Jack is back!

It's been wild

Last time I posted a picture of jack, he looked like this:

Well, picking up where that story left off, the insurance company totaled the truck. When we talked to the owner of the body shop it was at he said 20k to get it to original condition... well shit. Being a super nice guy he saw the looks on our faces and had a real conversation with us when I pressed him. After talking about what we wanted (mechanically sound and safe, but ignoring looks) he said he could do it for ~$1400... THAT sounded better to us.

It was Christmas-time, so we traveled back to our respective parent's houses by train. This consisted of: Walk 3 miles across Bismark, swap around clothes etc. at the truck, walk to bus station, leave on bus at 2am (bus is late actually 5am, get to Fargo at 8am, hang out in coffee shops, get on train next day at 2am, 2 day train ride getting in 8 hours late.

Money and paperwork
After totaling out the vehicle for about 11k, and subtracting the 1k deductible, the insurance company sold the truck back to us for a bit over $600. The tires alone are worth that. The trick is that if I buy it back, it's salvage title, so I can't insure it for collision or comprehensive... and the paperwork can get harry.

Here's how I ran the numbers on whether to buy it back:
- USAA valued my last totalled tacoma for parts at 8k, so I figure if I total it, I can sell it for ~6k fairly easily
- I bought it back for ~$600, and repair estimate was ~$1400, so that's ~$2k in on the vehicle.

So if it's totalled I should be 4k in the black, so that gives me a lot of room for further repairs

As far as how much money I lost on rolling it
- I bought it for $15k
- They payed me $9k
- I had to pay another $2k to get it
- I can still sell it for $8k trivially, as a running Tacoma

Which comes out break even. I lost a lot on hotels, eating out, lost time, etc. I need to repair the roof-rack, bla bla, but overall... I came out a lot better than one would expect for totalling a car.

As for paperwork, I was worried I'd have to drive it back to MA for a salvage inspection. The rules on the DMV website were opaque, the insurance folks at AAA didn't know. Finally I ended up talking with our total loss representative at Mapfre and they said that because the vehicle is over 10 years old, there is NO paperwork, no inspections, nothing. That's it, we're good to go.

So, that's what we did... Being unsure when the truck would be complete Angie took the train up to my parent's house after Christmas. When it was ready we reversed the train/bus trip, picked up the truck in Bismark ND, and drove it back to my friend's house in Wisconsin. The drive back was a little exciting. First we drove from Bismark to Fargo. It was fine most of the way, but the highways in Fargo were black ice and weather looked bad in Minnesota, so we decided we were done for the day. We stopped at a motel 6 and slept for 18 hours (having not slept properly for 3 nights prior), breaking in the middle for dinner. The next morning we looked and Minneapolis was in fact a disaster as predicted, so we decided to route south around it via Sioux Falls, adding 2 hours to the drive on an ideal day. A good chunk of the road heading south was glare ice, and we did those parts at 20-30 mph, blinkers flashing as we looked out at cars and trucks that had slid off the road on either side. From Sioux Falls to Madison WI was a lot better, and we made it here by about 1am.

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The truckSo, here he is... He feels like he could use an alignment, but everything seems to be running great. This is the side that didn't roll through the snow. The remainder of the roof rack is in the back on top of the platform.


On the other side though it looks really good for having been rolled. The door didn't open properly before due to a dent in the front quarter panel, and of course the mirror was smashed. The shop popped the dent out, as well as the fender and the door itself. When Angie first tried pulling the door latch it would lock the door, but something popped back in to place and it seems to work properly now. Amazingly, the window even rolls down and back up again smoothly!


The roof of the cab took most of the damage. They shoved it back in to place and got a really solid seal around the window, but it definitely looks a little worse for the wear. I need to sand and repaint the spots that really got creased. The cab may rust through before the truck wears out now... oh well... if it does I'll have to either replace that sheet metal or do a cab swap, for now it works fine though.


The cap lost a few little chunks of fiberglass, no biggy, but I think I'll fill in the biggest hole just to keep water from getting in there, freezing, and opening things up wider. I might just mix up epoxy and shove it in there.


The most immediately problematic damage is a crack in the truck cap. Our theory is that we can repair this either with fiberfix or a standard fiberglass repair kit. It's an issue because the cap is twisting left, so the window doesn't close properly (as you can see here), and the structural integrity is an issue for remounting the roof rack. In theory it should be an easy fix. A major reason we headed for a friend's place is that our stuff has to go somewhere while we take it all apart and put it back together, so a garage is likely to be helpful.


Other minor work we need to do includes checking the transmission and differential fluid levels, bending the bed sides back inwards maybe an inch, sanding and painting the dents on the body so they don't rust, remounting the right front signal properly, replacing/repairing the roof rack, replacing one storage box that got smashed, and replacing the radio antenna... but that's all minor stuff.

Jack is back, and back on the road! And with a little luck pretty soon we'll be fully operational again. Then we're heading south :D.


Antique lanterns and stoves

I ended up with 2 antique lanterns and an antique stove.

My parent's gave me this lantern for Christmas:

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This is sold as a "portable brass candle lantern" by Garret Wade. It turns out this is a non-exact replica of a "Stonebridge Automatic Folding Candle Lantern" (thus the writing on the top), which was invented around 1906. Here's some further information on it http://thewoodslife.com/?p=82

The glass is actually mica, which is less brittle than glass would be. It looks very usable and robust in practice, folding flat with the fragile bits protected by solid brass when folding and popping open almost on it's own. It's kind of an amazing piece of gear, and has an undeniable attraction and ambiance to it as well. The only downside is that this one weighs about 18 ounces (contrary to Garret Wade's site, which claims 12 ounces). Then each candle is 2 ounces. That's a little much for using backpacking, though it may not stop me from bringing it on a trip eventually as I hone my gear further.

My parent's also said that I could have one of their antique candle lanterns from the attic if I wanted it, so we went digging in their attic for a while and I eventually turned this one up:


This is an old Trangia candle lantern. Trangia is a Swiss company making gear for, among other things, the Swiss military. So, in the most literal sense, this is a Swiss Army lantern.

It's made of aluminum. The bottom section holds the candle, and a spring to feed it. The middle section is what looks to be a cellulose based "glass" to let the light pass through, and the top is just a chimney, protecting the flame from the wind further. The whole thing telescopes twice in to the top. Looking around the internet I was able to find only one picture of this model lantern... so now I guess there will be more.

Here's the section the candle fits in with the feeder spring:


It's a really cool lantern, looking very pack-able and robust while packed, while weighing in at ~4 ounces. The candles are thinner, so will burn up faster, and they have to be a perfect fit, where the other lantern allows you to fudge almost any candle in to working. These thin candles are a little harder to find, so I may have to experiment a bit figuring out what is easy to get and works well. If I can figure that out this lantern may be just the ticket for my non-plastic backpacking gearset.

Lastly, while my dad was up in the attic he also found this stove:


It's a classic Coleman from around the Vietnam War era. It needed a little oil on the leather pump gasket, but that's it. I just tested it with a little help from my dad and she lit right up (with a few bouts of 5 foot flames, hopefully I can get a little better at it). Fundamentally it's the same thing as any of the modern whitegas stoves, like the whisperlight that Angie and I use. The packaging is just a little different. The stove just goes perfectly with the Coleman 200A lantern I finished refurbishing recently (also out of my parent's attic).

I remember using the Coleman stove backpacking when I was a kid, alongside a svea and an optimus 80. My dad carried the Trangia lantern for years. My aluminum cookset was also my dad's and one of the pots we know is from at least the 60s, and dad got it used then. There's something about old gear. It embodies a connection with the past I guess. But, even practically you know they are good, or they wouldn't be around anymore. All of these pieces, like the 200A, are incredibly simple. There's no plastic, and they are made to be repaired not thrown away. When I asked dad how to clean the jet on the Coleman he said he's never had to, and his dad had one and never had to either.... A lot of this old stuff just works. Often the new gear is too much better to warrant it, but all things equal I'd always rather use old gear than new. I like the connection to the past.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 
― William Morris

Both is even better, and to me well made axes, knives, stoves, lanterns, and their ilk embody that spirit like little else. I don't know if all of this stuff will come with Angie and I back to North Dakota... but some of it will, and I'm not letting go of any of it either. I hope to report back on actually using some of this stuff once we get the truck sorted out.


Coleman lantern rebuild

A while back while I was visiting my parent's, I mentioned that I was toying with getting a lantern. We use a white-gas stove when a fire is too much trouble or not legal, so we already have whitegas around. So, Angie and I thought it might be nice to have a whitegas lantern around. It turned out dad had an old one in the attic that he pulled out and gave to me. It had no glass, and when I tried to light it up it didn't work

But... now it DOES work:


With a little poking around I figured out that this is an old Coleman 200A (and then I noticed the label that said exactly that on the side... heh). I ordered it a new glass.

I tried lighting it over and over again. I pumped it up and it held pressure. I did a little more reserach to make sure I understood how the pump worked, how the lighting process worked... but it just wouldn't light. It didn't even make any sounds when I tried. After more research online I found a lot of folks mentioning pouring out the fuel, pouring in ethanol, slosh it around, leave it there a day, then pour it out. Then rinse with whitegas again, and finally refill it and try again. I even found a reference in the directions for the 200A.

After I did that it made noise when I turned the valve it did make sounds, but still nothing would light... shoot. So, then I found this video:

Following this I disassembled the lantern and checked each component. I tried pumping it up and cracking the valve a bit with the generator on, but didn't really smell gas. I also tried with the generator off, and it bubbled, but only a little. I talked to my dad a bit, and we decided whatever was wrong it was clearly in the fuel takeup. After I'd taken it apart it became obvious that the fuel-air tube had a hole at the bottom for fuel, and one at the top for gas, clearly it wasn't mixing them right. After I pulled the fuel-air tube off I noticed the pin inside was very rough feeling, so I scratched and cleaned it, then ran it over an Emory cloth to really get it smooth.

Woot! I'd probably just found and fixed the problem! Then I reassembled it. Most of the parts are screwed on quite tightly, so I screwed the fuel-air tube on tight... and sheered it. Damn. Quick search on ebay and I found one for $5 and $5 more shipping. That came in today, so I put it back together and Hey! It works!

Here it is unlit for a better view:

  • $6.50 for new mantles (I have 2 spare still, busted one while figuring it all out)
  • $12.00 or so for  the glass
  • $10.00 for a new fuel-air tube
So ~$28.50 total to get it working, $10 of which was only because I stupidly broke it. Not bad! Lanterns of this sort sell for $50-$200 depending on condition. This one has a touch of rust on the burner frame, but otherwise is in really nice condition, You can't get a new one much cheaper.

Fun little project... I'm excited to hang it under my cotton-sheet tarp supported by sticks for that nice homey feel once we get the truck back.