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A Blast From The Past

These are a few pictures from my tour in Vietnam while serving with the 815 Eng. 102nd CS at Camp Dillard in the central highlands. I salvaged these from some 35mm slides I found tucked away so they’re fairly high resolution shots. Unfortunately when I was in the process of rotating back to the states some low life scum bags stole my luggage  when I got to Long Binh along with 8-10 rolls of 35mm film that I hadn’t had a chance to get developed yet. In addition they made off with about 800$ worth of technical books dealing with electronics I’d purchased. It still pisses me off just to think about it, I’d give anything to still have those pictures. To add insult to injury when I got off my plane at LAX I left my 35mm Yashica  under the seat. I noticed it right away but when they went back to check on it for me it was gone. It never ceases to amaze me how rotten to the core people can be.

Stateside I’d went through NCO training as a crawler tractor operator and upon arriving at Camp Dillard in June of 71 I was assigned duties pushing fresh blasted rock at the existing quarry across from the compound. The rock was crushed and turned into asphalt for building a road called QL-20 which snaked through the hills from Baloc to Dalat. At that time the quarry was still a fairly small operation and  only making 25-30 hole shots using detcord and fuse caps as the initiator for the blasts. The drilling and blasting crew was being led by a Sgt Stanley Steves at the time and we became friends when I was assigned to help with the quarry team. Sgt Steves was being rotated back to S. Korea shortly and he picked me to train as his replacement.

We were working a lot of hours including some night shifts at the time and providing our own security with some support from the ARVN troops stationed in the area and things were pretty quiet for the most part. On one of those nights we were taking a break under the flood lights marveling at the size of the moths flying around (3-5″) when we heard the mortar team pop a round into the tube over at the compound and watched to see where it landed outside of the perimeter. Instead the ARVN mortar crew landed the dang thing on the compound. They fired a second one that didn’t explode and found out later it had also landed on the compound next to the PX, I had to dispose of that one later. The third one they fired also exploded  inside the perimeter and they quit trying to hit whatever they were aiming at then. Nobody was hurt and it was funny as hell at the time.

There were 4-5 of us that went through NCO training together that were assigned to the 102nd CS Co.. Spc 5 Larry Greathouse handled our security with a gun truck when we were off compound and Spc 5 Mike Hopwood helped me with the drilling and blasting operations. After Sgt Steves rotated out I got my three stripes and plans were set in motion to open a new quarry 2-3 miles west of Camp Dillard, we drilled core samples, pushed the overburden off and started the blasting process to form the new quarry. We were drilling  200-300 hundred hole patterns and using electric time delay caps and good enough to pile the rock any where they wanted it before long.

I was replaced after a time by a Sgt Rohoer and they brought in a civilian engineer before the company stood down from operations in 1972. Sgt Rohoer became a casualty  after running a track drill over an IED fashioned from an 81mm mortar round before things wound down. He suffered the loss of one of his legs and shrapnel wounds to is face and the rest of his body. The blast also killed an older Vietnamese man that worked with us. He was in shock and I shielded his closed eyes until the dust off helicopter arrived and was still alive when they flew him out. His name isn’t on “The Wall” so I assume he lived, I lost track of him and rotated out of country shortly after it happened.

Vietnam changed my life in a lot of ways I guess. Actually I was a basket case for several years after returning to the “real world” and blocked  most of it out, but some things are hard to forget. Like the day a guy was standing in the pay line and accidentally shot himself in the foot because he left a round chambered in is M-16. Then there was the day I fired an M-79 grenade launcher and the round didn’t come out the other end.  A green Lieutenant actually suggested I try and poke the grenade back out of the breach! I laughed at him and told him no thanks, I removed the sights and receiver blew the barrel on the spot with a bit of C-4.  Some of the stories however are better left untold and I’ll go to my grave with those.

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Washing Machine Problems

One of the channels I subscribe to on You Tube posted this video the other day. Auusie50 is geek/engineer sort of guy that likes to have a little fun once in awhile and tinker with stuff. So anyhow, he killed this washing machine recently and I thought I’d pass it on. Good stuff!

PCB Wall Art: Finished!

I had no clue this project would go this far when I started, but no surprise really, it happens to me all the time. Actually I enjoyed the destructive tear downs, although the scrapping/recycling part was a bit of a chore. Oh well, it is what it is and a done deal for now.

A YouTuber known as MikesElectricStuff gave me the idea originally in a video he posted on his channel. If you’re into electronics and equipment autopsies check the guy out. He definitely knows his stuff and takes a look into some rather unique equipment and analyses it in depth at the component level.

Now it’s time to move onto something a little more productive.

Hat Tip goes out to Chromedome and Jackster for the equipment donations.

The Mechanical Tweetie Bird

Checkout this little jewel of a flying machine. A good friend of mine, we’ll call him THM for now, is probably the best machinist I’ve ever come across in my days. He put this bird together. It was equipped with a 4 cyl piston aircraft engine originally, but rather costly to keep flying due to the yearly majors and maintenance fees. So after doing some research he decided to try using a turbine engine and reconfigure the drive train from the ground up. It was a radical idea but proved to be a good one.

The turbine engine he finally settled on was a Solar unit used on the CH-47 (Sky Hook) helicopters for power generation and the hydraulic systems. He purchased two or three of them and put one together that was air worthy. That was the easy part and he moved on to designing the drive train. The transmission had to be built from square one to achieve the right gear ratio including shafts, gears, bearings and that whole ball of wax.

THM owns a well equipped machine shop and set about using his expertise to build the transmission and related drive train components piece by piece. The original main rotor shaft was also re-fabricated from titanium stock due to some harmonics encountered with the changes to the drive train.

The skill set required to do something like that says everything you need to know about the man. He’s a machinist with the heart of an engineer and the vision to make it all fly.

The trailer (bird cage) is used to move it to air shows. If time allows I’ll get some video of it flying next spring.

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PCB Wall Mosaic Finished

Ok, it really is done this time. I added more PC MOBO’s and the boards from a huge pile of vending machine coin mech’s and bill validator’s to the little wall, then added some accent lighting for good measure.
Any additional junk electronics will be used to trim things out or put on a shelf for now.

What started out as an attempt to get rid of some junk is now art and spare parts on the wall. It was actually a lot of fun scrapping it all out and in my opinion looks like it’s right at home in the studio. Each to his own I guess.
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Freed Eisemann FE-15

The Freed Eisemann FE-15  was a battery powered TRF (Neutrodyne) AM broadcast band set manufactured in 1925. I’ve done the preliminary work on the chassis and stripped/refinished the case so far. Some of the wire wound resistors will need replaced and the tube sockets have splits in the side shells which will also need fixed. Other than that the radio is in fair condition, but for now it’s just another ornament on the shelf.

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Half Baked Studio Update

I’ve managed to find a bit of time to spend on the music/studio projects. The whole server move/WordPress upgrade and associated graphics work set things back a few measures. It was however a worthwhile project, WP Ver.3.4.2 is great, the new server (HostMonster.com) is top of the line and the websites are on the road to recovery. I mixed in some wood processing while I was at it and things are looking good on that front.

On the studio side of things I’ve spent some time remixing some of the older stuff on the MiniDisc 4 track discs. I uploaded those to the server in WAV format rather than compressed or in MP3 format, you just  lose too much of the sound in the process. Some of the material is with my vocals (not good) so it is what it is. You can click on the blinking button next to those and load the lyrics in another window. I’ll add these all to the music page along with some with only guitar added.

  I Need Too

  The Enemy Within

  My Machine

  Going Underground

  Cracked Society

The next song was something that I and a couple others put together. Mike D. provided lyrics and rhythm guitar, Matt B. bass, and I furnished the synth parts and lead guitar.

Drug Land Craze

Misc. Old Tracks

Caught

Under Fire

Never Stop

Face The Storm

Losin’ You

My Daze

Atwater Kent 10C Model 4700

A few years back I had the opportunity to help with an estate liquidation/cleanup that was rather interesting. The deceased was a retired electrical engineer (Caterpillar), and having lived through the Great Depression saved every scrap of electrical/electronic gear he could get his hands on. After he passed away a big majority of the stuff had been packed/thrown into a two car garage and was a real mess. Boxes of vacuum tubes, hardware, vintage radios and the like were floor to ceiling deep. It was one of the biggest messes I’ve ever had to deal with.

Before he passed away he stressed to his son that every box of stuff should be looked through in detail and for good reason. It was a regular time capsule of electrical components and electronics. This was being done for a good friend of my brothers and we were the first ones to look through it all. When we arrived on the scene it was just one big pile of broken vacuum tubes, hardware and you name it. We also earned the right to acquire several truck loads of parts and pieces in the process. Included were quite a few very early radios and older test equipment and it took some time to go through.

One such item was what looked like a piece of wood with vacuum tubes and coils mounted on it. I had no idea what it was and tossed it to the side to gather even more cobwebs and dust. Then one day my curiosity got the best of me and I dusted off the name plate for a closer look. It was an Atwater Kent 10C Model 4700 breadboard style radio built circa 1924. The power switch and three tuning knobs were missing but it was all there other than that. The mahogany breadboard base was also in good condition so I decide to clean it up and use it as a knick knack on a shelf somewhere.

The AK 10 (4700) was the successor of the rare Atwater Kent “Radiodyne” (as the original version of this model had that name on the component ID plates). It was soon discovered that another company (Western Coil Co.) had the rights to the “Radiodyne” name and the metal ID component tags were changed to read; “model 10” in place of the Radiodyne name. It was a TRF (tuned radio frequency) set without reaction (non reg.dir.receiver). It was broadcast band only and had three tuned AM circuits. It used 4 UV-201A and 1 UV200 for tubes.

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I removed all the board components next and and then refinished the breadboard. I left the wiring on the bottom of the board intact. The transformer and choke coil in the base of the tube island tested good, as did the wire wound resistors in the circuit. I then used electrolysis to strip the metal parts and painted those parts with hammered finish Krylon. The Bakelite parts rubbed out nicely and I polished the brass and copper on the rest of the components. It was also missing the bypass capacitor along with the tuning knobs and power switch.

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  Working AK 10Cs were selling for anywhere from $1200-2000 on eBay so I listed it for auction and it sold for $485 as is. I packed it up in good fashion and it shipped the next day.

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Caterpillar 3516 Engine Rebuilds

 

In past years my primary occupation has been as a mechanic/machinist and then process management and control in the latter years. Twelve of those years were with companies in the Texas Panhandle as an engine re-builder, natural gas fired irrigation engines. Boring bars, valve reconditioning, head mills, power hones, the whole ball of wax.

On returning to Illinois I took a job for a petroleum company (oil field) playing nanny to a 3MW power generation station. The plant utilized 4 3516 Caterpillar engines as prime movers turning 800 KW generator ends. The fuel feedstock was field gas piped in from two directions via 4″ pipe with two LeRoi gas compressors (screw type) and piston units out in the field. There were also three 398 Cat.’s and a 3412 unit out in the field.

The gensets ran on a 480v buss and it was then stepped up to 13KV for distribution to the company owned/maintained field grid. The 480v switchgear incorporated Woodward 2301A governors and synchronizers and was all simple relay logic stuff, as were the rest of the engine controls. The generator ends had digital voltage regulators but were not wired for cross current compensation.

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I did all the engine rebuilds/maintenance in house as well as the switchgear/electrical repairs. The gas compressors and all that were just extra chores. However on two occasions we did ship the engine blocks out to have the decks re-surfaced. The 3516 weighs 17,699 lbs dry, displaces 4210 cu in/69 liter, has a bore and stroke of 6.7×7.5 in, and is turbocharged with after cooling.

The 3516’s usually had to have the heads, pistons, and liners replaced at about 20,000 hrs or so. If you didn’t the valve heads would pop off and really muck up the piston and liner. Major rebuilds and main bearings at around 60,000 hrs. The units ran 24 hours a day so it didn’t take long to rack up 20,000 hrs on one. That by itself kept me busy and chasing bugs in the relay logic controls filled the rest of my time slot.

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It was fun while it lasted but I don’t miss it much. I’d much rather work on the process management and control end of things now that I’m getting some age on me. Throwing cast iron around is getting old….

Atwater Kent Model 85 Restoration

I acquired this radio a few years back and have since started the restoration process. This is their second console superheterodyne radio. Due to RCA trying to corner the market on superhets all the other companies up until 1930 such as AK, to that date had made only TRF’S or tuned radio frequency sets. It had AVC (very rare in 1930), used Pentode output, and had image suppression.

It used the following tube line up:

  1. 235 – Mixer
  2. 227 – Oscillator
  3. 235 – IF Amplifier
  4. 224 – Plate Detector
  5. 224 – AVC and Volume Control Tube
  6. 247 – Pentode Power Output
  7. 280 – Rectifier

It was in pretty fair condition cosmetically, the grill cloth and speaker were intact and the chassis was in good condition.

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All of the transformers and chokes on the aluminum chassis tested good, and the resistors that I could check were within tolerance. The electrolytic filter cap was junk and I replaced it, but left the original metal canned caps in the circuit in place. The biggest issue was with the rubber coated wiring on the chassis that had turned to junk. All the cloth coated wire was still in good shape, but the wire feeding the IF cans, tuning cap and grid caps had to be replaced. Unfortunately the audio output transformer mounted on the speaker was open on the primary side. The primary is supposed to be 500 ohms and the voice coil side .25.  A real show stopper.

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I don’t know the slightest thing about refinishing but gave that a shot also. I stripped and sanded it inside and out and used some Minwax Antique finish to rub it down with and left it at that. I also found a reproduction face plate  for the tuner over at Old Radio Parts.net (Mark Oppat’s site) and replaced that.

Hopefully I can find time to finish the project one of these days.

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