Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Air Conditioner Covers

Recently, we had several air conditioners installed to keep things cool for our guests (and us) during those muggy summer afternoons and nights. We didn’t like the “industrial” look of having so many air conditioners in front of our home. The solution was to make covers to hide and protect the units. It sounds easier than it was. The covers required several hundred parts that needed to be made from scrap lumber. 

Each slat was cut on the bandsaw. That's 120 pieces! Then each slat required a spacer and that's 240 additional pieces! 

The rough lumber was planed. After each cut on the bandsaw, the piece needed to be planed. This project started to get tiring quickly. I guess that's why it's called, wood "working". 

Putting the pieces together was a simple process of gluing and nailing. 

The lid was the next thing to be made. Using scrap siding from the remodel, I went ahead and cut everything to size. 

Each piece was planed and routed. That's another 48 pieces. 

Before the slats for the lid were installed, a moisture barrier was added. The bottom of each board was then stained by Erika and I glued and nailed the whole thing together. (The moisture barrier is not pictured).

Erika finished staining the inside and outside of the covers and the lids and bodies were assembled in place. They were too heavy and awkward to move as a single unit. 

Mission accomplished...the air conditioners are hidden and protected. I'm glad this project is done. Up next, it's time to do more tiling. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NGC 2403

NGC 2403 was imaged in March 2017. Integration time is 12 hours in HaLRGB and processed in Pixinsight. I wished I had more integration time, but the weather prevented any chance of gathering more photons. The jetstream is above Kyushu during the winter. This causes the "seeing" conditions to decline, making focusing a challenge. FWHM averaged above 3.5 most of the integration time. It was frustrating to go outside and see that the night sky was crystal clear, but the high winds in the atmosphere was making focusing close to impossible. This produced bloated stars in many of the images. Rather than throwing out those images, I went ahead and processed what I had. No worries, there's always next year to try again. 

NGC 2403 is a spiral galaxy located about 10 million light years away. Here’s a much better photo of this galaxy. Image processing continues to be challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. The original image contains much more detail, but some of that detail was lost converting to a format suitable for this blog. On to the next project...the Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

TailWagon Dog Trailer

The dog trailer was purchased about 8 years ago in Seattle. It was hitched to the tandem and we rarely used it. We knew as the doggies got older we would need to have a way for them to get around, but at the same time provide a way for us to exercise. Well, that time has finally come. Lucky was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his left rear knee. He’s been having difficulty walking. Instead of having an operation, I decided to have him rest for a couple of months and go on a diet. I’ll closely watch him to see if he improves over the next couple of months. According to the internet, smaller dogs have a very good chance of full recovery when a course of rest and weight loss is followed. Stay tuned…

The trailer is easily attached to the quick release. It’s very light and roomy inside for both doggies. The trailer has a bunch of pockets for storage. A futon on the floor provides a nice comfortable bed. Short leashes prevent the doggies from jumping out. Lucky loves it so much that I often find him resting in it, waiting for me to drive him around! He barks at me if I don’t ride fast enough!! Pictures of the doggies being "taxied around" will be included later. It's a lot of fun and good exercise too.  

 The  trailer has a brake and a stand for parking. 

The side material is reflective. The wheels have sealed bearings. Great design and it's well built. 

It's not too wide for the narrow roads of Japan. 

A Velcro rain hood can be easily rolled up and stored away. Lucky loves to have the top down with his face into the wind. More pics later...

Outdoor Sink

 Next up on the “honey-do-list” is an outdoor sink. The sink bowl was purchased when we first moved here. Hey, it only took five years to install it! The cabinet has four coats of water based polyurethane. The water faucet was carved into a 4x4 to give it an outdoor look. I had a heck of a time finding the correct fittings to make it work. 

I plumbed the sink when I built the deck a few years back. All I needed to do was drill a hole and install the drain pipe. The pipe goes to the drain (cistern) for the garden hose. No problem with drainage since the hole is almost 4 feet deep. 

The sink is all ready for bar-b-que season!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Entry Area Sink

It’s been awhile since I updated any progress on the five year remodel. Erika and I have always wanted to have a place for our guests to wash up near the entry. We also wanted something that was eye catching and colorful. I think we managed to accomplish those goals. To make all of this a reality, a nice piece of wood was required. The Japanese Chestnut was shipped from Osaka. I needed to shape, cut, drill, sand, stain, and finish the piece. The entire process was fun.  

The area the sink will be installed is here, near the front entry. It's hard to believe, but this used to be the entry to the bathroom.

Alright then, the base cabinet is complete and the top is drilled for the faucet and sink. The top is almost 2 inches thick!

Here's a close up view of the cabinet top. 

Ready for stain, finish, and paint. The door opens to gain access to the plumbing.

Here's a view of the drain and water hookups in the floor of the cabinet. 

Almost done. The sink certainly provides color and is an eye opener when our guests enter the house. 

Tile and a mirror will be added to the wall. I also have a "surprise" which will be added to the cabinet later. Please stay tuned for the finished product...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Coloring Up the Countryside

Spring is in full bloom. To celebrate 5+ years in Tsukahara, we decided to add some color in the yard. The flower baskets are an inexpensive way to brighten things up. Handsman and Gooday have a huge selection of flowers on sale right now. The baskets were purchased at Daiso (100 yen shop). It only takes a few minutes to put a flower basket together and it should provide color until autumn. Of course, the deer have other ideas…well, I’ll enjoy them while I can.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula is the remains of an exploded star. The star exploded almost a thousand years ago (1054). The explosion was bright enough to be viewed during the day for 23 days according to . It is popular target for astrophotographers. The total imaging time is 20 hours in HaRGB. Preprocessing was done in CCDStack2 and post processing in PixInsight. Image processing has been challenging. PixInsight offers so many options which provides solutions as well as problems. I’m slowly climbing the learning curve. In this image, I wanted to focus on star color and detail in the nebula. Stay tuned for more images.

Update: This is an image of the Crab that is the current APOD. It's a collection of photos from Hubble, Spitzer, and an array of other devices used to detect radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, etc. If you look closely at the center of the nebula, the pulsar is visible. For more information on that check out this link

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ScopeDome: Update

ScopeDome has been temporarily repaired and readjusted. I believe the "basic" design of the dome is sound. However, the manufacturer’s assembly instructions are inaccurate and misleading. A permanent repair will be made during tsuyu (rainy season) to prevent any loss of precious imaging time. I will replace the metal lathe with 6061-T6 aluminum. I found that the original aluminum is too soft for what is required. Securing the new lathe will be accomplished using aluminum blind fasteners. The old metal strip will remain and the new strip will be layered on top. All of the seams will be offset to maintain electrical continuity. In the event of the new strip prematurely wearing, I can remove the aluminum blind fasteners. I will also replace the wire connectors going to the lathe and rollers. The crimps are of poor quality and some of the crimps only have one or two thin strands of wire.


I conducted several experiments with the rollers and the metal lathe to determine how much pressure is required to have sufficient voltage to power the shutter. Of the eight rollers, I only needed five rollers to make contact at the same time. The manufacturer requires all eight rollers to make contact at one time. If the dome is slightly out of round, the metal lathe will wear through and fail eventually. Since only some of the rollers need to make contact, this reduces the pressure applied to the metal lathe from the rollers. The dome turns with little friction and the metal lathe remains in good shape. I will also perform regular inspections of the metal lathe to check for any unusual wear. I’m confident that these steps will prevent this failure from happening again.

Lessons learned (reality check): 

1. Don't expect any useful help from ScopeDome if something goes seriously're on your own.

2. ScopeDome will be very quick to point out their warranty information. Be sure to understand the warranty BEFORE you decide to purchase. What that means is that once you give them the money...good luck. If a part is needed, you pay for the shipping costs from Poland even if the dome is brand new. They may or may not cover the cost of the actual part. In my case, they would cover the cost of the metal strip, but not the shipping. The shipping would have been extremely expensive and painfully slow.

3. ScopeDome uses Skype as a way to help troubleshoot a problem. It is a useful tool, but useless if something goes seriously wrong. Make absolutely sure you have the ability to troubleshoot and repair the dome on your own. If not, then you will have an expensive piece of junk sitting on your property.

4. Get used to the fact that something will go wrong. There is an insecure and uneasy feeling about owning a ScopeDome. I gave up on reliability. It doesn't exist when you own one of these.

5. ScopeDome advised me to either tear down the entire dome or drill into the outer fiberglass cover to gain access to the fasteners holding the metal strip. Both pieces of advice clearly shows that something is seriously wrong with the design.

I hope this will be helpful information to someone who is considering purchasing a ScopeDome. There isn't much user information out there about these domes. Maybe they all work perfectly as mentioned by the manufacturer...maybe they don't. Please choose carefully as this is a major investment in the enjoyment of the hobby and reliability is a critical factor.


Monday, March 6, 2017

ScopeDome: ALERT!!!

This is an alert for anyone who has or is thinking of purchasing a ScopeDome.

The problem started with the 8A fuse on the main controller board blowing. The fuse was replaced and then it blew again after several rotations of the dome. The 220VAC power supply also sparked and smoked. If I had not been in the dome at the time, there could have been a fire.

I suspected that the brown and white wires were shorting. I was correct. I removed the covers and exposed the rollers and wiring. I was “horrified” at what I discovered.

The metal plate that the rollers ride against had completely worn through. A piece of the metal plate (brown wire) was touching a metal post (white wire) and shorting together. EEK!!! I managed to cut and break off the existing metal plate where it had worn through.

I sent the photos to ScopeDome. I already knew what the response would be. I was blamed for adjusting the rollers improperly. I adjusted the rollers  to remain in contact with the metal strip, but still allowing easy movement of the dome with one hand. Obviously, that was not the correct way to adjust the rollers. So, what is the correct way?

I was told that ScopeDome has 40 domes of this model around the world and they have never seen anything like this. If that were correct, one in forty is not very reliable for a product of this type. The dome is less than a year old.

I was told that ScopeDome would replace the thin metal strip, but I would have to pay the shipping costs or have one machined in Japan. The problem with that is that the nuts that secure the bolts holding the metal strip are inaccessible. ScopeDome suggested that I cut holes in the fiberglass ring cover to remove the metal strip. That's ridiculous! Not only would that look awful, it would create way for water to enter the dome.

The metal strip should have been secured with bolts and nut plates instead of nuts. I also suggested that ScopeDome make a roller that uses spring tension that rides on top of the metal strip instead of gouging it. That way a customer can not misadjust the roller. ScopeDome responded :

“We realize that the dome is not a perfect construction but it is compromise between functionality and production costs.”

Currently, I have a dome that does not work, and a bad power supply. I do not see a solution except to disassemble the entire dome and start from scratch. This would also require that the telescope and all of the electronics be dismantled.
Please take this into consideration before purchasing a ScopeDome. If something goes seriously wrong, you are in trouble. Poland is a long way from Japan, and ScopeDome was very quick to point that out to me when I asked for help. 

I'll update when the situation changes...hopefully for the better.    George