Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Location: United States

Sunday, December 04, 2005

"You should meet my boss. He'd turn Buddha into a chain smoker." -Darren McGavinThe Night Stalker

Blown snow, not radioactive or anything, but still the holy grail of the Wilder house this week.

There’s a guy down in southern Alaska that’s attempting to install his own cyclotron. At his house. Knowing Alaskans, he may be doing this just for fun. The beauty of living in Alaska is that there aren’t (yet) any rules that prevent you from producing radioactive elements in your own cyclotron at your own house. I know some busybodies are going to try to stop it, but I think that the most they’ll get are some regulations.

Want to bet he uses duct tape to keep the thing together?

I, however, have more humble ambitions.

When I bought The Coveted John Deere Snow-Blower Attachment (Some Assembly Required) I had some fun putting it together. But there was no real snow to blow, you know? So I had to wait. I waited, and now there’s snow. The problem is that the tires can find no purchase on the snowy slippery surface so I had to search for a solution (let’s hear Daffy Duck say that sentence).

The solution is simple, and John Deere sells it: chains. Home Despot doesn’t stock them, though (at least up here) so that leads to an opportunity: make my own snow chains. The Mrs. found a set of chains from another manufacturer that probably would have worked. They cost $100. Not a princely sum, but one that I thought with a bit of ingenuity and a few beers that I could at least match in performance.

The Mrs. was less than impressed by this idea. “It will take you ten times to get this right. How many hours will that take?”

I must note at this time that I did not dispute her estimate. I merely noted it. Ten times.

I had talked about the issue with a friend, and we had come up with several different designs, most of them impractical for either making use of materials that were not yet fabricated by mankind (unobtainium, for instance) or required more money for fabrication than the tractor was worth. The design I settled on was fairly simple, so, off to the chain section we went.

The nice clerk we talked to at Home Despot had no idea the fun that was waiting for her as I approached and asked where the chain was.

She smiled and said, “Do you need some chain cut?”

Oh, yes did I ever need some chain cut.

She ended up cutting me twenty segments of chain, each one foot long. The chain cutter is a manual affair, where she had to let hydraulic pressure off of two jaws that looked like a parrot’s beak. She then put one half of the chain between the jaws, and pulled out a handle and proceeded to pump it vigorously about forty times until the chain link was cut. Except given the type of chain that I’d chosen, she then had to flip the link over and cut the other half of the link as well.

And she had to do this forty times. If you do the math, she had to pump the hydraulic lever forty times for forty cuts. I think there’s something Biblical about the forty times for forty cuts (sixteen hundred times) that she had to pump the lever in order to make the twenty segments. To me, it looked like punishment for her doing something pretty bad. I offered to help, but I think Home Despot doesn’t want me cutting off my finger (at least in their store) so the only thing I could do is count the segments.

After the clerk developed right arm strength resembling that of a hormonal teenage boy, she helped me cut the cable I’d need, and I ended up purchasing the components for the chains.

I got home and went to work.

It took me about twenty minutes to get all the tools together, and The Boy and I ended up working about another 30 minutes on WilderChains, Mark I. During this time I figured that my math was incorrect – I had purchased about 1’ less for cable than I needed. 1’ less meant that I would be using the cable meant for the back side of the tire for the front. Nevertheless, given my amount of beer consumption and the fact that The New Boy was in Bed, The Mrs. would not want to hoist him out of bed to drive me to Home Despot for more cable.

The Wilder Mark I. Wonderful, ergonomic, economic. Crappy.

I chose instead to use some crappy nylon cord that I had purchased from Wal-Mart in order to prepare for the inevitable chaos that would ensue from Y2K. Man, the hordes that I faced. Wait, that was watching Mad Max. Nevermind. I think I just had some champagne and went to sleep.

So, with the inside crappily hooked together with cheap rope, and the outside with a nice cable rated at 340 pounds breaking strength, I took the tractor outside for testing. Would it work?

WilderChains Mark I failed miserably. The most surprising thing to me is that the portion that failed was not the cheap nylon rope, but rather the high (relatively) strength cable.

WilderChains Mark II failed in a slightly less but still very miserable way. There was a wonderful moment when the snow blower was scooting across the driveway consuming snow like it was Hollywood, 1978. It did this for about 1240 square feet of my driveway. Those of you in California might be suspicious that this amount of property is greater than the last undeveloped plot your state, but I assure you: there is still a state with that much undeveloped land. It's called Utah.

The Wilder Mark II. Crappy, but still worked better than Mark I.

Anyway, WilderChains Mark II failed by slipping off the tire. The cords (amazingly) didn't break. I took this as inspiration for WilderChains Mark III. Those made it about 10' from the garage door.

The Wilder Mark III. Crappy, and possibly Satanic enough to curse the John Deere forever due to the unplanned pentagram, or, Motley Crue now owns my tractor.

As I write this I must admit that I don’t have a set of working chains yet. Maybe tonight. I’m at three out of the ten attempt prediction from The Mrs. But, there's more beer.


Blogger Carl Oberg said...

Hmmmm. Perhaps I am not cut out for Alaska after all. I would have just dropped the $100. I obviously don't know what I'm doing.

5:30 AM  
Blogger Lady Luck said...

OMG! My condolences go out to the Mrs. You are a riot. The Mrs. gets my vote with the 10 attempts and I am pretty sure it will take you every bit of the 10 hours. I have read through some of your other projects. LOL!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Dame Koldfoot said...

So, when should we expect the Deere with the Wilder Mark XXVII chains to come toodling down out driveway, gushing forth with a shower of snow and curses?

You don't get the beer and pretzels until the driveway is finished.

11:42 AM  
Blogger GoGo said...


If you ran a cable on the backside you could use bungee cords on the front.

They do a good job at keeping chains tight on the truck.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Duck Hunter said...

put the chains on the driveway and leave the tires alone!

7:51 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

When you go back to Home Despot (and I am sure you will) tell the girl to use her left hand to operate the cutter. It's OK for guys to look like Popeye, but not girls.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My vote is for the bungees too....they usually work. Make the inside with rope, cable, or whatever works best then bungee the outside. When you get really desperate, take the tire off, run sheet-metal screws from the inside out and forget about the chains. East PA just got our first snowfall...a whopping 2 inches. Who needs a snowblower, I've got a broom.

3:57 PM  
Blogger John said...

I was describing my current design with a friend . . . "that's cool. That's Alaskan."

lady luck,
Umm, well, I'll update on attempt numbers soon . . . does this remind you of Tool Time, or what??

dame koldfoot . . . soon, say I, soon . . . !

ran to Home Despot tonight. I'll update on the bungee cord solution. I've got another trick or three up my sleeve with the next iteration.

It's tempting. But when the thing actually works . . . heaven.

If Home Despot has a run on chain after this, then I'll *gasp* be responsible for strong gripped women everywhere!

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today . . .

Got 'em. Actually, I considered that, but I'm waaaay to cheap to buy the new treads.

9:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bungee cords? Real men cut strips from an old inner-tube.

6:18 AM  

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