Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

When Sheds A-Tack

Tack Shed.jpg

I have a shed; a right fine shed–

Designed, alas, for tack.

Its shelves collapsed beneath my stuff

As strength is what they lack.

There is an equestrian or two among my readers who will know what a “tack shed” is; for everybody else, some history is in order: When our neighborhood was platted out of ranchland in the mid-1960s, the lots were made deliberately large (1/2 acre to 1 acre) because having a horse behind your suburban ranch house was trendy in that era. Most of the horse setups are gone now (though the folks at the end of our block still have theirs, and in fact still have a horse) but what generally remain are the tack sheds, which are small, study buildings that house horse equipment like saddles, blankets, bridles, and (probably) shovels.

Our tack shed was gutted and rehabbed (probably) when the house itself was rebuilt in 2003. Or maybe the shelves were original. I have no way to tell. But when we moved in over the year starting mid-December 2015, I piled all the stuff onto those shelves that wouldn’t fit anywhere else. This included boxes full of gears and bearing blocks, stepper motors, box fans, variable capacitors, casters, Popular Electronics, heat sinks, great big electrolytic caps, chassis boxes, and odd lots of every species within the phylum that contains a lot of metal and/or coated paper.

All was well until earlier this year, when I noticed that the shelves were cracking and buckling under the load. I did some propping with scrap dimensional lumber, but it was obvious that tack shelves (if that’s what they were) will not hold that much metal and that many boxed vintage AM rigs. The propping did us through the summer, but with cooler mornings coming in I set out to put it all right. Mostly, that meant emptying the shelves, tearing out the shelves, and putting in Home Depot Husky steel shelf units.

So this morning I went out to the garage to get the handcart and kick off the festivities. Hmmm. The cart hadn’t been used for probably eighteen months, and both of its pneumatic tires were flat. So I loaded it into the Durango and ran up 64th Street to the Shell station and its $1.50 air machine. One tire filled without trouble. The other had pulled enough away from its rim so that it didn’t have a good seal (or any seal at all, actually) and as fast as I squirted air in, the air gleefully escaped. Worse, the tire had deformed slightly and was no longer completely round.

I am the son of an engineer, and drew it all out in my head: I had to apply pressure to the center periphery of the tire to get its sidewalls to expand against the rim. First I tried bungee cords, of which I keep many in one of the wells in the cago hold. Alas, the tire was pathologically the wrong size to wrap a bungee around it and hook the two ends together with the tire under pressure. So I drove home and did it again with rope. When I went back to Shell, the tire gripped the rim and pressurized without additional mayhem, though I had to feed the air machine another buck and a half in quarters.

Cart Tire Roped-500 wide.jpg

Some lessons here: Always store carts with pneumatic tires so that there is no pressure on the tires. None; not even the weight of the cart. Also, keep rope in your car and quarters in your pocket. Murphy’s out there somewhere, watching…

I managed to get all the junk out of the shed and stacked on the patio. Then I began tearing out the shelves, but by noon it had gotten hot enough that I bailed for the day, after a short bypass through the pool. I’ll get back to it tomorrow morning, and with any luck at all finish the demo portion of the project.

Once the Husky shelves are safely in place (I drew the shelves and the building in Visio to make sure it would all fit) I will begin asking myself how many cartons of chassis boxes will I likely consume over the remaining 20-30 years of my life. Maybe I should take some to a hamfest, though that will mean finding a hamfest. Do I really need a Sixer and a Twoer? Do any of the gears in the box actually mesh? What’s in the two or three boxes with no markings at all?

A retiree’s work is never done.


  1. Tom Roderick says:

    Oh Lord, the story of my retirement so far (11 years). Just substitute two HOUSES full. Cleaned out my parents house last year, but some of that debris migrated to mine and what wouldn’t fit here is in a storage locker that I SWORE I would clean out before the end of this year. Gota start on that one of these months….
    Jeff, you have an open invitation to list any of that gear on our weekly club net on W4BOC-R on Echolink. I am NOT the only pack rat around here!

  2. Larry Nelson says:

    Every household challenge is a tool buying opportunity. One of the best things I ever did was get a Porter-Cable air compressor plus three nail guns package. It cost about $280. First, you always have air in the garage to top off tires. Second, air nailing is a religious experience. I can’t believe how much easier basic wood tasks are with air nails. Glue and a few air nails avoids much need for clamping.

    Say you only do metal working? Quick and dirty wood jigs to hold together metal projects for assembly are a snap with an air nailer.

  3. Lee Hart says:

    Clever poem. I’ll send you one of mine on the topic. 🙂

    I bought the book “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning” for my mom. Read it myself. Great advice on how to prioritize what you keep, and what to let go.

    I now have a dozen hefty metal shelving units in my basement and garage. I bought 50+ heavy-duty tote boxes at a going-out-of business sale, and have stowed most of my junk in them. My modus operandi has been if I add something, I have to get rid of something else.

    Most of it is in zip-lock bags, with a pack of dessicant inside. I’ve learned (the hard way) what moisture can do to your treasures over time.

  4. Jim Dodd says:

    When working with tubeless tires, it also helps to brush the tire edge with soapy water. As you can tell, I’m not an expert because I don’t know what you call the tire edge! The part that seals against the rim. Whatever.

    Ah – the Tire Bead. I just looked it up on The All-Volunteer Virtual Encyclopedia of Absolutely Everything! 🙂

  5. jimf says:

    another lesson…very handy to own an air compressor.

  6. Bob says:

    I know I’m nosy but can’t help it–

    Why the pneumatic wheel dolly? It looks like you could use one with solid wheels. Your shed seems to have a concrete walk leading to it and your yard looks like typical Arizona caliche that is about as hard as concrete for moving stuff to other places.

    I hate the service station pay tire inflators. The connector is always rounded so I can’t get a decent seal to my tire valves. So I bought a little electric one for less than $25 IIRC. Fills my bike tires in a few seconds and works on my car tires by just letting it run for about a minute. I have an electric lawn mower so I already have a long extension to go from my garage to the car.

    1. Mostly because I’ve had it for a long time. And the yard isn’t plain ground; there’s about 2″ of quarter-minus (granite pea gravel) just about everywhere. Wheeled carts don’t handle that well, irrespective of their wheel design. I’d buy an inflator except that I don’t use it that often, and in the meantime I’d have to store it somewhere. And the shed is pretty much full already.

  7. roger duroid says:

    You need some Wawa gas station/convenience stores out there. FREE AIR!

  8. Bob Fegert says:

    I;m still keeping an eye out for a nice home in the Scottsdale area. Zillow sends me weekly updates but everything for sale seems to be some kind of condo and we want an actual home with a yard and a pool that is NOT shared with others.

    Probate is a nightmare :-/

    Looking at two homes early next week that are nearby. One is very unusual!
    Looks as though Liberace designed and built it. You have to look at this place…just 89,900

    Look through the photos, have you EVER seen a laundry room like that!?

    The thing has two full kitchens, one is in the unfinished basement. I’m afraid to look up the property tax on this compound.,-90.129777,36.568942,-90.86792_rect/10_zm/

  9. Roy Harvey says:

    I managed to get all the junk out of the shed and stacked on the patio.

    A story about managing a pile of junk without a picture of the pile? For Shame!


  10. Roy Harvey says:

    Some bars on the windows and it would look like a cartoon jail.

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