Category Archives: School

Minor Stuff 7 May

Not much new to report. I am checking the site regularly, I am not doing any radio projects right now. The spring term ends in a few days and I am done with all of my assignments so I am basically done for the term. I can register for my last three classes for the M.A. in Public HIstory in two weeks, classes start in August. I will likely start attending club meetings again in June, after Field Day. There is a lot of cleanup to do around the old homestead, I will be giving a bunch of radio stuff to the club and selling a buch of tools later this month. I need to thin the space so I will be inclined to get things done. I have an itch to build, I just don’t know what it is I want to build, I do have a few projects that need to be finished or difinitivly abandon befor I start any new projects. This includes modding my ELEGOO printer to self level so I can get back to 3D printing. That’s about it for now.

I will try to keep up with posting and adding some media to the posts as the year progresses.


Another year…

It’s been another crazy year. I have been mostly focused on my master’s degree so I haven’t been able to participate outside of the basics and taskings. With the club, I have been keeping up but just barely. The same goes for ARES. My responsibilities in the field organization continue to expand, which is good, I’m not complaining about the responsibilities I have taken on, I just haven’t had much time to enjoy them. By in large, they have been administrative taskings so I haven’t been doing much building which has taken a toll.

At the weekly breakfast, I mentioned that the hobby has been more work than fun for a while. I think that may have put a few on edge, but it is true. School is a constant and I don’t see that going away for at least another year, I will complete my second master’s in May next year. I want to pursue a Ph.D., but I will need a break after grad school. I have some public history work lined up and I am hoping I will be more participatory in radio soon.

To that end, I am poking at PicoBallooning with some of the hams in the club. I ordered up a bunch of parts and pieces to get started in this segment of the hobby. I already have a lot of skills in APRS, packet, and sensors, microcontrollers, and singboard computers so I’m not blinded by a huge learning curve, and my aviation experience doesn’t hurt either. I would like to see us develop an actual aeronautical telemetry program but we will have to see where things go.

I also want to pick up on some of the projects that got left in the dust before moving like the Beach 40 which has been on hold since November 2015! Some of my original goals for that project have shifted, and I’m not so intent on using only discreet components as I was when the project started. There will be a reevaluation and planning period before melting solder on that project but it is on my list to get back to.

Also on the list and of greater urgency is the BPQ Node documentation project. I have three nodes to build as part of the club infrastructure upgrades in the late spring/early summer, depending on how soon we will have access to the mountaintops, enclosure roofs, and towers. This one comes first, well, parallel with some of the balloon experiments.

Added to the shack tools this year is a 3D printer, an ELEGOO Neptune 2S. It has already put in considerable benefit to the radio hobby by helping me provide cases for the BPQ upgrade project and other similar projects. I am just getting my feet wet in the 3D printing hobby but so far it is a lot of fun. I have avoided CAD for circuits and 3D modeling for a long time, it’s time to go down that road.

ARES has been tasked to provide asset tracking for a couple of parades and a foot race this year. A handful of us in ARES are working on building low-cost, low, power APRS units with an eye towards expansion into WX and sensor telemetry, multitasking the equipment. This tied into the balloon hobby as well so we have a lot of crossover in participants. I also submitted a grant for CDCA for an off-the-shelf tracker solution for the parades that we can expand on based on our other experiments in telemetry.

Lots to do, but for now, it’s back to the books.

Post 201

Profile PicYesterday was an odd day. I suppose it was odd for many Americans for a variety of reasons. The most obvious of course being the 14th anniversary of 9-11, so I didn’t notice that my post yesterday was my 200th post.

For me September 11th has a strangely linked secondary meaning, it was also the day I started my formal flight-school training in 2003, though technically my first flight was April 22nd, 2003. I only had three flight lessons before deciding to go the professional academy route and the next available start date began five months later on September 11.

I always seem to think about aviation stuff on 9-11. Most of the time it is a sub-conscious shift in thought. I don’t even realize I have been thinking aviation until after my thought have shifted. Yesterday’s post obviously was aviation in theme and I have been mulling around a lot of stuff the last 12 hours or so.

When I notice the post being #200 this morning, it got me thinking of the many firsts I have encountered in the last decade or so; first pilot’s license, first college class taken, first instructors license, first aviation class taught, first mechanic’s license, first college class taught, first college degree, first amateur radio license, and my first VE session.

I’m sure there have been many other firsts along the way, certainly many smaller firsts came about as a result of these, but these in particular are mile-stone moments to me. They are all significant events marking recognized achievements in areas I am passionate about. Aviation, and radio, are things that are deeply embedded in my being. They have been a part of me in some form for much longer than a decade.

My contemplations of yesterday and today have been not only a pondering of opportunities and ideas. They have been a review of accomplishments, a review of the goals I have set for myself, how they intertwine, and how at several points I allowed myself to be distracted from the task at hand. Looking back from today’s vantage point, many of those delays were actually necessary. Ether to gain non-related skills, take the time for technology to change, or just let some things ruminate.

FrieslandIn many ways it is analogous to the farmer. Working the soil, providing nutrients, and sewing seeds. As the farmer must wait for the seeds to germinate and grow, I have been doing other “chores” waiting for that germination and growth. Stuff around the farm that may not directly relate to that crop, but still important for the overall operation of the farm. Now it’s time to do the finishing. Harvest comes soon, some will be reaped and some let go to seed.

What I really want to be doing as shifted, reformed, and modified, but those basic goals are still the same. The same as they have been for over a decade. Now I am in a much better position to see them through. Now it’s time to refocus on the finishing before harvest and make things happen.

I like it when an analogy comes together.

Until next time,

No Industrial Arts, No Industry

I was reading an article from The American Thresherman (December, 1907) Every boy ought to know how to drive a nail and saw a board,  okay, I wasn’t reading the article in the journal, I was reading a copy of it on Lost Art Press’s blog and a few thoughts came up at several levels that I felt compelled to share.

shop classOn the surface, there is the gender point. I firmly believe that this article is very relevant to today’s youth and this absolutely includes girls as well as boys. When I was in Jr. High shop class I don’t recall seeing more than one girl in any shop class, if any at all, and I always thought it was odd. I knew many girls who would have liked, and excelled in the different shop classes. I do recall being informed later, and on more than one occasion, by female friends that they would have taken shop classes but were ether told they couldn’t, or where strongly discouraged to by school staff. I believe unequivocally that girls should be in shop classes of all kinds if they want to be there, and they should be encouraged at an early age to pursue whatever interests them. I may be a cranky old fart, but gender bias in education is just ignorant.

In Jr. High I took a different shop class every semester. Wood Shop, Mechanical Drawing, Plastic and Metal Fabrication, and Wood Shop II, and in High School I took of Auto Shop. I learned a lot from those classes and not just the basics of manipulating tools and materials. They taught me the importance of method and procedure, analytical skills, situational awareness, and of course tool use; by tool use I am not just talking about how to swing a hammer, I am talking about finding the right tool for the job, making the right tool if you don’t have it, and understanding how using the right tool affects outcomes. These are life skills not just shop skills.

Industrial Arts, as it was known before its virtual disappearance from primary public education, was one of those rare PC, aggrandizing terms that was actually well chosen. As school budgets decrease and programs are cut there are outcries of “save the arts,” and there should be, the arts are a very important part of development. Each student benefits from some form of the arts in their own way developmentally. Many studies have been done exclaiming the benefits of art programs; visual arts, musical arts, theatrical arts… but what about Industrial Arts, the same benefits come from taking Industrial Arts classes.

Shop class has often been the butt of jokes and used as a derogatory reference much like jock by the academically adept. Sadly, “Shop Guy” didn’t get the alternative peer respect that jock did, even though historically, and somewhat ironically, jocks often relied on shop classes to keep afloat as far as grades were concerned. Now we are in the Information Age, the Poindexter’s are calling the shots. For the record I was both a shop guy and a psudo-poindexter, I was in chess club, the Domino Club, the D&D club, and an AV guy, I just didn’t have the 4.0 GPA. 

So what happened to Shop Guy/Gal after the programs shut down? In short, they didn’t seem to get much of a chance to learn those skills, or discover that’s what they are good at, or who they are. There is something out there for Shop Guy/Gal, but they will be hard pressed to find it in traditional channels before college and even then it is very limited.

Industrial Education or Career Technical/Technology Education (CTE) as it is known in community college circles, is very limited and focuses mostly on nursing and cosmetology with few resources for other shop-type programs. Most community colleges have only one shop-type program and it is usually tied to a certificate program. Examples would be Automotive Repair, Welding, Machine Tool Operator or CNC Machine Operator, and Aviation Maintenance Technology.  These are, as the department title indicates, Career Technology types of programs so they are not particularly useful for the average person unless they are planning on that specific career path. So in reality these are not shop classes in the primary education sense and that’s what I’m focusing on here.

I can’t think of one local community college that offers anything comparable to the shop classes found in primary education only a few decades ago. This decline of shop classes occurred rapidly beginning in the late 80s with the introduction of personal computers and by the early 2000s shop class was pretty much a goner, technology had overrun Industrial Arts. As shop classes went away other things happened as well. Those kids who relied on shop class for a grade, they didn’t have a resource or outlet anymore and many dropped out. Those entering school after shop class was gone, they never had the opportunity or resource to learn the skills a shop class would have provided, skills that are practical, transferable, and social. Technology took over the job-skills classes and programs and if you weren’t interested in computer science or up to the challenge, there really wasn’t much else for you.

There are no studies that I am aware of that show a direct correlation between the demise of shop class and an increase in crime or dropout rates but I believe there is some connection. Certainly the loss of shop classes is not responsible for all of society’s ills, but like other arts, there are important skills that are being lost to our society as a whole. In just one or two generations those once common basic tool-use skills have declined dramatically. Ask the average teen today how to use a basic hand tool and you get an odd look, ask them how to use a shop tool and, well, they just look puzzled because they have no idea what language you are speaking or what the object is you are pointing at.

At present the DIY and Maker movements are where basic tool-use skills are being acquired. YouTube contributes more to basic tool-use education than all traditional education institutions at all levels combined. While this is great from the perspective of keeping these skills alive, there is little if any feedback on how well those skills are being understood and applied. Without feedback it becomes difficult to develop skills further, errors begin to compound, and at some level the wheel keeps getting re-invented, frequently. Mr. Stumpy the three fingered shop teacher may not have been the most congenial guy in the world, but he did know the importance of the guide bar on a band saw and its proper adjustment, from personal experience no less, and he would most definitely give you feedback.

I am all for keeping music programs, art classes, and theater programs I just think industrial arts, and more importantly the individuals likely to have been in shop class as well as society as a whole have been short changed by the loss of Industrial Arts programs in primary education. If we as a nation want to reclaim some of our manufacturing prowess, restore “Made In USA” to its former status around the world, and improve our import/export ratio, we better start thinking about how the next generation is going to learn  basic tool use and those important underlying lessons shop class can provide.

Yes, education with strong math and science skills is very important for the nation to remain competitive in the world market as a whole, but let’s face it folks, not every kid is suited for a job in science or technology. The system is trying to push every kid down that road with “no child left behind” even if that is not where he/she is best suited. We can’t all be Rhodes Scholars, and that’s fine. It wouldn’t mean much if we all where now would it? Everyone can benefit from shop skills, not everyone has that shop-gene. Some people are good at shop, some aren’t. Some are good at science, some aren’t. Let people be good at what they are good at. Give them the chance to find what they are good at. That’s what High School is supposed to be about, finding something you are good at or at least interested in. If not in High School, then Community College. Industrial Arts needs to reemerge from the darkness in early education for everyone’s benefit. By Industrial Arts I’m talking about basic shop-skills classes, general tool-user classes, not career specific classes, the kind of class that has deeper life lessons.

To those who don’t know me personally, even to some who do, this may come as a shock, but I didn’t take a single math class in High School. The highest level math I had in primary schooling was in Jr. High and in shop class. It was relevant and had a purpose. Over the course of my life I have had to add to my math knowledge as I acquired new skill sets that relied on mathematical operations or concepts I wasn’t familiar with, I had to learn them on my own. Fortunately I have not had issues understanding math in practical applications. In fact, I understand the mathematical relationships in many areas very well. I credit the basics I learned in shop class along with the shop skill of seeking out the right tool for the job. I would not be who I am today without the benefits of having taken shop classes; not just having the tool-user skills, but deep down who I am.

Please forgive a little sappy self-reflection here, but I think this is important, at least it is to me. This post has become something more reflective than I expected.

It is said that we develop our basic personal identity early in our formative years. For me, I can trace a vast majority of who I am today, what is relevant to me as the person I am now, the beliefs I hold, and the major aspects of my character, to three associations outside of my family. First and second were tied closely together, the church I grew up in, and scouting. The third, and I mean this in all honesty was shop class; not the class itself but the deeper level of things I learned in shop. Church and scouts gave me the “moral compass” to guide me. Scouts and shop gave me an ethical, practical, and physical sense of the world and how to approach it, to function in it.

I don’t expect that others will feel as strongly as I do about the importance of Industrial Arts education, but I sincerely hope that if you benefitted from shop class, any shop class, and you have tool-user skills at any level, pass those skills on.

If you are a parent, mentor, or teacher encourage your charges to explore shop-type skills when they show an interest in them.

If by chance, you are involved in curriculum development or program development for primary education or community college education, think about the case for providing basic Industrial Arts programs and help bringing them back to public education. Everyone benefits from basic tool-use skills and more importantly the deeper level of skills that can come from shop class.


Safety Washer Tab Tool

The whos-a-whats-a? I started a new project yesterday in class, the overhaul of an Marvel-Schebler MA 4-SPA carburetor. The overhaul isn’t too big a deal even though there were spider webs in the barrel of the carb and a bunch of crud came out of the float bowl when I split the halves.

There wasn’t much of a problem disassembling the carburetor down to a few piles of small parts and the two halves of the body. Today I was ready to strip it down to the bare castings when I came upon a bit of a problem. There are two safety washers with tabs that are bent up along the flats of the nuts to keep them from turning while the engine is in operation. One is on the Pump Discharge Nozzle Valve and the other Nozzle Assembly in the barrel.

The problem is that the tabs were bent up very well and getting them back down so I can remove the assemblies was proving to be a challenge. I didn’t want to gouge the assembly to the casting and I couldn’t find anything thin enough that I could tap in between the tab and the nut faces. I mangled one on the main Nozzle Assembly and decided that this was going to get messy very quickly if I didn’t come up with another option. Everyone else was saying to just use a screw driver… ah… no.

Enter, the solution. I had a small piece of soft steel and took it over to the grinder to put a rough bevel edge on the end following up with a file and sandpaper to clean up the edge. I wanted to keep the rounded edge so I could get it into some tight places. The plan is for this to slide in between the nut and the tab with the bevel pushing the tab out away from the nut. To make sure that the edge of the tool doesn’t cut into the nut I put a slight back bevel on the flat side.

The edge fit up to the nut perfectly flat and the bevel edge is just thin enough to wedge the back side of the tab and bend it outward. All it needs is a slight tap with my 8 oz. ball peen hammer and voilà, the tab tips down very neatly without gouging the nut and doing minimal damage to the tab. I was very happy with the results.


And there was much oooing and awwwing about the shop. Well, okay, maybe not. But there was a few “that’s cool”  vocalizations. I think so at least. Anyway, it worked and I was happy with the results as were the parts and the instructor; and that’s what really counts.

That’s all for now.

Blue skies and tail winds,

A&P School: Almost Done

It’s been three and a half semesters since A&P school started on August 10th, 2011. Here I am getting ready for my last mid-term in the program. It feels really good to be so far along but there is still a ton to get done in a short time. There is a mid term, several quizzes and tests, and a final. After that there are still the FAA tests, the written, and the oral/practical that need to be passed to add the Powerplant rating to my mechanic certificate.

After finishing my mechanic ratings there is still the matter of finishing my AS in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The good news on this front is it looks like I will be able to finish my AS over the summer with three classes, one of which is a single unit in kinesiology (P.E. for those over 30.)  Then I can transfer to San Jose State to finish my undergrad work with a BS in Aviation Maintenance Management.

Ever since I embarked on this journey making plans has required factoring in lots flexibility and not making any plans too dependent on outside influences. In short, not making plans so much as having general ideas and making sure I can easily divert from one to an alternate without too much upheaval in the universe. Building all of this flexibility into the planning process has made it very difficult to do any advance work down one path or another. In one sense this has been beneficial because it has kept me on a fairly narrow focus towards completion and has been an education in and of itself. I have been keeping projects at arms length because I know I don’t have enough time to complete them and along the way I have also learned the importance of the word “no” and how to use it.

Another important skill set I have been honing is applying value to my time going beyond coming up with an hourly rate by encompassing the value of learning from projects. Deciding if a project is worth taking on or is the time better served by farming it out. Sometimes when I know I can do something, it’s not the can I that is the important part, it is the should I part that needs the thinking. This is where the time and resource Black Hole can rear its ugly head and make a fun project suck, or a profitable project turn into a money pit.

With all of this learning and self realization going on you might think I would awaken from this aviation dream and realize that it is a bitch to make any money in this industry. Nope, no such luck. I’m hooked. I do think I have learned a few “secrets” to aviation/business success though. Keep it simple, keep the scope narrow, get and stay known in your niche, and never compromise on the quality of your work. An aviation business can always fail, but these are the key things that seem to cause a business to fail, aviation or otherwise.

What is the take-away from all of this? Work with what you have. Take on only the work you can do now. Grow slowly with well planned steps. Never stop learning. Keep an eye to the sky, an ear to the ground, and your nose to the grind stone, then you just might make it.

Blue skies and tail winds,

Is a blog just a blog?

Sorry about yesterdays disjointed post. I’m really not sure what happened, other than distraction and a somewhat confused general state of mind after spending the day in the shop cleaning up.

This morning I am gonna’ do a little house cleaning here on the blog.

I had set up a blog for Off Grid stuff. If you know me IRL you know I want to live ether next to, or near by a small airport away from “the city.” Hey, I am a small town kind of guy. I also want to be living as self-sufficiently as possible. The Off Grid blog had a few entries that I wanted to keep so I moved them her to FBJ and closed down that blog. If you are interested, they are in the Off Grid category on this site and I will be posting any new stuff here.

It seems like the FBJ site has always been somewhat enigmatic to me. Maybe it’s my OCD that gets in the way of just posting when the mood strikes. I like to have things compartmentalized into there own little categories separate from each other. Having an idea for a post is one thing, I have them all the time, what usually keeps me from posting is where to post it. This gets messy when you have so many interests, and worse when you have a bunch of topic specific blogs. So here we are again, It all comes back to FBJ. I am going to try and post when the ideas strike rather than saying to myself that it should be posted somewhere specific to that interest.

I will continue posting to Lumber Jocks because I am participating in the woodworking community there and that interaction is important to me.

The Vintage Aero Works site and blog are still in the planning stages, but that site will most definitely be reserved for aircraft restoration projects and related topics. it will be my commercial/professional website.

So what will be posted here on FBJ? A little bit of everything. A lot of aviation, some school related posts, woodworking adventures which will mostly be tool and aircraft related along with skill builders and cabinetry work, and any progress in moving off grid and all of its related topics. All of this along with an occasional soapbox post on politics, religion, philosophy, the economy, or anything else that pops up.

One of my goals for this year is to be more engaged with the FBJ site. We shall see how it goes.

Until next time. Peace, Love and Airplanes.

Fall 2012 Almost A Memory

This semester has just flown by at mach speed! It seems like just yesterday we were out at the airport picking our engines for the overhaul project and now we are a week from finals and the last day of class and only 175 days until the last day of next semester and completion of  the two year AMT program.

Since my last post I have had some fun working on a couple of other projects at school. We removed the engine, a Continental O-470, from our Cessna 182. I had the opportunity to work on the Pratt & Whiteny PT-6 removing the fuel controller and finding a low pressure fuel leak. And I had the chance to finish replacing the ignition switch on our Cessna 172 and run it up. It felt good to be sitting in an airplane doing a run up, although it did make me a little homesick for flying. I need to get back in the air.

There are several possibilities floating around for after graduation, but nothing even remotely solid. There are a couple of FBO jobs that may or may not be open, there is the possibility of teaching, and of course there is the need to finish my degree. For now, I’m keeping my ear to the ground of job stuff but focusing on head-down-full-speed-ahead on school and studying.

Blue skies and tailwinds,