Posts tagged ‘hardware’

3 January, 2014

Singer model 66 treadle

by gorthx

And now for something completely different…several months back I picked up a 1912 Singer model 66 “Redeye” off of Craigslist. I was looking for a completely different machine, but I’ve wanted a treadle for a long time, and from the photos it looked in ok shape. One thing led to another and I found myself driving a ways east of town on a reasonably nice day that I otherwise would have spent biking, to check out this machine.

IMAG0251

The good:
– the treadle pedal & drive wheel moved freely
– it has a metal pitman; the wood ones are prone to drying out, cracking, and often end up missing
– the (oak) cabinet’s ornamentation is intact; sometimes the wood carvings come off, or drawers are missing, etc
– the handwheel on the machine head1 moved
– the decals on the head were in pretty good shape overall; they tend to get rubbed off with use. This machine is over 100 years old, after all.

The bad:
– layer of grime on everything
– paint splatters all over the cabinet; it was going to need stripping completely.
– no belt so I couldn’t actually test it

I’ve since decided that one should examine these things in daylight and not in a warehouse. As an alternative, flash photos will highlight problem areas better than you can see them with your eyeballs. And next time, I’ll bring a belt with me so I can determine whether the machine runs or not. That said, I’m glad I bought it because fixing it up was a good experience and I now have a machine that sews better than my formerly TOTL European machine :koff:Bernina2:koff: for much less money.

And yes, these things are “heavier than a dead preacher”3 so come prepared with additional muscle or tools to tear it down so you can take it home easily. Or both.

There are 4 projects here:
– cabinet refurb
– treadle refurb
– head external refurb
– head internal refurb

All of these took significantly more time than I expected; I really didn’t know what I was getting into. To keep posts to a reasonable length, I’ll talk about the cabinet & head outside first, and the treadle and head internals separately.

A full photo set is on flickr.

The head – outside
As I mentioned, this machine’s decals were in pretty nice shape. I was interested in keeping them that way, so cleaning the outside of the head basically just involved rubbing them very very gently with oil in order to remove the grime. My BF actually volunteered to do this, but then, he used to detail cars, and has the patience for this kind of thing. This is probably anathema to some people, but I didn’t want to look at the “patina” (read: yucky old brown finish), so off it came with some rubbing alcohol. A coat of carnauba wax made it shine again. Metal polish took most of the rust off of the chrome pieces, and that was that.

The cabinet
In addition to the layer of grime, this machine appeared to have been left uncovered while someone nearby spraypainted. The treadle pedal was almost solid white and the cabinet was speckled all over; there was even a handprint on the back.

I broke the cabinet down into its component pieces and used Citristrip to remove the old finish. Citristrip does a much better job indoors at temps over 60*F than in a 40*F garage. This was my first time stripping carved wood, and I don’t intend to repeat the experience.

My method:
– glop on the citristrip & wait until it’s ready. If it’s starting to get clear & a little dry, like it’s “setting up”, it’s getting close.
– with a plastic scraper, remove as much of the stripper & old finish as you possibly can. Old credit cards work great for this, if you are too cheap to go buy something you are just going to throw away anyway.
– around the carved wood, I used a brass brush to get rid of the stripper. This is not recommended for soft woods, and probably wasn’t advisable for oak – IOW, don’t do this. A stiff nylon brush would have been easier on the wood, but didn’t do jack about removing the crud.
– remove remaining stripper with 00 steel wool soaked in mineral spirits (odorless will work fine for this.)
– remove more remaining stripper with a rag soaked in mineral spirits
– remove still more remaining stripper with another rag soaked in mineral spirits (this stuff was hard to get rid of)

The PNW is a very humid environment, and the veneer had buckled and pulled away from the core over the years. Just few small chips were missing, so I opted to re-glue the loose veneer. I only own a couple of clamps, so this step took several days.

Once the wood was dry, I filled the screw holes, sanded that down, and then all that was left was a quick buff with 0000 steel wool (which I’m told is too fine for oak, but it made a palpable difference), a swipe with tack cloth, and it was ready for finish. I use Tried & True Danish oil on almost all of my wood furniture; it’s not as protective as polyurethane, but it’s a lot easier to apply and I love the way it looks. And smells. I put two coats on for now, and then reassembled the cabinet.

Next up: head internals.


1 – The head is the part that actually does the sewing.
2 – Alternate title: “Nothing sews like a Bernina… except this Singer I have from 1912.”
3 – http://www.granny-miller.com/treadle-sewing-machine-advice/

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18 May, 2012

Thinkpad 420 6-month review

by gorthx

There’s actually not a whole lot to report here, other than: I’m still very happy with my Thinkpad purchase.

The grippy matte finish on the cover has definitely contributed to me not dropping it. It’s acquired some weird smears on the cover that I can’t remove though.

It functions better as a “laptop” than the HP 2510p did; it doesn’t get quite as hot when it’s actually on my lap. Pleasantly warm, not hot.

And I love, love, love the keyboard light.

Two glitches:
It doesn’t play nicely with my HP L1706 monitor. The aspect ratios never turn out right. I could probably dink with it and fix it, or I could just replace the monitor with something that takes up less space (since it’s 5 years old anyway).

The card reader only works about 1 out of 10 times. I am not sure if this is a hardware issue or an OS issue (I’m mainly on Ubuntu); I can just connect my camera straight to my computer to download photos, so I haven’t bothered to boot into Windows to check it out yet.

Wonder of wonders, I haven’t spilled anything on the keyboard yet (this has to be the longest stretch *ever* of not spilling something on the laptop) so I haven’t had to test the drains.

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16 December, 2011

Generic steps for troubleshooting wireless on Ubuntu.

by gorthx

Fresh from my success with my Thinkpad T420, I tackled my Dell Latitude E6410, which had its own interesting quirks. So, here are some basic wireless troubleshooting steps for Ubuntu.

Step 1: Make sure the hardware switch is not set to off.

Step 1a: Is there another “hardware” switch? My HP2501p had an extra firmware switch for the wireless, accessible only from Windows. (Good thing I hadn’t deleted that partition…)

Step 2: Check the permissions: System -> Administration -> Users and Groups -> Advanced Settings; make sure “allow to connect to ethernet and wireless networks” is checked.

Step 3: Use lpsci to make sure your machine can see your card. Should look something like this (output filtered for brevity):
lspci -nn
02:00.0 Network controller [0280]: Broadcom Corporation BCM43224 802.11a/b/g/n [14e4:4353] (rev 01)

Step 4: Check the drivers: System -> Administration -> Additional Drivers. You should see a driver appropriate for your card there, e.g. I have the Broadcom STA Wireless Driver. It should show green and say “activated”. If not, click the “Activate” button. (I needed to reboot the Dell in order to get this change to take.)

Step 5: Find your ethernet interface:
:::-->iwconfig
lo no wireless extensions.

eth0 no wireless extensions.

eth1 IEEE 802.11 Access Point: Not-Associated
Link Quality:5 Signal level:0 Noise level:163
Rx invalid nwid:0 invalid crypt:0 invalid misc:0

…and enable power*:
sudo iwconfig eth1 txpower on

Et voila.


* This page: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~axs/laptop/#wireless helped me figure this out.

2 December, 2011

Installing Ubuntu 10.10 on a Thinkpad 420

by gorthx

(This post is mainly about getting the RealTek wireless card working.)

I went with 10.10, mainly because I had the image handy on a USB key, and I’m not so excited about what I’ve heard about 11 yet. (Although I do intend to try it at my next available opportunity.)

To get the Thinkpad to boot from a USB, I hit F12 during boot (gotta be quick with it!) to access the boot menu, then -s to get the startup menu. (The ‘thinkvantage’ button didn’t get me where I wanted to be.) Once I was in the startup menu, I was in the ‘boot options’ tab. Hit the down arrow to select “USB HD”, then hit enter. Voila.

The install went pretty fast, but then I spent a fair bit of time with updates. In retrospect, I probably should have updated the image on the USB key. :shrug:

First, the most important configuration change: put the #&@* minimize/maximize buttons back on the right side, where they belong.

Next: install my favorite font.

Everything worked out of the box (external keyboard, external monitor, card reader, etc) except wireless. My laptop wasn’t even detecting that I had a wireless interface.

First I tried enabling “connect to ethernet and wireless networks”. (System -> Administration -> Users & Groups; select the user; click “Advanced Settings”; select the “User Priveleges” tab; make sure “Connect to wireless and ethernet networks” is checked). No dice.

I could see my card:
lspci -nn
Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. Device [10ec:8176] (rev 01)

…but I needed the drivers. This thread (specifically, the post by canucked) had the info I needed:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:lexical/hwe-wireless
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install rtl8192ce-dkms

(Kind of confusing that the driver has what seems to be a different model # in it, but there it is.)

I pulled up System -> Administration -> Additional Drivers to check the status of my new driver, and discovered it was activated but not currently in use. Deactivating and reactivating it didn’t change anything, but a reboot did.

25 November, 2011

Thinkpad T420 – initial impressions

by gorthx

A few weeks ago my HP 2510p up and died on me*. My repeated attempts to rescusitate it, complete with plaintive “no, baby, no!”s, only intensified my sinking feeling. No, not “when was my last backup, anyway?” but “this means I have to go shopping, doesn’t it.” Based on recommendations from friends and the desire to just get it over with already, I now have a Lenovo Thinkpad T420.

The Internet is awash with promo photos & vids of the T420, so how about some comparison photos with other laptops:

stack of laptops, top view

stack of laptops, side view

stack of laptops, side view

stack of laptops, side view

Top: HP 2510p (“he’s dead, Jim”)
Middle: Lenovo Thinkpad T420
Bottom: Dell Latitude E6410

Things I like so far:
– it feels pretty sturdy, but it’s lighter than I expected it to be.
– grippy surface on the cover. Maybe I won’t drop this one.
– power port in the back, out of the way.
– the battery doesn’t stick out the back.
– wide (deep? long?) wrist rest – I feel much more supported than on my HP.
– default sound is pretty nice.
– responsive keyboard action.
– the bumpy touchpad. I still like the HP’s better, but this one isn’t annoying.
– the keyboard light, OMG. I am using it right now
– BIG FAT delete key.

Things I need to get used to:
– power port in the back, where it’s hard to get to.
– headphone port near the front. My speakers are USB-powered and I had to split the cord to get them to plug in to both a usb port and the speaker port.
– keyboard layout: I keep hitting the fn key on the lower left instead of crtl, which it’s right next to. Some key remapping may be in my future.
– buttons for the touchpad feel like they’re off the edge of the chassis.

The Thinkpad also has keyboard drains, increasing the odds that I will not actually spill anything on it. (Same principle behind “it rains right after I wash my car.”)

Next week, installing Ubuntu on this thing.


*Current theories are: a short somewhere, or a problem with power management.

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