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There was no What's New from 2008, 2010, 2011 or 2012. Wow... that's a dry spell! I made several minor updates but nothing to write home about.
There are still a lot of broken things on this site. A lot of it is PHP code that seems to stop working every time the server upgrades its software. Frankly, I hate working with PHP as it's just a horrible programming language and even stuff that should be simple takes me a very long time to get working. I'd much rather work with VB code that I'm very comfortable with but hosting costs a lot more than I'm willing to pay to provide a free website.
So the broken stuff will stay broken until either I have nothing better to do than spend days being frustrated and dealing with high-blood-pressure-induced headaches or I can get some free help (in person preferably) from a person who is actually competent with php.
Next, I've mostly maintained standards for how things are laid out and work on the site — image sizes and resolutions and such. For example, photos have a set size for various things. I never enlarge an image because enlarging makes photos blurry. The only reason to enlarge a photo would be to make detail clearer but just the opposite happens.
Photos are cropped and resized to be whichever dimension they max at. For example, wallpaper images have been a maximum of 800 pixels wide by 540 pixels tall. Wallpaper images are never larger than the max in either dimension so a photo 1,100 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall will be resized to 800 pixels wide which makes it less than 540 tall. All images are 72 DPI unless the original had a lower resolution.
You probably don't care about any of that but I'm telling you anyway and I'm going to continue...
What has never concerned me is long page load times. My attitude is that the internet should always be getting faster so I have always favored having large clear photos over having smaller, faster page loads. In fact, it really bugs me that commercial sites have "Click for Enlarged View" of their products only to find when I click the photo it's still way too small to see. I know bandwidth costs money but that's just an attitude of being really cheap. If I can do it with a free site then a commercial site should be able to do more than I do instead of less.
Airfield Models Images Sizes in Pixel to Date
So now that I've had this site for years and have seen it on multiple computer platforms I'm seeing that my wallpaper images are looking smaller and smaller due to larger, higher resolution monitors. Therefore image sizes are going to be larger than in the past. You may have also noticed the clarity of the photos increased about the same time I wrote the article for my Raptor V2. That's because I acquired a Nikon D50 just a few days before the Raptor. I am still using that camera and am generally very pleased with it except for the part where I have to slightly rotate the camera from level to achieve a level photo. I need to take the camera in for adjustment. Will probably never happen.
Prior to acquiring the Nikon digital camera I used several other cameras. When I was leaving Germany I took photos of all my property that was important to me as a record. I used my Panasonic digital video camera which took really lousy still photos that almost look grayscale. Many of those photos made it onto the site when I first created it and still linger.
Whenever possible I used my Nikon N90s film camera and scanned the photos using a flatbed scanner. These photos were ok but they never looked very bright. Additionally good photo processing costs a lot of money compared to crappy drug store photo processing. I don't have any personal need for prints of the photos for my How-To articles either so I bought an inexpensive HP digital camera as it was all I could afford at the time. It did a better job for web images than the N90s and there was no cost after the initial purchase.
The HP was just really limited in what it could do so getting clear close-up photos was pretty much out of the question. My finances improved and now I have the Nikon Digital SLR which can use all the lenses I purchased for my N90s. That's why I bought it. Paul = Happy (except his SB-26 flash doesn't work with the D50 which means a new, expensive flash is in the future someplace).
New Image Sizes until Whenever
How-To and similar articles have 360 pixel wide images that now open to wallpaper size images. In the past there was just the image on the page but no larger version available except in a few very cases.
Other than that things are pretty much the same. I've always thought the horizontal lines of the theme looked good but they bug me and probably a lot of other people when scrolling pages. I've thought about it quite a bit but still haven't decided what I'm going to do about it. The good news is that all pages that share the theme use the exact same images to do it so whenever I decide what I'm going to do about it I only have to change the images and all pages will be fixed (or broken) at the same time.
Moving along to why everyone thinks that this site is abandoned and one or more of the following happened...
What follows is intended to reasonably resemble factual statements...
Trust me... As Long as This Tale is, it WOULD be Very Much longer if You were a Captive Audience
Before I begin I would like to assure everyone that I am mostly not deceased. Unfortunately, I only have a very short form copy of my birth certificate that the US Army obtained for me so I could deploy to Egypt. I'm not sure what that has to do with me being alive but apparently the new rule for birth certificates is that however long yours is it's not real unless it's longer.
Fair warning: This is long and more than anything it's a self-reflection for myself as how I arrived where I am from where I was a few years ago. It's mostly about me in my shop. It's not a brooding, gothic introspective about the importance of my feelings and why they are the most important feelings anyone has ever had. In other words, it's not Facebook melodrama.
While I'm going to mention a lot of things I want to write articles about I'm not going to write about them here. If you keep reading expecting me to actually write about those topics here for your model-building education you will probably be disappointed and possibly even angry with me for wasting a lot of your time.
My time away from this site has been very educational and almost all of it applies to model-building for me and to varying degrees for all other model-builders. There are things that were a mystery to me that are no longer so. There are things that I have known for a long time and assumed were obvious so have never written about but may have mentioned in passing assuming you knew what I was talking about.
Of course there are things that will always be mysteries to me. I can't learn everything and that really bugs me. But I'm doing the best I can to soak up all the information I am able to as long as I'm interested in whatever the subject is.
My Chemistry/Physics instructor in high school often said you have to know what it is that you don't know. Donald Rumsfeld said the same thing and became the target of a lot of derision and mockery as a result. But in this one unique case, he was actually right about something. It's a tragedy that the things he was wrong about contributed to thousands upon thousands of people dying.
Half the battle is finding out what it is that you don't know that you don't know. If you really think that is a ridiculous idea then I give an example of exactly what that means later. I don't know what it means if you still don't get it after that but you're wrong if you think the idea is wrong.
I am aware of something about me that I do in conversation and I try to avoid in my writing for the most part. I start at the trunk of the tree, branch off and hit every leaf (and acorn, worm and caterpillar) and depending on whether the person(s) I'm speaking to haven't gotten up and walked out or I forgot where I started, I end up back at the trunk much later.
I talk in tangents and there is a reason for it. I'm trying to give the listener a better understanding of why the trunk is what it is, why it is and why it's important. It's my personal requirement to understand fundamentals so I inflict that same requirement unto others Again, I mostly avoid it in my writing but in this case I'm not even attempting to. If you keep reading you may wonder why I was talking about one thing and then suddenly began talking about another. When I wrote it I had a reason and I may have made it back to the trunk and now it all makes sense. And I might not have and that's just how it's going to be.
I'm finally at a place where I am no longer desperately seeking knowledge to do the things I'm already doing. I want to learn a lot more and will talk about that in a bit. But right now with what I'm doing I don't have a real need to experiment to find not the best way, but an at least acceptable way. And then I need to find ways to accomplish the task as efficiently as possible to my personal quality standards and be able to repeat those results whenever I perform that same task again.
That probably doesn't make sense so I'll give an example. I need to cut a lot of pieces of wood. They have to be of acceptable quality when they are cut. That means they can't be burned, have deep saw marks or have chipped edges. That's just one of many tasks I have to accomplish.
Each task that I must complete successfully is a learning process. It took a lot of trial and error over a period of several years to learn how to accomplish these tasks to my quality standards.
So I was desperate to learn because I was having problems with the processes. The sawing, for example, meant leaning what happened with the blade at different heights with the wood being fed at different speeds and figuring out the best blade to use. Depending on your personal standards you might find an answer pretty quickly. But I'm OCD so it took me a long time to find the exact right combination of blade selection, height and feed rate to get a clean cut on a difficult material while having minimal rejects. These pieces each require several different cuts on my table saw and because each cut is unique I had to learn how to make each one properly.
One thing I've figured out about me is that I'm really bad at just doing something. If somebody tells me to go load a truck then it should be simple, right? Load the truck.
But things have never been so simple for me. I have to know where the truck is going, what the trip will be like, what it is that's being loaded, whether the truck is being off-loaded onto a ramp or the ground, will anything be needed immediately upon arrival and whatever else. Because those are just things anyone would need to know to load the truck properly.
I'm saying that's how my mind works but obviously a lot of people can load the truck successfully without knowing any of that stuff and they don't even realize that they should know those things. The difference is that my load will be more efficient, nothing will be broken and it will off-load efficiently as well instead of the first thing you needed being the last thing off the truck. The other guy may get it right because he's lucky or he has innate knowledge and just gets things right. He's psychic or a genius or something that I'm not.
I'm one of those people who needs the fundamental knowledge underlying a task. That means it takes me longer to figure it out in the first place. If it's a task I will be doing repeatedly then I study it in detail and constantly improve my methods until I have it down to a science. Then I'm able to give other people clear instruction to bring them up to speed much faster than it happened for me. That's why any time I talk to anyone in length they almost always tell me I should have been a teacher.
So now that I've worked my way onto every branch of the tree I can come back to the trunk.
I'm Free!!! (it will be short lived)
I now have the fundamental knowledge that I've been seeking for the past few years and there's nothing in the wings right now that requires me to go off on an "I need to learn this as fast as I can" quest. The stuff I want to learn now is just out of curiosity. So I'm safe for a while. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, it's manufacturing fixtures to a high standard of quality while having efficiency that allows me to make a profit that makes the whole thing worth it.
That was a long, hard journey for me. I'm not claiming I've learned everything there is to learn or that I can't improve the work that I do. But I've gotten past the desperation I had because I fundamentally understand how to do the work and achieve the results I want. The "it will be short lived" part means that probably sooner than later I will be doing something I don't fundamentally understand and my desperation will return.
What it means to you
A lot of what I want to write about involves accuracy, precision, measuring and knowing things are right. I want to write about setting up the tools to drill and saw with accuracy that far exceeds anything we need as a practical matter in regard to flying model aircraft. Making it even more accurate or precise doesn't take any more time than it takes to make it good enough. To me that means I gain more experience in regard to improving the quality of what I do and there is no downside such as it takes longer or costs more. But it does mean having quality tools which I think are necessary even if I choose to make something that is only good enough. It's expensive but not more than it would be otherwise.
I finally have a router table that works. I have a caliper within arms reach at all times in my shop and I know how to use it. My router table has accuracy approaching a mill. That means I can consistently get results within a couple thousandths of an inch in two directions — vertically (depth of cut) and horizontally (distance from the edge). I plan to go into a lot more detail about my router table in a dedicated article.
Because of my machinist friend Joe, I have learned where real shops buy real tools. I'm tired of being aggravated by the toy tools our hobby offers to us. They are mostly junk. And I'm saying that from a model airplane hobbyist's point of view, not a manufacturer's view. I have a diatribe in store on that topic that I haven't decided where it goes yet. I have to write it first. It may be with my Model Building Tools articles or it may be with my Lecturing and Rants. In the mean time I have made a vow to myself to never try to get by on the cheap. Spending money doesn't mean getting good tools. But you're not going to get tools that work well if you try to go cheap. The point is that there are expensive tools that don't work properly too.
I have sources to steer you to so you can avoid some of the suppliers in the model-building industry who know we don't know where to get the same stuff they sell us at really jacked up prices. I wrote about it in general once before. Now I will get into details. I don't mind a company making a profit. I don't mind a company keeping its secrets. I don't mind a company not telling you who they buy from when they buy in bulk and make a profit selling it in smaller parcels because their supplier won't sell to us small potatoes.
But I do mind when you can buy the one or two items you need from the same vendor and some other company is doing the same thing and jacking up the price. In other words, you can buy a $5.00 item from the vendor but you don't know they exist. So another company buys from them, probably for much less than the $5.00 you would pay, and then sells it to you for $15.00. That probably shouldn't bother me but it really does. So when I see it happening I'm going to tell you about it and if the company doing it can't do it any more and goes out of business — well, they deserve it. If they don't go out of business that's fine with me too. But what I'm not going to do is not tell you that you're getting ripped off when I know it's happening.
I want to write about a lot of tools I have acquired that I haven't written about before. Most are good. Some are really good. And one or three are so bad I'm not sure I want to give the manufacturer free advertising even to tell you how bad the tool is.
The last several years have been a very good learning process for me. I've spent a lot of time in my shop which has become a fixture factory. It's not what I intended and I haven't completed a model in years because of it. That's the downside. The upside is that my hobby pays for itself now. My shop is very well equipped contains things that I always believed would be out of reach financially.
Woes R' Me for I have been Cursed
A battle I was losing is how to fit a model airplane build on my bench and keep it there until it's finished even if I have to stop to make fixtures. The shop just isn't big enough. So while I'm acquiring the tools to make fixtures better and more efficiently, I'm losing space in my shop. And it all happened in a very short period. I am now far enough ahead on the fixture manufacturing that I can seriously look at finding permanent homes for this stuff.
For example, I plan to build two heavy duty drawers for my utility bench. There is wasted space under the bench where I can put drawers that are approximately 8" deep. I plan to make one of the drawers with a tray so it essentially becomes a double-drawer. What goes in the drawers are heavy items that float from place to place in my shop to get them out of the way of whatever I'm working on because they don't have a home. These items include six or seven sets of drill bits of various types, a milling vise, some machinist's clamps, parallel bars, a spare chuck for my drill press and items like that. To start the drawer project I purchased two pair of 220 lb drawer slides and all the wood necessary.
The irony is that the drawer slides are sitting on my main workbench collecting dust and taking up space because I don't have a good place to store them. The drawers are another project that got pushed aside.
I also plan to build a tall cabinet to house Sterilite containers that are stacked up all over my shop. I love the containers and I already built a cabinet for my office. I need another for my shop.
All of this is to clear off work areas so that my work bench isn't being used to stack up stuff that doesn't need to be there. Doing whatever it takes to get back to building and completing model aircraft is the highest priority on my list of things to do that don't absolutely have to be done.
Next, I want to bring my website back to life. I really miss writing. I've never had any intention or desire to make this site something that I have to add to every day just to do it. But there are a lot of things that I do want to write about that I haven't been able to get to. I've been so far from this site that I will have to spend a good deal of time reorienting myself to what I was doing. So the first few articles I post will probably not work properly because the background is complicated and I honestly don't remember everything I had to do to each page. That includes things like adding tags, copyright dates in the html header, database ID numbers, etc. Ok, so I do remember some of it. But you get the point.
I have a very good friend named Joe Tabajdi who I met and worked with at the hospital where I am employed. He is a trained machinist from Hungary who got his training the classic way — he apprenticed and trained for years and he is very good. I have always had an interest in machining but have never delved into it for good reasons. It's another hobby and it's an expensive hobby. I don't know how steep the learning curve is but I do know it's a long curve. The machines are expensive and now that I know a lot more about it I realize that when I said the accessories to make anything will double the cost of the basic machines was really off-base. It will more than quadruple the cost of the machines if I buy what I need to make the things I want to make.
So I've picked Joe's brain for hours to learn about the practical side mostly and the artistic side not so much.
Most of these conversations begin with me asking Joe how to do something I need to do, want to do or how would you do whatever in theory.
For example, I have a piece I want to drill dead-center. Let's just say it's a rectangle. I know I can measure it pretty close — definitely close enough for practical purposes. That's not the issue. What I want to know is how to hit dead center and know it's dead center. In other words in reality I could drill the hole, flip the part around and when I lower the drill it goes straight into the hole.
At that point Joe goes off and explains the $2,000 in tools I need to attach to the mill, all the theory behind it, he tells me I don't really need to do it and I say I know but I still want to know how, he laughs at me and continues to explain. Then I tell him it doesn't matter because I can't afford the stuff I would need to be able to do it anyway. Then we both laugh because he said the same thing a half dozen times already and then he says, "Let's get serious for a minute. Do you want me to make the drill jig for your widget because I don't know if I have the material to make it and I might need to order it and it might be expensive if you want it made out of steel and when do you need it and what about making it with hydraulics, compound levers and lots of cams?"
So I tell him I do need it and it has to be whatever length and no shorter and if he has to buy materials let me know how much money you need up front so I can get you the cash and it's not an emergency so get to it when you can and tell me how much you want to do the work. Then Joe says, "I don't know how much it will cost until I order it." So I tell him to check into it and get back to me. And he says, "Ok, but I won't know how much it costs until I order it because the cost of materials changes a lot so I can't tell you how much right now." And I tell him he already told me that and to check into it so I can get him the money. We have that conversation for about ten minutes and then Joe says, "Ok, forget it because I have a piece of metal over here that will work." Then he makes an excellent part, I give him some money, he gets married and goes to Europe and I make fixtures. Then he comes back and tells me he bought her a house, three cars and a horse but now she wants a divorce because she doesn't want to live in America. Then he makes me another jig that works really well and we laugh at his adventures.
Several of my customers have written and said they don't believe I hand make these tools and that I'm really using CNC.
The next time I see Joe I ask him how do I know that the fence table I've bolted to my compound table is exactly parallel. Then he chucks an indicator into his mill, pulls out a hammer and explains to me how to use the indicator to determine what needs to be adjusted and then hit the fence table with the hammer. But hit it just right. And he tells me where I can buy an indicator that I still don't have.
My conversations with Joe have been a lot about how to make my fixtures accurately but mostly they've been about me learning because there is nothing I hate more than not knowing something I want to know. You have no idea how much that gnaws at me. And if there is something I've always been motivated to do it's to go out and learn what it is that I want to know regardless of how useless the knowledge is. The thing is that until I have the knowledge I usually don't know if it's useful or not. But how a penguin keeps his eggs warm probably won't have any practical use to me. Still, if I'm ever in the situation of having a fertilized penguin egg I'll know what to do — take it to a veterinarian or the zoo.
I'm not sure if it's obvious yet but the reality is that my life the past few years has been consumed by fixtures. I eat, sleep and talk fixtures. Everyone at work.... well.... they pretend to be interested knowing that I'm not going to shut up anyway and if they keep stopping me to tell me they're tired of hearing about it their misery will last just that much longer.
The thing with manufacturing — even small model-building tools — is that to do it efficiently you need real tools. Model-building tools can get it done but they aren't made for production work. In a lot of cases I'm really pushing the limits of the tool. Cutting 1/2" hard maple on the 4" table saw can be done but it doesn't like it. Doing it 1,000 times with a $400.00 model-builders saw doesn't make sense. So now I'm looking at real wood-working tools which means actually learning really how to use the tool. It's stuff I should have learned with my toy tools but didn't always.
A real saw can do more than just cut your fingers. It can throw heavy pieces of wood into your body. And if it's trying to do that then it's probably ruining the cut even if you hold the wood securely enough not to throw it. There are saw marks, burns and chunks taken out. Essentially the piece becomes waste if it was the final cut. If the piece is enough oversize to make another trim cut I'm still in a situation where I have to figure out what the problem is. It could be that the wood needs to be jointed to have a straight edge against the saw fence but the most likely problem is that the fence is out of alignment.
So hours spent learning how to set up these tools with more hours spent doing it and all the while learning all those things I didn't know such as a direct drive saw isn't going to ever set up well because of excessive play in the motor. For example, my contractor's saw fence can not be made parallel to the blade. If the fence is moved away from the blade then it's out of alignment in one direction (front of the fence is closer to the blade than the back of the fence). If the fence is moved toward the blade then it becomes out of alignment with the back of the fence closer to the blade than the front. It's a rack and pinion fence track with way too much slop. I've scoured the internet and read a couple books. Much of the information I found was specifically for my exact model saw and it came down to that there is really no way to fix it. I need a real fence or a real saw with a real fence. I bought the real fence (Incra) but I can't use it because it sticks out six feet always and the saw won't fit in my shop with the fence attached unless the saw is in the shop sideways which only allows me to cut a board approximately two feet long before it hits a cabinet that's against the wall with the board just clearing the blade. Obviously that won't work so the Incra is still in boxes.
It's not until you spend a lot of time really trying to do quality work that you start to learn the things that you didn't know you didn't know (we're back to Donald Rumsfeld and my Physics teacher). I don't have the money to buy six saws, learn about each one and finally have enough knowledge to buy the saw I wish I had in the first place. As soon as I realize there was something I didn't know I wonder what else it is I don't know. And that's where the deep research begins because I don't want to get bitten a second time. And even with all of that I realize I still don't have enough experience or access to somebody who really knows what he's doing who can set me straight by teaching me what I really need to know and save me a lot of time and money.
This isn't the end. It's just where I stopped for now...
Copyright © 2011 Paul K. Johnson