Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Ride -- B & O



Today I decided to clean the cobwebs off my titanium fred bike and take it out for its first ride on my local trail.  Some air in the tires and a squirt of fresh lube for the chain and I was on my way.  Up at the northern end of the B & O in Mansfield, Ohio workers were busy building a new bridge at North Lake Park.

I've been thinking for a while now about treating myself to a new pair of cycling shoes.  My old ones are probably fifteen years old and while they are still serviceable I'm in the mood for a change so I'll just relegate my old ones to mountain bike duty where I'm sure they'll carry on for years to come.

I hit up my friendly bike shop for a pair of their house brand Bontragers.  I don't need any fancy Sidis these work just fine for a lot less dineros.


My old ones are brown and tan colors and I wanted to color coordinate a little better with my black stretchy uniform I always wear while out on the road bike.  I like shoes with laces and these fit the bill perfect.  As an added bonus the new shoes have a single velcro strap at the top to secure the laces and keep everything cinched down tight.

I was feeling like going fast so that is what I did today.  By the time I had around 24 miles down I was carrying a 17.6 mph average speed.  That was surprising because my season is just getting underway and that is a great average for me period let alone in the early spring.  I kept at it and enjoyed the nice weather but the fun was soon to end when I turned around to head back north at the bottom of the trail.

In my exuberance I went out a little to hard during the start of my ride.  The last third heading up the slight incline of the Clear Fork Valley and into a steady headwind turned out to be my time to suffer.  I had to struggle to maintain 15 mph at times and dipped to a crawl of 13 mph in some of the open fields with no tree cover to at least slow the wind.
   
Happy Easter!
The average only dropped a little by the time I made it back to my starting point and I feel satisfied with this first good hard effort on the skinny tire bike.

B & O Trail Complete
Distance:  37 miles
Ride Time:  2:13:15
Average Speed:  16.6 mph
Max Speed:  22.8 mph 

   

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Back In The Saddle...Or Should I Say Easy Chair



Today on my afternoon commute home from work on the Ti-General Purpose bike I found the conditions perfect for a ride.  A pleasant 60 degrees F and a very uncommon for this time of year lack of wind.  I got kitted up in my black stretchy pants and headed out for my first recumbent ride of 2014.  And it's about damn time!
  
 Even with this horrendous winter we've been through I still managed to get two or three commutes by bicycle in each week.  Riding my upright bike regularly keeps my bottom end used to the saddle.  Lets face it any time on any bike is  
good time and for short utilitarian trips around town the diamond frame wedgie bike really shines.  Once I got out on the open road though my old stalwart companion HP Velotechnik Street Machine proved to me once again that a longer ride can be a pleasurable, comfortable experience instead of the exercise in pain management that comes from sitting on a few square inches of traditional bike saddle and bent over holding those curly handlebars like they use in the Tour De France.  It's not all about kicking back and relaxing on the bent.  If you've got the legs and want to hammer you can certainly do that too. 

I'm not sure what I like best about riding recumbents.  One thing is for sure I love being able to easily look around at the country side as it slides by.  Granted things are pretty much dead and brown looking but that's soon to change.  One of the best things about living and riding in Ohio is experiencing the change of the seasons from the back of a bike.

The first few rides out early in the season are always great.  Even on familiar routes that I've ridden many times always seem fresh and new.  I didn't have enough time to head over to the local rail trail so I picked the medium sized route leaving from my driveway.  The southern part of my ride took me down through a bit of Morrow County.  This area is pretty much rural and you never know what you might see along the way.
  
Ford Ranger - Manure Spreader Combo

 This fine country gentleman has his own observatory!

Really, there is a telescope mounted up under that dome.

Later I encountered some gravel.  No worries and no gravel bike needed.  My dual suspension recumbent took it all with aplomb.


So nice to get back out there!

Iberia Loop
Ride Time:  1:18:30
Distance:  17.35 miles
Average:  13.2 mph
Max:  29.4 mph




Monday, March 24, 2014

Range Report -- Ruger Super Redhawk



This Ruger Super Redhawk .44 Magnum was first firearm I ever bought for myself.  I've always been a fan of handguns and when this one came up for sale at a great price I jumped.  The Super Redhawk was introduced in late 1987 and is still in production.  Mine is certainly of early production as I became the second owner of this one in 1990.  

Although this hefty shootin' iron has since been chambered in even more powerful cartridges such as 
.454 Casull and .480 Ruger I'm quite content to play around with the .44 magnum even though it's not the king of the handgun hill these days.

This is also the cartridge I first learned how to hand load. In the picture above are a few 240 grain flat nose lead bullets seated over 6 grains of Bullseye powder from a batch I cooked up in 1996.  I had 40 rounds left in an ammo box and figured they have been sitting around long enough.  


It's been a few years since I had the Ruger out on the range so I was curious to how I would shoot.  I had the scope stored separately from the gun but the Ruger integral rings were still firmly attached to the scope tube so it would also be an interesting test to see how close the optical sight stayed zeroed.
It took five minutes to lock down the rings to the frame of the revolver before leaving for the range. 

Shooting handguns accurately is a real challenge.  I like a steady rest to help support the firearm.  My very first shot into the target below was low in the six o'clock position.  The following five shots I was happy to see punch big clean holes in the black. 




The Super Redhawk is a double action revolver.  This means the weapon can be fired in one of two ways.  The trigger can be pulled through its full range of movement to rotate the cylinder cock the hammer and release the sear dropping the hammer which fires the round.  The second method used for hunting and target shooting where shot placement is critical is accomplished by manually cocking the hammer and slowly and smoothly squeezing the trigger.  In this mode the rearward travel of the trigger to release the sear is much less and the gun can more easily be held steady on target.  

When shooting six-guns I always use the single action mode for the best accuracy.  After a few shots to get warmed up I managed this decent group from a distance of 75 feet.



Long eye relief pistol scopes are unique and really improve accuracy at greater distances with a handgun.  Because the eyepiece is at arms length it allows the shooter to keep both eyes open.  At least it works for me and that's how I do it.

My scope is a Nichols 2X. Objects viewed through the tube appear twice their actual size.  Although considered low-end optics this scope has sat atop my revolver for a thousand shots or more over the years and I've never had a single fault with it.

Next to test my marksmanship even more I moved over to the 50 yard range.  




At this distance the left side groupings apparent in the closer targets are exaggerated with half the shots off the paper to the left.  If it ever gets warm out I'll think about adjusting the scope just a tad to see if I can't tighten the group and get all my shots printing onto the paper.  Sounds like a great excuse to do some reloading!

(Thanks to RoadQueen for the excellent firing line photography.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Take The Long Way Home



It's slowly getting warmer and I've managed to hit my two bike commute per week quota for three weeks in row now.  This week I'll have three days in commuting to and from the day job.  Yesterday it was 54 degrees F when I left work so I decided to ride a little extra loop out into the country on the way home.  It was probably only six to eight miles and windy as usual but it sure felt great to be out spinning.

I've been itching to get the recumbent bike out on the road but the weather has been so cold I've kept busy in other ways.  At least riding the Ti General Purpose bike around town keeps me somewhat in shape so getting started into a new riding season is no big deal.  I've been longing for some bigger rides in a comfortable seat so I think the recumbent roll out will be soon.
  

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Shooting Bench -- .45 Auto Reloads



I got into the reloading hobby around 1991 when I bought a revolver from a fellow service member who was set to ship out on an overseas assignment.  As a package deal the gun came with a set of reloading dies and several hundred rounds of empty brass cartridge cases.  I had seen a reloading bench before as a kid visiting a friend's house but I never saw the actual process of assembling the individual components into complete ammunition.

At the time I was stationed in eastern Washington state so there was a well stocked sportsman's supply not far from base so I headed downtown one day and picked up a reloading starter kit that got me off and running.  I'm still using that single stage press and most of the other stuff that came in the kit.  Over the years I've added a few more die sets for other calibers and other odds and ends to make the reloading process easier or more accurate.

Because I'm fascinated by mechanical things and working with my hands I quickly found reloading a great activity to exercise the attention to detail I learned in the military and the satisfaction that comes from setting up a small manufacturing process and making it work.  It is a hobby within a hobby and I can honestly say that I enjoy the reloading part almost as much as taking the rounds out to the range and firing them off.
     

Recently I've taken an interest in center fire semi-auto pistols in particular the .45 caliber 1911 pistol.  After shooting just a couple boxes of  ammo I fell in love with the cartridge and John Browning's venerable service pistol design.  I knew I'd have to try my hand at reloading the stubby yet powerful round.  The opening picture above shows the first 100 reloads of .45 Auto that the Roadqueen and I assembled earlier this winter.

Here is the recipe:

Case:  Once fired Blazer
Powder:  Bullseye  5 grains
Bullet:  Hornady Jacketed Round Nose 230 grains
Primer:  CCI 350 Large Pistol
Seated:  1.260"

It was still chilly this weekend but not too cold for a shooting session so we took off to the range and gave them a try.

15 Yards - Sandbag rest (7-ring is 4.00" diameter)
No malfunctions and every round fired without a hitch.

--

The Roadqueen brought along her guns for a little target practice too.  Below .40 caliber off the sandbags.



Like many shooters I know she has been around firearms all her life.  This cool little .22 semi-automatic rifle her dad bought for her when she was a young girl just old enough to learn to shoot.  Made for the Sears, Roebuck and Co. by High Standard the rifle was manufactured in November of 1963.  High Standard is most famous for a line of .22 target pistols they began manufacturing in 1932 and have been producing ever since. 

I had an old "Made In USA" Weaver rim fire scope that I wasn't using for anything so we mounted it up for her to try.  Scopes make .22's even more fun and I thought the Weaver would be a perfect match for the old classic American rifle.  Here are some groups she shot as we adjusted the elevation and windage of the scope bringing the point of impact in line with the cross hairs.






Thursday, March 6, 2014

Still Beats Driving the Car



Well it's March now; still cold, in fact 17 degrees F on my ride into work this morning. Huge mounds of dirty snow are still piled up everywhere like so many icebergs.  At least the sun is getting slightly warmer and along with the salt has managed to keep the pavement fairly dry. I'm still wearing my lobster gloves when I ride.  I did bring my lightweight gloves along in hopes that this afternoon it really will be near 40 degrees and I can use them instead. 

It's been a tough winter for the bicycle commuter that's for sure but things are coming around.  My commutes by bike so far this year are way down. I rode two days last week and once this week. Still it beats driving the car and soon I'll be turning the cranks around in a more regular fashion.




Wednesday, February 26, 2014

DX Update and a Station Upgrade at W8MDE


Old man winter still has us in his icy grip but I've been keeping warm inside at the operating position at W8MDE.  In the last week I've taken advantage of the multi-band capabilities of my backyard antenna and worked some DX.  Besides my regular log book of all the contacts I make I  keep a list of amateur stations I work located in other countries and I've managed to add a few new ones to the list.

As of right now the 10-meter band or 28 MHz is my favorite slice of radio spectrum.  10-meters is a great band for low power long range communications.  I've noticed every morning just after daybreak signals appear and quickly gain intensity as the band "opens".  It is most definitely hard to tear myself away from my rig to head into work for the day.

I have been mainly using the digital PSK modes to chase DX but I've also made a few CW contacts using Morse Code radiotelegraphy.  

PSK-31     7.040 MHz      HI8MU     Domincan Republic*
PSK-31     7.040 MHz      EA2BJS    Zaragoza, Spain*
PSK-63     7.040 MHz      F5RHD     France*
PSK-63     7.040 MHz      EH5ANT  Denia, Spain*
PSK-31     7.040 MHz      IT9CCB     Siracusa, Italy*
CW             24.902 MHz    IS0BOY    Sardinia, Italy
PSK-31     28.120 MHz    IV3JER     Italy
PSK-31     28.120 MHz    F1PKH      France
CW             28.020 MHz    E79D        Bosnia Herzegovinia
CW             28.020 MHz    YN5SU     Nicaragua
PSK-31     14.070 MHz    HR1EPZ   Tegucigalpa, Honduras
PSK-31     28.120 MHz     UR5ZD     Pervomaisk, Ukraine
PSK-31     28.120 MHz     R3FO        Dmitrov, Russia
PSK-31     28.120 MHz     ON4BWI  Merksplas, Belgium

*For these contacts I was using the 66' end fed half wave wire.  As a resonant antenna at the 40 meter wavelength the wire works much better than the short Gap Eagle antenna.

--

Palstar SP30B Communication Speaker


One day I happened upon amateur radio equipment manufacturer Palstar Inc. based right here in Ohio.  What caught my attention was two models of communication speakers made and sold by this company.  External speakers have been around as long as radio but since most modern ham transceivers have built in speakers I never gave the idea much thought.  As predominantly a CW and digital operator the tiny on board speaker of my Icom 718 always seemed to work fine.  If I am sitting down for an extra long session or weak signal copying I usually use a pair of headphones.

After reading a few favorable reviews of the speakers at eham.net I decided the smaller of the two units would fit my needs nicely.  At the time I had a couple of days until I would be operating in the Straight Key Century Club's Weekend Sprint so I called up the company and purchased the SP30B.  The service I received from Palstar was excellent and the speaker arrived well packaged the Friday before the sprint.

Three different ways to connect your audio in.
The online reviews I read all had one thing in common and that is exceptional build quality.  Like any reasonable person I took this with a grain of salt but as soon as I lifted the speaker out of the box I noticed that indeed it was well built and heavy.

Here's a description from the Palstar website:

The Palstar SP30B shortwave speaker is a custom engineered shortwave radio speaker. To truly enjoy the radio listening experience, you need a high quality speaker.

After completing the R30A shortwave receiver to rave reviews among users, the Palstar team saw the need for a compact shortwave speaker that is tonally matched to the R30A and designed to put out clear, low-distortion reproduction of the frequency range of broadcast human speech.

The key to quality speaker sound is magnet size. The SP30B has an 8 Ohm speaker with a hefty 6 oz. magnet, a frequency response of 60 Hz to 8 kHz, and a 5 Watt power rating in a custom-built wooden cabinet (black or cherry). The SP30B is the speaker that will bring back good sound to your listening experience.

I chose the black cabinet to compliment the rest of my equipment which is also black and it does look great on my desk.  The real test though came when I found a patch cable in my spare parts and connected up the speaker to my rig.  I am truly impressed with the sound that comes out of the SP30B.  The natural background noise and harshness of the HF spectrum seemed to be reduced and the sounds I want to hear pop from the grill more clear and loud than I ever experienced before with my amateur gear.  The tone of received CW signals now have a much warmer and pleasant quality that really does enhance my listening.

Next I tuned in some amateur single side band voice transmissions and discovered sure enough this is where the speaker really shines.  I've never been a fan of side band audio and the Donald Duck like sound of transmitted voice.  With the Palstar's response tuned to the frequency range of human speech it was as if my receiver had been transformed.  The voices I heard had a clarity and warmth that the stock speaker in my radio can't even begin to touch.  I noted the same outcome later that night when I checked out the shortwave broadcast bands.
   
The joinery of the hardwood cabinet is very well done.
 I'm very pleased with the performance of this new piece of gear and happy to support a local business. Had I known what I was missing in the audio department I would have bought this thing years ago.  The volume is plenty loud and if it's turned up a bit I can easily hear Morse code signals or voice from anywhere in my house.  Kudos to Paul Hrivnak, N8PH the Captain of the Palstar ship and the rest of his crew.  Thanks guys for a great American made product.


   


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

News From ARS W8MDE



My winter operating season got off to a rocky start.  For most of the fall of 2013 I suffered from a debilitating case of PLN or Power Line Noise. This condition has been the bane of the amateur radio operator for nearly as long as radio has been around.  Whole websites have been devoted to the problem.  Usually the cause is a worn or loose connection in the power distribution system somewhere in close proximity to a radio's antenna system.  Another cause could be a pole top transformer ready to give up the ghost.

I like to describe it this way:  Imagine that a broken insulator or jumper cable with loose hardware up on a power pole has caused a very small gap to occur in the system.  In its unending quest to keep the circuit energized the current arcs across the gap or bad connection.  The side effect of this condition is that energy that should be flowing smoothly to our homes and businesses is radiated out into space as a broadband hash loudly sizzling from the speaker of a sensitive radio receiver.

In my case the interference was a solid S9 on my signal meter.  The PLN knocked out my ability to hear anything on the HF bands except the ARRL station in Newington, CT which transmits an amplified signal with high gain antennas that point more or less towards my location.  This whole event was very disappointing because during the winter is the time I most enjoy sitting comfortably inside playing with my radio gear.

With the help of my local amateur radio club the line department was notified and after a few weeks I noticed the PLN was gone and the bands have been back to normal since the 21st of December.  Detecting problems in the power distribution grid is one of the services hams offer to their communities.  Power line noise usually goes undetected and like a leaky garden hose the end result is a wasted product not getting to its intended location.  Yes the lights still come on in the neighborhood but with local grids carrying 5000 volts or more a leak in the system if gone unnoticed ends up costing us all money.

In other ham radio news we have arrived at the high point of the 12 year solar cycle.  World wide  radio communication on the High Frequency bands is made possible by the energy flowing from our sun and the way this energy reacts with Earth's upper atmosphere.  When I first got my license in 2008 we were at the bottom of the cycle with very low sunspots or none at all.  I did make contacts none the less and had fun but it has really been exciting and interesting to witness how the increase in solar activity directly correlates to increased radio propagation here on Earth.              


Above is an electronic QSL card I received from a Russian ham named Yuri after we had a successful PSK-31 contact one evening on the 40 meter band.  I was using my 40 meter end fed wire up 40 feet. As a horizontal antenna the EFW normally works great for close in work out to a range of about 500 to 1500 miles.  Now that the ionosphere is bristling with charged ions even my lowly flat wire is transmitting a signal over 5000 miles away!

--

A new "old" antenna project at W8MDE



My very first amateur radio antenna I purchased from the commercial vendor Gap Antenna Products.  The attractive assembly of aluminum pictured above is called the Eagle DX.  I had the antenna mounted on a fifteen foot steel mast attached to the peak of the garage roof on the property where I lived at the time.  I used the Eagle for about a year before moving onto a different antenna so I took the antenna apart and stored it back in its original box.

The last few years I have only had a couple wire antennas up and now with the solar cycle in full swing I felt the need to get on some of the higher HF bands.  Time for the Eagle to fly once again!


The Gap antennas are unique radiators that really do work.  Technically they are multi-band vertical dipoles.  Vertical antennae have a lower radiation angle which puts signals closer to the horizon resulting in a longer "skip" distances.  A horizontal antenna shoots its signal up at steeper angles allowing it to return back to Earth much closer to it's origin.  With each successive bounce a signal loses some of its energy as it travels around the curve of the Earth.  A vertical antenna by nature of its low radiation angle makes it a good choice for "DX" or long distance communications using low power.  Less hops for a given distance means a louder signal more easily copied at the receiving end.


Dipole antennas are normally deployed in a flat or sloping position.  The Gap antenna is a dipole which means the feed point is in the middle of two antenna elements.  Unlike a traditional flat dipole the Gap is tilted up on one end.  The feed line coax does attach at the bottom end of the Eagle but a secondary piece of coax isolates the signal from the aluminum part of the antenna and deposits it at the feed point or "Gap" a thicker gray section with the yellow stripe visible in the photos.

While I was reassembling the antenna in my garage I noticed exposed wire showing at the end of one of the internal coax runs.  I made a quick call to GAP and spoke with Chris about it and he recommended simply capping off the end with a wire nut.  The original must have popped off while I was taking the antenna apart years ago.  Sure enough in my spare parts I found a wire nut that screwed down tight and even fit perfectly into the black shrink tube that was on the end of the wire. (See first assembly photo above.)  I've dealt with the guys at Gap a few times and have always had helpful and friendly service.

To operate on multiple bands the Eagle is actually a set of dipoles.  Points of resonance along the shortwave spectrum are accomplished by "tuning rods" placed around the main antenna on short PVC standoffs.



These rods work with the main body of the antenna to make up the various dipoles required for operation on the 40m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10 meter bands.   Of course with the 40 meter end fed half wave wire already in use I wasn't concerned with the Eagle's less than stellar performance on that band.  At 21 feet tall the Eagle is just too small to be an effective radiator at 7 MHz.

At 20 meters and up on the other hand the Eagle works very well and now with the help of the sun spots and the radiation they spew forth these higher frequencies are available for long range radio fun.

My garage worked perfect for the assembly process and allowed just enough room to build the antenna.  I only had to open the back door to attach the mounting plate and short section of fiberglass mast right before taking the whole thing out to the back yard.
  

The following photograph shows the mounting plate attached to a short section of fiberglass mast pipe I chose because it conveniently slips into the steel pipe of my heavy duty tripod.  As a dipole the bottom end of the Eagle must be insulated from the support structure.  This is accomplished by the short PVC sections directly under the U-bolts. (In the event a metal mast pipe is used.)


Two weeks ago with the RoadQueen's assistance we erected the antenna on the tripod in the back yard.  For now the installation is temporary although we did guy the antenna using four non-conductive guy lines spaced 90 degrees apart to prevent tip over and damage in the case of high winds.
  


The following day we put the radiator to work making contacts from one end of the country to the other during the Straight Key Century Club's February Week End Sprint.  I made a majority of contacts during the WES on 20 meters and a couple on 10 meters.  At the same time a radio tele-type contest was going on and had the whole lower end of 40 meters booked solid with loud RTTY transmissions.  40 meters was my only band of operation before but now the Gap Eagle allows me into different areas of spectrum to meet up with other SKCC members for contacts.

Another reason I had been wanting to put up the Eagle is to take advantage of the great propagation conditions and try to put some DX stations in the log using the low power digital mode PSK.  Here is what I've got so far:

(While the first two stations are not really DX as in a foreign country I don't normally hear many western US stations with my low wire antenna so to me they are DX)

2-09-14     10.139 MHz    KA5PNX    Eagle, Nebraska         
2-10-14     28.120 MHz    N7CMJ       Kalispell, Montana    
2-11-14     14.070 MHz    ZZ80DF      Brazil                        
2-12-14     14.070 MHz    DL1FAM    Langen, Germany      
2-12-14     28.120 MHz    NP3LY        Aibonito, Puerto Rico
2-17-14     28.120 MHz    IZ0RPS       Rome, Italy
2-17-14     28.120 MHz    UR5ICG      Donetsk, Urkraine

You may notice that the first contact on my list shows the frequency at 10.139. This is the digital only 30 meter band that is one of my favorites sharing attributes of both the 40 and 20 meter bands.  The Eagle was not designed to operate on 30 meters.  Back in 2008 when I first put up the antenna I noticed while sweeping the entire short wave spectrum using an antenna analyzer coupled to the Eagle that a dip in the SWR occurred near 30 meters.  I inquired about this with Chris at Gap and he said as long I kept my transmit power at 100 watts or less I should be good to go using an antenna tuner or trans-match to even out the impedance between the antenna/feed line system and my transceiver.  Using very efficient modes like CW and digital phase shift keying the bit of loss due to the miss match is inconsequential. 

Even though I didn't "homebrew" the Eagle but put it together from a box it was still great fun to play around with aluminum out in the garage while it's too cold to do much besides ski or snowshoe outside. Making contacts with hams on the other side of the planet using the Gap Eagle is just icing on the cake.

       









Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cross Country Ski!



When the temperature climbed to nearly 15 degrees F yesterday afternoon I decided to go for it and get out on my cross country skis.  Just a mile or two from my house is a park that has a one mile circuit that is used by the local school's cross country team.  I can remember running the course in competition many years ago and I have to say I much prefer skiing along the loop rather than hoofing it.

Occasionally another skier will cut tracks but I guess this year nobody has been crazy enough to do it so I took it upon myself.  Lately we've had sub zero temps into the double digits and relentless winds here in Ohio so it has not been much fun going outside for any length of time.  

The fierce winds have carved and eroded the surface of the snow into strange patterns and textures much like what happens with desert sand.  In in lower depressions where the snow has drifted a crusty shell developed and this slowed me down considerably on my first lap as I broke through and sunk into the deeper snow.  On my second and third lap travel was much easier skiing in my tracks.  

I've done a few winter hikes so far this year which is an activity I really enjoy but the extreme cold has kept me inside for much of the time.  I've been keeping fit by sporadically working out in my basement gym but I admit that gets old quick. It was wonderful to finally get out and do some skiing and enjoy a sunset.      


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Insulator Post -- 2013 Springfield Finds



This year I almost skipped the big insulator show that happens every year in November at Springfield Ohio.  In the end I did decide to go after all.  The show is a bit of a tradition now with this being my fourth year of attendance in row.  As one of the biggest shows in the country I just can't pass up the opportunity of possibly adding some new pieces to my collection.

When I first got into collecting glass insulators I quickly took the sage advice of an experienced collector and specialized my interest in the hobby around the California Glass Insulator Company.  I love the soft pastel colors of the California glass and the interesting history of the company that operated for only four years. (1912-1916)  Now on the eve of 2014 I am certain that the pieces in my California collection are between 98 and 102 years old.  2014 is the 100th anniversary of the reorganization of the small upstart company which occured in 1914.


During a rare sunny day in December I set up in the back yard to photograph my new pieces.  In the above picture are four sage green CD 161 "Signal" Insulators.  These are a relatively common shape and color from CGIC and can be found for around $5 a piece or a bit more for a pristine example.  Note the difference in "Dome Glass" at the top of each insulator.  Dome glass is a term used by collectors to describe the solid glass at the very top of the insulator.  Because CGIC did not adhere to strict quality control measures back in the day the depth of the threaded hole and resultant dome glass can vary widely.



Even though I already have a few of these I couldn't pass up this nice pale purple CD 152.  A common insulator that once probably sat atop a pole along a railroad out west.


Two CD 102 Ponies and a CD 112 "Keg".  These little guys are a bit more rare. They were used on telephone circuits.

--

For the past couple years I've been looking for a scarce power insulator called a CD 208 "Cross Top"  Although commonly produced in larger numbers by eastern glass houses the California cross tops were made in limited quantities and used on only a few power distribution lines in the west.  These unique insulators got their nickname from the double grooves situated in a cross pattern at the top of the dome.  I'm not sure of the purpose of the double grooves but I suspect the arrangement offered more options to the lineman who secured the heavy power conductors to the insulator with tie wires.  Perhaps two tie wires would  be fixed at 90 degrees to one another providing a very secure attachment of the power line to the tower.

    

After carousing most of the show floor I settled on a beat up CD 208 that had some cracks, a broken inner skirt and severe wear on the top of the dome.  Normally I don't choose to buy an insulator unless it is very near if not mint condition.  This trade off in my collecting method means I have to be patient and wait for the right piece to come along or else settle for a less than perfect example of the CD I'm looking for.  In this case the desire to have a cross top in my collection won out over my normal modus operandi and besides the price was right on the damaged 208 at ten bucks.

After passing just a few more tables and nearly at the end of the show floor I spotted another cross top and to my amazement this one was in perfect shape.  Of course I had to pay full collector market price for this one but I finally found a winner cross top for my main window display.

Damaged insulator on the left.
Technical note:  For the opening group shot of insulators I used a setting on my Cannon camera called "Vivid".  This setting enhances the color which looks great but is not really a true representation of the colors as they appear.  The remaining pictures on the post were all taken with a normal automatic setting to account for the bright background.  I prefer to photograph glass insulators in direct full sunlight and while this does tend to wash out the look a bit I feel it provides the most accurate color representation of the glass.