Paul's Miscellany

All photographs by Paul M. Clayton unless otherwise noted. Click on a picture to see it larger.

This is the current page, posts from 9/4/23 through today.

Older posts -

At the Airport

Posted 07/05/24

Boeing 737-800 N624XA, newly acquired by Eastern Airlines from bankrupt iAero, is in the hangar at North State.

Southern Demographics in 1860

Posted 07/04/24

The question came up in conversation, what share of the population in the south was enslaved before the Civil War? My recall was that in the plantation economy states it might have been in the vicinity of 50%. It turns out my memory in this case was good, as the following table based on 1860 Census data shows:

State Free Enslaved Total % Enslaved
South Carolina 301,302 402,406 703,708 57.18%
Georgia 595,083 462,198 1,057,281 43.72%
Alabama 529,121 435,080 964,201 45.12%
Mississippi 354,674 436,631 791,305 55.18%
Louisiana 370,276 331,726 702,002 47.25%
Total 2,150,456 2,068,041 4,218,497 49.02%

The other states of the Confederacy all had substantial slave populations, in the range of 25-35% (Florida over 40%), but none of them were plantation economies of the type listed above. Virginia, for example, which had a slave population of over 50% in earlier years, had begun to industrialize, and many of their slaves had been sold south. Florida had a miniscule undeveloped economy. North Carolina and Tennessee were largely small-holding economies with distributed landholdings. Arkansas and Texas were still frontier states.

Most southern citizens were too poor to own slaves, so how could there be such a large proportion of enslaved people? The large plantation holders held massive numbers of slaves. Joshua John Ward of South Carolina was reputed to be the biggest owner. His estate in 1860 owned 1,130 slaves. 500 plantation-owning families in Louisiana owned the majority of that state's slaves.

Another Way

Posted 07/03/24

A local Ardmore resident parks his immaculate hybrid Chevrolet Volt on the street in front of his house and charges it overnight with a heavy outdoor cord and adapter box. There are plenty of public EV charging stations in the neighborhood but this allows him to power up at his own low residential electricity rates. He can easily put in 30 or 40 miles of battery charge overnight, plenty for the next day's around town driving.


Posted 06/23/24

Greensboro-based iAero Airways, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2023, struggled along until April 2024, when it threw in the towel and shut down operations. All assets were sold to Eastern Airlines (no relation to Eastern Air Lines, which shut down in 1991). The two 737s N806TJ and N624XA which showed up on the North State back lot in summer 2023 are, per FlightAware, still there, although only N806TJ is in evidence. Perhaps N624XA is in a hangar.

Old friend 737-800 N778MA, once of Miami Air International and now flying for Kaiser, is off the daily round-trip between Oakland, CA and Honolulu that it covered for a while and now is in the general charter pool, dispatched as needed all around the country.

The Difference of a Week

Posted 06/20/24

A week's worth of dry and hot weather turned half of North Carolina yellow at Drought Monitor's graphical display of conditions across the United States. Soaring temperatures and little prospect of rain mean next week should look worse. There is a slight chance that a tropical disturbance brewing in the northern Bahamas that could bring some relief to parts of the state.


Posted 06/13/24

Reconsidered Goods is a Greensboro non-profit that takes donations of craft goods from manufacturers and individuals and sells them in their retail store, mainly to prevent them from ending up in the landfill, but also to make a few dollars to spend on promoting arts and crafts using recycled materials. They get a lot of fabric, remnants that people donate after finishing a project, or stubs from local furniture makers and upholsterers. In fact, they have so much fabric that they are trying to pass some of it on by offering half off fabric from now through Sunday, June 16th.

I recently bought a few things, including some small scraps of light upholstery fabric, 2 yards dark blue cotton fine wale corduroy, a yard of Jonathan Louis Devon Pewter upholstery fabric (high end custom furniture, $45/yd list), 3 yards of what I believe is a cotton/polyester blend olive medium canvas, and 2 yards of cotton gray-blue medium canvas. This is enough to make a whole lot of kit bags, totes and soft luggage. Reconsidered Goods also has plenty of garment fabrics, but I already have more than enough of that. The whole lot only cost me $12.50.

I'd suggest that anyone who does much sewing check out Reconsidered Goods, and consider going by between now and Sunday to stock up. Even when they're not half off, the prices are really good, and they have all sorts of other sewing and crafting supplies available as well.

Where are the Jobs?

Posted 06/10/24

Wolf Richter serves up good, accurate, data-based analysis of the economy, which in a recent post he described as "humming along in an inflationary environment", adding jobs and increasing wages at a rapid clip. His latest post, Longer-Term Trends of Employment by Industry Category, takes a closer look at big labor-market sectors to determine which ones are adding jobs and which ones are losing.

First, let's look at the two behemoth, by total employment, categories (we'll look at governmental later). Professional and business services has made up all Covid-era losses and is now back on trend, adding 49,000 jobs over the last three months. This is white-collar work that requires a degree of training. Healthcare and social assistance is booming, as it has for many years, net of Covid-era losses. This includes jobs of the highest level of training all the way down to the lowest skill levels. Jobs added over the last three months - 264,000. The very best place for the low-skilled to look for work.

Some mid-level categories, starting with construction, which is still booming, adding jobs at a rate of 58,000 over the last three months. Richter notes that tight supply at the skilled level is constraining hiring. It's a common story in our economy of older workers who have plenty of money and would like to work less continuing to put in the long hours and overtime because there are few younger people with the skills to replace them. Apprentice system, anyone? Meanwhile, there are still entry-level jobs in construction for people willing to do hard labor in the sun at low wages. Some people prefer that to unemployment. Jobs in manufacturing are essentially flat, as the onshoring of production is running straight into the buzz-saw of robotics. Leisure and hospitality has finally gotten back to pre-Covid levels and is adding jobs at a rapid rate - three month growth of 108,000 - but getting close to the long-term trendline, so those numbers may be tempered in coming months. Retail trade is adding jobs rapidly but still far below trendline. This is a good opportunity for unskilled labor.

Jobs in government, including education, are still below the long-term trend but rising rapidly, adding 128,000 over the last three months. The vast majority of these jobs were at the state and local level.

In the smaller categories, transportation and warehousing is strong, adding 35,000 jobs. Financial activities is showing anemic growth, mainly due to the real estate slowdown. Information, which includes everything from data centers to movie-making, is seeing layoffs and declining employment.

So that's where the jobs are and aren't as of today. It's a good guide for someone who wants to go to work now, not so much for where to train for a job in four years. Categories with long, stable, rising trendlines include construction, professional and business services, healthcare and social assistance, leisure and hospitality, and financial activities. Categories with declining trendlines or that get off trend (often due to economic cyclicality) include manufacturing, retail trade, information and government.


Posted 06/08/24

Tate Street Coffee in Greensboro is trying to have live music each Saturday from 1:00 to 3:00 all summer. Lex and I enjoyed watching these two young jazz players earlier today.

3D Printed Jeep

Posted 06/01/24

The 3D printed Jeep is painted and assembled. I got my contact at the library to print six traffic cones and Joe turned two more on the lathe. This was a fun project and if I get easy access to a printer I might make another one or more.

Good Thread

Posted 05/30/24

My favorite thread for garment and bag sewing is Gutermann Tera 80. It is a Tex 35 continuous filament polyester with low stretch and a slick, shiny finish. It is extremely strong, consistent in size and easy to sew with. I buy it in 800 meter cones. Traditionalists like a cotton or cotton-wrapped thread that makes a less conspicuous stitch, but I am willing to give up a bit of style in order to get more strength. For heavier jobs, awnings and boat canvas, I use V69 and V92 polyester thread. Sailrite doesn't recommend using anything bigger than V92 on LSZ-1 machines like mine. I have seen people use V138 on heavy bags and marine projects, but it takes a big industrial machine to handle that.

3D Printing

Posted 05/16/24

A recent Humble Bundle featured math books, including two - Make: Geometry and Make: Trigonometry that use 3d models. Both books are co-authored by Joan Horvath and Rich Cameron, who state "It is our belief that teaching with 3D objects first and then returning to abstractions gives a better foundation and more intuition for higher-level math". The books include scripts that can be run in OpenSCAD and then viewed on the screen or printed if you have access to a 3d printer. OpenSCAD (pronounced Open Ess-Cad) is a free 3d modeling program for Linux, Windows or Mac. The user generates a script that has syntax that will look very familiar to any Perl, PHP or Python programmer, and the program creates a rendering of the object. This can be exported in several common printer formats, in particular .stl that almost any printer can use.

Planning to spend a few days on my boat, I copied the books to my Toughbook and installed OpenSCAD, which was in the repository for PCLinuxOS (it can also be compiled from source or installed as a Docker or Flatpak if your distribution doesn't provide it.) My goal was to learn some simple OpenSCAD scripting in the evenings.

Chapter 2 of the Geometry includes a good overview of 3d printing, and between that and the OpenSCAD tutorial I quickly got the hang of writing the scripts - like Perl, but not as idiosyncratic. The tutorial took the user through designing a toy car, starting with the most boxy, simple body on wheels and progressing through more rounded and streamlined shapes. Personally, I decided I would rather make a Jeep. I know Lex would like that. So very soon I veered off the tutorial track and started thinking about the shapes involved in a 1994 Wrangler. It's really very simple - there is what is known to Jeep people as the tub, there is the cab, and there are the wheels. The tub would need recesses for the wheels and a frame with holes to hold the axles. The cab would need a slight slant on the front windshield side. And the wheels - well, they're just cylinders - I would need five, since the prominent spare on the back is a clear marker of a Jeep.

I scripted out the three components in one file, so I could see how it would look, and make sure everything would fit, and then split them out into separate files. Each component was designed so that it could be rotated or inverted so there would be no overhanging edges. That would make them easier to print. I also set each component at the x-y-z origin so it would be centered on the printer platen. I didn't know if this was necessary, but it certainly couldn't hurt.

Everything seemed ready to print, so I walked up to the Washington library. They didn't have a 3d printer and they didn't know of anyone who did. I thought about driving up to Greenville, surely with the university there would be somebody who had a printer, but it was commencement weekend and probably a madhouse. With a sailing trip coming up, I tabled the project, figuring I would take it up again when I got home to Winston.

I found a company on the internet who would print files and mail them, so I uploaded the tub and got a quote. $5.75 plus $5.00 shipping. That seemed reasonable, but even if they combined shipping, the cost of getting the whole thing done would probably be around $20. Okay for a one-shot deal, but it would run into money before long. Looking at their website, it appeared that the Forsyth County library had a 3d printer that was available to the public, at the cost of $1.00 per print plus materials. I made a phone call, and eventually was routed to a manager who had responsibility for their under-development maker space. He apologetically explained that the maker space project got put on hold by Covid and they were just in the process of getting it going again. Yes, they had a 3d printer, but it wasn't available for public use - but, since I already had my .stl files, and, if I understood that they might not be able to get a clean print, and because they needed to run through the whole process a few times to get ready for opening up, they would do mine. And since they couldn't really guarantee results, they would do it free! He gave me a number for his "tech" and told me to arrange things with him.

The tech told me they only had beige filament. I would have liked a red tub and cab, and black tires, but I decided a couple of cans of spray paint would fix it. He told me to email him the files and he would give them a shot.

The next day, I got an email saying to come to the library and pick up my parts. When I got there, wow, was I impressed! A beautiful print. Sharp lines, and the holes for the axles and liners looked perfect. I was expecting to have to drill them out. I had read that sometimes the prints have a fair amount of flash on them that has to be cleaned up with a razor knife and sandpaper, but this one was perfectly clean. The tech managed to fit the tub, the cab, and the wheels five times, into one print job. I'm guessing the printer software has a drag and drop GUI that allows for positioning the different jobs on the platen.

So this has been a fun learning project, combining computer programming, creative problem-solving and leading edge technology. It has me wanting to buy a 3d printer of my own, if I can find a place to put it, and if my S&P 500 fund keeps rocketing up on this strong economy. A decent, competent machine can be had in the $350-$700 range. The biggest thing holding me back is thinking about the time. I already have way too many hobbies. I'm busier now than before I retired.

Kit Bags

Posted 05/29/22

I made several more kit bags, quilted with oil-absorbent pad ("Pigmat"), including a half-sized one that is perfect for holding my Fluke multimeter.


Posted 04/22/24

After ploughing through five of the twelve volumes of Anthony Powell's critically acclaimed series A Dance to the Music of Time, Geoff Dyer in his new book The Last Days of Roger Federer concluded a long paragraph of withering criticism with the following: "My only regret, when I gave up on it, was that I had not abandoned it sooner, ideally before I'd even started." I like that line, but I am fairly certain I have heard it before. Since it has entered common usage, I think I will start using it myself. I think it could have wide application.

By the way, halfway through Dyer's book and I have found little in it to do with tennis. He did mention that the court he plays on is immediately adjacent to a basketball court, which he says "...looks like the exercise yard of a zero-security prison".

Molly White, at her Citation Needed website, referred to BendDAO's practice of accepting NFTs as collateral for loans as causing a "sub-primate lending crisis".

United N73276

Posted 04/17/24

The 737-800 was built 22 years ago for Continental and got its United livery when the two airlines combined operations after their 2010 merger. It has been at North State since March 17th, 2024, when it flew in from Dulles. I haven't seen it before, so it must have been in the hangar. Now that it's out, I expect it will fly away soon.

They don't teach you this at school...

Posted 04/15/24

Learning one of the most important lessons in life, one that he will never forget - how to fish.

737 Max

Posted 04/14/24

Levi is starting to travel for his company, so I made a bag for him to maximum dimensions for carry-on luggage. Most of the majors have standardized on 22x14x9 and the feeders have gone along to avoid making their passengers check bags that connecting flights allow as carry-ons.

The picture is just a set-up. I wanted something nice that I could post to the photography forum. But looking at it makes me want to sew one for myself and go road-tripping. Super Takumar 35/3.5.

Nice symmetry to today's date, eh? 04-14-24.

Covered Bridges

Posted 04/02/24

Jack's Creek Covered bridge is located in Woolwine, Patrick County Virginia. It was designed and built around 1914 by local residents of the area. It was replaced by a steel bridge in 1932, but was left in it's original location. In 1973 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which is why much of the true historic record is available. That doesn't stop various websites from making spurious claims about the bridge, including the ever-popular "one of only two (or three) covered bridges in the state". The most cursory Google search turns up at least five. The Wikipedia entry for this bridge for the most part rings true.

In North Carolina there are two fairly well-known historic covered bridges as well as a third with a yankee pedigree. Pisgah Covered Bridge I covered at this site in October 2023. The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge in Catawba County was built in 1895, though the roof was not added until 1900. The Wikipedia listing makes the almost inevitable "one of two covered bridges left in North Carolina" statment.

An authentically old covered bridge with a unique history is the Will Henry Stevens Covered Bridge at the Bascom Center for Visual Arts in Highlands. Once known as the Bagley Covered Bridge, it was built in New Hampshire in the early 1800s to cross the Warner River. By 1966, the people of the Granite State had tired of their wooden bridges, and it was unceremoniously dismantled, but fortunately was saved by a local antiquarian. It was sheltered in a barn until 2008, when the owners donated it to the Bascom Center, where it was re-erected and named for the noted New Orleans and Highlands artist.

Moving on to the more obscure covered bridges in the state, some information suggests that the Gaddy Covered Bridge near Ansonville was built around 1914 to allow horse-drawn carts, wagons and pedestrians to cross a local watercourse, however I think it quite likely that the sources are confusing this bridge with the Pisgah bridge, and that this one is a modern construction built by the Friends of Pee Dee National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the information I found on the internet is obviously spurious. For example, one website claims the bridge was moved 200 feet downstream to allow for roadwork on Highway 73, but in fact the bridge is nowhere near Highway 73. The Mount Gilead Museum Foundation undoubtedly has useful intelligence and I hope to be able to drive down there, talk to them and see the bridge some time.

In addition to these historic or quasi-historic structures, there are a number of others in the state that range from reproductions through interpretations to blatant tourist attractions. The Old Salem Covered Bridge was built in 1998 to provide a pedestrian crossing over busy South Main Street. The article about it at the American Society of Civil Engineers North Carolina Section site inexcusably describes it as "one of only three in the State". The Ole Gilliam Mill Park Covered Bridge in Sanford is part of a historic reproduction, built by local men in their spare time, of the original mill complex that washed away in the 1920s. The High Falls Covered Bridge, built in 1998, is part of the DuPont State Forest near Hendersonville. The Nonah Covered Bridge, dating from 2001, is a pedestrian bridge on the Little Tennessee River Greenway near Franklin. The Bridge to Antiquity is on a greenway connecting the community of Antiquity to the town of Davidson. It is about as far from a historical covered bridge as we can get, so we'll call it quits here. I hope that puts to rights any talk of "one of only two (or three) covered bridges in the state".

Fast Food and a Charge

Posted 03/31/24

A Volvo EV picks up a charge at the Arby's on Mebane Oaks Road in Alamance County. If you have had your fill of roast beef sandwiches and curly fries, most Smithfield's barbecue restaurants have a rack of chargers in the parking lot.

It's Back

Posted 03/22/24

N929AN is back at KINT. On Wednesday the 20th it departed and made a number of leisurely loops before landing at KGSO 59 minutes later. After about an hour on the ground it made a 14 minute flight back to KINT. The following morning it departed KINT and made more loops in the course of a 38 minute flight, landing at KGSO. Shortly after, it departed for KINT but immediately looped back around and landed at KGSO. After a few minutes on the ground it departed again for KINT and made an uneventful 8 minute trip. Later in the day it made another 43 minute flight, looping around north of Winston-Salem before landing at KGSO. It finished the day with another 8 minute flight to KINT, where it is sitting on the ground next to the North State hangar.

This is all from FlightAware. You can view all activity for a plane in the past few days, or you can sign up for a free account and see three months worth. If you click on a listed flight, you can see the planned and actual routes, altitude and speed. FlightAware.

Ready to Fly?

Posted 03/19/24

737-800 N929AN flew in on January 28th from Dallas-Fort Worth and evidently has been in the hangar until recently, since today is the first I have seen it. My guess is that a crew is putting on the finishing touches, and soon the tape will come off the doors and the rags out of the pitot tubes. Then it will fly away and start racking up revenue miles for American.

Screenshotting an Entire Webpage in Chrome

Posted 03/08/24

Mostly for my own benefit since I do it infrequently enough to not be able to remember the instructions:

  • Go to the webpage you want to screenshot.
  • Open Developer Tools
  • Control+Shift+P to open Run
  • In the Run box type Capture full size screenshot
  • It will create the screenshot and ask where to save

Little Washington Alley

Posted 03/01/24

Old cities were built with alleys. Washington, NC is a very old city - established in 1776, the first of 88 towns in the United States to be named for George Washington. Federal troops occupied the area early in the Civil War, but under threat from Confederate forces, burned their naval supplies, accidentally setting off a huge fire that consumed most of the city. Rebuilt after the war, it burned again in 1900. The expanding rail network ended Washington's days as a port, and the city declined through the 1900s. In the 1990s the city powers set to work transforming the local economy to tourism and retirement services, and did a very good job of it. Washington is now one of the more prosperous and attractive towns in eastern North Carolina.

Roanoke Cement

Posted 02/17/24

Roanoke Cement on Gaynor Street has its own spur track and gravity unloader in the plant yard, but currently the track is vacant. A rack of hoses have been run down to the NS ready track at the engine servicing facility and hoppers are being vacuum unloaded there. It will be interesting to see if this is permanent, or just in place while work is done on the in-plant unloader. For the meantime, it looks like ready engines are being spotted at the office facility at the south end of the yard.

American N425AN

Posted 02/16/24

The American A321neo made the 20 minute flight from Charlotte on February 5th, and looks close to being ready to depart KINT for its next assignment.


Posted 02/16/24

Sometimes when I mix dough for bread I make a little extra and hold it back for pizza crust. Here is a pizza ready for the oven - green pepper, onion and broccoli. Mozarella cheese, home-made sauce and 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour dough. Lots of olive oil.

Winston-Salem Skyline

Posted 02/12/24

Downtown Winston-Salem in the distance with the WFU-Baptist Hospital complex dominating the foreground. The picture was taken from the grounds of the new apartment buildings on Cloverdale Hill.

Dead Pets Society

Posted 02/08/24

In Miller Park there is a wooden cabinet that looks like a Little Free Library on steroids, but inside you will find hundreds of post-it notes memorializing people's dead pets. Lars found this interesting and decided that their cat Grimlock, who died a couple of years ago, should be remembered too. While most people just leave a note, or at most a cartoonish generic picture, Lars attempted to capture the essence of Grimlock's appearance - ears that stuck straight out from his head and a white patch on his chest. He did this with no prompting from me, as Lex and I stood aside and looked at some pine cones while he worked. It is a testament to Lars' meticulous attention to detail and photographic memory that, to anyone who knew Grimlock, his picture is immediately recognizable.

Finally Found It

Posted 01/21/24

Not for the first time I drove through Raleigh-Durham International on my way home from the coast. I had heard there was an observation area somewhere in the airport but had never been able to find it. Today at last, with a little help from a delivery driver I flagged down in a parking lot, who gave me some general directions, I blundered onto it. For anyone interested in checking it out - follow the signs to Terminal 1. Proceed past and make a right on W International Drive. Pass under the taxiways connecting the two main runways, and turn right onto N Ramp Drive. Curve around to the left as N Ramp Drive becomes E International Drive. Watch for an abrupt left turn onto Business Street, which will take you to the Observation Area.

On this frigid cold Sunday afternoon there were still plenty of spectators, but parking was not a problem. I would think that on a pretty weekend day it could get crowded. The raised deck provides a great view of planes using runway 5L/23R.

Raleigh-Durham is not quite as busy as mighty Charlotte Douglas which is the sixth busiest airport in the United States, but still musters over 500 aircraft movements a day. The runway and especially the taxiway are a bit closer to the observation area which makes up for the slightly fewer flights.

The pictured airplane is Republic Airways Embraer 175 in the livery of United Express. Republic operates feeder services that are marketed and ticketed by partner mainline airlines. On Sunday the 21st of January 2024, Embraer N722YX started the day in Toronto and flew to Newark, then to Raleigh-Durham, where it turned back to Newark and completed the day by flying to Pittsburgh.

Kenmore 117.959 Sewing Machine

Posted 01/12/24

I picked up this Kenmore in November, had to order a few parts and do minor repairs, but it's operational now and laying down nice stitches. Rather than post about it here I have created a separate page for it so I can do some more intensive SEO and get the word out about these machines. It is staggering to me to think that this Kenmore, complete with table, languished on Craigslist until it got down to $20 before I cast a wide enough net to find it in Concord. If you want to read the details about reconditioning a Kenmore 117.959, here is the link.

What's Up at KINT

Posted 01/12/24

Greensboro-based iAero Airways (formerly Swift Air), which flies a fleet of 737s in charter operations, has been operating in bankruptcy since late September 2023. Two of its planes, 737-400 N806TJ and 737-800 N624XA, have languished on the back lot at Smith Reynolds since even earlier, July and June of last year respectively. Both planes appear decrepit, but looks can be deceiving, as proven by Miami Air International 737-800 N778MA, first featured at this site in June of 2022, which seemed destined for the boneyard, but eventually flew off to start a new life with Kaiser Air, where it covers a daily round-trip between Oakland, CA and Honolulu. On the other hand, North State staff I spoke with were not optimistic about the iAero planes flying again in the near future.

The two staffers were happy with the level of business though, saying all six bays in the hanger were occupied. What's more, United 757-224 N19130 received service out on the tarmac. The aeronautical industry is really giving the Triad a shot in the arm, providing good pay for skilled employees. The big Fedex hub in Greensboro, Hondajet, Haeco, North State and Triumph come to mind, as well as the GTCC Aviation campus at the Regional Airport and the brand-new FTCC campus at Smith Reynolds. Of course the airline industry is cyclical, but for anyone qualified and ready to work, now is the time to make hay.

Time Fillers

Posted 01/06/24

With the wide variety of respiratory illnesses floating around this winter, the best I can figure is that I have suffered from a mild case of the flu for the past few days - that sounds like an oxymoron since flu is usually a vicious, miserable thing to have and mine has been no worse than unpleasant. It has left me in a state of low energy, though, and I have been holed up for the most part, setting up a laptop and watching videos.

Drachinifel: Naval Historiographer. Interesting technical facts about the design, construction and fighting record of dozens of warships, with an emphasis on the steam navies of the two World Wars.

Ruairidh MacVeigh. Another historian who focuses on transportation - mostly British automotive, railroad and airplane items.

Oceanliner Designs. Researcher and illustrator Mike Brady focuses on the great liners of the 20th century with a special interest in the disasters - plenty here about the Titanic, Lusitania, Empress of Ireland, and some of the lesser-known shipwrecks too. For variety, he explores a couple of dirigible crashes, rogue waves and mysterious disappearances.

I Do Cars. A car disassembler lets us watch as he parts out engines to go into inventory at his salvage operation.

At the Airport

Posted 12/28/23

What a day to be at the airport! I was out with Lars and Lex, driving toward Greensboro when we saw a plane taking off from the airport, somewhat bigger than the Bombardiers and 737s that commonly use PTI (KGSO). Soon another passed overhead, or so we thought, and we quickly agreed to drive over to our favorite plane-watching parking lot and see if more action developed. Within minutes we saw a plane coming in to land, and then, after it touched down but before it scrubbed off too much speed, the engines spooled up and it lifted back off. As it came by, we saw the livery - United States of America! It wasn't one of the big 747 Air Force Ones, but a newer twin-engine Boeing with the big upsweeps on the wing tips. As we watched, it circled and made two more touch-and-goes before it disappeared into the distance.

Later we talked to an airport staffer who works in the weather office who said that due to the long runways and light traffic of the local airport, the Air Force sometimes uses it for practice and training flights. The plane we saw was probably one of the four 757-200s that are known as Air Force Two when the Vice-President is aboard. It was a real thrill for the boys and me to see this beautiful big plane.

The staffer also told us that weather balloons are launched twice each day, early in the morning and then between 5:00 and 7:00 in the evening. They start off 6 feet in diameter, then rise to 100,000 feet at the rate of 1,000 feet per minute and expand to the size of a small house before exploding. He said that on a clear, still day a trained eye can follow one all the way up and see it explode, but if you glance away for even a second you will lose it. All I can say is, it would take a lot of discipline to focus on a tiny spot in the sky for an hour and a half.

Cup of Coffee

Posted 12/26/23

Luzianne Coffee & Chicory brews up black as tar but the chicory makes it less acidic and caffeinated than straight coffee.

Hiking at Goose Creek State Park

Posted 12/19/23

The official map shows about ten miles of trails in the park, and over the course of three days last week I hiked them all. The parking lot at the Visitors Center (currently closed due to staffing shortages) is a good place to start. From there the Palmetto Boardwalk leads into the heart of the park and provides access to the Ivey Gut Trail, which winds its way to Goose Creek and the tent campground, and to the Tar Kiln Trail which passes through a maturing second growth pine forest to reach the Pamlico River near the picnic areas at the other end of the park. The access road, identified as the "Main Rd." on the park map, cuts through the middle of the park and can be used to cut between the Goose Creek Trail and the Ivey Gut Trail, making it possible to hike an approximately five mile loop on either end of the park.

From the picnic area there are a couple of short loop trails along the river and Mallard Creek for walkers short on time or energy. On the other hand, a grand loop can be done using the Goose Creek Trail, Ivey Gut Trail and Tar Kiln Trail, totaling about six miles. The Long Leaf Trail starts at the Visitors Center and loops through forest and field behind the RV camping area.

All the trails are easy with essentially no elevation change. There are boardwalks in the wet areas and smooth, pine needle covered trails everywhere else. Numerous benches allow for a break, but hikers should bring water as none is available along the trails or at the picnic area during the winter.

No sign of snakes during the cold days of December, and just a few turtles sunning themselves on snags in the borrow pits along the access road. I did see a few deer, crows, ducks and woodpeckers.

I found one more trail in the park that is not on the map, running from the access road to the Tar Kiln Trail. I'm sure the Park Rangers don't want me publicizing it for fear of greenhorns getting lost in the deep dark piney-woods, but if you are an experienced hiker and have a decent sense of direction, you won't have trouble finding it. My speculation is that it was part of the railroad grade that crossed Goose Creek at Dinah's Landing and ran into the pine forest to service the tar kilns that were active in the 1800s.

Mayo River State Park

Posted 12/10/23

Authorized by the NC General Assembly in 2003, Mayo River State Park is in the very early stages of development - to my mind, often the best time to visit a park. What few people we saw seemed to be locals, there was practically no litter, and few signs of overuse. Despite being less than 30 miles from Greensboro, on a divided highway, no less, it seems to be "undiscovered". The park is in Rockingham County, an impoverished corner of the state that failed to reindustrialize after the textile and tobacco industries collapsed. The land is marginal for farming, and the second growth deciduous forests are not far enough along to have much value as timber. So there is every reason to believe that the area will be slow to develop.

The park is not unitary, but is broken up into several tracts. The largest section comprises the former corporate facility that Washington Mills, once a major local employer, maintained for the recreation of its employees. There are a couple of fishing ponds, hiking trails, group camping area, picnic area and a picnic shelter with an absolutely enormous fireplace along one wall. The park office is here as well but it is closed on weekends.

The Deshazo Mill tract includes a trail that leads down to a waterfall on Falls Creek and then beyond to the creek's junction with the river. This section is just south of the Virginia border and the state of Virginia is in the process of creating their own state park on 637 acres that will adjoin with the NC park. The little parking lot at the trailhead is on a slope and proved a real challenge for my Mazda3. Next time I go there it will be in the Jeep.

The Anglin Mill tract is centered around the Boiling Hole rapids on the river. We were there during a drought and the water was low, but I expect the Boiling Hole is an awesome sight at high water.

We did not visit the Hickory Creek tract or the parkland along the river that is inaccesible except by boat, or the small tract just southeast of Mayodan.

The river itself is gorgeous, especially in the upper reaches near the Virginia border. It looks like good smallmouth bass water, and reportedly there is trout fishing farther upstream. Kayakers should find it lots of fun, with plenty of good access points, but should be aware of the hazards. In addition to the Boiling Hole there are a couple of abandoned mill dams without safe portages. There is practically no residential development along the river, and now that the state has tied up so much land in the park it should be relatively safe.

For people who need the facilities and mediation, nearby Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain all provide fully developed amenities. As Mayo River State Park gets better-known, the state will have to put in more infrastructure to handle the crowds, but for at least the next few years it will be a great place to visit for people like me who like the secluded, undeveloped places.

Ripe for Redevelopment

Posted 12/03/23

I don't have any inside information, but doesn't it seem like the area at the corner of Hawthorne Road and Knollwood Street could see some better use? The City of Winston-Salem's 2016 Southwest Area Plan Update, which describes the locale as the Ardmore Village Activity Center, states "There are businesses with site issues such as unsafe curb cuts, limited parking availability, on-street parking that is not safe, and stormwater problems. There is little landscaping on private property and few street trees. Citizens note that traffic moves too fast on Hawthorne Road at this location." That sums it up pretty well. The city's remedy, none of which has been achieved since the plan publication seven years ago, includes "Add planting strips and plant large-variety trees along Hawthorne Road. Street tree planting should be coordinated with on-street parking", and "Repair sidewalks and reduce the number of curb cuts along Hawthorne Road". While the maps included in the plan show the whole of the Ardmore Village Activity Center as being in a flood plain, only the vague mention of "stormwater problems" hints at what may be a major underlying - and I mean that literally - problem. I recently noticed that the parking lot behind the dry cleaner, where the creek carrying water down from the Miller Park Circle vicinity dives under the ground, is collapsing.

The local businesses have been stable enough - the grocery store, Food Lion, formerly Food Fair, has been on the site since the late 1940s. Excuse the rumor-mongering, but I have heard suggestions that the building may be nearing its end due to erosion of the culvert underneath it carrying the waters of the above-mentioned unnamed creek. Arthur's on the corner has been in operation for about 30 year, and PB's for even longer. I notice that Papa John's has vacated recently and moved to Miller Street, beside the Publix, but the little dry cleaner next door is still in operation. Up the hill, Carlisle's Pub has been serving the local drinkers under one name or another for at least 50 years. Ardmore Coffee is making a go of it. Most of the other tenants nearby come and go with clocklike regularity, though Stella Brew and the barber shop have hung on for several years. All in all, a somewhat raffish mix of neighborhood institutions and marginal moneypits selling t-shirts, kung fu lessons, manicures, the usual retail and service outlets hodling it in the hopes that things will get better.

I suppose the main reason a well-capitalized developer hasn't swooped in to buy up the whole acreage and redevelop it into something a little more profitable is the congestion issue - the streets are highly constrained and it would be difficult to put anything in the area that drew a lot of traffic. But surely, in the center of the affluent Ardmore neighborhood and close proximity to both the hospitals, something will come along to replace the current motley assortment.

New Styling

Posted 12/02/23

Can't say that I like the continental styling on the new Miatas as much as I did the earlier models' blatant MGB inspiration, but it's still one hell of a good-looking sports car.

...And a Ford

Posted 11/23/23

Circa 1990 Ford F150.

Ardmore Jeep

Posted 11/23/23

This is why I carry a camera when I go out for walks in the neighborhood. A well-maintained, classic late 1990s Jeep Wrangler is always worth a picture. I got this one with one of my old Lumix compacts.

A Good Project

Posted 11/20/23

Last I reported on the Kenmore 158.321, I mentioned that I arranged with Joe to keep it for a few weeks. My intent was to sew enough to come to an opinion, considering the limited number of machines I have used, as to its capabilities. The duffel bag, or actually more like a soft suitcase, that I made for Lars back in July, involved enough techniques and materials - zippers, straps, upholstery cloth, heavy stabilizer - to make a good challenge. I decided to make another, slightly smaller, to serve as a camera bag.

The machine easily handled building the sub-assemblies. The instructions suggested using a zig-zag stitch to baste around the edges of the front and back panels to crush down the stabilizer so it would be easier to do the final assembly, so it was convenient to have that function on the machine. A zipper foot would have been helpful for the zipper tapes, but I didn't have one, and the standard foot did an acceptable job. The machine punched the size 16 needle and V69 thread through the webbing straps with no issues, and in fact nothing seemed too hard to handle. At the end, when I was sewing the sub-assemblies together, the fabric stack got too thick to go under the presser foot, and I had to switch over to the Sailrite for that, as well as for binding the seams on the inside of the bag. Overall, I would say that I did 80% of the job on the Kenmore, and the rest on the Sailrite. If I hadn't been using the extremely thick stabilizer (oil-absorbent pads), I could have done the whole job on the Kenmore.

In summary - for bag-making and canvas work, I would say this machine has plenty of power, but it is limited by the space under the foot. That is typical of domestic machines, and a professional bag-maker is probably going to want an industrial machine like some of the models from Juki, Janome and Singer. Another issue for this and all domestic machines is that the needles are a bit flimsy and flexible for driving through thick stacks. The machine will force it through, but it may deflect and graze the hook, or worse, hit it full on. Even so, someone making the occassional bag can probably rely on this machine to see them through.

The zig-zag capability is a major asset and the one thing that vaults this machine over the older Singer 15 straight stitch machines. Zig-zagging is a useful technique for adding strength and stretch to stitches, and it makes it possible to introduce cams for fancy stitches. This machine has a place for insertable cams, but unfortunately they had parted company with the machine sometime probably long in the past. Zig-zagging also allows for serging seams. The price is added complexity and weight.

I felt the lack of a walking foot sewing the front and back assemblies on my camera bag, when the upholstery fabric outer layer started bunching ahead of the foot. An add-on walking foot, like the one that sometimes comes in handy on my Singer 15-91, might be available, but the high shank on the Kenmore makes it impossible to use one of the seemingly millions of Singer attachments floating around.

A couple of times the thread jumped out from between the tensioner discs and slipped between the tensioner and the machine body, causing major jamming around the hook, but that was the only issue I had with sewing. Just an aside, this machine needs more bobbin tension than most. To get a good stitch, set the bottom tension a little higher than you might expect, and tighten up the top tension enough to balance it. Otherwise you will get a loose stitch. Once the tension is set, I found that it didn't vary or change even with long use.

This machine is well-built, strong, rugged and reliable. If it had more space under the presser foot and a walking foot attachment, it would be close to perfect for most domestic sewing. It's not the ticket for leather or heavy canvas, but it does handle upholstery cloth, light canvas and denim. I didn't try garment sewing on it, but I ran a few yards of cotton thread through with a size 14 needle, and had no issues. I won't claim that the stitches were as perfectly straight, even and consistent as what my 15-91 will produce, but they looked good.

Maybe Avoid Germanton Road for Now

Posted 11/14/23

Drivers between north Winston/points north and Kernersville/Greensboro/points east are finding it advantageous to use the new I-74, the Northern Beltway, to avoid running through town and taking the congested Highway 52 north of Salem Parkway. Until the new road ties in to 52 at Rural Hall, traffic has to connect in the Stanleyville area and follow either Germanton Road or University Parkway between the four-lanes. That is making for heavy traffic on these surface roads. In particular, getting on from any of the side streets is very difficult. Once the interchange at Rural Hall is completed, things should settle down, but that is probably a year in the future. For the time being, maybe just avoid Germanton Road and the north end of University Parkway, if you can.

But Will It Sew Leather?

Posted 11/14/23

With the proper needle, the Kenmore will stitch leather. Not easily, not cleanly, but it will.

EV Chargers in Ardmore

Posted 11/12/23

There are plenty of EV chargers in Winston, in the Ardmore neighborhood I found two that are easy for the public to access.

At the Publix grocery store on Miller Street, there is a charger with two spots. When I found it, one spot was taken by a charging vehicle, and while I looked, a beautiful red Mini pulled in and took the second. The owner hopped out, plugged up in a matter of seconds, and strode off into the store to do his shopping. The power is free to Publix patrons. I'm sure it's a fairly slow charger, but it probably puts in enough to cover the trip and help keep the owner's around-town car topped off. There is a Starbucks in the store for people who want to take their time and let the free power flow for a little longer.

There is rack of twelve Tesla superchargers and one low power charger in the parking lot at Hanes Towne Village on Stratford Road (where the old Hanes Plant used to be). When I drove by there were two Teslas charging. In the shopping center are several restaurants, a Walmart Market, a gym and an assortment of small shops and of course, the ubiquitous Starbucks.

Another facility in the neighborhood is at Forsyth Memorial, mainly for the use of staff, but it is not really convenient for public use. Interestingly, there is a Tesla 40 amp charger tucked away behind SECCA, maybe a fringe benefit for the ED? There are EV chargers all over the campus at Wake Forest. And there are others scattered about town. So EV drivers don't have to worry about finding a place to charge their cars in Winston-Salem.

Edenton Bay

Posted 11/09/23

The Edenton Yacht Club held its last races of the season Saturday the 4th of November. I drove up from Washington to get pictures, enjoying the privilege of watching from the committee boat. In very tight action, friend Taylor and his partner on Cinder posted the best elapsed time in both races but lost out to Sailing Shoes on corrected time. The big boats Barbara Jean III and Time Machine, hampered by the light airs, lumbered around the course at a distinctly slower pace.

Washington, NC

Posted 11/08/23

Early morning walkers on the waterfront a few days ago.


Posted 10/26/23

Joe picked up a couple of Kenmores that someone had discarded. One was in sad shape with parts missing while the other seemed to be all there except for the motor. He took the motor off the dead machine and put it on the good one in hope that maybe someday it could be made to run. In the meantime I resucitated Marie's Brother and the old Fiatelli, so I was getting enough confidence to be willing to take a stab at it. Joe was agreeable so I took it home with me.

What exactly was it? A Kenmore, from Sears, and they have a reputation for being good machines. If you have any doubt, try googling "kenmore better than bernina". Joe's machine is a model 158.321, which a little research shows was made from 1963 to 1965, in Japan, at either the Maruzen or Jaguar plant. It has the monster 1.2 amp motor that came on some Kenmores, a high shank foot, but not the rotary hook that came on some of its sister models - it has an oscillating hook. Built-in zig-zag and replaceable cams for fancy stitches are among the other features (unfortunately, the cams didn't make it as far as Joe's basement).

The machine was filthy on the outside and it wouldn't turn over. Trying to turn the hand wheel revealed just a little play in the mechanism, a sign that whatever was locked up was somewhere downstream of the main shaft. I removed the top cover and found a spotlessly clean mechanism with no sign of oil, tarnish or lint. That suggested that maybe it had never been oiled - a good reason why it might be locked up. I copiously soaked every friction point with oil.

Next stop was the left end: the presser foot, needle bar and takeup lever mechanisms. All looked fine and all got doused with oil. After that, I flipped the machine over on its side and found the shafts, cams and followers all showed some tarnish and old congealed oil, so the prior owner evidently knew enough to lubricate them. I soaked in more oil. Finally, I examined the hook, race and feed dog area, where I found an enormous clot of lint behind the dog. This area got blown out and lubricated.

At this point the machine would turn over, though very stiffly, so nothing was broken or jammed. I spent some time turning the machine with the hand wheel and dripping oil into each friction point, and gradually the mechanism freed up. Next I ran it on the motor, first slowly, then faster. I checked reverse and zig-zag, and both worked. After that, I ran the machine at speed for 10 minutes, and everything looked good.

The time had come to put a needle and thread in the machine - a 130-705 H size 16 needle, just like fits in my Singer, in the Fiatelli, in the Morse, but not the Sailrite - and polyester V-69 unbonded thread. No issues, threads up just like any other Singer 15 pattern machine. With a scrap of cloth under the needle, I started sewing. The stitch looked good, but it was very short, despite the stitch lever being set for full length. The machine would lay down a zig-zag, but again, very short. Interestingly, reverse was full length.

A sewing machine mechanic had a post on these machines and said that if the stitch length was short to just keep flooding the length adjustment mechanism with oil and eventually it would free up. I removed the top and back covers so I could access every pivot point but even so, oil and time didn't seem to be working. I found a tantalizing reference on the internet, part of a page from a Kenmore repair manual, that stated if forward and back stitches were not equal, to use a special gapping gauge to make an adjustment, as shown in Fig. A, but unfortunately Fig. A was missing.

With some head-scratching I figured out how to get the front cover off, and soaked oil into the adjusters inside, the stitch width, stitch length, and two others that I didn't know what they did. One was a dial with positions labeled F-R-C, but it wouldn't go into C. Another was a thumbwheel labeled + and -. In the + position, the stitch length dropped to zero, in the - position I got the short stitch. There were two ratchets that controlled the lever for forward/reverse and stitch length, and I tried adjusting them, to no effect. I noticed that, with the front cover off and the lever free to traverse a longer arc, the stitch length would increase to normal and even greater, so that the dog interfered with the needle plate. But limited by the slot in the front cover, it only allowed for the short stitch.

If all likely possibilities fail, try the unlikely ones. I was oiling and probing far afield, but closer to home was the F-R-C switch. Looking at it, I saw what was jamming it - a spring that didn't want to ride up over a cam. I levered it over with a screwdriver, soaked it with oil, and worked it until it started turning freely. Not feeling too optimistic, I reattached the front cover and gave the machine a spin. And, to my great delight, the stitch length increased to normal.

Research showed the F-R-C switch has something to do with buttonholing and the +- switch is what is called a "modifier", for sewing stretch knits. I doubt if I will ever do either, so I will leave it to whoever ends up with this machine to figure them out, if they choose.

One final maintenance issue. The belt was in horrible condition, so I replaced it with one marginally better. And I adjusted the motor to get it lined up with the pulley on the handwheel.

The real test for a perfectly adjusted machine is, will it sew a very short, very wide zig-zag at speed? This one won't, but it handles more reasonable tests with flying colors. I have completed a couple of quick projects with the Kenmore, and arranged with Joe to keep it for a few weeks to enjoy sewing with it, and then I'll bring it back to the basement, where I'm sure he will find it a good home.

I've never sewed with a Bernina, so I won't say this Kenmore is better than one, but I will say - it's a good machine.


Posted 10/22/23

This charter jet came through Smith Reynolds back in February and I posted about it then. Looking back through my pictures from this year, I found this shot and decided it was worth processing. It came out better than I expected, so I decided to post it.

Balls for the Shalom Project

Posted 10/19/23

Over in West Salem, the Shalom Project provides direct aid to local families and homeless. A few weeks ago, I dropped off several pairs of shoes that Lars and Lex had outgrown, which I knew would be appreciated, plus a ball, and the volunteer told me that the kids would like the ball. So I made seven more over a few days, put them in a tote, and dropped them off. This time the Executive Director was working the donation door, and she graciously accepted them. I like hands-on EDs. Miss Eileen, you make the grade.

I plan to check in with the Shalom Project and find out if the balls are really something the kids like, and if they are, I'll be drafting some friends to help make another bigger batch.

Pisgah Covered Bridge

Posted 10/08/23

Most Carolinians associate the name "Pisgah" with the National Forest around Asheville, created from the Vanderbilt family's immense landholdings in the area. But closer to home, we found the Pisgah Covered Bridge in southwest Randolph County, in the Uwharrie National Forest. This old structure was built in 1911 to cross the West Fork of the Little River and superseded by a concrete bridge in the 1950s. In 2003 it was washed away in a flood but volunteers managed to recover 90% of the wood and put it back together. These days it is the center of a small park with picnic tables and a short trail, which is very popular with area residents. Just downstream of the bridge is a water-filled circular depression on the side of the river, which I took for a sinkhole, but found later was a baptismal pool used by the locals in their religious rituals. When we visited, the region was dry, approaching drought, and the river was barely flowing. I'd like to see it again in spring when the water is higher.


Posted 10/07/23

Browsing Craigslist one day I saw a listing for a Fiatelli sewing machine. Sounds Italian, I thought, and the Italians have a reputation for making fine precision machinery. A glance at the accompanying pictures, though, and it was clear that this was a post-war Japanese Singer 15 clone. I have an interest in depression-era Singer 15s, which were the model for the Japanese clones, and filed the Fiatelli in the back of my mind, thinking if the price got right, I might buy it to try to resucitate it, or at least get some experience turning wrenches on one.

A few weeks later the Fiatelli was still listed and the price was $20. I was busy that day but decided if it was still available the next day I would go buy it. Yes, the next day it was still available and the price was $15. The machine was in Summerfield, a pleasant short drive in the country, so I called the lister and told her I'd come right up and look at it.

The machine was pristinely clean and polished, in a worn but serviceable table. The seller said the machine wouldn't run and she thought it was the belt. I checked and made sure there was a bobbin case present and that all the major parts were there. The belt looked ok to me, but the machine wouldn't turn over with the hand wheel. I didn't try running it on the motor. Never do that until you have looked over the wires and connections. No machine is worth electrocuting yourself over. It's also abusive to try to run a locked-up machine. Get it spinning before you step on the pedal.

I fished a $20 out of my wallet and asked her if she had change. Crestfallen, she said that she didn't, seeing her chances for a sale slipping away. I told her to take the $20, it had been worth that to me yesterday and it was worth that today.

At home I pulled the old machine out of the table. Clearly, this machine had lived in a barn or a garage for a long time. Mud-dobbers had built a nest in the table (fortunately they had vacated), and the underside of the machine was filthy with petrified oil, lint and dust. The seller had done a great job getting the outside of the machine clean, and left the inside alone. I was appreciative. If you don't know what you are doing, messing around in the mechanism can do more harm than good.

With the machine on the table in front of my Singer 15-91, the family resemblance was evident. The Singer was built in 1934 I believe, and the Fiatelli in the late 1950s to early 1960s, but there is no sign of technological change or even evolution. Not surprising, since the Japanese clones from this era were based on even older Singers. Here's one story of how Japan got back into the sewing machine business after the war. Singer licensed at least one Japanese manufacturer to make machines before the war to sell in Asia. When the war came, the production machinery was pushed to the back of the plant as it was retooled to make armaments. After the war, when MacArthur and his administrators were looking for ways to help the Japanese people rebuild their economy, somebody recalled those old machines. Singer, at the peak of its world-wide dominance of the sewing machine industry, agreed that the Japanese could use the existing tooling to make machines for their local markets, as long as they didn't badge them as Singers. My understanding is that most of the clones were based on the Singer 15-30 and 15-88, which had been superseded by the 15-91, considered by many to be one of the two finest of Singer's machines (the other being the 201).

Another story is that Singer's patents had expired on the early 15s, and that the Japanese simply retooled to make them. According to this account, 15 factories eventually made clones, marketing them through 5,000 distributors. That figure hardly seems plausible, but I will say that as of the writing of this article, there are at least nine sewing machines for sale on the internet that are identical to my Fiatelli other than color and badging.

Back to the Fiatelli. I started dripping oil into all the oiling holes and working my way around the machine, looking for anything that might be jamming it. I turned it over on its side and hosed down the mechanisms with choke and carburetor cleaner, a good solvent. You don't have to be real careful with these old Singers as there are no plastic or rubber parts. Not like the Brother that I worked on earlier in the summer, which would have dissolved into a heap of melted plastic if I had sprayed it with the wrong thing. Eventually I worked my way around to the bobbin area, where I spotted a length of oily, frayed thread jammed between the hook and the race. I had to fully disassemble the mechanism, but once the thread came out the machine began to turn. That was the crux of the problem. I continued to soak oil into all the bearings, joints and sliders, and gradually the machine came back to life.

The controller was side-mounted in the cabinet for knee operation, with badly deteriorated wires and plug. I had an extra wired controller that fit, so I installed it and then ran the machine for a few minutes, with it all the while running smoother and freer. After that I threaded it up and ran off some ugly stitches, not surprising since the machine was still dirty and linty, but at least a good indication that there was nothing fundamentally wrong. After some more oiling, cleaning and adjusting I was able to get a decent stitch.

The motor wouldn't run at low speed, suggesting bad brushes. I had a spare motor so I installed it along with a new belt, and now the machine ran smoothly from the lowest speed all the way to its highest. My experience is that all these vintage machines run pretty slow compared to newer ones.

The stitch wasn't bad but I thought it could be better. A new tensioner had been the final step in getting my 15-91 to run perfectly, so I tried to find one for the Fiatelli. So far I have had no luck. The tensioner on the Fiatelli is just slightly different and the one from the 15-91 won't fit. The best I could do was to thoroughly clean and adjust the old one and install a used take-up spring I had laying around in place of the mangled one that came with the machine. That helped, but even so the knot is at the top of the stitch, even with the tensioner set to the minimum and the bobbin case spring far tighter than I ordinarily set them. Still, it's a good stitch and I used the machine to sew a ball.

So how did it happen that 70 years after a Singer clone was made in Japan, it ended up in Summerfield in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition (other than the tensioner, a delicate assembly that is the first thing people start fiddling with when their machine has trouble)? Well, the jammed thread between the hook and race probably proved too hard for the owner to trouble-shoot and solve, leading to the machine being pushed to a back room for a while, and then out into a garage or barn, where it languished for 40 or 50 of those 70 years, fortunately with some protection from the weather. Eventually a housekeeper perhaps picked up a Marie Kondo book and in an honest effort to declutter her life hauled the machine out of the garage, cleaned everything she could see, and listed it on Craigslist. And for caring enough to save the old machine from the dump, I applaud her.

By the way, I don't really have room for this machine, so it's up for grabs. If you want it, let me know. The price is right - free. The sooner I get rid of it, the sooner I can go prowling for another depression-era Singer or Japanese clone to fix up.

About those nine clones for sale on the internet - a reasonable story is that American import-export people would go to Japan and have small lots of clone machines made, painted, decaled and shipped to the States. Then a motor would be installed to match American voltage. The importer would then go around to retailers hawking these machines as being just as good as Singers but a lot cheaper. Look at the following pictures and notice that all the machines are identical other than paint and decals. I noticed that almost every one has the word "Deluxe" somewhere on it.

Boker Tree

Posted 10/04/23

This old Boker barlow came to me with a broken primary blade and well-worn secondary. I had Muskrat Man, one of the best knife mechanics of the day, rebuild it as a single-blade with a Camillus spear. It's one of a kind, no other knife quite like it. That's the beauty of customs.

Sony FD Mavica

Posted 10/03/23

My first digital camera was a little Kodak that took such abysmal pictures that I discarded it after just a few uses. As we prepared to take our 2001 road trip to the west coast, I looked for a more competent machine. One criterion was that the camera store images on cheap removable media - i.e., floppy disks - since I didn't have a laptop to bring along. Already by 2001 most manufacturers had moved on to internal storage that would hold a limited number of images until they could be transferred by cable to a computer. Sony still produced their highly-regarded FD Mavicas that used floppies, so I decided to purchase one of them and collect images on floppies until we got home and I would be able to move them over to my desktop.

Floppy disks were easy to find and free, since AOL was actively mailing them out and including them in photography and computer magazines. The disks contained a script to help users sign up for AOL. Other early web entrants sent their own disks. Most computer peripherals of the time, like printers and modems, also came with floppies with drivers, so the world was awash in floppy disks. I set aside 50 that I had reformatted using the command "mkfs.msdos /dev/fd0" at a root prompt. At six images per disk, this gave me capacity for 300 images. This seems laughably few now, when I sometimes take 300 pictures in a day, but the comparison then was to 15 rolls of Plus-X, an awful lot of film to buy and have processed.

By the time we returned from our six week roadtrip, all the disks were full and I had 300 images that are among my most treasured possessions. The Sony performed flawlessly, and continued to for years afterward. Eventually the battery got so weak that it would only take a few pictures per charge, and I put it away. Besides, camera technology was advancing by leaps and bounds. Sensors could collect pixels orders of magnitude greater than the Sony's 1.3mp, and SD cards allowed hundreds of images to be stored on the camera. I moved on to compact Panasonic Lumixes which served me well until I bought my Fujifilm X-T20 which could handle my old Takumars from film days.

Sony makes great camera kit to this day. Unfortunately, during the early 2000s the company committed a few egregious privacy violations (search on "Sony rootkit" for an example) and I decided not to buy their products in the future. There are plenty of good camera manufacturers to choose from. Corporations and people too should not forget, when they lose trust, sometimes they never get it back.

Sewing Work

Posted 09/20/23

A tote featuring patchwork-style quilting panels on the front and back, and full lining. I don't think this is true patchwork quilting since each layer moving out from the center is sewed right side to right side with the previous layer and then turned back to cover the raw edge, and then the top binding and straps cover the raw edges of the last pieces. I get the idea that in true patchwork quilting all edges of each piece are turned under and the pieces are laid side-by-side and sewn down individually.

I found this technique at the website called Two Strands Sewing which focuses on creative uses for scrap cloth. The presenter may be from Russia or somewhere in eastern Europe as she doesn't speak in the videos and many of the comments are in Cyrillic. She's very talented and has a lot of good ideas.

This tote will go to my niece in California.

Virginia Mountains

Posted 09/11/23

At Grayson Highlands yesterday.

Washington Dock

Posted 09/04/23

My Alberg 35 Terry Ann on the Washington NC town dock Saturday the 2nd, after Idalia cleared out. The air is washed out by several inches of rain, the water is still high and the wind is blowing. A beautiful day.

All photographs by Paul M. Clayton unless otherwise noted.

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