Chickadees And Squirrels: Part 1

I like chickadees. They’ve got balls.

They’re the toughest little buggers out there. Few creatures are as plucky and cheerful as the half ounce of concentrated indomitable moxie that is a chickadee. Deep wilderness or urban backyard? It doesn’t matter to a chickadee. I’ve seen ’em in swamps, mountains, forests, hedgerows, mall parking lots, tall trees, short bushes, canoe gunnels, and hunting blinds.

Where they really shine is cold weather. When I’m in the deep forest freezing my balls off in a miserable snowstorm, there’s a good chance a chickadee is nearby; happily flitting around looking for six calories to make it another hour. Brutal cold ‘aint no thang to a chickadee. Eagles will flake and run where a chickadee will fluff up and sit on a spruce bough like it doesn’t give a shit. You know why? Because they don’t. Pound for pound a chickadee has courage the likes of which killer whales and grizzly bears couldn’t muster. Chickadees might die but they’re never subdued:

“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever feeling sorry for itself.” – D. H. Lawrence

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the little bastards. I even put up feeders. My feeders attract all sorts of more exotic songbirds too. I could ohhh and ahhh over them but who cares about flowery little chickenshits that run south at the first flake of snow? The feeders are for my chickadees; who, quite frankly, don’t need my help.

One feeder in particular is a gift to myself. I was cruising down a rural backroad when I saw a cute little farmhouse with a “for sale” sign and eleventy zillion feeders and birdhouses. Someone had made them, hung them up, put up the sign, and was selling them from his yard. Who knows how many he sold? Some of them were pretty elaborate and others were plain. I pictured some sweet retired old coot with a tastefully appointed woodshop churning out dozens of these things; each one lovingly crafted while he played Sinatra on his garage radio and smoked a pipe. (I’ve got an active imagination.)

Each one had a price tag. It was my birthday so I picked a plain Jane version, stuffed the price (with an extra $5, just ’cause) in a little ornamented wood box he’d left out, tossed the feeder in my truck, and drove off. Never met the guy. I hope he sells them all.

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A Political Lull

I’ve reduced my political writing for a while. This isn’t because we’ve had a collective outbreak of competence and sanity. (Nor have I suddenly become wise and risen “above it all”.) Rather, it’s timing. Now is a time when politics is just a sporting event. Rooting for a favorite team requires a non-loathsome team and belief that the game matters.

From time to time there’s a moment when multiple courses are possible; when America is standing there with it’s hands in it’s pockets thinking really hard with it’s 300 million competing brain cells and pondering its options. Should it go to work that morning? Or maybe should it just snort some crack and stuff Cheetoes up it’s ass?

I get tense… will there be more stupid? Less stupid? Same stupid but from a different team that pretends its stupid is less stupid than the other side’s stupid? Thelma and Louise are rocketing toward the cliff and I have the feeling that further stupidity might possibly be avoided if they just calmed the hell down and hit the brakes. In such times I rant about politics.

Now is not that time. The national debt is $18,177,643,345,234.85 and I’m the only guy who’ll spare the time to type all sixteen digits. Silly me! In a world where nobody will even make eye contact with that sort of number I think we can all agree that returning to a number akin to zero is simply no longer possible. It makes me wonder if the debt of ten years ago (a mere $7,932,709,661,723.50) was somehow more palatable? Why? At the time it seemed very bad. Are things now 129% more bad? Will they be 129% more bad in the future? How about 10,000% more bad? How does one quantify the unquantifiable?

Since Louise has already launched the car I might as well enjoy the majesty of flight. Possibly welding shit on a wood splitter is the noblest of current activities? Especially since I’m not sure politics of other eras were any less stupid.

Suppose I built a time machine and decided to seek a few decades of sanity and progress in which to settle down and spend quality time. When would the era of non stupid have been?

Would I start in 1776 when we put our thumb in the eye of the most powerful Monarchy in Europe? Yikes! A dude could get himself shot! Would I blog (pamphlet?) about the good man Washington taking a wrong turn pounding civil liberties during the Whiskey Rebellion less than 15 years later? Would I write posts warning of economic bubbles in 1848? Would I cringe at an ugly civil war in 1861? I might bitch the foolishness of driving bison to near extinction by 1890 but by 1914 I’d switch tasks and get jittery about the long term ramifications of a jackoff’s assassination of a noble. Of course my blog, delivered by telegraph(?), would point out that the bigger killer was a pandemic. I suppose then I’d hammer on a typewriter while DC extended the Great Depression by declaring the distance from garden to kitchen interstate commerce. Perhaps I’d write that Europe looked to be doing Great War Version 2.0 and politicians were getting it as wrong as humanly possible. If I were a blogger in 1939 I’d be making comparisons to cars and cliffs right until Pearl Harbor. Two months later when the President was imprisoning American Citizens I’d be trying to point out that concentration camps are a very bad thing indeed. After the Great War Part II a wise man might focus on tail fins on Cadillacs but would I be able to ignore race riots and threats of thermonuclear war? Luckily Communism fell around 1989 or 1991 (as much from economics as from yearning to be free) and so (of course!) we decided to embrace damn near every part of the Socialist agenda right here at home. Because we just love to shove Cheetoes up our ass.

Which brings me to now. Right now, today, even as I type, the NSA is engaged in domestic spying on every single American. I fret that Soviet Russia (or for that matter any number of fallen and current oppressive hellholes) might hint that it’s not a good thing when these things happen. When the State becomes all powerful, when it spies on its citizens, when it controls my doctor as if he somehow chose to be an employee of the State, when it amasses debt that exceeds realistic number theory… when that is true, perhaps it is not the time to stare into the stupid. Which is why things like commenting on gay wedding partners and religious pizza shop owners is really and truly… missing the point.

The point is that right now is a short lull in a long term Galactic arc of people doing stupid and stupid leading to misery. Both sides of our political coin are pretty useless at the moment. Frankly it takes a lot of work to become that fully emasculated. One has to face the stupid, inhale the stupid, become that which is stupid. The evil party is running out the clock having gotten all it can (good and hard). Did they show restraint, humility, the hand of power resting lightly on the tiller? Hell no, to do so wouldn’t be sufficiently stupid. Meanwhile the stupid party is squawking loudly and crapping on its shoe (which appears to be what it does best) while desperately killing any hint of regeneration of mind and spirit within it’s own system. To do otherwise would be to adapt, learn, and eschew the stupid. Both of them are purposely obsessing over matters of little import. (“ISIS does mass beheadings in Iraq? Better go ape over some gay dude’s bakery choice in Indiana!”) That’s stupid. It’s also why now is a good time to write about homesteading errata, livestock, and flat tires.

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My Woodsplitter Goes to Eleven: Part 13: Success!

Here’s the final product:

The original puny little 8″ tires have been replaced by 12″ high speed tubeless tires (4.8-8 to 4.8-12). The wheels now have a five bolt lug nut pattern. The center of the hubs has been moved roughly 3″ higher and 2″ further back and 4″ wider than the original OEM position. Instead of welded rigid spindles it has a 750 pound torsion axle suspension.

In use, the ergonomics are at least as good as (or slightly superior to) the OEM setup. The beam to which I have to lift wood is at most 1″ higher than OEM. Close enough that the original tongue support (near the hitch) is high enough. (I’d planned on extending it but it wasn’t necessary.) The wheels are not in the way.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe splitter balances fine in “vertical” mode. I was concerned that the relocated wheels would get in the way but it all worked out well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Foxinator’s turkeys inspected my design and found the new axle adequate.100-FinishedB I’d almost talked myself into installing snowmobile trailer tires to get additional width without adding height, but it worked out pretty well as is and snowmobile trailer tires ‘aint cheap.

Torsion axles (if they’re reverse angle) must extend beyond the thing they’re welded to at least far enough to let the suspension flex. This is more or less the minimum for a reverse angle torsion axle. It doesn’t interfere with work at all.  The red lines indicate the added width (despite the crappy photo, it’s the same amount on both sides).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe OEM fenders still fit (I had to replace the one I melted). I’d planned to simply slap on new fenders (they’re cheap) but my welder was inspired by the axle and wanted to fabricate something nice to hold the OEM fenders. The black bracketry you see is his idea and it works great. His solution looks better than my idea and I’m glad I took his suggestion. The OEM fenders flex instead of bending or breaking when I drop wood on them (and I do that fairly often) so they’re much better than rigid metal or plastic. On the other hand Troy Bilt just reams you for them. I scoured the internet and paid something like $35 for one!

I added cheap ($5) trailer lights to the fender supports and they’re simply bolted on. I can replace a light in no time when (not if but when) I accidentally smash one. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother view of the nice brackets my welder made; also showing the torsion axle below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tongue is hollow square “tubing” stock. I routed the light’s wiring through the frame itself so I’m less likely to rip the wiring out on a stump or something. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s has always been impossible to see the splitter behind the truck (it’s too low and too narrow). Thus backing it up has been something of a cluster. I wanted something to see when I was backing up. I tried a magnetic CB antenna with some flagging tied on but it blew over. I went looking for one of those horrific flags that safety Nazis inflicted on bicycles in my youth (like this Bike Safety Flag) but I didn’t find one.

My welder stuffed some pipe in the hollow splitting wedge as a “female end”:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then he welded a big honkin’ chunk of scrap steel bar to the proper sized pipe as a “male end”. It sits in there good and solid when I’m driving and I just set it to the side when I’m working. It’s pretty hefty and you never know when you’ll need a big steel bar. For example I threatened to brain Foxinator’s turkeys if they crap on my gas can again. I planned on hitting it with some orange paint and maybe adding a pirate flag but I never got around to it. It makes backing up immensely easier.

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My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 12: Bespoke Axles And Cheap Components

Warning: this is a long post. Usually I shy away from anything too long, detailed, or technical. I’m just an idiot on the internet and who’s got patience for that? That said, I like my solution so much I had to post the details. If you’re not interested go ahead and bail. (I won’t take it personally.) Next week (or whenever) I’ll revert to bitching about politicians, relating raccoon attacks, or setting tractors on fire.

In case you’re wondering the woodsplitter is already upgraded. In comments (and in person) I  got lots of advice on ways to get the job done. Trust me folks, I considered them all. None were bad ideas. All would get the job done. But only one approach appealed to my perfectionist (at least in terms of woodsplitters) nature.

Since none of the obvious solutions suited me I took time to ponder. I finally relented and ordered an axle made to my exact specifications.

Replacing a splitter’s shitty little tires with a custom axle goes to eleven. It crosses the event horizon of wood splitter excellence and becomes mechanical wizardry. It’s that nice. Sure, there are cheaper solutions; bolt on a minivan axle, weld on a bigger spindle, toss the splitter on a trailer but none come out so efficient and dare I say it… sexy. (Good engineering is sexy and I’m talking about intellectual appreciation of machine matched to task. Dammit… get your mind outta’ the gutter.)

So I, the cheapest guy in creation, pried open my wallet, bit the bullet, measured and remeasured again, and filled out the worlds most complicated form. A few weeks later I had a bespoke axle. It was the smartest thing I’ve done in years. I wish I’d done it on day one.

For the six people on earth who own a wood splitter, use it a lot, and want it to tow it like they’re in the Dukes of Hazard, seek these attributes:

  • Low weight (750 pounds or so). The factory specs for my splitter say it weighs about 600 pounds. So I added a margin for a full tank and one hefty chunk of wood. Don’t go overboard.
  • Reverse angle (with the axle lower than the spindle). It’s a low rider!
  • Five bolt hubs (because four bolts are stupid).
  • Precisely the right width.

The key here is the Goldilocks solution. Rein in your manly desire to go overboard and bolt on 33″ Super Swampers. Seek the middle ground that matches the task at hand.

Lets start with what’s called half axles. That’s how you’ll likely find the part for sale. A kind reader sent a link to a set of axle halves at Northern Tool (for $189) and I saw about the same thing at Amazon (for $159). You’ll find them in all sorts of sources but I couldn’t find any sitting on a shelf in a store. (I do live in the middle of nowhere.) Here’s a picture (they all look about the same).

torsion axlesIt looks great but the first problem is that it’s a 2000 pound set (the two halves, working together, are tuned for a 2,000 pound load). Putting a 600 pound splitter on a 2000 pound set means the suspension is going to be underloaded. It won’t flex and that’s part of what got my ass in a sling in the first place. The goal here is to have a functioning suspension an awesome suspension. If you’re going to win car races while towing a wood splitter you need just the right amount of flex. When I ordered an axle I had a list of weights to choose from. If you custom order you will too. I think I selected something like 750 pounds.

Listen up fellas, this is one place where “overengineered” is inferior. The best suspension is the one meant for precisely the weight you’ll be towing.

Added bonus; that flex makes using the splitter a smidge more forgiving. When I smack a heavy chunk of wood on the beam I don’t get vibration in my hands and don’t send a shock resonating down the splitter’s components. Instead it gives just a bit. Nice!

. . .

The next part is the direction of the flex. Nearly all (90%?) torsion axles are meant for the spindle to be lower than the axle itself. (In the picture above, the axle parts are actually upside down.) This just plain makes sense most of the time but not on a splitter. If you start with axle components mounted beneath the splitter’s oil reservoir and then set the angle to put the spindle lower than the axle components your end result will be a very tall wood splitter.

Some say I obsessed over keeping the beam where it was. That’s because I did. Right now it seems about right. If it were any lower I’d be bending my back and that’s ungood. On the other hand every inch the beam is raised means I’d going to have to lift twelve friggin tons per year another bloody inch. There’s a technical term for lifting weight; that term is work!

Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight:

“Work is done when a force that is applied to an object moves that object. The work is calculated by multiplying the force by the amount of movement of an object (W = F * d).”


“Use your big monkey brain to manage the universe to minimize the work needed while not indulging your apelike capacity to sit on your ass eating Cheetoes all day.”

When I custom ordered my axles I could choose from several angles…including “reverse” angles where the spindle is higher than the axle. I called it the “low rider” option. I ordered axles with a reverse angle. The guy who was helping me place the order had never even heard of someone wanting such a thing… but when he saw my splitter he understood.

Here's an image I found randomly on the internet. If you're an adult who slept through high school trigonometry decades ago this image will cause you to break out in hives. If you're currently in public schools "trigonometry" is a dark art your teacher won't touch with a ten foot pole and you're eventually going to die in a mud hut when all the old people are gone.

Here’s torsion axle image I found randomly on the internet. I had to fill out a form with all these numbers. If you’re an adult who slept through high school trigonometry decades ago the form might cause you to break out in hives. If you’re currently in public schools “trigonometry” is a dark art your teacher didn’t study in teacherology classes and and therefore you’re eventually going to die in a mud hut when all the old people are gone. Sorry to break it to you that way but you might as well know now.

Also, you shouldn’t mount torsion axles in a way opposite the way they’re meant to go. (Just flipping them over, is OK for leaf springs but not for torsion axles.)

. . .

In between the axle halves there’s this thing with a nifty name… the axle. Welding guys totally love fabricating them and welding them onto half axles. For some reason it’s like their favorite activity. I don’t know why. If you must weld up your own axle then metal isn’t overly expensive and if you hire a welder they’ll stampeded to do it.

In my case I was buying the whole thing as a fully assembled unit. All I had to so was add some numbers on a form to specify my desired width.

Width came out very nicely. Remember I didn’t want to go too wide and create an ergonomic disaster. I had to give the torsion axle room to flex without hitting the frame and that ended up being about 3″ wider per side than the spindles welded to the frame. You hardly notice it while working and I was happy that I could squeeze that extra width into the system so seamlessly.

Nobody explained to me why I needed an axle at all (instead of just having the two halves welded to the hydraulic reservior/frame). I finally just accepted that it must be so. I do like that there’s darned near no torsional stress on the reservoir now (unlike it was in OEM form). I don’t think it’ll matter but who knows if skipping the axle would lead to stress fractures in a couple decades?

By now you’ve got something that looks like this Torsion Trailer Axle (which you could have bought fully assembled for $229 and therefore avoided the scary order form). But don’t fret… the odds of finding one pre assembled at the exact width for a tiny wood splitter was nil anyway.

assembled axle

Now it’s looking like an axle.

Also note the length of those two mounting points. It can’t be too long. Remember that the oil reservoir is only 5″ or so. YMMV.

. . .

You’re done right? Hell no! Now you’ve got to get hubs.

Now I get to feel smug! Remember all that money you saved by getting the half axles on sale at Northern Tool? Then remember how you saved money by using some junkyard scrap for the axle itself? Do you think you’re totally saving a shitload over that rich prissy Curmudgeon with his bespoke axle?

Oh you forgot about the hubs? Shocker! The Hub Kit you see below is precisely what you’ll need. Some are cheaper and some are more expensive. This one costs $40.06 but you can probably find the parts cheaper if you shop around. Did I mention you’ll need two?

Five bolts good, four bolts bad.

Five bolts good, four bolts bad.

The custom axle I ordered came with both hubs pre-installed. The lug nuts were included in a plastic bag taped to the axle too. That’s the gearhead equivalent of a hotel putting a mint on your pillow. Very thoughtful.

. . .

All that’s left is the tires. They didn’t come with my custom axle and they sure as hell won’t come with the hubs and axle halves you’re picking up at Northern Tool. On the other hand five lug trailer tires are dirt cheap, everyone has them, they’re always in stock.

They’re so damn cheap that you can get the tire, already mounted on the wheel, for less than your average truck’s hubcap. It’s almost confusingly cheap. I found these tires on Amazon for $31.95 but you can definitely do better if you shop around. I did.

I forgot how much I paid but it seemed shockingly low for what you’re getting. I swear trailer supply shops will rake you over the coals for a lugnut but then toss mounted wheel/tire sets at you for the price they came off the container ship from China. Go figure. They’re all about the same. They’ve all probably still got Chinese air in them.

4.80-12, Load Range B, 5 lug tire

4.80-12, Load Range B, 5 lug tire

For a splitter Load Range B is fine. Going for a higher load range isn’t going to do you much good so don’t bother.

There are two kinds of tire. High speed (which means highway and not racing y’all) and not high speed (which is the shit I started with). Unless it’s going on a wheelbarrow don’t even think of buying the non-high speed tires. Duh!

. . .

Lights probably aren’t necessary but c’mon, you’ve already gone the extra mile. Do you really want the hassle when some dipshit rear ends you? A 27 ton hydraulic ram will pierce a Prius’ hood like a battle axe hitting a whiffle ball and who needs that noise?

Also, trailer lights are super duper cheap and they make your wood splitter look awesome! You can bring your wood splitter to a fancy dinner and say “Hey Jeeves McGotrocks, does your woodsplitter have trailer lights? Oh, really it doesn’t? Well mine does and I just drive around with it all day flashing the brake lights to show it off.” OK maybe not… point is that trailer lights do stand out when you’re hauling in the dark.

I found this Trailer Light Kit on Amazon (for $22.25) but if you buy it you’ve paid too much. Like five bolt trailer wheels and tires, you can get trailer lights so cheap it’s almost unreal. I think I paid under $5 each for two lights (maybe less) and that includes a bulb. I have no idea how they can even think of making a profit for something like that shipped from China. Also, life is hard for a wood splitter. I fully expect to smash a lamp with a chunk of wood sooner or later. If it’s $5 a lens, who cares. I plan on buying a few spares and just stashing them in my tool box.

I have the only wood splitter with trailer lights in the county. Folks think I'm uppity but I still remember growing up in a dirt shack.

I have the only wood splitter with trailer lights in the county. Folks think I’m uppity but I still remember growing up in a dirt shack.

. . .

So what’s all this mean? It means that I spent about $50 more than I’d have paid for cheap parts from Northern Tool and I got the perfect axle. I probably saved a bit on welding because the welder guy didn’t have to dink around cutting axle metal to length or lining stuff up. (And I didn’t have to pack the bearings… which is no big deal but I don’t like doing it.) For an extra $50 you cant go wrong.

Tires and trailer lights are proof that China wants everything to be free. Also that Troy Bilt can kiss my ass when they quote prices on their parts.

I’m almost done… but this post has gone on far too long.


P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, if you click on the Amazon links and buy anything, regardless of what it is, I get a few bucks to waste on beer. And for that I salute you! But I also posted so you know the components to look for and those are about what you’d need. Most of this stuff came off a boat from China and so you’re looking for fit first, price second, and quality is pretty much the same all around. Aside from tires and lights I couldn’t find Jack shit locally so Amazon (with Prime Shipping) would have been about average pricing for me. (It’s only through luck and diligent searching I found a guy who could order me an assembled whole.)

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My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 11

I haven’t had time to write up the end result. So here’s a few more photos of a broken woodsplitter. A-Splittertire-01 B-Splittertire-02 C-Splittertire-02As a general rule anything that can be done, someone has done it and posted it on the internet. That’s one of the best parts of the internet… seeking someone who has done it before so you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” (no pun intended). I found a thousand ideas about woodsplitters but only one person who upgraded a splitter of my make and model with larger tires in the manner I wanted. I forgot the link but I found it buried in an old thread about logging or sawmills or something. That guy had upgraded just like I wanted and it looked slick. (If I’d kept the link I’d have sent him a thank you note!)

So it had been done once and looked good. I dispensed with many “outside the box” ideas and settled on installing a torsion axle suspension directly on the hydraulic fluid reservoir.

  • I’d go with five bolt hubs because four bolt hubs are annoying.
  • I’d go with larger tires so I could roll down the road at 65MPH but I wouldn’t go too large. This was the $10,000 question. How large is too large? For towing there’s no such thing as too large (and full size car tires could be acquired for a song) but towing is only half of the equation. I didn’t want to lift the work area much above OEM height. Even a few inches of lift on the splitter beam might mean a thousandfold increase in sore backs! This means cool ideas like salvaging car tires from a junkyard were out of the picture. Also I’m vain and wanted it to look “almost OEM” and not “minivan axle welded to it”.
  • I was worried about the topheavy thing for taking a hard turn while towing. I had my concerns about trailer tires which are inherently narrow. Tall and narrow means a higher rollover risk. The logical thing to do is put on an axle that’s a bit wider. Wide means more stable ride. But just like I didn’t want to lift the splitter beam I didn’t want to be leaning waaaayyyy over a wide axle. I figured a big lean of an axle that juts out is just another way to wear out your back. Also how many times can you step past an axle/tire that’s jutting out before you smash your ankle into it?

The moral of the story is that every change, no matter how crude and simple the machine might be, is a compromise between competing goals. Towing wanted big, tall, wide tires on a wide suspended axle. Working wanted small, short, narrow tires, on a narrow section of the machine with welded spindles.

Luckily I had time on my side. It’s better to spend 10 hours thinking and save 100 hours in the worksite than the other way around so I pondered for a few months. Also I couldn’t find a locally available torsion axle (I was looking for new parts and not salvaged). When the zombie apocalypse happens… we’re going to run out of torsion axle parts within hours! Has nobody thought of this?

One idea I had, that seemed clever, was to get snowmobile trailer tires. Those are super wide and short, the Fat Albert of trailer tires. I figured the extra width would make the towed object more stable against rollover but the super short tires would keep the splitter’s beam low to the ground. I thought this was the coolest idea ever, but in the end I didn’t do it. Once the welding was done it just didn’t seem necessary (and I didn’t feel like saddling myself with another tire of unusual dimensions).


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My Woodsplitter Goes To Eleven: Part 10: Crude Engineering

Usually I write silly stories and jokes. Lets face it, if you can’t make a joke about spindle diameter you don’t belong in a garage. That said I’m just going to provide a few facts. These are crude generalizations and I may have the nomenclature a bit off. All I can say is that all fabrication starts with understanding the underlying situation and once I was stuck with a one wheeled wood splitter I had to brush up on a few details. If you already know this stuff, you may ignore this post.

First of all little tires suck because they have small circumference. They’ve got to spin faster to go the same speed. This annoys the Gods of friction, makes bearings hot, and is generally un-good. The solution is big tires.

On the other hand every increase in tire radius means I’ve got to lift a cookie higher. Every inch I lift is a chance to buy my chiropractor a new boat. Also the splitter is narrow. Tall things that are narrow tend to fall over. If sparks from a rim are a “bad day”, an inverted splitter sliding down the highway is “nuked from space”.

So bigger tires are both good and bad. Life is like that.

Bigger spindles can accept bigger hubs. Bigger hubs have studs for lug nuts. At this size they come in either 4 or 5 bolt patterns. Four bolts wheels hold tires that range from small to a bit bigger. Five bolt wheels cover the full range of the 4 bolt pattern but also goes all the way to full sized vehicles. I never figured out what the point of a 4 bolt hub was if a 5 bolt does the same thing and also opens a larger range of options. Nobody else knew either.

The spindles are welded on to the frame. The frame is actually the hydraulic fluid reservoir. This also serves as an axle. So what you’ve got is a beefy metal box that is frame, reservoir, and axle. Cutting off the spindles and welding on new ones requires equipment I don’t have.

Little tires come in “high speed” and “not high speed”. Think of it as “boat trailer at 55 MPH on pavement” versus “lawn tractor at 5 MPH on grass”. Obviously the OEM wood splitter tires were “not high speed” and I had deserved what I got after several years of gingerly limping around at 45 MPH. I had no intention of messing with anything like that again.

Spindles welded to a solid frame/axle/reservior have no suspension. No suspension means no give (except the tires themselves). There’s a reason why everything has a suspension. Even if I welded on monster spindles and ginormous tires I’d have no suspension.

Trailer suspensions come in two flavors; leaf spring and torsion axle. Both are suitable. I found a thousand parts for leaf springs in every hardware store. They’re common on utility trailers, ice shacks, boat trailers, you name it. They’re cheap. Torsion axles are almost impossible to find and much more “fiddly”.

A leaf spring requires a few feet between  a front mount point and a rear mount point. Not possible on a five inch (about) wide fluid reservoir. If I wanted leaf springs I’d almost end up making a whole mini trailer frame. This isn’t without it’s own possible neato magic… but I like the “smallness” of the splitter for slipping around the forest behind an ATV. Mounting  on a 5′ wide trailer would be kinda cool because I could stack the wood on the same place as the splitter… but I’d have to lean waaaaay over on every cookie I lifted. Ergonomics is very important to me. I ruled it out and started wandering the earth looking for a torsion axle… which wasn’t working out so well.

Bored yet? Not all sagas are about dragons you know.

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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?”


“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.


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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