Monday, June 27, 2011


They've started announcing employment anniversaries at work, with little e-mail blurbs. Mine rolled by recently and my department head described me as " accomplished radio amateur...." High praise and while I wish those accomplishments included more QSOs, one takes what one can get.

In this case, it was a note from a co-worker" "You're a ham? Did you ever hear of John Leary? He worked for my Dad; we've had this heavy radio he gave us for years. Dad was the only one who listened to it and now it needs to go to someone who will use it." John Leary, W9WHM (SK) was the Andy Warhol of radio restorations -- no, more like the Mad Potter of Biloxi. Just as George Ohr managed astonishing technical feats in pottery, often in stunningly bright colors, W9WHM did with radios -- mostly, Hammarlund SP-600s. They're already very good tube-era receivers, but by the time he was done with them, they were outstanding, boasting stability as good as or better than solid-state, low noise, excellent selectivity and good sensitivity. They were quite often done up in unexpected colors -- electric blue, acid green, hot orange. This example (which may contain an ex-mouse) is quite sedate, in gray, black and a muted red. (More info here, in a big PDF). It almost violates my "No radios I can't lift unaided" rule, though.

An unexpected and delightful gift, accompanied by personal recollections: "He was a good guy. Kind of politically incorrect and he made terrible coffee, but a very good man." Not such a bad way to be remembered.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


This photo won't be up forever but the article's title, from Short Wave Craft for June, 1930, is too wonderful not to share:

Short Waves Outwit the Oyster.

How about that!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


All retrotechnologists know that Interesting Things are found in leatherette cases:This one's layered:Finally! Looks a little crowded......But it unfolds! It's a Singer Featherweight, a remarkably small, full-function sewing machine, still very popular today despite not having been in production for a generation.Here's a look at the other side:This is a fairly recent auction-site purchase; initial checks showed it functioning, which is a good thing, as I've some mending to get to.

Ever since Mrs. Shoames showed up at a BlogMeet with one of these, I've wanted one. My old machine (a thrift-shop 1960s Kenmore, which is to say a rebadged Singer) works well but weighs so much as to be off-putting and is in need of a new speed control. The little Featherweight is very highly spoken of and is a lot easier to carry.

That green plastic box is a buttonhole attachment. --And the next time y'all are inclined to think the distaff set is lacking in mechanical aptitude, you try setting up one of those gadgets, same as your grandmother or mother did, and see how it goes.

I was delighted to find it at an only mildly painful price. Best of all, it's got the same wonderful looks as the (nearly full-size) Singer 99 I learned on -- Mom had one, old when it came to her. Between that and Vibroplex telegraph keys, I think I was left with a lasting impression that all really good technology was enamelled black, with gold striping.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Retrotech is fun for me and folks similarly inclined, but this, I think, has a wider appeal: a tree swing!
A good, old-fashioned tree swing. The seat is red oak, assembled with carpenter's glue and wood screws (with predrilled holes: it's very hard even as oak goes!). Since it goes outdoors, I cheated on the finish, multiple coats of polyurethane.It has battens at each end and a lengthwise "rib," which makes it very sturdy. The 5/16" U-bolts (with fender washers and spring lockwashers) probably should be 3/8" or even 1/2" instead, but they'll do for now. They are the better grade, at least: check carefully and you'll discover some U-bolts are marked with a warning to not use them to support weight!

Most of the smoothing was done with planes and a scraper. It looks great but the seat is almost too smooth.

The knots are not as awful as they look; hidden in there are bowlines-on-a-bight at each side, with a series of clumsy hitches around them to take up the free end of each rope.

This project required a 25" 25-foot ladder (not 2' 1", much as I enjoy scale models I'm not one)* to reach the limb -- Jim the Tree Guy installed the ropes but I had to relocate my ham antenna: It ended up higher and farther away from the trunk of the tree, which is an improvement. The swing ropes clear the wire by a comfortable margin; the photo, shot from ground level, is a little misleading.
* And a nod to Charles for catching my typo.