Monday, January 15, 2018

The Modern Visual Ego

From James Gibson, Visual Perception.
Back in my undergraduate days, I took several courses on visual perception.  James Gibson was a huge name in this area.  In any event, I always liked this drawing.  It's really how we see the world visually from moment to moment.  You can find other similar ones on the web.

Syracuse Mile, 1984

From the brochure.  An American friend invited me down to attend this. I remember it was a very exciting race! There's nothing like the smell of gasohol and dust--really!  Even if you don't smoke Camels.

Sears Diehard

March 1984

"There's more for your life at Sears."  Not any longer.  Sears died hard.  Yesterday was the last day for all of their stores in Canada.

Although the writing was on the wall for a very long time, it's still a sad end to a once great company.  I own loads of Craftsman hand and power tools which were quality items at one time, backed by a fantastic guarantee.  Then they started having them made off-shore. I pointed this out to the guy in the tool section who just shrugged and actually said, "Expect less from Sears."  Now the Craftsman brand name has been sold to Stanley Black & Decker.  Same name, same or similar off-shore source, different corporate ownership.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Did you ever lose a wrench?

As seen in Canadian Tire... a set of wrenches done in camouflage? I feel the buyer may not have ever used a tool in their life.
To the credit of the buying public, it was in the clearance bins...

Laverda. Now that's more like it.

Laverda realized the future was in large motorcycles and designed a 650cc twin, with an engine that resembled in no small way the currently popular Honda 305. Jack McCormick, who had previously contributed to the success of both American Honda and Suzuki, imported the new bikes into the US under the name American Eagle.
Even Evel Kneivel got into the action riding and jumping a Laverda in 1970.

Really Stupid Tool Idea: Ham-R-Adz, 1948

"The lady around the house"??? Seriously?  This thing is almost designed to be a serious accident.

London Meter Vernier Caliper

The bar itself is marked in inches (top) and millimeters (bottom). It has a threaded hole for a locking screw, but that sadly is missing. Below, the dial readings from measuring an object 0.787 inches (as indicated on my trusty Mitutoyo digital mike):

The left-hand dial is metric, and reaches zero every 5 millimeters. The right-hand dial measures in thousandths of an inch and turns zero for every inch of advancement.

Years ago, I found someone advertising precision measuring instruments on Kijiji, but located far away on the other side of Toronto (or "Trawna" as we prefer to pronounce it).  As it happened, I seemed to be the only person who emailed him with interest in the tools.  Also, as it happened, he was going to be coming to Kingston for conference.  He was a member of the clergy, and the tools had belonged to his father, a machinist who had emigrated from Britain to Canada bringing his tools with him. The seller was anxious that they find their way into the hands of someone who would appreciate them.  I subsequently met him at the Kingston hotel where he was staying and we had a very nice chat.  His price was quite reasonable and I ended up buying all of the tools, which included the one above.

It's a beautiful tool, which I don't use so much as admire.  It's clearly quite old.  If you google "London Meter" you come up with a small handful of measuring tools with this name.  Below, an example from ebay:

I don't know if the company was "London Meter", or simply "Meter" out of London or something else entirely.  I noticed that one google hit involved an old British company, Griffin & George Limited, whose incorporation dates back to 1889 and which apparently continued trading until around 1973.  The company was a manufacturer and supplier of "science teaching apparatus" which doesn't quite fit the vernier, but who knows?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Sidecar Sunday

The things we build...

Back when my son was 2 , I was looking for a powered vehicle for him to ride around on, I wasn't impressed with the commercially available offerings and having had an Ford 8N around for farm for about twenty years I set out to make something along those lines. A visit to a Maine antique yard produced the remains of an old two wheel tractor (like a rototiller) and the tractor-treaded tires proved to be almost exactly half the height of the 8N tractor tires. Also about that time a local hospital was replacing their Fortress Mobility scooters and I dragged a couple of them out of the dumpster. I laid the components out in the shop and the project began to take shape.

Because the rear tires were sized so perfectly it was easy to scale down the various body parts and as I had a friend with thermal forming capabilities, I built some wooden bucks to vacform a 1/2 scale 8N in Kydex.

With two 12 volt batteries under the hood, and the Fortress motor geared down to suit the larger tires the powertrain worked quite well. now to finish up the bodywork and paint it.

Now a tractor to ride around on is good but having things to tow around is much better. So various implements and trailers were fabricated.

While in Maine on vacation we took it to the Owls Head Transportation Show truck and tractor show, and I was commissioned to build a second one.
Of course kids grow up, both tractors were used hard for about 5 years and have now been moved on to the next generation of kids, and I'm still maintaining the things!

Biker & Blacksmith: Remembering Tom Riedel, Bath, Ontario

I was first introduced to Tom Riedel back in the mid-1970's by a fellow Norton rider.  He took me out to Tom's shop, where I was stunned by the stable of beautiful and exotic motorcycles and by his voluminous photo albums documenting the 103 motorcycles he'd owned.  At age 60, he was a going concern and he regaled with us tales of travelling on his Moto Guzzi Lemans in Italy, in part with the works team as they prepared the race bikes but also offered to tweak his motorcycle at the same time.

One of my favourite stories had him winding one of his Italian bikes on the twisty road along the north side of Lake Ontario that leads to his home.  It was a lovely spring evening and Tom was letting the bike have its head when he came around a tight turn to be confronted by a police speed trap.  He had only time to register this before he was around the next corner, not before seeing the dome lights start flashing as the cop decided to pursue.  Tom knew he had no where to go, but also was a law-abiding citizen (sort of) so he closed down the throttle and pulled over to the side of the road. Before he even had a chance to pull of his helmet, the cop screeched in behind him. The cop got out of his cruiser and was striding towards Tom when he removed the helmet, revealing his mass of gray hair.  The young cop stopped, stuttered, and said something like, "You must be Tommy Riedel."  Now here was the quandary:  the cops really liked being able to stop by Tom's place to look at his bikes and kick tires. If this young cop ticketed him, Tom might not be so inviting, and the brother cops wouldn't be so happy. So, struggling with these thoughts, the cop said, "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?"  All Tom could say was "Fast enough to get your attention." The cop put away his ticket book, walked back to his cruiser and said, over his shoulder, "Well, act your age."  Tom laughed--he was acting his age.

I got the chance to drop by a couple of more times over the years.  I can't say I was a friend but you didn't have to be close to have Tom share his motorcycle loves with you.  After he passed away, there was apparently an auction.  Sadly, I was told afterwards that some other so-called friends showed up before hand and somehow convinced Tom's widow that Tom had promised them certain valuable bikes, which she apparently let them just walk away with. I don't know if that's true or not, but the person who told me was certainly angry about it.  Some time later, my friend and I rode our Nortons into his yard, where we met his widow.  She told us it was wonderful to hear the sounds of motorcycles pulling in again--she missed that.  She also said that, in cleaning out the remains of his workshop, she had happened upon a cassette tape.  Checking to hear what was on it, she was astounded to hear Tom's voice.  On one of his trips to England, she'd arranged a brand-new British sports car to be delivered to him.  It was a surprise, and the tape was his recording of his pleasure and amazement.  She said something like, "And to think I was prepared to just toss the tape into the garbage."

Anyway, in cleaning out some of my own old files, I found that attached information about him from a piece written in the local Whig-Standard newspaper back in May 1977.  Tom's kind will not be seen again.

A google search for Tom Riedel lead to one hit:  Blacksmithing Today. As someone who apparently looked after most of the old iron at Old Fort Henry in Kingston, it seems like Tom had a big influence in this area as well.  (The author behind the piece is an example of those interesting folks trained in the professions who find more fulfillment in hands-on artistry.  Matthew Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft is another example.  Click here for a review.  For a more general assessment of this phenomenon, read Matthew Crawford's New York Times piece, The Case for Working with Your Hands.)

Adventures in Contentment

When I first moved from Toronto to Kingston as a graduate student, I took to frequenting the thrift stores looking for furniture and old books, developing a habit I have never lost.  I made some great finds, one of which was "Adventures in Contentment."  The title was such a delightful oxymoron that I had to have it.  First published in 1906, my edition is from a year later. It has repaid me many times since.

While the books are fictional, they detail the life of someone who tires of the big city and leaves it all behind for a life of country farming. Each chapter is an illustration of how simple experiences can be immensely enriching.  When I eventually bought my own farm, his writings resonated with me as I would enjoy a view of a rail fence, or a sunlit field across a forested valley, or a babbling creek vanishing into a shadowy woods.

The author was actually Ray Stannard Baker, a hard-hitting American journalist, who assumed a pseudonym in order to preserve his reputation in hard reportage.  (A good friend of Woodrow Wilson, he won a 1950 Pulitzer Prize for several volumes of his biography on this American president.)  However, his writings as David Grayson were so popular that there actually sprang up a "Graysonian society" to promulgate his ideas and simply philosophy.  All told, he wrote nine such books, of which I've been able to stumble across four.  I've started to re-read them, and have discovered that they hold up very well.

Below, several quotes I found amazing for 1906!  Below, he compares too many people to those creeping vines which suck the life out of the trees and bushes that they climb up on in order to out-compete them for sun, eventually killing the host.

(In this age of Facebook "Likes" and "Dislikes" and "fake news", I found his above phrases "think prepared thoughts," "second-rate existence" and  "mush of concession" especially prescient.)

The books contain lovely pen-and-ink illustrations by Thomas Fogarty, a close friend who also illustrated Sailing Alone Around the World.  Below, some examples: