Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My First Katana

Five days before Christmas I decided to make a Japanese samurai sword as a gift for a 10-year old.

For anyone attempting to do this I am eternally indebted and can't recommend highly enough the video series from DAPiratecaptain, Wooden Katana Tutorial. I unfortunately didn't have the time to make all the various components of the sword the way he demonstrates,  And while it was my first attempt and many mistakes were made, I nonetheless have four alternative methods to DA's that I would like to share


For the Katana I wanted to mimic the folded steel with the wooden analog, lam ination.  I also wanted the blade to be stong but light. .  I chose to make it out of  two thin pieces of maple bonded to a walnut core.

Finished, but unpainted blade.

The process for making this was to first bond a strip  of walnut 1/4" to 1/2" thick, to a chunk of maple. I first cut off a 1/2" piece of the maple to use as the other side of the blade.Once the glue has set (Tightbond 3 is 24 hours), I ran the strip through a table saw to get it down to 1/8" or less (as shown below)..

Walnut bonded to maple.  I thought the width of the walnut was closer to the 2" of the maple.  If I'd had more time I would have laminated two pieces of walnut together to make up the gap.  As it was, this left me with not enough width to get the full curvature I was after.

I then ran the whole thing through a planer, walnut edge up, to take it down to its final dimension.  I was aiming for 1/16th, but it might be a hair less.  I then glued the reserved piece of maple to the walnut (reversing the maple so that the warping forces would be counteracted).

After it was bonded, I ran the whole thing through the table saw to get the maple down to rough final dimensions.  Then the whole thing through the planer to get the blade down to the final thickness.

This produced a light, stiff, tough blade that was not initially as straight as I'd expected, but after much sanding the blade seems to be stabilizing.


The compound blade can withstand a lot of torque.  To get the edge I placed or clamped a full sheet of sandpaper to the bench, placed my left hand on the blade applying force as if I were trying to keep the blade parallel to the paper.  In the photo my right hand is twisting the blade counter-clockwise toward the sandpaper creating a very low angle and hopefully a uniform edge.

Since the blade is hardwood it takes a large grit and a lot of work to get an edge.  I think I started with 6o, then 100, 150, 220, 600.

For the habaki, I used a scrap bit of 1-1/4" plumbing pipe.  It's chrome, but that comes off to reveal the brass and is easily polished.   I simply squeezed it in a vice till it formed an oval of roughly the right dimension.  Then I cut off the excess from one end and squeezed it into place.


The saya is made in the 3-part method with a top, a bottom with the middle being a cutout using the  blade as a pattern.  However,  I prefer to glue the middle to one side, shape it and then cover it up instead of gluing all three pieces at once..  This has several advantages:
  1. You can visually see the edge margin when getting down to the final form. 
  2. There is the opportunity to sand the interior before final fitting.
  3. The top can be cut to near the exact final dimension.

The sward is visible in the background.  The cutout is glued to the bottom piece of wood.  Wax paper is then laid over top and the cutout placed back in the center.  The glue won't stick to the wax paper.



Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Shop, New Bench

When Alice and I were shopping for a house one of my criteria was a refuge for myself.  Of course, I have my "Fortress of Solitude"in the country, but that won't last for ever. And so I've been busy converting the garage into a workshop.

In the basement of the house we purchased together some 3 years ago  now, we found this:

The top being made up of 3 chunks of vertical grain fir about 3-1/2" thick, 11 inches wide and 7-1/2'long.

They have become this:

The planks have been planed down to exactly 3.5" giving them a new surface and making them the same height as my compound miter saw (which sits in the gap between slabs.  With the 2-foot runout on the end the bench is just shy of 9 feet.

If it looks unsteady it isn't.  Although I plan to add cross bracing, the whole frame is clamped together using just three 1/2-inch threaded rods. The tension keeps everything quite rigid and the weight of the fir is substantial.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

US Navy Searchlight Update: The Signal Shutter

I am just now finding the time to work on the last and most difficult part of this restorvation; the signal shutter.  I found the unit with only the center actuator shaft and most of the signal lever components, but not a single shutter or critical hinge component.

Thanks to the work of  Chris Hunter. Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. Schenectady Museum: Suits-Bueche Planetarium (GE's corporate headquarters), I received this close up photo of the shutter.

It appeared to me that the small hinged parts are cast.  As you can see the design uses the shutter itself to support the side hinge plates "paddles"(also cast?).   The end pieces rotate in the brass cylinders visible from the exterior.

I had a different idea; to run shafts across the entire width and hang the shutters on the shafts.  My reasoning was to make the action as light as possible.  By hanging the shutters I could relatively light aluminum instead of steel.  And since I am not normally one who works with metal or has any metal working tools, the softer the metal the better.

Still, the problem of the cast hinges remained.  I landed on the idea of making my version out of two halves of extruded aluminum angle.

Full size stencils of the hinges glued to the aluminum angle.

One rough pair with the four mounting holes drilled.  A second pair is in the 
makeshift jig.  Well at least if the holes aren't all square at least they are the same.

Each pair (there are eight of them) took up to an hour to make... and they are not even done yet.

A rough cut pair foreground and a rough finished pair background.
There are four sets each side of center, but the center one is different (almost like a butterfly valve0.  From the photos it is clear that the shutters are all in the same plane when closed.  My solution meant the upper and lower shutters would be on different planes.  How to construct the middle piece was something I had been struggling with.  I decided to build the 8 pieces and then use them as a physical model of the problem.

This I did and a solution popped out rather quickly.  It's not like the original, but it is sturdy and simple.  I mocked it up and eventually had enough pieces to see if it worked.  It does as the video shows.  It's a bit noisy and loose, but then again it's not complete or final yet... but this was a major hurdle overcome..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alice's First Marathon

To view full screen "View on YouTube" and click the full screen button.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Civil War

Campbell has moved on to the Civil War and therefore so have I.

A 90-degree pipe elbow (45 shown), a stick of cherry wood, an old belt, some paint and time...


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Patio or What I Did on Alice's Vacation

While Alice and her son traveled for 2 weeks, I tackled a 31-item to-do list.  By far the biggest task was redoing the patio and yard area. We had the old concrete patio and its aluminum awning removed after we bought the house, but had done nothing since.  Well, two weeks and 5 tons of stone later...

One yard of gravel in the driveway; then a ton of tumble blue stone; followed by 1.5 yards of sand under the blue tarp.

The red pavers were part of over 100 such pavers that we collected from various places around the property.

 Alice enjoys a book on the new patio.

 The restored Franklin Stove sits in its own pagoda.  Still looking for a bargain on an 8"chimney.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and the Future of Apple: Is Past Prologue?

I was backstage with Steve at the MacWorld Expo 1996 fiasco during which, then CEO, Gil Amelio, rambled on for some 2 hours of a planned 1 hour product intro.  It was Steve's triumphant return to Apple (Apple having purchased his company, Next, to provide the future operating system for Mac.  I didn’t' speak to Steve.  We were both waiting for our respective, much delayed queues to join Gil onstage.  Days earlier he had done his own private rehearsal sans Gil.  Gil had shown up late to the rehearsal with a huge entourage, done a cursory sniff at the demos, didn't rehearse his own slides and left.

Moments before Gil went on stage live that day, his handlers were still  frantically updating his slides.  It was a disaster.  The more so because the graying, geriatric, portly Mr. Amelio had donned a "hip" Nehru style jacket for the occasion. It was immediately clear that Steve had nothing but disdain for Gil and not long after Gil was gone and Steve was CEO.  Next might have been the ultimate Trojan horse.

As for myself, I left on sabbatical while this took place (3 months sabbatical, 3 months vacation).  Then I left Apple.  I was done after 7  years there, and as I say, as an atheist, I couldn't work for Steve.

In essence I was there for the Dark Years when Steve was in exile.  Possibly the culture is different now; possibly the fact that Steve can't return to the helm again (there can be only one second coming) will mean that Apple can survive without him.  I have my doubts. 

The problem with Apple without Jobs was that everyone cared so passionately about Apple that they were willing to die for their idea of what the right thing to do was.  When I was at Apple, Apple was doing everything - no focus. Infighting, turf wars and subterfuge were rampant.  Apple was doing too little with too much for too long.  And this is not merely a picture of Apple I'm drawing from a rear view image.   Here's a fake press release I emailedaround in 1993 as rumors Jobs might return swirled (He would not return until 1996). 
Apple had become captive to "speeds and feeds" and shoving products out the door to satisfy the needs of big retailers.  They had become the customers instead of the end-users.  As evidence of how tightly wound the company was, I was nearly fired on day 3 of my employment there after I sent around a fake press release about "RISCBoy"

A Steve Jobs was needed, because only a god can herd cats.  Only a god can have the last word. Only a god can put the fear of god in you.  Sure, you say, many religions survive the death of their leader.  Yes, but they all have bibles.  Steve didn't leave any bible or tablets or scripture of any kind that I'm aware of. 

There are some parallels to the situation the company was in when he was removed in 1986.  Thriving on a new creation, (the Macintosh then, the iPhone now); under hand-picked leadership (Sculley then, Cook now), with a proprietary architecture and a closed system that is rapidly losing market share to a copy-cat rival (Windows on clone PCs then, Android now).

100 years from now will Steve Jobs name be as familiar as Thomas Edison's?  Or will he and Apple Computer, Inc. be a footnote, like the Packard car company or Atari? 

Did Steve live up to his own admonition to John Sculley not to "sell sugar water for the rest of your life?"  Did the dream of the "computer for the rest of us" morph into "the computer for the' best of us'" flanked by a myriad of expensive technobaubles?  

Don’t get me wrong,  I owe a lot to Steve and Apple Computer.  I bought my first Mac (a "fat" Mac with an astounding 512 KB of RAM a floppy and no hard drive.  It and a dot-matrix printer set me back $3600.  I became an evangelist, introducing Macs into an IBM environment at work and insisting on giving computers to everyone (thus enabling e-mail communications and a whole new level of productivity).  I was just like the guy in the ads of the time and some of the ads I could recite word for word.  "...mass production give ordinary people access to powerful technology... that which was affordable to the few becomes available to the many... the industrial revolution meets the Age of Enlightenment."

I longed to work for Apple and in 1990 I got my opportunity joining the high-end Mac group (I chose Mac over printers & monitors and Newton).   We worked long and hard.  We loved what we did.  We had fun.  I don't think we were pompous or arrogant (we were too smart for that), but we were elitist and impatient.  And in the end I lost my religion coming to see Apple as just another company selling products.  To be sure, a company more akin to Bang & Olufsen than Ford, but a corporation nonetheless. 

Jobs was creative and an innovator, but not an inventor or, I think, a person of truly historic significance.  Try this thought experiment.  What would the world be like if there had been no Steve Jobs or even if Steve Jobs had not returned to Apple?  For many people they might say their lives would not have been as rich, interesting or fun.  But what about life in general?  Would the personal computer not exist?  The mouse?  Handheld digital music players? Smart phones? Tablet computers?  Would creative people have failed to adopt digital technology?  Remember for all that Apple did, it didn't make or popularize digital SLRs, GPS units, Kindle, video games, DVRs, ATMs, Web browsers, Search engines or a thousand other product areas it might have explored.

In the end I believe the postscript shall be, Apple was Jobs and Jobs was Apple.  Steve caused to be created uncompromising versions of the products that he himself wanted; and a lot of people wanted those products too.  Will people want the products that Tim Cook wants?  Does Tim Cook know what he wants?  Do other people, especially those within Apple care what Tim Cook wants the way they cared or more aptly believed in what Steve wanted?  Or will they all want for Apple the products that they themselves want?  If history repeats itself, then the latter is a likely scenario.


I joined Apple on October 21, 1990.  At that time Apple was just about ready to release the Mac IIfx with its powerful Motorola 040 CPU.  But Apple feared that they would be blown out of the water, eclipsed by Intel delivering a RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) CPU.  The same technology that Apple would introduce years later as PowerPC.

On  my second day at work, amused by the angst, I concocted the fanciful press release below and sent it out to our small group of product managers on Apple's internal mail system Applelink.

What you have to know about Applelink is that it showed who had forwarded your message and to whom it had been forwarded; a feature impractical today, but something I've often wished I still had.

When I arrived the next morning my phone message light was blinking. I picked up the phone and listened to the message.  It was from CEO John Sculley's office wanting more info on RISCBoy immediately.

I checked Applelink and to my horror I saw that the message had been forwarded to a veritable who's-who of Apple at the time (you can see who in the "to addresses" of my terse reply)

I called my boss, Mark Orr, over.  I think he felt somewhat responsible having forwarded the message up the chain.  To his credit he suggested the reply, which I sent immediately and never mentioned it again.

But my reputation at Apple was instantly set.

And so, for the first time I am posting the RISCBoy press release of October 1990.


Item forwarded by MARK.ORR to MANSER2 FRIEDMAN 3    CHEUNG.HL

Item 7502546 24-Oct-90 09:58PDT
From: AUERBACH.M Auerbach, Marc

BARNETT.T Barnett, Ted

CASANOVA Casanova, Frank

B.COOPER Cooper, Brian

DYER1 Dyer, Wayne

EBERT1 Ebert, Karen

GOINS Goins, Bill

KEAST.B Keast, Brodie

LOUCKS1 Loucks, Brian

MARK.ORR Orr, Mark

VITO Salvaggio, Vito

SMILEY Smiley, Brian

DARLING Darling, Scott

Sub: Nintendo Press Release
Torrance, CA -(UPI)- In its quest to bring ever increasing levels of realism to the world of video games and broaden its product line, Nintendo of America, Inc. today announce RISCBoy. Set for delivery to retailers by November 14, 1990, RISCBoy promises to bring a whole new world of graphic display and audio capability to the video game market.
RISCBoy follows closely on the heals of Gameboy, which was targeted at both the traditional video game market of 10 to 17 year olds, and in a series of TV commercials to a new market segment of young adult males between the ages of 17 to 28.
Product manager for RISCBoy, Peter Bergstrom, explains, "the successful marketing of Gameboy to a non-traditional base in a slightly older demographic encourage us to extend our reach to an even more powerful game system using a RISC based architecture.

RISCBoy, based on the 16MHz Motorola 88100 chip includes 40MB of DRAM and dedicated 4 MB of VRAM. The unit will be available with a choice of two monitors - 16" and 21" color displays. Each will support up to 1 billion colors on screen, more than 1 color per pixel and use a 112 MHz refresh rate.

The new system will support all existing Nintendo and Nintendo compatible game cartridges but is designed primarily to function with a generation of video games announced for simultaneous release. Titles include:

Super Einstein Brothers - A video game based on the quantum effect of gravity on the space-time continuum.

Genetic Engineer - In which players pit themselves against invading DNA splicers and mutant viruses to protect their double-helix. The fabulous double helix 3D rendering includes the complete genetic map of a glow worm. Additional genetic maps sold separately.

CADman- Challenges up to 4000 players to compete in building any of the world's most difficult engineering structures. Scalable to any level of detail form the mortar in any of the bricks in the Great Wall of China to the wind tunnel simulations of the titanium blades of SCRAMjet hyperspace planes.

The unit comes with 12 joystick ports, a wireless PowerGlove(TM) accessory port. One UltraSCSI(TM) port and game cartridge slot.

Additional accessories include an optional CD-ROM 100 disc changer.

RISCBoy is set to retail at $499 including 16" monitor and 2 wired game control modules.

Nintendo is a worldwide leader in the development and manufacture of video game hardware and software.

Item 9193218 23-Oct-90 10:12PDT

From: AUERBACH.M Auerbach, Marc

SCULLEY Sculley, John

GRAZ Graziano, Joseph

EISENSTAT Eisenstat, Al

SULLIVAN6 Sullivan, Kevin

TESLER Tesler, Larry

SPINDLER Spindler, Michael

CAMPBELL3 Campbell, Bill, CLA

HOLLYWOOD Paul, Daniel

NAGEL Nagel, David

BIRSS Birss, Ed

SELL.J Sell, John

YAMAMURA2 Yamamura, Mike

PERLMAN Perlman, Steve

ENEA1 Enea, Horsce

EILERS Eilers, Dan

FARRAND1 Farrand, Toby

DAVIS Davis, Jim

MARTIN Martin, Hugh

GABLE Gable, Jim

LOUCKS1 Loucks, Brian

TCHAO1 Tchoa, Michael

MANSER2 Manser, Steve

FRIEDMAN2 Friedman, Josef

CHEUNG.HL Cheung, Holeung

HARSLEM Harslem, Eric

MCHENRY2 McHenry, Jack

cc: BARNETT.T Barnett, Ted

CASANOVA Casanova, Frank

DYER1 Dyer, Wayne

EBERT1 Ebert, Karen

GOINS Goins, Bill

KEAST.B Keast, Brodie

LOUCKS1 Loucks, Brian

MARK.ORR Orr, Mark

VITO Salvaggio, Vito

SMILEY Smiley, Brian

DARLING Darling, Scott

B.COOPER Cooper, Brian

J.STAIR Stair, James

Sub: Nintendo Follow up 
It appears that the Nintendo press release attributed to UPI was a hoax. I am investigating further.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mid-Century Modern & Me

Our home in Portland has a basement bedroom and neighboring bathroom that seemed to us to be quintessentially mid-century modern.  Well, it has wood paneling and a tile ceiling with gold flecks in it.  The bathroom is pink and white, tiny and appointed like a railroad car (from the 1950s of course). I've been given me free rein to manage the decor and I have gone (some might say overboard) with the theme.

It's very hard to find a matched set of nightstands so I finally made some.  These are of my own design.  The legs are ready-made.  The over sized handles were found at The Rebuilding Center in a bin, but they shined up nicely.

Likewise I couldn't find a small table and chairs. I ended up buying the chairs ($55/pair delivered)

Again the legs are store-bought.  The construction is very simple and follows the trend at the time to leave the plywood edge exposed.  To keep the thin appearance, here's how the leaves work from the underside.

Finally, the den.  It used to look like this


But now it looks like this, 


The bookcase is featured in this posting A Moving Case for Books.  The floor is painted a chocolate brown.  The 50s style rug form Overstock.com; the coffee table was $22 at an estate sale.  The louvered sliding door to the left was a bargain at the ReBuilding Center.  I think we paid $28 for both of them.  They needed some cleaning up and one of the slats had to be replaced (I fashioned on out of old piece of cedar which matches nearly perfectly).  The sliding track hardware is real barn door hardware salvaged from the farm and restored by me. There is also the vintage stereo featured in the posting de minimis.

And so our visit to the 1950s ends, unless you visit us that is.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

de minimis

As part of our effort to "embrace and extend" our mid-century modern environment in the basement I acquired a vintage Akai receiver for $20 and a pair of very ratty Radio Shack Mimimus-2 speakers for $5.

In this photo I'd already stripped out the drivers and insulation, refinished the cabinets, including paining the faces black.

The young man who sold them told me the speakers had no bass, which I expected.  Speakers age and, like people, become flabby and unresponsive in old age . (Oh, and in addition one of the woofers had a hole punched in it.) But unlike people, you can simply order replacement speaker components from stores like Parts Express.

Proving once again that any Auerbach can turn a sows ear into a silk purse  here is the finished product for $35 in drivers and $5 worth of fine woolen cloth for the grilles (and $20 in shipping and handling!).

I made new grille frames out of scrap plywood; the old particle board ones disintegrated.
(For those who might notice, yes I did replace the original cone tweeter with a dome one.)

There you have it; a vintage sound system for around $80.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

US Navy Searchlight Update: 1000 Watts

Thanks to the work of  Chris Hunter. Curator of Collections and Exhibitions. Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium (GE's corporate headquartes), I have some pretty great drawings of searchlights like the 12G30, but not the 12G30 itself.  Like this one that shows the bulb mounting.

From other sources I suspect that it used a 1000 watt incandescent light.  It's a whopper, and this type of bulb is not available anymore.  To stay true to the idea, I decided to use a mogul 2-pin, G38 base.  It is rated at an astounding 50 amps at up to 1000 volts.  But as the photo below shows below, it's also huge (The G38 base is the white, ceramic block about the size of a pound of butter). 

The base got bigger since the searchlight was first built, but the bulbs have gotten smaller.  Halogen bulbs can put out as much light in less space.  But to keep in the spirit of the original, I decided to order the tallest G38 bulb that I could find.   The result is a Ushio, 1000 Watt, 8" tall Halogen bulb.  Much of that is the ceramic holder (shown above).

The first mounting platform I built had adjustable height and depth, but it was too tall but 2 to 3 inches.

The second version (shown in the photos) gives up height adjustment, but adds depth adjustment during operation.  Being able to move the light source closer or farther from the parabolic reflector narrows or widens the beam spread.

Adjustment is acomplished by the small wheel (the round thing in front that looks like a bicycle gear) connected to a 1/2" threaded rod (actually a sawed off carriage bolt) that drives the sled the G38 base sits on.  There are two slits in the bottom of the searchlight housing.  I'm not sure what they were for(drainage?).  but the wheel drops through one of them to allow adjustment during operation.

And it works:

1000 watts is bright.  Blindingly bright.

In This photo the light is shining through my workshop door and out to a tree about 50 yards away.  I walked down to it and I could have easily read a newspaper or a map by the ambient light.  Once I move it outside, then I'll be able to see how bright it is a half a mile away or more.

Next and final stop' The shutter/signal system.

A Moving Case for Books

Th eback half of our basement in Portland is dominated by a rather new oil furnace.  We wanted to extend the guest area into a dual use family room.  The issue was how to cover up the furnace and still provide service access annually.  I also wanted to continue the 1950s theme, so just putting up a stud wall with a couple of doors to the furnace in it didn't quite measure up.   I thought bookcasaees might do the trick so here, in animation, is my solution.

This is just an animation; a human has to do the work.

And yes, the rolling shelves would be top-heavy if it weren't for the counter weights on th bottom back.

Should Your Next Laptop Bag Be a Bail-out-bag?

The concept of a bail-out-bag is simple. A compact, well organized bag to carry the essential things one would need if one had to evacuate on short or no notice.  I stumbled upon this concept while searching for a new solution to carry my 15" laptop.  In particular, I liked the idea of having a number of discrete pockets to help organize all the things I carry.  I was frustrated with conventional laptop bags that seemed so focused on style and not function; many not even providing a good solution for stowing a laptop power supply.

I became convinced  that a bail-out-bag (or its bigger cousin, the tactical briefcase) would fit the bill; and it does to a tee.  But along the way I ended up buying 4 of them and researching many others.  Here is a matrix of available bags and which size laptops fit in each:

Table of Bail-out-bags by vendor and laptop capacity



Boyt Tactical Briefcase (TAC100)
This is a great bag, well constructed and though out.  It holds my 15" Dell comfortably with plenty of room for documents.  Like most bail-out-bags it also has a secret compartment.  I particularly liked the fact that one of the end pouches is sized for a water bottle and has a drain grommet in the bottom.  Zippers are the primary closure method; all with top-notch pulls.  Zippers are much quieter than Velcro, but many bags  use Velcro extensively.  The only things that would make this bag perfect  In my opinion. are: an even lower price; more specific storage for pens, pencils, eyeglasses etc.; a couple of exposed storage slots and a key chain clip in one of the pockets.


LAPG Tactical Bail Out Bag (Bailoutbag)

This is a great bag, and a huge bargain as it is often on sale for $19.95.  It was so close to being able to fit my 15" laptop that I tried modifying it a little to squeeze it in.  If you own a 14.1" or an iPad, this may be your bag.  The only negative is that Velcro is the primary means of closure except for the zippered main compartment.  Even if your laptop doesn't fit it would make a great 35mm camera bag, an emergency kit bag, or, er, well....a bail-out-bag.  Too bad LA Police Gear only makes a jumbo version and not one in the middle of the line up.

As a side-note, bail-out-bags, having a military or quasi-military origin, all have room on them for an identifying patch.  This is my favorite one, and the one I display on my bag.

LA Police Gear Jumbo Bail Out Bag (LAPG-1119Jumbo)

When I couldn't get my laptop into the regular LA Police Gear I ordered their jumbo version.  I knew from the dimensions it would be big, but I hoped not too big.  It was.  It's better suited to a 17".  Like  the regular version it's a real bargain at $29.95.  Again, warning on the use of Velcro.  If you have to open a pocket during a meeting, everyone will know you are opening a pocket.

Airsoft Utility Briefcase Shoulder Bag (AS1674)

I was so excited when I stumbled across this bag as an accessory item in the Hong Kong Airsoft Club's online store..  On paper it seemed to be the missing middle bag that LA Police Gear should have made.  At $34.99 it was priced right (but shipping from HK brought it up over $50).  I was so disappointed when I received it.  I had the LA Police Gear products side-by-side with it and other than it's desirealbe size it was lacking in every other dimension.  The material was lightweight and floppy.  The bag wouldn't hold its shape.  The stitching an general construction was inferior.  The pull tab were no more than bits of shoe-laced size rope; some not tied and none heat treated to keep the ends from fraying.

Friday, August 12, 2011

U.S. Navy 12G30 Searchlight Restovation: Getting My Bearings

The searchlight body sits in a yoke that permits up and down motion.  I was surprised to to find this accomplished via a set of ball bearings. 

Below left is the new bearing (Nice) and to the right, one of the two old ones; the one that survived intact..  One can clearly see written on it, "Hoffman," Made in England" and "ULS SE".  I was amazed to find that these numbers could still be cross-referenced to a modern replacement pair. 

The bearing mounted in its hub with a new nut retaining it.

The hub cap installed.  I used acorn nuts; they are more decorative and also cover what would otherwise be an exposed bolt end.  I can't recall what was in the center of the hub (I think either nothing or just a bolt), but I added the grease fitting

Saturday, July 30, 2011


The Story of Ravenswood
eep in the thickest part of the thickest forest in the land a mighty walnut tree grew. For a thousand years it stood.  And for more years than people could remember it was home to a single raven.  A raven of uncommon size and beauty.  Cunning, swift and powerful, it lorded over the forest from the highest vantage point of the ancient walnut tree, warning those who ventured near with a booming, raucous, “CAAW.  CAAW.  CAAW.”

                Not so long ago, as the Earth reckons it, there came a fierce storm.  The mighty walnut and its ebony winged sentinel, swayed to and fro, lashed by the gale-force winds and pelted by rain that rushed horizontally at them.  They nonetheless stoically endured as they had many times before; the raven gripping the tree with its oversized talons and the tree gripping the earth with its gnarled roots.

The trees demise came suddenly.  A bolt of lightning so large Zeus himself must have hurled it.   The tree shivered from top to bottom and then in reverse exploded in flame as a concussive thunder clap peeled through the forest.  The tree was split asunder and its two halves fell to either side with cracking, wrenching groan that ripped through the forest and was heard in villages more than a day’s walk away.  And yet above the sound of pouring rain, over the fury of the racing wind, louder than heaven’s cannon bursts of thunder came a plaintive and final “CAAW. CAAW. CAAW.”  For the Raven flew off, ringed in an electric-blue glow, and was not seen in those parts ever more.

                On examining the remains of the great tree, it was discovered that the knot of the largest limb (the hardest part of this already hard wood) had been shattered.  To the discerning eye, in the mass of kindling-sized sticks, there sat, fully formed, a certain number of wands of the highest caliber.   It is one of these rare objects that sits before you now.

                Mysteriously, as these wands came into possession of their rightful owners, there would be found, inside the sealed box, a single raven’s feather.  A mystery since no such feather was placed there by the wand merchant.  In time, as stories of the wand’s ability to foreshadow imminent danger emerged, the feather came to be understood as a sign from the great raven.  That he travelled the earth still, ever the ebony-winged sentinel for his friend, the giant walnut tree and all that remained of it on earth; the wands.

                This special wood is referred to now as “Ravenswood”.  Handle it with care, use it with noble purpose, know its innate strength and be guided by its inner voice; that of the great raven.