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This website is a log of my hobbies, passions and projects. It will hopefully over time fill up with helpful advice to
encourage, inspire and guide others with similar interests. rab by the way are my initials Robert Andrew Burke

July to December 2014:

If you have looked in on this site from time to time you will probably have noticed a drop off in activity during 2014. It's been one of those years where life, health and work has completely overwhelmed me and I haven't had the time or energy to keep up with regular posts.  Hopefully things will change in 2015.

This doesn't mean I haven't got anything to add for the second half of the year, though compared with a few years ago, what I am doing now is far less interesting so not really worthy of adding here. There are a few new projects to report on, and the continual and rapid development of Blender, which I am still trying to keep abreast of, but as it is no longer part of my day job it's becoming increasingly difficult to stay on top of.

Things of note over the last six months are:

  • the acquisition of a vintage piano that needs a major overhaul to get it back into playable condition.
  • Installation of a wood burning stove.

608 Bearing Tutorial

608 Bearing Tutorial
Updated to Blender 2.63+
Collard and Collard 1903 Piano
Having spent the last few years slowly improving my piano playing, a friend mentioned their family had an old piano they had been trying to re-home for some time without success. It hadn't been played for many years but they remembered it had a great sound when it was played decades earlier. Against all the advice you read on the internet I decided to take it on as a project to see if it could be returned to playable condition even before I had seen it.

The piano turned out to be a typical old English upright built in 1903 by Collard and Collard of London for Frank H Arnold a piano dealer that used to operate from 262 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield.

As with most of the pianos of this time, it had a very decorative and well made case covered in a quality cherry wood veneer with some fine decorative inlays. The case would have had two candelabras, but these had been removed and were no longer available. As a piece of furniture it will polish up well and look good in any period home.

Unfortunately, that is all that you can say is good with the piano as the makers seemed to invest their money and effort into the case rather than the mechanism.
Frank H Arnold Piano Dealer
Collard and Collard Piano
Inside is a straight strung, over damper mechanism, often referred to a s a bird cage action due to the vertical rods that operate the dampers resembling a bird cage. This type of mechanism was superseded in the late 1800's long before this piano was even built, with newer under damper over strung mechanisms offering much better tone and damping. It is this change in mechanism that makes these old pianos valueless. The manufacturers even resorted to deception to continue selling these outdated designs. The silver frame at the top of the piano isn't part of the cast iron harp, but instead a moulding added to make it look as though the piano has a full harp. It offers no structural value top the piano at all.

Bird Cage Action

What needs to be done to make the piano playable:

  • The piano has a very honky-tonk sound which will need to be softened by cleaning and voicing the hammers.
  • The dampers aren't making contact with the strings indicating the mechanism has moved at some stage and they will all need to be reset.
  • Many of the hammers (around 40) are tight and don't return after they have been played.
  • One hammer mechanism in the middle octaves is missing and has been replaced by the highest pitch hammer (fortunately the broken hammer was in the bottom of the piano frame). A new mechanism will need to be made as spares aren't available and the correct hammer reinstated.
  • One hammer pivot is broken and will need to be repaired.
  • A few of the keys are sticking and will need to be freed off.
  • One string had previously been spliced which broke on the first attempt at tuning.
Though I haven't managed to successfully tune the piano yet the few octaves I have tuned have seemed to hold their tune, so hopefully the tuning pins are still tight enough in the pin board.

Vacuuming off the surface of the hammers and removing many decades of dust has made a significant difference to the tone of the piano, so I am hopeful that this can be brought back to a playable piano once again.

This diagram of the over damper mechanism was produced using Blender and freestyle.

Wood Burning Stove Installation

Unfortunately in England we can't just research and fit heating appliances ourselves, we are burdened with lots of regulation and the need to notify the work to the Local building control department. As I am not a registered competent installer that can notify installations it has meant I have had to draw up plans and submit them to the Local Building Control for approval to carry out the work, and they have visited to check the installation. The plans were drawn up using Draftsight a free to use 2D CAD program, with the 3D details of the register plate and and termination being done in Blender with a Freestyle edge render.

Chimney Repair Knocking out fireplace
Adding a support lintel
Typically for a small building job this presented no end of unforeseen problems. The first one being the chimney, when I went onto the roof to change the chimney pot I discovered the mortar at the top of the stack had broken down and the bricks could be simply lifted off the stack. Rather than just a few bricks the top five courses had to come down and be rebuilt, I will re-point the lower bricks which were still well bonded together in the spring. In the lounge the fireplace was also much more difficult to open up, what I expected to be rubble filled turned out to be fully keyed solid brickwork. Every brick put up a fight and took much longer to knock out than expected. On the plus side when the opening was knocked out the brickwork above remained self supported making it an easy job to fit the new lintel. Fortunately the stainless steel chimney liner was an easy install just needing me tie a rope onto it and feed it into the chimney pot at the top. My wife encourage it through the chimney offset's by pulling the rope from the fireplace opening.

The finished builders opening
The almost completed installation
Finishing off went much easier, though I haven't plastered for quite a while, it is very rewarding still being able to float in a smooth finish. Though some cosmetic tidying will be required when we change the flooring next year, the Building Control officer was happy with the installation. We are now enjoying the warmth of a real fire this Christmas.

January to June 2014:

If you have visited my website over the last few years you may have noticed the lack of posts in 2014. As has happened previously work and family have completely taken over my spare time and it has been difficult to find both the time and motivation to write up details on the very few bits of project work undertaken this year. So apologies for letting the site lay stagnant for the past six months.

Though nothing has been entered here I have progressed one or two projects a little. My contact page had become targeted by a spam-bot, the page was originally created by an online form to email website and has proven to be unreliable. It became so annoying clearing several spam emails every day that I had to take the contacts page down. I have now rewritten the contact form and and the form handling code to hopefully be a little more secure.

On the graphics front Blender has advanced a lot more than when I last reported on an update with the 3D Graphics software back in February 2013, which was then at version 2.66. We are now at version 2.70a and there has been far too many advancements to report on but it is well worth a look at the release logs. The highlights include the inclusion of the Freestyle  non-photorealistic (NPR) renderer allowing better control of line renders and should with practice make it

608 Bearing Tutorial

608 Bearing Tutorial
Updated to Blender 2.63+

Blender 2.70a easier to create technical graphics and line drawings.

Cycles render engine has also progressed significantly and now boasts an array of capabilities that rivals many of the professional renderers.

These include:
Subsurface Scattering shader
Real-time viewport preview
HDR lighting support
Hair rendering
Support for motion blur

My day job rarely allows me to use Blender or do any graphics, but I have managed to slip in a small smoke simulation which demonstrated the problems of smoke
nuisance that can be caused by cliosed top chimney terminals when fitted to a problem chimney.
Back in 2011 I had been experimenting with a project to check the viability of a home brew solar heating system, which showed some very pleasing results. I was intending to build a solar wall on the side of my garden shed and pipe the heat into the house. Fortunately there was an offer on a 6ft square polycarbonate greenhouse at a local discount warehouse. The greenhouse  with a slight adaptation has now been mounted to the south facing side of my garden shed and makes up the basic structure of what will be almost 8 square metres of solar heating.

Start of Solar Shed
As I progress with this project I will add a few updates on how the solar collectors are built and hopefully a few logs of the energy savings it achieves.

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