Sunday, April 17, 2011

North To Peru!

Peru is north of Indianapolis -- Mexico is, too, but I wasn't going that far. There was an amateur radio swapmeet, a "hamfest," up that way Saturday and I was determined to go. There's a neat antique mall in Kokomo, too, so the trip is a win no matter what.

The trip up U.S. 31 is trippy, too, with interesting semi-abandoned farmhouses, a row of scaled-down power-generation windmills and other oddiments south of Kokomo; there even used to be a strange Navy-type turret pointing a set of twin AA-type guns across the highway!

Little did I know that north of Kokomo, as the land becomes more rolling, the roadside oddness increases, too, from the looks-like-an-oversize-shooting range at Grissom (right smack next to the Miami Correctional Facility Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers, so it's probably Off Limits) to a neat little air museum I'd overlooked (must schedule road trip with Tam, etc.!) to a pair of hobbit-houses built into hilltops (fatalistically facing the airbase; they're so close, facing away wouldn't've helped so why not point south and pick up some sun?) and a giant yellow rocking chair (no, really). Plus the AA turret reappeared: now it's at a garden-statue center! (Alas, I missed that shot. All of the road-image photographs were taken without using the viewfinder -- just point and click!)

Photos, to the extent they came out, will have followed.

I did find some interesting things at the hamfest: 1940s tube sockets, "doorknob" oscillator crystals, a telegraph key, etc. Some of that will be showing up at Retrotechnologist

Stopping at the antique mall, I found a very nice Stanley bench or machinist's level, all steel and still true, at least on a quick test.* Passed up a couple of nice telephones (candlestick and wooden wall-type), an early Remington Noiseless (not a suppressed shotgun, a typewriter) and a nice-looking but incomplete (missing bobbin assembly) Singer Featherweight folding sewing machine ($295, not a terrible price. I'd buy it if I had any idea how to replace the missing bit). They generally have a decent assortment of hand tools; this time a nearly-complete set of Winchester-branded, general-purpose straight-blade screwdrivers showed up, scattered artistically through a couple of cases and optimistically priced at $45 per each! Don't know when they were made; by appearances and wear, between 1930 and 1955, maybe.

There were plenty of other tools, from old soldering coppers to well-worn, still useful examples of drivers and wrenches and the usual linseed-oiled, wobble-jawed Ford wrenches. Also a surprising lot of large wooden planes, jack or smoothing planes to judge by length; the use of these is probably somewhat mysterious to many modern woodworkers, who just send boards through a powered planer, zzip-burrrr, done. I really should pick one up, a big plane that is, as I don't have any really large smoothers and it's not too difficult to judge condition and resharpen the blade. I passed on an alligator wrench, an idea almost lost in time and perhaps it should be. Still, they're neat when they're not gnawing the corners from hex-shaped fasteners. (Old-time ones were generally built for square fasteners, the modern one actually fits hex and is worth carrying).

Spat rain the whole time up and back and the Hot Needle Of Inquiry (a/k/a a $2000 '03 Hyundai Accent) got terrible gas mileage. Perhaps it's time for a new set of spark plugs.
* How can you tell an old spirit level is on the level? Find a surface it thinks is level, then turn the thing end for end. Bubble still centered? Still good, then. A similar self-comparison trick is used to check old squares; I'll leave the details as an exercise for the reader.


New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

The smell. I can smell the oldtool smell even from here. Ahhhhhh, lovely.

Some might not understand the appeal.

jbrock said...

Nice trip, and vociferous agreement on the old woodworking tools. I still prefer them to the loud kind. Of course, I'm doing mostly one-off stuff where setting jigs and so forth would take more time and trouble than it would be worth.

I also can't help wondering, seriously, whether you also use slide rules. My skill with those could be categorized as "rusty" if one were feeling charitable, but they rule.

DaddyBear said...

I've made the drive between Indianapolis and South Bend on 31 a few times, and it's a very pleasant, if long, trip. You don't see much besides billboards from the interstate, so it's nice to see a little character on the smaller highways.

Anonymous said...

If you get into planes and chisels, you might check out "The Complete Guide to Sharpening" by Leonard Lee. This is one case deserving the word complete in the title. Includes photomicrographs of stones and sharpened edges (they look like scanning electron microscope images to me). Also an appendix on chip classification. Overall, a great book.

On to radio. Sent you an email yesterday about the old AT&T troposcatter link to Cuba from Florida City (Homestead). Here is what I sent in case you don't see the email and so others can check it out. Lived not to far away from the site for many years.

"Enjoy your blog, especially the radio and gun stuff. Wife and I went to the Florida Keys last week and I thougth of you when we left Florida City southbound. Have you ever seen or heard of the old AT&T troposcatter link to Cuba? It is located on Card Sound Road just south of where it splits off from US 1. Not far from the Navy Wullenwebber Array (AN/FSS-10).

Anyway, I found this site with some photos and a description and thought you might enjoy it. Be sure to check out the links in the article for add'l pics and info.

Wouldn't it be fun to have one of those operating on 432 or 1296?"


Divemedic said...

You are one of the reasons why I just went and got my ticket. I am now sporting a brand new technician ticket.

Now to figure out the rules for using it...

Roberta X said...

I do use slide rules and I'm shopping for a decent Remington adding machine for checkbook balancing.

Stuff at work, I'll go electronic, recording each step to six decimal places...and then end up rounding to the slide rule's three digits, that being closer than the accuracy (and in the case of analog ones, readability) of the meters. A slipstick would be just as good but those long strings of numbers look so much more impressive.

I got a lecture about the use of slide rules/three-digit accuracy in college and earned no brownie points by asking why we were using 20%-accurate components if the prof wanted .01% accuracy in the math? This is one of the reasons why I don't have a degree

Now I'm wondering if anyone ever fitted a Vernier-type scale to the pointer of a large analog meter...or if one skips right to projection-type light-beam galvanometers for eenth-digit analog readings?

Roberta X said...

Terry, that's a very kewl link!

--True story: at one point, I had access to an 8.8m dish with fat coax out to it (we brooght in raw C-band from the LNAs)and a spare 50 kW tube transmitter that had been on TV ch. 13. That was too much but the line would have handled the aural output, 5kW, turned down to 2kW input. All I needed was an antenna at the focal point, a little retuning and a good receiver and hey-hey, serious EME!

For some reason, the boss kept turning me down.

Ed Rasimus said...

Peru and Mexico...Neat! My father was born in Brazil; Indiana that is. And my uncle who ran a charter bus operation out of Terre Haute used to make regular runs to Paris.

I guess early Hoosiers weren't real good at creative town naming.

Was that the old Bunker Hill AFB?

Anonymous said...

Soooo . . . how did you get Needle out of the lava? Is it still under warranty with General Products?

. . . and are you going back?

And if you do, could you bring one of those flying disks with you? I've got a buyer.

And a stepping disk. I really want a stepping disk.

Or two.

Is Hindmost renting your spare room, or did he . . . leave?


Loki1776 said...

I do use slide rules...

I guess Picketts count, but Post Versalogs rule (pun intended). ;^)

Roberta X said...

I seem to recall the really kewl kids had K&E slipsticks -- quite beyond my budget back them. I was in grade school and totally thrilled by one with a magnifying cursor that some guy my big sister dated carried around.

Years later, I was given a 6" metal K&E, which I kept in my old toolbox. Which was stolen, seveal house moves ago. :( Never had to worry about not having batteries!

Roberta X said...

BSR: Tsk, all that would be telling, wouldn't it?

My first Accent -- I've owned three in a row -- rapidly became something of a Kzinti torture implement, with serious brake problems showing up in the first week of ownership.

However, I've kept on with them, despite having two totalled in accidents, as they run pretty well even when things are wrong with them and are fairly cheap to buy and to fix.

Anonymous said...

!?! A General Products hull? Cheap!?!

Don't they replace broken ones free? (if you survive)


I was THE. LAST. engineering student at the U of Dub to use a slide rule. It was a K&E. The REALLY good ones (like the one my Dad was letting me use) had ivory scales. Ivory was very temperature independant when it came to accuracy, and this one was top of the line, and a honey!

Speaking of accuracy, when slide rules were on their way out, there were some three hundred plus calculator manufacturers, and every single one of them used a different algorithm to do their calculations. If you had 20 different manufacturers' calculators, the third number after the decimal would be different on every one of them. I was pretty smug, because my high-end K&E was easily as accurate or more so than any calculator on the market.

At least I was smug until professors started taking calculators into account when designing their exams. Turns out a slide rule is pretty much useless if you have to add or subtract ten or twelve digit numbers. I got three problems perfect on a 50-minute four-problem statics exam, because I didn't have a calculator to add up all the huge numbers, and ran out of time before I ran out of exam. The professor didn't give a rat's butt - told me I needed to get a calculator, and gave me a 'C'. I had a calculator by the time the next exam rolled around.

I suspect that those "high-end" (ivory scale) K&E slide rules are probably still out of your budget. For some reson they don't make them from ivory anymore. :-)


Divemedic said...

How could the third digit after the decimal be different on all 20 calculators? Are you using some kind of weird base 20 calculator?

Ed Rasimus said...

I had to look up K&E. Never heard of one during my abbreviated tenure as a physical sciences student (Chem.) at Ill. Institute of Technology. The premium sliderule was the Post Versalog.

Neither slide rules nor chemistry agreed with me as I had a greater preference for beer and young women, so I transferred to Political Science. A field of study which specialized in both.

Robin said...

Roberta, the Singer Featherweights are still well supported. The machines are actually still pretty popular - especially among quilters as they make reliable portable machines for attending classes etc.

I just picked up a Singer 1391 for my wife - essentially the Featherweight mechanicals in a non-lightweight chassis - because they just work.

Anonymous said...


I haven't the slightest idea. several of the professors used to delight in calling on as many students as possible when asking for an answer to point it out though. It was their way of pointing out the fallacy of 9-digit accuracy for textbook problem solutions. One of them would even write them all on the board to 9 digits to emphasize it.

There was another thing that I felt smug about in those early calculator days. My K&E sliderule was easily twice as fast as the best of the calculators. That bit of smug didn't last long either. Within about nine months after the time calculators first started showing up in classrooms, the number of calculator manufacturers had gone from the hundreds, to (for all practical purposes) about 4 or 5. Rich kids used HPs, and spent every waking moment extolling the technical superiority of what everyone else called "reverse-Polish notation". Pretty much all the engineering students standardized on TIs though - cheap (only $100, as opposed to the HPs, which ran about $800), reliable, and fast. Way faster than my slide rule.

When technology takes a leap, it doesn't take long to get from "everybody has their own way of doing it" to "Why are you doing it that way? (you idiot)".


Roberta X said...

Robin, after reading up, I sorta bought one. :)

Mrs. Shermlock Shomes showed up at a BlogMett with one -- she's stunningly good at clothing &c -- about a year ago and I have been mildly wanting one ever since. Seeing another one close up clinched it.