Making a phone adapter for a tripod

There are a couple of videos I’d like to record. My current camera is 14 years old; it still works fine, but its video quality is poor by modern standards, so until I decide to buy a new camera I thought I could use my phone to record some video. That, however, requires some way of aiming the phone and holding it steady.

A year or two ago I bought a “Steelie” mount for my phone from Lee Valley Tools. This consists of a ring-shaped magnet that is adhered to the back of the phone, and a steel ball that attaches elsewhere (clipping to the heating vent on my truck in this case). The magnet clings to the steel ball allowing the phone to be oriented any way you desire.

Although Lee Valley sells some other Steelie accessories, they don’t have a tripod mount. So I made one.

I started with a 25mm steel ball bearing, into which I tried to drill a hole. Well, ball bearings are really hard steel. Even after trying to anneal the ball by heating it to red heat and cooling it slowly, I was barely able to drill a hole in it. I destroyed a few drill bits before finding that I could use a 1/8″ solid carbide endmill to make the hole.

I turned the end of a short piece of 1/4-20 threaded rod to fit the hole I had hacked into the ball, and brazed the two together. I also polished off most of the scale left on the ball from the annealing attempt along with the flux residue from brazing.

This gave me a male 1/4″ thread mount for the phone, but to fit a standard tripod mount, a female thread is required. I also wanted to elevate the phone so it could face forward in portrait orientation with the tripod in its normal position. I made a sort of mounting post by tapping 1/4-20 threads into both ends of a short piece of 13mm (½″+) aluminum round rod. The ball end screwed into one end of the post and the tripod’s camera mount screwed into the other end.

This particular tripod, though, had a rather wide slot for the camera screw to slide around in, and the rod I had made was very close to dropping into that slot and jamming, so I added a wider base to the rod (it is just a press fit).

Here’s what it looks like with the phone attached, from the subject’s viewpoint and from behind the camera:

Because the ball mount is so easy to turn, a remote (Bluetooth) shutter release is a must. The mounting magnet is also not quite at the phone’s center of gravity, so if you jostle the tripod one end of the phone will drop, giving crooked images. I am still considering ways to increase the friction of the magnet mount—it has a rubbery pad in the center to provide some grip but it isn’t really sufficient.

A Parchment Supplier in France

We don’t carry parchment for sale, but we recently received this message from a producer of parchment in France. We can’t vouch for them or their products, but parchment is hard to find so I thought I would pass this on in case you want to follow up on it.


Parcheminerie artisanale


16 Grand’ Rue – 81220 VITERBE – France /

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An Extended Drill Press Table

The table on my drill press is more or less a 12″/30cm square which is fine for drilling smaller objects but once the workpiece is large enough that its center of gravity is more than 6″/15cm from the hole you want to drill, you either have to fight with the work to keep it on the table or clamp it down.

Sometimes clamping just isn’t practical so there are times where just having a larger table would be useful.

I made this extended table for my drill press from 1/4″/6mm MDF. It is 23″/58cm square (8″/20cm in front of the drill and 15″/38cm behind the drill) with a notch to clear the column. I used epoxy cement to attach four flat-head 7/16NC bolts into countersunk holes so they would line up with the slots in the main table.

Four washers and 7/16NC wingnuts hold the table in place for use.

I find it particularly useful when I’m drilling the holes for the screws that hold our ribbed papermaking moulds together. The mould has to lay face-down on the table and the holes drill quickly so clamping really wouldn’t work but with this large table even our 12×18″ moulds hold comfortably by hand on the table, and the wood surface won’t damage the mould screen.

An old video of commercial hand papermaking in 1976

I just stumbled across this YouTube video of a a 1976 documentary segment which shows the hand papermaking process at Hayle Mill in England. Note that the video ends with about 4 minutes of black screen for some reason. This mill ceased production in 1987.

Despite the age of the film, the picture and sound quality are very good, and they also do a good job of explaining the process and the jobs of the various people involved: the vatman who forms the sheets using a mould and deckle, the coucher who transfers the sheets from the mould to the post and interleaves the felts (couches), and the layer who, after pressing the post, removes and stacks the damp pressed sheets, returning the felts to the coucher.

The clip also shows some details of watermark construction using soldered wire, pulp preparation, and other steps in the process.

At the recent North American Hand Papermakers e-conference Simon Barcham Green, who is the fourth (or fifth?) generation member of the Green family who operated this mill since it was built in the early 1800’s, gave the inaugural Elaine Koretsky Memorial Presentation wherein he spoke about Hayle Mill’s history and operation. That might actually be Simon in the video explaining some of the processes.

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First try at strip casting

I have my Monotype composition caster converted to produce strip material—leading and rule—and this is my first try at running this setup. You can see the inauspicious results in my accompanying YouTube video.

I am using a pump body which I got from Rich Hopkins, with its nozzle specially positioned to mate with the strip material moulds. The piston was from my own parts stock, and I had to make the special nozzle for use with the strip material mould. The levers which operate the pump were given to me by Ed Rayher from Swamp Press. I needed these because the pump body dimensions are different for Lanston (American-made) and English-made pumps and the only levers I has were for English pumps (as my caster is an English one).

I had a few other odds and ends from my parts stock: The stroke adjustment mechanism, one of the levers that operates the mould blade, and the adapter that connects the centering pin arm to the clamp lever on the side of the mould. The rest I had to make: various push-rods, levers, linkages, a spring box, and a base to provide mounting points for everything.

In this video I have everything put together and trying to cast some 3-point low leading. It sort of works, but it is not filling the mould properly, the casts are not fusing to each other properly, and the casting keeps jamming where the trimmer blade is removing the side jet from the strip.

My mould has a two-part trimmer setup. One knife cuts close to the side of the strip to remove all traces of the jet. Another curved piece before this knife seems to be intended to break off most of the jet but I’m finding that it just jams on the cut-off jet material. At that point the strip stops advancing and the spring box compresses since the mould blade can’t advance. My copy of The Monotype Casting Machine Manual doesn’t show this second cutter so I’m not sure what to do with it.

Well, it turned out that I had this installed on the wrong screw. There are two screws holding the trimming knife in place, and this should be mounted on the screw to the right. Once mounted here this part becomes a smooth extension to the knife, ensuring that any cut-off jet gets pushed down back into the pot to be remelted.

The jet deflector, properly installed.

This deflector may not serve much purpose. I don’t see it mentioned in the manual, and I only have one on my 3-point mould, not the other two moulds. This is probably used when you are also using the guide tube which supports the cast strip as it crosses above the pot on its way to the stacker. When there is no guide tube the regular trimmer blade should deflect the jet down enough to not cause problems, but with the guide tube in place this extra deflector might be needed to force the jet quickly into the pot so it doesn’t butt up against the end of the guide tube.

I’m hoping a bit more tuning will get me casting solid and properly-fused strip material. Then I’ll try out the other two strip moulds I have (2-point and 6-point) and maybe play with casting some rule. I have several rule matrices but I can’t use them with the 3-point mould because I don’t have the “high” mould blade for it.

For my test I had the blade stroke stop set for its short-stroke position, used for ½″ stroke when casting rule. When I repositioned it for a ¾″ stroke (which can only be used for casting leading, not rule) I found that my spring box wasn’t compressing at both ends of its stroke. It would appear that I’ll have to alter my linkage a bit to change its lever arm ratio to provide a tiny bit more stroke. I’m hoping I can do this just by drilling a new hole in one end of the first lever; this is fine if the hole moves far enough (more than its own diameter) but for a smaller shift, I’d have to either weld the old holes closed or make a brand new lever.

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A novel motorcycle air filter (not!)

We’ve had a week of beautiful warm (for November) weather here and I took advantage of this to take my motorcycle (a 1987 Kawasaki EX500) out on several rides. Unfortunately on the last ride the bike decided that it wouldn’t idle unless I constantly blipped the throttle. If I released the throttle the engine would go to idle speed but then over a few seconds gradually slow down and stall. Restarting the engine required opening the throttle a bit, something I don’t normally have to do.

This is a symptom of the pilot (idle) system in the carburetor not working properly. This system supplies the fuel needed to run the engine at idle, when the throttle is completely closed.

To fix this I had to remove the carburetors to clean them and one of the first steps is to remove the air filter. They don’t make that easy: I had to remove the fuel tank (including disconnecting its hoses) and the fuel tank bracket. Once I removed the air filter cover this is what I saw:

The airbox was almost completely filled with what was probably a mouse nest, containing a mix of fibreglass insulation (mice love that stuff), shredded paper, sunflower seeds, acorns, and other junk. The foam element of the air filter was completely gone.

I’m not sure how long this has been this way; it could have been fairly new, or it may have been like this for years.

To get this cleaned out I had to remove the airbox completely, disassemble it, and wash everything out.

I also removed and cleaned the carbs, and now have things partly reassembled. The engine will idle now, but only with the idle speed turned up a bit. I don’t have the replacement filter yet (it is due later this week) so that might be affecting things a bit.

As it turns out removing the air filter is one of the few things I didn’t actually have to do to remove the carbs. But I did have to remove the side covers of the airbox so it would be able to lift up a bit. Taking those off would have revealed the mouse nest as well.

But now the nice weather is coming to an end so I probably won’t ride again until spring.

Trying out the New Nozzle and Strip Mould

I installed the nozzle I just made into the special strip-casting pump. This pump is a Lanston (American Monotype) pump and my caster is an English-made one, and one of the incompatibilities between these is the pump body size. Although you can’t interchange the pumps directly, it turns out you can interchange the pumps as long as you also interchange the large levers that operate the pump.

With the new nozzle installed I placed the strip-casting pump into my Monotype caster. At first things just seemed wonky. I could not seem to crank the pot up all the way, and the pump mechanism was operating whether engaged or not. It turned out I had installed the lower pump operating lever upside down and on raising the pot this was actually lifting the pump operating rod and crossblocks. Inverting the lever allowed the pot to raise properly and the pump operated properly.

I’m working on cobbling together the linkage to operate the strip mould but it is not complete yet.

I have however been able to operate the caster manually, turning it over one cycle to fill the mould cavity, then manually ejecting the cast metal, and repeating. Here is the result of that effort:

Admittedly that’s pretty rough, but then the mould was cold and the caster was stumbling along at whatever speed I could turn it over by hand, so I think that’s pretty good!

Home-made Monotype Nozzle

I’ve been working to get my Monotype composition caster converted to casting strip material. I have a few moulds for this, the special pump required (with a different nozzle location), the pump linkage required to run this Lanston (American) pump on my Monotype Corporation (English) caster, and other odd parts of the linkage required for the strip mould. I also have the cutting and stacking attachment, but it is a mass of rust right now. I’ve been making the missing parts from the mould operating linkage and as that job is nearing completion it was time to get the mould and pump combination working.

In addition to needing a special pump, the strip casting moulds also require a special nozzle, which is what actually injects the molten type metal into the mould cavity. These aren’t available new any more, and the strip casting attachment was already a bit of a rare bird, so accessories such as the special nozzle are doubly rare.

There is a drawing out of Monotype Corp., of which various Monotype owners have a copy. It is drawing number DB431 and shows 23 different nozzles with their specific dimensions and uses. This drawing is incomplete in a sense, though, as it only gives dimensions for the features of the nozzles that differ from one to the next. The threaded base, taper of the conical tip, and size of the little extension tip that some of the nozzles have are not dimensioned at all on this drawing. As a result I had to determine some of these dimensions myself from nozzles I already had, and take good guesses at some other not-too-critical dimensions.

With that information in hand, I made myself a No. 11 nozzle (#14741, for 4-10 point and didot lead, rule, and borders, mould series 76300). Here it is:

This particular nozzle calls for an 18° conical flare inside the tip:

You just can’t buy 18° conical endmills, and even something close (20°) is very expensive, so I shaped the cone using a tiny boring bar mounted on the compound slide of my lathe. I made this from the broken stub of a tiny drill. I thought it was carbide, but the drill bit didn’t really grind like I would expect carbide to, so perhaps it is tool steel.

My makeshift boring tool. For reference, the shank where it goes into the collar is 1/8″ (3mm) in diameter.

The nozzle didn’t quite fit in the pump body, so I had to shorten the stem a bit and cut one turn off the end of the threads, but now it fits nicely and I’ll be modifying my drawing to match.

The next task is to test how it works.

Vandercook SP-15 parts for sale (Sold!)

Update: The lockup bar has sold, but all the remaining parts are still available.

Second update: Everything has been sold. The lockup bar garnered plenty of interest.

I have a collection of random parts from an Vandercook SP-15 proof press for sale. I don’t have them individually identified, but the photos should be clear enough for you to see what’s there.

I would prefer to sell the parts as a lot; they should be of interest to someone who regularly services these presses. I might be willing to sell the lockup bar separately, though.

I’m not sure how much to charge, so feel free to make an offer.

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A Close Call

I happened to be in our shop for a few minutes, standing at the desk, when I saw what at first I thought to be a bit of cat hair floating around the top of the computer that sits on the desk.

I quickly realized that it was smoke so I immediately unplugged the power cord from the rear of the computer. This is a medium tower enclosure and it was sideways, against the wall at the back of the desk so the power plug was readily reachable.

After a few moments, the smoke did not stop, so I cleared the stuff from the top of the computer cabinet: a box of tissues, some papers, and a couple of polyethylene bags. Well, the bags had melted and stuck to the top of the computer case:

The smoke did not seem to be abating, so I removed the side cover. This was again easy because of the position of the computer. At the very top of the case, there was a small flame burning, so I blew it out.

The source of the fire was the SATA power cable adapter on the DVD drive. This had somehow shorted out and started burning, also destroying the DVD drive and its SATA data cable.

Fortunately, the drive was in the top bay so the soot from the fire did not enter the rest of the computer. However, the heat from the shorted wiring set the soundproofing lining of the top of the case on fire. This is what was burning when I opened the case.

Burnt soundproofing, seen through the DVD drive bay opening

Burnt soundproofing liner, seen from the side

Once I removed the DVD and wiped up most of the soot, the computer powered up and ran fine. We don’t use the DVD at all so that is no great loss.

I have to wonder, though, what would have happened if I hadn’t been there to notice the smoke. Would the fire have gone out on its own (though possibly destroying the computer), or would the stuff on top of the computer caught fire?

This is the second incident I’ve run into with a SATA power cable overheating where it plugs into the drive. The previous incident was just a flash and pop, damaging the drive terminals a bit (but not beyond usability). This time my assumption is that a bad connection to the DVD initially caused the terminals to heat up a bit, thus making the connection deteriorate a bit, leading to more heating, and so on, until there was enough heat to melt insulation and allow the wires to touch, starting the fire. I would not expect an idle DVD drive to draw enough current to start such a chain of events but apparently it is.

The amount of current drawn by the shorted wires was not enough to shut down the power supply, another event which could have saved things. Unfortunately computer power supplies only monitor the overall current, and not the current to the individual power connectors, thus making them able to easily overload the wires on one power connector without shutting down.

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