Saturday, 19 July 2014

finally figured it out!

There are a number of people still using Dell 1501 Inspiron laptops. A lot of them are running the Microsoft Vista OS. Most of them seem to have an issue with battery life and/or the system reporting that their battery is unrecognized, needs to be replaced, or will not charge.

Seeing that there was a new version that supposedly fixed this problem, I have tried more than once to update the BIOS on this laptop. It has never worked. As it is not mine, I have not put 100% effort into finding a solution (my bad).

It has come to pass that this laptop is now surplus and can be re-purposed. Getting it running without problems is now more important. I've read every post I could find on the Internet of other people's trials and tribulations with the same issue. Suggestions run from reloading the OS from scratch, to a do-this-then-that hoop-jumping sequence that will make your eyes glaze over. Having just spent a few evenings reloading a different PC with Vista, going through the 170+ updates, re-installing all the applications, and configuring the user accounts, I had no desire to repeat the performance.

So finally (after much head scratching) I got it to work.

This is the 32-bit Vista system that has been upgraded to 2Gb of RAM. Everything else is stock (15.4" XGA, 1.6 GHzTurion processor, Broadcom DW1390 card, etc.)

Dell wants you to download and copy the Win1501263.EXE file to your desktop and execute it from within Vista. This is supposed to extract the new (and last) BIOS image (2.6.3, A16), backup your current BIOS, and write the new BIOS to the motherboard using the WinPhlash utility.

Doing this sort of thing typically requires Administrator privileges, and this instance is no exception.

However, no matter in which order things were clicked, which user account I was logged in under, or even if I ran the Win1501263.EXE self-extract "as administrator", either nothing would happen or the WinPhlash utility would fail with an error. Could be in safe mode, at the command prompt, whatever.

In the end, all it took was to remove the password from the Administrator account, reboot and allow the laptop to enter Vista without a password, and then run the utility from the desktop "as administrator". 

WinPhlash started, asked for an image file, and ran OK. It reported successfully updating the BIOS. I selected"restart" from the Windows menu once it had all finished, and got a weird looking blue screen full of gibberesh during the shutdown - for a moment I thought it had been bricked. But a power-reset led to a clean bootup - WITHOUT the usual warning that the battery could not be recognized during POST. The system then continued on and entered Vista without problem. Within the OS it did once again report that the battery needed to be replaced, however all subsequent boots have not had this warning come up at the POST or within Vista.

The only other thing I've noticed that is different since the update is the F12 boot menu now has a couple more options, including booting from USB media.

Hope this is info helpful to someone else.

Monday, 7 July 2014

outlining an idea


Once more, a tool that I probably needed to use for a quick job never made it back to its proper place. Now I have no idea where it is. Well, it's in the house somewhere, obviously (at least, I think it is). Each spot I think it could be in has been searched, but to no avail.

The arguably laughable idea of having a pegboard on the wall complete with crime-scene style outlines of each tool is becoming more appealing; you can see immediately if a tool is not where it should be.

Current industrial practise leans towards exact cut-outs in foam blocks that fill the trays of rolling tool cabinets. Again, if something isn't where it should be, it's immediately apparent.

To be this organised is a laudable goal, though the path to achieving it is gives me the sense of the archetypical old farmer by the side of the road saying to the wayward traveller, "You can't get there from here."

I'd better figure this out soon.


The tool I was looking for has been found.

It was in a place which makes a sort of bizarre sense, but (painfully) not the First place I'd look for it.

I'm reminded of a statement made by a friend of mine who is an excellent craftsman in both metal and wood, but is (as he puts it) "getting on in years". He said he must now resist the urge to rearrange things in his lifelong quest for the perfect shop configuration. When I asked him why, he said "I can remember where the tools have been for the last 30 years, but not the new place I've decided to put them."

In age there is wisdom.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

sheltered in the Lee

Made it to the Lee Valley vintage plane sale today. You'd think they were giving stuff away.

The place was packed; met lots of interesting people waiting in line for the doors to open.
In mere minutes, it was almost impossible to move. Despite the crowding, everyone was polite and patient. There were some large iron planes (6, 7, and 8) that went quickly (and at good prices) along with various drills and braces, but my eyes were set on the wide selection of wooden moulders.

After digging around for quite a while I managed to find a snipe-bill in good shape (score!), plus #12 hollow & round, a 1" skew rabbet, a bead following plane, and a coarse rip saw with a very good plate. 

The best buy for me was a "badger" plane with a thick Sorby iron. I was watching people picking this item up from amidst a group of wooden jacks, and almost immediately putting it back down again. When I finally got hold of it, I could see it was not a normal plane, having a skewed iron that did not span the full width of the sole but stuck out of one side like a rabbet. I'll use it for making raised panels.

I also got a chance to speak with Robin Lee again. He indicated that there would be two more vintage planes sales this year, in Calgary and Vancouver. He was open to the idea of offering courses in making moulding planes, and possibly carrying annealed iron blanks at the stores. We also spoke about rapid prototyping advances and ideas like injection moulded plane bodies with swappable sole plates - think pattern-makers planes. 

Tool dealer and plane expert Doug Orr was on hand to offer advice and answer questions, along with a copious quantity of knowledgeable LV staff.

There was an interesting looking DVD playing in the background of the sale area. I asked one of the staff what the name of it was. Not only did they get me the name, they went and got a DVD from the shelf while I waited in line so that I wouldn't lose my place. It was Classic Plane Making by Tod Herrli. I've already watched most of it, and it's a pretty straightforward method to make a set of #14 hollow and round planes without any special tools except plane floats, which he shows you how to make.

Konrad from Sauer and Steiner planes had a working display in the main store. These are some of the sexiest handplanes I've seen, but I cannot imagine owning one unless I magically became a (well paid) professional furniture maker. When I win the lottery I'll order a set.

I also ran into fellow students Robert and Mary during this event and we talked about sawing techniques, tote design, vintage tools, apprenticeships, planned projects, upcoming classes, and so on. Rob also mentioned something about rumors of new frog designs for Lee Valley's bench planes.

All in all it was a good, if tiring, experience. The list of "wanted" items is dwindling.

Robin Lee warned me to save up for something big in October. This sounded ominous.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

closer to hone

Re: Garry's (from Lee Valley) advice on recovering my ceramic stone.

Late yesterday I tried using the DMT medium grit plate in a figure-8 pattern on the hone.

All but one scratch and one pit have been eradicated.
The surface is once again visibly reflective and slightly "sticks" to a granite plate.

I'll be working on a chisel later this evening to see if it's truly up to snuff again.

up in the Valley

I was able to make time to visit the beautiful new Lee Valley location in Vaughan, ON. Opening week for any new store means special guests and special events. As befit the occasion, they got one of my tied-for-first-place-favourite authors to attend, so I dropped everything to be there. Heck, I'd have tied the Pope's shoes together for a chance to see this guy in person.

The other foamers and I were there to see "Workbenches 101": A Participatory History, by Chris Schwarz. Forty or more of us packed into the high-ceilinged clinic area and Chris led us through an hour of images covering a thorough retrospective of workbenches and their features, asking the group to call out the answers to his many leading questions designed to reveal the growth and regression of this vital piece of workshop furniture. I was struck by first image of an Egyptian "bench" which, like its owner, sat on the floor and seemed to offer little more than a groove to jam a workpiece against while being hacked at by a rock on a stick. Must've come from the first "Lee Valley of the Kings" catalogue. The entire series of pictures (covering over a thousand years) showed us that there are no new ideas in the workbench realm, but there are some really bad ones.

There was a brief break for refreshments and book signings of The Anarchist's Toolchest & Campaign Furniture tomes. Since I had (foolishly) not brought my copies of these books, nor either of his own workbench volumes along, on the spur of the moment I asked him to sign Scott Landis' venerable workbench book instead. Cool guy that he is, Chris did so, and with a chuckle.

The break was followed by a lively & lengthy Q&A session on all workbench topics from material choices, feature set, the "carcass" test which gauges the ability to work faces, edges & ends of stock & cabinet assemblies, workholding options, laminated vs slab tops, and (of course) height. Despite reading his (and Landis', and other's works) prior to attending, I feel like I'll be able to construct a more suitable bench for myself thanks to this session.

Chris is a personable and erudite presenter; exceeding my already high expectations based on his many DVD appearances and writing style. Pace and content were both excellent, with a judicious application of humour throughout. Past experience has been that, in person, celebrities are not as witty, charming, and open as they seem on the page or screen. Mr. Schwarz certainly was all of these thing, and then some.

Before the clinic started, Lee Valley employee Garry walked me through some possible routes to recover my 5000 grit ceramic honing stone. One side has become measurably pitted and scratched - not 100% sure what happened, but I think it's a result of my (former) cleaning method. Garry offered several suggestions to correct the issue and bring the other side (currently sporting a thick adhesive label) into productive use as well. The DMT coarse/medium diamond plate does a fine job of creating a sharp edge, but the ceramic stone really polishes the working faces to a mirror shine.

Naturally, there were some minor purchases made as I puttered through the aisles waiting for the event to start - I've never been able to walk out of a Lee Valley store without something.

Later, I watched as Megan Fitzpatrick almost set fire to a thick piece of hard maple in the elevated demo area of the new store as she was removing waste from the dovetails. A few fine wisps of smoke rose from the cut as she toiled on the rock-hard workpiece. The teeth of the blade were too finely pitched, demanding significant effort; I doubt I would have made it as far as she did. We spoke briefly about her preferred dovetailing method, ways to tune up an Olsen-style coping saw, how cool the Knew Concepts saws are, and how certain classes at Lee Valley always sold out immediately (especially "Women and Power Tools"). Due to work schedule, I was unable to attend her DIY seminar. I like her writing style and feel I've missed out by not seeing one of her clinics in person.

Robin Lee was present and I took the chance to open a conversation with him. Since I'm a big fan of Lee Valley's Veritas line and now have a greater appreciation of the efforts and factors involved in manufacturing, I wanted to thank him for making these delectable tools available despite the many challenges presented by today's economy. We discussed Lee Valley's extensive hand tool reference museum, manual skill building, the perceived value of manual labour, possible ressurection of shop classes in public schools, Festool's product range, the myriad joys of building things for oneself, the rising "Maker" movement, further plans for the new store, and various tangents to these topics (including the culinary arts).

I bumped into fellow attendee Robert, who has coincidentally been in several previous Lee Valley classes I've taken with instructor Steven Der-Garabedian of Black Walnut Studio. Robert is also a big vintage hand-tool fan and I've also run into him at a couple of the well stocked Antique Tool shows in the east end of the city. We were both looking for the same moulding planes at the last event (snipe bill & side round). I hope there are enough of these to go around as interest in old-school hand-tool use continues to rise.

The next group of rabid fans and I crowded back into the clinic room for Chris to present "An Introduction to Campaign Furniture". He spoke at length about the origins of the style, spotting features, functionality, development, and why it's worthy of study and reproduction. Now, I've been to a lot of clinics/seminars for work, wood, and other hobbies. I've never been in one with fewer coughs, rattles, wrapper-crinkling, cell phone bleeps, and side-conversations; a massive sign of respect for the presenter.

Chris brought along a vintage, upholstered, folding Douro chair and the original packing box (lettered T.H. Thompson, Esq. 78th Highlanders) which itself morphs into a low dining/writing/card table. Also on-hand were two recently made 3-legged folding stools with rivetted leather seats. Sadly, the rated capacity on these are markedly less than my current bulk so I didn't dare try them. I'm sure the components can be scaled up. Also shown was a clever, metal legged folding stool with a slung canvas seat which has been in continuous production for well over 150 years. The folding, flat-pack bookcase featured in the new book was present for insepection. Top-notch brass hardware and a simple design hints strongly that something very like this will show up as a bedside replacement to my existing (inadequate) arrangement. Attendees were free to examine & photograph the pieces, asking questions as they came to mind.

One of the clinic attendees brought along two of his own Roorkee chairs (he's made 7 so far!) - one done in cherry with cream leather and the other in vivid purpleheart with rich burgundy leather complete with a matching foot-stool. Outstanding!

Chris carried on with another Q&A session about vintage & modern material choices, hardware types & sources, design considerations, where this style slots in between Victorian and Modern, finishing options, how certain tranformable "patent" furniture might well fit into the Steampunk aesthetic, Lost Art Press's upcoming "Furniture of Necessity" book, the rewards of being able to publish your own material to you own schedule, and so forth.

More books were signed, including my copies of 1st edition of The Anarchist's Tool Chest, The Joiner & Cabinet Maker (possibly my favoutite textbook ever), and Campaign Furniture. I did briefly think about bringing the Robert Wearing and Chris's workbench books, but it seemed like too much to ask.

Sad to see the day come to an end.

Monday, 3 February 2014

service ability

One of the best things about this particular bandsaw is that 1000's and 1000's were made over the years. Slight (annoying) variations exist between batches but, for the most part, spares seem to be largely interchangable.

R&D Bandsaws in Brampton, ON stock a wide array of bandsaw parts in addition to their primary business of making great bandsaw blades. I had a new 93" x 1/2 x 3tpi blade in minutes from coil stock.

Service is great. The staff is very helpful and know all the right questions to ask a customer, along with all the right answers to provide.

With copious help from the boss, I've obtained all of the parts to rework this machine except for the lower driveshaft. We agreed that the area where the bearing collar sits just doesn't look right. I'll be conferring with some machinists tonight re: options. I may not have to make a whole new shaft; a split bushing may suffice.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

no ounce of prevention, now pounding a cure

It amazes me how little preventative maintenance is done on tools.

People just buy them, (ab)use them, and then complain when they stop working.
Then, I buy them and complain about the condition they're in.

The bandsaw's guide blocks are badly worn showing poor operator technique.
The bottom thrust bearing is seized and the top bearing is noisy. I'll order two of whatever they are.
The upper wheel exhibits some play in the wrong axis.

A mish-mash of fasteners replace stock items here and there. So far it appears that the originals were (probably) metric and the replacements are (likely) imperial and have been forced into the holes in one or two spots. I'll know for certain shortly. I've no doubt that a couple of holes are damaged enough to need boring out and re-threaded.

The A-24 belt came through a supplier of my local auto mechanic. A touch more expensive than the A-36 but no time or fuel was wasted running around looking for it.

"Cool Blocks" (graphite impregnated phenolic) guides were obtained at Lee Valley Tools.

A new 110V paddle switch was picked up at Busy Bee Tools. I want to relocate the switch to the outside of the upper frame arm so I'll need more wire and a couple of boxes.

Thought I had a suitable bearing on-hand to replace the seized bottom one but I'll have to make another side trip next week to get the correct size. Hope I can successfully press this bad one off the hexagonal shaft today.

-afternoon update-

Good news - the bearing is a 6200 Z with a 10mm ID so it should be easy to find. Had to knock it off the shaft with a punch as my small press is nowhere to be found - likely hidden behind or under something else.

Bad news - the play in the upper wheel was because the cast whitemetal sliding bracket (tensioner) and shaft hinge are (now) in pieces. It explains the one tiny piece of casting I found in the guts of the machine when I started cleaning it up (I attributed this to debris from the PO's metal cutting work). My suspicion is that a blade was over-tensioned at some point and cracked these castings. My fault for not spotting this condition on initial inspection. This has now turned into a large repair effort.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

belt and braces

I acquired and assembled a mobile base for the bandsaw. Model CT183 from Busy Bee easily accomodates the stand using only a single channel piece on each side in the assembly, making it a good deal stiffer than I expected. Due to a ding in one corner of the stand and the variability of stamped metal parts, some bracing (shims?) will be added to keep the machine from rocking slightly.

The electrical cord exited the stand at the bottom front edge and must be re-located to clear the flange of the base's side rails. It was wired directly into the switch (which I have decided to replace) - no screw terminals - so the cord was cut off and pulled from the stand. I'll re-install it in a more sensible spot at the back of the machine later.

The jack-shaft pulleys are so obviously out of line with the input pulley at the base of the saw it's a wonder it ran at all. No surprise that the v-belts were chewed up.

On the subject of belts, I managed to locate an A-36 belt at Princess Auto for $4.00. Despite having a good sized display, there were no A-24's to be had, although A-22 and A-26 were present in quantity. Inquiry revealed that the A-24 size is not carried at all - go figure. I doubt the need to buy Kevlar belts or Link belts for my planned usage frequency and duration, but you never know.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

sawing to beat the band

Thanks to some random grazing of Kijiji, I spotted a Busy Bee bandsaw not too far from my crumbled abode.

A quick trip in the morning sunshine revealed a unit that is a little worse for wear, but not unsalvageable. Quick tests showed it was functional and worthy of some attention.

14", late 80's vintage from Taiwan. Cast iron frame, wheels, and table. 3-speed pulley arrangement. Probably the same model as was offered by 1/2 dozen distributors during that era, just with a different name plate on the front.

Needs new belts, blade guides, and thrust bearings. A new power switch wouldn't go amiss. No mitre fence or rip fence, but those are easily cobbled up. The way it's made will make it fairly easy to modify or add bits & pieces as requirements demand.

I was able to knock it down into 3 pieces to get it from the driveway to the basement. I probably could have split it at the riser location but that would have meant more fiddly re-assembly later. It may come to that during the cleaning and re-alignment phases anyway,

Score - Busy Bee was able to provide a scanned copy of the original manual!