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; 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.