Monday, December 30, 2019

What's On The Workbench?

I originally found this little guy stuffed under a workbench in my Sweet Little Wife's garage when I first moved in. The garage had been a "Man Cave" type place, with carpet and old couches, a little fridge for beer, big TV set, etc., etc, etc. Her first husband would hang out with his buddies after work and sometimes they'd get the guitars out and jam.

This is what he used, a Valco "Supro":

A very simple little "5 Watt" class amp with a single 6V6GT output tube, which is kinda the "little brother" to the ever popular 6L6GC. I showed it to her, and she almost cried, remembering the jam sessions, so I carefully put it away so I could see what it needed to sing again.

Fast forward about 10 years, and I decided to dig it out (she didn't remember me saving it) and give it a good going over. Over the years I collected all the information and schematics I could find for these small Valco amps, so I'm fortunate to have a schematic that matches the chassis 100%.

I flipped it around and pulled the chassis out:

And set it up on the bench:

Yeah, pretty crusty! I got out my EICO tube tester, and checked the three tubes. The rectifier tube appeared OK, but the 6V6 output tube had "shorts", as did the 6SL7GT dual triode input/driver tube.

And it's a "gimme" that the electrolytic capacitors are leaky, as are all the notorious molded paper capacitors, which are all those pink cylinders:

And to add a fourth 1/4" jack input, they removed the fuse holder, stuck in another jack, and scabbed a 4 Amp breaker in there:

Yeah, it's a mess:

Le Sigh.....

So I sent an order off a week or so ago to "Antique Electronic Supply", one of my go-to places for tube parts. Great service, fair prices, and wide variety of parts catering to old tube amps as well as "Luthier" supplies for old guitars, and things like correct replacement Fender knobs. Got three new tubes, some capacitors and odd resistors, fuseholders (I have fuses), and a new leather carrying handle and hardware for this little guy, as the original leather handle had disintegrated long before I first met him.

All I've done so far besides take the chassis out is to brush the dirt off it, and then wipe it down to get the nasty stuff off.  I pulled the "extra" instrument input jack and put a new fuse holder in there. I'm also going to install a proper 3-wire grounded cord on it a bit later. I cleaned the volume and tone controls, 1/4" jacks, and the tube socket pins with some Caig D5 DeoxIT. And I ordered a replacement 8" speaker tonight, as the old one is just too fragile after all these years.

It'll be interesting to see how it sounds after I finish it. Other than the new handle on top, I'm going to tray and leave the cabinet pretty much alone. I'll clean it and trim/reglue any loose covering, but I'm not going to recover it.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Quiet Day, 2" of Snow, Not Much Going On.....

The snow had pretty much stopped by 0600 or so. The snow rake Well Seasoned Fool told me about worked just great on the car. It would have been nice to have after that big snow we had a few weeks ago, but now I have it for the next big snow:

Well worth the $40 I paid for it. The 48" hardwood handle makes getting all the snow off the glass a breeze, and it gets the snow off the roof above the doors so you don't get dumped on when you open the door.

And don't even bother to ask about that POS the auger motor won't turn on when you squeeze the switch on the handle. Got the sidewalk cleared, but then it took a dump doing the driveway. It's never acted right, and now it doesn't even click when you squeeze the handle.

And we now have this brute getting ready to be put in service:

The attachments and bowl are in the dishwasher (Dishwasher Safe!), and as soon as we finish the last loaf from the second Great Bread Experiment I'll be making some regular white bread to see how it works.

And from my son back in Kommiefornia, I present you the Best Mouse Pad EVER:

It's huge, and has a world map with time zones printed on it.

It's almost too big to fit on my operating desk here in the sun room, so I might have to rearrange the equipment on the desk to use it.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas To All.....

In case I get reeeeal busy over the next few days, I'll take the time now to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

BREAD!.....Part Deux

Got another Big Ball 'O Bread nicely buttered up and rising in the warm oven.

All the advice I received after the first Great Bread Experiment indicated a couple of things. One, the 70* ambient here is probably a bit too cool for the yeast to really kick off, and Two, the 70* ambient here is probably a bit too cool for the bread to raise normally.

Everybody's solution (D'OH!) was to proof the yeast and raise the bread in a slightly warm oven.

I got curious about how low a set-point our oven could hold, so I downloaded the manual and read it. There was nothing even remotely approaching a set of "Specifications" in any of the documents I could find on the GE Support website, so I did an experiment the other night. I set it to convection bake, entered 100 degrees, and hit start. The display immediately jumped to 170*, sat there a few seconds, and then the display went to 100* (it always does that a few seconds after it displays the set point you just entered) and slowly began to go up. When it hit 170* it stabilized and held it.

OK, a bit too warm. I set it to 170*, let it run for a few minutes, and then shut it off. It peaked at 130*, and when it got down to 100* or so I declared it to be a "warm oven", and commenced baking.

I was MUCH more careful getting the yeast started this time. I mixed the packet of yeast with 1/8tsp of Turbinado sugar and 1/4 cup of water, and put it in the warm oven as I started mixing the other ingredients.

After about 15 minutes, I had this:

Holy Smokes, It more than doubled in volume! And it smelled great, bringing back memories of Mom making bread. Looks I got got some happy yeast this time, compared to the puddle of bubbly water I had last time when I let it sit out in a large bowl at 70*.

Commence Mixing!.....

Adding in the Bubbly Happy Yeast.....

And after thoroughly  mixing the ingredients, we now have a nice, buttered ball of "Smooth and Elastic" dough, per the recipe, something that was also a bit lacking the last time.

Sitting in the approx 100*F oven.....

45 minutes later and it's already close to double.....

90 minutes, and ready to smack down, divide, and plop into the buttered loaf baking dishes....and it's turning into The Loaf That Ate Fort Collins!

Oh, well....on to Divide and Conquer!

The Big Ball was separated and plopped into the two well-buttered glass baking pans, and ut back into the warm oven to continue raising.....

I need to take lessons into how to get the two loaves the same size....

Out of the oven after 45 minutes so I can preheat the oven to 390*.

Wow...they filled the baking dishes this time. Happy Yeast!


In they go.....

And 35 minutes later....FRESH BREAD!

Yeah, one of them slumped a bit, but they both popped right out of the dish after cooling for 20 minutes.


Much lighter than last time, but it has a tendency to fall apart. It tastes great, but my Sweet Little Wife commented that it needs a bit more salt, so I'll increase the salt by 1/4~1/2 tsp. One of the reasons it falls apart is that this loaf has a "seam" in it from when I divided the Big Ball and shaped it to fit the dish. I didn't make sure all the parts were blended together, and now the San Andreas Fault is running through this loaf.

Not much beats fresh bread with fresh dairy butter on it!

I'll get the recipe dialed in better, but now that I have the yeast proofing nailed, and the raising temperature nailed, the rest is just "Adjust to Taste".

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Saturday, December 14, 2019

A Little Cleaning Progress

Still not "Hittin' On All 8", but I have made some progress getting the basement area squared away.

The "workbench" for building models is getting much more organized:

I've had the lamp for a year or so, but the toolbox is fairly new from Harbor Freight.

An upcoming "Must Do" project will be to get additional lighting over this bench and the electronics bench on the wall opposite this one. I think the easiest way is to do surface-mount track lighting, which should give me some flexibility in moving lights around, type and color temperature of the illuminator, and the ability to snap another light in the track if I need more illumination.

And for the first time since we moved in here, the floor is (somewhat) unobstructed, giving The Little Guy, the dog, and my Kyosho Mini-Z some maneuvering room:

From the original listing pix:

Still have quite a ways to go to get it "nice", but it's getting there. Dumping stuff on eBay has helped clear out a LOT of space, and I've got more to list on Sunday.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Friday Again?

Not much going on. It's overcast, 44*, the wind is blowing like crazy (sustained 15MPH, gusts to 25...), and we're expecting snow.

And I'm still flogging along with this "low level" cold. Not coughing much, but sneezing some, and got aches, no fever. Didn't roll out of the rack until 1500 the other day, and just have slightly more than zero energy.

Was supposed to go see "Ford v. Ferrari" today, but as I was sneezing into my coffee, my Sweet Little Wife came up and said it was probably better if we stayed home today.

Think I'll go have a bowl of soup.....

Monday, December 9, 2019

Christmas Clean-Up Time

Since we'll be hosting the clan for Christmas, and I'm sloooooow, I started doing the Christmas Clean-up this week.

The tree is up, the Nativity scene is up, and all the little battery-powered doo-dads my wife likes are up and running.

I'll do the sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping of the tile (we have a LOT of tile) the week before, along with doing all four bathrooms, and the laundry room. The final item to be cleaned up and squared away will be this desk in the sun room where I do my radio and computer ops.

And then there's the basement.....

Since this will take the longest, I started a few days ago, and I've almost got the "workshop" area cleaned up, picked up, and (somewhat) sorted out. I've thrown away a lot of stuff of ambiguous nature, sorted out bags of resistors and capacitors, and moved them to the "parts room", and tripled the size of my "eBay-Sell-It-Pile", which had shrunk to frighteningly small size.

And FOUR large cardboard boxes were sorted, consolidated to ONE medium box, and then flattened out and put in the recycling can.

I can now freely walk around in the workshop area without dodging boxes of "stuff" on the floor. Tomorrow I'll paw through the two small wire racks I have stuff on, get that corner of the shop cleaned up, and I'll be happy.

Had quite a snow show today for a few hours. It was snowing big, fluffy flakes, and it was coming down so hard it was hard to see more than a couple of blocks. But it only stuck where we already had snow left from the big storm before Thanksgiving, and melted immediately on the streets and sidewalks.

And I'm still getting over this low-grade cold. Not coughing or sneezing much, but all stuffy, runny nose, and major case of the BLAAAHS.....

When I finish cleaning the shop I'll post a pic. Time to hit the rack.....

Thursday, December 5, 2019

US State Department Gives S7 Permission To Relocate Sea Launch Spaceport To Russia

Very sad day for my fellow ships and myself. It was a ballsy enterprise started over drinks one night in a "What If....." session.

Now that all the ITAR controlled equipment has been pulled off the ships, and presumably accounted for, the State Department has signed off on letting the ships leave.

The entire (very short) article is located here.

The FarceBook group I'm a member of has been talking reunion and bon voyage party, so there might be a trip back to Sunny Kalifornia in the future.....

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Local Weather Observations

One of the hobbies I've acquired over the last 15 years has been the weather. "It All Started When...." I went to work for Boeing on the Sea Launch program, and one of my job responsibilities was to maintain the Weather Monitoring and Recording System and the Weather Radar System. As a kid growing up in Northern Illinois, I remember the little "Weather Station" my Dad had. Very simple thing, just a barometer for local air pressure, a thermometer for local temperature, and a hygrometer for local humidity.

It was an Airguide unit like this:

Some years later, he gave me one of these that I had for many, many years:

So I had a fairly basic idea of weather in general, which got much more detailed when I took flying lessons, and was formally taught "WEATHER!" in ground school. We got a pretty good education in weather, obviously geared towards flying, but we got to learn how to read the charts, read the forecast, and make an informed decision on whether to fly or stay on the ground.

In 1982 I moved to Southern California, where the weather is pretty boring compared to Illinois and now Colorado, so my weather skills kinda got archived.

In 2004 I went to work for Boeing, and woke those skills back up as part of my job duties. Working with the Meteorologists was very educational, and in short order I had a weather station set up at my apartment, and connected to the Internet so I could watch the (boring) weather back in SoCal while we were out to sea.

I brought those skills with me in retirement, and now have my own "Weather Monitoring and Recording System" here at home, which occasionally shows some interesting things, like what happened here last night:

Look at the Outside Temperature and Humidity graphs, right at midnight.

The temperature shot up about 25*, from 25* to 50*, in less than an hour, with a corresponding drop in Relative Humidity.

At midnight.

With no "unusual" barometric activity.

This had me scratching my head for a while until I noticed the wind data. The winds kicked up approx 1MPH to 4MPH, with gusts to 15~20MPH, and the vector (direction and velocity) indicates they're coming from a West to Northwest direction, from down out of the mountains.

Reading the Forecast Discussion for today shows mention of Downslope Winds, known as "Santa Ana" winds in SoCal, and "Chinooks" here in the Rockies.

And it looks like I caught one coming through.

No boring weather here!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Hmmmmm....Ariens -or- Honda?

Well now that the "SnowJoe" snow blower has thawed and dried out, I put the batteries in it to see if I could get a handle on the thumping noise, and the "Coffee Can Full Of Gravel" noise it was making.

It powered right up, and rattly-buzzy-bad-bearings noise was gone, and the thumping noise was extremely subdued.

I'm putting the gravel-in-a-can sound down to it having a bunch of gravel/stones/frozen mulch stuck in it's craw, but I haven't fully diagnosed the thumping noise yet.

The auger assembly consists of two sets of augers on a common shaft driven by a right-angle gearbox. The augers kind of "float" on the driveshaft, and have two "shear pins" each, consisting of a soft 1/4-20 (or a Metric bolt that size) bolt that shears if the auger gets jammed. Pretty standard stuff, and I wonder if the bolts have started to shear from the workout it got two days running.

ANYWAY....since this thing handles wet snow so poorly, and was taxed to the max dealing with 20" of snow, I'm throwing in the towel on it, and getting a gas-powered snow blower to replace it.

I'll either dump it on craigslist, or more likely strip the motors, electronics, and other useful stuff from it and scrap the rest. I'm thinking go-kart for the kids, or maybe buy a used Power Wheels riding toy and "upgrade" it a bit.

So what do we get for a replacement snow blower? I've got two thumbs up from Reverend Paul on an Ariens model, and they get great reviews on-line. Talking with the menfolk of the clan at our Thanksgiving gathering, I found that they don't have much experience with "little" snow blowers, but they agreed Ariens is a very good brand. They also liked Honda, and Toro. Anything Honda with an internal combustion engine in it rates very high on my list, but YIKES! A 24" Honda goes for $2,200, while the Ariens goes for about $1,100.

The other night, Well Seasoned Fool suggested I look on craigslist, which I did.

What did I find? A one-year old Honda 24" for $900!

And the ad was well written by what appears to be an intelligent person, sometimes a rarity on craigslist.

To wit:

Looking for a heavy duty snowblower with lots of options and quality construction? Then it’s time to introduce yourself to the Honda HS724.
This snow blower is just the type of machine that will handle the type of snow fort collins just found itself in!

Don't compare these to the machines you see parked outside the big box stores. These are expensive high end machines new! Check out Honda's website and see for yourself! This was over 2000 new!

I Don't need to sell, not in hurry to sell! PRICE IS FIRM.

It has a 24 inch clearing path and a 7hp Genuine Honda OHV engine.
This has more power than residential machines rated at almost twice as much! Full commercial grade!
This features Honda GX series engine that is the workhorse of a ton of different honda products!

The Hydrostatic drive system is similar to that of a lawn tractor. The reason these are so superior is that the hydrostatic offers the user infinite speed adjustment for the self propel. There are no set speeds that limit your options. The build quality is top notch!

Comes with a working headlight so you can see the path in front of you no matter the hour.

It fires up and runs GREAT!

Tires are like new. Ariens for $1,100, or a slightly-used Honda for $900?

I'm leaning towards the Honda.

What say you?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

YaY! Snow Finally Cleared and Happy Thanksgiving!


And it only took 4 battery charges!

Seriously, if this thing:

Was powered by dead dinosaurs, I could have finished last night. The batteries are good for about 30~40 minutes of use, depending on snow type and depth. Then, depending on how depleted they are, you stick them in the charger for two to four hours. Since I was moving snow about twice as deep as the maw is tall, I had to lift the front, drive into the snow, pull it back, drop it down, and take another run at the two feet of path I just plowed. And the tires don't have much traction, even with the air pressure set per the manual for increased traction.

Kinda slows you down a bit, 'ya know?

Anyway.....The drive is cleared "good enough", and snow melt has been liberally sprinkled on it. Probably going to have snow blowing off the top of the Jeep all the way to the in-laws tomorrow!

And I took another charge down the 24" path I made yesterday on the sidewalks to open it up all the way.

When you have the right type of snow, this thing clears the sidewalks OK, but even with the skid shoes and scraper plate set "best effort" on my part, it still trips over cracks and height changes quite easily. The left-to-right white stripes on the sidewalk are where it hit something, and I had to push the handles down to get it over the something, leaving a band of unremoved snow.

I know, I know, "They All Do That", but this one seems much more sensitive than the snow blowers the neighbors have. Maybe I still have it set too low. I'll check it again after it dries out. It also started making a thumping noise when you power up the auger, like an old, worn out washing machine, so I have to look into that, too.

I definitely see one of these in the future:

It's a 24", two-stage, GAS powered Ariens, like I should have bought in the first place. It's bigger than the electric one I have now, but that's OK, I'll clear a space in the garage for it, and roll it into the backyard and cover it up in Spring. It's probably overkill for here, what with Globull Warming and all, but if we're on the threshold of a new Maunder Minimum, it might come in handy.

If scenes like these occur regularly, it will be a Good Thing to have.....

Hope you all have a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving! We're headed up North to one of the in-laws ranches for an old-time Western Thanksgiving.

I have no idea what that might be, but I'm sure it'll be wonderful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Digging Out.....

Began today about noonish.

I plowed a path from the garage door down to the sidewalk, turned, and continued to the corner.

Then I turned around and went the other way. 

This ran the batteries down to "One Bar" on the indicator so I stopped, put them in the charger, and took a break for a couple of hours.

They only charged to two of the three lights on the "gas gauge", so I dumped them back in, and went at the driveway some more.

This ran them down to NO lights, and it quit running.

I'll get going on this again tomorrow to finish the driveway and widen the sidewalk path.

It's pretty, though.....

Snow Daze.....

The storm that's moving out of the area has dumped more snow on us than any other since we moved here two years ago. The area West of Horsetooth Reservoir received up to THIRTY INCHES in places, which means they're pretty much cut off from everything until the plows can get to them.

My "Snow Gauge" reported 22".....

And I've never seen it pile up on the fence like this, most likely because we had very little wind last night.

It even stacked up on the tree trunk.

The neighbors front porch is over 24" AGL, and the snow is almost flush with it.

Thirty minutes of carefully shoveling cleared the front steps and down to the driveway.

I'll power up the snow blower after I warm up a bit. I'm taking it REEEEAL easy doing the shovel work. The snow is pretty dry and light, but it's 25* outside, and even mild exertion can cause Bad Things to happen to Olde Fartes like me who overdo it.

It's still coming down lightly, and the winds are expected to kick up, meaning it's gonna drift like crazy.

I would not want to be out East of here today. Getting stuck in a blizzard out on the Plains can have devastating consequences.....


The snow blower actually works OK on this dry, powdery snow! I have to take two bites at the path, though. One with the front of it picked up about 6", and then I let it back down on the skid shoes, and get the 6" left after the first pass.

I plowed a 24" wide swath down the driveway, and all the way to the corner. Then I backed it up, turned it 180*, and did a 24" swath across the driveway, and down the other section of "our" sidewalk. By this time (over 35 minutes of run time, and the batteries were warm) the batteries were almost depleted, so I parked it, put the batteries on the charger, went back and cleaned out the inlet and sprayed it down with silicone spray, and brewed a big mug of Joe.

After the batteries charge I'll go back out and widen the path.

I amazed I was able to get that much snow moved on one charge. If I hadn't had to lift it up and hit the same section twice, like with only 12" of snow, I think I could have finished on the first charge.

I'm still not real enamored of the thing for several reasons, but at least I'm not screaming at it today.....

Meet Luna!

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