Weller D550PK, Badly Made in USA

I recently bought a Weller soldering gun, with the intention of using it to cut nylon webbing. Out of the box, the two small lamps on the front did not illuminate. Although I don’t need them, it chafed me to buy a pricey, well-respected, American-made tool and have it only partially function.

Weller DP550K Exterior

I opened up the gun to see what was going on. Weller DP550K guts

Turned out to be bad solder joints. Not just one, but all of them.
2013-10-18 22.47.11Apparently it was amateur hour at the Weller factory. Or perhaps the workers are unable to afford Weller irons themselves? In any case, all of these solder joints were all bad enough to be hazardous, not just embarrassing, so I reworked them.

Rotten soldering inside a soldering gun. I wouldn’t expect this from Weller, but then, Weller hasn’t been Weller since 1970 when it was acquired and then sold again. OK, many thanks, Apex Tool Group – or should I say thanks to Bain Capital, the conglomerate investment group that recently purchased Apex? Gross. Go to hell, “Weller”, and Bain Capital, too. I’ll buy Japanese precision tools or cheap Chinese clones before I buy another tool from you – at least then, the bargain will be plain.

Posted in Oversight | 135 Comments

Not Robot Compatible


USPS, Glendale, CA.

With proliferation, the increasing confusion around this important property – robots becoming more human in their capabilities. Normals become more aware of robots. The point on the graph where those two curves meet, embodied in this homely sign.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bright Lights


Outdoor lumber yard, Eugene, OR.

The net was installed to inhibit pigeon infestation- but made a home for spiders and a beacon for insects. The unintended tendency of “free” power and services to enable and ensconce predators. The statistical distribution of danger around a power source.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Point Of Sale Adaptations


At Jerry’s in Eugene, OR: ceiling mounted lumber racks,  to hold lumber for POS scanning. Interesting compromise between material length and human height. Also some implicit assumptions about cart usage. Also, note the “lane free” arrangement.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Spring Clamp Door Stop


Clever re-use of a spring clamp in Eugene, OR. Lever action compensates for uneven cement. Rubber ends provide grip.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Juki DNU-1541S Service Manual and Users Manual

Juki 1541s


Juki DNU-1541S Sales Brochure.

Juki DNU-1541s Service Manual /Engineer’s Manual.

Juki DNU-1541s Operator’s Manual/ User’s Manual.

Posted in Oversight | 10 Comments

Bernina 1130 User Manual and Service Manual [PDF]

These manuals are hard to find on the Internet. I found them.


Bernina 1130 User Manual/Guide. PDF, 59 pages.

Bernina 1130/1120 Service Manual. PDF, 73 pages.

Keywords: Bernina 1130 User Manual. Bernina 1130 Repair. Bernina Oiling Guide. How to thread Bernina 1130. How to wind bobbin. How to lift presser foot. 1130 hook alignment.

Posted in Oversight | 93 Comments

Reasons To Exist


Elevator phones will be among the last legitimate uses for landlines.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Power, Access


The forces that form conduit. The locks that keep the curious out. The drops – free and clear, save for high amperage Hubbel plugs you’re unlikely to carry. No charging mobiles here, you can’t plug in your hair dryer – but you could jack in a power hacksaw… or stage lighting. Any exposed end can compromise a system, at least in a negative way. It’s funny, you could short a drop and turn it off, blowing the breaker, but you couldn’t turn it back on without bolt cutters.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cut To Fit


I have the biggest phone. It takes the smallest SIM. I bought a pair of flush cutters, trimmed the excess, and gave the tools to Scann.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hunger, Incentive, and Timing


I’d eat the damned thing.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Worldwide Light Pickups


Spotted in Buenos Aires – a breed of light truck long absent in the US. Like a Brat or an El Camino.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s A Juki!


Welcoming a new machine into my life.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Secure Location


The relationship between a “secure” site and the number of uniquely identifiable pick-up points. The knowledge an unusual or extreme location implies.

Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment

Pebble Wide Watch Strap

I hated the slippery, hot silicone band that came with my Pebble watch, so I made a new one out of some beautiful blue leather.

2013-09-15 00.12.10 2013-09-15 00.13.32

Posted in Oversight | 6 Comments

Meals Ready to Eat

MREs for dinner. Gather ’round for SPAGHETTI W/  MEAT SAUCE 901234-08:2013-09-04 22.57.08

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Creative Commons Global Summit – This Week!


Faro de Palacio Barolo sobre Congreso (View of Buenos Aires and Palacio Barolo, at night) by Beatrice Murch, CC BY

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving talks in Buenos Aires and La Plata in the coming week. This is for the Creative Commons Global Summit:

The global community of Creative Commons will gather this year in Buenos Aires for our bi-annual Global Summit. The event, which will run for three days from 21 to 24 August, will be held at the Centro Cultural General San Martín and will be co-hosted by our local Creative Commons affiliates, Fundación Vía Libre and Wikimedia Argentina. This is the first time the conference will be held in a Spanish-speaking country, and the second time in Latin America.

I’ve been working with Scann on this for almost a year now, and she’s been working hard behind the scenes to make it all happen. She’s been building scanners for use in Argentina by Wikimedia and other agencies, libraries, universities, projects. Here’s one of them:

Scann_6338946131_9e898a59dd_zphoto cc by blmurch

I’ll be talking about the ways Open Hardware serves Open Content projects, and I’ll also be talking about how my project got started and where I see it going in the future. I’m so excited to go see the huge amount of work that’s been done in Argentina, and especially to learn from these users the ways that DIY Book Scanning can improve.

Sorry that this post is so short and so late – I’ve been preparing for days! Fortunately, there’s a lot more online


Posted in Oversight | Leave a comment

TIG Welding, BIG Teething

I build optical assemblies out of aluminum, and I need to stick them together – meaning I need  TIG welding capability. While I usually weld steel with Miller MIG/GMAW gear, I decided to try out one of the upstart TIG welders, the Everlast 185, a Chinese-made solid-state TIG. A complete kit, with foot pedal, tungsten, regulator, etc runs about $1k.


Having MIG welded since I was a little kid (thanks, Dad!) I fully expected that I could be up and TIGging aluminum plates within an hour or two. Har har. Couldn’t have been more wrong, TIG made me feel like a total n00b.

In MIG welding, you have a gun that feeds wire into the weld area. The wire carries the current and is also the filler metal. It is surrounded by a laminar flow of shielding gas, typically 75% argon and 25% CO2. The beauty of MIG is that you basically point the gun where you want molten metal and it appears. TIG, on the other hand, is a special torch with a tungsten tip. The tip is surrounded by 100% argon shielding gas. The arc emerges from the tip, and you use it to heat the surface of the metal. When a small puddle forms, you push a “filler rod” into the puddle to plump it up, and then you move forward along your intended weld a little bit, and then fill it again, over and over and over.

TIG, particularly on aluminum, requires some pretty serious finesse. This is in part because aluminum is always covered in aluminum oxide, which has a much higher melting point than the metal underneath. You mess with the “BALANCE” knob above until the arc “cleans” the oxide and makes way for a clean puddle to form. THEN you have to move the puddle forward with the arc/shielding gas, and THEN you have to, at very regular intervals, get filler rod in there. When you weld steel, you typically grind the tungsten tip of your torch into a point to concentrate the arc. When you weld aluminum, you want it to be domed. If you hit your torch with enough amperage right off the bat, you can form a perfect dome with heat alone:


Pretty much the worst thing you can do when TIG welding is touch the tungsten electrode tip to the metal or to the filler rod. You need to steadily hold the torch less than a millimeter above the surface. And you need to get the rod within a few mm of the arc for it to melt properly. So you are constantly clumsily touching the tungsten to the work. And when you do that, it contaminates the tungsten, and creates a huge, ugly black splatter all over your workpiece. You have to take the tungsten out of the torch and go sand off the contaminated tip. Below, some of the ugliest, most embarrassing “welds” I’ve ever created. I can still hear the crack of the torch tip as it ruined itself.


Awful. After several hours of messing around, I started to get something of a feel for the right way to both bust through the oxide layer and to lay down filler rod. Since my torch is air-cooled, it gets almost too hot to hold after just 6-7″ of weld. So I kept these welds nice and short. What you’re looking for, when you are looking at this next image, is regular spacing, and shiny surface texture. Welding people say that a good TIG weld should look like a stack of nickels. Well, by that metric, I am a poor man indeed.


Even so, I am proud of these ugly and slightly irregular welds. I feel somewhat in control of my welder now, and it’s time to hit the books and YouTube again.

Posted in Oversight | 3 Comments

Hot Shop Tip

Searching for tools, parts, and supplies really saps the fun out of a project. That goes double for basic and rote tasks, like applying heat-shrink tubing while soldering cables.


Recognizing this, I bought a ten-pack of Bic lighters and put one in every heat shrink assortment I have. I also dropped one next to my soldering iron. That way, even if my heat gun is misplaced, I will not have to search, wait, or think at all before I can finish the wiring – which is usually the least interesting part of any job.

Posted in Oversight | 6 Comments

Public Facilities

The old Metro polymer bus benches are being removed. They had three molded concave “seats”, and also three convenient corresponding concavities on the back side of the back rest. While the process of bench replacement is mostly about money, it also has the happy side effect of removing the homeless population’s favorite public urinals.

LA_Bench_UrinalNew bench on the left, old bench stain on the right.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments