Friday, June 28, 2013

2013 ARRL Field Day

Last weekend I participated in my amateur radio club (W8BAE) Field Day event.  I can't believe this was my fourth outing with my local club celebrating one of North America's premier amateur radio operating events. Yet again we lucked out with great weather for the weekend although it was warm there seemed to be a near constant breeze that kept us comfortable.  This is our third year operating from a location on private land which works out ideally for us.  Previous Field Day posts can be accessed from the "ARRL Field Day" label located at the end of this post.

I've noticed from past events that we have visiting hams and general public from around the area making the rounds checking out the operating positions at our site.  Because the main purpose of Field Day is to showcase the hobby of amateur radio in a more public forum I decided to make up a simple sign to post on my tent so visitors can see who, what and where.

 Home away from home.

As a camping enthusiast the opportunity to combine these two hobbies in one is something I really look forward to.  Sure it's a bit of work dragging out all the camping gear and disassembling my radio station and carefully packing and transporting it to the site but once it's all set up and I'm on the air having fun its all worth it.

My Field Day station for high frequency digital and CW (Continuous Wave Morse Code radiotelegraphy) is the same as last year with the addition of my new laptop which I used for digital modes.  The second laptop on the right is for running logging software to keep track of contacts made.  Theoretically all digital station activities could be run on one machine but I'm not particularly computer savvy and to me it's just easier to have one person operate and another do the logging on a separate machine.

Leading up to Field Day I streamlined the portability of my station by utilizing the large Pelican case resting under the table in the photograph.  By careful arrangement I was able to fit all my ancillary gear such as power supply, keyers computer interface, other assorted cabling and test equipment into the heavy duty case.  

 Copying the mail.

In total I made 45 contacts during this years event. I've not spent much time on the air lately so my CW is a little rusty.  I made 13 QSO's using Morse Code and 32 QSO's using the digital mode PSK-31.  Each year it seems that digital becomes more popular during field day and I think that is a good thing.  Certainly from a bystanders point of view CW is an interesting thing to witness however if you don't know the code I think it would get boring pretty quick.  Digital modes on the other hand require only a pair of eyes and the ability to read the exchange in plain English off the computer screen.  The digital modes are a great way to show the effectiveness of ham radio to the public as well as the service's long standing tradition of advancing the radio art.

From this remote location in north central Ohio using my HF transceiver, home built vertical antenna and running off generator power I contacted other Field Day stations in these places:

New York
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Carolina
South Carolina

Here's a shot of me taking a photo of my vertical antenna with a nice sunset in the background.  That's the opening picture of this post.

As in previous years I believe our club's outing was a success combining in equal parts lots of ham radio fun, camaraderie and good food shared among friends.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rock Hunting On The Shore Of Lake Erie

Over Father's Day weekend my son and I traveled north to visit my dad at his home on Lake Erie.  We had a great time doing all the normal Father's Day activities like the cookout, relaxing and catching up on family news.

Dry conditions have lowered the level of the Lake and left the largest expanses of shoreline exposed that I have ever seen so one afternoon my son and I went rock hounding along the beach.  We found many different kinds of stones; granite, quartz, sandstone and pale limestone all worn smooth by relentless wave action and abrasive sand.

I'm fascinated by nature and the Earth sciences.  The beach is an amazing place to witness the raw power of nature and it's beauty.

So why in the world would I drag fifty pounds of rock home?  There is a method to my madness.  I've noticed that the weeds like to grow up around my air conditioning unit and to make it easier to keep the area clean I put the smooth limestone between the house and the cement pad after killing the weeds.

Sure I could have gone to a landscaping dealer and paid for some river stone by the pound but it was much more satisfying to spend some time with my son beach combing our way up and down a half mile of shoreline filling a couple buckets.  So not only did we get some free landscape materials but every time I mow around this corner of the house the smooth white stones will remind of the fun we had gathering them up.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Recumbent Ride -- Kokosing Gap Trail

On Saturday the RoadQueen joined me in Knox County Ohio to ride the Kokosing Gap Trail.  As my favorite central Ohio railtrail I'm always in the mood to hit this greenway but this time was special because it was the RoadQueen's first time out on the Kokosing.

We got a late morning start and the ride started cool but soon enough the temperature climbed into the mid 70's.  In my opinion a near perfect range for bicycling.  The great majority of the Kokosing Gap trail is tree lined and shaded as it follows the Valley skirting the river and at times crossing it via old iron railroad bridges.

Lots of folks were out taking advantage of the nice weather and natural resources.  From a bridge we watched some kayakers floating the currents of the Kokosing River.  They certainly looked like they were enjoying it.

Old Mill at Howard, Ohio
Continuing on at the end of the bike trail we traveled east four more miles on a state route until we reached the Bridge of Dreams; which spans the Mohican river near the village of Brinkhaven.  After the bridge we connected back to the terminus of the Kokosing Gap Trail via a 4 mile multi-use packed clay trail called the Mohican Valley Trail.  When I ride the Kokosing Gap I like to add on the Bridge of Dreams spur to bump my route up over 30 miles.

We had a great time and it was a day of several firsts.  While the Kokosing is old hat to me I enjoyed showing it off to the RoadQueen.  With this ride complete she has logged her longest ride on a bicycle so far at 36 miles besting her old record by over 10 miles on a new to her route.

Generally I always carry a camera when I ride but this time the RoadQueen took charge of photography.  A first for me is seeing images of myself on the HP Velotechnik recumbent.  I admit I do present quite a strange visage when viewed from the rear.  It looks like I have no legs!

Here's a short video clip courtesy of the RoadQueen that shows that the HP Velo is indeed as comfortable as it looks.  Thanks RoadQueen -Great camera eye!

RCT On The Kokosing Gap Trail

Kokosing Gap Trail/ Bridge of Dreams
Ride Time:  2:44  
Distance:  36.25 miles
Average Speed:  13.2 mph
Guest Photographer/Videographer:  The RoadQueen

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Recent Turnings

Here is a few photographs of my latest wood turnings I have produced since warm weather has allowed me back into my workshop.  These diminutive spindles are pipe tampers.  A tamper is a smoking accessory that allows the ash and unburnt tobacco that clings to the walls of a pipe bowl to be gently compressed and pushed into the ember keeping it lit and smoking.

This tamp made from an unknown species of tropical wood is a shape I call the "Classic" based on the tradition beads and coves cut into the wood.  I like to use one of my wooden tampers when I smoke my meerschaum pipe instead of a regular metal pipe nail just to be certain that the tool won't scratch the delicate surface of the white mineral my pipe is made of.

Because wood is a natural material and trees come in many different species the characteristics of grain, color and hardness can vary greatly.  To me one of the most rewarding aspects of woodworking is experimenting and learning about the various kinds of wood available.  On the lathe I've found that generally the more dense and hard a wood is the better it turns. 

In continuation from my last post this is the piece of African Blackwood that I had just begun to work as it nears completion. While it is considered one of the hardest woods in the world with care and patience it yields a beautiful turning with crisp sharp edges and a deep ebony-like hue.  

This is an interesting note from my favorite online resource about wood: www.wood-database

 "To be considered the original ebony, African Blackwood was imported and used in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago. Even the name “ebony” has an Egyptian derivation as “hbny”—which has been shown to refer to primarily toDalbergia melanoxylon, rather than the species which are considered to be ebony today: such as those in the Diospyros genus."

The wood lathe is unique because often work piece is cut not only along the grain but often transitional cuts expose the end grain and by nature because the stock is spinning and becomes round the growth rings or layers will appear concentric and interesting.  

Another wood which I do have a little experience with is Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera), also known by it's aliases Hedge Apple and Bois d' arc.  The French term Bois d' arc translates to "bow wood" and I can testify that it does indeed make a good bow.

Although I've used Osage before this is the first time I've spun a piece on the lathe. It works as well for turning as it does on the archery range.  Over time and with exposure to UV light the lemon yellow will give way to deeper oranges and honey browns.

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Spur Drive And Live Center

Last Friday I received a package containing a new spur drive and live center for my vintage Craftsman wood lathe.  These two precision components are responsible for holding a blank of wood securely while transferring the torque from the motor and allowing the piece to spin freely. 

Sears quit manufacturing my specific model many years ago but luckily all lathe shafts are set up using Morse Tapers.  Morse Taper invented by Stephen A. Morse in the mid-1860's is one of several styles of machine taper that are used to connect bits, cutters and chucks to machine tools.

I wasn't quite sure which size taper my machine uses so with a quick online search I learned that the seven sizes of Morse Tapers are easily distinguishable by the diameter of the taper at the widest point. After knocking out my old centers I measured their diameters with a caliper and consulting the chart I easily determined my lathe uses a #1 MT at both the head stock and tail stock shafts.  I located the parts at my favorite woodworking online vendor. While the parts were inexpensive at around $20 each they appear well made and will work fine for the small scale work I like to do.

The spur drive (above) has a pointed pin in the very center that is spring loaded.  The cone of the pin bottoms out on a pilot hole drilled in the end of the workpiece and then retracts under spring tension to allow the four spurs to dig into the wood allowing transfer of torque.  

The live center (above) spins smooth on bearings and supports the turning blank at the tail stock.

Along with the components I also ordered some blanks of various exotic hardwoods that I've never used before.  In this series of photographs is a super dense and heavy specimen called African Blackwood.  This Ebony like species is known to be one of the hardest and densest woods in the world and I can say without a doubt it is some of the toughest stuff I've ever put a gouge to.

The surface of the wood appears shiny even after just being roughed out by the gouge.  I can tell already that the African Blackwood will take on a beautiful luster once I get to the final polishing stages.