Saturday, August 20, 2016

HVAC: Home Edition: Undercutting the Contractors

I am now in month four at Erwin Vo. Tech for HVAC (Heating, ventilation, air conditioning.)  The last two weeks things have finally starting coming together for me.  The things that I have learned from the book are finally being put into real life practice.  And honestly, it couldn't have come at a better time.

You see, the A/C unit at the house had it's scheduled maintenance.  The company that maintains it said that it needed a few things.  First on unit #2, the dual capacitor was weak, and eventually it would need a new one.  The second issue with unit #2 was that the squirrel cage blower wheel needed cleaning. 

Well, after everything I've seen I wasn't sure how true it was.  I know a lot of companies perform the "inspection" for free, and then jack up the price on needed work.  What defines "needed work" can be open to interpretation.  Usually a capacitor either works or it doesn't.  There is no in-between.  Now I will be honest, in that, if a capacitor is weak it may be a sign of dying ...... sometime.  It could be a week, it could be years.  What you don't want is a capacitor to quit working, and then need an "emergency call" to the A/C company.  Then the price will really be jacked up.

So I wanted to get ahead of the curve.  I took a peek at the estimates for the work.  To change the capacitor was $194.24 (before discount,) and cleaning the blower was $256.10 (before discount.)  So if I could take care of this instead of the A/C company it would save a lot of dough.

My instructor was able to purchase the capacitor for $9.40.  I immediately paid him for it in cash, and was ever so thankful.  So when I made it home I got all my equipment and tools out. 

I took lots of pictures, so I will tell the rest of the story along with the pictures I took.  That way, you can understand what I am talking about.

First up, the tools.

And here is the $70, nay, $9.40 capacitor.

Here is the unit.

Here are the guts of the unit.

Here is a close up of the old capacitor.

I made sure to perform the correct math to make sure all the wires were going in the right places on the new capacitor.

So I put the connections on the new capacitor, and then drilled a new hole on the strap.  This capacitor was skinner, but longer than the old one.  So I adjusted the strap to hold it nice and tight.

And here is a picture of the all the completed work.

Honestly, I spent most of my time performing math and adjust the strap.  Other than that it didn't really take long.  So that was now out of the way.

A few days later it was time to tackle the squirrel cage blower.  Again, any little bit of dust on it can result in an A/C company saying it needs cleaning.  So before I even took anything apart, I took a peek at it.  You know what.  They weren't lying.  It needed cleaning.  It needed cleaning badly.  So I took it out and this is what it looked like.

There's nothing too technical about it.  It's just dirty, and I needed to get in there by hand and clean it out.  I used wire brushes, my big flat head screwdriver, and an air compressor to get in, and get that thing clean.  Did I mention it was dirty?  Because I looked like I rolled around in black dirt.

Again, it was more time consuming than it was hard.  I will say this.  My instructor showed me how to clean a blower just two days before.  I also knew that I would have needed a special tool to take the motor out.  If I could have removed the motor, then I would have used a water hose on the blower.  But since the motor was intact, I knew not to get water anywhere near it. 

Using the compressed air really helped.  I was able to get the little bits (and big bits) out of the blower.  I was surprised at the amount of dirt I was able to get out of it.  I ended up with a big ole' pile at my feet.  So this is what it looked like after cleaning.

Not perfect, but still ten times better than it was.  Once the unit was re-installed it actually sounded quieter.  That let me know that all the work I preformed was valid.  And hey, no one had to pay $450 (before discounts) to the A/C company. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Fender Blues Jr.: New Mod Day

I posted about a blog a couple of months ago about how I traded for my Fender Blues Jr. amp.  Here is the original post:

I bought it used because I knew I was going to ruin the warranty with mods.  First, I changed out the speaker, and then changed the tubes. 

But I decided to go all the way for these kind of mods.  The kind that would involve me doing this:

Not these type of mods:

Let me start at the beginning.  Fender had a great idea for the Fender Blues Jr.  To produce a small amp for coffee shops that has a 12 inch speaker and reverb.  Not to mention a full EQ section.  So it works well for what myself and a lot of others would do live situations. 

The problem was/is, is that, Fender made a muddy amp, but instead of fixing it, they put in a tinny speaker to counterbalance it.  So when I put in my WGS speaker, it sounded muffled.  That's when I found this guy on the internet:

It seems that this tech knows what he's doing, and has a modification kit on to help improve the sound of the Fender Blues Jr.  For the long explanation take a peek at this:

So, on a day I knew I had a lot of time to work on the amp, I set aside four hours to work on it.  I ended up needing five.  Here's what I was looking at:

I don't want to get overly technical, so I won't.  I removed parts from the circuit board, and put other parts in their place.  The reason I did this was so that the sound would come out more balanced and clear. 

I was over the top careful, and kept a cool head about everything I was doing.  Then, the moment of truth.  I flipped the switch on, and it worked.  I couldn't believe it.  The first time I flipped it on after doing all those mods, it worked. 

The hardest part was actually taking the circuit board out, and putting it back in.  Once I had the board removed, I knew what to do.  Actually taking out the parts was harder than putting in the new ones.  Usually it's the other way around.

So here was my favorite part of the build.  Putting the back cover on after I had worked on it for five hours.

The other mod I performed that I absolutely recommend for the Blues Jr. is the three way switch mod.  It adds a stand-by switch in-between the on and off switch.  Every tube amp should have one, and why the Blues Jr. doesn't have one is a really good question.  I'd like to ask Fender what they were thinking.

I have to say.  I love the sound.  It is clear and full without being muddy.  The EQ is much more balanced.  The sound can vary from acoustic to wooly blues.  I really dig it. 

The funny part is that I have been so busy lately, I haven't even had much time to play any instrument of mine.  But I'm going to have some fun with this once I get a chance.  Heck, in all the time I've owned this amp I've never even turned it up loud.  I may have to take it outside, and turn it up.  That way, I don't bother the other people in the house.  I have a good feeling about this.  I really do.

New Bass Day: My First Schecter

Today has been a good day.  After hounding a guy for (today included) three days I have a new bass.  Despite having upteen guitars in my lifetime, I have only had four (including this one) basses in my life. 

Here's the story.  I was checking late at night on Craigslist, and saw a listing that simply said, "Bass Guitar - $120."  So I clicked on it.  After checking reading the ad, I had to do some research.  He didn't actually list what kind of bass it was.  I could see the Schecter logo on the headstock, but I had to blow up the image to see the model it was.  It was a Damien 4.

I saw that they weren't made anymore, but when they were new they cost $550 new.  On the used market they were going for $250 to $350.  So this was a good deal.... maybe.

I still had to check it out.  I admit, I broke a couple of my own rules in buying this bass.  The guy had been given the bass to him for his son to try out.  His son didn't like it, and it sat unplayed for a quite a while.  So when I checked it out I noticed the neck was pretty bowed.  But I ended up getting "Luthier muscles" and thought, "I can fix anything!!!!!"

So I met the guy in a Walgreens parking lot.  This also broke another  rule in that, I didn't test the bass out through an amp.  I'll admit, I was 50/50 on buying the bass.  The neck was bowed, and it hadn't been played in a while.  But that part of me couldn't let go, so I went ahead and bought it.

When I got it home it didn't work, but I was expecting that.  I was sure the battery was dead.  I performed the tongue test, and the 9 volt battery was completely dead.  So I slapped a new battery in it, and it started to work.  However, the electronics needed cleaned out.  I got to that later, and the pots worked just fine.

The big problem was the neck.  It was really bowed.  So I did my usual luthier thing, and was not happy with myself.  The neck did not want to bend.  So I walked away for a bit, and checked the online videos from the Godfather of guitar repair himself, Dan Erlewine. 

I realized that I was in fact, human, and had made a mistake (which I won't say what it was here.)  So I went back out to the workshop, performed my super secret repair, and managed to get the neck as straight as it was going to get.  It's no Tobias or Modulus, but it's much better than a Squier.  Due to the truss rod not being set for years, it was going to have a little warpage.  However, I still have it set up better than 90% of the basses at Guitar Center. 

Next, it cleaned it up a bit.  Since it hadn't been played, it was pretty dusty.  I gave it a moderately good cleaning.  It still has a few dings, dents, and marks, but I'm not overly worried about that.

The other good part about this deal was that I received a Roadrunner bass soft case and a Levi's guitar strap along with the bass.  I think Guitar Center wants $40 for a bass case, and $20 for the strap, so I really can't complain about the deal.  Well, I can't complain now that I have the neck straightened out. 

So now, onto the pictures!!!!!

The Whitest Girl Coffee You Know

So when I was on vacation someone (most likely me) had the bright idea that we should get Starbucks coffee.  I was like, "Yeah, let's do this!  LEE ROY JENKINS!!!!!!"  But then came the problem that had never happened to me.  I didn't feel like ordering tea.  You see, I had gotten some bad tea earlier in the week, and I just didn't want tea. 

Since it's a coffee place I thought, "Let me order some coffee.  But what coffee should I order?  I've never ordered coffee from Starbucks before." 

So I said to the barista taking my order, "MAKE ME THE WHITEST GIRL COFFEE YOU KNOW!!!!!"  So she made me an iced white chocolate mocha latte. 

At first, I felt my inner white girl come out.

Then, I felt like Mario when he has caught a star, and suddenly is invincible.

Suddenly, everything became possible, and I understood the power of my inner white girl.

I'll be honest, I'm terrible at foreign languages, so I'm not exactly sure what encompasses the "Starbucks language."  But, I'm glad they know what I'm saying.

So after I had this wonderful drink, I decided that I needed more.  So I drank some of my Sister's drink.  (I did ask before I drank it.)  That was when I finally understood why Modest Mouse's song "Dashboard" was so groovy and hyper.

I thought, "Hey!  I can really get some stuff accomplished!  Let's go do something!  Anything!  Something!  Anything!"  But no one wanted to do anything but head back to Grandma's house.  So we headed back to Grandma's house, and I listened to Modest Mouse in my head. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Season of the Fireflies

I don't talk about my band on here much.  I know some guys talk about nothing but their bands, and it gets kind of old.  I want to avoid that, so I will keep it somewhat short.

Back in 2014 I released an album called, "This Divided Highway" by way of my band, "Possum Apple."  I think I have only sold ten copies so far, but hey, you have to start somewhere.  I quickly made two videos for the songs, "Buffalo" and "The Road."  I had always thought about making another video for a song off the album, but never got around to it.

I was inspired to write "Season of the Fireflies" when I was in West Virginia surrounded by fireflies.  So when I was back there this summer I took some film footage for a video.  So here it is.  I hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

New Pedal Board Day: Homestyle Edition: Part 2

Here's part 1 of this blog.  Read it to make more sense of Part 2.

I ended the last blog with the paint drying.  What I didn't know was that, I used paint + primer.  So I used two coats, and it turned out fine.  I then decorated the board.  It turned out like this:

So my next step was to use Velcro and zip ties to hold the Voodoo Labs Power Supply to the underside of the board.

I then added the Velcro to the top side of the board.

Next, I added Velcro to the underside of all my pedals.  I laid them out in a pattern that would work.  At this part I wish I had a bigger pedal board, but then I wouldn't be able to fit it in my SKB case.

It was at this time I realized that I used a different type of plug for my Snarling Dog's Wah-Wah pedal.  On my old SKB board I used different types of connectors than the Voodoo Labs used. 

To make a long story short, I talked to a few salesmen at Sam Ash, and they recommended a special 9 volt connector.  I check my stash at home, and realized that I had one already.  So I tested it out, and it worked on my Wah-wah.  So now, I tested everything, and got it working like it should.

Now I have a working pedal board again.  My only regret is that I didn't do this sooner.  But then again, I didn't know about how to make one.  I hope that musicians across the web might take a peek at my blog and be able to make some pedal boards of their own.  Good luck out there.