My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 9: The Plunge

The following Monday I showed up at the tire store, checkbook in hand. “OK, what’s the damage boss?”

“Can’t fix it.”

“Umm… why?”

“Don’t have the part.”

“So? Order it?”

The guy looked as if I’d just mentioned a totally ‘outside the box’ idea. Then smiled…. brilliant! Ten minutes later he returned with a grim look on his face. “I’ve got the part numbers, you aren’t going to like it.”

I clutched the printout. The price was… well all I can say is TroyBilt can kiss my ass.

“This seems high.”

“No shit, those guys are pretty ruthless.”

“How about some other brand? Like maybe any other brand. It’s just a tire.”

The disappeared and came back quite some time later. “Gee, that thing is a bitch to source.” He showed me some pricing options. He wasn’t happy with them. I could tell he’d tried but some stuff just cost more than it ‘ought.

It turns out that the specific spindle size leads to a specific hub size and this spindle was the precise size to be ‘neither fish nor fowl’. The Troy-Bilt price was obscene. The alternatives were merely gross.

“All right, you tried. Thanks.” I nodded.

And with that we tossed the splitter on my waiting trailer. I handed him a ten, which he pocketed with both eagerness and guilt; like I’d handed him six joints, a smoking gun, and a krugerrand. I rolled out.


The place I bought the splitter is not my favorite place. When I got it I made the conscious decision that buying locally would give me a connection to future service people. Like maybe if I was too lazy to do an oil change or something. Later I decided I’d rather talk to a fencepost.

However they were the nearest official Troy-Bilt dealer. Oddly the parts price was a bit higher and… and the labor to install it was astronomical. “Two hours to mount a tire?” I glowered.

“Well, uh…”

“Do people pay that?”

“Sometimes.” He responded meekly.

Even so I was desperate. I like my equipment to be in top notch shape. Maybe I’d bite the bullet.

“So, you’ve got it in stock?”

“No.”

“So, when can it be done?”

He glanced at a calendar and named a date six weeks in the future. I smiled, thanked him, and left with the splitter still perched on my trailer.


At home I engaged on an epic internet search and found a zillion potential options, of which, very few would fit the spindle. None were particularly inexpensive. I had to face facts, this was going to cost something on the order of a couple hundred dollars. Shit!

(I know what you’re thinking. You saw shitty little tires and wheels like that at Northern Tool for a pittance so you figure I ‘ought to be able to solve the issue for $50 and an afternoon tinkering. I thought that too. But it just didn’t work out. The limiting factor seemed to be an odd spindle diameter. There were options but none were great.)


After a few days of moping I’d made my decision. Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:

“When it’s already broken and the OEM fix isn’t cheap or easy… bold solutions are more likely to be wise. So quit pussyfooting around and do it.”

Never give up.

A.C.

P.S. I should point out that I’m cheap. I’m sure 50% of the population would have cut the check to Troy-Bilt and pretended like it really takes two hours to mount a mini-tire and been done with it. Being cheap in 2015 is simply odd or at the very least non-conformist. Also I don’t fault Troy-Bilt for raking in some cash from the small base of people who already own and like their device and also beat the hell out of it. All’s fair in economics.

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My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 8: Pics Or It Didn’t Happen

Some photos. I accept in advance the irony of being a man who makes fun of people putting their lunch on social media yet posts photos of firewood and flat tires.

A modest trailer load of small "cookies". Taking the cookie to the splitter will never wear out your splitter tires.

A modest trailer load of small “cookies”. Taking the cookie to the splitter will never wear out your splitter tires. Also, loading a small trailer means you don’t have to lift the weight so high.

A modest truckload of medium cookies. No biggie but after a couple truckloads I start needing Ibuprofen. (Nothing says "classy" like a bag of chicken feed tossed on top of firewood.)

A modest truckload of medium cookies. No biggie but after a couple truckloads I start needing Ibuprofen. (Nothing says “classy” like a bag of chicken feed tossed on top of firewood.) I often carry have a truck and trailer of firewood at the same time. I’m mystified why I have photos of little wood on the short trailer and heavier wood on the tall truck; hopefully they were taken on different days.

Little tires (no lug nuts!) are the work of Satan. In this example the tire has "popped a bead in low temperatures". This only seems to happen when the tire is parked many days in a row at temperatures around -25 or so. (If you plan properly you'll never be splitting wood in -25 weather anyway.) This photo is unrelated to the patch job I did before "the event".

Little tires (no lug nuts!) are the work of Satan. In this example the tire has “popped a bead in low temperatures”. This only seems to happen when the tire is parked many days in a row at temperatures around -25 or so. (If you plan properly you’ll never be splitting wood in -25 weather anyway.) This photo is unrelated to the patch job I did before “the event”.

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My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 7: Pics Or It Didn’t Happen

It seems to me that most people blog about their successes. I try to balance the universe by posting my dumbshit moments.

04-Nuked tire05-Nuked fenderI don’t have many photos because snapping images of the splitter I’d trashed felt wrong; like taking selfies at a funeral.

In case you didn’t recognize it, the shredded object on the left is the tire. The wheel isn’t in the photo but the rim was partially flattened. The flexible plastic (?) fender didn’t break… it melted.

It was not one of my prouder moments. Sometimes a good machine gets hammered by a dipshit user. What can I say, we’ve all been there.

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My Woodsplitter Goes to Eleven: Part 6

At Ed’s Tire Store I was that guy. Just 15 minutes before closing I burst in the door raving about tires and clutching the mangled wheel.

A six man staff was standing around doing nothing. They saw me and an invisible pecking order was deployed. Three guys vanished. They were the top of the ladder and had things to do… such as avoiding work. The fourth guy on the totem pole examined the wheel and declared the rim “unusable”. The fifth shuffled around and found a tire that would fit the rim which had just been declared unusable. The two agreed the tire couldn’t be mounted on the flattened rim and they had no other rims that size. No alternative rims would match the spindle diameter. No suitable wheel tire sets existed. They didn’t have any hub that could be installed on the spindle to change tire size. Having concluded the situation was hopeless they looked at me expectantly. Perhaps I’d kindly go off on an ice flow and die?

There was a standoff. I heard the clock tick. I waited.

Finally last and lowest guy on the totem pole broke. He looked about nineteen years old and had that long suffering look of a nineteen year old doing a good job despite being surrounded by idiots twice his age. He offered to take the company’s truck and trailer to fetch my splitter.

The two peons objected because… well because they were lazy dickheads. The nineteen year old froze, keys in hand. The poor kid was stuck between his desire to do a good job and outranking employees who are paycheck cashing leeches. I’ll never get used to 2015. Using the tire company truck to drum up business for the tire company with a guy who needs a tire shouldn’t be controversial. Ideally they’d bill me a few bucks and make me smile while doing it and then lock in my business on the repair end. Say it with me people; capitalism is not rocket science.

Time to give some instructions in customer service. I got in close and personal with the two who’d made the objection and spoke in hushed impolite tones. After a few declarative sentences I’d made my point rather forcefully. I’m not going to say what words were used but Officer Friendly, sitting in his warm cruiser a few miles away, probably sensed a disturbance in the force. The two bits of dead weight turned three shades of pale. They’d gained a new understanding of what a bearded woodcutter might do when his equipment was in jeopardy and just how willing he was to do it right here, right now.

One of the two losers nodded at the kid, who bolted for the door, and then they vanished. The kid had a huge smile. He’d enjoyed the show. I helped him hitch the company trailer to their truck (not mine… do that and a lawyer would explode) and he followed me down the road. It was 5 minutes to closing time at Ed’s and everyone’s car was already warming up in the parking lot. Real crack team of hard workers at Ed’s.

On the road we found Mrs. Curmudgeon parked a quarter mile from the the police officer. My splitter squatted between them like a mechanical no-man’s land. Neither had greeted the other. I’d told the officer a small hatchback might show up. They’d both decided to stay in their warm cars. Braving the cold was for lunatics with flat tires.

I was embarrassed at all the hubub. The whole road was lit up. Four vehicles and a trailer, all with headlights and flashers. Of course the police cruiser was lit up like a disco ball. All this to rescue a 600 pound wood splitter? We we’re probably on somebody’s Facebook page.

The kid backed up the trailer with the experienced hand of a country boy. Excellent! The police officer got out and shivered in the cold. (Police uniforms are designed by desk jockeys.) Three of us together slipped the splitter onto the trailer in one quick motion. I was thankful for the help. I’ve tried to lift it myself and it’ll kill one man alone. I noticed the teen and the police officer had the same traits; polite, business like, restrained, helpful. Society isn’t over yet.

I said thanks to the police officer about ten times. Mrs. Curmudgeon, who’d never left her car, lit out for home, followed by the police officer, my hulking truckload of wood, and finally the tire store truck & trailer. Big night for a rural highway.

Soon my woodsplitter was locked in Ed’s service lot with a repair tag. It was ten minutes after closing and the place was deserted. I stuffed a $20 the teenager’s hand and said thanks. He looked worried. “How am I going to write that up on the repair tag?” He mumbled.

“Don’t. Buy a pizza and never mention it to the jackwagons who didn’t help you.” He beamed and cleared out. It was over. I felt the weight of a really rough week seeping into my bones. I stood there a bit trying to let stress fade. My splitter was safely behind chain link. Tomorrow would be another day.

Having bought time, I decided to use money and awesome to fix everything the right way.

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My Woodsplitter Goes to Eleven: Part 5

Many (most) cops mean well. I get that. I do. Really. It’s just that you don’t know which one you’ll draw. Your specific exposure to the random pool of police officers is a crap shoot.

I’ve watched attitudes progress from “serve and protect” to military gear and bad attitudes that kill, injure, and hassle law abiding people, trash people’s houses, and burn babies in their crib. You’d have to be a world class moron to expect badges to come with a halo. Cops are just people. Some are wonderful, all have flaws, a scant few are thugs.

Maybe things were better in the past? I don’t know. That’s irrelevant. If Andy Griffith has become RoboCop (or Tony Soprano) I accept that as simply the world as it is. Again, before everyone gets all atwitter and submits comments ranting about revolution, I’m not about that. I’m not saying all police are swine. I’m not an oppressed peasant facing Stalin. I was just meeting a cog in a system and systems do what they will. Logic, kindness, and justice come from people but not from systems.

The most likely “bad scenario” would be a traffic infraction or fine; even if the justification would be shaky. That would piss me off but I’ve got a checkbook and would readily make a hobby out of fighting city hall. Bring it. (The moral hazard of police financing through fines is something I saw young and long before cops owned tanks.)

What else might happen? Well… anything could happen. I’m as law abiding as a Boy Scout, it’s legal to tow a woodsplitter, and there’s no law against flat tires. So maybe he’d be real nice and show me pictures of his grandkids. Then again I look like a serial killer, wouldn’t cower before Voldemort himself, and it was a dark lonely road.

The middle option? I might have to listen to a mind numbing lecture about public safety. Ugh! I’d almost rather get shot.

The least desirable outcome was the very extremely unlikely (but not impossible) draw of the “thug lottery”. A serving of “respect my authoritah” is something I don’t fear but it wouldn’t be fun. Of course that outcome is out of my hands so I’ve long ago made peace with it. There’s a non-zero chance I might be tazed, shot, and tossed in the hoosegow over something that’s not a crime. That’s simply true. (I said “made peace with”, not “looking forward to”.) Your mileage may vary but I’m perfectly prepared to say take a hit if one comes and never raise a hand back or flee. I’ll smile as long as it takes to spit teeth on the ground and lawyer up the next day. All that really matters to me is that I won’t babble something like “don’t taze me bro” because that’s whiny bullshit. (To a thug, that’s a good enough reason to taze me. Ironic no?)

Yes, I’m cynical and paranoid. Then again it’s true that your cell phone is tapped, your car can commit a crime while you’re not in it, and the cop had already run my plates before he decided to blind me with his flashlight and approach so I couldn’t see him.

I pressed my truck’s key fob (locking the doors) and waited. If you want access to my truck you can break a window like a thug or get a warrant like a law enforcement officer. Of course the only thing my truck holds is maps, tools, and insurance papers so carefully organized that the Gestapo couldn’t find fault with them; but it’s the principle of the thing. I was not carrying at the moment and I set down the breaker bar that was in my hand.

I tried to smile. I’m not sure if my smile is appealing or reminds people of the Joker. At least I tried.

Would today be the day?


“Dude, that sucks!” The officer exclaimed.

He aimed his flashlight at the woodsplitter, spoke like a real human being, and examined the melted fender like someone who cared.

I breathed a sign of relief. Today was not the day. (Maybe the day will never come?) Great news!

In one second he’d gone from “cop” to “officer”. There’s a lesson in that and every officer in every force should learn it.

“It’s been that kind of week.” I agreed (as I relaxed).

“I’ve got a can of fix a flat?” He offered. Then he saw the tire which was literally split in half and shook his head sadly. A magic wand wouldn’t fix that tire. “You’re going to Ed’s?” (Ed’s is the only tire store in town.)

“I’d love to but I don’t want to leave my splitter where it can be stolen.”

“I can wait here.”

I felt a ray of hope. “Really? That’s about the nicest thing…” I was blown away. A simple, helpful, logical solution, born of an honest desire to help.

“If there’s another call I’ll have to go.”

“Fair ’nuff.” I agreed. “Thanks officer.” I shook his hand and got moving.

That’s how you do it! Every time a bit of bitter cynicism gets chipped away by a good police officer doing well, the ghost of Sir Robert Peel gets a free beer in heaven.

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My Woodsplitter Goes to Eleven: Part 4

I cruised back roads at 45 MPH towing the little splitter behind my truck. It was comically out of scale. On the way I rolled up to a gas station with my huge thirsty diesel, put less than two bucks of non-oxygenated unleaded into the splitter’s tank and drove off. Ha!

At the Foxinator’s house I did a headcount. No family members had gone AWOL. Whew! The kids were consuming cable TV like addicts. Ignoring them, I headed to the woods, fired up the saw, felled a tree, bucked it up, split it, and stacked stovebolts in my truck like Tetris was a religion. Work was getting done! The cure for a bad week. I grinned like an idiot. The kids grumped some but helped when prodded. A loose turkey made an attack run at the roaring woodsplitter engine and crapped on my gas can. Turkeys have interesting personalities.

Just before sunset I rolled out for home with a full load of split wood. My trusty saw was perched on the carefully packed load. My good pal the splitter was still hitched and rolling behind the truck. It had been a good day. The stress of air travel had faded. I was a happy man.

I also picked up the kids but who cares about that?

Halfway home I got a call from Mrs. Curmudgeon. She was 100 miles out and closing. We’d all be home soon. The dog would be glad to see the family back together. (The dog doesn’t like it when some of her “flock” are missing.)

BAM!

Something was amiss! I saw sparks in side mirror. Sparks?!? I pulled over immediately.

The splitter’s tire had blown. Not “got a flat” but “kersplode”. I’d brought the truck to a stop quickly but the damage had been immediate. I’ve always hated those tires.

Not only had the rubber split but the wheel had gouged into the pavement causing the sparks and flattening a chunk of the rim. The sparks had also melted the plastic fender on one side. I inspected everything else; no actual damage to the mechanical elements of the splitter. I breathed a sign of relief. No breakdown is good news but things could have been worse.

I paced and cursed a bit as I internalized the scene. Once I realized the exploded tire was the opposite of the one I’d patched earlier that morning I felt better. The catastrophic tire failure wasn’t due to my patch job. Then I realized out of two possible tires I’d had two tire failures;  a branch stub puncture and a kersplode. That made me feel worse. Who has luck like that?

I jacked up the splitter, removed the castle nut, jiggered off the mangled wheel and tire, dropped the bearing in the dirt (every damn time!), stepped on my tool box and sent sockets everywhere, then…

Then what?

Should I leave my splitter abandoned by the side of the road? Hell no!

A word about crime. Many people think rural areas are crime free. Not so. We’ve got different crime. There are people who’ll see a $1,500 woodsplitter by the side of the road and consider it “found goods”. With the advent of cell phones a working group of friends and relatives and a truck can appear out of nowhere like a beer fueled special forces team. Six arms would toss the splitter into a rusty F-150 and I’d never see it again. This could happen in ten minutes while I was off buying a new tire. Note: I’ve met people who’d steal your splitter on a highway on Saturday night and smile at you in church ten hours later; all the while honestly thinking they’re going to heaven. Don’t overestimate your fellow man’s ability to separate the world into themselves, friends, family, clan, or whatever and “the other” to whom doing wrong is somehow justifiable.

I called Mrs. Curmudgeon who was still some way off. I’d have to wait for her to come to do guard duty before I could take action. By then the tire store would be closed. She’d have to wait while I went home, hitched my trailer, came back, and then… I sighed. I’d have to find some way that I alone or with only minimal added muscle power could lift the beast onto the trailer. I didn’t like that sound of that. It sounded like a great way to mash fingers and compress vertebrae.I saw no way around it either.

It had been just that kind of week. The whole week had sucked since Monday (it was now Saturday), my morning had sucked, my evening was starting to suck, and it was going to be a long sucky night. Everything sucked and that’s all there was to it.

Then the cops showed up…

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My Woodsplitter Goes to Eleven: Part 3

Woodsplitter wheels are small but they’re fine for moving around the yard (or the forest). I’ve moved mine with ATVs, riding lawnmowers, tractors, trucks, and (when I can’t find any other way) pulling for all I’m worth. (It’s a bitch to hand pull the splitter and if you try to pull it downhill you’re both going to the bottom at a speed determined by physics alone.)

Where things get hinky is when the tree is not on my land. Maybe it’s 10 miles away. If you’re like me, you eye those little shitty wheels, say a silent prayer, hitch it up, and drive real slow. It works. It’s legal. Your truck looks silly with that teeny weeny thing on the back but it gets the job done and everybody does it. Repeat after me; everybody does it.

I know what I’m going to hear in the comments. If you’ve got to go ten miles it would be best to load the splitter in the truck bed or on a trailer. It is the best choice if you’ve got the option. However, if I had enough mechanical advantage to get a 600 pound object into a truck bed I’d just haul the logs home and split them in my yard. Duh! (The world is filled with guys that have three stout cousins who’ll do anything for a case of Budweiser and a Bobcat in their garage and think they’re cleverer than the lone Curmudgeon limping around at 45 MPH. Yes, I am bitter. What makes you ask?)

The little tires are too small to have lug nuts. You have to pull a cotter pin, spin off a castle nut, and remove the whole hub, bearings and all. As is tradition, the bearings are immediately dropped in the dirt and you’ll have to repack them. It’s not a big deal.

I did just that, I jacked it up, spun the nut, ripped off the hub, dropped the bearings in the dirt (of course), and then noticed a branch had stabbed the tire. Can’t blame the splitter for that. It’s an honestly acquired battle wound. I zipped to town to get a replacement tire. The tires are several years old and they’ve had their share of issues. It happens.

The tire store had a cheap replacement tire. You know what was cheaper? A patch kit. I consulted with the tire guy, bought the patch kit, patched the tire in the parking lot, aired it up with their compressor, and felt like a mechanical genius. Back at the compound I rinsed off the dirty bearing in the kitchen sink (wives love it when you do that), slapped on grease, shoved the patched tire & wheel on the spindle, tightened the castle nut (but not too tight), and I was back in business.

Time to retrieve the kids and liberate some firewood.

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