bounds of my metallurgical experience
Thursday, March 13 2008
Today I returned a small amount of firewood to the house from which I'd taken it yesterday, so as to have only taken "some" (whatever that means). On the way back home I picked up some large pieces of maple from the side of Collier Road (at the edge of the Hurley landfill). The pieces had been cut from a dead tree and so were nice and dry. The only thing wrong with them was that they were covered with Poison Ivy vines that I would have to gingerly pluck off later with needle nose pliers.
Now that the season's big hauling job was out of the way, I began work replacing the hatchback's rotten muffler with a replacement I've had since January. The bolts holding the muffler to the upstream part of the exhaust system were, as I'd expected, inextricably rusted, so I tried cutting through them with a reciprocating saw. But the passenger-side rear wheel was in the way and first I had to remove it (learning, in the process, that it wasn't stock and the nuts required a 19 mm socket wrench; the holes were too small for the car's lugnut wrench — a good thing to know before I get my first road flat). Even with the wheel gone, the saw couldn't quite cut through the bolt, so I escalated to an oxy-MAPP gas torch, easily severing the small amount of steel remaining with heat. I tried this method on the full bulk of the other bolt, but ran out of oxygen before I could cut through it (given all the oxygen required, oxy-gas cutting seems to be an expensive technique; for some reason oxygen is more expensive than MAPP gas). So then I broke out my arc welding kit, cranked the firepower up to eleven, and blasted through that bolt in a few seconds. The only problem now was that the remnants of the bolt were now firmly welded to the intermediate pipe (immediately upstream of the muffler).
Then it turned out that the muffler I'd bought was for some other model of Honda Civic. In general it would still fit, but the metal hooks coming off the top of it were angled in the wrong direction. These hooks were made of exceptionally thick wire (a 3/8 inch or so) so bending them seemed impossible. But I'd been pushing the bounds of my metallurgical experience all afternoon, so why not take it a step further? So I blasted one of the hooks with a MAPP gas flame until it glowed a dull red and then I beat it with a hammer against the anvil part of my vice. It surprised me how easily it bent while hot. It didn't take long for me to bend the hooks to a new position that was compatible with the short undercarriage of my car.
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