Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Wood Turning

The other day I cut out some blanks of a very dense tropical hardwood and have been having fun carving spindles on the wood lathe.  A little time spent carefully preparing the blank for turning makes the process of roughing the stock to a round shape as quick and pleasant as possible.  Rounding off the sharp corners of the wood  with a large gouge is at first is a violent business of vibration, splinters and tool chatter.   The blank is held securely at two places on the lathe. The spur drive at the head stock and the live center at the tail stock.  Using the drill press and swivel base vice I drill a small pilot hole as close as possible to dead center at each end of the blank.    

Into these holes the sharp steel points of the spur drive and live center insert and hold the piece steady and square.  In addition to a center point the spur drive has four short blades arranged in a cross pattern that bite into the end grain of the work piece. Torque is transferred from the shaft in the head stock and the four spurs keep the blank spinning slip free once resistance is encountered from the cutting tools.  The wood is so hard I had to use the Dremel to cut grooves to engage the spurs at the drive end.  Once prepped in this manner the blank can be chucked up in the lathe and the fun begins.  As the wood is worked down from square to round the cutting action becomes less violent and smooths out until a light but carefully controlled pressure is all that is needed.  When a perfect cylinder shape is machined the wood turner uses different shaped gouges and chisels to carve the artistic details of the piece. 

LeeAnn came out to my shop while I was turning and took a few action shots with her camera.  She captured the magic well.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Field Test -- 40 Meter Vertical Antenna

Home Brew 7 MHz Top Loaded Short Vertical with Capacitance Hat and Elevated Radials 
Field Day 2012 is about 4 weeks away.  In preparation I've been shaking down the assembly procedure of my high frequency transmit and receive antenna.  Deploying in the back yard gives me a chance to fine tune the small details of my system.  Stuff like using the antenna analyzer to observe how different lengths of feed line and radials affect the antenna's performance.  Another thing I like to do is plug in the vertical's feed line to my antenna switch and then I can flip the switch back and fourth between the home brew vertical and my 40 meter end fed half wave for side by side comparisons. 

I followed plans from the 2008 ARRL radio handbook to construct the single band short hf vertical antenna.  See this Post for close up pictures of the radiator.

With 75' of coax to my rig in the basement ham shack I answered a CQ call from AA8V in Frostburg, Maryland.  Greg was using a home brew one-tube amp built on a baking sheet, he told me through Morse code!  As I signed off with Greg another station who had a very loud signal called me.  I answered K3JWI and learned that the origin of the nice signal was Ken in Ooltewah, Tennessee.  Maybe propagation was just right and my signal was loud and clear at Ken's location 400 miles to the South and that's why he called tail-ending the previous contact.  I received 599 signal reports from both stations.

I'm still amazed that an antenna that I built can transmit radio waves and support communication with amateur short wave stations in other states hundreds of miles away. 


13 May 2012 SKCC Week End Sprint

I've been so busy this spring I missed a couple monthly Straight Key Century Club Week End Sprints but this month the stars aligned and I found some time to participate.  I ran my rig's power at 50% and had a great time making CW contacts all over the U.S. using my Vibroplex Original bug and SKCC Club key. (pictured above)

14.060 MHz    AC6FU    Nevada
14.051    K0LUW    Nebraska
14.056    W4CU    Florida
14.058    KB0LF    Nebraska
7.109    W9DLN    Wisconsin
7.119    VE3AKV/qrp    Ontario Canada
7.107    AC2C    Maryland
7.054    K8JD    Michigan
7.053    KB9DFE    Wisconsin
7.056    W4CU    Florida*
7.112    KE1AF    Rhode Island
7.116    WD0ECO    Missouri
7.058    W5ALT    Texas
7.055    K7TKT    Idaho
7.055    WA1HFF    Massachusetts
7.052    K0LUW    Nebraska*
14.049    ND9M/m    Florida
14.053    K2OGT    New York
7.053    W3NP    Pennsylvania
7.053    KD2JC    New Jersey
7.110    KB1UOH  Connecticut

(*denotes 2nd band contact)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Woodworking -- Lathe

Cherry wood blank chucked up and ready to turn.

This spring I've been reorganizing my garage/ workshop and brought my vintage Craftsman wood turning lathe out of storage.  My dad bought this old lathe when I was about 12 years old.  It was bolted to a rickety old wooden stand made of pine.  He used it a few times then never touched it again putting it up in storage in the barn.  About 18 years ago I salvaged it from that barn, cleaned it up and built a new solid stand for it.  I estimate the age of the tool to be 50 years old and maybe more.  A fine example of the saying: "They just don't make 'em like they used to".  The set up has the original Craftsman electric motor and all the Bakelite knobs are still attached.  I even have a set of older Craftsman gouges and chisels that most probably came with the lathe when it was new.  I will say that they are far superior steel to recently purchased tools of the same brand and really hold an edge.

The wood lathe is my favorite tool in the shop.  A lathe possesses a potter's wheel like artistic nature in that an operator starts with a plain lump of material and ends up with something symmetrical and pretty.  The machine runs quietly and I find using it so relaxing that I can waste away the hours easy!

I had a little time to kill after work yesterday so I dug out a piece of wood from my scrap bin and made some sawdust.  I've not done any turning for a few years but it does feel great to be back at it.

Roughing out the stock to round with a gouge

Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to do in my mind's eye.  In other instances I just let the shapes come from the wood.  Unlike a metal lathe which has the cutting tool solidly mounted and controlled by a geared mechanism the wood lathe puts the cutter in the artist's hands where a multitude of angles, pressures and nuances brings the piece to life.  It's a kind of magic that never gets old.

I love the look of the wood while it spins

In the picture above the tool rest is visible which has an inch scale molded into the top edge.  The spindle is only about three inches long.  While a larger piece of stock is easier to work with I like the challenge of turning a tiny piece.

I picked up a little trick from an online forum that I have never done until now.  The finishing method is simply to wet sand the piece with oil before removing it from the lathe.  I have always pulled my part and oiled it afterwords and no matter how careful I was with the sanding process I always had some machining marks become visible once the oil wets the surface of the wood.  By leaving the part chucked up and spinning while wet sanding accomplishes a couple things.  Most importantly it allows me to see any fine sanding lines or marks and smooth them out until gone.  Another effect from this method mixes fine wood dust and oil and works it into the pores of the wood creating an ultra smooth surface superior to an oil rubbed finish alone.

As can be seen in the photograph taking a piece of wood from a flat board and working it with the lathe can yield some fantastic grain patterns that you just can't find with any other type of machining.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shimano SPD Sandals

Sandal technology has been around for thousands of years and has the distinction of being mankind's original footwear.  The SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) variety is a relatively new adaptation of the age old hot weather shoe that has been protecting people's soles since before recorded history.  When you stop and think about it a cycling specific sandal for riding in warm weather makes perfect sense. 

A stiff sole provides a sturdy platform from which to mash the pedals and the open front and sides provide plenty of airflow for cooling ventilation.  Riding a bike like any form of exercise generates heat but also a useful byproduct called motivation.  Why not take advantage of all that air movement to help keep the dogs cool and comfortable.  A removable center section on the bottom of the tread allows access to mount a SPD type cleat.

Back in the 1990's I jumped on the clipless pedal bandwagon with everybody else but as the years went by I began to rely on the cleat-pedal interface systems less and less.  I still use SPD pedals for mountain biking and fast rides on my road bike but the vast majority of my commuting, recumbent and general fun rides take place on regular platform pedals.  With that in mind it's the stiffness of the sandal's cycling specific foot bed that is it's greatest attribute.

I wear flip flops and casual sandals for eight months out of the year and even during winter I wear my sandals with cotton and wool blend socks.  It's only mildly annoying when a little snow gets in and makes my sock wet but it dries quickly enough.  In my mind it's only natural that I be wearing sandals while out enjoying the warmer months on my bike.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Commuting Update

The other bike rack in front of school was full. There's hope for the human race yet.

Well the first full week of May closes with a string of nice sunny warm days here in Ohio.  I only drove my car one day this week simply because Wyatt had band practice and had to lug along his saxophone on Thursday.  Two of the days I rode my motorcycle and while I can't claim a fitness bonus from riding that machine my fuel consumption could be measured in ounces which I consider to be a conservative and smart use of resources.  Besides the Triumph is just plain fun.

Summer Vacation is just around the corner and in the fall Wyatt will be going to middle school.  We will be letting him ride to school on his own and of course it makes me nervous but we've got to cut that cord at some point.  I've enjoyed escorting him to school up till now and never considered it a bother in the least. If anything it adds a little distance and a chance to see something different than my usual commute route.  I'm sure he is more than ready to earn his own wings because we often see kids riding to school by themselves that are much younger than him.

Over the summer I am going to design and fabricate some kind rack system for his bike similar to a rear pannier setup that will allow him to attach his saxophone's hard case to one side and his backpack to the other to balance the load.  I've just begun the process of kicking around ideas in my head but really don't have a plan yet.  I'll start with a good quality touring rack and go from there.  Of course I'm open to suggestions from any of you cargo-carrying-cycle-commuters out there.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One-Room Schoolhouse -- Pleasant Twp.

After my visit to the Harding Memorial a few weeks ago I was heading south on a rural two lane in Marion County.  Cruising along at 60 mph I shot right past this old schoolhouse.  Quickly I found a safe place to turn around and backtracked to take some photos.  

Another nice one-room schoolhouse for my collection.  This one has been well preserved with a standing seam metal roof and solid coverings on the windows.  I'm confident it will be around for many more years.

As I was doing my customary walk around I noticed lots of debris and broken glass in the strip of bare dirt along the base of the foundation at the rear of the building.  Half buried in the dirt I found a chunky little vessel of clear glass.  A foot or two away lay another shot glass and then a third however the third one had broken so I left it be.

After I cleaned off the dirt I found the shot glasses to be in surprisingly good condition. Just some minor hazing from being buried for many years.  On the bottom of the glasses a faint embossed logo is visible.  The logo is a large "H" with a smaller "A" between the legs of the H.  At first I thought the maker of the glasses was the Anchor Hocking Company.  This is a common mistake made by people who stumble upon older glasswares but are not experienced collectors. 

After researching the logo online I discovered the Hazel Atlas Company and it's history as a preeminent maker of glasswares in the first half of the 20th century.  The minimum age of this pair of glasses is 60 years although they could be closer to 100  years old.  In any case it's an amazing span of time for a glass to remain unbroken. 


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Family Hike -- Highbanks Metro Park

On Saturday we took off to someplace different to enjoy a spring day and do some hiking together as a family.  The Highbanks Metro Park is one of a series of 17 parks located around the Central Ohio area.  Highbanks shares land in both Delaware and Franklin Counties and is bordered on the west by the Olentangy River.

The park is made up of forest and meadow and is cut with many ravines eroded over thousands of years as water runoff drained westward toward the Olentangy River.


Besides the natural beauty my favorite feature of Highbanks are several Native American sites located around the park. The Ohio valley has been inhabited by people for thousands of years.  The green triangles on the map below represent sites with evidence of the Adena Peoples.

On the park grounds are two Adena burial mounds which were built more than 2,000 years ago.  This mound in the North East corner of  the park was reduced in height from 6 or 7 feet high to 3 feet by years of agriculture and rebuilt by the Metro Parks in 1989.

The second mound is located about a half a mile south of the first one in a forest setting roughly a mile from the Olentangy.

Adena Mound #2

Out of the park's 11 miles of trail network we pieced together a loop that covered the expanse of Highbanks Park and yielded us around 6 miles of ups, downs and flats.  The southernmost trail is a 2.3 mile spur that leads to an overlook deck and another interesting primitive site called the The Cole Earthwork. 

The earthwork is a crescent shape over a quarter of a mile long, bordered by deep ravines to the north and south and on the west by 100 ft. tall bluffs above the Olentangy.  A popular theory suggests that the earthwork and it's adjoining moat provided a fourth side of protection for an Indian village inside.


A few hundred feet west of the earthwork the forest opens up at the edge of the Olentangy River valley.  It was first learned that Native Americans called this place Highbanks in 1790 and today the park shares that name.

The valley was formed by melting glaciers 15,000 years ago.  Layers of Ohio shale are visible throughout the park from the trails and closer to the Olentangy older clay colored shale can seen from the overlook.  These shales are sedimentary rock formed millions of years ago from mud that was once at the bottom of a large shallow sea that covered Ohio.

Other trail users we encountered were young and old, lean trailrunners, backpackers in training lugging full packs and this colorful little guy who was not pleased to be the subject of my macro photography.

We left the park late in the day tired but satisfied as only a day in the field can provide.  Spending time hiking or biking in the great outdoors, while incorporating photography and plenty of contemplation about my home state's geologic past and human history is one of my favorite things to do. 


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Super Moon

I got this shot of the moon with my Cannon Power Shot SD1400 and a pair of 10 X 50mm binoculars.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Shop Notes -- Pit Bull Motorcycle Stand

I took a trip to Columbus, Ohio after work to visit my favorite retail establishment "Iron Pony Motorsports" where I picked up this fine American made product.  I've been looking for a way to quickly and easily hoist up the back end of my Triumph Scrambler.

This type of stand is a common fixture in shops and paddock areas used to hold bikes firmly in an upright position.  Ingenious use of the principle of leverage allows a person to singlehandedly raise the rear end of a motorcycle.  While standing off to the side of the bike I use one hand resting on the seat to balance the cycle while the other slides the stand into position with the rubber pads under each swing arm.  Pushing down on the handle creates a fulcrum and the whole unit locks into place once the handle end of the stand touches the floor.  To lower the bike back to the ground just pull up on the handle.  It's amazing how easy it is and how rock steady it holds the bike when engaged.

The pit bull is well made from steel with good looking welds and nice decals.  The company's motto is "This stand will outlast your bike" and I don't doubt it.

Here's the Pitt Bull in action. Triumph recommends lubing the drive chain every 200 miles.  This stand will make it much easier for me to comply with the schedule.

A purchase of $100 or more scores a free T-shirt at the Iron Pony.  The cool part is they periodically change the design on the shirts.  Lately they have been putting out some great looking prints.