You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Building Things

Posted in Home Improvement by Stacy McMahon on February 9, 2009

I was reading over Vicky’s description of an unexpectedly interesting Civil War reenactment in her new locale of Elizabeth City.

But my personal favorite of the whole day was Al Mitchell. He’s a naval engineer reenactor. He spoke passionately (very passionately) about how engineers kept the war ships running. He discussed a number of antique tools he had with him, many of them procured on eBay. One unexpected tool made a cameo– the sliderule. Al had no shortage of specialized knowledge to share. I could have talked to him all day.

Sadly there are only five engineers among the three divisions’ worth of Civil War reenactors in the US today. I’ve always been a military enthusiast, but I have to agree with Vicky that building things is more exciting than destroying them.

I’ve been getting more into building things lately myself. For example, back in November we installed the optional grilltop cartridge in our oldie-but-goody Jenn-Air downdraft cooktop. Problem: after its first removal and cleaning, the heating element drooped down so far it was touching the drip tray underneath.

Droopy Grill

Droopy Grill

I thought about it for a couple days and decided to try making a brace to hold it up on the other end. One trip to Lowes and I was equipped with a roll of 16-gauge aluminum wire and a general idea of what I wanted to do. My goal was to make a triangular frame with cradles at the top to hold the cross-brace under the heating element, and a wide base for stability.

My first observation was that holding one end of the wire in my hand and trying to bend the other end with pliers doesn’t work very well. I switched to needlenose pliers and braced the wire against my workbench, resulting in a couple of 16-gauge gouges in the tabletop. I had now discovered why humankind invented the anvil. After looking around for a few minutes, I decided that my wood-splitting wedge would make a reasonable substitute, and in another ten minutes or so I had this:

The finished product

The finished product

And the droop is gone!

Thats better...


I’m planning a few more (and bigger) projects this spring, including an underground watering pipe in the front, also connected to the gutter. It will be sort of a reverse french drain and will serve two purposes – to passively water the mulch bed next to the garage, which tends to be shadowed by the roof overhang, and to divert the outflow from the downspout, which is causing mangy grass in a very visible part of the front yard.


2 Responses

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  1. tgaw said, on February 10, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Wow! Thanks for the pingback! I did think of you when we were there. You would have enjoyed it as well!

  2. tj said, on October 14, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Had the same problem with the heating element drooping down. Thing is though, I didn’t want the heat transfered with a metal frame so I took a thick piece of saltillo tile I had around the garage and placed it under the frame of the element. Works fine. Not much heat transfer and no more leaning downward.

    I may buy the bricks that go with the grill attachment, I think they are $10 and will likely work much better since they are porous. I’m an engineer and I think that is the way this element was intended to be used with the bricks under the element to keep it flat and to keep the rest of the metal cooktop from getting supper hot. I can’t find instructions anywhere on how it is suppose to work with the bricks but it makes sense. Levels it and keeps the top cool.

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