining, and had built a very efficient trailer mounted sluice. 5 hp Honda 2" pump, and first class quick connects and components. We did okay with that, and found five ounces of gold in one day one time. We did not do that good on every trip, but in all, the trailer was profitable. We were doing dry placer deposits.
Then I got interested in dredging some local swimming holes for Indian artifacts. No gold, but interesting stuff and potentially profitable. I had experience with air lifts from my commercial diving days. I built three prototypes before arriving at a final design that worked slick as can be. The tanks were designed so that when the top of the dredge became full of lithic debitage, it would tilt 90 degrees in the water, and the debitage would simply fall off. Simple. Efficient.
What I had failed to investigate was the legality of it all, and the federal Antiquities laws put the kibash on the project. My best location was a privately owned spring, and we had the permission to dredge. We had tested the dredge three times, and it worked great. It even brought up tin cans and broken glass, which made the owners happy. Right when we got ready to do some serious dredging in the areas where we thought the artifacts were, it went into bankruptcy, and I couldn't even get the bank to return phone calls. I took what I could off in the way of reusable fittings, but the rest went to the landfill.
Loss of about $3,000.
Steve
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On Thu, 22 Nov 2007 23:01:12 -0600, Ignoramus689

Not mine, but one I steered clear of. This summer I came across a yard sale where the guy had a box of lawn mower parts, mostly new looking. It seems his ex had hit something and bent the crankshaft on a relatively new B&S 3.5 HP and insisted that he attempt to repair it himself. He claimed to have close to $200 tied up in new parts but never got around to putting it back together before they split. He was willing to let the engine in a box go for $10 but no deck etc. I told him I might have given him the $10 if he still had the deck, but apparently someone had already had that brain wave and then left him with the engine which he considered to be a good deal till I explained that in the last month I had dragged home three free machines, all repairable engines but rotted out decks. Gerry :-)} London, Canada
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I designed and built a wire cutter to cut 3" long .014" wire, 6 coils at a time. It worked well in that a bundle of wire looked like a mirror on the ends. I never could figure out how to orient the cut wire and the machine made piles of wire that looked like hay. Then I figured it would only cut 1/6 of the amount that my rotary cutter would do without disorienting the wire. I figure I have about $2,000 in it and nothing is reusable except the 1/3 hp motor and the fasteners. Ooops!
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A massive Westbury universal mill that took all my time for 'bout two months. Had it all apart and was starting to paint and reassemble. I had heated the bull gear in preparation for re-insterting the spindle. The spindle hung on the way in and wouldn't budge. To add insult to injury I broke one of the shifter forks trying to get leverage. The whole thing went to the scrapper.
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Ignoramus689 wrote:

Well, I tore up my back trying to drag a 375 Lb surface plate out of the back of my car. I have slid heavy stuff around before, but I was at the wrong angle, the skid caught on the carpet or something, and I did major damage. I was in great pain for a couple months, and it slowly healed. But, my back is never going to be the same. As long as I take it easy, avoid exhausting the back muscles and avoid the movement of pulling something toward me hard, with my back, then I'm OK.
With my back totalled, I did manage to rig the surface plate to my lawn tractor and pull it around to the basement door and then winch it in. It sat on the floor for a year, then I built a table for it when I got my TIG machine.
Sorry about the clutter in the picture : http://jelinux.pico-systems.com/surftable.html There are plugs in the pipes that have angled 1"-20 TPI threads so the adjusting feet go straight up and down. I milled those threads by CNC. It has 6 feet, 3 on the floor, and 3 holding the granite plate.
The project came out great, but I sure wish I hadn't wrecked my back. I'd managed to save myself from wrecking my back up until I was 55 or so.
Jon
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    [ ... ]

    Ouch!
    Is that a granite surface plate -- or a cast iron one? The edge looks granite, but the top looks rusty -- perhaps the appearance of the spotting compound on it already?
    and how big a plate it it? My largest is an 18x18 cast iron, plus a 12x18 granite and a small 6x12 ping granite from Starrett (through some other ownership along the way. :-)

    O.K. I can't seem to see the near leg on the right actually touching the plate -- but it must be, or it would be toppling.
    Yes -- three point support is the right thing to do with either the granite or the cast iron.

    It is a pity that you did in your back. Any hopes of it getting better over time, or is what you currently have as good as you can expect?
    Good Luck,         DoN.
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DoN. Nichols wrote:

it was bad for a while, now it is just a slight annoyance.

It is a Chinese 24 x 36 x 4" black granite plate, and yes, it has some spotting compound on it. The bottle of red Canode spotting dye is visible on the right side of the plate. I use that instead of Prussian Blue because it easily washes off the hands, etc.
Jon
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Where have you been buying your spotting ink at?
Sorry about your back and the next time my uncle makes observations on my shop conditions, I'm showing him your picture ;)
Nice stand btw.
Wes
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Wes wrote:

I bought that at Dapra, but they have a $50 minimum, and the dye was only $12, so I had to buy some other stuff. There may be other distributors without minimums or with other stuff you need, like MSC, KBC, Travers, etc.
I later got a bottle of blue Canode at Cummins Industrial, no idea why they had it, but they had several cases hidden in a pile of stuff in the back. One of our local metalworking group members spotted the stuff there.

Ahh, it gets bad for a while (the junk that is), then a big project develops, and a mad cleanup has to be done. There are a few piles of stuff that are hard to get into, but that entire area in the photo has been totally rearranged. At the right edge were where I had shelving units arranged like library stacks, wasting a lot of space in the aisles. I calculated I would only give up one rack if I lined the walls with the shelves, opening up a HUGE area, where my surface mount pick and place machine now sits. See http://jelinux.pico-systems.com/CSM84.html for awful pictures and story. But, that was NOT one of my worst projects, but most successful, so I couldn't talk about it in the original response.

Thanks, I think it is pretty cool, too.
Jon
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Okay thanks. I bought some once from a place in MI over the web and thought I'd just drop by on the way from picking up a 12" RT and get more to save shipping. Well I had the gps coordinates and address but never found the place. One of those areas where roads appear and disappear. I wish I had the foresight to have written the phone number down.
The place that looked closest was a developement with $1M+ homes where names on brick mailboxes were verboten.

I found a deal to good to be true. 3 pints for 4 or 5 bucks each on the web. Ordered it and never recieved it, got charged or recieved a sorry we are out.

Is that what I would call a PCB board stuffer?

Looks like your knees don't beat into it compared to a rectangular stand.
How much was the freight on that big rock and what were you scraping?
Wes
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Wes wrote:

Slight confusion, this is for SMT, not through-hole, but, yet, it places the parts on the board. I paid $1500 for the machine in completely-working condition, with 50 feeders (these go for $200-300 each, used). I had to pay about $2500 to have a door widened for the machine - ouch!

Ahh, I went out to the local KBC store and picked it up in my Toyota Corolla station wagon. They guys in the warehouse were a LITTLE leery about putting a 375 Lb (shipping weight) plate in the back of my car, but I figured two big guys could easily weigh that much. The rear DID sag a bit, but I got it home, then had a big problem dragging it out of the back of the car and hurt my back. Oh, but I saved a bundle on shipping, never mind that my back will never be quite the same!!!
I scraped a Michael Morgan straightedge, and then used that to "scrape" my 15" Sheldon lathe http://jelinux.pico-systems.com/sheldon.html I have since scraped in a set of 3 right angles against each other, and will someday use those to redo my Bridgeport.
The reason I sav "scrape" above is the Sheldon had flame hardened tool steel ways that a carbide scraper blade just glides over, doesn't even leave a scratch! I had to spot as usual, then use a die grinder and white Cratex muslin-bonded polishing wheels to remove material in a controlled fashion. VERY slow!
Jon
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That nasty Red Canode spotting dye - Now I understand.
Bought a couple 3x4' plate of 3/8" HRS at the special scrap yard. The top was red - but I wasn't thinking - thought primer.
Cut out some needed patterns and started working - gloves red. Ish. Washed it off with many paper towels.
Martin Martin H. Eastburn @ home at Lions' Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net TSRA, Life; NRA LOH & Patron Member, Golden Eagle, Patriot's Medal. NRA Second Amendment Task Force Charter Founder IHMSA and NRA Metallic Silhouette maker & member. http://lufkinced.com /
Jon Elson wrote:

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Martin H. Eastburn wrote:

Oh, the Canode isn't bad at all, it washes off skin real easy. It doesn't wash off clothes as well, but the Prussian Blue NEVER washes off anything! I have clothes that must have been washed 100+ times, and the blue is still there. The blue on your skin comes off because you grow new skin!
Jon
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Good input.
Cummings Industry - are they still part of Cummings Truck depots where they rebuild the tractors that drag long trailers over the country.
Martin
Martin H. Eastburn @ home at Lions' Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net TSRA, Life; NRA LOH & Patron Member, Golden Eagle, Patriot's Medal. NRA Second Amendment Task Force Charter Founder IHMSA and NRA Metallic Silhouette maker & member. http://lufkinced.com /
Jon Elson wrote:

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Martin H. Eastburn wrote:

It's Cummins, and I have no idea what connection they have with the large Diesel engine builder. The stuff looks like Harbor Freight in every possible way, and most of what is there is totally awful crap. I did buy an engine hoist on eBay that would be quite similar to what they have, and it works Ok for home shop use. But, I'm real leery of buying any tools at a place like that, everything just looks so CHEEZY! They have sale sheets in the local newspaper.
Jon
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Ignoramus689 wrote:

Well, I have a couple derelict projects, maybe not what you are looking for, but ....
I tried to build a hybrid electric car. A friend donated a massively rusted out VW bug, no floor on driver's side, you could see both rear tires from the driver's seat, etc. I cut out a piece of scrap and welded a new floor onto it. I think my welder at the time might have been 48 V worth of trolling motor batteries for the car. I got a Kaylor adaptor which mounts a jet engine starter/generator to a VW flywheel. I built a switching regulator for the generator shunt field, and I could vary motor speed from about 3000 - 7000 RPM or so. I had some big transistors to switch the armature, but never built that controller. So, I had a spool of wire as a starting resistor and just blipped that and then cut in the main relay, and it sounded like a jet engine! The particular motor/gen I got had such a light field structure it vibrated as the armature slots went by. I had to make the giant bayonet fixture that holds the motor/gen on the Kaylor adaptor, it didn't come with the motor/gen. That actually came out OK, I would have been REALLY pissed to chew up what would now be $100+ of aluminum and have it not fit right. I had few measuring tools or precision setup skills at that time. It was too big to fit on my 10" Atlas lathe at the time, so I had to do it all on a rotary table on my mill.
Anyway, the thing actually ran as an electric car. I have no idea how far it would go on a charge, 4 90 AH trolling motor batteries aren't a huge amount of energy. It did run quite well, I ran up and down some hills near my house. I think it probably was snappier than the original VW engine.
Then, I tried to put in the hybrid conversion. I bought a Honda 350 engine from a guy who I should have been more wary of. After I cleaned the thing up, I found obvious signs the serial numbers had been chopped up with a chisel. I eventually got the engine running as is, it ran incredibly rough, and blew a lot of smoke. I was never able to keep it running more than a minute at a time. I don't know if it had an ignition problem, or what. Anyway, I plunged ahead, building a frame for the engine, and then modifying it to bring an extension of the crankshaft out where the centrifugal oil separator was. I made an adaptor to plug in where the oil separator cap went on the side cover that brought the oil ports out to where I could hook up an external paper filter. I added an oil pressure gauge, and it went so far past 100 PSI that it bent the needle hammering it against the zero peg. I made a totally horrible resilient coupling to a stratofortress generator, that is a work of lightweight mechanical art (the generator, that is). 400 amps at 30 V, and the thing weighs about 30 Lbs! My coupling was way out of balance, and didn't have anywhere enough resilience to handle the uneven power strokes of the vertical twin Honda engine. (With the pistons 180 degrees out of sync with each other, the power strokes happen 1/2 rev apart, then there's a full rev and a half with no power stroke.) After a couple short runs, a disassembly showed the crankshaft extension was twisted, and would obviously break within a couple more minutes' run. I was going to have to redo that whole thing with a MUCH heavier shaft. That is about where the project stopped. I still have the jet engine starter motor, the Kaylor adaptor, the stratofort generator, and the electronics. I gave away the Honda engine, but one carb off it is on my lawn tractor. I kept the trolling batteries for a while, but didn't bother to keep them charged. While trying to recover one of them that wasn't charging, I increased voltage to try to get it to take a charge without realizing an intercell connection had gone open, I managed to blow the top off the battery with a hydrogen explosion. it sounded like firing a 12-gauge in the basement. I'm damn lucky it was triggered up on top of the electrolyte or I might be typing this on a Braille keyboard! Sheesh, how stupid one can get sometimes! I sold the VW to a guy who needed a good transaxle. This all happened about 1982 - 1985 or so. I remember wrestling my 100 Lb vacuum-tube oscilloscope down the steps to the garage to work on the switching regulator circuit.
Another insane project was building a 32-bit bit-slice computer. The main CPU section was built on two hand-made wire-wrap boards about 14" square. It had 16 K words of 96-bit wide control store for the microcode. I actually got it running at the blinding rate of 8 MHz for 2-register operations and 6 MHz for 3-register. I wrote an emulator in BASIC and a macro assembler for it, and had a pretty sophisticated (for the time) download and diagnostic system for it that ran on a Z-80 system with S-100 bus and PC/M. (Is that the right OS for the old S-100 systems?) I was going to implement a 32-bit microprogrammed computer with it, based loosely on the IBM System/360, and then have to adapt an OS to run on it. Well, I got bogged down in microcode, and never got anywhere NEAR finishing the thing. Then, it became possible to buy a DEC MicroVAX-II CPU piece by piece from brokers, and I never looked back! I still pull out the huge wire-wrapped boards for visitors to marvel at.
All of my purely mechanical projects usually work in some fashion, sometimes after a little adjustment, and seem to serve their purpose. They are usually a lot less ambitious than the two above.
Jon Jon
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    [ ... ]

    [ ... ]

    Long saga mostly deleted.

    Interesting. I remember considering making a Motorola 6800 CPU from 2-bit bit-slice modules (for a hoped increase in speed), but never got around to starting that project.
    Lots of wire-wrapped things with 6800, 6802 and 6809 CPUs.

    Pretty good for wire-wrapped. I wonder how much it could have been boosted by more careful design of the routing of the signals?

    Close -- CP/M. The PC term did not exist until IBM started using it for their initial 8086-based system, IIRC.
    Sort of like when I used to refer to my Altair 680b (MC6800 CPU) as "my pet computer" before Commodore came out with the PET computer, which led to enough confusion that I dropped the term.

    An impressive project, anyway.

    I moved from the Altair 680b to the SWTP 6800, and then the SWTP 6809, (the last finally running with DOS-69 and OS-9 at the flick of a switch) before I started picking up Sun workstations and servers, starting with a Sun 2/120, and up through a current pair of Sun Blade 1000s and a Sun Fire 280R.
    Enjoy,         DoN.
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