With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

I can't fiind the cheat codes

2009 August 31 21:10

Since between flying, and working on my car, and my job, and getting stuff in the house organized, I decided that I didn't have enough to do or enough to spend money on, so I'm taking guitar lessons.

We had friends over a little over a week ago, and I bought one of his guitars, with a case, to start my lessons on. It will do for the time being. I've had one lesson thus far; at this point I'm doing fingering exercises and playing scales. Chords come next, I guess.

My father-in-law wanted to know more about the guitar--here you go!

Here's the label inside the guitar body. I'm not a guitar person, so this doesn't mean much to me.

It's a steel-stringed acoustic. The two highest strings (on the right) are bare steel, the other four are wrapped.

This guitar has a cut-away on the body so that your left hand get get to the very upper part of the fret board.

It has an internally-mounted electronic pick-up. The pick-up jack on the base of the body doubles as the strap attachment point.

This panel contains the battery that drives the electronic pickup, a volume control and an equalizer.

Oh, and my advanced tuning system

The back story: I've always wanted to play a musical instrument. I played piano as a kid, and again in college. I played tuba/suzaphone in high school. For my earlier attempts, I didn't have the maturity and drive to really buckle down and practice. When I took piano in college, I was focused enough to practice, but after that semester I didn't take the class again and it wasn't a priority.

Virtues that I'd like in an instrument: - it's portable - you can sing to it - the more different types of music you can play on it, the better - doesn't make the person I live with want to kill me

I'd love to play drums. But it pretty much fails all the criteria.

Flute is very portable. You can't sing to it. When I mentioned that possibility, my wife made a face and said "I don't even like _good_ flute music". So that's out.

The guitar does pretty well on all counts. It's extremely versatile, a great instrument to sing to, and my spouse seems relatively Ok with it. It's fairly portable. To take it on an airline trip, I'll have to get a good case for it, but that's doable.

back in the game

2009 August 30 22:16

I got my pilot's license just over two years ago, in August 2007. Every two years, pilots have to get take what's called a "biannual flight review". It's one hour of ground instruction and an hour of flight to check you out and make sure that you're still a reasonable pilot. I guess to keep people from getting too stale and then going out and flying and hurting someone.

So I had my first biannual yesterday. It went very well; the landing practice that I did a month ago really paid off. I'm much more comfortable in the 172.

So I'm signed off and legal to fly again. The wife and I need to pick someplace to fly to as a trial run; it's just a matter of where.

trying to check off projects

2009 August 30 21:56

The place where I park my car (Escort, now the New Beetle) has the right front tire in soil that I think at some point may have been a flower bed. Like a year ago or more, I bought like 10 hexagonal concrete tiles to put on the ground to keep the car from sinking in when the ground's wet.

So: version 1.0: park in the dirt. Makes a mess when the ground is wet and muddy.

version 2.0: put big tiles on the ground. When the ground is wet, the corners of the tiles sink way into the ground. Still makes a mess.

version 3.0, under development: put a layer of concrete under the tiles to support and stabilize them.

I ended up doing a lot of digging this weekend, and I think that I almost have enough dirt out of there (top of photo). There was some rain this weekend and that made the sub-soil dirt much easier to work with. I set up the tiles in rougly their configuration (bottom of photo) to check the coverage and shape.

the last time I hope to see...

2009 August 25 20:22

I worked on my Beetle engine a bunch this last weekend. I did finally end up waiting for parts, so it's not running yet, but it's getting a lot closer.

I got the starter all ready to go and installed. This will take strain off of the (hard to find, hard to replace) ignition cylinder switch.

I got the oil pump case and its gears cleaned and installed. Here's the oil pump before I close it up for good--I hope to not see this for quite a while. The white stuff is vaseline to help the pump prime itself when I run it for the first time.

I also spent some time securing wiring in the front luggage compartment that was part of something that's not finished yet. The purple oval indicate several open connections that I taped off. In case I made a mistake in wiring the starter, I added a fusable link (green oval) in the starter circuit so that in case the wire gets shorted to the chassis, it will burn up that rather than something deep in the wiring harness.

When I assemble the engine, I want as many of the parts oiled as possible. Here are the pushrods ready to be soaked in oil

When immersed in oil and tilted, the upper end bubbles as all the air is forced out. I'll install the pushrods last thing before installing the engine, so that at least they're full of oil when the engine starts for the first time.

Here's how far I got. Distributor is in and timed, the first part of the tin is on and fastened down, and the muffler and intake manifold are partially installed.

Unfortunately...it seems that while one side of the heat riser pipe on the intake manifold almost fits...

the other side definitely doesn't fit.

So I'm awaiting another, hopefully better intake manifold center section to continue. Argh. Good progress but no noise yet.

walked the walk

2009 August 25 19:36

I visited the US Air Force museum in Dayton, Ohio last week. I hadnt' been there in about 20 years (I went with my Dad on one of our vacations long ago).

A couple of weeks previously, at Oshkosh, I took the fabric covering class for airplane construction and found it very interesting. So at the museum I spent much more time looking at the surfaces of airplanes and interiors than at the airplanes themselves.

An ENIGMA cipher machine. This was the first time that I've been physically in the presence of one that I know of.

This is the tail of a B-24. I do believe that the main part of the fin (on the left) is aluminum, but that the rudder part on the right is indeed fabric-coated.

Detail of a wooden wing rib.

I actually took very few photos of airplanes. This is an F-86 Saberjet with the exterior skin taken off to show the inner parts.

That's all I have for the moment. It was more of an experience to be there again than to take photos. I was only there for a couple of hours.

I'll definitely visit again in less than 20 years.

today's the day

2009 August 22 09:47

No pics just now.

I visited the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday, on my way back home. Awesome!

I've sealed the gas tank in the Beetle. I can't put the fuel tank in, though, because I'm missing a grommet. Argh.

However, I want to get the engine assembled and run today or tomorrow. I have to get the starter put together and in, and the engine assembled and in and do a break-in run. Ye-hah!

Hopefully more posts later today.

a little bit of rhythm

2009 August 06 22:17

I'm trying to manage lots of stuff in life, like keeping multiple plates in the air at the same time.

I've blogged every day this month until yesterday. I've started (sort of) walking on the treadmill. Had a reasonable day at work today. And I worked on the Beetle, yay!

The next thing I need to do to the gas tank is seal it, but that requires an a couple of hours with the sun out that I'm not doing anything else. I need to pour in the sealer and rotate and tip the tank over in different positions for a while. Supper got done too late to do that today.

So I worked on the starter instead. One of the weird design quirks of this car is that the current to run the starter solenoid goes through the main supply wire to the front of the car, to the ignition key switch, then back through the wiring harness to the starter itself. That vintage switch is switching 30 amps every time you start the car, which is the equivalent to the entire electrical system.

To reduce the load on that switch, I'm installing a bypass relay that powers the starter solenoid from the fat wire coming straight from the battery which means that the main key switch is only switching a fraction of an amp. This sort of thing is sometimes called a "hard start" relay, but that's not its purpose.

I've always meant to put it on the car, but the reason I'm doing it now specifically is that I'll be cranking the engine over for a while to get the oil system pumped up and primed before starting the engine. I may have to crank the engine for a bit.

Here's the relay on the starter and mostly wired up. I need a larger ring terminal for the blue (ground) wire to go to the starter stud and provide a current path for the ignition switch starter current.

the plan on the day

2009 August 04 23:49

Several years back, at a fly-in at the Frasca airport in Urbana, Illinois, I got interested in amateur-built aircraft. Over the years, I've toyed with the idea of building an aircraft of my own.

For a while now, I'd pretty much decided that it's really not the thing to do. Generally speaking, it's far better off to build for the sake of building; if you want to just fly, it's better to buy something. But then the cost and availability comes into play. As much as I like my New Beetle, it means less cash available over the next couple of years while we pay off the other car and have long-term work done on the house.

So I'm back toying with the idea of building something. Not as a way to get flying sooner, but as a way to get closer to having my own airplane using the trade-off of time instead of money.

Interestingly enough, the sort of design I'm thinking of building has changed over the years. The first designs I thought about were composite, Styrofoam covered with epoxy-impregnated fiberglass. They're very strong and tend to build fast designs. But you spend your life sanding the surfaces to get them nice.

I've looked at Aluminum airplanes more recently. Riveting is noisy, and it tends to be complicated and take lots of time.

I'm finding myself looking at the oldest designs lately, fabric-covered wood airplanes. I just spent the evening looking at the Pietenpol Aircamper. It's a design originally from the 1920s; the first one was powered by a Ford model-A engine. It's a single-high-wing with two seats in the fuselage in tandem. The Corvair engine is a reasonable powerplant for this airplane.

The construction techniques are simple and the aircraft itself is simple enough that perhaps it would be a good starting project. The problem that I'm running up against is that I really can't afford to buy a flying airplane at the moment. I'm a member of a flying club, which is great (and it's really cheap to fly there) but it's almost 2 hours to drive there, so flying only happens on weekends. I really won't be able to maintain enough hours per year to make flying more than just a hobby. I won't ever really be comfortable or good at it. To do that I would need something locally that I could fly at least a couple of times a week.

No decisions yet, of course. Part of this is just having been to Oshkosh and been re-infused with enthusiasm for flying. While there, I took the 2-hour fabric-covering seminar on the field. That was interesting, so I think I'll take the weekend two-full-day one later on in the fall as it becomes available.

New Beeetle errata

2009 August 03 23:21

Just a couple of facts for the day.

I just got back from the trip that included a wedding in St. Louis and Oshkosh. Yesterday's milage, 315 or so (from memory). Today 441. So Caliburn (the New Beetle) has driven 2200+ miles in the last two weeks on this trip, and just a shade under 5000 since we bought it on June 18. Oy.

Preliminary milage figures are in. The NB seems to get about 29 to 31 miles per gallon when we've been driving it.

The car comes with two "switchblade" keys (that have built-in lock/unlock remotes) and a "valet" key which doesn't have any remote functions. In addition to not having a remote I have another difference of the valet key: it doesn't work on the lock cylinder of the glove box, but the switchblade keys do.

Our cat Jasper apparently knows the sound of the NB coming up the driveway.

one last stop...honest

2009 August 03 01:26

On my way back from work trip and Oshkosh. Stopped in Milwaukee, visited friends. Made impromptu visit to Illinois, visited more friends. Visited office. Am now in scenic Arcola, Illinois. I'm going to stop by Mid-America tomorrow morning and then head home.

The status of beetle things as I left them:

I'm two steps through the three-part step of cleaning and sealing the tank. The tank is now ready for the internal coat of sealer that will hopefully plug any pinholes and eliminate the gas smell. I can always hope.

The engine's getting close. I'm almost to the point that I need to wait for everything else to catch up. I want to be able to lubricate the engine, assemble it and install it in a weekend, so that the lubrication doesn't have time to dry out or leak out or whatever. I don't know that I'll get everything done but I can do the prep and get the fuel system stuff all sorted out.

pilgrimage for renewal

2009 August 01 22:32

I managed to take time to go to the Airventure Oshkosh event this year, but only for two days this time due to a work commitment earlier in the week. So I'm leaving after two days, wanting more. Ah well; maybe next year.

So "Caliburn" (the New Beetle) has been christened by a trip to the bit air show. Here's my camp site:

There is a stream of helicopters flying over the airshow all week pretty much continuously. You can take rides in them for $40 during the airshow. I took a ride in one today fir the first time. In fact, now that I think about it, that may have been the first time that I've ever been in a helicopter. Here's part of the airport from the air:

Before metal covering became the norm, fabric was often used to form the skins of flying machines. This technique is used today in amateur-built aircraft. I took the seminar this morning that taught (a little of) the techniques of fabric covering. Here's me with the frame of a DC-3 aileron that I and two partners covered with cloth.

I also did a bit of shopping. here's the haul:

By my nature, I'm good at getting new ideas nad starting things and typically poor about following through and finishing them. I have several major projects aorund the house that are half-finished (sorting books, cleaning and arranging basement). I'm going to make an effort to be better about this and to try and catch up with things. As far as the house stuff goes, I can't work on that until I'm back home on Monday, but I can start here. I'm going try to make a blog post every day for the month of August, starting today.

And since I'm on the Oshkosh grounds and running on battery, will close this short. Will probbaly post tomorrow night for Indianapolis, or there abouts.