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Site news archive - August 2017 (Click here for current)

2017 August 31



Fujichrome Velvia 100 (35mm)

When a mower engine gets sluggish while you're mowing, there are a whole bunch of different things that can actually cause it. You mow over some tall grass and it almost can't mow it, the engine rpm's drop, etc... is it something wrong with the carburetor?  That's one of many things it could be. (Could even be that it's getting too much fuel in the mixture, meaning the air filter might just need replacement.)

At this stage I don't know for sure what's causing it; a bent crankshaft is another possibility. It could be bent without looking that way at all (use a dial indicator to check, after you have the blade removed and the spark plug disconnected).  Another possibility is ignition timing which has gone off because of a sheared flywheel key. This reason is really common. Anything that stops the mower blade or abruptly slows it down can cause the key to shear off, even though the mower will still "sort of" run.

2017 August 25

Metal & Shop

Old Worktable

Original Fujichrome Velvia (expired)

This worktable was put together with some bad welds, by the looks of them probably 6011 on an AC machine.  What's remarkable is that it's rock-steady even with the ugly welds.

As for the film, it might take a separate article to describe why I think this effect happened.  I've never seen it happen before, and I don't think it was the camera.

Here's one from the same kind of film, but this one has the normal color:

Contemplation of a Weld Project, View 1

Original Fujichrome Velvia (expired)

This one is part of a mini-series on some iron that's still slowly rusting away, because I'm not sure what electrode to try welding these with.  Cast iron to cast iron-- or is one of them cast steel??-- could be a job for 1/8" Nomacast (short for "Non-machineable cast iron").  Or perhaps even nickel 55, which needs preheat / post-heat.  But I still haven't ruled out 7018, because so far I've had mostly good results with it on cast iron.

Speaking of which: couple quick updates to the 7018 Welding Rods article.  Once you find the right 3/32" electrode for a 120-volt welder, the performance can be surprisingly good. 

2017 August 22


You can see this has a tuner, integrated amp, equalizer, dual cassette deck, and CD player. A reader wants to know, is this any good, and what's a value on it?

Just a few offhand comments, because I'm not familiar with this particular system, though I think I've used ones similar to it. "All in one" stereo systems are not like the individual rack components. This one has the look of a component system, but the back is one-piece fiberboard.

From what I've seen over the years, the all-in-ones are not as desirable. They are more difficult to repair, usually, which I think is part of the reason.

That said, most of what TEAC produced in the 1980's is worth having if it works. Good ol' made-in-Japan audio gear. The first thing to check is whether the belts and pinch rollers are easy to replace on the cassette deck. (CD player optics, too). I didn't check parts availability on this one, but you might still be able to get the parts.


I'm learning just how much work it is to weld.  I don't mean the odd repair here and there (and that's work);  I mean building something from steel tubing or angle iron and welding everything together.  My hat is off to you guys who arc-weld pipelines and stuff like that every day.  Welding can be tiring work, and when it's something other than a weekend fun project... sometimes it is anything but fun. 

What makes it about ten times more work is when you don't have quite the right workspace for it. Something made out of 2"x1/8" square tubing gets heavy rather quickly. Soon you can't clamp the thing up on end or at the odd angles that would make welding it a lot easier. I'm starting to understand why pro welders have welding tables that weigh 2,000 pounds, overhead cranes, etc. Steel is just so much heavier and more difficult to work with than wood. I can't remember who said this (probably a few people have said this), but working with steel is not like working with wood. It's not a scaled-up version of woodworking. It's so much different. And more difficult.

There you are welding tubing, and you accidentally use too much amperage or the wrong electrode, and now you've blasted a hole through the steel. And you can't just weld over that with one pass. Now it's a whole repair job unto itself, and by the time you get done, you might have six or seven passes of ugly welds over it. Ugly, because as soon as the foundation is uneven (it's got a big crater in it, dont ya know), the welds that go over it don't go neatly, either.

If you want to astonish yourself with how ugly a weld you can make, just nonchalantly switch to an AC welder after you've been using a nice, easy inverter machine for a while. When I was in practice with an AC welder I was getting pretty good with it. I started to wonder why so many people complained about AC welding machines. But when I picked up AC after a long absence, I had become so inept with it, the thing seems like a clunker. I can't completely blame the equipment, but AC welding is tricky.

Film; Metal & Shop


Kodak Tri-X 400 @ EI 400
Developed in DD-X 1+9

I'm going to make this into something. This photo is part of a series for a new article (soon).

2017 August 17


Reminder to self here: Don't use brand-new headlamp as LED work light (use a real LED work-light instead.) 

I looked at the band and said, "Wow, I already got grease on it."  But then I realized it wasn't grease at all. 

It was the material, melted and carbonized. 

Tech;  Electricity;  Metal & Shop

New Article:  Soldering Heavy Wires and Cables, Part II.  This one has more illustrations and is more of a step-by-step procedure. 

2017 August 15
Tuesday Evening

Tech: Computer

JPG Compression Oddity: The photo for the headlamps article (below) was not displaying correctly; it looked highly pixelated on my screen. I don't know if it was doing that on yours. Other 1000-pixel photos looked OK, and the original one looks OK on my screen... until it was on the web page. And there's nothing different about the code that should make it display any differently than the other 1000-pixel images.

What's also weird is that it looked OK when I tested the page to make sure it looked normal. But today it looked all pixelated. And when I re-uploaded a version with the same compression... it was pixelated in exactly the same way, as if the compression had been set extremely high. But it wasn't; that's the part that doesn't make any sense.

I think I found the problem, but I can't explain it. The exact level of compression for that particular photo was messing it up. One notch to either side and it was OK. But not on that exact setting. No idea why.

2017 August 12-13

Tech - Electronics - Reviews

New Article:  Is One of These The Best Headlamp Ever?  Ah, a bit of hyperbole... or is it?  There are a lot of headlamps out there with many different features, ranging all the way to thousands (yes, thousands) of lumens.  However, there are a couple basic features that headlamp manufacturers quite often overlook.  One of these I mentioned briefly in Shop Tips #4:  Efficiency

Check out the review!

2017 August 10

Metal & Shop

New Article:  DIY Cart Build, Part 2:  Axle, Wheels, and Tires.

Many people who put together their own trailers and carts go for a MIG or flux-core welder.  But if you're going to weld 1/8" metal or perhaps thicker, it's tough to surpass a stick welder.  Sooner or later you'll have to weld outside, where MIG welders can run into problems because of the breeze.  Stick welder, no problem. 

Even this type of welder should be enough for a cart build;  if you're welding 1/8"-wall tubing and you have access to a 20-amp circuit, you're all set to use 3/32" 7018.  And if you don't have a 20-amp circuit, you can easily weld together a cart with 3/32" 6011. 

This evening I worked on a project that involved stick welding sheet metal, and I went between 7018 and 6013 electrodes, both in 1/16".  Love that 7018;  the 6013 made some of the ugliest welds I've done in a while.  I don't really like 6013 electrodes, but it might be more the fact that I was welding thin sheet metal.  Because even the 7018 welds weren't the greatest on the sheet metal. 

Maybe I'll do an article about this later.

2017 August 9

Audio Gear

Someone asked me recently about a Jensen XP 101 loudspeaker unit.  (If he emails me back with the go-ahead, maybe I'll post the pics).  I'm not familiar with the exact model, but it looks to me like the kind of loudspeaker you'd see at a fairground or something.  And it looks like something from the mid-20th Century. 

Actually I've got a couple questions on different pieces of audio gear; will attempt to answer them here when I can.  If you guys are OK with me posting the photos you've provided.

Slide Film

I've been asked if the photo of the Fire Circle Forge used a filter.  That's an interesting question, because this type of scene does have-- or produce-- some special lighting.  And when you have special lighting, sometimes you want to modulate that with a filter.  That one didn't make use of a filter, though.  At least not for image modulation. 

I don't remember how I metered it;  but I am fairly certain I reasoned not to set the background as Zone 5.  A scene like this, approaching dusk, should look like a scene that's approaching dusk, so you don't want it to look like bright day.  On the other hand, if you meter on the brightest areas of the coals, that background would be pitch-black.  So I might have used Matrix metering on that one, or I might have guesstimated somewhere between the brightest and darkest;  but no filter on the lens, except (I think) a Tiffen UV Haze to protect the lens from scratches.

Film Developing

Rusty Iron Pipes, Disassembly Attempt No. 1

Kodak Tri-X 400 @ EI 400
Developed in Ilfotec DD-X 1+9
12 min. 41 sec. @ 71 degrees F
Almost full-strength Kodak Professional Fixer for Film and Paper (mixed 70 grams to 400 ml of solution), fixing time 7 to 8 minutes

Eventually the rust becomes almost like a cold-weld.  I wonder if anything will break it loose when it gets to this stage.  Perhaps many cycles of heat expansion and contraction will help?

2017 August 6

Lawn & Garden Cart

You may be familiar with the cheap cart and all the work I did trying to upgrade it.  It would have made more sense to build a good cart from scratch.  But at the time, I didn't really know how to go about that.  Some people seem to be able to make these things without trying.  There's actually a lot to it, though.

New Article:  DIY Cart Build, Part 1:  The Background.  This is the introductory one:  a look at why the old cart was so bad, and how it might be possible to do better.  It's sort of the groundwork that will help me (and maybe you) choose materials for a new cart build. 

Metal & Shop; Hydraulics

I didn't think the reservoir of a bottle jack was supposed to be pressurized.  But this one was.  Does that mean it had a bad check valve or something??  The instructions for some jacks say to remove that filler plug to let air out.

When the oil filler plug was removed, instantly there was hydraulic oil up in the lights.  Based on this, I would strongly suggest a face shield when working with such things.

Film;  Blacksmithing

As The Sparks Fly Upward

Fujichrome Velvia 50

This was my Fire Circle Forge, which I sometimes refer to as the Exploding Rocks Forge.  That's another story for another time, but now I've been thinking of a more efficient blacksmith forge.  The fire circle forge has one major drawback, aside from the waste of fuel and heat.  That is, it's just an open circle with no bottom.  Why is this bad?  Well, if you get just the right arrangement of firebricks-- or rocks that didn't explode after a long time-- you end up having to move them individually.  And then you hope you get just the right alignment when you put the whole thing back together. 

A forge with a permanent bottom lets you move the whole thing, firebricks and all.  So, if you wanted to elevate the whole container up on blocks or something, you couldn't do that with the fire-circle forge.  But you could do that with a couple other types of forge.

I'm actually working on a solid-fuel forge now;  article soon.

Meantime, I really like this slide film photo, partly because this day the Fire Circle Forge was working fairly well.  The rocks and firebricks were all at just the right angles, etc.  Learning to work a solid fuel forge efficiently is not as easy as it looks.  In fact it's kind of difficult.  But I'm learning.  And one thing I've learned is that a ready-made forge like this one has value, and one reason is that it's got that repeatability.  That's something that can be a little scarce with backyard forges cobbled up out of random scrap.

2017 August 3

Film Developing

A reader says he was going to try pushing Tri-X according to this article, but then realized the film was actually TMax 400. 

First let's skip past the thinking that you "can't really push film";  we've been through this in plenty of depth elsewhere.  I haven't pushed Tmax 400 to ridiculous speeds (> 6400), but I don't see why it wouldn't be possible.  In fact, here's a website that talks about pushing Tmax 400 as high as 25600.

According to some, Tmax 400 (a.k.a. TMY) does not require as much time as Tri-X for an equivalent push.  But I'm thinking it might require more when you start pushing it above 3200.  And it looks like that's what that other photographer found, too.

Here's what I'd probably do.  Just develop the TMax 400 as if it were Tri-X 400.  For 12800, I'd use the 2 hours or 2:20 dev time at 68 F.  If the base fog is drastically elevated, reduce the time on the next roll.  (You can correct base fog more easily in "post" than you can correct details that are simply not there.)  If t= 1x is too long, try t = 0.75x or 0.67x.  But I wouldn't start out with t = 0.5x.

Just an educated guess, though. 

Your results are going to depend on several different things, including the technique and the water you use.  Little things that wouldn't affect the developing at EI 400 will start to make a big difference at EI 12800, I expect.  For example, read this part from the C-41 dev article;  it's also going to apply to B&W developing.


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