Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fighting Ebola: "DON'T SPIT ON SIDEWALK"

It looks to be another gray rainy Sunday. At least the temperatures are warmer. Katie stopped over Saturday morning and we walked along the river to the new University Boat house. They were having an open house for alumni rowers and guests. Katie rowed for the crew, and I know many of the coaches. What a facility. I wish I had taken my camera. It was still cool enough I did not wear my new camo Utilikilt. I was still “beat up” from Fridays “public service project”.
After getting my halogen wall light fixed up I decided to tackle another project that had been on the back burner for a long time. I’d been joking about installing my “Don’t Spit on Sidewalk” brick into the sidewalk in front of my house for a while. I reasoned it would be my effort to help stop Ebola! The sun was brilliant and the temperatures were warm on Friday. It was time to get the show on the road.
I owe it to my friend Ed for getting me addicted to my angle grinder! He taught me the “in’s and out’s” of how “big boy power tools” can make miserable jobs so much easier. I have to say the brick saw and angle grinder have had such an impact upon my life as to be scary!
I knew this was going to be a real pain in the butt job. The old sidewalk I was cutting into has a lot of gravel mixed it which makes it nearly impossible to drill into, and slow cutting with the diamond wheel. I think bullets will be the best way to outline this project.
  • The brick was laid out and the new location was marked upon the sidewalk.
  • Using the diamond carbide drill bit each of the four corners was drilled out a bit. The bit would not go too deep because of all the gravel.
  • The outline was first cut into the sidewalk. Starting on the north side of this cut out, the inside was scored into small sections and chiseled out with a steel chisel and sledge hammer. This starting area was the worst as there was so little area to work in. Ever so slowly the first half of the opening got cleaned out.
  • With more room to work with the second half was cut out much easier and faster. All the while I was working in a cloud of dust and playing John Henry with the chisel and sledge hammer, the game day party was being set up across the street. I could just imagine what the people were thinking of the commotion going on!
  • My poor 4”diamond wheel was toast by the time I was doing the final fitting. This entailed making a duct tape sling to hold the brick to lower and raise it from the opening for the process of cleaning out the corners. With the initial space cleaned out this went amazingly quick.

Cleaning up the edges before the final installation:
A small batch of mortar was mixed up and the brick was tapped into place with the rubber mallet. Ed’s dad was an expert bricklayer. Ed gave me bunch of his dad’s mason tools. These “jointers” have been invaluable to me these past few brick projects. What difference having the right tools makes. I used these jointer tools to pack and clean the side mortar joints.
Jointer tools:
Finished installation:
I was asked to post a picture of my “granny square”. I documented the origin and progress of this 10 years ago at Open Diary. This poor “granny square” started out as a joke in the skill center at work which eventually took on a life of its own. Coworkers would bring me leftover yarn from their projects. When it would be time to start another round a vote would be taken of whoever was in the skill center as to what the colour should be! It can make you dizzy to look at it too long! There are 86 rounds on this. I crochet very tight so this works out to a lot of yarn. The thing weighs a ton! I still add to it when the fancy hits.
Stumpy just came in from outside. He made the rounds around my house and Michele’s house next door so he is ready for a break. He is now on my lap getting pets and rubs. He is purring his heart out. Things are good…..

Friday, November 21, 2014

Back After A Long Absence

The Internet and computer software are so transient. Time is flying by so. My good friend Graham asked if I would copy an old LP to CD for him. It has been quite a while since doing this. It was in April 2010 my old desk top tower died after seven years of service. The information and files on old hard drive was salvaged/saved. A new tower was purchased which was an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.
The last few copies made from my turntable I’m certain were through Realplayer. Well, the free Realplayer program has changed to where I don’t have that option anymore. The “Pyro” software to translate the analog LP to digital I downloaded when hooking up the turntable, was not in my programmes file anymore.
I pulled out the disc and reinstalled it. It would not run. Using Google search I learned this old programme is not compatible with Windows 7. The turntable I have from Audio Technica is no longer supported by anything because it does not use a UBC port like the current models. I think I found a work around but it involves a lot of downloads and consolidating programme files and locations. It looks to be hours of work to accomplish. ARRRRG!!!!
This morning I was curled up snug and warm under the wool blankets floating between being asleep and awake. For whatever reason I was thinking of the old house restoration blog I started years ago. It has been dormant for years. My last entry was in April 2011.
I started this blog back in 2006 in the days when a lot of “old house action” was happening on the Internet. There was a thriving old house site with an informative discussion forum. An off-shoot of that site was a separate site for old house blogs. It was sort of a “web ring”. Just typing that out has it sounding like ancient history. That collection of blogs was very disjointed and eventually faded away.
The old house site and forum deteriorated as the years passed. I posted less and less. The owners of the site pretty much ignored it and it was over run with spam. Things got to be so bad I did not want to have any postings to tie me to that site. Last year I went through and deleted all my posts. Mercifully only a few were “locked” to editing so there is hardly any footprint of me ever being there.
It seems to be an “on line” pattern as the forum on that old house site ended up being controlled by a few “experts” doling out misinformation. I have witnessed this happen on various antique phonograph boards. I don’t like being involved in conflict if I can avoid it. I’ll read these forums, but refuse to join or participate. I really try and hold my tongue on Facebook. That site could have me crazy if I took it seriously.
I’m thinking this might be how the Internet is evolving. I was on an old archived site recently that spelled out the rules and etiquette on how to navigate and behave in chat rooms. Looking back now on AOL Chat Rooms makes them seem primitive and quaint. Do chat rooms even exist anymore? Facebook and Twitter seem to have pretty much killed them off.
To return to my old house blog: I’m going to start posting to it again. Instead of doing chronological entries of projects in progress, I plan on pulling out and consolidating entries going back to my earliest “Open Diary” years so I can have a document of the progress and work done here. I could almost write a book on the stories and adventures behind the bricks I salvaged from the burned out train station 30+ years ago.
It is supposed to warm up today.
Arrh!!! I did the entry up on the laptop in the kitchen. I attach the word file to a Google mail draft which I then open on the desk top to do the fine tuning and posting. The bedroom has been pretty dark as the halogen wall light was out again. I was expecting that to happen the last time I worked on it. I did not want to work in the dark so I took the damn thing off the wall and tore into it.
Just as I expected one of the wires burned through. The halogen bulb emits such heat the inside the casing the wiring must be special high temperature stuff like what is used in ovens.
I was planning on going to the appliance repair store to see if I could get wire from them. I found a source on E-bay for small lengths, but I’d rather get it locally if possible.
This light is first generation and naturally not in production anymore. When this style lighting first hit the market it was VERY expensive and only sold in designer shops. This was purchased in the late 1980’s from a specialty light store on 8th Ave in NYC. I know I have this all documented in my paper journals, but it would take all day to find the information. Ron and I would shop there on our frequent trips to the city. Having this wall fixture up-lighting 300 watts, I can comfortably light half the room without table or floor lights.
Once I tore into the thing I discovered the wire burned off right at the porcelain. There was no easy way to repair it. To condense a lot of aggravation, I remembered I had an old halogen torchiere lamp from when I lived in Bowling Green.
I bought as a close out from K-Mart Labor Day 2004. I can understand why they stopped making this style light. There were more parts tacked onto this lamp. It had a glass cover for the bulb, and a wire cage over the entire top of the light. I now realize there was also a thermostat to break the current if there was excessive heat build up.
It worked fine the time I lived in Bowling Green, KY. Here in Tuscaloosa I used it for a work light under the carport. It quit working years ago. It was cheap enough I never attempted to fix it, but hung on to it for parts. I was able to take the bulb holder out and switch it out with the holder of my old fixture. It had more than enough of the high temperature wire to do the job.
Once again in my life it was, “NEVER BUY NEW, MEND AND MAKE DO!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday Missing in Action

Things have been so crazy as of late. Some great stuff has been turning up in E-Bay land. This phenomena resulted in my latest road trip was to Decatur, IL to pick up a cast iron whistle sign. This heavy thing was originally positioned along the railroad roadbed. It signaled the engineer to sound the whistle code for “approaching a grade crossing” which is two long - one short - one long blasts on the whistle or horn of the locomotive. I remember seeing these along the roadbed of the New York Central Railroad which was across the street from where I grew up. These old cast iron signs are quite collectible. The seller had this as a local pick up only. There was a New York collector who was hot for it, but the seller did not want to deal with shipping companies and the like. He held it for me to pick up.

Monday morning I did up the last of my packing and straightening up the house. Stumpy delayed my departure by some twenty minutes hiding out! That bad boy!! The house was locked up and I was on the road at 5:30 a.m.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s in Nashville. Here I stocked up on Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark and bittersweet chocolate, New Mexico Pinion Nut Coffee, Maple syrup, and a case of their Bavarian Wheat Beer.

Back on the road I took I-24 into Kentucky. Kentucky and Indiana were the worst states driving. Not so much for the roads but for the weather. I knew I’d be in for some rain, but I never expected tornadoes to be part of the equation. I finally gave up on trying to listen to the radio as it was just one storm alert after another. The tornado warnings did me no good, as they go by counties. How could I know what county I was driving in?

There were times the rain was so intense I was down to 45 mph with the four ways flashing. I knew conditions were bad when the trucks did not fly by me. When the tornado sirens sounded I got scared. Ever so slowly I drove out of the rain and the sky stayed a lead gray with low hanging clouds. The only clue this was not a chill November day was the faint hint of green in the trees.

I’m truly spoiled with my Garman now. It is such a convenience to not have to drive and look at a map at the same time. That little screen shows what the speed limit is and how fast you are driving so keeping to the limit is so easy. I no longer fret about missing a turn or street sign.

Driving to Warrensburg, IL I had to take a lot of secondary roads. These can be so dangerous: being able to give full attention to traffic and road signs can be a lifesaver.

I arrived to pick up the sign right at 4:45 p.m. some 620 miles from home. This hunk of cast iron is better in person: I’m very pleased. I settled up with Tony and we loaded the beast into the bed of the truck. My next stop was Decatur, IL some eight miles distant.

Cities of this size and location usually lack a Motel Six. I went for the big time and booked a room on-line at the Comfort Inn. I liked the fact a Texas Steak House was just across the road. Outback is my favourite restaurant chain, but Texas Steak is a pretty much in the same league.

Got cleaned up some, put a couple Trader Joe’s wheat beers on ice and headed to supper. Things were not too terribly busy. I settled in at the bar and had a tall Shock Top beer and some hot rolls and butter in no time. My meal tonight was Caesar Salad, small New York strip steak, and fries covered with cheese and bacon. I ordered my steak rare and smothered in onions.

When the steak came out it was totally covered in onions and a small additional bowl of onions was on the side! I was in onion heaven!! It was all so good! When I’m on the road like this it is always more fun to sit at the bar and interact with the bartenders and others. People are a lot more open and relaxed at the bar.

Back at the hotel I was able to shift the sign into the cab of the truck. I really doubt anyone would take the thing from the truck bed, but with the investment I have in it I’m not going to tempt fate! That drive did me in. One beer in the room and I was dead to the world. This boy slept good…..

Today, Thursday April the 7th the phone rang at 5:20 a.m. The conversation went as follows:

Phone: RING RING!!!!!

Jamie: Hey Debbie, I’ll be all set to walk when you get here.

Other end: This isn’t Debbie…..

Jamie: Who is this????

Other end: Let me put Hunter on…..

Hunter: Jamie, are you going to cox today?

Jamie: I’m coxing Thursday. Today is Wednesday…

Hunter: No Jamie; today is THURSDAY…..

Jamie: Oh ***k!!! I’ll be right there!!!

I don’t know what happened to Wednesday. The last thing I remember is this bright green light that enveloped my truck and a little man with pale skin and large elongated eyes who poked needles all over my body…….. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mend and Make Do

It was the early fall of 1972 I signed on to the midnight sort at United Parcel Service in Lancaster, PA. Working nights loading the delivery trucks on the line and “hogging” in the trailers necessitated having warm rugged clothes. Champion Apparel had a “real” outlet store in Perry, NY. The clothing they sold was true factory rejects. My favourite basketball jersey from that store had a big 16 on the front and a 17 on the back! That shirt drove people crazy when I used to wear it!

It so happened I was home in Lockport, NY before I started that job assignment. My mom, dad, good friend Toni, and I made the 55 mile trip to Perry, NY so I could stock up work clothes. We left early on a bright Saturday morning, driving through the Alabama swamps, the city of Batavia, and the rolling farmland till we reached Perry, NY.

Whenever we made this excursion we would have breakfast at “The Hole in the Wall” restaurant located in the heart of the village. This place was famous in they would always give a serviceman or woman their meal for free if they were in uniform. That tradition began during WWII. My metabolism was off the charts back then. I can still remember the look from my dad when I ordered bacon, eggs, homefries, and a side stack of hotcakes for my meal. I ate every bite!

Going to an outlet store was a big deal back then; I made the best of this opportunity stocking up with lots of heavy sweat pants and heavy sweatshirts. I have two of those sweatshirts remaining from that trip I can still wear. They are so battered and worn I only use them for the really messy jobs I don’t want to risk my better clothes on.

Working on the Graphophone mainsprings this past weekend was one such job where I was wearing the Temple University Football shirt. The cuffs were so ragged even I had to admit they made the sweatshirt unwearable. I did a laundry of my nastiest work clothes Monday. The grease washed out really well from that old sweatshirt; I could not bear to rip it into rags.

Google searches for “sweatshirt knit cuffs” led me to a discussion board. It was suggested that the elastic tops of socks can make perfect cuffs. What a great idea! It was easy to find a pair of socks with the bottoms pretty much worn through to use.

It was easy work to sew the sock-tops to the sweatshirt sleeves. I should be able to get at least another ten years wear out of that garment!

the shreds of the original cuffs and the new "sock cuffs"

This aspect of my life I can’t make sense of. I’ve made playing the “miser” into an art form. But, truth be told, I can get a comparable sweatshirt at the thrift store for a few dollars any time I want. Hell, I can even go to the “yuppie stores” and pay top dollar if I were so inclined. It is not the money aspect. Whenever I wear those old sweats I think back to when they and I were young. The memorable trip with those I cared about that early fall morning to Perry, NY: Working on the loading docks at UPS, doing chores around my first house in Lockport and now my home in Alabama. I always have happy memories wearing those worn out clothes. It is also a good way to annoy people… I’ve got ammo for years now harping on how to make use of worn out socks!!!

Friday, August 22, 2008

More Aggravation

Thursday, July 03, 2008

One step forward, two steps back. It is times like this I wonder why I put myself into the situations I do. Yesterday morning the double mainspring assembly arrived along with the needed fixings that will allow me to install it to my machine. I think the easiest comparison would be to think of the main platform that supports the motor assembly as to a basic automobile body that can take many forms. By switching out a mounting bracket and some gearing, a single spring motor can be improved to a double spring.

After I unwrapped the parcel I did a quick switch out to see if the springs were intact. It appeared the hooks on the arbor were disengaged from the spring. Opening the spring barrels I discovered the ends of the springs were all mangled. SHIT!! I had to say it.

The mainsprings had to be removed anyway, only now I’ll have to install new holes and reshape the inner spring coils. This loss of material will also shorten the running time a bit: This was aggravation I did not need. There was not much choice in the matter. Once removed from the spring barrel, the mainspring was uncoiled and clamped to a board. The end with the damaged section was heated with a torch to take the temper out of the steel that will allow the shears to cut the now “soft steel”. This end section was again annealed. Lay out blue was painted onto the end and the outline of the pear shaped hole was scribed. This was drilled and filed out. I can’t make any further progress until the graphite arrives and I can install and grease up the springs.

The new grill cloth has been glued into place and looks wonderful. One aspect of this job at least progressed without trauma!

A fast road trip looks to be in my future next week. The guys who have been salvaging the bricks from the Dixie Highway down in Florida are closing up shop. I contacted them and it looks like I’ll make one last brick run. I need a brick project after all this phonograph aggravation. I’ve missed my “brick road trips”. As much as I like travelling with Billy, he is not a Dairy Queen fan. When I’m on the road I need to have my “Blizzard Fix”. I know where all the Dairy Queens are on my route!

I’m not that far from Billy’s new home getting these bricks…but…. he and Linda will be in Ft Meyers for the next two weeks! It looks to be just a fast trip down and back.

It looks to be a lazy 4th of July tomorrow. If all goes as planned I’ll bicycle over to Debbie’s and the crew will spend the day lounging around her pool. It is so hard for me to think back and realize it will be 12 years ago this week I put in the purchase offer for my house. I know I’ve mentioned before how I’m judging things by decades now!! I want to keep it at that!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Pot Metal Headaches

The dirty gearing and oil tubes. The pot metal yoke it the gray part on the right.

Friday, July 04, 2008

To Hell with high gas prices! I need bricks. The way things now look I’ll be on the road to Jacksonville, FL for a fast “brick run” next Wednesday. I want to get away from the fussy never-ending headache mechanical work I’ve been doing. It is crazy for me to bitch so. I mean this crap I’m working on was never meant to be still in use some 80 years after it was marketed. The fact this stuff is still serviceable is testament to how commonplace quality used to be in everyday lives years ago.

Until the flake graphite is delivered for the spring barrels I have to do other servicing to the motor. Thursday involved cleaning the old dried oil from the gearing. My ultrasonic cleaner does a good job on this nasty chore. Edison equipped this style motor with “oil tubes”. These were easily accessible where-by oil was fed into these tubes and it was delivered to important lubrication points. The end of these tubes had a felt type material that regulated the flow of oil. After 80 years this material is hard as a brick hardened from old oil. This material had to be drilled out of the tubes, a real pain in the butt job.

While cleaning the gears I realized the “yoke” holding the felt pads that regulate the motor speed was frozen. Again I have to say “SHIT!” Out of the entire motor assembly this one integral piece was cast of pot metal. It shows all the classic signs of “exploding”: cracks and fissures over the entire assembly. Any force to free this up will cause this cheap casting to crumble. The post this rotates on is riveted in place. Using a small escapement file I’m able to file the top of the rivet off. Then ever so carefully I tap on the center of this post with a punch to remove it from the housing. Just the tapping set up enough of a force to let loosen up each side of the yoke. One side flew onto the workbench, the other landed on the floor. SHIT!

There was good to come out of this. I moved that shaft just enough to free up the frozen yoke. The broken pieces were large and easy to work with. Thank God for JB Weld. The pieces were epoxied back into place yesterday. This morning I cut out supports out of copper that were scabbed onto the back of this yoke with the miraculous JB Weld. Tomorrow I’ll add more supports to the front of the yoke just to be sure. That will hold for my lifetime!

Soon as I post this it is time to head over to Debbie’s. The entire crew is supposed to meet there and lounge around the pool. I need a day off from the aggravation I’ve been putting myself through. Being “Green” now I going over on the bicycle. It is getting to be a habit now of riding everywhere….

A Happy 4th to everyone!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Mushroom Effect

The Mushroom Effect
Tuesday, July 01, 2008

There is a term in house restoration called “the mushroom effect”. I think I’ve touched on this subject before. It is when a minor project evolves into a huge undertaking. That is what I’m in the middle of. UGH!!

This current phonograph restoration project was SUPPOSED to be just a cleaning up of the case and installing a new grill cloth. WRONG! The reproducer rebuild required a new diamond stylus. This was easy enough to order. But, to fit onto this late style head I needed to install a hook underneath the needle that attaches to a small tension spring. Again that is no impossible task.

Before electronics entered the sound reproduction scene, the sound waves recorded into the record groove were recreated mechanically. The Edison system utilized a “hill and dale” method where-by the record groove went “up and down” as opposed to the “lateral” method where the sound waves were recorded going "side to side" used by Victor and the other major record producers. A parallel comparison to this would be the battle between Beta and VHS video tape systems in the 1980’s. Technically Beta was the better system (as was "hill and dale), but because of poor marketing and business decisions by Sony it eventually lost out.

*I have to interject here… my good friend Donald was one of the first people I knew to have a tape system. He used to say..”Oh, I have a Betamax!” Talk about dated. Today, that sounds almost as obscure as me saying, “I have a Victrola!”

The needle in the groove transfers the information to a diaphragm which vibrates and is then amplified through a horn. That is the reason for the old records rotating at 78 rpm. That surface speed generated enough energy to the needle to properly recreate what had been recorded. In the Edison system for his disc players a woven silk link is used to connect the needle to the diaphragm.

After nearly 80 years these linkages are getting pretty worn and frazzled. (Hey that sounds like me!!) On this particular reproducer I’m working on, the link was almost broken through. A little bit of super glue is just what the doctor ordered. That repair worked fine until I happened to twist the damn thing installing the needle, where by it just snapped off.

Pretty much my Sunday was spent dismantling the diaphragm assembly and making up another linkage. It was pretty much one frustration after another. This aggravation is a reminder to me why I refuse to take work in from other people!

I worked out a system to where I first drilled out the fabric from the old linkage. From there I was able to open up the crimped housings and fish a new piece of woven material through. Through researching various message threads on a restoration site I learned the perfect replacement “string” can be obtained from “decorator tassels”. I have only one of those annoying things that came with a novelty music box I purchased a long time ago. Crazy as it sounds, it worked perfectly!

That was pretty much my Sunday.

Monday morning was spent at the bench making up the connector linkage for the diaphragm. A tiny threaded rod is screwed into an ivory button and then shellacked into place. I had one snap in half when I attempted to remove it. Nothing left to do but make up another one. It is not like you can go to a hardware store and buy any of this crap! Working under such tiny close tolerances is very draining. Figuring out the techniques with nothing to go by can be very frustrating. The next one I have to make will be much easier! Once it was done, I walked away from the bench. You have to know when to quit!

The double mainspring assembly should be here soon. It will be so nice to work with big things again! Everything is going to get torn apart, then cleaned and regreased/oiled. The best mainspring grease is 40% flake graphite and 60% Vaseline. I stopped at an auto parts store figuring if any place would even know what graphite was they would. They had never heard of flake graphite.

Once again I was saved by the internet. I have two pounds of #2 Flake graphite en route to me. I figure it is cheaper to pay the shipping over driving untold miles and getting aggravated. I get so tired of the pained looks I get trying to track down things nobody has ever heard of!

This morning I’ll apply a coat of oil finish to the phonograph case to see if I can breathe some shine into that alligatored finish. It all cleaned up pretty nice, but it was a junky/cheap cabinet to begin with, so I’m not expecting miracles!

Then I have to be in Greensboro for a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. My good friend Buck lost his son Edward last week. Edward was only 36, but let’s just say he had problems that cut his life short. Buck had told friends he had written him off years ago and been expecting his death for some time. That is so sad, but people have to take responsibility of their lives.

Enough of this sad and depressing stuff… time to feed the birds, fix my last cup of coffee, and then work on that cabinet…..