Friday, January 30, 2009

That's Franka Steen

With the weather too cold to do much either outside or in the shop, I've been working on the photo hobby. As a collector of old cameras and an admirer of things without batteries, I like shooting pictures with old roll film cameras, especially the folders. Both of these cameras are typical of late 1940's, early 1950's folding cameras. They're both Rolfix models made by Franka. The Rolfix Jr. (left) is the camera my mother used when I was a young-un. It's really only a step up from a box camera but it's a big step. The Rolfix is one that I picked up about a year ago. The Rolfix has a much better lens and a couple more shutter speeds than the Junior. It also has a self timer, which is nice if you want to include yourself in the picture but it's also useful when the lighting conditions require a slow shutter speed. You can put the camera on a tripod or just set it on a solid object and trip the self timer. Of course a cable release is designed for just that sort of thing but not everyone carries all the gadgets around with them.

The cameras shoot 120 roll film which is still widely available. It's getting harder to find someone to process color film other than a pro lab but with black and white like I shoot and process, it's business as usual. Both cameras will produce either 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 negatives or 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 negatives depending on whether or not the mask is installed in the back of the camera. I'm fortunate to have the mask that came with mom's Jr. since the Rolfix didn't have one when I got it.

Both cameras have somewhat limited viewfinders, which might explain why a lot of older photos have the classic people with their heads cut off thing. They also have scale focusing. You have to guess the camera to subject distance and then twist the lens in or out to get it set at the right focal distance. That might explain many of the blurry photos common to that era, as well.

There is no exposure metering system with either of them. You either had to have a separate exposure meter or just guess. Most of the cameras from this era had some type of markings on them to help with exposure setting. The Rolfix has a little red dot between f11 and f16 on the aperature scale. The settings you ended up with were usually the same you would have if you were using a box camera or later, a point and shoot type camera. These would give you a pretty good picture in sunny to overcast conditions taken outside with black and white film.

Both cameras have a flash synch terminal on them but they are for bulbs as opposed to electronic flash. Unlike curtain type shutters on most 35 mm cameras, leaf shutters synch at all speeds. With the Rolfix, the shutter goes as fast as 250th of a second. You could take some pretty good action shots if you had a flash and the bulbs to go with it. Flash bulbs can still be found but aren't cheap.

Most of these old folders are pretty reliable and the lenses are usually in good shape because they're safely tucked away when not in use. If you come across one and are thinking about buying it, take a good look at the bellows to see if it looks like it's still light tight and cycle the shutter at a couple of different speeds. Even if the shutter's a little slow, you can still take pictures. Just run a test roll through it to see how far off it is and adjust for it next time. I've got another old folding camera that I modified to take a different film size and after putting in a whole lot more work than what the project was worth, I discovered the bellows had a couple of leaks. I just took the back of the camera off and shined a flashlight inside while I had the room lights turned off. After locating the leaks, a little black hockey tape did the trick.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oxy-Acetylene Torch, Part 3

I put the brazing tip on the torch the other night to patch the hole in the bottom of the quench tank and I had the brilliant idea to take a photo of a properly adjusted torch. I couldn't do it - get a photo that is - I can still adjust a torch. The digital camera just couldn't get the inner cone like I wanted it to.

Normally a torch is adjusted to have a neutral flame. That means you have an excess of neither oxygen nor acetylene. This gives you a very well defined inner cone in the flame that is bright white and it's really easy to tell when things are set properly. So my photo is not near as impressive as the jumbo flame coming from the cutting torch in the photo shoot with the scantily attired young lady perhaps, but as a shop teacher I know you can't compete with the chick in the bikini know matter how the torch is adjusted. I guess I'll have to work on my photo techniques before I decide to give lessons over the internet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Friday Night Fights

My partner in the gym, "Gentleman" Jimmy fought Friday night as the co-main event at the Radisson here in Northwest Indiana. He won a six round decision over the same opponent he fought on his last outing. He won that one also but it was a real ugly affair ending in the other fighter being disqualified. This one had it's moments as well but Jimmy was finally throwing some great uppercuts to go with his left hook. He looks pretty good in both the before and after photos here. He looked a little worse this morning at the gym but not too beat up. Nice job on wrapping those hands, even if I do say so myself. You've got to have lots of gauze over those knuckles when you've got a heavy hitter using only 10 ounce gloves.

Coach Ernie and I worked in the gym this morning putting up some more equipment. I made up some 2 x 8's with angle iron brackets bolted to them for hanging four more heavy bags - two regular bags, an uppercut bag and a "wrecking ball". I need to pick up a little more chain and some "s" hooks, make a couple of benches for the changing room and figure out some kind of cubbies or shelves for the guys to throw their gym bags in and then we'll be about set. I need to get that stuff finished up - it's about time to start cranking it up for the Gloves. Plus, I've been so busy I haven't had time to work on my other projects. It'll settle down here pretty soon and I'll be able to get into a routine. I'm really enjoying the workouts, I'll say that.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

REG 250

I got a Cycle World calender for Christmas that's got some really tasty pictures of motorcycle roadracing action from the late 50's and early 60's. Some of the stuff is just a little bit before my time but there are pictures of Hailwood, Surtees and a young Barry Sheene on a Bultaco. There is also a photo of an REG 250. I'm not so sure I remember ever hearing about such an animal but it's quite the bike. Basically a homemade bike - not from the average guys home, mind you - but a real testament to the machinist and foundryman's art. No CNC machined parts here. Pure machinist and engineering magic. It's a double overhead cam twin cylinder motor with everything that can be either aluminum or magnesium. The one in the picture has been restored by the Sammy Miller Museum. You can read a little more about the history of this worldbeater at the Real Classic site. It's a pretty sophisticated bike even by today's standards but for the early 1950's, it's really something.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oxy-Acetylene Torch, Part Two

This one's not adjusted right either, but this time it looks like the evil genius chopper builder might have shot a little magic dust into the stream.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dean's 50/50

I just finished reading Dean Karnazes' book 50/50. It's his account of running 50 marathons in fifty states in fifty days. What he accomplished is quite the feat but after completing the fifty with the New York marathon - in the incredibly fast time of just a tick over three hours - he wasn't sure what to do next, so he ran it again. Then he left New York and headed for California - running! He made it as far as Missouri, where he had started his marathon of marathons, and then decided to pack it in and go home. The big sissy. Anyway, the book outlines all the problems and the logistics of staging and completing such a huge undertaking but the biggest thing I came away with is, most of us could do similar things if we were so inclined. Maybe not run 200 miles at a stretch like Dean has, but certainly more than most of us would ever even consider.

In the bicycling world, Lon Haldeman would probably be considered Dean's equal. He won the first two bicycle races across America. He also won a couple of more times on a tandem. If you check out the link, it has a list of just a few of his accomplishments and they're mighty impressive. There are some quotes by other cyclists on the page and their no slouches, either. John Howard, for example, set the bicycle speed record at 152 miles per hour!

So what makes those guys and gals - Lon's wife is quite the long distance cyclist herself- so different from the rest of us? Obviously, some of it has to be genetic. But even without the "ultra" gene, what keeps us from doing these types of things. I've run a marathon and I was only 29 minutes and 44 seconds slower than Dean on the same course, I might add. I've also ridden what many consider the bicycling equivalent to a marathon, the century ride. 100 miles versus 26.2 for a marathon. Both of these were a lot easier than I expected them to be but I didn't undertake them lightly. I trained diligently, worked my mileage up in a sensible manner and had reasonable goals as far as time was concerned.

Does this mean I could be some type of ultra athlete, myself? I think so. Could I compete with Dean or Lon? No damn way. Besides being extremely gifted, they must have a fire burning inside them like a nuclear reactor. To have the combination of mental and physical toughness, as well as the passion to push themselves to the absolute limit and only come out stronger, is something most people can only dream about. Maybe that's the problem. Most people don't even dream about it. When the sky's the limit, how come we don't look much higher than the horizon?

If you're looking for a little inspiration and some practical running advice, check out 50/50 by Dean Karnazes. For even more inspiration check out Dean's first book, Ultramarathon Man and Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike. Maybe you'll want to tackle the Western States 100 or Paris - Brest - Paris after that.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I found this picture at Starlet Showcase. Apparently, it was part of a safe driving campaign to keep people from passing on the right. If a guy had an old rat rod truck, he could hang a couple of signs like this on the back of it and actually be able to pull it off.

The weather is crap, once again. I just got home from the gym and the snow's coming down pretty good. It's supposed to start blowing later on and get colder than a well digger's arse which means I might get another day off from school. I'm having a helluva time getting anything done. The proposal for the high mileage car has to be postmarked Friday and the kid still has a couple of drawings to finish up. We lost three days right before our Christmas break, otherwise we'd of had them done. Same thing goes with the final exams. Instead of having two weeks to finish up the proposal and grade papers, I spent the weekend working on them and doing some more work on the gym.

The gym expansion is just about done and the place is looking real good. Jimmy and Ernie put a lot of time in on it over the weekend. One of the boys in the vocational class is making another speed bag platform - should have it ready for Thursday night if schools in session. I need to hang a couple more heavy bags up and make some benches then we're pretty well set. We had 13 guys sign in tonight and it wasn't at all crowded. We'll probably have at least 6-7 guys going to the Gloves. We might not win them all but we should put on a pretty good show.

Now that the new semester is underway and I'm close to being caught up, I'll be hitting it pretty hard on the midget and Cuzzin Ricky's buggy. Should have some pictures of some progress and some camera stuff to post soon, as well. I finally got a chance to get into the darkroom the other night. Got a couple of nice prints made and worked on my pinhole camera as well.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I got the chance the other day to visit Wing's Metal Works in the little one horse town of San Pierre, Indiana. Actually, it's more like a one Shetland pony town. Not much happening in San Pierre except for Wing's but there's a lot going on there. The shop is located in what used to be a grocery store. It's a cool old building - big enough for plenty of equipment and cars. The shop deals with aircraft and auto restoration/fabrication. The owner, Dave Wenglarz, was kind enough to give me the guided tour and tell me a little about how he got into the business and what he does there.

From what I saw, he's got everything a fabricator could want. English wheel, Pullmax, shear, planishing hammer, brake, welders, lathe, milling machine, and lots of clamps. The place has got quite a few cars in the shop that are in various stages of repair. He is working on a sleeper cab for a car hauler that he made the doors for and is skinning out. He also had a cowling for an old Waco airplane he was finishing up. The work that I could see was nothing short of top notch. He also was kind enough to give me the go ahead to set up a field trip for my vocational welding class. I'm sure the boys will like seeing his operation as much as I did.

I'd love to have a shop like this one and work on all that cool old stuff. It appears, however, he's got a similar situation that myself and many others have - always too busy working on everyone else's stuff to work on his own. He's got an old pickup in the shop that belongs to him that he hasn't worked on in a while. What he's got done is really nice and I'm sure when he finishes it up it will be just killer. Seeing all of that was just what I needed to start the new year off on the right foot. Some great inspiration! Thanks Dave.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Not like Larry Flynt but Art Chrisman. Chrisman was one of the pioneers of the early fuel dragsters and the first man to make runs of 140 and 180 miles per hour on the drag strip. I came across this picture while looking for something else - your typical internet search. Since I've actually stayed busy over vacation and have finished a few things, I've allowed myself the luxury to fantasize about building a dragster/hotrod. I've got a few ideas rattling around in my head but certainly don't have the time to start anything else. But if I did, it would be some kind of aluminum bodied thing like the Hustler is.

I'm thinking tube frame with a 4 link rear suspension. Torsion bar suspension on the front - maybe even an old VW beam with kingpins. Slant Six with a Torqueflite trans and the small Chrysler rear. Just find an old Dart and strip the running gear out of it. Put a good roll cage in it and there you go. Take it to the strip or drive it to work. Put a little work in the Slant Six and you'd have something that would be fun to drive and could probably put you into the 13's at the strip as light as it would be. If it was a little too slow you could always throw some nitrous at it. Maybe I'll keep working on the idea while I'm finishing up the grandson's midget. I've got a book about Kurtis Kraft cars on order that should be here any day, that ought to be good for a couple of daydreaming sessions.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oxy-Acetylene Torch

I wish someone would show these girls how to adjust a torch!

Happy New Year