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Ovenbirds are my favorite of the warblers, so I was heartbroken earlier today when I heard a 'THUNK' against the window behind me, and looked outside to see an ovenbird stretched out on the ground on its back, not moving.

I went outside to check it, and it was still breathing erratically. After about ten minutes of twitching, it finally righted itself and looked around briefly, but was still too stunned to do anything. It did not object to me being next to it, so I figured I'd sit and guard it until it either regained its senses or finally succumbed. After another fifteen minutes or so, it clumsily staggered into a bush, where it hunkered down and curled up. This was the longest recovery I'd witnessed for a stunned songbird, and I didn't expect it to make it.

In late afternoon, about eight hours later, I checked it again and it had not moved. Breathing, yes, but still apparently 'asleep'. Cam agreed this did not bode well.

I wandered off to shoot a few targets (setting up a new bow! yay!) and once the sun was well behind the trees, was wheeling the portable target block back to the garage. I passed the bush where the ovenbird was holed up, and it popped out, looked startled, and flew off. It was clumsy getting into the air, but it managed. Perhaps a recent fledge?

Good luck little birb.

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Given their long-distance migrations to southern climates, I always thought of monarch butterflies as exotic creatures that bred elsewhere and only visited when passing through. Of course, that's not true. Still, most of my formative exposure to monarchs led me to believe that, around here, they only thrived in elementary school classroom monarch hatchery kits.

We have a decent amount of milkweed growing around the house in NH. George and Cam spotted quite a few monarch caterpillars a few weeks back, and we'd been watching the perfect green chrysalises. When we got in Friday, George excitedly pointed out a 'newborn monarch" pumping its wings open!

Another hatched a little later, and a few more of the chrysalises are starting to darken. So perfect and shiny...

...and the autofocus on my Nikon seems to be off... But just look at that face!

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Flashback: T-2 days to eclipse.

I looked around the workshop and noticed I have boxes of left over optics that didn't work out in various projects over the years, including some nice big achromats I grabbed from Anchor and Surplus Shed a good ten years ago.

And then, later in the day, all the empty shipping tubes from McMaster in the garage caught my eye... Read more... )

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after more practice stick-welding aluminumium, I can proudly report... I still pretty much suck at it. Getting better at maintaining arc at least.

Anyone got tips for fillets on inside corners? With Al, the arc always snaps to one side or the other, and trying to drag across the corner either sticks the rod (because of waaay fast consumption and a tendency to ball up) or blows out the arc.

(Remember I'm working on sheet and, at thickest, 1/8" plate--- I can't just crank up the amps and linger.)

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The band saw's intended function is cutting multi-inch-thick metal plate. More often, though, it's really the only tool I have that can open those freaking clamshell packages without a good chance of injury.

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Finally, assembly... and confirmation of non-embarrassing results.

Read more... )

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There's one thing left to worry about. The left hand focus knobs are, for whatever reason, set in toward the centerline of the focus block about a quarter of an inch compared to the right. The coarse knob almost-- but won't quite-- clear the SZH's uniquely wide microscope body.

If only I had some roughly 80-mil plate with which to fashion some spacers! Oh right...

(/me fishes spacer pieces from previous adapter attempt out of the scrap aluminum pile)

OK! First I need a ring spacer to set the coarse focus knob further away from the centerline.

Done! Now, the fine focus knob needs to be set away as well.

I considered making a shaft spacer, but it will weaken the overall assembly. Instead, I heated the brass inset in the fine focus knob until the ABS softened, then pushed it in 80 mil. I did use a guide to make sure it pushed in straight and flat-- no wobbling allowed.

The fine focus also has a spring-loaded friction mechanism to add a little resistance to it drifting. One side is built into the knob, which I just moved out 80-mil. So I need an 80-mil spacer to take up the slack.

Don't worry, the hammer in the background is a specially designed precision optics hammer.

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*THUNK*

That's more like it.

And a Micromill ain't no toy.

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I've set myself three requirements for the focus block graft:

  1. No modifications whatsoever to the original SZH microscope body
  2. End result has to work exactly as intended. No half-functional hacks.
  3. The end result must look professional, bordering on factory quality.

My original plan: Remove the microscope body mount from the block's dovetail, cut the ring part off, machine the remaining bit flat and add some additional bolt holes to secure it to the SZH.

And that kinda sorta works!

Unfortunately, the remaining block is not quite deep enough for the adjustment knobs to clear, nor is it tall enough to reach all four mounting holes on the back of the SZH body. That means I need to machine a spacer that would have to bolt to the mounting block, then those two pieces could mount to the dovetail and the scope.

Then I thought 'what am I doing?', chucked it, and grabbed a piece of aluminum that's actually the right size to start with.

So let's do this part again.

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Sadly, no Chinese manufacturer to date has cloned an SZH, but there are clones of other Olympus focus blocks.

None of these will fit as-is of course, the SZH is weird. But several look to be moddable with a little effort. So I chose a clone of a nicer Olympus coarse/fine assembly.

And now, a review of the FYSCOPE STEREO ZOOM MICROSCOPE COARSE AND FINE FOCUS ARM A4 76mm Size! Read more... )

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The SZH is not without its faults.

This is the focus block for an original Olympus SZH. It moves the microscope body up and down to focus on the work surface.

Read more... )

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I actually like my AmScope. It's not exactly precision-manufacture and god only knows what glass it uses, but it's durably made, fairly ergonomic, and works well for the price. Only one regret: The camera port is damned near useless.

For some reason, Chinese stereo scopes mostly appear to be clones of old, low- and mid-range Olympus designs. That planted the Olympus bee in my bonnet.

You've probably heard that Nikon is a world-class optics manufacturer that just happens to make cameras. Well, Olympus is a world-class optics manufacturer that just happens to make microscopes.

Looking for no-holds-barred top shelf stereo optics, the current top of the Olympus stereo line is the SZX12. Which is awesome and even broken surplus parts are so far out of budget it's not funny. Mostly the same for the SZX10, its slightly less featureful little brother.

But it turns out the very top of the discontinued predecessor line, the SZH10, is similar enough that it takes many of the same accessories and was every bit as good a scope. And the SZH10 was just a minor feature tweak of the earlier SZH.

And the SZH line is so gloriously 1980s. I mean, just look at this ad. It's not a stereo zoom. No, it's a *super* stereo zoom. And raytracing is involved somehow. And lightning. This here 'scope is obviously real wrath-of-god stuff.

Anyway, the rest is serendipity: There just happened to be enough cheap-ish parts on eBay to hopefully piece together a complete SZH with no major flaws.

Parts have arrived, so here we go...

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At first I thought a bird hit the window. I opened it to check for casualties, and in she fluttered...

I've been waiting a long time to see a polyphemus in person. She's battered and spent, but still beautiful.

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Remember a few weeks ago when I expressed some dissatisfaction with my AmScope's picture quality?

Well, I've put another iron in the fire: Collecting parts off eBay to build a once-top-of-the-line Olympus SZH. Now waiting for more bits to start trickling in.

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Of course, there's still a bunch of wiring left to do :-|

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Yea finally, the Engineer called Form from the Void, according to its Design, and saw that it was nominal.

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With the printer fuser repaired, I was able to get a good overlay print onto Papilio white self-adhesive polyester. Setting the print type to 'labels' produced the best result by far.

Then I cold-laminated a protective textured vinyl overlay onto that. It took a few attempts to find a technique that proces a good lamination with no bubbles, but here we are!

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What good is a tool if you don't know what it can and cannot do?

...and that is how I lost a round of fuser roulette with my laser printer.

I was running self-adhesive polyester through the printer in some test runs for the control panel overlays, and a sheet separated from the liner in the feed, the adhesive on the folded-over corner caught the fuser, and, well, that was that.

"Paper jam in tray 2"

The good and rather unexpected news: Despite other failings, HP is still publishing highly-complete tear-down and service manuals for its consumer printers, and my M277dw was no exception.

The fuser is not a user-replaceable part, and the printer is not designed to be easy to disassemble. It took me almost an hour of work to finally extract the fuser unit. But everything came apart according to the manual, and although the fuser wasn't intended to be disassembled either, it too broke down without fuss. Another half hour of slowly peeling sticky, melted polyester off the roller later, I had it clean.

And, miraculously, after getting everything back together-- the printer still worked perfectly. No damage. Whew.

In any case, lesson learned: From now on I run my adhesive media with a masking tape leader folded over the front edge.

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Fished this guy deep out of a lighting fixture in the kitchen where it was making a mighty racket against the sheet metal. Yay for chopsticks and dumb luck.

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