Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cuts Like A Knife.... (But Really, It Does Feel So Right.)

So my friend Matt has a neat hobby.  He makes knives.  I always thought that was a neat hobby.  I mean, I build guitars, and that involves wood and electronics.  But knives require both wood and metal working. 

So I've always been in awe of those who make high quality knives.  I remember watching a program on the Discovery Channel about a man who was a renowned knife maker.  His specialty was knives that were thin like fillet knifes, but could bend side to side without breaking.  It really surprised me at what a high quality knife could do.  It would bend without breaking, but still be extremely sharp.

Matt asked me if I had any black walnut or was planning on getting any.  I had to check my woodpile, but it turns out both Matt and I were in luck.  I had one piece in my pile that was clearly marked black walnut.

It turns out he needed black walnut for making knife handles.  So, I asked him how big he needed the wood blanks, and he let me know that they needed to be 12 inches X 4 inches X 3/8th of an inch.  I was wondering if he was working on a machete with pieces of wood that big.

So I got out the wood and went to town on the bandsaw, thickness planner, and thickness sander.  After all my work, this was my results.

The blank on the left is mahogany.  Matt didn't ask for it, but I decided to show him what one would look like.  Him and his family where happy with the results.  It was then they informed me that one of those blanks where not used for the side of one knife.  It would be cut into quarters, and then used for two knives.  So I felt better about only having one piece of mahogany. 

I was worried that the knots on the wood would be a problem, but Matt said they would just add character.

But the gift giving was not over.  It turns out that Matt had a present for me.  This:

Whoa!  It's almost too nice.  Really, it's just too nice.  This knife is so sharp that I was cutting steak, and it cut the plate.... in half.  And that plate was made an actual plate, not a paper one.  This knife was so sharp that when I was washing it, it cut the water into hydrogen and oxygen.  Yes, it's that sharp.

So I am thankful for the gift.  I know they're made to be used, but dang, I don't know what I am going to use it on.  Maybe if I get a hunk of giant dead animal flesh?  Or the leg of some sort of biggish animal?  I just have to make sure I don't drop this knife on my foot.  I'm sure it would go right through. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Hey Mama, Don't Rock Me. Don't Rock Me One Bit.

Have you ever heard a song so much in your life that you wished you never heard it again?  Well, as much music as I listen to it's bound to happen.  But think about this.  Have you ever heard a song so much, but it never actually heard it played on the radio?  That is something to think about it.

I go to a lot of open mic nights and local shows.  So I tend to hear a lot of the same songs.  Here's an example.  Down here in Florida you are guaranteed to hear something from Jimmy Buffett.  It's just gonna happen so get used to it. 

But something struck me kind of strange when I started going to open mics.  I kept hearing this same song that I'd never heard before.  Now admittedly, local radio here in the Tampa Bay area is notorious for only playing classic rock.  So if anything new comes out that isn't Top 40 pop or classic rock, it is lost to the bay area. 

So what is this song I kept hearing? 

It turns out that it's called "Wagon Wheel" from "Old Crow Medicine Show."

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying it's a bad song.  It's quite catchy.  But it's very odd that I seem to hear it played out so much, but not on the radio. 

And speaking of radio, it turns out that, "Old Crow Medicine Show's" Ketch Secor wrote the song with Bob Dylan, but lots of other artists have covered it.

Like Darius Rucker (Of Hootie and the Blowfish):

Even Irish singer Nathan Carter got in on the act:

Even Sheryl Crow has played the song along with many, many others.  I won't name everyone since this list will start to get quite long.

When I started writing this blog I didn't realize I wasn't alone in my thought.  My searches took me to the Wikipedia page where it seems a lot of folks agree with me.


It has become such a popular cover song at musical gatherings, venues and events that some discourage its performance.

The article also goes on to say that it has become almost as big as "Freebird" in terms of requests at bars.  So again, it seems that I am not alone in my opinions. 

So, in the end, I will leave it at this.  Hey Mama, don't rock me.  Don't rock me at all.  I can go the rest of my life without hearing that song. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

HVAC - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Part 3

My work continued on our A/C system at the house.  It started with a trip to Home Depot.  Since I needed to replace the insulation on the pipes outside, it was important to pick up some new insulation and zip ties. 

I was so focused on my work I forgot to take pictures, but believe me, the old insulation was falling apart.  It just completely fell apart in my hands.  So I put the new insulation on, and tightened it down with zip ties.  I feel pretty good about it.  Here's the "after" pictures.

The hardest part was just getting around to the back of the units.  The concrete is very hard on the knees.  Luckily, I remembered an old towel I had, so I tucked it underneath my knees. 

I also got back to cleaning the inside coils.  Again, I forgot to take pictures.  But here is what it looked like before.

I talked to my HVAC Instructor Raul yesterday, and he told me to NOT take it out.  Just leave it where it was.  Go ahead and hit it with coil cleaner, and let it sit for five minutes.  Since it sits in a pan, I could use the water hose on low, and the water would drain down the pipes.  I had my shop/vac on standby for any water that made it out of the pan, but not much managed to get out. 

For reference, this is your friend:

So now it's time to let the system run for a bit, and see if everything improves.  It's already gotten colder in the house.  Now it's time to see if the electric bill comes down a bit.  Since this is about the hottest time of year in Florida, the difference should be really noticeable.  Hopefully things will turn out for the best, and I may be able to write part four of this blog.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

HVAC - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Part 2

So this is the third day I have worked/ cleaned the A/C system.  Today was the day I worked on inside part of the system.  (Yes, I know I could use technical terms, but no one would know what I was talking about.)  So, let me show you a picture of it.

The unit on the right is pretty new so I didn't have to worry about it.  The one on the left is 22 years old, and the one I needed to work on. 

So the question is, "Did it have some mold?"  Well, just a little bit.

And to answer the question, "Did it have a bit of dust in it?"  Well, yes.  Yes it did.

So I took my shop vacuum and went to town cleaning the vents.  I also knocked some of the mold and dust off the sides.

I also went to town with the Lysol.  I will say this, it couldn't hurt.  I'm not sure how much it helped, but I let loose with the Lysol.

The next part was to take the unit out, and use the coil cleaner on it.  However, it was bolted in there so well, I had no idea how to take it out.  So at this time I left it in.  I figured I would do more damage than good if I tried to take it out.  I'm a bit disappointed in myself, but as I get to know more about HVAC I will feel more confident that I can take the unit apart without damaging it. 

So, I will talk to my instructors about the unit, and hopefully in the future I will be able to take it apart without damaging it. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

HVAC - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

Lately my posts have been about how I have been going to school studying HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning.)  Right now, I know enough to seriously screw something up, and not be able to fix it.  But it was time to do something that I can do, and that's cleaning.  By cleaning the outside units and the inside vents I can bring down the costs on the electric bill.

It's funny, but at school we actually cleaned the big dual units in the automotive department.  The units were so plugged up that the pressure on the high side on one of the units was 300 PSI.  That means when it hits 301 PSI it will trip the breaker.  After we cleaned the outside unit, it brought the pressure down to 220 PSI (on the high side.)  That's a huge difference.  And all we did was use coil cleaner on the coils, and take a water hose to it. 

So I figured it was time to do this to our units.  The house is 22 years old, and has two A/C units.  (As pictured.)

 One is a Cumberland and is still running after all these years.  (As pictured.)

The other is a Trane, and is the third unit we've had for that side of the house.  It replaced the old unit just a year ago.  When I looked at it, it was really clean so there was no need to clean it.

So I took apart the Cumberland A/C unit, and gave it a good cleaning.  It's made a little differently than I am used to seeing.  The outside part of the unit is basically grill cloths protecting the inside which houses the coils.  So after removing 20 screws to get the top off, I sprayed it down with coil cleaner.  I then went to town on the grill cloths while the cleaner did it's job. 

I used my shop vacuum to remove some old leaves and grass from the inside of the unit.  I then used the water hose to spray the coils from the inside to outside.  I gave it a good, nay, great cleaning.  I put everything back together, and I put back 19 of the 20 screws.  (I have no idea where that last screw went.) 

So that was more time consuming than it was mentally challenging.  However, I was in the full Florida heat, and it really started to wear me down by the end of it. 

So the next day, Saturday, I decided to clean the inside vents.  Again, after 22 years they can get full of stuff.  I was cleaning one of the vents when I thought, "Why don't I just pull the two screws so I can run it under some water?"

Here's what the outside and around the vent looked like.

So I went to town around the vent and inside the vent.

This lead to a lot of gunk falling down everywhere.  This lead me to get out my shop vacuum.  It's a Rigid wet/dry vacuum, and has served me well for many years.

I then continued to do more of the same around the house.  Namely, take off the vents, and give them a good cleaning, and shoot a bunch of Lysol down the vents.  Then I would break out the shop vacuum, and clean everything up.  Some of the vents weren't too bad, and all I had to do was wipe them down.  While I was at it with my rag and bucket of water, I went ahead and cleaned off the fans.  Those things collect a ton of dust in no time at all. 

So my next step will be to take the inside unit apart and clean the coils in it.  I will also clean out the drain lines.  I'll try to remember to get lots of pictures of it so I can write a second part to this blog.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Little Amp, Smooth Power

So I've talked/ written about my little combo amp before.  It's the Epiphone Valve Jr. that I built into a combo amp.  Here's the picture of it.

Anyway, I moved the WGS speaker that I had in to my Fender Blues Jr.  So I looked around for the right speaker to replace it.  The hard part was finding a speaker that wasn't too loud.  Modern 12 inch speakers are made for such high volumes that it makes finding a low wattage one difficult. 

So I was looking at gear on when I came across something interesting.  There's a company that takes old roughed up speakers, and re-cones them as well as updating them.  The seller had a 1962 Rola, Pre-Celestion Alnico speaker for sale.  It was only 40 watts so that made it perfect for my 5 watt amp. 

So I bought it, and it arrived today.  I dropped it right in my combo amp, and cranked it up.  Since the company's name is Hemppopotamus Speakers, I suspect the cone is a hemp cone.  That means it takes a while to break in due to having such a strong cone.  I turned it up all the way, and noticed it was doing the "speaker fart" when I played the low notes.  However, after I played for about 15 minutes it stopped doing it.

I know a lot of players say that speakers need 20 hours of playing time on them before they start to break in.  I could hear just how "tight" this speaker sounded, and figure it will take at least that long.  However, the longer I played it the more it started to break in. 

I can hear how the speaker doesn't have that modern aggression to it, and it has to be cranked to really get great overdrive to come out of it.  But I can understand how musicians say that Alnico speakers have a "sweet" sound to them.  It's very smooth and early Fender-ish sound. 

He has a few more up for sale on  If it's something you may be interested in, I'd say give it a try.  His cost is much more fair than the modern Alnico speakers.  In fact, his are the only Alnico speakers that I could actually afford.  I'll see about getting some sound clips up in a future blog.  But I want to break the speaker cone in first.   

Saturday, June 11, 2016

School Dayz: Sixth Week In: Moving At 2/3rd Speed

It was inevitable.  If you start going to a place with a lot of people like a school, you are going to get sick.  And guess what?  I got sick.  It was the usual stuff that gets me.  First my sinuses flow like Niagara Falls, and my throat goes raw. 

So, I start to raid the medicine cabinet.  I look around.  I'm running somewhat late in the morning so I have to do a "best guess" at this point.  I grab the Mucinex DM.

And the Robitussin DM.

I make my way to school, and try not to infect anyone.  After I was there awhile I started to feel funny.  Not sick funny.  I felt like the cover of Cream's "Disraeli Gears" album.

Everything, including my brain, started moving at 2/3rds speed.  It suddenly occurred to me that I was not legal to drive at that moment.  In fact, I was probably not legal to even sign my signature on some sort of official paperwork.

Suddenly, the song that made the most sense in the world at that point was, The Cars, "Moving in Stereo." 

Before I started to write this blog, I took a peek at the instructions of the Robitussin.  It said, "Do not take this if you take "this" type of medicine."  Guess what?  I take that kind of medicine.  So that now makes sense.  It seems that I had some medicines react with each other. 

So I vowed not to do it again, and just suffered with my stupid cold without any meds.  Luckily, I am now at the end of my uncommon cold.  But I will remember this.  Not to mess around with mixing meds.