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Monday, January 9, 2017

Build a Live Trap



Live traps, or box traps as they are sometimes called, are one of the easiest traps to build in your shop or garage.  They can be used to catch and relocate nuisance animals, or they can be used to catch food. 

The construction of box traps requires minimal tools.  A tape measure, a square, a pencil, a saw, a hammer, a drill with a few bits, and a sheet of sand paper are all you need.  The building materials needed are an 8 foot long piece of 1” x 10” lumber (actual dimensions are ¾” x 9 ½ “), an 18” by 2 foot piece of ¼ inch hardware cloth, a few nails, 4 small screw-eyes, and some string.
We’ll start out by building the box and door first, and when that’s done we’ll build the trigger and set the trap.  Incidentally, the dimensions I’m using here will build a medium size box trap; good for squirrels, rabbits, possums, small coons, feral cats, and (unfortunately) skunks.   So let’s cut out the pieces for the box and the door from our ¾” lumber.

You will need to cut the following:
2 pieces   24” x 7” for top and bottom
1 piece     8 ½” x 8 ½” for the back
2 pieces   4” x 8 ½” for the back sides
2 pieces   6” x 8 ½” for the front sides
1 piece     7” x 8 ½” for the door
2 pieces   ¾” x ½” x 7” for the inner door guides
2 pieces   ¾” x ½” x 8 ½” for the outer door guides
You will also need to cut two strips of hardware cloth 8 ½” high by 22” long for the sides.

Now we’ll assemble the box:

First, nail the back piece to the top and bottom.  The top of the back piece should be flush with the top of the top piece and the bottom of the back should be flush with the bottom of the bottom piece.  The back piece should stick out ¾” on each side of the top piece and the bottom piece.  That sounds a little confusing, but if you’ll look at the picture below you’ll see what I mean.

Now we’re going to nail our hardware cloth onto the sides of the box.  I have found that short roofing nails are good for this job but you can use carpet tacks, small u nails, or even heavy staples.  Just make sure that the hardware cloth is secure enough to hold a trapped animal.  The hardware cloth should butt up against the back and be flush with the top of the top and the bottom of the bottom.  Again, confusing but look at the picture.

Next step is to nail on the back side pieces.  Easy enough.

The front side pieces are next, but before you nail them on, take your sand paper and sand the insides of them smooth for th first couple of inches.  This is to reduce friction so that the door will fall quickly and completely into place.   

When you’ve finished sanding, nail the front side pieces on so that 1 ¾” of them (the sanded part) extends out in front of the top and bottom pieces.

Now it’s time to nail on the door guides.  Before nailing we want sand the edges of the guides where the door will be sliding along them.  Smooth guides mean a faster and cleaner drop of the door.  

When the guides are smoothed out we’ll first nail on the short, inner guides.  You want to position these so that they are flush with the edge of the top and bottom pieces.  I used some old paneling nails to attach the guides.

Next we’ll do the outer guides.  You want to place the outer guides so that the distance between them and the inner guides is about an 1/8 inch wider than the thickness of your door.

With the guides all nailed in place it’s time to sand the edges of the door smooth.  Round the edges and corners a little to help keep them from binding when the door drops.

Slide the door down between the guides and check to see that everything fits and slides easily. 


If everything checks out, it’s time to build the trigger. The way this trigger works is pretty simple.  The actual trigger sticks down into the inside of the box.  The trigger is attached to the back end of a rocker arm that is supported by an upright on top of the box.  The front of the rocker arm is attached to the top of the door.  When the trap is set, the trigger stick is down in the box and the rocker arm holds the door up.  When an animal enters the trap and hits the trigger stick it releases the rocker arm and the door drops closed.

So the first thing that we need to do is drill two holes in the top of the box.  The first hole will be 8 inches from the back of the box and is 1 inch in diameter.  This is the hole that the trigger will fit down into.  The second hole is 16 inches from the back of the box and is ¾ inch in diameter.  We will use this hole to mount the upright that supports the rocker arm.  So let’s drill holes.

Once the holes are drilled we’ll make the trigger stick.  The trigger stick is made of a ¾” x ¾” piece of wood cut 9 inches long.   Round off the edges and give the stick a light sanding so that it will slide easily. Cut a notch in the stick that is ¼” deep with the bottom of the notch 2 inches from the top of the stick and then screw a small screw-eye into the top. 


The trigger stick should fit easily into the 1 inch hole and the notch should catch on the underside of the board.  When the notch is engaged, the trigger stick should not touch the bottom of the trap.

Now for the upright that will support the rocker arm.  Cut a piece of your ¾” lumber that is one foot long and  1¾” wide.

On one end cut  away wood on each side to leave a ¾” wide by ¾” long tab in the middle.  Use a knife or wood rasp to round off this tab so that it forms a peg that will fit easily into the ¾” hole in the top of the trap.

On the other end of the upright we are going to cut a slot that is  ¾” wide and 3 inches long.  The easiest way to do this is to use your drill and ¾” bit and drill a hole three inches down from the top, then use a saw to cut down to each side of the hole.

When you’re finished with the upright it should look like this.


The rocker arm is just a ¾” x ½” stick that is cut to 20 inches long.

Lay the rocker arm down so that one of the ¾” sides is facing up at you and drill a 3/16” hole in the center of it (10 inches from each end).  When this is done, drill a 3/16” hole through the slotted end of the upright.  The hole should be one inch from the top of the upright.  When the rocker arm sits in the slot of the upright it should look like this.

You should now be able to mount the upright into the hole on the top of the box, line up the rocker arm, and stick a nail through the holes in the upright and rocker arm.  The rocker arm should pivot freely.

We’re almost done.  All that remains is to screw a small screw-eye about ½” from each end of the rocker arm and another screw-eye into the top of the door.  Tie a piece of string from the trigger stick to the back end of the rocker arm so that there is about 5 inches between them.  Lastly, tie the front of the rocker to the top of the door so that there is, again, about 5 inches between them.  When you are finished, the set-up should look like this.

One little thing that I like to do instead of tying the string to the door is to make a little wire hook on the end of the string that hooks to the door.  This makes it easier to disassemble the trap for transportation or storage.


Well there’s you live trap.  To set it just place your bait in the back.  I like to use a slice of apple with some peanut butter smeared on it or a sardine, but just about anything will do.  Sometimes it helps to put a small piece of bait out in front of the trap.  If the critter gets a taste, they are less reluctant to go on into the trap for more.  Set the trigger and wait.  When the animal goes into the trap they will hit the trigger stick while trying to get to the bait.  The trigger goes up, the door goes down, and, boom, you’ve got him.  Once you’ve set the trap be sure to check it every day so that you don’t leave an animal confined for too long.

Happy hunting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Taurus PT709 Slim – Review



In the past I always wore a little Iver Johnson in 32 S&W when we’d go trot lining.  Why, you ask, would I wear a sidearm to go trot lining?  The answer is Gar.  We fish for catfish, but we often get a gar on the line.  Because of their mouth full of razor sharp teeth, you can’t just grab them and unhook them.  You have to kill them, and thence the sidearm.   Well, last spring my friend was running the boat, and I was pulling up lines, and lo and behold I pulled up a five and a half foot alligator gar.  I let the line go very fast.  I pulled out my revolver, pulled the line back up and shot the gar to little effect.  In fact I fired five rounds into its head and it didn’t seem to notice.  It took my friend’s .357 magnum to put the thing down, so I decided it was time for a little fire power upgrade.  The pistol I ended up buying was a little Taurus PT709 slim which compared nicely in size to my little .32, but fires the much more powerful 9mm parabellum.

   

So, the problem was that we didn’t go fishing anymore that spring or summer and I never fired the gun.  When I finally got around to taking the Taurus down to my range, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that it jammed about ever third round.  Bummer.  I’ve had a Taurus PT92 for years and it has never missed a lick, even with the cheapest ammo.

The good news is that Taurus has one of the best warranties in the gun business.  I shipped it off to the factory with a letter of explanation and they repaired it for free and returned it within three weeks.  No warranty card, no writing in for a repair order, nothing.  They also sent me an e-mail saying that they had received the gun, called me to confirm my shipping address, sent another e-mail saying it was being repaired, and a third e-mail saying that it was being shipped back.  They stand behind their products no matter how old they are or where you buy them.  I had a friend that bought a Taurus with a broken firing pin at a garage sale.  He mailed it in, and they put in a new pin for free and mailed it back to him.  So, anyway, I got the gun back, and it hasn’t jammed since.

Now for the technical stuff.  The PT709 Slim is 6 1/8’ long, 4 ½” tall, and, including the slightly protruding safety lever, 1” wide.  It is chambered for the 9mm parabellum.  When fully loaded with 7 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber, mine weighs one pound and 6.4 ounces.  The lower frame is a nice heavy polymer and the slid is steel.

The name “Slim” is well earned.  The profile is very slim.  

The only protrusions are the manual safety lever, which sticks out less than an eighth of an inch, 

and the slide release which sticks out even less.

The magazine release is located near the front of the grip and has a very low profile.  This keeps the release from snagging on anything, but it is a little awkward to curl your thumb around and press it down.  Maybe my thumb is just too short.




In addition to the manual safety there is also a trigger safety to prevent discharge unless your finger is actually pulling the trigger.

There is a chambered round indicator on the back of the bolt.  This indicator sticks up about a sixteenth of an inch and is easily felt with the thumb to determine if you have a round chambered.

The PT709 feels good in the hand.  Due to its small size you can only wrap two fingers around the grip, but it does not feel awkward and the gun stays under good control with this grip.

The grip is nicely textured and a small depression at the top of the grip provides a place for your thumb to rest.  




The grip is situated in such a way that slid pinch is virtually impossible when the firearm cycles.

The slide itself is deeply knurled in order to facilitate racking it back, but it still takes a good grip and a firm pull to operate.

The sights have a low profile and the familiar three white dots to help with target acquisition.  A very nice feature is that the rear sight is fully adjustable for both elevation and windage. 




The Pt709 is striker fired so there is no external hammer.  The trigger pull is around five or six pounds.  Because it is striker fired, the first trigger pull is long.  The first time I shot this gun I thought it was never going to fire, but the trigger finally broke, fairly crisply, and the gun discharged.  You don’t have to let off all the way on the trigger for subsequent shots so the long travel is only on the first shot.  It takes a little getting used to, but you fall into the rhythm pretty fast.

Recoil is not nearly as bad as you would expect for a 9mm that barely weighs a pound.  Smaller individuals should not be afraid that the recoil will be too much to handle.

Accuracy is very good considering that the PT709 only has a two inch barrel.  I shot this 7 shot group off-hand from 30 feet.  The bull is 2 ½”, and I’m not a great shot, so I’m happy with the way it shoots.

The slide locks back when you fire the last round making mag changes quick and easy.  Just hit the mag release button to drop your empty mag, shove in a fresh one, and thumb down the slide release.  You’re back in business
.
The PT709 field strips for cleaning using the same system that Glock has made famous.
First remove the magazine, take the safety off, and clear the round in the chamber.

Then pull the slide back just slightly and pull down on the little tabs located on each side of the frame just below the chamber.  This will release the slide.

Now pull the trigger (you did make sure that there wasn’t a round in the chamber, right?), and move the slide forward and off of the frame.




Push the slide spring forward and up to remove it.

And lift the barrel out of the slide.

The PT709 lists for a little over $400 US, but you should be able to find one for $350 or less.  They now come with a hard case and two magazines, but at the time I bought mine from DICK’s they apparently did not.  Very unfortunate because the mags are expensive.

So there’s the Taurus PT 709 Slim.  If you’re looking for a small 9mm, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with this one.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Build a Fletching Jig for Your Arrows



If you make a lot of arrows, gluing the feathers on can become a real chore.  Getting the feather in the right position and then holding it in place as the glue sets is very tedious.  A device that makes this job a lot easier is a fletching jig.  You can buy fletching jigs that range in price from tens of dollars for a bare bones one-feather-at-a-time rig, up to hundreds of dollars for a bench mounted, fully adjustable, three-feathers-at-a-time set-up.  Or…… you can make a fletching jig for less than ten dollars depending on what kind of junk you have laying around in your shop.  There are a lot of different ways to build a fletching jig; this just happens to be the way I built mine.  It’s not hard to build, it’s easy to use, and it does a good job.

To start with, you’ll need to assemble a few supplies.  You’ll need a scrap piece of 2” x 4” lumber and a scrap of 1” x 4”,  a very small piece of wood that is about 1/8” thick (a paint stir stick works good for this), and few square inches of felt cloth.  You’ll also need about two feet of 1/8” or 3/16” all-thread rod and four wing-nuts that will fit onto the all-thread.  The heart of the fletching jig will be made from an old clipboard.  I used an old one I had laying around that is made of masonite with a six inch metal clip.  If you don’t have one on hand, you can pick them up at an office supply store for about three dollars.

Miscellaneous hardware includes a bottle of wood glue or some epoxy, four wood screws that are about an inch-an-a-half long, four small finish nails, one 12 or 16 penny nail, and two rubber bands that are about 4” long.

Tools needed are a saw (a hand saw and miter box will do), a drill (hand or electric), a 1/8” , a 3/16” and a 3/8” drill bit, a tape measure, a square, a pencil, a hammer and some scissors.

How to Build It

First, take your piece of scrap 2” x 4” lumber and cut off a block 6 ½” long.  Then cut two pieces of 1” x 4” that are each 6 ½” long.

Now measure down 2 3/8” from the top of the two pieces of 1” x 4” and use your square and pencil to scribe a line across each board.  Measure to the center of this line and make a small vertical mark.

Take your drill and the 3/8” bit and drill a hole in each board where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.

Now take your saw and cut each of the 1” x 4”s along the horizontal line.

Scribe three lines on the top of each short portion of the 1” x 4” blocks.  One line should divide the block in half long-wise, and the other two lines should cross the block ¾” in from each end.

Put the 3/16” drill bit in your drill, and drill a hole completely through the block where the lines intersect on top of the blocks.  It is important to keep the hole as nearly straight up and down as possible.

Now place the short portion of each block on top of the long portion.  Square everything up and make sure that the top and bottom portions of the 3/8” hole line up perfectly.  Drop your 12 penny nail into each hole in the top block and tap the nail lightly with your hammer.  This will give you a mark to drill on the lower block.

Use your drill and the 1/8” bit to drill a one inch deep hole at each mark on the bottom block.  Again, try to keep the hole as nearly straight up and down as possible.

Take your all-thread rod and cut four pieces that are each four inches long.  Smear one inch of each piece of all thread liberally with wood glue and tap them down into the four holes in the bottom portion of you 1” x 4” blocks.  Set aside for a couple of hours and let the glue dry. (If you use epoxy you won’t have to wait as long)

If you did everything right, the top portion should slide down over the all-threads and the 3/8” hole in each block should line up nicely.  You may have to bend the all threads a little to make slight adjustments for a good fit.  To keep from getting confused it’s probably a good idea to mark which top goes with which bottom and the direction the blocks should be turned.

Now we’re going to cut a groove in each of our top blocks for the clip to slide down into.  The groves are going to go from the top of the block down to the top of the 3/8” hole.  It is important to note that natural feathers do not have the vanes centered on top of the quill.  On right wing feather the vanes sit to the right of center of the quill as you look down the feather. On left wing feathers they sit to the left.  So, the point of all this is that the grove can’t be dead center of the 3/8” hole.  It has to be slightly off-set.  The good news is that this fletcher will do either right wing feathers or left wing feathers depending on which direction you put the arrow shaft into it.

So let’s cut the grooves.  My clipboard is just a shade over 1/8” thick, so I made my groove just a shade over 3/16” wide.  If your clipboard is the same size, you can use the same dimensions.  Lay out your grooves with a pencil and straight-edge so that on one block the center of one groove is just slightly (about 1/16”) left of the center of the 3/8” hole and on the other block it is just slightly right of the center of the 3/8” hole.  Clamp the top portion of the block into a vise and use your hand saw to carefully cut out the grooves about 5/16” deep.  I found that the best way was to make a cut to establish each side of the groove and then a cut down the middle.  This left some little ridges of wood in the groove which I broke out with a pocket knife and then smoothed off with a rat-tail file.  Of course if you have a table saw this would be an easy job.

O.K., things can start to move faster now.  Assemble your 1” x 4” blocks and glue and screw them to the ends of the 2” x 4” base.  Make sure that you have the grooves facing to the inside.

Cut the bottom portion off of your clipboard so that there is about 1/16” remaining below the edge of the clip.


Cut the ends off of the clipboard so that it seven inches wide.

Saw a little notch out of the bottom corners of the clip so that it will not get hung up on the felt that will be protecting your arrow shaft.

If everything has been done right, the clip should drop down into the grooves and slide easily down to the 3/8” hole.  I find it helps everything slide better if you rub a little bar soap on the edges of the clipboard and in the grooves.

Now dissemble the 1” x 4” blocks so that you can line the inside if the 3/8” holes with felt.  Just cut the felt into ¾” wide strips and glue the little strips into each of the half holes.  It may take more than one layer of felt to get the fit that you want around your arrow shaft.  You want the shaft to be held firmly in place when the blocks are clamped together, but you still want to be able to turn the shaft with a little pressure from your fingers.

To help keep a constant, even pressure on the clip while your glue is drying, take your four small finish nails and hammer them part-way in to the base block bout two inches in from each end.  Your rubber band will go over the top of the clip and hook over these nails.

Cut a small wedge from you thin scrap of wood to make the position indicator for your jig.  When a shaft is properly positioned in the jig, just the nock will protrude, and the indicator can be wedged into the exposed nock.




Notice that the 1” x 4” has been marked with the proper shaft position for gluing on each fletching.  These markings are placed on each end along with a designation for whether the nock protrudes for a right wing feather or a left wing feather.




After using the jig for a while I made a couple of improvements.  One was to drill a little slot into the base of the jig so I could put the little wedge in it and, hopefully, keep it from getting lost.

Another improvement was to paint the fronts of the two upright different colors so I could easily see which top went with each bottom.

How to Use It

To use the fletching jig the first thing that you have to do is take the clip out and loosen the wing nuts enough to slide your arrow shaft through the holes.  In the photos below I am fletching with right wing feathers, so the shaft is placed in the jig with the nock protruding on the right wing end.

Now snug the wing nuts down so that the shaft is held firmly but not immovable in place.

Place the small wedge in the nock and turn the shaft until the indicator is pointing to one of the fletching positions.  I have a “C” on my indicator to show which position is correct for the cock feather.

Now take the clip and, before placing your fletching in it, rub a little bar soap along the bottom and front edges of the masonite.  I find that this helps keep the clip from sticking to the fletching if get a little too much glue on the quill.

When the clip is lubricated place a fletching in the clip with the quill resting up against the bottom of the masonite. Position the large end of the fletching to the left and line it up with the edge of the metal clip.  I find that this gives me the right location for my fletching on the shaft.  If you would like the fletching to be closer to the nock or farther away, you can make a mark on the clip at the position that you favor.

Next you need to run a thin bead of glue down the quill.  I use Fletch-Tite, but you may wish to use Super Glue, fletching tape, or whatever.

Slide the clip down into the grooves and press the fletching firmly into contact with the shaft.

Loop the two rubber bands over the top of the clip to keep pressure on the fletching.

Let the whole thing sit for a couple of minutes to give the glue time to set, then remove the rubber bands, pinch the metal clip open, and lift the clip assembly out of the grooves.

Use the indicator wedge to rotate the arrow shaft to the next position, load another fletching into the clip, and repeat the gluing process.
When all three fletchings are glued in place, loosen the wing nuts on the left block a little, and remove the block on the right completely.  Slide your finished arrow out of the jig, and insert a new shaft.

That’s all there is to it.  I find that it takes me about ten minutes to fletch one arrow, that the position of the feathers is more consistent, and that the glue contact of fletching to shaft is more even.