Monday, October 22, 2018

Red Dot Tourism

It had been five years since our last real vacation- defined as longer than a week, not visiting family and not involving home improvements. DW and I love bicycling vacations and she had been lobbying gently for one in Europe this summer. Looking at our options, Freewheeling Adventures' Berlin to Copenhagen stood out. Neither of us had been to the Scandinavian countries, Copenhagen is famous for its bicycling culture and it had been 26 years since my initial trip to Germany and 35 years since DW's extended stay there. I had one wee small request- land in Frankfurt for a small side trip to Wetzlar, home to Leica Camera AG and the recently opened Leitz Park. 
My long history with Leica and the transition to digital with the M9 was briefly accounted in https://smortegav.blogspot.com/2013/06/. A visit to the Leica factory was a nerd-sort-of bucket list item going way back. The development of Leitz Park with a nice hotel on the corporate campus, a museum/gallery and store greatly increased it's lure and certainly was a contributing component for my wanting to visit Deutschland. Pitching it in its newly renovated form allowed presenting a 2 day side trip to Leitz Park as tolerable, even attractive, to a normal person-ie DW. She  is much aware of my Leicaphilia and has been a co-dependent of sorts to it (my film Leica MP was a gift from her 14 years ago). She went along with it - a nice hotel and restaurant on campus along with a photo gallery and only an hour and change from Frankfurt.  I focused on that without dwelling on Wetzlar being 4-5 hrs by train to Berlin.
Thus the bicycle tour, plane and hotel were booked. One month prior to departure, the visit to Wetzlar took on an additional purpose.  Leica internet sites had reported that the M10 model had become an optional replacement for M9's with corroded sensors. Leica's less than smooth transition to digital had been tolerated by us old-timers due to the draw of keeping our rangefinder ways while incorporating digital technology. My M9 had worked just fine since the memory card slot malfunction repair that had reduced price to affordable levels (see the 2013 post). I had not assessed it for the corrosion issue partly due to denial and because in its early stages, the defect can only be seen at 100% magnification and was easily fixed in post processing. Unfortunately, if one could not provide proof of sensor replacement, it greatly decreased the value of the camera. Sensor replacement would be time consuming and expensive as the no-charge replacement policy had passed by the time I had been aware of the issue. There was a exchange program subsequently, but the options were not worth it. Subsequent M's had increased in size, had features I didn't need or want, and I just liked the M9's rendering. When the M10 was introduced, the smaller size, improved weather-proofing, live view capability (lenses wider than 28mm are hard to frame accurately on a M9) and much better low light performance outweighed the charms of a CCD sensor. Nine years is analogous to dog years, even worse, in digital camera technology.  Given that the M10 now was a trade-in option, I tested my camera and sure enough there was evidence of corrosion. I was hoping to present the case for a trade in at the factory so I could use the new camera for the remainder of the trip.
The flight to Frankfurt was comfortable and without a hitch. Landing and customs were much faster than anticipated so we were looking at a 3 hour wait for the train to Wetzlar. Fortunately, we were able to exchange the tickets without any hassle for a train that was arriving shortly and were able to arrive in Wetzlar late afternoon on a Sunday. I was hoping that would be the case as the museum/bookstore was closed on Mondays.


It was indeed our good fortune to see that portion of the campus.


 I was able to see some photos I had not previously seen either in reproduced or original form.























Here is a series showing HC Bresson.
On most short lists of GOAT photographers, it's
noteworthy because he hated being photographed.,










The exhibit was an eloquent illustration of  the company's role in photography in the past 100 years both as  witness to the past century and in the evolution of photography as an art form. As above noted DW is not as much of a photo nerd as I am, yet she found it remarkable how many photos she recognized.
 The photos exhibited in the museum and throughout the campus would be revelatory to those perceiving the brand's products as overpriced and obsolete bauble for old rich guys.
We had a very nice and civilized dinner at the hotel restaurant and went for a walk of the campus afterwards. We agreed that the ambiance of the grounds was more than a little clinical- not "warm-fuzzy" at all.



Jet lagged boomers that we were, we were lights out by 21:00.
We were ready and essentially packed up before the hotel restaurant was open for breakfast in order to see the main portion of the park as soon as it was open.







I've been a long time Bruce Davidson fan  and seeing his work on exhibit was another great treat, especially his photos of Los Angeles in the 50's-60's.










 DW was not as psyched about the equipment exhibit; the Y chromosome seems to have the gearhead sequencing. It was great fun to recall all the M models and lenses I've owned through the years.







Then came time to present my case to the service rep. As it turns out it was a very customer friendly experience. He took my word that the M9 sensor was corroded based on my description of the defect.  I would be able to make the purchase there and continue the trip with a new camera. It was so straightforward that I asked for some time to think it over. After taking a walk and conferring with DW who basically said "go for it",  I took a deep breath and returned ready to make the trade. Upon meeting the rep he smiled and said "we have an interesting development". I gulped.  There was a model with a small cosmetic defect that they could offer at a discount. When I saw the defect and heard the amount of the discount, the expense was much more palatable.








With strap and lens minus M9 and waiting for M10.











I left Wetzlar a very happy customer. 
We bailed on the factory tour as the trip by train to Berlin was going to involve four transfers and departures were not frequent from Wetzlar. So we figured we better get cracking.
The trip to Berlin was not as smooth. The Wetzlar station attendants were not fluent in English but were able to get us going to Geissen. There was a 2 hour stopover at Kassel which allowed us to have dinner and people watch.


Then we boarded the wrong train. The train attendant was very nice and reassuring. He changed our tickets and told us the time difference in the revised route would be minimal. We boarded the next train which is where things went worse. Apparently there were repairs needed along the way- we never quite found out why there was a delay as the updates were only in German and it seemed none of our fellow passengers were motivated or able to translate. A 21:30 scheduled arrival to Berlin Hbf turned into a 02:00 one. There was a huge line outside the station waiting for taxis. That went impressively fast given the time of night. We arrived at our hotel at 02:30.
I have to give DW credit for not voicing regrets over our Wetzlar excursion as I would have had it coming. We're old enough to realize that a late but safe arrival is cause to be thankful.  Jet lag compounded by a late and stressful next day did not take away the feeling that the visit to Leitz Park had been worth it.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Pimp My Van Continued

The insulation and paneling mentioned in the previous post made for a quieter vehicle, but it still was a bare bones beast. This-mind you, was what I was looking for.  The excesses SUV's and even pickup trucks came with were irritating on general principle and function. They resulted in vehicles meant to transport people in comfort with screens and cup holders up the wazoo. It's funny how one's prejudices can work against you as I would have never considered a Mercedes Benz to embody utility together with a Spartan sensibility.
So I like bare bones, but not having a place to store stuff out of sight other than a glove box is asking to have your car broken into. Thus I looked for after market storage solutions on Google and in the Metris Forum; none of the solutions fit my needs or aesthetics. The options were a cheap looking metal box designed for file folders or plastic consoles with- cup holders. I wanted something that could store my gym/work bag so that it not be visible from window view. Locks were not needed as if someone broke into the car a padlock would not stand up to a crow bar. So back to the shop.
One of my 2017 woodworking resolutions had been to learn dovetails and this was an opportunity to practice that skill. The BCTW Jointmaker makes the task easier but not by any means fool/newbie proof. A modification specific to the project was to make a taller fence attachment (the purpleheart piece) to hold the panels of the console securely.

 The design had to accommodate an uneven floor, thus the cuts on the left hand side on above photo, and be able to clear the armrest. It should also be able to work as a writing or laptop surface. At the same time sufficiently tall to hold my backpack. Other jigs made themselves useful in the project
My Moxon vise made the fret saw cuts and tracing the tails to make the pins.
It also was invaluable in the glue up of the Cosman wood hinge. This was my third project using this  hinge and, while still having room for improvement, was much better than the previous two.
The La Forge screw jack is one of my favorite woodworking toys- an aesthetically cool object and way useful.

Here it served to help in planning a awkward piece to hold- the part used to wedge the console to the lower part of the dash area

Here is the piece used to secure the console to the front. and another piece as shown below allowed the console to be install without drilling any holes to the interior.

The finished project prior to installation
While not a trunk, there's much more room for concealed storage.
Two weeks later, while filling up at a local gas station, the attendant remarked that my van had a Home Depot smell. More specifically what he was smelling was Watco.


Monday, July 9, 2018

My mom, a cargo van, and the next chapter.

This entry is the second after a  more than year long hiatus. An elaboration of a very brief explanation given in the previous post seems in order prior to continuing hopefully more regular postings. I'm not much on making my private life public, thus this blog has been mostly about my hobbies. The why and the wherefores of what will follow in subsequent posts need the context of the passing away of my mom last year. Like I would imagine is the case for most of us, it was a sea-change event. Anyone who knows me well knows that I was a world class mother's boy. Many of my actions and decisions come by my love of my mom and desire that she stay with me and live on in some way by what I do going to do going forward.
Mom worked her whole life in the Los Angeles Garment District. She worked her way up from piece work to pattern maker- made the prototype from the initial pattern prior to mass production.  In forty some years, she only had three employers. This was despite having to deal with an asthmatic kid  (me) early in her working life- in the era before albuterol and steroid inhalers- who required frequent absences from work.  Aside from the work, what was left behind from that part of her life were her two industrial sewing machines. Toward the last four years of her life, she could no longer use them. None the less, she would not part with the two machines. Despite all practical considerations, they moved with her in her small assisted living room and stayed with her until the end.
Another sad rite of passage is what to do with what is left behind. Newspaper articles, even books are written regarding dostadning. We had already done some of this five years ago when she made the transition from living in her own home to assisted living. All of her belongings were either donated or disposed except a recliner (think Frasier's dad's chair) which sits in my sister's living room and the machines as they were as much a part of her as any material object could be.
We had room for the machines at our home. Further, DW was a pretty accomplished seamstress before she gave that up due to work and family demands on her time. How to get the sewing machines to from LA to Salem was the next step. Family friends kindly offered to store them for a limited time until I could return for them. There were several options involving rental trucks but none were cost or time effective. This brings us to how I came to owning a Metris as that is how they machine found a new home.

A Mercedes Benz had been predicted for me by one of my colleagues at the  LA County Assessor's Office when I left there for medical school. However, John M. foresaw my wife driving it while  I continued to drive the old beaters I was known for. In LA, at least at that time, you were what you drove. One of my supervisors had taken me aside and kind of in jest remarked that I made enough money to get a presentable car as what I was driving was a disgrace to the office.
My Saab had done pretty well as a utility vehicle.
But there was no room for a 4x8 sheet of drywall or plywood. That requirement was a running private joke between DW and I when at car shows over the years. I had ideated on a Ford Transit Connect in the past couple of years although alas it did not have the capacity for 4x8 sheet goods. The price and size otherwise were right, however.
Low mileage Transit Connects were nowhere to be found in several weeks of looking. The local dealers were completely disinclined to negotiate on price- one guy could barely suppress a yawn when presenting his offer. Other small cargo vans were considered "gutless wonders" by their users or not very reliable by consumer ratings. Also, DW was not all that enthused about driving underpowered, high point of gravity, poorly handling and questionable quality vehicles which was her impression of the options I had thus far looked at.
Thus I started looking at Metrises and found a local dealer who was open to negotiating on a low mileage 2016 model. DW wanted rear door windows for visibility. As I could purchase a low miles Metris for the price the dealers wanted for a base level new Transit Connect, it was purchased and we went to L.A. where it came in handy for a number of tasks associated with my mom's memorial service.
I would not have bought a cargo van for that purpose only. When our car acquisition would come up in conversation DW would refer to it as Sal's two seater midlife crisis Mercedes. In a way it an accurate assessment it's role in my life's next chapter will become apparent in subsequent posts.
This project's first stage was posted on Lumberjocks a wood working site.
Soundproofing the interior was not a want but a need as the interior noise qualified as a low level health hazard by OSHA standards. Paying for the paneling and soundproofing is what most owners do. But that would have been boring and expensive. Thus, I made the side panels, ceiling and wheel well covers. 
As they say, when you're a hammer the world looks like a nail.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

La Forge Populaire--> Royale and Another Bookshelf

It's been more than a year since anything's been posted here.  Among the disciplines/hobbies/interests I'm engaged in, blogging is the first activity to go by the wayside when my spare time becomes limited.  Anyway, woodworking/carpentry had also been in a several month hiatus. Another activity, reading had continued. As we like to keep the books we read, at least at this stage of our lives, between DW and I, we ran out of bookshelf space. Adding another bookcase was not an option given our furniture arrangement.
So I added a bookshelf. Simple enough, except when its 12 foot long and 13 feet above the floor. Since placement was over a clerestory bank of windows, support underneath, while best structurally, would look- sorta pasted on. A pure floating shelf design was not feasible with the shelf thickness I had in mind and with the weight bearing capacity needed.
A triangular bracket secured from above would solve the above issues and also serve as bookends if the brackets could be modified so that books could lay flat up against the bracket. Here is a Home Depot $13 bracket used for support.

The solution probably a bit over-engineered, as I have more than one accused of, was as follows. It allowed to have the bracket screwed on securely first to wall and shelf, then covered so that a book can lay flush and perpendicular to the bracket.


This part of the project made good use of my miter jack jig. A post a while back called it a Populaire as I did not spring for the expensive wood screw and assoc hardware associated with Benchcrafted's design. Well, my solution did not have sufficient torque, so I bought the wood screw and nut with much improved function. At least I tried the least expensive route first.


There was a bit of a time constraint as I needed to have the parts finished prior to having DW's family over for Mother's Day. There was no way I was going to be able to install the shelf without an extra pair of hands on another ladder. It's my good fortune that my in-law family is used to my putting them to work when they come visit.

Half an hour of setup, bolting and removing aluminum ladder from living room and we could proceed with Mother's Day. The next day I anticipated an hour's worth of time putting the covers over the brackets which fit flush and perpendicular. Only one little problem:


Due to my over-engineering, chopping off the overhang would not solve the problem as there is still metal and 2 different types of wood to cover up. Here is a close up of the cap with to cutout to accommodate the metal bracket end.


Here are the shelf brackets/bookends in place.


So I'm thinking the project is complete and I'm looking at the shelf from below installed, To my dismay it looks wrong. While the square ends work for the shelf above it because of the pattern, the lower shelf needed rounded ends.


 I was not about to take down the shelf to do this, so the cutting had to be done in situ and with hand tools to minimize dust. A good coping saw, hand planes and rasps let me finish before noon and with minimal dust production. The added shelf space should provide sufficient space for a year's worth of additional book hoarding vs home library expansion.


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Black Hole Box








This small tools box is only 220 cubic inches.
But it contains a good part of two weekends worth of leisure time, along with packing a number or firsts: my first wood dowel hinge, a DIY dowel centering jig, miter spline in a dovetail pattern, use of a western dovetail saw (needed a wider kerf), glue+shavings for patches, and skill developed with dovetails and use of cyanoacrylate glues. Much experience was gained in the making of the little box, or- as Oscar Wilde put it- what old people call their mistakes. Thus the density metaphor.

The project started with a need for organizing some spare parts and small tools that were often needed but because of their size were often misplaced and then took way too long to remember where I last put them. The default storage was a little packaging box for some Lee Valley doohickies.
It was too big for the small items and too small to work as a hold the small essentials tool box.

Thus it began as a open box to hold a number of essentials in dedicated compartments and for practice making dovetails. When the dovetails turned out better than expected, my ambitions for the little box grew. I'm anticipating needing to travel with some of my tools in the coming months. If the box is going to work for taking essentials back and forth, a latching lid would be needed. Looking for hinges for an inset lid for a box with  3/8" thick sides and lid was an unexpected challenge given my inexperience with this scale of construction and not wanting to spend an hour traveling to and shopping at the nearest Rockwell and Woodcrafters. Internet searches led to Rob Cosman's wood hinges.
Image result for rob cosman wood hinge
As presented on YouTube, it was a very elegant solution, but with two initial obstacles before getting to the "devil is in the details" aspect of achieving the hinge itself. He stresses that a major requirement is the ability to drill a hole in the center of the dowel for  pins to link the hinges. Entrepreneur that he is, Cosman then notes that he offers metal jigs built for that purpose. After some daydreaming about an alternate solution, a more readily available jig could be done with the right sized drill bit and forstner  bit. My solution was $7 for the forstner bit vs $53 for his jig with shipping.
The other tool requirement was a core box router bit that BAM carbide- a blade and router bit supply and sharpening store 3 miles away from home had in store.
Now comes the hard part. Due to the tails being in the way, I needed to route out the groove in two different orientations which made for a suboptimal groove for the dowel hinge. Further, using CA glue for this application was a bad choice. To end, the joint failed which put me in a funk. DW noted- hobbies are supposed to be fun, right? But the silver lining to this black cloud was using a paduak replacement for the segment of the top removed to make a new groove. Making a new back portion using a pins first approach was another first. While the pin orientation remained an issue, the second try was a success using good ol' yellow glue. However, I was limited by geometry in how deep I could make the groove. Cosman notes that you need to cover close to 2/3rds of the dowel to avoid exposing the embedded pin.
In order to embed the dowel to the optimal depth the rear side needed to run through on its top edge, but as the pins were higher than that edge and were not symmetric, it was necessary to run the piece on it's side which allowed for only a quarter of the dowel to receive glue contact. I then got greedy and in planing the hinge flush partially exposed the pins at one edge.
Thus, it's a weak hinge. In future projects until I develop a reproducible and reliable approach to this technique, it will be best to make the hinge first and then build around it. It's an attractive and effective joint if properly executed and will be worth the effort in developing competency. I might even get Cosman's jig.
The jointmaker table saw has made small size projects safe and enjoyable.
While the compartment piece miter cuts off the JMTS  could have been glued together effectively, using my miter jack jig made them dead square. I'm in the habit of splining my miter joints when doing picture frames and good ol' Cosman has another fun technique- false dovetails, which are basically angled splines. Simple enough, but my handsaws of choice (Japanese) have too thin a kerf to make a structurally significant spline. So, I purchased a western saw (another first). This joint shows the difference in kerfs.
I didn't ruin anything, but cutting by pushing instead of pulling took some getting used to.
The last part was organizing stuff so it was readily accessible, yet would not get banged around or move out of place. The BCTW Kerfmaster made the dado cuts easy.
There is a triangular ruler that is used frequently enough to merit a place but due to lack of foresight was a bit too long. Here is the solution.
I was going to drill a hole in the front of the box as a hatch, but DW suggested looking for latches online and I found one suitable for the thickness of the sides and top. I then got ambitious and decided to try and inset the parts with resulting splintering and irritation. The CA glue mixed with fine sawdust along with a small sliver glued with CA saved the day.
Here are views of the finished little box.








DW requested an earing storage box for her Bday. That will be late in the summer. Also in the future is a hand tool chest that will have a compartment for this box. Fun, fun, fun!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Sofa Armor

Our living room sofa is one of the few remaining vestiges from my bachelor days. It's 25 years old and  for the past 18 years has served as the anchor furniture item of our living room and principal scratch post for our three cats. It's associated with lots of memories and that's likely the reason why DW is as attached to it as I am. It's one of the remaining reminders of the two cats we lots last year
But it's an eye sore in several locations.

Some can be hidden from view with appropriate placement. Locating the sofa against the wall and flanked by side cabinets keeps Girlfriends work obscured while preventing Andy from cauing further damage. Andy, however, took to the arms with a vengeance and we have not been able to modify that behavior.

We were exploring re-upholstering the sofa, but couldn't decide on the covering in the likely case of not being able to find a closely matching material. Then there was the also likely case that Andy would eviscerate the poor sofa again.
An alternative approach developed while researching miter jacks (see previous post).
couch table
Our couch's arms with it's curves and angles, along with the location of the area needing shielding presented a number of challenges in adapting that idea to our problem.
Which brings back a previously used quote
Make sure that your next project is beyond your skill and requires tools you don't have. You won't regret it.
I had used kerfing but with drywall and a long time ago. I wasted 2 sq feet of walnut and an afternoon of time before admitting the need for instruction- the problem was that the kerfs needed to be perpendicular to the grain for optimal flexibility. In retrospect, this would seem be obvious, but being a master of the obvious sometimes eludes me. Kerfing with hardwoods and at a fairly tight radius left me fairly humbled (not anything new) and required the band at the upper aspect of the curved panel to hide the gaps between the top and the side panel as well as the areas where the thin obvious patching on my first attempt at curved panels.

The thin band used for this required thin kerfs , something that the BCTW Jointmaker greatly facilitated.
Much to my chagrin while sanding and finishing three small faults developed when the area under the kerf was too thin to hold up to the pressure applied when sanding and finishing.
That was my clue that I needed to leave the stress lines on the curved panel surfaces alone.
A valuable aspect of hobby activities is that it allows risk taking and to indulge my bent for impatience and "winging it". While the result is serviceable, to my liking and has DW's approval, there's much room for improvement. The next attempt at this sort of thing will be closer to 1/8th rather than 1/16th along with using a hot soaked towel to help with molding. I've also read that using a mold pattern to allow for the panel to dry in the desired shape also helps a lot.
In the tools I don't have dept, a spokeshave (along with investing time to learn to use) and a good quality coping saw will be necessary investments if I'm going to significantly improve with curved pieces. A spokeshave would have come in handy when trimming the curved portion of the top to match the curved panel. That was the one place where I could not use the loose tenons to guide placement.

Here's the couch armor in place from the side
And the front view